The reason I think it is useful is because it seems that I may have upset one or two importers of Portuguese wines, and I want to make it perfectly clear that it was not my intention to be either deliberately controversial or to rubbish the attempts that are being made. What I was attempting to do was to look at something from the outside, as someone who sells wine to retail customers and who is also responsible for other people hand selling the wines, and then try to look at things holistically.
Nor am I pointing fingers at anyone, as an independent merchant I am just as responsible as anyone else for what we as merchants sell.
But what I am trying to say is that as I see it, because of the weakness of the pound and the strength of the Australian $, and for a few other well documented reasons, the is a great opportunity for Portugal to go and get a bigger slice of the pie. The same could also be said of Austria, the Spanish regions that are not Rioja, Germany, Canada, Switzerland - in fact any of the high quality regions that are not "big" in the UK.
There seems little point in me writing about all the great things that are already happening - if it works and is doing well then terrific. Viniportugal gives our bursaries for tastings and the like - which is brilliant - and I've used them and have sold some Portuguese wine on the back of it. But equally I think that more could be done.
In terms of the UK market if you read Nick Oakley's well made comments below you will see that there is an Association of Portuguese Wine Importers - a body that I didn't even know existed - nor what they did.
It is also likely that some of the things I have said that need to be done, are being done - and that in some cases some of the things that are happening are things that I need to know how to plug into. As an independent, what I want to be able to do is to plug into a (one stop shop) programme that is set up for me that results in me selling more wine. At the moment a lot of the generics are spending a lot of time setting these programmes up I join the programme and get a lot of support from the body and from importers to make a real difference.
Take Wines of Australia, I sign up, I get a tutor visit the business for a day who runs two training sessions for my staff on Australian regionality. It is supported by the agent I buy more Australian wines from than anywhere else, who provides tasting stock for the training and also helps out with tastings stock for the promotion.
I then get promotional help, POS and the like, my staff understand the promotion. The importer and the generic give my staff incentives to sell the wines over a period of time. Because they understand the promotion, know the wines better, have more confidence in them etc etc the promotion works well and has a knockon effect over a period of months.
Against that is the flexibility of a bursary - the issue here is that it is easy to use it as a one hit wonder - ie used for a single tasting which doesn't show any sustained growth.
As an indepdendent I am always pushed for time and resources. I will use both tools happily, but I know that one will be more likely to have lasting effects than the other. I also know that one hangs on something - there is something to use as the focus, the other is too general.
Now I shold point out that I've only been in the wine trade for 3 years - so my knowledge isn't massive - but I should also mention that I have worked inside one of the UK's largest supermarket chains and understand how they work. Everything for them is about brands. So when a generic body gives money to a supermarket, they do so expecting them to promote the wines of that bodies area. What they will probably get is either a bit of money off a branded wine, or perhaps better positioning of the brand in the supermarket. The effect is the same, not a building of brand Portugal, but a further building of a single brand.