Wednesday 8 September 2021 4:35 pm

Gordon's wine bar: 'Insane paperwork' putting pressure on supplies

London wine venues are experiencing shortages of some wines thanks to red tape and driver shortages.

The Wine and Spirit Trade Association has warned some of the country’s favourite wines could be unavailable in the run up to Christmas.

Bars and restaurants have struggled to keep menu items available because of shortages of packaging products as well as the shortfall of HGV drivers and fresh border restrictions.

London’s oldest wine bar Gordon’s told CityAM it had experienced shortages of specific wines from some suppliers with one wine unavailable until next summer.

“The main issue is getting the wine out of the docks – the paperwork is insane,” Gordon’s Amanda Whiteside said.

The Villiers Street bar has considered alternatives to European wines but would still come up against a log jam in ports thanks to post Brexit paperwork and Covid side effects on imports.

Prices at risk

“We rely on our suppliers being savvy enough to buy and hold enough stock to see us through but that comes at a cost to them that knocks on to us and may ultimately affect retail prices if the current situation persists. We have looked at English wines but they are expensive and have a limited range,” Whiteside added.

The bar has been told to not expect any more supplies of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc until August 2022 as the US market has ordered more than usual. 

However, Gordon’s said it had “plenty of wine” on offer and reassured Londoners they would not go thirsty.

Red tape

Vineyard production output was also hit by shortages of glass and cardboard – known as “beige gold” – during the pandemic, although supplies have improved.

Miles Beale, chief executive of the WSTA, said the body was working with the government to slash red tape and improve electronic systems.

He added: “So many import/export requirements are electronic that electronic solutions must be feasible and we must encourage customs officers not to rely on pieces of paper.

“We also hope to push government to establish sensible protocols, for example a target time of two days for exports from an EU port to arrival in a UK warehouse.”

Specialist wine retailer Majestic Wines has struggled with supply from Europe and the movement of freight in particular. The firm said it was mitigating disruption in the festive period by bringing in an extra £10m of stock now.

Voices in the sector have called for a year-long Covid recovery visa to help ease labour shortages with workers from overseas.

There has been a shortfall of HGV drivers as many workers returned home overseas because of Brexit and the pandemic while hospitality has also been hit with labour shortages.