Registration Opens

1 May 2024


24 & 25 March 2025

Winners Announcement

22 April 2025

  • Enter Now


LWC blog

Photo for:




Photo for:




Photo for:




Photo for: Amathus’ Jeremy Lithgow MW on what wine buyers looking for most in a new wine


Amathus’ Jeremy Lithgow MW on what wine buyers looking for most in a new wine

Jeremy Lithgow MW has enjoyed a wide and varied career that has taken him from the UK high street, to working for producers and distributors in Australia. But it is the British retail scene that he knows really well, heading up the Harrods wine department before now running wine buying for Amathus Drinks.

What is your background and how did you get into the drinks industry?

In my early 20s, and in need of a new job, a family friend who was running the Wandsworth Bridge Roadd branch of Bottoms Up (in many ways a precursor of Majestic) took pity on me. I then had stints managing stores for Wine Rack, La Reserve (pre purchase by Jeroboams), five years in wineries, retail and distribution in Australia, before returning to manage the Harrods wine department. That was followed by trade sales at Charles Taylor, and now my role at Amathus Drinks

Why did you want to work in the wine sector and wine retailing in particular?

Initially the lure of cheap booze was hard to resist, but as time went on I began to enjoy the story behind the wines and the satisfaction of a good sale. Wine is a continual learning process, so there’s no opportunity for boredom. Retail gives you instant feedback and the chance to chat to people endlessly about wine, and there’s something immensely satisfying about building a repeat client base

You have had a number of senior retailing roles - what are the key learnings you have taken from each role to apply in your current role at Amathus?

Good retail is all about quickly building successful customer relationships, and that’s true of anything. Consumers often need to feel a degree of security before they can be taken on a voyage of discovery, so some compromise in ranging can be helpful.

You can’t sell it if you don’t have it and never underestimate the spending potential of your clients. Do your homework on pricing and the competition and try to train, engage and enthuse the team on the frontline and listen to their feedback

Jeremy Lithgow MW, Head of Wine at Amathus Drinks PLC

Why did you want to work for Amathus?

It was an opportunity to be involved in really exciting project to build a diverse direct import wine portfolio almost from the ground up, with distribution channels already in place. Working with the whole spectrum of wine from entry-level to fine and rare allows you to keep a grip on reality while still indulging in occasional flights of fancy.

What do you see as being your key point of difference?

My height! In terms of Amathus, I can’t think of another multi-site retailer, or indeed distributor which offers such vast array of spirits alongside a broad and diverse wine selection.

How have you gone about building up your range and deciding on what regions and countries to concentrate on?

Over 90% of the wine we sell through the shops are direct import exclusive agencies we also offer to trade. The initial aim with these was to ensure we had good representation across the major wine producing regions, and then to offer some choice from each. Everything is benchmarked and value in context is key. Now we’re adding wineries who have real “best in class” excitement to the range such as Schiopetto from Italy and Metzer from South Africa. 

We’re also cautiously expanding our natural range, and exploring some of the more niche regions such as Jura and Lebanon which will add richness to our portfolio. I guess if we were to be called a specialist in anything it might be Greece, from which we import eight wineries.

What are the key factors you look for in a new wine or producer before taking them on?

Quite simply the wines need to be good. At the entry level they need to pass the basic “would you order another glass in a pub?” test, while at the £50 and above retail level there still needs to be some value – you’re looking for excellence at this level. 

New wines need to add a point of difference to the range, have character and need to compare well to what’s in the market. I often taste blind which is a real leveller, but then the entire package needs to work presentation-wise as well. Increasingly we’re looking for small to mid size producers who are fairly hands on and on an upward curve, with an emphasis on organic where possible, but never at the expense of price or wine quality.

What are the things a producer can do to make your life easier?

Communication ahead of price and vintage changes rather than leaving it until the order has been placed. Keep up to date fiches techniques. You just want a producer to be responsive and accurate, and consistent in their actions and communication.

What are the things that producers get wrong that frustrate you and make you less likely to want to work with them?

Mistakes happen, but a refusal to acknowledge and address obvious quality issues creates concerns, as do “lost” reservations and wines cropping up in unexpected places at unexpected prices. It’s also helpful if everyone’s expectations are aligned.

What trends are you seeing post lockdown in terms of wines being bought, styles and price points?

We’re seeing much greater diversity in terms of style, and a real willingness to try new things from lesser known regions or varieties. The average bottle price has decreased post-lockdown as the trade mix is higher than during, but across the board the bottle price is higher than pre-lockdown.

In part this is due to increasing prices, in part a change in our trade target market as we aim to sell on quality rather than participate in a race to the bottom on price, and also I think people are drinking better.   

What changes did you have to make during the pandemic?

We opened more stores, as we were too heavily invested in supplying the on-trade. We also gave the website a long overdue upgrade, which is still ongoing. We rolled out remote tastings and training programs.

Amathus Drinks

How many of those are here for the long term?

I’d be worried if the first two weren’t. We’re like to continue with the third as it’s a great way for us and our producers to communicate with the whole team in one go

What are your plans for the next steps for the business to help you grow?

Consolidate where we are with stores, perhaps add one or two, still work to be done on the range (always), make sure we’re targeting the right kind of trade business, maximise the potential of the website, get better at private client sales, kick off in house WSET course for staff and clients, and looking forward to getting back to a regular events programme with our producers. Longer term we’re considering dabbling in production.

What do you think are the key skills needed to be a good wine retailer?

An eye for what will sell. An eye for location, an enthusiasm for the product, an ability to communicate.

Call for domestic and international submission is now open for London Wine Competition. Enter your wines before 31 August 2024 to get super early bird pricing. Register now and ship later to save.

Key Dates