A Vineyard Diary Part 3

April 2020

Vineyards and Coronavirus

Coates & Seely at The Dorchester Grill

What do you do when the heart of your sales base simply disappears before your eyes?

The quandary, of course, is not ours alone. 

Our clients – the restaurants and hotels we supply around the world that over the years have become not just our customers but, very often, our friends – are similarly afflicted.

‘The Fat Duck’, ‘The Ivy’, ‘Scotts’, ‘Sexy Fish’, the ‘George V’ in Paris, ‘Geranium’ in Copenhagen: it is an honour to supply such great names, but then, what happens when they all shut overnight?  

At the same time as all of the Jockey Club race-courses across the UK – another of our sales mainstays? (Racegoers, for the record, are the Frankels of fizz consumption).

Faced with such a quandary, and with our PM by now in bed, we turn for guidance – as our parents and grandparents did before us – to Churchill.

His words on the sterling properties of fizz still resonate down the decades.

In victory, deserved, in defeat, needed!

The prompt is clear.  

Our response, direct.

An Easter newsletter is despatched, to all the Frankels we know (aka Friends of Coates & Seely). Most are hunkered down safely with their families but many are trapped in a dangerous state of aridity, unable, for want of new supplies, to celebrate the simple triumph of survival or the marital distress of a shared kitchen.

Our approach is augmented – fortuitously – by a simultaneous and much appreciated tip for Coates & Seely by Victoria Moore in the Telegraph.

The response is overwhelming and more than we could have hoped for.

Famous epidemiologists will no doubt seek one day to understand the effects of self-isolation on a distressed people; and the great business schools of the world will produce seminal case studies on the retail implications of pandemics.

If our own experience is anything to go by, they’d do well, when they do, to heed the Great Man’s words…

Meanwhile, back at the winery, with a non-furloughed staff of two (father and son), the practical implications of such an emphatic response presents a new challenge.

Logistics, we are learning, has both its hard and soft aspects.

On the soft side fall the digitalized functions – the newsletters, order sheets, delivery schedules and invoicing – into which the young (Tristram), with their superior IT skills and tactical dexterity effortlessly slide.

At the hard end fall the endless labeling and boxing, the stacking of pallets, the loading onto vans and the drudgery of deliveries, to which I, like an ageing trucker, am assigned.

The future is all too clear.

Yet the deliveries do provide some safe-distance recreation as I finally get to see, albeit at 10 metres, a few old friends. Bored witless by weeks of isolation (and probably parched to the bone) they follow me (and the bottles) longingly around the garden as I deliver, like hounds on scent.

By far our strongest reaction, though, is the gratitude we all feel here for the huge support we have received from our Friends of Coates & Seely.

You are the Frankels of this pandemic!

Whether from victory or defeat, a sense of loyalty, a need for retail therapy, or simple old-fashioned thirst, or a mix of all of these, you have raised our spirits and we thank you all a thousand times.

(to be continued….)