The financial headlines say it all: the year ahead looks set to be as testing as 2011 with several challenges about the outlook for the world economy remaining unresolved. Will 2012 be a re-run of 2011? Will the sovereign debt crisis in the developed world continue to dominate markets? Can China engineer a soft landing? Despite the doom and gloom, is there anything that could actually go right?
Well, yes, things can go right, right here in old Blighty. 2011 was a tough year but we attained as good a sales level as we have ever done here in Bothy Vineyard and the footfall to our shop rose. There is no reason to think that this trend will not continue. For a small vineyard/winery situated in middle England (Oxfordshire) specializing in selling to our local market it is not all doom and gloom. The big difference, we found, was that individual purchases were on average more conservative. Fewer customers bought six cases as a time, and the restaurants ordered modest consignments, only placing more orders when their stocks dwindled. Everyone is being careful, not that we blame them. We do the same ourselves.
On the other hand, we have seen even more interest from customers interested in our local food and sustainability credentials than ever before. When we took up the business in 2002, Bothy benefitted from the launch of the Local Food movement. Who would have thought 10 years on, this sense of locality is stronger than ever. This is why most of our wines are vigorously tested to sport the “Protected Geographic Indication“ credentials.
In 2012 Bothy will have a smaller volume to release than in 2011, but the quality is superb. The trick is to tell everyone about it – and emphasise what a good deal they are getting! This means more emphasis on marketing, putting ourselves out in the local community, trying new ways of meeting customers – via Facebook (www.facebook.com/bothyvineyard), and collaborating with our trade customers, local groups, etc to generate more cross publicity. Anyways, it is always hugely rewarding to “get out there” and meet our customers.
2012 is also the Jubilee year and the Olympics are being held just 70 miles down the road. Being English will be a badge of pride this year, but Bothy will have to plan carefully to ensure that our activities compliment, not clash with these major events.
The other side of the coin is that Bothy Vineyard cannot be complacent about quality and investment – even whilst the exchequer is considering yet another year of duty rises. (Duty will rise 2% above inflation in April – thankfully inflation has just fallen, but not enough). Bothy is considering better corks, better labels, innovative soil management (with extra wildflower plantings) and better control over fruiting volumes in our most vigorous grape varieties. Investments will include a weather station (forecasting frost and disease) as well as extra storage space. There is no time like “now” to invest for the future.
Richard and Sian Liwicki