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Spotlight on 2020: John Chapman, The Oxford Wine Company

Published:  17 December, 2019

As we prepare for the new decade, Harpers will be taking the month of December to look back over 2019 and ahead to what the coming year will bring – hopefully full of revived optimism for both politics and the trade.

Here, we continue our winter series of reflections, predictions and views with John Chapman, director, The Oxford Wine Company

  1. What were the highs and lows for you and your business in 2019?

The highs for me would definitely be discovering the intricacies of a new wine region: Rio Grande de Sol in Brazil. In the global wine business we all believe there are still pockets of winemaking that stretch the conventional wisdoms. For the company I would say the coming together of a lot of new projects resulting in a bumper year sales wise.

The lows for the company, excluding the B-word, would be the exchange rate issues for the main part of the year.

  1. What were the most significant issues and trends that occurred in 2019?

2019 has been a good year, but one of consolidation here at The Oxford Wine Company. So, I would say the biggest issues have been streamlining the company to ensure efficiency after a rapid period of growth. Trend wise anything classic, natural or in touch with its roots has been in, and all overworked, over marketed products have been out.

  1. What Brexit outcome would you prefer to see?

In short the same as most people now – anything that stops this pantomime. Since we are past any ounce of reason or logic I believe most of the damage is probably already done. Just get on with it whatever it is.

  1. What trends do you predict for 2020?

Everyone keeps saying the Gin bubble has burst and the rum cloud is descending. This may be so, but I think that Sherry is still edging its way forward. The general wine drinking folk though are much more interested in the ins and outs of the product – so wines with proper heritage and a story will become increasingly relevant. 

  1. What are likely to be the biggest opportunities for the trade in 2020?

I am continually reading how the way forward for the big brands is to advance down the B to C route, but I am more of a traditionalist and think the role of a traditional wine merchant is becoming more important as a quality conduit to enhance the wine drinking experiences of our customers

  1. What are the biggest challenges facing the trade in 2020?

The real answer to that depends on the election outcome and the resultant political fallout. But that aside I think that maintaining a firm tier of quality with value. As the country feels the pinch the tendency is to trade down. This has the danger of relegating wine to the manufactured status of other alcoholic offerings. As a champion of real wine, we have to be ambassadors of what makes wine different. Continue to bring to the trade/public examples that inspire. A big challenge but one I believe we are up to.

  1. Who are the people, companies or retailers to watch in 2020?

2020 will be interesting as I believe there will be more high profile causalities. For innovative companies I am keeping an eye on Graft Wines, retailers – I think Co-op is still setting an impressive benchmark for a multiple.

  1. What, for you, would make for a perfect Christmas?

Vinously - to kick off the day with a glass of Deutz Blanc des Blancs, move onto a little Mercurey Blanc from Agnes at Domaine du Meix-Foulot to start lunch, and slide into the main event with a healthy measure of Chateau Laurets Baron Puisseguin Saint Emilion 2015.

  1. New Year's resolution?

New years resolution, well vinously this would be to find more good Languedoc wine gems – then drink them! Otherwise it would have to be spend more time skiing.