A Dundee-based wine retailer, who is facing supply issues, says wine shortages are likely ‘to get worse’ in the lead up to Christmas.
With Brexit, Covid, the HGV lorry driver shortage and numerous staffing issues across the country, a knock-on effect is being felt across the hospitality industry.
One area that is beginning to feel the strain of the “perfect storm” is the alcohol retailers and suppliers.
Patrick Rohde, who owns Aitken’s Wines, a retailer in Dundee, as well as restaurant and bar The Wine Press, is one such business owner who has been struggling to obtain some of his usual orders of wine.
He also feels the problem of alcohol shortages is going to get worse in the lead up to Christmas.
“It’s all thanks to a perfect storm, but mainly Brexit with the delay aspect of it, a lot of bureaucracy going on and some form filling,” says Patrick. “We weren’t prepared for it and it’s all been very ill-conceived.
“There are crazy delays at ports and various points of entry.
“I think the problem is getting worse, rather than better. I’m not seeing any improvement and there have been delays right from the start of the year.”
New Zealand wines
Earlier reports suggested that spirits coming in to Scotland’s bars were experiencing delays. As the majority of wine in the UK is imported, Patrick says his industry is just as badly affected, with one particular type of New Zealand wine being almost unaccounted for.
“Wine is as badly affected as the spirits,” he adds. “We do both wine and spirits in the bar and the shop and it’s been a struggle.
“The wider wine industry’s been affected by other aspects as well. It’s been the perfect storm for New Zealand especially.
“Marlborough is New Zealand’s most popular wine producing region and the Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc is our most popular white wine.
“They have also been affected by a really poor harvest because of early frosts so some of the New Zealand wineries are down by 70% production for their 2021 vintage.”
Facing the prospect of not having enough of his most popular white wine to sell to his customers, Patrick is turning customers towards alternatives.
“A lot of your entry-level Marlborough sauv blanc is not going to be available in 2021 vintage. Then once the 2020s run out we’re going to have to wait a few months for the 2022 vintage,” he continues.
“So New Zealand has been affected by that and us as a business that imports their wine.
“It’s our best-selling white style by a mile both in the bar and in the shop. That’s what people are drinking right now.
“For that style of sauv blanc, we’re pushing customers towards Chile or South Africa, who also produce cool climate-style sauvignon blanc. Their wines are just as fresh and just as zingy and just the style that people are looking for but from a different place.
“Customers usually head straight for the New Zealand wine but there are equally good wines coming from these other places.”
Closer to home
Aside from the shortage in popular wines from New Zealand, Patrick has also been experiencing problems a bit closer to home.
“I import wine directly from Spain and there was a good two month delay on the pallet coming across earlier in the year,” he says. “That was it literally just being held up at customs.
“Europe is as badly affected as the rest of the world. It’s across the board so it’s been fun and games the last year or so.
“Orders haven’t been fulfilled for most of this year. For that New Zealand wine it’s been capped – we’re only allowed so many on allocation.
“I’m pretty lucky in the sense that I keep quite a high amount of stock because I don’t like to run out of anything. So I’ve got fairly substantial stock for the moment.
“It’s been a bit of a balancing act and I’ve been big on ordering just to make sure that I get what I need.”
As Christmas inches closer, however, Patrick reveals that not every customer is going to be able to get what they’re expecting for the festive season when it comes to alcohol.
“I don’t think I’ve let down a single wholesale customer as I supply restaurants and bars across the city with wine. I’ve been on top of it so far but it’s getting trickier.
“We’re not at the situation yet where we are having to restrict how many bottles of wine someone can buy at once.
“It does feel like the problem is getting worse. There’s going to be this unnatural build-up of demand, which is Christmas. I think people are just going to expect to be able to get what they want at that time of year and I just don’t think the supply is going to be there to meet the demand.”