The future of wine is English – so says Chapel Down’s Chief Commercial Officer Mark Harvey – and for very good reason, as sales at the Kent-based winery continue to thrive and ambitious expansion plans are afoot – despite the trials of the past 16 months. Read on for today’s Leader in Luxury interview, as Mark talks to us about Chapel Down’s latest round of Crowdfunding; what this investment will go towards; and why demand for England’s ‘rare, harder to copy, and more distinctive’ wines is accelerating.
We were early believers in the benefits of crowdfunding here at Chapel Down, achieving a world record for the largest and fastest raise back in 2014. And it is going pretty well this time around too! At the time of writing (17th June) we are at £5.77 million with circa £1.1 million to go until we reach the maximum.
Raising the money is obviously fantastic, but the speed at which it is happening is also pretty humbling. That during the last week over 3,100 additional investors have decided to buy into Chapel Down makes us immensely proud of our business. Most of all, we absolutely want to build a significant body of shareholders who will support our brands, buy our products and encourage their friends to do the same.
The funding will go against six areas of investment:
WINERY. We need to scale up and improve our winemaking capabilities and capacity to make more, even higher quality wine. That requires us to invest in buildings, facilities, infrastructure and winery equipment to create a world class winery that is sustainable, efficient and capable of meeting our projected needs. We are aiming to produce over 3 million bottles per annum by 2026 and with a strong plan beyond.
VINEYARDS. We want to complete the planting of our biggest vineyard on the finest terroir for sparkling wine in England. A further 150 acres of the very finest North Downs chalk terroir in Kent, capable of producing up to 500,000 extra bottles of premium sparkling wine per annum. In addition, we have a flexible sourcing business model. We source from our own leased and owned land, we manage land, we have long term contracts and we make spot purchases of fruit. Which means we can secure more high quality fruit as and when it becomes available.
BRAND AWARENESS. Chapel Down has a great story to tell. It is inspiring. We want to tell more people about our story, and what makes us so much more interesting than others. Our brand has been built over the last 20 years with real values, real care and real passion and it will continue to be the difference
E-COMMERCE. We need to scale up our e-commerce to even higher standards. We have come a long way – particularly over the last year – pivoting our business and building an e-commerce offer that is now 18% of our business and growing. We believe we have much further to go to give our consumers a richer, more exclusive and more rewarding experience.
EXPORT. We need to invest in selected export markets as the world awakens to the excellence of English sparkling wines. We believe the opportunity is now significant.
EXPERIENCES AT OUR HOME IN TENTERDEN. We want to give people an experience they will remember forever. We are already well regarded but we believe we can get better with some extra sizzle. We will try to help our customers to do things you can’t do anywhere else. Open eyes, minds, taste buds and views of wine. We want the experience to be a revelation.
Despite the trials of Covid we have emerged with a much stronger wine business. Indeed, 2020 was a record year for Chapel Down growing revenue by +32%. And on sparkling wines specifically we grew by +53% in start contrast to Champagne which dropped by -22% over the course of the year. Supermarkets performed exceptionally well. And we pivoted our business with explosive growth in e-commerce sales delivered by new people, systems and processes. A whopping +467% growth in this channel last year with huge further potential. As we are listed I cannot comment on the specifics of sales so far this year until we announce our results in September but suffice to say the momentum continues…
Cool climate wines, such as those from Champagne and New Zealand are more in tune with today’s consumer. English wines are naturally high in refreshing acidity and lower in sugars and alcohol. And they taste great! Which is very exciting. Because you don’t witness the genesis of a new wine region very often. Perhaps once or twice in a lifetime as climates shift and consumer tastes change. So to have one developing now, in a country that not only loves wine and has world-class knowledge, but which also has such a rich pedigree in creating great drinks, internationally renowned luxury consumer brands and cutting-edge innovation is a rare opportunity.
The outlook for English wine is tremendously exciting. Cool climate wines are in vogue and England is at the cutting edge.
In England we are making wines at the very edge of the wine growing world. Whilst that makes our wines more difficult to make, it also makes them rarer, harder to copy, and more distinctive. The chalky terroir, longer growing season and cooler climate we enjoy in the South East of England allows us to make truly world class sparkling wines and increasingly highly rated still white wines too. More and more consumers are discovering the joys of our wines every day. Demand for English wine is accelerating and Chapel Down is the leading brand. We believe the future has never been more exciting!