It’s always exciting to see Canadian wine being enjoyed outwith our country, and so it was simply fantastic to discover that the venerable UK retailer Marks and Spencer had ordered 500 cases of Southbrook‘s Cabernet Sauvignon. We spoke with Southbrook’s Bill Redelmeier about this amazing coup.
Good Food Revolution: So Bill, I hear that you now have Southbrook wine in Marks and Spencer in the UK… that’s pretty exciting. Which wine are we talking about and how did that come about?
Bill Redelmeier: Last May with the help of the Canadian government and the Wine Council of Ontario, we put on a Canadian WIne Tasting at Canada House, along with Jancis Robnson, Steven Spurrier, Oz Clark and about 100 other press, M&S buyers attended. The M&S buyers were in North America in September, to investigate interesting new wine regions. Our reputation for high quality wine and ecological practises led them to Southbrook, and they were particularly impressed by our estate-bottled Cabernet Sauvignon form the 2012 vintage.
In Ontario, this wine is labeled as Triomphe Cabernet Sauvignon, and is available as a Vintages Essential listing. It is over 86% Cabernet Sauvignon with small amounts of Petit Verdot, Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet Franc, all sourced from our certified organic and biodynamic vineyards, and made in accordance with these standards as well. For the UK market, we have labeled this as Southbrook Canadian Cabernet Sauvignon.
GFR: So how much of the wine did you end up sending over? And are you expecting a repeat order?
BR: We were happy to ship 500 cases of 6 bottles each, and we would welcome further opportunities to offer our wines to UK wine lovers. This is our largest single shipment of table wine outside of Ontario.
GFR: And you had a bit of trouble with the labelling didn’t you? Please tell us about that…
BR: We were unable to use our original Triomphe label in the UK, because there is a grape variety named Triomphe D’Alsace grown in England. Since they liked the look of our Whimsy! label, we adapted that label.
GFR: And how much will your wine sell for on the Marks and Spencer shelves?
BR: M&S is listing this wine at £15.99, or $29 Canadian.
GFR: Hmmm… that’s actually quite a pricey bottle when you consider how much wine is sold at deep discount in the UK retail environment. How do you think that will go down, and have you seen any reviews as of yet?
BR: The pricing does place this premium wine among other premium wines M&S offers. We feel confident that Ontario wines generally and Southbrook wines in particular are competitive in a global context. We are pleased that the M&S buyers, who are spoiled for options, seem to agree. The initial review in the Yorkshire Post highlights the organic and biodynamic credentials of the wine, and adds that ” this wine brings deep cassis notes and supple tannins”. It is gratifying to have the varietal typicity of our Cabernet Sauvignon acknowledged, as we believe that the relatively warm meso-climate of our vineyard site in the Four Mile Creek sub-appellation is indeed well suited to this heat-loving grape.
GFR: The UK wine market is a notoriously difficult one to break at the retail level. I seem to remember that in years past you had the first Canadian wine on the shelves of Harrods… your fruit wine if I remember correctly?
BR: While Southbrook began our history in 1991 by making grape wines, it was indeed our Framboise that was first represented in the UK market. We also have sold some Chardonnay and Pinot Noir there, but this is our first sale of dry table wine since we began to produce organic and biodynamic wines.
GFR: Well, this really is great news both for Southbrook and the Canadian wine industry as a whole. Congratulations Bill and thank you for your time!
BR: As a winery, our advocacy has always been for the entire Canadian wine industry, which is why we spearheaded the Chardonnay tasting for British wine media at Canada House in London in 2010. We expect many more premium, Canadian wines to be available in the highly competitive UK market soon. To paraphrase Frank Sinatra, “if we can make it there, we can make it anywhere.”
Edinburgh-born/Toronto-based Sommelier, consultant, writer, judge, and educator Jamie Drummond is the Director of Programs/Editor of Good Food Revolution… And he’s going to get on the phone to his Dad this afternoon and tell him about this.