Wine Time: A peek behind the scenes at how Morrison's takes its customers on a journey through wine
Jane Clare of One Foot in the Grapes speaks to Mark Jarman from Morrisons as the retailer's latest seasonal range is released.
It’s ever such a busy time of year in the drinks’ world as people emerge blinking from the grey skies of winter and early spring into the sunshine of May, June and July.
Well you’d like to think that, but so far this month the weather has been especially changeable... Hail! Storms! Chilly toes!
Ah, but life goes on as producers and retailers gear up for the step change as we look towards warmer days and now, thank goodness, family gatherings.
I gained an insight into how supermarket ranges are put together when I spoke to Mark Jarman Morrisons’ senior wine sourcing manager.
We chatted on Zoom one lunchtime – and it appears Zoom has played its part in creating some of the wines out on the shelves in this new spring summer season.
Mark joined Morrisons in 2013 from a background in winemaking and taking wines to market with retailers, together with long experience in retail buying.
When Mark joined, the Morrisons’ wine range, “wasn’t where it needed to be – so there was a fantastic job to move it in the right direction,” Mark told me.
Since then, he says “we’re very pleased where we’re at".
"Quality and value is paramount. We put a lot of focus to listening hard to customers and responding to what they need. That has really been the ethos”.
Mark explains: “Our work has been to continually evolve.
"To develop and respond to market changes and to take our customers on a journey in wine.
"To help them to understand what it is that they like and love.
"We’re a guiding hand to lead them through what, to a lot of people, is a complex area to shop.”
The Morrisons team has nurtured some great relationships with leading wine producers across the world.
Brands such as Yealands in New Zealand, Vina Cono Sur in Chile, Zuccardi in Argentina, Gerard Bertrand in southern France, and Muriel Wines in Spain.
They are all incredibly well-known producers creating bespoke wines to sit behind Morrisons’ own labels.
It is those relationships which enabled Mark and the team to develop new wines for this spring summer season despite the pandemic.
Mark explains: “We’re very lucky that one of the reasons we’ve been able to drive the quality of our range is by those relationships.
“That really helped during the pandemic.
"We were able to blend wines in our offices talking to people in Zoom meetings, across 6,000 to 7,000 miles away.
"That’s the beauty of the technology. We were able to create as if I was there in the winery.
“We work with some very good people and that is very important to us.”
Mark and I talked about the new range.
I asked him for a couple of shout-outs for wines to recommend. I love this wine: Morrisons The Best Cinsault 2020 (RRP £8.25).
Cinsault is one of my favourite red wine grapes and often overlooked.
Mark says: “Some people have said how game-changing that wine is for them. A lot of people have never heard of it. We’ve had many converts.”
Indeed, for a wine which looks so light, this wine from Swartland in South Africa packs a ripe fruit flavour punch. It was the wine Mark suggested when I asked his thoughts on a red which could wow white lovers.
Likewise, I also asked for a white to entice red lovers, and Mark’s suggestion was Morrisons The Best Gruner Veltliner (RRP£8.25) because, he says, “it’s a great example of something to love. It has weight minerality and poise and elegance”.
For many people its an eye opener that Austria produces great whites.
I was won over by Morrisons The Best Cava Brut (RRP £9) and even more so when I saw it has been created for Morrisons by producer Segura Viudas, a winery I’ve visited.
It is simply delicious, driven with fresh and dried green apples, a rich aroma and a long vibrant finish.
Well done to Bashall Spirits based in the Ribble Valley for winning a prestigious award at The Gin Guide Awards 2021.
Bashall Spirits was launched by Fiona McNeill and Hamish Allan and the sips are based on recipes found in handwritten recipe books passed down for generations in Fiona’s family.
The Damson and Elderberry Gin picked up a Gin Guide award, hot on the heels of Bashall’s entire flavour range receiving silver medals in the 2021 London Spirits Competition.
Fiona said it was, “superb just to be shortlisted but to win is amazing. It’s still sinking in”.
I’d love to hear from local drinks’ award-winners. Drop me a line and I’ll share your story!
Jane Clare is a programme provider for the Wine & Spirit Education Trust. For more details email [email protected]