Boosting business with a changing offer

Independents should find more time to seek out new wines, according to a leading importer.

Nicky Burston, director of World Wine Agencies in Bath, believes some retailers are missing a trick by failing to engage with potential new suppliers.

She says: "I find it amazing that some independents are too busy to talk to me. They're too busy selling what they have to look for new things.

"Lack of time is always a really good excuse. I know independents have cut staffing levels, as has everybody else this year. I'm in the same position - I run a £2 million business and I'm the buyer and the seller and if push comes to shove, obviously sales are going to come first.

"But it doesn't really take a lot of time to talk to me and to try the wines."

Burston highlighted independents such as the Vineking in Surrey, Wild Flower Wines

and Wood winters in Edinburgh and Bridge of Allan for their imaginative approaches.

"What amazes me is how often they change their selection. They don't stick to one range for six months - they're always tasting new things and adding new stuff. They're quite dynamic, looking for wines that are unusual and exclusive to the independent sector."

World Wine Agencies is sponsoring the Best Independent US

Wine Merchant of the Year category

in this year's International Wine Challenge.

"The US

is a particular strength of mine, partly because I used to work for Robert Mondavi," says Burston. "We've got quite a few American wines in our portfolio which are exclusive to the independent sector."

She says that some independents are hesitant about Californian wines. "When you drill down and ask why, it's because they never had the right wines. The independents that have taken on my wines have done fantastically well." Relying on Napa Valley and icon wines from California does not give independents enough breadth, she argues.

The WWA range includes Jewel wines from Lodi, ranging from entry-level products at £4.95 to Sonoma varietals at £9.95.

Burston says: "I hope that the best candidates in the US

category in this year's IWC show a really good range

- and depth of range

- of American wines within a cross-world portfolio.

"I would like to see them be ambassadors for American wines and show people who are a bit nervous that they can really be a big success story."