Cambridge facing a fine wine shortage due to Brexit

Cambridge could be facing a fine wine shortage, as Brexit-related red tape has stalled the delivery of thousands of bottles to a celebrated merchant.

Cambridge Wine Merchants – with award-winning branches on King’s Parade and Bridge Street – is waiting on 20,000 bottles of Spanish wine, currently stuck at the Port of Tilbury in Essex.

57 days after the order was placed at the start of December, it’s still unclear when the wine might make it to Cambridge.

Founder of Cambridge Wine Merchants Hal Wilson said customs bottlenecks “mean that the good people in Cambridge can’t get access to our wine, we’re virtually out of all the wines that we were trying to stockpile”.

He had hoped to receive the Spanish shipment before Britain left the Single Market on December 31.

But due to a huge demand for trucks in December, and a backlog of customs declarations at UK port, the container of wine arrived during a confusing transitional period, as the UK switched to a different way of importing wine.

Where there used to be a “pretty simple flowchart” of 6 steps for a wine producer and customer to do, Mr Wilson said merchant’s must now complete “a minimum of 15 different steps and if any little bit of it is wrong then it becomes very time-consuming to correct.”

In Cambridge Wine Merchant’s case, having to revert to a paper-based application has led costly delays for the business.

Cambridge MP Daniel Zeichner said: “The government’s promises of a bright future are withering on the vine. They need to uncork this blockage. No one who voted for Brexit voted for their favourite tipple to be stuck at the border.”

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Speaking on a committee discussing the rules for wine importers in the Commons today (January 25), Mr Zeichner challenged the government to sort out the “mess” of red tape.

Other wine lovers have been warned they face paying a “Brexit tax” of up to £1.50 more for bottles coming from France, Italy and Spain, a statement from the Labour MP’s office said.

“Unfortunately the system that the government is using for all of these customs declarations isn’t fit for purpose yet,” Mr Wilson said.

Rioja, red and white “everyday” wines from Spain are among some of the merchants most popular wines.

20,000 bottles is a big order for Cambridge Wine Merchants. They pride themselves on supplying thousands of different bottles from hundreds of different producers, and often deal in smaller deliveries of around 3,000 bottles.

But Brexit could complicate that: putting some EU producers off business with UK buyers, and generally rewarding bulk-buying supermarkets over quality independents.

The upshot, Mr Wilson said, is “higher prices and less choice for wine lovers in Cambridge.”

“It’s sad,” he said, “because there’s loads of different example of great wine out there and the UK has been this wonderful market for wine.

We’re all very lucky that we have the choice we do. And we’re going to give up our pre-eminence in the world, as a consequence of leaving the single market. It’s just a bit sad.”

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