The life of a wine buyer for Co-op wines … a peek inside Laura’s world

I’d love to be involved in the creation of wine and not just sit at the “consumer end” opening a bottle and enjoying the contents. Don’t get me wrong, I love that bit. I really love that bit.

Laura Stafford co-op wine buyer
Laura Stafford

Laura Stafford is a wine buyer for the Co-operative and I’ve spoken to her about her work and our shared love; sharing our love of wine.

Laura says she was “in the right place at the right time” when a role as a buyer came up, and a couple of qualifications later (from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust) and Laura is in a role she loves.

I asked what inspires her.

“I love the end to end aspect of my job, it’s all hands on. It’s the pride in seeing the whole process through.”

Laura will taste, test, and consider different blends during her visits to winemakers. Laura says: “Then suddenly you hit THE moment when you have found the right blend and it’s really satisfying.”

When sourcing a malbec in Argentina, Laura was hugely influenced by the region. That is reflected not just in the wine, but in the label.

Laura Stafford wine buyer mood board
Laura’s mood board which inspired the label of the The Co-operative Argentine Malbec

Laura explains: “There was a really colourful town, very rustic, murals on the wall, bright chalky colours, and it really showed the spirit and the character of Argentina. I thought, how can I live and breathe that through this wine?”

Laura shared a mood board with a design company back home and the result is a colourful but simple label.

Says Laura: “I talked with the design team about making it friendlier and easier to understand. Malbec goes with meat and it is full of raspberries and plum. The rewarding bit is seeing it on the shelves.”

The Co-operative Argentine Malbec
The Co-operative Argentine Malbec

Laura describes The Co-operative Argentine Malbec (£4,99) as clean and honest; there is just enough tannin and a good amount of spice.

Laura says: “I really encourage people to step a bit beyond the boundaries.

“I love the friendliness that needs to come from wine. Take away the scary factor; ignore the snobbery; ignore people who hold the glass in a certain way. Don’t be scared about wine. I want to make wines friendly and approachable. All of it, the whole package; from the wine to how we evolve the labels.”

Laura and I sipped and talked about Co-op wines.

Argentina Finca Las Moras Pinot Grigio
Argentina Finca Las Moras Pinot Grigio

Argentina Finca Las Moras Pinot Grigio (£6.99) is 100% pinot grigio, Laura explains that the warmth of the climate gives bolder fruits which are slightly tropical. I found a tutti frutti hot pot of pineapple, lemon and honeyed apricot.

I asked Laura what people could try that’s different if they are stuck in pinot grigio world. She says: “Try chenin blanc. It is a really drinkable style, with a little bit of acidity. The fruit isn’t as big and bold as chardonnay, or as acidic as sauvignon blanc.”

Hilltop Premium Pinot Grigio-Királyleányka
Hilltop Premium Pinot Grigio-Királyleányka

Hilltop Premium Pinot Grigio-Királyleányka (£4.79) is another pinot grigio, but this time blended with a local grape variety, Királyleányka (40% of the blend). It is pronounced keer-a-lee-en-ee-ka. It’s definitely easier to sip than to say! It is sherberty, lemony and has sweet floral notes.

The Co-operative Truly Irresistible Pinot Noir (£7.99) is from Chile. Laura suggests you pop this wine in a fridge for half an hour, or pop in an ice bucket for a chilled summer garden wine.

The Co-operative Truly Irresistible Pinot Noir
The Co-operative Truly Irresistible Pinot Noir

This will bring out the red fruit and redcurrant characters. This wine smells of snapped twigs and palma violets, with blueberry and cherry flavours. Really lovely.

The upshot? I’m actually jealous of Laura Stafford.

Published in the saturday extra magazine March 14, 2015

Liverpool Echo – South Wales Echo – Daily Post Wales – Huddersfield Examiner – The Chronicle, Newcastle – Teesside Evening Gazette – Birmingham  Mail – Coventry Telegraph – Paisley Daily Express