The Blind Spot label has been an integral part of our range for almost ten years now. It was the brainchild of my predecessor as Australian wine buyer and now Director of Wine, Pierre Mansour, who noted the dearth of good Australian wines in the UK at that time between £7 and £10 a bottle. Supermarkets were overflowing with cheaper bulk options and there was an embarrassment of riches at over £10. But that intermediate price point was... you guessed it – a real Blind Spot!
Background to a blindingly good range!
Pierre quickly realised that we needed someone on the ground in Australia, someone with the contacts and expertise to rescue parcels with potential from being blended into obscurity (another Blind Spot) under anonymous big-brand labels. Step forward up-and-coming Yarra Valley winemaker Mac Forbes, who identified such wines before they were bottled and sent samples to Pierre for tasting. Those that made the cut earned the Blind Spot label. Thanks to Mac, The Wine Society was able to offer a perfectly positioned range of interesting, digestibly priced wines from across Australia. They were a big hit!
Since then, Mac has proven to be a true ally of The Wine Society, working closely and collaboratively with Pierre, then Sarah Knowles MW and now me, understanding the values and nuances of our business and getting what it is that we’re about. But while Mac’s a constant there has also been a lot of change. Each harvest plays its part in a much bigger picture, ultimately dictating supply, while other international markets come and go, impacting demand. In recent years it has become much harder to source wines that offer outstanding quality and at the right price. Far from calling time on a special relationship that continues to pay huge dividends and offer great potential, the time has come to give the range a new lease of life!
A Wine Society first
In order to ensure there’s absolutely no compromise on quality, we have accepted that many more doors open at an ever-so-slightly higher bottle price in Australia. However, to get the absolute best relative value possible we decided to do something that we have never done before as a business: buy grapes. In a very special new agreement, we will now fund Mac to buy grapes across Australia from the vineyards that excite him each year, rather than relying only on what is already sitting in winery tanks. This far-sighted decision allows us to plan what wine styles we want to work with and adds greater traceability to the range. Mac can now start at the beginning, working with fruit that inspires his full confidence, and offering the best possible value for our mutual benefit.
To get the absolute best relative value possible we decided to do something that we have never done before as a business: buy grapes
The Blind Spot Range
For a small business like Mac’s, this cash injection will ensure that he can access otherwise unobtainable fruit for us, meaning that what ends up in the bottle is more delicious and better priced than before. The new range will be smaller and more concise, focusing initially on just four wines but with plans from the 2022 vintage to increase that to six and, as before, changing each year to reflect where value and deliciousness are to be found in that vintage. As has always been the case, the focus is on the wonderful diversity of styles available from Australia but we have homed in on the more cutting-edge wines now being produced there, making the most of Mac’s freer rein to showcase what makes his country unique.
A bold new step demands a label to match and our design brief started with Mac – one of the most exciting and pioneering winemakers Down Under in my opinion, but, at the same time, a true Australian wine historian. Our new design fuses the formality of the old-school – notably with the ‘small print’ on the front, instead of being relegated to the back – with the excitement, fun and positively disruptive nature of the new. The Blind Spot, in a nutshell!