Million-pound investment scam uncovered in the UK

The police have busted a wine investment scam that has conned people out of at least £1 million. Three people have been arrested under suspicion of running a fine wine scam aimed at embezzling investors out of their money.

Ideal Wine Company uk wine scams
A recent million-pound wine investment scam has been uncovered in the UK.

Elderly investors conned

It has been reported that many of the investors who were caught out in the scam are elderly and collectively have lost around £1 million. The suspects have been accused of running the ruse from their base in central London.

Police have stated that victims were repeatedly cold called by salespeople offering the chance to invest in fine wine. They promised returns of between 8 and 40% and seem to have been convincing enough to suck more than a few unlucky investors in.

Latest in series

If the suspects can be proven to be responsible, then this fraud is the latest in a long line of similar. There have been a series of wine investment scams across the UK over recent years, all involving fine wine investment.

As a way to increase their sales, the scammers urged investors to buy extra wine, as buyers were already lined up for them to sell it on to, police say. It’s not clear whether all three of the suspects arrested have been charged as of mid-August.

It’s a kind of fraud termed ‘boiler room’, which describes outbound call centres selling bogus investments via the phone.

Boiler room scams

Andrew Thompson, a detective inspector from the City of London Police, said: “Boiler rooms continue to be a major threat to individuals in this country and statistics show that those who are over 60 are particularly vulnerable to this type of crime

“Fraudsters will do everything they can to manipulate potential victims and convince them that they are making genuine investments.”

So far, 39 victims to this fine wine scam have contacted Action Fraud to complain and the police are contacting others taken in by the fraud.

French wine harvest likely to be at historic low

Plenty has been written about the adverse weather conditions during the spring and early summer of 2017, and their likely effect on wine harvests. Officials are now in a position to estimate the damage done to French wine production.

Experts have predicted that the wine harvest from 2017 will fall to ‘historic lows’ because of the frosts during the early spring. The French wine harvest for this year is predicted to fall by 17%, down to between 37m hectolitres (the equivalent to 4.9 billion bottles) and 38.2 million hectolitres. The figures for 2016 stood at 45.5 million hectolitres.

Ideal Wine Company french harvest
French wine production has been impacted this year due to poor harvests.

Lower than average

This would make the 2017 vintage a historic low and a full 16% lower than the average over five years. It will be worse than the vintage from 1991, which was also hit hard by frosts and bad weather.

What will this mean for buying certain French wines? The poor harvest could mean that specific wines are more difficult to track down, and therefore more expensive. The poor harvest is compounded by the fact that, for some regions, it’s the second year in a row when the vineyards have been badly affected by frost and hail.

Bordeaux production cut by half

A recent report shows that the production of Bordeaux this year could be hugely impacted, with a likely 50% fall in production.

Some estates used their extensive resources to mitigate the weather with frost avoidance techniques, such as circulating the air over vineyards with helicopters. And it’s not all doom and gloom with some on the Right Bank reporting positive flowering and ripening. It’s expected also that the Champagne harvest will increase by 8% this year, and while this is positive news it’s still 9% down on the 2012-2016 average.

Frost and hailstorms

Among the worst affected by frost are the Côte de Nuits and some parts of Chablis, while hail decimated parts of Fleurie. Over in Alsace, it looks like production will fall by 30% when compared to 2016, with the Gewurztramine variety hit hardest thanks to the fact that it buds early.

Hard frosts also damaged vineyards in both the Hérault and Aude regions, with production falling by 6%. Similarly, production has been cut by 10-40% in some parts of the Loire, but overall this region’s growers are in luck as production is set to rise by 7% over 2016, as last year suffered from frosts too.

Early summer weather was hotter than average, which has brought the growing season across the whole country ahead of the normal pace, something that could help the grapes that have survived to fully ripen.

Beer taking a backseat for millennials

Craft beers and IPAs have had a resurgence over the last few years, thanks at least in part to the taste of the millennial generation. This group of consumers is frequently used as ‘tastemakers’ in many industries and nowhere more so than with the drinks industry.

However, in 2017 it seems their tastes in alcohol are finally changing, moving away from beer towards wine and spirits. According to a recent report from Goldman Sachs, the future looks brighter for whisky and wine, and less so for beer brewers.

The report focuses primarily on the American market, but its findings have certainly been taken on board across the global industry. It explicitly cites millennial tastes as the reason for the shift away from beer to wine and spirits and goes on to say that this is the major factor behind the slowdown of the beer industry.

Ideal Wine Company beer vs wine
Beer is no longer more popular than wine for millennials.

Declines expected in beer industry

Goldman Sachs has laid out that it expects volume declines across the beer industry, driven mostly by mainstream brands like Miller Lite, Coors Light and Budweiser. In particular, the report states that the recent slowdown in the beer industry will escalate over the next two years. This includes a rapid slowdown of the previously extremely popular craft beer sector.

So, the move away from beer has boosted sales of wine and spirits. The market in the US for wine is expected to expand by 1.1% to around 330 million cases sold by the end of 2017. Spirits look set to rise about 2.5% to 228 million cases sold.

The growth of wine sales is due mainly to California wines that are selling above $10, as well as the ever-expanding sparkling wine sector. This latter segment is expected to rise a whopping 8% to sell a record 22 million cases in 2017.

Market changes driven by millennials

Taking the millennial generation as those currently younger than 32, this is the consumer sector that is changing the drinks market. This generation are drinking less than previous groups did by their stage in life.

The next generation up (35 to 44-year-olds) are choosing to drink spirits and wine rather than beer. It certainly looks like this is a continuing trend both in the USA and the rest of Europe, as beer continues to take a back seat.

Global warming changing wine production in Europe

Some people may still refuse to take the threat of global warming seriously, but the signs are increasingly apparent that our climate is changing. We’re all aware that at some unspecified point in the future, rising sea levels and general temperature changes will fundamentally alter our way of life. But did you know that wine is already being affected?

Rising temperatures, uncertain winters and unexpected weather patterns are all disrupting the production of wine across the Mediterranean. Ultimately, it’s threatening the amount of wine that’s being made, and therefore exported.

Ideal Wine Company global warming
Global Warming is being said to change wine production within Europe

Productivity loss

A recent report backs this up, showing data that points to increased temperatures in the Mediterranean. These higher temperatures are resulting in productivity losses in the wine industry. The report uses Cyprus as an example.

While manual agricultural grape picking is generally done in temperatures of up to 36C on the Greek island, researchers found that even higher temperatures in the summer has directly led to losses in results.

This is down to the elevated stress levels affecting the workers due to the heat. The need for an increased amount of breaks due to the extreme temperatures also led to a 15 per cent decrease in the actual work time being completed by workers.

Vineyards destroyed across Europe

Along with rising summer temperatures, random hail storms and late frosts have decimated crops in Spain and France. It’s likely that this year’s output will be significantly lower from these areas, due to the destruction of budding wine crops.

The soil’s balance is key to the taste of the wine, as vines are very sensitive to changes in the weather and the environment surrounding them. So, even vines that have escaped the late wintery conditions of Q2 2017 could still be adversely affected when it comes to the taste of the wine they make.

Positive news in England

While the Med might be struggling, global warming seems to be helping out in unexpected ways for UK vineyard owners. Crops are flourishing and the market is rocketing, with an ever-increasing number of vineyards opening in the south of England.

Sales of sparkling wine from England have risen fast, due to the fact that the country has experienced eight of the hottest years on record since 2002. These temperature increases mean that the South East of England is almost the same as Champagne when it comes to heat levels.

Who knows, in a few generations it may be that England is the frontrunner in wine production, leaving the Mediterranean in its wake!

English wineries showing record turnover

New data and analysis shows that lots of wineries based in England are doing really well. They’re seeing record turnover due to the increased demand from consumers and the industry as a whole is hitting new highs.

Turnover up 16% on 2016

Independent English wineries show an increase in turnover of 16 per cent as at the end of the 2016/2017 tax year in March. The data analysed was provided from UK Companies House listings and put together by finance firm Funding Options.

Its data further showed that since 2010/2011, the turnover for English wine producers has pretty much trebled from £55.7 million. This is a clear sign that the English wine industry is on the up, despite the fact that it’s difficult to find exact sales figures for wine from English wineries.

Customs figures point to success

According to customs figures, a massive (and record breaking) 64 new wine producers obtained a licence to allow them to produce wine in the UK last year. English Wine Producers (EWP), the trade body in the UK, backs up this evidence, saying: “This is another good news story for English wine – and is in-line with what we already know. Production is up, in vineyards planted and volume going out.”

How much is the sector worth?

In 2016, 4.15 million bottles of wine were produced from vineyards in England, according to records from EWP. However, less is known for sure about over sales of English wine. According to specialists, there are currently no verified figures that incorporate both duty-free sales and duty-paid orders.

What we do know is that there is a huge growth in exports and retailers such as Waitrose and M&S are reporting a steady increase in sales of English wine.

Trade body merger

EWP is due to merge with the UK Vineyards Association, which aims to improve the quality of data from this sector. There are also plans for an economic market report to be commissioned some time in 2017, which will shed more light on the subject.

There has been an increase in exports of English wine. In 2016 wines from English and Welsh vineyards were sent to 27 countries. This data was from a government report published in early 2017 which also said that English wine producers have committed to increasing exports to 2.5 million bottles by 2020.

It certainly looks set to be an exciting few years in this burgeoning industry. We can’t wait to see where it goes next.

Record turnover for wine producers in England

Despite a distinct lack of confidence in them from the market historically, wine producers in England are having the last laugh. An impressive £132 million turnover from 2015 to 2016 has been registered by independent wine producers in England – that’s an all-time high.

New research from online business finance company Funding Options has released this information, which clearly shows that English vineyards are now very much part of the global market and potentially a force to be reckoned with.

Ideal Wine Company UK production
Record turnovers in the UK for wine production.

England now viable wine producer

While English wine has never really been seen as serious competition to the well-established wine growing countries that everyone’s used to, it seems that it’s become a major growth industry over the last few years. The latest figures show an increase of 16 per cent on the year before, and reports show that the sector has pretty much trebled during the last five years.

Previously the industry had suffered from a certain amount of consumer scepticism, but now that there is much more national and international recognition, this has receded somewhat. As this has diminished, prices have risen and English wine has become more popular.

Norfolk white named best in the world

Just a few months ago, in May 2017, Winbirri Vineyard’s Bacchus 2015 wine was awarded with the prestigious accolade of ‘world’s best white wine’ in the Decanter World Wine Awards. This wine was made in Norfolk, making this an extraordinary achievement for a burgeoning industry.

Wine makers are also riding high on the back of the popularity of British boutique alcohol production. Sales are encouraging more producers to get on board and try the market. New figures from HM Revenue & Customs show 64 new wine producers gaining a wine production licence in 2016.

On a par with French and German vintages

English wine is beginning to be ranked up with German and French vintages and it’s imperative that producers continue investing to be able to satisfy the growing demand. There needs to be long term sustainable growth if the industry is going to succeed in the UK.

The climate is still not able to produce good quality red wines, but the south of England has quickly built up a reputation for producing sparkling white wine. Names like Tattinger have moved to plant vineyards in Kent, showing very clearly that there is a confidence in England as a wine producer.

There are now 502 vineyards in Wales and England, which are producing around five million bottles every year. And this could be just the start.

Regional spotlight – the Napa Valley

With over 400 wineries located in one of California’s premier grape-growing regions, it’s fair to say that the Napa Valley is an unmissable experience for any wine buff.

Ideal Wine company napa valley
Regional spotlight – the Napa Valley

Welcome to Napa

We’d strongly recommend avoiding it in the summer when the crowds flock to tastings and the most popular wineries are extremely busy – try to head there in the Autumn for a more relaxed experience. But where do you start in this most iconic of wine regions?

Well, first of all make sure you make the time to take in downtown Napa itself. It makes a great base to explore the region from and it’s packed with affordable hotels and restaurants. From there you’ll be able to easily explore the rest of the region, and have an attractive and trendy old town to return to after a hard day on the road.

Which winery?

The many wineries in the Napa Valley offer a huge range of different experiences for the wine lover – from relaxed afternoons spent enjoying food pairing sessions with some of California’s leading wine experts through to quick tastings, there really is something for everyone. Don’t be put off visiting the biggest wineries either – they’re popular for a reason and most are well worth taking in. Here are just a few of our favourites.

  1. Robert Mondavi: Napa’s first commercial winery, established in 1861 by Charles Krug. It’s a great place to start your Napa Valley experience, with fascinating tours and stunning grounds.
  1. Inglenook Winery: Now owned by Francis Ford Coppola – who bought the place with the profits he made from The Godfather II – Inglenook is an unmissable Napa highlight. It’s a steep $45 to visit – but worth every penny.
  1. Frog’s Leap: Built on a former frog farm (no, we’re not entirely sure either), this is a wonderful place to soak up the atmosphere while enjoying a guided tour through their vineyards. You’ll get plenty of wine to taste while you’re taking in the scenery too – this is a special experience for anyone heading to the Napa Valley looking for something a bit different.

Find out more about our range of Californian wines on our website.

Heatwave in UK sends rosé sales sky high

There has been a marked increase in sales of rosé across supermarkets and wine merchants throughout the UK. And it’s all down to the heatwave that swept the country in the third week of June.

We even had the hottest June day since the long, hot summer of 1976 with temperatures hitting 34°C in a few parts of the country. It seems that people have been hoovering up the cooling, delicious taste of rosé to help the summer evenings fly by.

Ideal Wine Company rose
How has the recent UK heatwave impacted rosé sales?

Rose from Provence most popular

While other countries have also been experiencing extreme temperatures, here in the UK it seems that feeling the heat has led to rosé from Provence becoming the most popular wine.

Asda reported an increase in sales of rosé of more than 26 per cent compared with the same week of the summer 2016. The supermarket giant also reported a 170 per cent rise in rosé sales from France and a massive 250 per cent rise in rosé sales from Australia.

While Waitrose didn’t release any figures, they did confirm that their rosé sales had taken a sharp upturn, and Tesco reported an increase of 20 per cent in sales of rosé when compared with the same week last year.

Strong rosé sales for Majestic

Provence rosé is flying off the shelves at wine retailer Majestic, with sales up around 29 per cent.

Similarly, Lea & Sandeman have also reported a rise in rosé sales. They also said they have been selling larger bottles this year, with more jeroboams and magnums being sold than last year.

Champagne sales were also up 11.3 per cent at Lea & Sandeman, compared with June 2016.

More rosé growth predicted

Experts predict that rosé should continue to grow its share in global still wine consumption and is likely to increase by 5.9% by 2020.

The ever-growing popularity of rosé in 2017 has led to all sorts of themed products being launched, including rosé flavoured lollipops and sweets.

Greek wines playing catch up in Asian market

Greece has been making wine for more than 5,000 years, but it’s only just starting to infiltrate the crowded Asian market.

Kavita Faiella, brand ambassador for Kir-Yianni winery reckons it has more than a little to do with pronunciation. He points to the difficulty in promoting Greek wines when the vast majority of consumers in Asia are not familiar with the grape varieties, production regions and find it difficult to pronounce the names.

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Greek wine is making an impact within the Asian market.

Indigenous grapes are best

While Greece does grow vines with international grapes, its best wines come from the indigenous grapes. They have names like Xinomavro, Assyrtiko and Agiorgitiko and are not at all well known in Asia.

Despite this, during the last few years, there has been a move into the Asian market. Greek exports from wineries like Alpha Estate were the first to tap into this market. Alpha Estate is in Amyndeon, which is in the northwestern part of Greece and has been exporting wine to China for more than four years. It also sells wine to Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore and Japan. And while the Greek export of wine to Asia is relatively small, it’s growing all the time.

Growing recognition in Asia

Kir-Yianni is another winery in northern Greece who has made in-roads into Hong Kong. Earlier in 2017, the winery made a deal with Hong Kong’s largest wine retailer, Watson’s Wine. They make wines in Amyndeon and Naoussa, using local grapes including Roditis, Malagousia and Xinomavro, among others.

So far, Greek wines seem to be going down well in Asia, as they are in other major wine drinking cities like London, New York and Sydney. The winery’s higher priced wines are doing well in China and Japan as well, where they’re collaborating with the country’s first Master of Wine Kenichi Ohashi.

Santorini wine popular

As it goes so well with seafood dishes, Assyrtiko from Santorini is popular among Asian wine lovers. Its red grape Xinomavro (also known as the ‘Burgundy of Greece’), is becoming more popular as well. The latter’s rose and sour cherry aromas, along with its impressive acidity and ability to age well, stands it in good stead with this growing market.

Watson’s Wine is now stocking five of Kir-Yianni’s Greek wines, including Samaropetra 2015, which is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc along with Greek grape Roditis. There’s also PAranga, a blend of Merlot with Greek grape Xinomavro, Ramnista 2012 and Diaporos 2012, made from Syrah and indigenous grape Xinomavro.

Will the UK elections effect the wine trade?

This month has seen another seismic political shock in the UK with the surprise downfall of the Tories leading to a hung parliament following the General Election on 8 June.

The newly instated hung parliament and the rise of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour agenda has thrown Brexit even harder into the spotlight. Talks are due to start later this month, although what will be on the agenda is anyone’s guess at this stage. While the results may help those who want to stay close to the EU, they lend yet more uncertainty to trade and the economy. Inevitably this will have an effect, as wine prices continue to be affected by plummeting sterling.

Ideal Wine Company brexit
Will UK elections impact the UK wine trade?

Will Brexit trade terms be more open?

It’s too soon to tell, but the election results could very well open up the Brexit terms that the UK will put to the EU. And this could significantly impact the flow of wine trade between the UK and Europe.

An enormous 90 per cent of Britain’s wine is imported, and around 55 per cent of that comes from the EU, according to trade figures. Negotiations look like they may be somewhat delayed following the General Election, but they will start sooner rather than later.

Pre-election, Prime Minister Theresa May was gunning clearly for a ‘hard’ Brexit, which refers to her intention to pull the UK from the single market and the customs union. This option isn’t popular with people in many industries.

Labour policy to retain access to single market

Labour’s not inconsiderable gains in the election should strengthen the position of politicians favouring a softer Brexit, which will mean retaining and improving close trading ties with Europe. The opposition’s manifesto clearly stated that their negotiating terms would be different, and more inclusive, than the Prime Minister’s.

This is a view welcomed by the Wine & Spirit Trade Association (WSTA). Miles Beale, CEO of the WSTA said (before the election): “The WSTA will be working tirelessly to achieve our key aims: continued, tariff-free movement of wines and spirits to and from the EU; new, tariff-free trade agreements with priority countries outside the EU; and, equally, safe passage of our goods – with no additional checks or delays at borders, even once we have left the Customs Union.”

Weak sterling raises wine prices

UK wine buyers were already dealing with up to a 15 per cent price rise for Bordeaux 2016 en primeur due to the pound being weak against the euro. Sterling dipped again as the election results were announced on 9 June and hit a new low of 1.13. This is just added pressure for wine merchants and buyers when it comes to the Bordeaux 2016 vintage.

The wine trade, among many others, are definitely feeling the pressures of the economic uncertainty. The pound has already been weak against the euro for more than a year, and there are no signs of its recovery for the rest of 2017.

Average prices of wine have already hit an all-time high at £5.56 per bottle, according to figures from the WSTA.