Lockdown supplies: Are we running out of wine?

Jacopo Mazzeo

Jacopo Mazzeo

26 March 2020

As people stockpile on booze and London City Bond announces the introduction of a revised delivery service, is there any risk we'll be running out of wine?

It was weeks before the government ruled for a lockdown that people began raiding supermarkets.

Toilet roll, pasta, flour, rice and eggs are now only found in their mere literary format, as solitary tags adorn empty supermarket shelves.

It’s not just essential goods, however, that people have been frantically stocking up on. My local Sainsbury's was out of Frozen Turkey Dinosaurs last time I shopped – it’s astonishing what people might understand as essential.

Wine, however, is a more widely agreeable ‘essential’. With Dry January now a thing of the past, and pubs, bars and restaurants closed or working as takeaway businesses only, fears have been spreading that we won’t have enough booze to get us through the isolation of this shutdown.

Unprecedented wine sales

Fears might be well-founded. Majestic’s website crashed last weekend due to an unprecedented degree of demand, and was forced to temporarily shut its shops just to give staff time to restock, and breathe. Then, on Tuesday, The Wine Society decided to suspend operations to avoid putting its staff at risk of contracting coronavirus.

On-trade merchants, many of which have swiftly upped their B2C game, have seen online sales sky-rocket, too. Jascots was one such case, turning its business from 99.8% on-trade to mainly home-delivery and wholesale in the blink of an eye.

Like other merchants, Yapp Bros had a spectacular week last week; on Thursday 19 March, they managed to dispatch the biggest volume of wine in a day, ever.

Yapp Brother’s Tom Ashworth told us that this was due to ‘customers realising that they may be spending months at home and ensuring that they had decent stocks of good wine for that reality’.

Ashworth seems relatively relaxed about his current stock availability: ‘We were stocked to a level to supply the on-trade, so that capacity can be redirected to consumers, [and] we have shipments booked to arrive this week and next,’ he said.

‘But it’s a possibility that freight shipments may be restricted,’ he continued, explaining that fulfilment at their end is ‘getting increasingly difficult’.

Stock is there, but who'll be delivering?

Graft Wine’s Nik Darlington pointed out that, while we shouldn’t worry – for now – about stock from Europe, deliveries might be affected by lack of delivery or warehouse staff well-before international freight shipments will be restricted.

Yesterday evening, Darlington’s words resonated louder, as London City Bond (LCB) – the UK’s leading tax warehousing company – announced the introduction of a revised delivery service from its warehouses to all postcodes in England and Wales, saying that it could no longer offer a guaranteed day for delivery.

As the revised service will come into play on Monday, it’s difficult to foresee what its effect will be, yet ‘new schedules and delivery patterns across the country mean wine will take longer to arrive than usual’, commented Darlington, but at least ‘it will still be moving’, he added. Indeed, an inoperative LCB would be a potentially catastrophic scenario for many wine businesses. ‘It allows for businesses like ours to keep supplying our clients around the country so that, in turn, local wine merchants can deliver directly to their customers,’ said Darlington.

‘Without the dedication of LCB to stay open as best as they possibly can, smaller players like us would be cut out of the supply chain. When supermarkets and larger wine businesses are inundated and ordering systems crack at the seams, we need more than ever to keep open the flow of goods to smaller, local operators.’

LCB said that it will ‘review the situation on a regular basis’ and inform clients of when they plan to resume a normal service. For our own sake, and for that of our industry, deliveries won’t cease before this happens. Until then, UK merchants and producers have plenty of great wine to get us through this lockdown  get ordering.

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