Intermediaries are rarely looked upon favourably. One such “middleman” familiar to many is the mortgage broker. Usually encounters with such types are as pleasant as back-to-back colonoscopies. Nonetheless, intermediaries are a stalwart of society. The British economy largely relies on them to function, across a plethora of key industries.
But, more often than not, the overarching sentiment towards the middleman is a negative one. They have their uses, but they may often feel surplus to requirements while profiting from the success of some and the ignorance of others. Their own personal gain seems of greater concern than advising the best decision in any given situation, and we just can’t quite tell when one of them might be taking us for a ride. The world of wine is no exception.
Take wholesalers of wine. On the face of things, they buy wine in bulk, making it easier for us to access certain producers. The hidden underbelly to this though is their ability, to a lesser or greater extent, to manipulate the market. Calling the shots with producers, and controlling the supply to retailers and consumers, whilst working in some pretty plush margins. Doesn’t exactly sound fair, right?
Surely there must be a more accessible and less manipulative system to operate within? Just cut the middleman, go directly to the winery, and secure some tasty, exclusive wines. Easy, right? In theory, yes. This approach is all very well for those of us who know what they’re looking for, but for those of us who don’t, it can be heinously time-consuming. However, when the kind folk at Plonk do all the heavy lifting for you (figuratively, that is: you will still have to transport your nine boxes of wine from the doorstep to the cellar yourself), then the smoke and mirrors start to disperse and the benefits of working directly with wineries become clearer than a crisp albariño on a scorching summer’s day.
Better value for you
Everyone loves good value for money. The UK is a thrifty nation, which opened its arms to the phrase “cheap as chips” with unconditional adoration. Be it at Portobello Market trying to haggle the best deal, or half-cut on a Saturday evening, charmingly (or so you think) attempting to wangle a free shot, we are always on the lookout for a good deal.
So one might be taken aback to discover that if you take a £5 bottle of wine, after-tax, production costs, transport and importer margins, a mere 47p of your fiver (the exact figure is debated, but in all cases, it’s flippin’ low) has actually gone into the winemaking itself. Mugged off.
Now, one should always be spending more than £5 on a bottle of wine anyway, but this stat lays bare how many pieces there are to the jigsaw of wine.
Of course, some of these costs are either unavoidable (tax) or essential (transport), but others are less so.
You guessed it – importer margin. So, by cutting out this wily culprit, more of your cash goes straight into the wine itself, and not any old wine, productions of wine exclusive to Plonk. Absolute winner.
A varied range and ability to support winemakers
I don’t need to tell you that variety is the spice of life. We have all been of victims of the same mundane routines in recent months. I was screaming at the walls for a change in my day-to-day, even just for the smallest iota of difference (I made the radical decision to sit on the other side of my dining table to work – game changer).
It is easy to become too comfortable with the choices we make. And a lot of the time these choices are made for us, whether we are conscious of this phenomenon or not.
We need variety to be made more readily available. Enter the second feather in our working-directly-with-wineries-cap.
This process supports winemakers carrying out dormouse sized (i.e. really small) production lines that normally wouldn’t be financially feasible. Through the allocation wine process, the winemaker is effectively guaranteed fulfilment of their production, which in turn cultivates experimentation and variety in a more financially viable manner, in turn giving you the chance to push the wine boundaries that may be restraining you.
Wineries get paid faster
This may seem a futile point to you as the consumer, but for anyone with a jot of business acumen, you will be aware of how crucial this is. Without intermediaries dictating the pace, wineries get paid more promptly, which massively aids with their cash flow.
This results in less time fixating on staying out of the red (i.e. debt, not wine – I imagine the wineries are very much staying in the red from a wine perspective, at least I bloody hope so), and more time to crafting liquid heaven for you to indulge in.
Supporting the underdog
Underdog stories pretty much drive the Hollywood film industry, and I for one am a sucker for them. So it’s no surprise when considering that buying direct from wineries supports the underdog, that I’m there faster than a cork shooting out of a bottle of fizz.
Partly related to an earlier point around small production wineries, this artisanal approach can, unfortunately, mean that they do not make enough wine to warrant an importer representing them, resulting in said winemaker missing out on exporting their wonderful product, and us missing out on enjoying it.
What our aforementioned friend allocation wines enable is a consolidated shipment so we no longer miss out on these hidden gems.
Real people and small businesses that benefits their local communities
Saved the best until last here. The overwhelming takeaway from lockdown I would say has to be the re-instilment of a sense of community.
We were all so wrapped up in our globalised bubbles that the local blinkers were truly in action. “Support local” became less of a corporate tagline and more of a real and tangible movement. We learnt the stories of our nearest delicatessen or office (depending which way inclined you are).
And this trend is one you can continue to pursue further through wine. Direct liaison with wineries means supporting real people and small businesses, for whom winemaking is truly their lifeblood, and the true antithesis to the corporate behemoth churning out farcical excuses for wine (see here a previous blog post I wrote on why you fundamentally should not buy big brand wine).
And do you want to know the coolest bit about it? You basically get to drink exclusive wines, ones that the locals actually get stuck into (so you know it is top shelf stuff). It doesn’t get more real and sentimental than that! (I can sense the tear of joy slowly forming at the corner of your eye as I type).
So with these mesmeric benefits, I hear you exclaim, “Surely there’s a downside?!” Well my friends, there actually isn’t. Simple.
This is precisely what Plonk are here to do. Looking after you, and the winemakers. No b.s.
The guest author for this article is Fred Clelland, creator of ‘Wined Your Neck In’. His wine blog aims to cut through the complexities of wine, making it more relatable to you.