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COVID - What will change next?

I could not agree more. One thing I have been exploring in my own mind is a mixed model. One that creates channels for direct purchase where that makes logistical and financial sense - France, Spain, Italy, Germany for example - and one where it would make sense to import in larger quantities - Australia, Chile, New Zealand, Argentina, etc. You might also choose to deliver a more bespoke EP service for Bordeaux, Barolo, Germany, etc - single bottle offerings for example. The time/administrative cost of that might be offset by reduced administration and stocking costs for those geographic zones that you choose a direct delivery model for.
Inevitably there might still be a need for quality control but, to some extent, for the direct channel element of supply that might be helped by consumer reviews. However, you would probably need less ‘bricks and mortar, but more e-platform and integration management.

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Sites like Cellar Tracker and Vivino can play a very important role moving forward. I found this story interesting Wine Critics vs Amateurs there is a lot to be said for the value of scores from wine enthusiasts.

In my opinion there won’t be much change or the opportunity for change until people can get tithe there physically and find solutions to these issues. Video conferencing has made the world of difference during this pandemic but it’s much harder to run sessions looking at out of the box thinking/idea generating when you are sitting at a desk staring at a screen.

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I can’t imagine this will work on a large scale until the UK removes alcohol duty as it works now. Which is pretty much equivalent to “when hell freezes over” .

An alternative might be that companies might set themselves up to do the shipping and duty-paying. I know they exist now, but I mean customer-facing operations, perhaps with an element of bottle-mixing. So they would be like no-frills wine merchants. They do the essential bits, but cut out the marketing, and do not hold stock.

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Not just duty, but the new regulations post-Brexit. It seems unlikely that individual shipping will become easier. More likely the reverse.

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Agreed. I think Brexit will have more of an impact than Covid. I note the recent HMG boast that we are ‘growing the customs sector’.

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Hi, the back end to the platforms already in existence usually integrate or auto message with the logistics companies already who, in turn, integrate with the customs and exercise platform, often having established themselves as ‘customs agents’.


The whole piece is mostly automated already, which is why the likes of Les Grappes have been able to develop a ‘front end’ that enables as little as 3 bottles to be delivered direct from vineyard to customer. The costs, duty, etc should all be part of the price.
Of course, the significant challenge is often for the vineyard, bodega, etc themselves as you can suddenly find yourselves with multiple small orders instead of single, planned large shipments, which subsequently pushes cost up. This is one reason I think this type of system might work better in a membership rather than open market type model where the font end owner might be able to smooth demand and provide tools to assist.
On BREXIT, yes the uncertainty is very challenging but the logistics systems are largely in place to cope with the regulatory changes - if only we knew what those might be!
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As far as I can tell Les Grappes does not deliver to the UK, and I pressume the main reason is the issue of paying UK duty. But it looks like a good idea. There was a similar operation that worked in south France at a very small scale, which sent van-loads of wine over to the UK, but it folded some years ago.

I am aware of the existence of custom agents - it’s what I meant when “I know they exist now” - but they are expensive, and I suspect they are designed for larger quantities than a single case or two.

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An interesting idea but as @SteveSlatcher suggests they don’t deliver to private customers in the UK:

Unfortunately, if you are an individual buyer we won’t be able to deliver in United Kingdom for now.

As Steve says this is probably due to duty issues.

I wonder if shipping direct to private customers will actually duck under those new regulations?

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I hope so, otherwise we can all wave goodbye to our Decantalo orders .

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At current volumes they duck under existing duty laws, so I would imagine that would continue regardless. But I think if the idea of direct importing really took off, HMRC would take a keener interest. Hopefully though, that might also lead them to put in easier mechanisms to comply with regulations.

For me the main issue currently is not so much the cost of UK alcohol duty, but all the red tape involved for the non-UK-based merchants if they want to comply with the UK duty regulations. (They have to open an account with the UK authorities, and pay UK duty directly BEFORE sending the wine.)

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Hi Leah. Are you already buying direct from https://www.decantalo.com/en/faqs/about-us.html ?
If so, why and how do they ship it to you?

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Hi Robin, yes I have been for a number of years now, I shop there because its less expensive, the choice is fantastic, you can get wines that are just extremely difficult to get here… for example : Taganan Blanco from the Canaries, difficult to get here and will cost upwards of £27, I can buy it from Decantalo for around £16 plus shipping which is pence if you have an order over £400, probably around about 50cent a bottle.
They ship with UPS and normally the order takes about 5 days. They pack extremely well and have exceptional customer support. Would highly recommend them.
I uses Vinnisimus on occasion too but their range isn’t as extensive but ive managed to get some Gravonia from them this year which seems to be near on impossible to get hold of.

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Leah, thank you for that. It is a real example of how small (electronically) this world is getting. I have bought cycling kit from Germany direct in the past but have always been slightly nervous re wine for all of the reasons Steve rightly raises above. More food for thought on whether TWS need to scan the future for disruptive competitors - I think more are already operating in the market than those of my generation realise.

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I’d also recommend Decantalo as well as Gourmet Hunters, also Spanish.

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Another one.

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I don’t think anything I said should make you nervous.

I don’t know any instances of customs impounding a case or two of wine destined for a consumer. I have used online EU merchants a couple of times, but only for wines that were difficult to source in the UK. For my purchases I may have saved a little money but hardly enough to make much difference. And without wanting to sound sanctimonious, I think UK merchants are worth supporting.

Beyond vague assurances, do Decanterlo offer any evidence of UK duty being paid? I strongly suspect “my” merchants did not. I think they comply with the general rules for exporting within the EU, but are unaware of UK requirements for psyment of duty.

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There is no UK duty to pay on goods between EU countries. So it’s not a problem at the moment.

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I’m sorry but that is entirely wrong. Try googling it. I think you are confusing duty with VAT.

From Gov website

“Paying duty on acquisitions from EUcountries

You do not have to pay duty on goods that have been produced in the EU. These goods are ‘in free circulation’ in all EU countries.

This also covers goods from outside the EU if duty has already been paid on them.”

What am I missing?

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Ah, I see the problem. I have always been referring to ALCOHOL duty. Your link is about IMPORT duty. I should have been more specific.