Maria Elener, the supermarket’s wine buyer for Italy, told OLN: “Our share of Italian wines has grown by 4.5% over the last three years and we now have a significant share of the Italian wine market; about 11.7%. We are looking at about £5.5m of over-performance value at the moment, and this is against the overall market for Italy, which is in decline.
“We are not that reliant on Pinot Grigio or Chianti like some of our competitors; I like to work out what the next big thing might be for Italy, and for the Autumn/ Winter season I have gone big on Siciily.
“I looked for easy drinking, pizza-pasta reds but ones based on the indigenous styles. A lot of Italian wines are on the lighter flavour profile, but Sicily gives this and then a little bit more. Sicily apparently produces the same amount of wine as South Africa, and I can well believe it as there are a lot of small producers out there and they have some interesting indigenous grape varieties.”
New red wines from Sicily which are set to join Waitrose’s range include: Corbello Nero d’Avola/ Nero Mascalese 2015, Rapitala Nero d’Avola 2015 and Donnafugata Angheli Merlot/ Cabernet Sauvignon 2012. It is also adding two whites: Corbello Catarratto/ Inzolia 2015 and Rapitala Grillo 2015.
Elener said: “I wanted to add a Sicilian Grillo and I spent a while looking for a wine which best represented it because some whites can be a bit flabby by the end of the year. But I think this one has a lovely flavour intensity and it is different from what is already in the Italian range. I am now very excited by Sicily. I will also be adding one to the Fine Wine line up.”
The retailer's Italian portfolio will also be bolstered by further new additions including a Bersano Nivasco 2010 Barolo from Piedmont; Barone Riscasoli Brolio 2013 Chianti Classico Riserva from Tuscany; Tenute Poggiocaro 2010 Brunello di Montalcino Riserva, Tuscany; and Reccia 2011 Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Riserva, Veneto.
The retailer also overtrades in French wine and it has plans to add more to its line up, including a premium level Beaujolais (Albert Bichot Les Rochegres 2014 Moulin-a-Vent, at £24.99). Nick Room, the retailer’s buyer for Beaujolais, said: “We are adding this single vineyard Beaujolais, which is exclusive to us. This one is a step up from the others as we are seeing good sales for the five we have already. We are trying to rebalance the range. Our share in Burgundy is high while Beaujolais sells well all year; it appeals to people because it is a bit lower in alcohol.”
Among the other new additions for the Autumn/ Winter season is a wine from Moldova, the retailer's first representation from this country; the Purcari Estate Freedom Blend 2011 (rrp £14.99), a blend of Bastardo, Saperavi, Rara Neagra.
Elener, who is also the wine buyer for Eastern Europe, explains: “We are starting to see some good quality wines appearing from Hungary and Romania, and although I try to find different and interesting wines I usually tend to look for indigenous grapes but blended with an international grape variety, so that it helps to ease people in. But with this new one from Moldova I haven’t done that, so it is a bit of a gamble, but it’s a lovely red.”
The retailer is also planning to make changes to its Fine Wine offering. As of November this year it will add more rotating stock, using smaller parcels of wine from niche producers, under a WIGIG (when its gone its gone) strategy.