Talking to Lydia Harrowven - Wine Buyer at Adnams
Lydia Harrowven talks about how she manages her wine list and describes the range of wine at Adnams in terms of styles and countries.
Lydia Harrowven is a passionate wine professional with a broad range of skills and hands-on experience. She has been working as a wine buyer at Adnams, London, for one year. Adnams, established in 1872, is best known as a brewer in the coastal town of Southwold in Suffolk. Apart from brewing, they also make award-winning spirits and wines.
LWC had Lydia on an interview this time, where she shared insights about Adnams, her wine list and the wine trends.
Tell us a bit of background to Adnams and the wine retailing/merchants’ side of the business?
The Adnams stores started as two shops in the Suffolk coastal town of Southwold – both a slingshot away from the famous Adnams brewery. Southwold has always been a top holiday destination for visitors who loved the stores and products. The widespread demand initiated the launch of an online store to send our wines, beers and items of hand-selected kitchenware to our customers directly. We now have 12 stores across Norfolk, Suffolk, Lincolnshire and Essex.
How do you decide which wines you list?
Our criteria are varied. Fundamentally our objective is to present our customers with quality wines that can be produced consistently. It is also my job to make sure the wines are blended to the style and preference that our consumers love. We closely follow the market to react to consumer trends that we believe are here to stay. We try not to lead with gut instinct so much as data to support our intuition. Sometimes it can be a blend of the two.
How would you describe the range you have in terms of styles, countries, philosophy?
I believe our style is traditional modernist. We supply wines that you would expect to see on a traditional wine list, with a sprinkling of complimentary wines to break the boundaries. A prime example of this is our best selling and exceptional white Burgundy wine made by Paul Talmard, in contrast to our fantastic new 0.5% ABV Low alcohol wine range to support current trends. We are developing our Adnams own label wine range to give our customers the additional assurance of quality. We have sourced the very best category examples, so much so, that we will put our name to them. Our average price per bottle is £10.
What trends are you seeing in terms of what people are buying in your stores?
Clearly the ‘drink less but better’ trend that we have all seen in the industry for a number of years now is here to stay. As well as the lower alcohol ranges that are set be a trend and only continue to grow. Other trends that I am anticipating is unique formats, smaller bottles becoming more prominent, rather than full 750 ml bottle, wine in a can that is taking America by storm and the development of more RTD / wine-based drinks category.
Which countries and styles do you seeing becoming popular over the next 12 months?
Romania is seeing good traction and I feel Bulgaria may closely follow, and so we are looking to develop the ranges here. International varieties will always lead the market, but the wonderful and slightly more unique varieties are beginning to be championed by leading retailers and particularly own labels, which will support consumers in making a slightly less ‘of the norm’ choice. With varieties taking a leading role as purchasing cues, I believe we are moving towards a wine world of consumers who worry less about their Pinot Grigio coming from Italy, their Malbec from Argentina and are looking to experiment. A great deal of that comes from improved wine branding and the movement of making wine less pretentious and intimidating. Our Adnams wines can really help guide the customer decision-making process here.
What are the biggest challenges facing your business?
The biggest challenge is the uncertainty caused by Brexit. I believe whatever the outcome, deal or no deal, the wine world as we know it will fundamentally change. We will adapt and sometimes the challenge is managing the fear of unknown rather than of change itself.
What are the biggest opportunities?
One of our biggest opportunities is to build on our excellent reputation as the specialist in the world of wine. In the wider world, we are first and foremost perceived as a brewer, secondly as a spirits producer but historically we are also a wine merchant. We intend to build ourselves as a household name for wine and continue to develop our reputation as a wine specialist.