Thousands of buyers flooded the London International Wine Fair to find hidden gems and bolster their ranges, and suppliers were impressed by the passion and business acumen of the independents they met.
Patrick McGrath MW, managing director at Hatch Mansfield, said: “I think the number of independents will continue to grow, particularly in market towns. We are seeing more and more good independents, like Oxford and Cambridge Wines, who have multiple shops and are looking to expand if the site is right.
“They can grow the market in the future.
“They are selling at a higher price point. They are sophisticated and have an online offering and mail outs and they are doing very well in terms of email offers and so on.
“Forums we have done with independents show how switched on they are.
“The trade will be different a year from now. The independent sector will have grown and I think there will be more confidence back.”
Connoisseur Wine Estates called hundreds of independents ahead of the fair and said many visited its stand to do business.
Andrew Steel, co-founder and director, said: “I think the worst is over. We are not out of the woods yet but there are some rays of light.
“People who used to eat out and get a bottle of wine now eat in and spend the same on a bottle of wine but get a far better bottle, so people are spending the same but drinking better at home and independents are key to that.
“I think you are going to see more independents open up across the UK. The independent sector will become stronger.”
Steel added that the luxury Champagne and wine brands it handles have seen a surge in sales this year.
“Luxury Champagne brands come out of recession quicker,” he said. “So far this year Champagne listings and sales are doing very well at Grand Cru and Prestige Cuvee.
“The sector is doing better as people are drinking better.
“The marketplace has been volatile but independents can play with a good product and make some money on it.
“The independents have the time and the awareness to sell these wines. The independent sector is becoming much more diverse.
“People are going to the independents and taking advice. On the shelves at multiples you get no advice and they don’t talk you through the product.
“We supply independents from Cornwall to Scotland and we are seeing great growth because the quality of the wines they are selling is excellent and the price is realistic."