By James Wells

Villa Maria will look to expand its range of products and brands in Australia following the introduction of a direct distribution model into the Australian market last month.

Villa Maria chief operating officer, Richard Thomas, has told TheShout that the sale of its former distributor Fine Wine Partners to Accolade Wines provided the business with an important decision.

“We had a great relationship with Fine Wine Partners and they did a really good job with both the Villa Maria brand as well as the Vidal brand which has been sold through both on-premise channels and independent retailers.

“So when Accolade announced the purchase of Fine Wine Partners, we took the opportunity to think about our long-term, future goals and identify the best road for us to achieve them.

“To be honest we looked at the market and thought – do we look at another distribution partner and make the move or do we do this ourselves? The decision was made to bite the bullet and do it ourselves. In many ways, we were really fortunate because David Bird, our General Manager in Australia, has been running the business there for over 8 years, so we already had a firmly established team in the region. He was instrumental in developing the roadmap and plan to market and will continue to lead the business in Australia.

“We now have sufficient scale in the market to be able to support our business and it allows us to get closer to our customers. We don’t have anyone between us and them now. Of course that comes with both an upside and some downsides, but ultimately we are really excited for this change and appreciative of the support we’ve received thus far.

“To demonstrate this support, our on-premise customers were ordering from day one and for us that was really reassuring. Because it is one thing going out on your own and bringing major retailers with you, but what you want to do is also bring your on-premise and independent customers along as well. We see them as critically important to the health of the brand.

“We believe so much in the ability of our people to make connections on the ground. You have to bring the right solutions and most importantly,you have to deliver great wine. I honestly lookback at it now and am very pleased that every one of our customers we talk to has something positive to say. I haven’t had anyone say this was a poor decision; nearly every single person says that this move was brilliant – so that is very exciting.”

Thomas confirmed that with the new distributionmodel Villa Maria and Vidal could be joined by other brands in the company’s portfolio such as Esk Valley and Left Field in the Australian market.

“To start with it is Villa and Vidal and the wines that are already in the market. So the idea is to bring some wines under both those brands that are new to market – with Albarino being a great example of what we could bring under Villa Maria and then to explore the channels or the retail partnerships where we can bring other brands.

“Esk Valley is a crafted and boutique brand with small production out of Hawkes Bay. It is currently exported to the UK and US markets, and we would love to bring it to the Australianmarket, particularly the independents or possibly on-premise venues.

“Left Field from Te Awa winery is designed to be a different brand for consumers – it looks different and therefore has a different conversation. It is targeted at the urban demographic between 28 to 40 years of age. It is designed to be playful and entertaining and as a result we feel that Leftfield has got a real future and believe it can come to Australia this year – we are currently identifying the most appropriate distribution channels."

The Shout Team

The leading online news service for Australia's beer, wine, spirits and hospitality industries.

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