THE WINE MERCHANT. An independent magazine for independent retailers
Issue 80, May 2019
Dog of the Month: Margaux Stone Vine & Sun, Winchester
Day of judgement Record entry means a marathon session for our Top 100 tasting panel: pages 5, 34 and 35
Borough focuses on franchises Borough Wines is scaling down its retail interests to concentrate on wholesaling and franchised stores. At its high street peak in the autumn of
2016, Borough boasted 10 retail shops throughout London, including Bethnal
Green, Battersea, Chiswick, Dalston and
Islington. Now, with the advent of a new
chapter in the business, only the shops in Kensal Rise, Stoke Newington, Hackney
and the flagship store at Borough Market remain. All but the original Borough Market shop will be franchised off.
Owner Muriel Chatel admits that the
shops opened in the wake of the EU
referendum did not perform as well as
hoped. “It is a challenging time in the world of retail,” she says.
“We thought that we were quite good
at finding locations and that we went into
communities that could really relate to our offer and somehow we got stung.
“The Brexit thing is an obvious reason
but some of the shops we opened before the vote are doing really well – they are
still going up year on year. I think where
people are used to spending with us, they
won’t stop doing it. But if we are not part of Continues page four
Inside this month 6 comings & Goings Moving to a new site, complete with gym, moat and vineyard
or those of us with social lives
curtailed by finances, family duties and time poverty – which means
just about all of us – going for a night
10 tried & tested It turns out it’s really easy to
out involving food and drink can be the
highlight of the month. It’s a big deal, and
we get deflated when our hosts don’t sense
make a good Pinot Noir
quite how big.
14 david williams Reasons to hate Bordeaux. Also:
Did you know vermouth is trendy again?
Of course it’s easy to get preachy about
these things and to ignore the fact that the people who run wine bars, bistros
and restaurants have issues of their own to contend with. Finances, family duties
and time poverty are three that spring to mind. But
That moment we enter the
they need to work out a
premises, and those first few
way of reading their customers’
wide-eyed minutes when
reasons to love Bordeaux
moodometers. Probably most
all things seem possible,
30 the shipping news The pros and cons of bypassing agents and importing direct
Jane Salt and her team celebrate a first decade in wine retailing
A guided tour through some of the local heroes from the UK The Spirits World, page 56; Make a Date, page 58; Supplier Bulletin,
two from time to time, even
malleable. Marks out of 10
in a favourite venue, simply
for current mood? Ten. But
the initial euphoria wears off,
and if that first drink isn’t in our hands
because it took so bloody long
for that first glass to arrive
and keep enthusiasm afloat.
To state the bleedin’ obvious: a happy
pretty sharpish, it’s going to be an eight
customer is a bigger spending customer.
this little opportunity to keep the score
customer will write nice words on social
50 gin road trip
of us have hit a three or a
are when we’re at our most that quickly slips to a nine as
38 hay wines
It’s our big night out, and it calls for a glass of something cold, quickly
It’s amazing how many hosts miss
in double figures. “I’m just going to find
you a table – while you’re waiting, could I interest you in a glass of Champagne?” is one of the most rhetorical questions
imaginable. Here’s some olives and salted almonds to keep you going while you
look at the wine list. Have you ever tried
Manzanilla sherry? We’ve got a white Pinot
Noir open if that sort of thing interests you.
A happy customer is one that will be
more open to trying new things. A happy
media and bring more friends along next time.
Independents tend to get this stuff right
more often than the chains. But there’s
room for improvement almost everywhere, and at a time when the leisure spend is
under so much pressure, it’s an issue that’s surely worth revisiting – even among the most diligent operators.
THE WINE MERCHANT MAGAZINE
winemerchantmag.com 01323 871836 Twitter: @WineMerchantMag Editor and Publisher: Graham Holter firstname.lastname@example.org Assistant Editor: Claire Harries email@example.com Sales and Business Development: Georgina Humphrey firstname.lastname@example.org Accounts: Naomi Young email@example.com The Wine Merchant is circulated to the owners of the UK’s 911 specialist independent wine shops. Printed in Sussex by East Print. © Graham Holter Ltd 2019 Registered in England: No 6441762 VAT 943 8771 82
THE WINE MERCHANT may 2019 2
Wholesale change at Borough Wines From page one
their spending habit, the uncertainty of the climate makes people a bit more frugal.”
Far from standing still, Chatel is taking
the business in a new direction. She
explains: “There is a need to re-invent the way we operate.
“We decided to make a massive shift
in strategy. The model we are putting
together is about allowing people to buy
our product through other wine merchants. We need to find a way to keep the high street alive.”
The way forward, then, is wholesale, and
Chatel is particularly keen to promote wine on tap. “We have a fantastic warehouse where we receive and keg wines from
incredible producers who we’ve been
franchise programme aimed at giving
I wanted to buy wines from producers
as boosting the wholesale arm of the
working with for years,” she says.
“I didn’t want to buy wines ready kegged,
who I have a long-term relationship with. This means we have exclusivity and from
an environmental point of view, it’s a very green way of doing things.
“Wine on tap has really been a journey
but now the penny has dropped for so
many people. We are already working with so many chains of shops, festivals, hotels
and gastropubs, all whom are realising the power of wine on tap.
“I understand why people are a bit
put off by it because it’s hard to really
understand how it works. Not from the
customer point of view, of course, but for
the merchant. But you have a product that is always fresh. I mean, what’s not to like about it?”
Next year Chatel intends to roll out a
Borough’s Stoke Newington branch remains open and will ultimately be franchised
THE WINE MERCHANT may 2019 4
the Borough brand a significant high-
street presence beyond London as well
business. “The way we would make money is that the franchisee would buy 60% of their stock from us,” she says.
For now, apart from wholesale, the
business is concentrating on concessions or “corners”, the latest of which is quite a coup. “British Airways approached us to do a corner at JFK Airport in New York,” Chatel reports.
“It’s a wine room takeover of the first-
class lounge. We’ve got 24 wines and
people can try them at JFK, and if they
want to buy they can go to our website for
delivery in the US and obviously in the UK.” • The independently-owned Borough Wines Beers & Books in Hastings has closed – see Comings & Goings, page eight.
France continues its winning ways France has confirmed its position as the leading supplier for UK independent wine merchants after taking a quarter of the positions in the 2019 Wine Merchant Top 100 selection. The competition, which is now in its
sixth year, was judged by a panel of 25 independent merchants led by Wine
Merchant Top 100 chair David Williams in London in April, and featured the largest-
ever field of entries – 837 wines from more than 40 UK suppliers were submitted for blind tasting A total of 276 wines made
trophy winners 2019 Best Sparkling: Charles Heidsieck Rosé Réserve, Champagne, France NV (Liberty Wines) RRP £67.99 Best Value Sparkling: KWV Laborie Blanc de Blancs Methode Cap Classique, South Africa 2011 (North South Wines) RRP £14.99 Best Red: Fèlsina Berardenga Fontalloro, Toscana IGT 2016 (Liberty Wines) RRP £52.99 Best Value Red: Boutinot Brisa de Verano Garnacha Tinta, Catalunya, Spain 2017 (Boutinot) RRP £9.49
it through into the final round of judging, with the 176 wines that just missed out on the final Top 100 earning a Highly Commended award.
Other countries to fare well in the final
Top 100 were Italy with 16 wines, followed by Spain with 10 and New Zealand and
Australia with eight apiece, while Hungary made its first appearance in a Top 100
selection with two wines, and Greece once
again punched above its weight with three Top 100 wines.
The judges also awarded 10 Best in Show
Trophies to the highest-scoring wines in a range of categories (see box-out), with
France and Portugal leading the way with three trophies each.
“As well as being great fun – and hard
work – to judge, The Wine Merchant Top
100 always offers some interesting insights into independent trends,” says Williams.
“It’s clear that the classic Old World trio
of France, Italy and Spain remain strong in this sector, just ahead of the ‘New World
bloc’ of Australia, New Zealand, Argentina and South Africa,” Williams adds. “But it’s good to see that the increasing quality
and interest offered by the likes of Greece,
Hungary and the Lebanon, among others, is appreciated by our judges.”
Founded in 2013, The Wine Merchant
Best White: Diamantopetra White, PDO Dafnes, Kato Asites, Heraklion Crete, Greece 2018 (Vindependents) RRP £16.50
Top 100 is the only UK wine competition
Best Value White: Casa de Vila Nova Vila Nova Alvarinho, Minho, Portugal 2018 (Boutinot) RRP £11.49
specialist independent wine retailers.
Best Rosé: Domaine Gavoty Cuvée Clarendon Rosé, Provence, France 2018 (Laytons) RRP £18.95 Best Value Rosé: Caves LanguedocRoussillon Rosé des Plages Premium, IGP Pays d’Oc, France 2018 (Vindependents) £11.99 Best Fortified: Henriques & Henriques 10 Year Old Bual Madeira, Portugal (Mentzendorff) RRP £20.75 Best Value Fortified: Fonseca Unfiltered Late Bottled Vintage Port, Douro, Portugal 2012 (Mentzendorff) RRP £16.50
devoted exclusively to wines in the
independent trade – and judged entirely by The competition is only open to wines
that are available from UK stock, and which
are not targeted at supermarkets, specialist chains like Majestic or Oddbins, or major online retailers.
This year’s winners will be unveiled and
available to taste at The Wine Merchant Top 100 stand at the London Wine Fair
from May 20 to 22, with a full list of the
Top 100 and Highly Commended winners published in a supplement to The Wine Merchant in July.
THE WINE MERCHANT may 2019 5
“Our Man with the Facts” • The number of wineries in the United States stands at an alltime high of around 11,500. Just over 40% of those wineries are found in California.
....... • Production of Prosecco is putting huge strains on the hillsides between Valdobbiadene and Conegliano. A recent analysis estimates that 400,000 tonnes of soil is lost every year in the vineyards, the equivalent of 4.4kg for every bottle produced in the region.
....... • The world record for sabrage – opening Champagne with a sword – is 55 bottles in 60 seconds. It was set in 2015 by Julio Gonzalo Chang Romero, owner of the cocktail bar Hush-Hush in Gothenburg.
....... • Rudolf Steiner, whose theories form the basis of biodynamic viticulture and winemaking practices around the world, was teetotal.
....... • Anyone who wants to emulate Marilyn Monroe and bathe in Champagne (or any other wine) would require around 300 bottles to do the job. Monroe is said to have used 350 bottles when she indulged in her famous feat of decadance, but was probably in an outsize tub.
Vinorium thinks big for new HQ Stuart McCloskey has big plans for The Vinorium’s new headquarters. A vision in concrete and glass, with a wild flower meadow on the roof to ensure the structure blends effortlessly into the landscape, this grand design is worthy of Kevin McCloud’s attention. The £2.5m build will incorporate an
office space, warehouse, retail area, two tasting rooms, and facilities to include a
gym, showers, a kitchen and a lounge with an open fire. Set in four and a half acres of land, the building will be surrounded by gardens and a vineyard.
“I really wanted to create a holistic
environment, a state-of-the-art house for
us to work in and also function as a full-on business,” explains McCloskey. “We’re
going to plant up a small vineyard, maybe
two acres. We’re going to have some Pinot Meunier and a bit of Chardonnay as well. We will produce wine, but I’m not sure we’ll sell it commercially.
“It’s a very ecological build – we’re going
to use ground heat pumps so the polished
concrete floor will be heated and cooled by the ground itself.
“We’ll have our own fruit and vegetables
there and our own honey as we’re going to have our own bees.”
The positive environmental approach is
going down well with the local authorities, whom McCloskey says are being very
positive. “We’re moving from one parish council to another – it’s literally nine
minutes down the road from where we
are now [In Lenham, between Maidstone
and Ashford], but it’s more rural. They are
really supporting the wine industry in this neck of the woods – it’s very good timing,” he says.
The vast interior will be open plan, with
each zone being allocated around 1,500
The plans include a two-acre vineyard
square feet. The warehouse will have
It’s down to original content and good
delivery next day and we deliver as much
had to borrow money for the first time,
capacity for 30,000 bottles. McCloskey says: “Everything we have we offer for
into Europe as we do into the UK. That’s
on a 48-hour door-to-door service, so you have to have the stock here.”
When McCloskey started The Vinorium
in 2014, the shop took 150 orders online.
Five years on and he predicts this year the online orders will hit 7,500.
“Retail is massive for us. E-commerce
pulls in 60% of our turnover. This year
we’re on target to turn over £6.2m. We’ve
done just short of £1.4m this first quarter,
which is the quietest quarter of the year, of which over 60% is retail,” he says.
So what is the key to his e-commerce
success? “We spend 100 hours a week on
our website. We don’t outsource anything.
We have our own designer and we code our own website. We send out an e-magazine
every Sunday. It recaps what we’re doing,
SEO,” McCloskey says.
The project has meant the business has
but as McCloskey estimates on completion the building will be valued at £3.5m, it’s not surprising that his bank is “looking forward” to lending him the money.
Construction is scheduled to start this
summer and is estimated to take around 18 months to complete.
Abbi returns to her retail roots Since parting ways with the family firm last August, Abbi Moreno has been busy working on her new business. She opened Flora Fine Wines on April
30 in the original Maida Vale shop where
who we’re working with, news and stories about our producers, our offers, tastings
and our wine of the week. It creates a lot of business. Quite often we come in on a Monday to find 60 orders waiting to be
picked and packed, which is phenomenal.
THE WINE MERCHANT may 2019 6
Abbi Moreno: back in business in Maida Vale
Adeline Mangevine Hasty despatches from the frontline of wine retailing Moreno Wines began in the late 1960s.
The range will consist of natural, organic,
biodynamic and vegan wines to take home or drink in with cheese and charcuterie.
Steeling himself for career change
Robert Bliss is giving up a career in structural steel to join the wine trade. But he says his new wine bar and shop,
The Tasting Rooms in East Grinstead,
won’t have an industrial vibe. “We’re not
sure on the exact interior yet, until we can get the keys and start stripping stuff out,”
he first rule of Wine Club is: you
do not talk about Wine Club. The second rule of Wine Club is: you
DO NOT talk about Wine Club! It’s just
too embarrassing to be reminded of my
pathetic attempts to get customers to buy a bit more and boost cash flow. Oh, come
on! A bricks-and-mortar shop with a club is never about helping people discover
new wines, no matter how we merchants
might kid ourselves otherwise. I certainly did back in the day when I started my club.
Of course I was keen for extra revenue.
says Bliss, who was ready to embark on
But my greater mission was to take the
in mid April.
their usual shop picks of Malbec or
eight months of “stripping out and fitting
in” when The Wine Merchant spoke to him “We’re looking to open at about the
end of June,” he adds. “It’s going to be a
time-poor, the shy and the lazy on a
journey of vinous discoveries far beyond Viognier.
Tasting notes would be hand-written,
merchant space as well as a bar; we’re
and would include not just food matches,
platters and lots of wine tastings and
personal anecdotes where possible, as
doing wine to take away, tasting rooms,
but no hot food. It’s just going to be cold hopefully a bit of online as well.”
Why abandon metalwork for Malbec?
“Construction is not a very good industry
at the moment,” says Bliss, who is an East
Grinstead native. “It’s just hard. Everyone wants to argue about money all the time and no one wants to pay.
“I’ve done my WSET 2 and 3 with a view
but also ones for music, books and films.
“We’re also going to do an iPad app for
all the wines,” says Bliss. “We’re talking to a company in America who have already got the app written. We just send them
the list of wines and put up all the tasting notes for it.”
people walking in off the street. I just did not have time in the day to do it all. As
my number of club members dwindled, so did all the extras.
There was also the problem of
customers getting in touch saying,
actually, they only wanted red or old-
Struggling to keep customers interested in discovering new wines? Join the club
keep track of what wines I’d included in
discounts off our regular tasting events and quarterly seasonal tastings just for
wine club members. They’d get first pick
of special parcels, and I’d even chuck in a little gift at Christmas.
To launch the club, I teamed up with
on their first order. “You can leave at any
town’s High Street and will be fitted with
with all the demands of selling wines to
on trips and holidays ... then there’d be
surely I’d get to meet a fair few of them
position and the right shop to open up.” The venue will be in the West Sussex
bedroom. Harder if you have to juggle it
world wines or whatever and I started
to opening up a wine bar. We’ve been we’ve just been waiting for the right
online from your business rate-free back
I’d add photos of the winemakers and
a deli in town for a night of fizz and
talking about it for the last five years;
promised. Fine if you are running it
canapés. Anyone who signed up to the
club got the cost of their ticket refunded
time if it’s no longer for you,” I chirruped. Turned out, it wasn’t for a lot of those
who signed up on the night – and then promptly cancelled their membership after receiving their first, heavily discounted box.
Then there was fulfilling the onerous
task I’d set myself of all the extras I’d
THE WINE MERCHANT may 2019 7
doing bespoke boxes. My spreadsheet
became so complex that even I couldn’t which box for whom and I had to keep getting in new wines to keep things
fresh and interesting – bang went that additional cash flow.
Now I have just three members: my in-
laws, the deli owner and my accountant. I decide to pull the plug on the whole
thing, until Gav bounds in exclaiming: “I’ve had a brilliant idea. Let’s start a wine club! I’ve got tons of ideas!”
Gav, knock yourself out. Me? I’m done
with Wine Club.
Chix finds second home in Village The Wine Parlour, which closed its Herne Hill branch last summer, is back in expansion mode with the opening of a new store in Brixton Village Market. The 200 square foot unit will be branded
as The Wine Parlour Brixton Village Bottle Shop and will stock an extended range of
directly-imported wines. The original shop in Vining Street, Brixton, remains the focal point of the business.
though it’s small. It’s really exciting.”
Beers & Books in Hastings have both
in July. “But it was the best decision we’ve
Hodden in 2013, is on the market. Hodden
Chandaria says it was “heartbreaking”
to call time on the Vintage 1824 wine bar made,” she adds. “I’ve put all my energies
back into Brixton. I had to make a couple of roles redundant. It had gone a bit stagnant and we were drawing a lot of money from
“It’s 10 years in May since I incorporated
the business and the world of wine has
changed so much in that time and become more and more exciting. We’re reaching
out to the millennials and that will include some natural wines as well. We want to make it a destination bottle shop even
independent, which was formerly a branch of Threshers, has been bought by new business but operate the shop as a general off-licence.
RSPCA bequest is a cruel blow
putting money into driving footfall because
expanding into the New World.
• The Wine Factor in Chingford has been
owners who will retain the name of the
business expects to create a new full-time
last year by a young American guy and he’s
to be a much wider range. We’re now
side of the business.
Once the new shop is established the
Chix Chandaria. “The market was bought
drinking on the premises and it’s going
intends to concentrate on the wholesale
sold by Stephen Murphy. The north London
“The new shop is tiny but it’s in a really
“There will be a very tiny amount of
nearby Eastbourne, established by Steve
there to pay for Herne Hill.”
good position in the market,” says owner
it had lost its magic a bit.
ceased trading. Separately, Artisvin in
A huge rent hike was “a kick in the Michael Smith and Jess Scarratt, former owners of Borough Wines Beers & Books
teeth too far” for Famous Wines in Teddington, and the store will have to close before the start of summer.
South coast stores cease trading There’s bad news for East Sussex wine drinkers with the closure of two wellknown merchants. Hailsham Cellars and Borough Wines
Giona gin glasses
Manager Penny Andrews says: “We’ve
not been trading brilliantly in the last three to four years anyway, so I actually advised my bosses to close two years ago, when things started to go down and down.”
It wasn’t until the 150% rent increase
that the owners finally decided to close.
“The lady who owned the building died and
Oak display stand
Most gin drinkers soldier on
WBC has a new addition to
gamely with wine glasses or
its wine display range aimed
tumblers, but this copa glass, developed by the G&T-obsessed Spanish, is surely a better bet.
at merchants who need to highlight a small range of bottles during promotions or
Standing 21cm tall, it could accommodate
at tasting events. This sturdy unit,
an entire bottle of gin with its giant 810ml
made with English oak, can be combined
capacity, though that’s not quite the idea. The glasses are available from The Waiters Friend Company with an RRP of £39.95 per set of six.
THE WINE MERCHANT may 2019 8
with magnetic strips and blackboard ticketing for optimum effect. Other sizes are available, with the eight-bottle unit available for £175 plus VAT.
THE BURNING QUESTION left the property to the RSPCA,” explains Andrews. “They got a surveyor in and
What kind of customer do you find most irritating?
deemed we were underpaying rent and
The most common experience is the customers who come in as couples and refuse to make eye contact with you but whisper to each other. You say ‘hello’ then you have to stand there twiddling your thumbs and looking like a prune while they have a hushed conversation. They might pick up a bottle and say: ‘ooh, we had this in Spain, but it was only €2’.
put it up to £25,000. We negotiated and eventually one of my bosses agreed on
£20,000 but then they wanted us to date it back to 2015.”
Andrews has worked in the trade for 35
years and is considering her next move.
David Perry Shaftesbury Wines, Dorset
• The Cirencester branch of Appellation Nation has closed but the shop at Montpellier, Cheltenham, remains in business and is “going from strength to strength”, the company has reassured customers. It adds: “With the lease for
the Cirencester shop coming to an end, it seemed a natural break point.”
Gingerly exploring the wine market
Most of my customers are really easy-going. But it’s hard if someone only wants a wine from a certain country – that irritates me a bit. Also, if they ask for a white Burgundy – if it’s a particular white Burgundy like a Meursault, that’s fine, but when they ask for a white Burgundy and I show them an alternative New World offer, they’ll say: ‘I don’t like Chardonnay’. People say they don’t like Chardonnay, then ask for a bottle of Chablis!
James Findlay Findlay Wines, Budleigh Salteron
Wine merchants in Hull are a rarity but
There’s a million things but I get annoyed when somebody compares something that’s not like for like. Our regular customers don’t do this, but more random members of the public might come in and they’ll say: ‘I’ve seen that at X amount in the supermarket and you’re selling it that much higher,’ but actually it’s comparing apples with oranges. Some people will come in with preconceived ideas and won’t let you tell them otherwise.
now a coffee house has added natural wine to the menu, to drink in or take away. Luke Foster and Mayo Binnie, owners of
the Two Gingers Coffee House, have also
had beer pumps installed and intend to run wine tastings in the future.
Ryan Condon Old Chapel Cellars, Truro
When people ask just a ridiculous amount of questions about something and then just leave as if they’ve just been waiting for a train. But it’s better they see the shop than don’t. I’m being diplomatic.
Henry Breeze Symposium Wines, Lewes
Champagne Gosset The oldest wine house in Champagne: Äy 1584
THE WINE MERCHANT may 2019 9
TRIED & TESTED
Josmeyer Riesling Les Pierrets 2014
Bodegas Resalte de Peñafiel Resalte Crianza 2014
It’s impossible to pick a highlight from the excellent
A newcomer to the Hallgarten portfolio from a
good a choice as any. It was a great Riesling vintage in
as you’d expect, but the Tempranillo is allowed to
producer working with 80 hectares of prime vineyards
selection presented by Josmeyer at the recent London
in Ribera del Duero. There’s a little bit of oak heft here,
tasting, but this captivating and expressive wine is as
shine. The fruit has a racy, sour-cherry character and a
Alsace and this example has aromas suggesting jasmine
dark chocolate note rounds things out on the finish.
and honeysuckle, fleshy fruit, and an elegant, saline finish.
Hallgarten (01582 722538)
Pol Roger Portfolio (01432 262800)
Weingut Schwarztrauber Spätburgunder 2017
La Cortinel-lo 2016
It’s wines like this that make you wonder if all that stuff
swimming pools as much as it does the limestone hills
about Pinot Noir being a nightmare grape to work with is a lot of old nonsense. They don’t seem to struggle in
of Mallorca, which sets the scene for an intriguing
and idiosyncratic blend of Chardonnay, Giró Ros and
Viognier. As the alcohol level implies, it’s a pretty full-on
this corner of the Pflaz, at any rate. Beautifully clean
affair, with some syrupy characters, a fruity sweetness
and light, with pure fruit flavours, it’s not trying to be
and a bitter edge to the finish. Weird but good.
Burgundy but neither is it propped up by sweetness. RRP: £9.75
There’s a freshness to the aroma that conjures up
Bancroft Wines (020 7232 5440)
Bancroft Wines (020 7232 5440) bancroftwines.com
Gallica Rossi Ranch Grenache 2017
M de Minuty Côtes de Provence Rosé 2018
Rosemary Cakebread loves working with Grenache and
Berkmann’s resident MW Alex Hunt says that
fermenters and aged in barrel and stainless steel. It has
hitting the agreed Pantone colour for rosé in the indie
it certainly shows. Made in the heart of the Sonoma
Valley, the wine is made in Burgundian-style open-top a fresh, fruity, Pinot Noir-type character. “I don’t want the wine to be huge and ponderous,” she says. RRP: £70
Pol Roger Portfolio (01432 262800)
“anywhere that’s anywhere in Provence these days
features Château Minuty’s exquisite rosés”. Apart from trade, this is a lot of fun, with its freshness and its strawberries-and-cream flavours. RRP: £13.99
Berkmann Wine Cellars (020 7609 4711)
Yalumba Samuel’s Collection Bush Vine Grenache 2018
Ceretto Barbaresco Bernadot 2014
Samuel’s Collection pays homage to Yalumba
Made with biodynamic Nebbiolo grown in a natural
vines here have created a soft, approachable wine with
to associate with Ceretto if you get the chance to taste
founder Samuel Smith and is billed as “the gateway
to Yalumba’s premium wine portfolio”. The Barossa
flavours of cherries, ripe raspberries and red apples, perhaps with a gentle salty tang in the background. RRP: £17.49
Fells (01442 870900) fells.co.uk
amphitheatre at 400m altitude, this is a wine blessed
with the gracefulness and measured power you come through the range. Firm and tightly structured, it’s a
wine that’s yet to peak, but still feels juicy and generous. RRP: £105
Mentzendorff (020 7840 3600) mentzendorff.co.uk
THE WINE MERCHANT may 2019 10
LESS IS MORE Smaller yields and a light touch with the winemaking are the hallmarks of Staglin Family Vineyard in the Napa Valley, as its founder explains
ome producers proudly proclaim
the fact that they’re making more wine. Garen Staglin is happy to
announce he’s making less of it. Some vines are down to just one cluster per shoot,
which takes its toll on volumes but has
given the wines a complexity and finesse that evidently delights its owner.
“They’re wines that you want to drink
more than one glass of, let’s put it that way,” he says.
Garen and his wife Shari bought their
Rutherford Bench estate in 1985, fulfilling a lifelong dream to make wine. Not that life had been dull before then: Garen
has a degree in electrical and nuclear
engineering, fought with the US Navy
in Vietnam and worked in the Pentagon
before embarking on a successful career in
Garen Staglin (front) with, from left, son Brandon, wife Shari and daughter Shannon
“Pol Roger Portfolio has been a great
“Regarding Cabernets, we used to be in
ambassador here for us because they’re
the high 15s and we’re now mid 14s. If you
Cabernet Sauvignon its signature varieties.
commitment to quality and making the
We think where we are is the right place.”
Staglin Family Vineyard has 61 acres
of organic vines, with Chardonnay and
It also makes wine under the Salus label, with all of the proceeds going to mental health research.
Most of the company’s sales in the USA
are direct to consumer but in the UK the family has found a natural fit with Pol Roger Portfolio.
a small family and they work with
other families who have a generational best wine possible,” says Garen.
Wine has been part of family life from
an early age and Garen’s Italian heritage perhaps had an influence on the style of wine he wanted to make in California. “We put no malolactic in our
Chardonnays so they are not in that
overblown, fat and flabby style,” he says,
“and our oak is double restrained, so the wine is what I would call a very food-
friendly complement. It’s not something
that you’d have with a cigar, it’s something that you would have with a delicious dish of fish, or you could drink our wines with more than that – pasta, or a veal dish. By Vines first appeared here as early as 1864
not stripping the wines of their normal
acidity, they are going to go quite a long way.
THE WINE MERCHANT may 2019 11
make the wine right, you can make a 15% alcohol wine that still tastes really good.
The 72-year-old is as active and as happy
as he’s ever been. “I should be arrested, I’m having so much fun,” he says. “I don’t feel
like I’m working – everything I do is from the point of view of passion and I think
that’s a great place to be. I don’t take it for
granted, though; we have a long way to go. We haven’t made the best wine yet.”
Find out more
Visit www.polroger.co.uk or www.staglinfamily.com or call 01432 262800 Twitter: @Pol_Roger
BITS & BOBS
Domestic fizz sales hit an all-time high British wine drinkers sank a record 4m bottles of English and Welsh sparkling wine last year – up 6% on 2017 and making homegrown fizz more popular than sparkling wines from Australia, the US and Germany combined.
James Wrobel Cornelius beer & wine Edinburgh Favourite wine on my list The Este Alvarinho Reserva has been a stalwart of our Portuguese shelves for a few years and has never let me down.
Favourite wine and food match Even your most regrettable late-night purchase of cold, greasy fish and chips can be elevated to the food of the gods when paired with a lightly chilled Santorini Assyrtiko.
Favourite wine trip Porto, the Douro, Dão and Alentejano with Sogrape: astonishing booze, fascinating tours and great hospitality. I went in the wake of a family bereavement. It was a hard time for me, and the extravagance of the trip really helped me get my head together before returning to work.
New figures from the Wine & Spirit
Trade Association show that while demand for sparkling wine is still growing in the
UK, it is being driven primarily by cheaper
fizz – notably Prosecco, which remains the
bestselling bubbly. British shoppers bought 117m bottles in 2018, compared with
fewer than 24m bottles of Champagne.
The UK’s third favourite sparkling wine
Favourite wine shop Visiting the Bierwinkel in the Dutch town of Leiden was a real eye-opening experience. A tiny, but rammed Aladdin’s cave of interesting booze: a wall of Genever, a comprehensive selection of Dutch beer including some very rare De Molen, and a selection of single malts that would shame most Scottish shops. All at a very keen price and served by one of the friendliest and most helpful guys I’ve ever met.
decision to be announced at its full-year results presentation on June 13.
The potential sale of Majestic’s 200 UK
stores would represent the culmination
of the reorientation of the business under chief executive Rowan Gormley since
Majestic bought Naked, the company he founded, for £70m in 2015. The Guardian, April 23
Learn winemaking in west London
is Spanish, predominantly Cava, with
Wine merchant and owner of urban
the rest of France (crémant rather than
opportunity to participate in all aspects
sales of more than 23m bottles, and there
winery London Cru, Roberson Wine,
Champagne). UK-produced fizz is the fifth
of making the 2019 vintage with the
were sales of more than 5m bottles from
is offering wine enthusiasts the
launch of The London Cru Crush Club.
The Guardian, April 22
Roberson suggests that, unlike one-off
winemaking experiences, the opportunity
to be hands-on during the critical stages of production will give members an insight into what it takes to make a successful wine.
Members of the club will be invited to
Favourite wine trade person I’ve known big Mike Stewart from Liberty for a couple of decades now and I know a lot of his dark, dirty secrets. This means he has to keep me sweet with a regular supply of tasting bottles. Cheers Mike!
for a sale of part of the business, with a
three exclusive events over the year, with the first taking place in the autumn. The Drinks Business, April 25
Fire destroys 2m Majestic ‘could sell bottles of wine Two million bottles of wine are believed all its UK shops’ UK fizz is now fifth in the sales league table
to have been destroyed in a huge
Majestic Wine is considering selling all of its British shops and becoming an online-only operation under the Naked Wines brand. The company has appointed Rothschild
& Co investment bank to work on options
THE WINE MERCHANT may 2019 12
warehouse fire in south west France. A vast quantity of alcohol owned by
the Sovex Grands Châteaux producer was consumed in the fire, which is thought to have started in a false ceiling. The Independent, April 18
The wine we put in kegs is just like any other wine we do. Jolly good grapes, from tidy vineyards like this, by people who care. What's in it for you? Save time & space, less wastage, and it's environmentally friendly. Let's not deny it looks the business too.
THE WINE MERCHANT may 2019 13
All aboard the gravy train It’s the time of year when critics queue up to award sky-high scores to Bordeaux wines that few people can afford. Is Bordeaux really relevant to most of us these days? Maybe, but the trick is to delve deeper
h, Bordeaux, you do make it difficult to love you. The case against: a report back from a trusted
merchant friend who always puts the hard yards in
during en primeur week on this year’s shenanigans. A difficult vintage, in his opinion, very wet in spring and early summer
leading to widespread problems with mildew and then a crazy-hot summer lasting well into October. That meant a lot of variation in quality, with many wines that were not a lot of fun to taste, certainly at this early barrel-sample stage.
In fact, this is the sort of vintage that brings out the famous
Bordeaux euphemism machine: “complicated but fascinating” or “a winemaker’s vintage”.
Still, there they go, he adds, the big-name journalists, making
their usual premature declarations of greatness, and doling out the usual 96-to-98 points to the top names that have, it goes without
saying, been tasted in the most flagrantly sighted way. These postParker point-bestowers can’t do anything else. It’s their ticket to
the gravy train (or le train de velouté): reasonable scores won’t get your name in the marketing mailouts. And if your scores aren’t being quoted, your access dries up.
It’s all part of the annual springtime festival of greed that has
some parts of the wine world hooked on following the scores and prices as they trickle out like some kind of austere vinous reality TV programme, and which this year, according to a Union de
Grands Crus spokesperson quoted in Decanter, has attracted more paid-up professionals than ever: more than 6,000 signed up for
UGC events in the first week of April. Château Mouton-Rothschild
alone, the Decanter report added, had received some 2,000 visitors – that’s 300 more than in 2017.
It seems unstoppable, this juggernaut, despite the widespread
Château Mouton-Rothschild welcomed 2,000 visitors for the primeur tastings
THE WINE MERCHANT may 2019 14
David Williams is wine critic for The Observer
complaints that en primeur’s traditional rationale is all but gone: there are few savings to be had from buying in advance, these
days, and in any case, who but the most absurdly loaded has the
DEDICATED TO THE VALUATION AND AUCTIONING OF FINE AND RARE WINES
cash for the very top tier of wines?
And so, for me, and most wine drinkers of my age and younger,
you have a recipe for resentment and alienation. We couldn’t drink the best Bordeaux, so we didn’t drink it, and we looked around for something else. And where once we thought we should drink it – that we didn’t really know wine if we couldn’t talk fluently about a right or left bank vintage or a year when Latour outstripped
Lafite or who was our favourite super second – now, after years of discovering all the many other glorious wines being made in
so many different ways all over the world, we struggle to care. We
look back at Bordeaux and wonder: what is all the fuss about? And we barely bat an eyelid when a fine-wine sommelier of the calibre of Xavier Rousset says that he hardly bothers buying Bordeaux at all anymore.
nd yet, and yet … Bordeaux never really goes away. At a wine trade dinner, a New World producer pulls out a mature bottle of Château Haut-Brion 1990 putting
it alongside his own high-end bottles. For him, it’s the only
MATURE AND INTERESTING WINES WITH NO MINIMUM ORDER
benchmark that counts. For the guests, it’s the one wine of the
evening they really want to taste. It’s the sheer glamour of it, the
Instagramable potential of its label, the future wine-geek anecdote to share. The bottle empties in seconds. And it doesn’t disappoint. This is what Bordeaux can do, you remember, that almost magical
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ability to deepen and broaden and conjure up all that elusive
flavour and suaveness and gently purring power over time. It’s the
kind of wine that puts you in a good mood for days.
But it’s just a glimpse of another world: your time with the
one small glass like spending an hour or two in the world’s most
luxurious hotel before you’re kicked back out of that world, back
to reality, back on the tube. And back to the wine world you know: one of funky over-performing producers in Swartland or Pic
Saint Loup; one where the definition of what makes great wine is
forever in flux, where there’s experimentation and risk-taking, and where you the best of a region doesn’t come with the pricetag of a small car.
And then you do the maths again: beyond the top 100 or so star
producers, there are, according to the Oxford Companion, “6,800 increasingly impoverished producers” in Bordeaux struggling to claim a small patch of the limelight and just maybe make
Continues page 16
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It turns out there’s a real appetite for the Bordeaux of risktakers making wines that are wonderful, drinkable, fluent and, crucially, affordable
tasting promising to “showcase the untold story of Bordeaux” in
London in March is absolutely rammed. Nick Brooks, head honcho of Bristol merchant Vinetrail, which has put on the tasting, says he’s been amazed by the response. It turns out there’s a real
appetite for the Bordeaux beyond the big names: the Bordeaux of what Brooks calls “risk takers” making natural wines, or
biodynamic, in lesser-known terroirs; using gentle extraction
to make cabernet taste like Pinot Noir; making wines that are
wonderful, drinkable, fluent and, crucially, affordable. The whole modern thing. In Bordeaux.
From page 15
something resembling a living. Your experience of other regions
suggests this is fertile territory for younger winemakers looking to do something different. The law of averages suggests there must be some of these individuals somewhere in that 112,000ha of
vineyard in the Gironde, operating in the margins between ownlabel and luxury. But where to find it, when so much Bordeaux
© goodluz / stockadobe.com
buying is so conservative?
It turns out you’re not the only person asking this question. A
t’s a tiny event, in the grand scheme of Bordeaux things,
but it has most of the sommelier attendees buzzing with
enthusiasm, thrilled by the idea that there’s a whole vast
other Bordeaux to enliven their lists, one they’d never really thought about before.
Taking place at around the time of the en primeurs, you could
think of it as fringe or off-broadway Bordeaux. But as more and
more of us feel locked out of the glitzier châteaux, focusing on this hidden, down-to-earth avant-garde increasingly seems like the region’s best way of winning back a lost generation.
There are almost 7,000 producers in Bordeaux who are desribed as “increasingly impoverished”
THE WINE MERCHANT may 2019 16
RIOJA BUYING TRIP
Thousands of Riojas These days it makes no sense to think of Rioja as a single region – a point that became abundantly clear on our recent buyers’ trip, and which is underlined by changes at DOCa level
he thought may not have been at the top of our minds as we pulled through the gates at Finca Emperatriz. Most likely we were too distracted – understandably so – by the estate’s striking setting: a single vineyard on distinctive pebbly terroir in one of the highest points in the Rioja Alta, on a plateau 570m above sea level bound by the Sierra de Cantabria and Sierra de la Demanda mountains. But, looking back after three fascinating days of visits to a cross-section of Rioja bodegas, we could see that Finca Emperatriz was in fact the ideal place to start our wine merchants’ tour of Spain’s most important wine region, encapsulating as it did so many of the themes that would recur throughout the trip. First, there was the matter of the deep respect for winemaking traditions that informs so much of what happens in Rioja. Finca Emperatriz is steeped in history. It takes its name from one of the most important figures in Rioja’s arrival on the international scene in the second part of the 19th century: the titular “emperatriz” (or empress) was none other than Eugenia de Montijo, wife of Napoleon III, the last emperor of France, who, as well as playing a key role in the development of France’s grand cru system, planted the Emperatriz vineyard and was responsible for the only Rioja wine to win a medal at the 1878 Universal Exhibition of Paris. But if it’s a historic site, it’s also one where the second of our themes – a willingness to harness the best of modern winemaking – was very much in evidence. After all, Emperatriz has been
rejuvenated in the two decades since its current owners, the Hernaíz family, saw its potential. Under the leadership of brothers Eduardo and Victor Hernaíz, the family constructed a slick new winery, able to handle and adapt to receive differing volumes and styles of grapes from the various plots into which they’d divided the 101ha vineyard. Their plan, very much in tune with the contemporary zeitgeist in the region: to let the vineyard, in all its sub-plotted variety, do the talking. And in a range of wines that, as The Secret Cellar’s Adam Clarke says, “have a really defined freshness that shines through” – they do just that: you can feel the effects of a special place where three climatic influences – Mediterranean, Continental and Atlantic – meet. That same sense of place was also very much to the fore at our next visit, Finca de Los Arandinos. As our amiable and talkative guide, commercial director, Manuel Antoñanzas, told us: “There are thousands of Riojas. It’s like in Burgundy. So our project is based on dozens of microplots.” The plots amount to 16ha, varying in age from four to 80 years old, around the town of Entrena, and are used to make a range of modern, fruit-forward Rioja, of which the highlight, for the group, was the rich, ripe rosé, Mas Mejor Rosado 2018. As well as fine winemaking, Arandinos is committed to another trend that has really begun to take off in Rioja: oenotourism. “A hotel and a winery – it’s all part of the same project,” Antoñanzas says, as we tour the Arandinos operation, where guests emerge into a stylish modern lobby right
THE WINE MERCHANT may 2019 18
by the winery, and can take advantage of spa treatments and food by chefs Diego Rodriquez and Mikel Zeberio in La Tierra Restaurant – where dishes are paired, as Antoñanzas says, with wines “made and stored in the cellars right here”.
Contexts and classifications In different ways, the end of the first day of the trip and the beginning of the second were both dedicated to a single task: putting Rioja wine in context. By night: a hop from bar to bar along the atmospheric
The mood in Rioja is to let the vineyards, in all their sub-plotted variety, do the talking
tapas strip of Calle de la Laurel in Logroño, enjoying the local wines alongside the local cuisine. By day: a deep dive into the workings of Rioja’s Consejo Regulador in the company of general director José Luis Lapuente. The past couple of years have been a busy time for Lapuente and his colleagues, as Rioja has introduced significant changes to its classification system, with a range of new indications sitting alongside the existing, world-renowned aged wine designations.
Subject to checks and a range of qualitybased criteria (from yields to vine age), Rioja producers can put their zone on their label (Rioja Alavesa, Rioja Alta or Rioja Oriental), as well as Vino de Municipio – effectively a village wine from one of 144 municipalities – or Viñedo Singular (single, unique vineyard). Vinos de Zona actually got the green light back in 1998 and Vino de Municipio in 1999, though in 2017 producers were allowed to make these indications more visible on the label. At the same time, the Consejo has given
THE WINE MERCHANT may 2019 19
a Rioja DOCa stamp to the region’s quality sparkling wines, with the Espumoso de Calidad de Rioja coming on stream this year in Brut Nature, Extra Brut and Brut. It has also recently allowed producers to make single-varietal white wines, putting the focus on the indigenous Tempranillo Blanco, applied some tweaks to the ageing requirements for Reserva and Gran Reserva, allowing for greater flexibility in the winemaking process, and allowed Continues page 20
RIOJA BUYING TRIP
From page 19
rosé producers to produce that currently fashionable pale and interesting style. According to Lapuente, “the idea is to extend our existing framework, not change it. With a humble attitude we’re trying to confront and challenge the future, trying to find out what are the trends right now, what are consumers looking for. We’re looking to safeguard our success in the future because of the importance that Rioja wine has for the region. “The impact for wine in this region is 20% of gross income. There are 300,000 citizens in Rioja – but all of us are connected to wine in some way. Gastronomy, tradition, architecture, landscape … we are forced to be the clever guy in the classroom because of the importance of wine here.”
From Haro to Briones Generic planning can only get a wine region so far, of course. It’s the producers who have to come up with the goods to match the marketing messages. There are more than 500 active wineries in Rioja (and 600 registered). And as the rest of our trip would show, that allows for a huge variety of approaches, styles, shapes and sizes. In Haro, a small town historically dominated by wine production and the home of a dazzling array of big Rioja names, we started our afternoon at one of the region’s most dynamic larger producers, Ramón Bilbao. With its exposed brickwork, quirky vintage touches and vaulted ceilings, the bodega’s recently refurbished, visitorfriendly headquarters could double up as an industrial chic venue in Shoreditch or Brooklyn – were it not for the enchanting calm of its vast barrel cellar, with its 20,000 barrels, 40% French, 60% American oak. The name of the globetrotting estate founder from 100 years ago may loom large in the labels and marketing, but it’s the Zamora company (owners of spirit brands Licor 43 and Martin Miller’s Gin, among others) that has steered the brand for the past 20 years, and our group was impressed by the elegance and consistency on show in a portfolio that covers an annual production of some 4.5 million bottles and which produces wines that are, in the company’s own words, both
The Viñedo Singular denomination will allow winemakers to express their local terroir
“historical” and “new wave”. The racy, complex single-vineyard rosé, Lalomba 2017, and Viñedos de Altura 2016, a fresh and fragrant red from highaltitude vines, were highlights of the latter category; the stylish, tightly knit Reserva 2014 and powerful, still youthful Gran Reserva 2011 provide a modern twist on Rioja traditions. All of them proved their worth alongside a local speciality, chuletitas: milk-fed spring lamb cutlets grilled over a barbecue of vine cuttings. At the other end of town, La Rioja Alta is the very definition of Rioja tradition. As export manager Javier Amescua says: “We are traditional, yes. We use all American oak, because it’s what we’ve always done. We’re only making Reserva and Gran Reserva wines. We rack every six months, we destem, we crush, and that’s it.”
t sounds disarmingly simple. And, as Amescua leads us through the sepulchral barrel cellars (30,000 barrels), past the dusty stacks of quietly maturing older vintages, the candles for racking, and the in-house cooperage, it was easy to imagine yourself in another era entirely. But La Rioja Alta hasn’t in fact stood still. For the past 20 years, it has owned Torre de Oña, which makes a more fruit-driven, modern style of Rioja from vineyards in the Rioja Alavesa. The Torre de Oña wines showed well in a flight
THE WINE MERCHANT may 2019 20
that also included some of the bodega’s best-loved, gorgeously mature Reservas and Gran Reservas, and a preview of the company’s latest wine: Gran Reserva Arana 2012 – a blend, like the company’s other Gran Reservas, of mostly Tempranillo with Graciano with a decidedly fresh and vibrant character. A 15-minute drive southeast of Haro takes us to a wine village with an emerging reputation – Briones, home of the boutique family producer Miguel Merino. We’re greeted by the bodega’s ebullient eponymous founder, his son, Miguel, and his wife, Erika, and their baby daughter. It’s Miguel junior, who now takes charge of the winemaking duties, who leads us through a tasting of wines that are, in his words, “all Briones – because that’s what we want to be”. And it’s soon apparent that this is a bodega with a very distinctive house style – one of precision and nerve in this relatively cool spot. There’s plenty of creativity here, whether it’s the taut mineral Miguel Merino Blanco 2017 white blend of old-vine Viura and Garnacha Blanca, or the wild, deep, slightly animal (and very rare) single-varietal, single-vineyard Mazuelo de la Quinta Cruz 2015, but there’s classical style too in the deep, elegant Reserva 2012 and Gran Reserva 2011. Wines that make all the more sense when enjoyed with this welcoming family over dinner. The contrasts continued into our third
and final day, which started in the pristine surroundings of Bodegas Altanza, a 10-minute drive west of Logroño. As the company’s export director, Alberto Anoz Varea, explains, this is a relatively youthful project, set up (“we’re 21 years old, not a hundred years old”) by a group of friends and other investors who wanted to make “quality Rioja. At the time that meant we were a bit of a modernist, more fruit-driven – but now everyone has moved that way”. The emphasis here is on the Reserva category – the company makes five different Reserva wines, and favours French oak, which is used for 95% of its production from its immaculately tended 300ha estate, with that 5% American oak used exclusively for its Gran Reserva. It also makes a white wine which, unusually for Rioja, is a 100% Sauvignon Blanc. “We’re a modern winery trying to keep the essence of the tradition of Rioja,” says Anoz Varea – a description that perfectly fits an impressive range of deep and powerful wines.
rom the quiet order of Altanza’s barrel cellar and tasting room, we make our way to windswept, rugged, biodynamic vineyards in Labastida in Rioja Alavesa, right under the Sierra Cantabria at 600m altitude: old (up to 100-year-old) bush vines, and a mix of varieties from Tempranillo, Garnacha and Graciano to Mazuelo, Malvasia and Viura. The vines are used by Tierra/Agricola Labastida, part of a group of funky, terroirdriven producers throughout Spain that work together under the Sarah Selections banner. According to Sarah Selections general manager Léon Flórez Egea, the idea at Tierra is to “get away from standardisation and make Rioja wines with soul”. And there is certainly something soulful about the Tierra winery in the village of Labastida. Arrayed over four adjoining old stone houses in the village’s old Jewish quarter, winemaking vessels (including Rioja’s first concrete egg, which first arrived 15 years ago), are slotted into every available space. It’s a charmingly disorientating cellar, but it makes some fabulously funky wines, from the winningly nervy, herby white blend of Viura and Malvasia La Abuela Visi 2018 to the bright cherry-fruited, floral, pleasingly grippy red Letras Minúsculas 2015. These are wines that show another way for Rioja – taking their place in a region that has never been more diverse.
From left: Adam, Andrea, Barry, Charlotte and Gareth
Adam Clarke, The Secret Cellar, Tunbridge Wells
Before I visited, I always looked at the styles of Rioja: was it “classic” or “modern”. But I think from visiting and trying a lot of the wines, it’s not that simple. You’ve got some of the younger winemakers trying something a bit different; there’s certainly more to Rioja than the Crianzas etc. It was interesting how different they were. This was a great trip, put together very well.”
Andrea Viera, Last Drop Wines, west London
I’ve always wanted to come to Rioja. One thing that really struck me: the terroir is very varied. It goes from very lush and green to very savage. Within 15 minutes we had a totally different consistency and colour of soil. Of the wineries that we visited, I thought La Rioja Alta was the one that’s given me a bit of an injection to put them back on the shelves. It got me excited about the old classical style of Rioja: the right use of oak needn’t be an enemy. At Arandinos, what I most remember is when he took us out and showed us the vineyards. It was one of those moments where you start to really understand – a fantastic view. I thought Altanza had some of the most saleable wines at those sorts of pricepoints. The Provence-style rosé, Alma Bohemia, was one of the sexiest things. Really market driven and that could work. Maybe a pot of gold.
Barry Starmore, Starmore Boss, Sheffield
Clearly, there’s a real evolution in Rioja. That really came through at the presentation we had [with the Consejo Regulador]. That was really interesting, showing just where we are with Rioja in the marketplace. At Ramón Bilbao, the lamb and the hospitality was great – meeting the chef, and interesting wines, starting with a very well-made Provence-style rosé. At La Rioja Alta, you get what you would expect in the wines, fruit but complexity and spice. Miguel Merino gave us a great geographical tour, super people; La Tierra was really interesting, it was lovely to really get into the actual vineyards, and the caves were fascinating.
Charlotte Dean, Wined Up Here, south London
I always assumed Rioja would be very traditional and set in its ways. But after this week, I can see that they’re changing their ways, and we need to change ours. That can be a bit of a challenge. But when you take a small family winery like Miguel Merino, that’s where we need to go and want to be [as an independent]. I learned a lot. I found it interesting that I think I prefer blends to single varietals, and the 2015 vintage to 2016. La Rioja Alta was very smart. And the last visit to Tierra was a very different experience – unforgettable. The story I can tell to my customers about them is enough to convince them to go there. People would love those wines.
Gareth Jones, Talking Wines, Cirencester
I grew up with Rioja and probably fell out of love with it a bit. I’m certainly more in love with it again. All the wineries were very different. Emperatriz was a good start, a slightly unusual winery, with the vineyard completely flat. I liked the wines, clean and very nice. Ramón Bilbao is setting an example – it’s what most producers would follow if they had the resources. No reticence on investment in technology. La Rioja Alta was fascinating, walking around those tunnels, and thousands and thousands of bottles. Altanza were quite relevant for us, because they’re looking for an importer and they had wines that are certainly listable at a trade pricepoint. Miguel Merino: really lovely people, really passionate about what they’re doing. I thought Tierra was going to be too small and boutiquey. But by the end of the visit I was convinced they had some really great wines. The Letras Minúsculas: I was almost trying to convince myself it wasn’t superb. But it was great. The Grenache was great. They’re biodynamic, they’re very forward-thinking; they tick a lot of boxes.
THE WINE MERCHANT may 2019 21
Join us on a new adventure...
RAMÓN AND FRIENDS Good news for Independent Wine Merchants ... This year Ramón Bilbao is setting out on a new voyage with Enotria&Coe’s independent retail customers. We’re excited to share more details of an activity which will create a club for Ramón Bilbao customers across the country and will offer you exclusive support.
Why become a friend of Ramón Bilbao? Starting this month, Ramón and Friends will offer: • An opportunity to win a place on an exclusive trip to visit the award-winning
Ramón Bilbao winery in Haro, DOC Rioja • Exclusive stock promotions, with great offers on premium wines • Direct support from the Brand Ambassador in the UK market • POS and display competitions with spot prizes • Priority invites to winemaker dinners All you need to do for the moment, is to respond to let us know if you’re interested in getting involved and hearing more, by emailing the UK Brand Ambassador, greta. firstname.lastname@example.org, or contacting your Enotria&Coe Account Manager.
Rising Stars Matt Smith Quaff, Hove
hen a valued member of staff leaves, it doesn’t necessarily mean goodbye, as Toby Peirce, the owner of Quaff, found to his benefit. “Originally Matt came to us from Hedonism in Soho. We were offering him better hours and a job nearer his home,” explains Toby. “He was young and ambitious and after about six or seven months he decided he wanted to go to Taiwan and set up his own wine import company. He found himself buried in paperwork, and local importers weren’t quite as compliant as he thought, and he came back.” Matt “naturally drifted into the trade” via a love of drinking South American wine and a stint at Plumpton College. He started his career in London, first at Amathus and then Hedonism before returning home to Brighton. “Basically I went to Taiwan to try and learn some Chinese and realised it’s much harder than I thought,” Matt says. “Importing wine is essentially quite simple, but when it’s all written in Chinese, it’s just a step too far – but you don’t know until you try! I came back to the UK, and luckily Toby offered me my old job back.” “Matt is definitely a solutions guy, not a problems guy,” says Toby. “In truth, he takes care of the day-to-day management, which has allowed me in the last three or four years to get on with other projects and look at things like websites and customers rather than fire-fighting from day to day. Having him around has enabled me to take a step back, which is very valuable. It’s nice to have employees come to you with solutions rather than the old cliché of coming to you with problems.” Matt adds: “At Quaff there’s never a dull day and it’s good to have a broad knowledge of everything over the business rather than just having one expertise, as it were.”
How Bruno bo
The mourning process for Vini Italiani, the London indepen founder Bruno Cernecca. Lessons have been learned, he in
hen you’ve got one established wine shop, it’s
natural to think about opening a second. Then
maybe a third, and a fourth. Bruno Cernecca was
once hoping for a total of eight. Then, last autumn, his Vini Italiani Matt wins a bottle of Staglin Salus Chardonnay. To nominate a rising star in your business, email email@example.com
business – with three branches in London – came crashing down with debts in excess of £600,000.
The timeline of events is faithfully documented by the
administrators. The business started out in South Kensington in
2010, as a wine shop and bar, and although the site made a loss for its first six years, the business was looking promising enough to
attract outside investment, and a Covent Garden branch opened in 2015. By 2017, both sites were profitable.
THE WINE MERCHANT may 2019 24
© Rawpixel.com / stockadobe.com
‘We pushed for growth in a moment when we should have stayed put. Greenwich was a bad call that we realised too late’ was amazing, and we just got blinded by that.”
A perfect storm was brewing. Customer spend at Greenwich
was far lower than forecast, and scaffolding appeared outside the two other stores, reducing takings by about 50%. Plans for a new branch in Mayfair, which was scheduled to open in early 2019,
were wrecked by rising costs and a lack of capital. At a time when
even the best-run merchants were facing tough market conditions, Vini Italiani was rapidly running out of money.
ernecca is not looking for excuses, or seeking to blame
external factors for what happened. Indeed in his version of events, he frequently switches from “we” to “I” when
discussing Vini Italiani’s mistakes.
“Investment didn’t come in and we had to press on with
administration,” he says, “because we weren’t in a condition to go for a CVA [Company Voluntary Agreement – a compromise Bruno Cernecca at the original South Kensington site, unprofitable for six years
settlement between a business and its creditors]. “We were too
small, and anyway a loss-making company doesn’t make any sense. “Everything happened very quickly because we were insolvent.
ndent that collapsed last autumn, is continuing for nsists, and mistakes won’t be repeated at The Wine Place
What followed was, in hindsight, a huge tactical error. The
company opened a third branch in Greenwich, which doubled as its HQ.
“The reality behind what happened at Vini Italiani is that we
pushed for growth in a moment when we should have stayed put,” Cernecca admits. “Greenwich was a bad call, and we only realised that when it was too late.
“We really thought Greenwich was a perfect location due to the
mix of tourism and quite a lot of ABC1 residential all around the
village. What we didn’t take into consideration was that the traffic into the village is nearly non-existent – residents are not going
into the village because they see it as a tourist spot. The location
We needed to move as quickly as possible because we couldn’t carry on trading.”
The company’s creditors included suppliers such as Astrum
(£7,060), Armit (£1,269), Berkmann (£7,111), Campari UK
(£4,630), FortyFive 10 (£9,487), Hallgarten (£3,200), Liberty
(£3,457), Les Caves de Pyrene (£3,088), Mondial (£1,361) and
Passione Vino (£2,470), as well as various Italian producers. HMRC was owed £61,202.
Cernecca was keen to buy the company and its assets from the
administrator in a pre-pack sale, but was informed the business would need to be put on the open market to generate the best
possible outcome for creditors. A teaser ad was sent to more than
5,000 possible bidders on October 30, with the deadline for offers expiring just eight days later.
There were six enquiries, including one from a new company
called B Wines, owned by Cernecca. This offer was convincingly
beaten by another bidder, but when that trail went cold and other interested parties melted away, Cernecca found himself in pole position. He was able to buy the former Vini Italiani business, minus the Greenwich store, for just £150,000.
Five staff were made redundant at the Greenwich branch and
THE WINE MERCHANT may 2019 25
Continues page 26
from page 25
the new business, trading as The Wine Place, took over the South Kensington and Covent Garden sites.
“I have to say I’m incredibly grateful to everyone who was
around me because going through this sort of process is incredibly painful,” says Cernecca.
“I did have the full support of my suppliers – I would say 90%
of them I’m still working with, and I’m very proud of it because I think they see a possibility and a good chance to preserve their
position to juggle so many things at the same time.
“I would say I’m probably now through 80% of the process. It’s
a mourning process as well because you’ve started something amazing like Vini Italiani and you just need to put it away and
make space for something new, and try to be careful not to make the same mistakes and still give everybody the enthusiasm that they need.”
Cernecca is grateful for the opportunity that’s in front of him.
“It’s like being given a second life,” he says.
shareholders, my customers, the staff. At the end of the day we
across Christmas and New Year, that is very difficult. I’m extremely
challenge is to understand exactly what people want. One of my
“My luck is that I really had amazing people around me. My
were able to safeguard 20 jobs.
“Obviously family life got really taken away and when that’s
grateful to my family as well. My wife and kids helped give me the strength to go through this.”
Has the reaction from suppliers really been universally positive
and supportive, or are there some who resent the fact that Cernecca is back in business while they are out of pocket?
“I’m sure a few things have been said, but not to me personally,”
he says. “I made sure I contacted, and am still in contact with, all
the suppliers I had before. With some of them, we’re still working through it. But the important thing was my phone was always on
and I was answering my calls. I was sitting down with people and inviting them to meetings and explaining to them very clearly what was going on. I think I was very upfront with things.
‘The challenge is to understand exactly what people want. One of my biggest regrets is that we went into a sort of vanity project’ “All in all, now that we’re nearly there, I think I’d probably do the
same things in the same sort of order [after the company went into administration] – but I hope I never get into that position again.
“I just made sure that everybody around me was receiving the
best line of communication with me as possible. I have to say there have been some tough calls and a lot of people were unhappy – myself being one of them.
“It was a rough year. It is always difficult when you need to let
something go, and obviously something that you put so much
effort into. Vini Italiani was an eight-year story made of many
successes and a few bumps. One cannot be anything else but sad.”
Recent events have taken their toll on a personal level. “I’ve had
a 30-year long career and I don’t think I ever worked that hard, ever,” he says. “Physically, emotionally, I have never been in a
he Wine Place maintains an Italian specialism but with a smattering of wines from other countries joining the slimmed-down range.
“We didn’t take on the business to carry on doing exactly the
same things we were doing before,” says Cernecca. “I think the biggest regrets in Vini Italiani was that we went into a sort of
vanity project journey. Before us there weren’t any specialist,
exclusively Italian wine merchants because it’s such a difficult thing to make happen.
“Our selection is much reduced. We went from 600 labels to
about 350 or 400 now – we’ve just streamlined so that it’s easier to manage. We are a specialist Italian merchant – my personal
passion for promoting the beauty of Italy is still there – but now
let’s try and experiment. Let’s keep Italy as our focus and have a small international list to go with it.
“You’re going to find Champagne next to our Franciacorta; you’re
going to find Bolgheri and Bordeaux in the same place; you’re
going to find Burgundy, Barolo and Barbaresco on the same level.” The branches still combine on-premise eating and drinking
with retail sales. “We have to develop the best place to go and
experience Italian wine, as this is the most profitable side of the operation, but the wine is also available to be taken away to be enjoyed. The retail is going really well.
“How do we make the customer’s life better? I don’t think it’s
about selling wine now. I think it’s about communicating a lifestyle message underneath that. You come to us, you’re going to get
some quality Italian wine; it’s not going to come up cheap, but you can get a lot of information and good service. Before, one of the mistakes we made was to treat education and information as a product, instead of treating it as a medium.”
Cernecca accepts that the new business “is going to take quite a
while to settle” but reports that customer reaction so far has been “incredible”.
“We’re enjoying an amazing time in Covent Garden and great
times in South Kensington, although they are very different,” he says.
Is his mind already wandering towards a third branch? The
answer comes back before the question is even finished. “No. Until the concept is absolutely working 100%, and you are stable, you can’t start a multi-site business,” he says. “Particularly not now.”
THE WINE MERCHANT may 2019 26
Sekt, glorious Sekt Put new fizz into summer
Zeró Brut and
and Riesling Sekt
The Old Pigsty, Rose Cottage, Church Hanborough OX29 8AA 01993 886644 email firstname.lastname@example.org
THE WINE MERCHANT may 2019 27
ight ideas r b 1: Organise a Wine Walk
. T H E D R AY M A N .
Tim Worth from Worth Brothers, Lichfield
f beer styles could be given the same sort of rebranding that individual brews are sometimes subject to then
sour beer would probably be top of the list. The name wouldn’t go down well in focus groups, scoring a lot of “dislike strongly” marks, with qualitative reaction sheets recording instinctive associations with harshness, sharpness and acidity – a good thing in wine but more of a no-no in mainstream beer. Even the description “wild fermentation” doesn’t help, implying untamed aggression and inconsistency – hardly the stuff that’s going to get Shopsat-Tesco trading in their multipack of Peroni. It’s a shame though, because the very best of the bunch are controlled in their sourness, drily white wine or cider-like, and sometimes sweetened with syrup or fruit to take the wilder edge off any tartness. It’s a magical beer style with fermentation from natural yeasts and bacteria around the brewery instead of the cultivated strains used in more popular beer styles. The lambics of Belgium are to sour beer what Champagne is to other sparkling wines, but their inspiration has rubbed off to produce some excellent sour beer expressions from UK brewers. Wild Beer Co’s whole schtick is around bringing wild fermentation to a variety of other beer styles. Its latest effort is a luscious, salted caramel and chocolate stout called Millionaire. Brewdog has built a separate sour beer brewery and has just released nine Overworks fruit beers that step in classic Belgian territory, plus Funk v Punk, an IPA fermented with Brettanomyces and aged in Italian wine foeders and Rioja casks. Funk v Punk and Millionaire use a little fairy dust from other beers to support their branding, but they both unerringly celebrate the notion of sourness in beer as a positive rather than a negative.
In a nutshell … A four-mile walk accompanied by four different wines to enjoy en route. The walk culminated with a meal cooked by the team back at the shop. Thirty-five tickets, at £20 per head, were snapped up for the first walk held at the end of March.
Where did the idea come from?
“I go walking around that loop most mornings and there’s hardly ever anyone there. We did a whisky walk a few years ago and that went OK. I’d been mulling over wine walks for some time but was just working out logistically how to do it, because you don’t want to be carrying loads of wine around.”
Talk us through the logistics.
“Well, my son came home from uni to help. But, if he hadn’t been available I would have stashed the first couple of wines somewhere safe. Then we pass a pub on the way so I’d put the third wine in the car park and then effectively I’d just be carrying one of the wines. Even with my puny frame, it’s doable to carry four bottles!”
Any potential hiccups?
“I had been planning to leave a couple of the wines behind the archery club hut. They are never there on a Saturday so I thought that would be a good place. It’s a good job I didn’t need to in the end because when we got there on the Saturday of the wine walk, they were all sitting around on deckchairs enjoying themselves. They would all have been sat round pissed on my wine!”
Tell us about the meal.
“We do the food ourselves and we like to cook using our Big Green Egg. We made lamb iskender kebabs, which went down very well. The customers get to choose their favourite wine from the walk and we give them a glass to go with the meal.” Tim wins a WBC gift box containing a bottle of Hattingley Valley sparkling wine, a box of chocolate truffles from Willies Cocoa and a half bottle of gin liqueur from Foxdenton. Tell us about a bright idea that’s worked for your business and you too could win a gift box. Email claire@ winemerchantmag.com or call 01323 871836.
THE WINE MERCHANT may 2019 28
© Szymon / stockadobe.com
READER SURVEY 2019
Just over 16% of wine in the independent trade is imported direct by merchants
The shipping forecast Direct importing is gaining momentum among many merchants. Yet its overall contribution to the independent trade has dipped, largely as a result of worries about Brexit and tangles of red tape
he percentage of wine being
shipped direct by independent
merchants now stands at 16.4%,
down from 18.2% in 2018 and 17.3% in 2017.
Yet almost 11% of survey respondents
intend to buy “significantly more” wine ex-cellars in the coming year, up from
9.5% last year. The proportion expecting
to directly ship a little more wine is 28%, down from 34% last year.
Around 8% of independents say they will
rein in or even stop their direct shipping.
Hugh Elliott of Winesolution in Somerset
expects to “significantly reduce the amount of wine we source directly because of red
THE WINE MERCHANT may 2019 30
tape and Brexit”.
Mark Wrigglesworth of The Good
Wine Company in London is on the same page: “With uncertainty over Brexit, and price rises likely, some of our direct-
shipped stuff will need to be dropped to find new wines,” he says
Archie McDiarmid of Luvians in St
‘At the moment UK suppliers do have better prices than we can get by going direct, and we have no storage worries’
Survey partner 2019
will remain about the same this year. That’s a noticeable shift from 2018 and 2017, continue to source all our wines from
when the figure stood at around 27%. One Essex merchant says: “We will
UK suppliers. It has been a conversation, Andrews says: “All of our directly-sourced wines are European and if Brexit comes
to fruition we cannot imagine the savings being what they were, or worth the new red tape they will be subject to.”
thers simply believe that
working with UK suppliers is a better option. Corks Out is
among them. “We will stop sourcing wine directly,” says Mike Stanton. “We’ve put
our faith in our UK suppliers and will be working more closely with them in the
next 12 months. With the current political uncertainty, this seems to be the easiest
and best way to get the most value for our customers.”
Overall, 21% of survey respondents say
their level of business with UK suppliers
Morgan Ward of Morgan Edwards in
Knutsford says: “We have found that our
but until the economy and politics settle a little, we are satisfied with our current
route. Given the correct opportunity it may change.”
Kenrick Bush of Urban Cellar in south
London (pictured below) will “significantly reduce the amount of wine we source directly”.
“I need to find the right
strategy,” he says. “At the moment
UK suppliers do have better prices on wines than we can get by going direct, and we don’t
customers really appreciate our exclusive wines and we make more margin on our
“The only issue is cash flow for upfront
import duty, but with good payment terms from suppliers and a marketing focus
on our exclusives, we have found this is
manageable at our current import levels.” Charlie Brown of Vino Vero in Leigh-
on-Sea says: “We’d like to increase the volume we bring into the UK to help
weather the price increases thanks
to the weak pound and increase in duty.”
Mike Boyne of BinTwo in
Cornwall is also open to
more imports: “I’d like
to feel we have a more
have to worry about
direct connection with
the winemaker,” he
But some indies
says. “Practicalities and
are positive about
logistics might prove
too challenging, but
they see in direct
we’ll look into it.”
How would you describe your approach to buying with other merchants in the coming year?
The trend towards independents joining forces in their buying continues apace, with almost one in three survey
More joint buying More joint buying
More in informal groups More in informal group
More in formal groups
More in formal group
respondents saying they expect to source more wines this year in partnership with other merchants. But it seems that for many, ad-hoc arrangements are the way forward, rather than buying groups – whether these are
formal or informal groupings. Even so, 41% of respondents predict that their business will increase this year within
Number of responses: 158. Totals combine “agree strongly” and “agree to some degree” options.
THE WINE MERCHANT may 2019 31
a buying group of some sort.
Retail Tips from WBC’s Andrew Wilson
Five ways to celebrate English Wine Week It’s the perfect time to capitalise on a home-grown success story. Here are some of the ways that indies can boost their English wine sales at the end of this month
nglish Wine Week returns from
May 25 – June 2. Although it may be tempting for other parts of the UK
to dismiss it as nationalistic or anglo-centric, national awareness days like this can be a
massive opportunity to get stock flying out the door.
And anyway, who’s judging how you
celebrate it? Why not branch out and
celebrate the British drinks market in general – craft beer, wine, fizz – we have a lot to be proud of. Here are five ways to highlight
English Wine Week that every drinks retailer should be able to easily re-create. Don’t
forget, these are basic principles in how to put together an effective retail promotion, they are universal and apply to a lot more
than just wine. So the next time you have a
for their attention span, any bit of change
high streets rise, and budgets become tight,
like stories and we connect with them. It can
businesses in your local community? Buddy
invigorates and keeps your customers
inspired. Think about telling a story. People also be a great way of spring cleaning slow lines or underperforming ranges (not that you would have any, of course).
This English Wine Week, why not look to
group your English wines into a collection. Highlight staff favourites and use signage
promotion and championing local produce
will only increase your sphere of influence. 4. Gift bags that pay
tested marketing technique, according to
awareness of an industry worth championing. 2. Experiential retailing – the art of wine tasting
tastings are a sure-fire way of keeping your
boost. Because consumers are not known
host a food and wine pairing event. Cross-
really promote your English offering, raises
hot spots, or exciting window displays to
1. It’s all in the display spots can really give your sales a massive
up with a local delicatessen or farm shop and
We’ve all been tempted by the little
provenance. Creating engaging in-store
In-store tastings can really capture the
Displays and the power of promotional hot-
costs. So why not work together with other
and ticketing to educate customers on the
new product push, try a few of these and get it off to a successful start.
it’s becoming harder to justify promotional
attention of customers. Whether you hold yours in-store or take it to the pavement,
customer for longer. It’s the ideal opportunity to build a relationship and up-sell the vast
range of products you have. See who can taste the difference between a
whopping 60% of UK shoppers. A tried and smallbusiness.co.uk: “British consumers spend a whopping £21.7bn on impulse purchases each year”.
Gift bags for bottles have to be one of
the easiest and most cost-effective impulse
gifts for drinks retailers to offer. Bottle bags are a great way to easily increase average
order values, while up-selling product and
maximising your sales during promotional events such as these.
5. Meet the producer, sell the
small producer and a big
you’ll simply need ISO
will leave with a deeper appreciation for
wine house. It doesn’t take
Invite a vintner from a local vineyard and host
wine tasting glasses, a few
the world of wine and the provenance of the
much to put one together,
ice buckets to keep bottles cool and spittoons to help you do it in style.
Presentation is a key element of any wine promotion
extras on the way to the till, and so have a
a Meet the Producer event. Your customers
product they buy from you. And you will have created a connection with local producers.
• Andrew Wilson is founder and managing
and reach broader
director of WBC, which for 30 years has been
supplying wine merchants with quality gift
Collaboration is the future
and transit packaging and a range of retail
of retail. As costs on the
THE WINE MERCHANT may 2019 32
supplies. Find out more at www.wbc.co.uk.
Alice, Hal, Nick and Philip
Daniel and Sunny
Jez and Graham
Dee and Caspar
A testing time for tasters We had a record number of entries in this year’s Wine Merchant Top 100 competition, which meant a tough day’s work for our 24 judges – all of them independent wine retailers. Our winners will be unveiled at the London Wine Fair on May 20 and featured in a supplement in our July edition. Thanks to everyone who judged: roll of honour below …
• Philip Amps, Amps Wine Merchants, Oundle • Alice Archer, Cambridge Wine Merchants • Caspar Bowes, Bowes Wine, Devizes • Henry Chambers, Vagabond, London • Charlotte Dean, Wined Up Here, London • Simon Evans, The Naked Grape, Hampshire • Andrew Gray, Grays & Feather, London • Jez Greenspan, The Wine Twit, London • Daniel Grigg, Museum Wines, Blandford Forum • Sunny Hodge, Diogenes the Dog, London • Sam Howard, HarperWells, Norwich • Julia Jenkins, Flagship Wines, St Albans
• Jonathan Kleeman, The Twisted Cellar, Bishops Stortford • Dee Nel, Mews of Mayfair, London • Graham Northeast, Bonafide Wines, Christchurch • Louise Peverall, La Cave de Bruno, London • Tim Peyton, Real Ale, London • Ben Proctor, Provisions, London • Ted Sandbach, Oxford Wine Company • Kat Stead, Brigitte Bordeaux, Nottingham • Mario Sposito, Bedales, London • Jesal Thakker, Riding Wine Company, London • Nick Underwood, Underwoods, Stratford on Avon • Hal Wilson, Cambridge Wine Merchants
THE WINE MERCHANT may 2019 34
Ted and Louise
Julia and Nick
Hal, Ben and Charlotte
Kat and Tim
Jesal and Sam
Jonathan and Henry
THE WINE MERCHANT may 2019 35
PLUMPTON COLLEGE VISIT
On course for greater things Plumpton College’s role goes beyond winemaking and viticulture. It’s becoming a centre of excellence for wine business too, and its future may see an extension of its research activities
fter struggling to activate the
four-wheel drive mechanism in
a Land Rover that he’s borrowed
for the morning, Chris Foss reverses, with an alarming metallic clang, into a trellis post on which a line of experimental
fungus-resistant vines is supported. It’s
been a morning of freak hail, yet the most
serious threat to the Rock Lodge vineyard has come from the head of Plumpton’s wine department.
There’s no damage done, and even if
there was, Foss has more than earned
the right to be cut a little slack. In July he steps down after 31 years of service at
Chris Foss established the first wine course at Plumpton in 1988
Plumpton College, during which time his department has grown from an obscure
outpost of a provincial agricultural school into an institution with an international
established its own winery and research
senior roles in the UK trade. Many of them
up in Sussex in 1988 and posited the idea
and nearly 2ha at Ditchling.
Plumpton’s curriculum, says: “We want to
reputation. A former winemaker in
Bordeaux (he is half French), Foss pitched of running a wine course. “I had tea and
sandwiches with the principal,” he recalls.
“They gave me a desk and said, off you go.” The inaugural degree courses started
in 1996. The college began acquiring vineyards in nearby villages and
centre. Today Plumpton has nearly 7ha of
vines at Rock Lodge, near Haywards Heath, Students produce their own wine,
25% of which is sparkling, from 12 grape varieties. The sales, to local merchants, have become a useful revenue stream.
lumpton is associated primarily
with winemaking and viticultural courses – indeed its prospectus
covers everything from five-day courses for aspiring vignerons to a new Masters
degree in viticulture and oenology. But Foss and his team are just as keen to highlight The campus includes a research centre
the foundation degree and BA (hons) in international wine business, which are
increasingly positioning graduates into
THE WINE MERCHANT may 2019 36
establish their own businesses.
Paul Harley, who heads up this area of
give students a sound business grounding. We talk about sales, marketing, HR,
accounting – those types of things – but
we also tell them about everything that’s happening now in the wine trade.”
A curriculum advisory panel helps to
keep the course relevant. For example, a module on speciality wines recently
appeared, taking in topics such as orange and low-alcohol wines and amphora
ageing. Wine tourism, consumer behaviour and product innovation are also studied.
Plumpton’s development has coincided
with the explosive growth of the English wine industry, much of which is based
Mr & Mrs Fine Wine Southwell within easy reach of the college. Student applications rose by 20% last year and
the college is braced for an exponential increase this year.
Foss, an amiable and slightly self-effacing
man who is clearly held in the highest
esteem by students and colleagues alike,
sees “a great future” for Plumpton alumni. For the college itself, the next phase could involve more of the type of research
that distinguishes the world’s top wine educational institutions.
Tell us how your Enomatic machine has made a difference to your independent wine business and you could win £100 of Enomatic freebies from the world’s leading maker of wine dispense systems
“When I started, we would go to France
and they would go completely blank when we talked about Plumpton,” he says. “Now
How have the Enomatics benefited your business? It’s been a key part of our business since we moved to our bigger shop. It’s a really big USP for us. There’s the thousand-year-old Minster next to us and when our customers’ friends come to visit, they look at the Minster and then they get brought in here to see the wine machines – I feel we’re very much on the guided tour! Apart from customers being able to serve themselves, for us and the sales team it means that if we want someone to taste something we can pour them a taster without having to open a whole bottle. It also gives us a sense of what the customer likes so we can suggest other alternatives. Do you use social media to promote your Enomatic offer? We will post something on Facebook and Instagram if for example we are putting on a premium Bordeaux, or something a bit different and new. Any focus wines we’ve got, we’ll always put them in the newsletter and promote it that way – we are constantly talking about it.
they don’t and they’re really positive. They know Plumpton very well.
“Our students can strip down a pump
and run a press – they have that practical grounding.
“We’re not yet up there with Montpellier
and Adelaide really, because we would
need to develop our research arm. Half of Stellenbosch is funded by the wine industry, and all they do is research.”
What advice would you give to another indie if they were thinking of getting an Enomatic? The thing that works for us is that we are a wine shop with around 600 wines that we can pull from and rotate things in and out, and it’s the variety that customers enjoy and get excited by. We’re constantly moving things around so there should be three, four, maybe five new wines every week. I’d also say to make sure you’ve got plenty of space around the machine, because it has a lot of demand.
Maybe this could happen in the UK too.
Plumpton’s research unit was paid for
by Rathfinny, whose owner Mark Driver
studied here. There’s talk of a bottle levy,
meaning that all English wine sales would contribute something to a college that’s
becoming the centrepiece of the industry. “Almost all of the producers give
something,” says Foss. “But they’re also very good at giving their time. After all,
they’re alumni, and they’re keen to support us.”
How many machines do you have? Downstairs we’ve got two units; a four-bottle and an eight-bottle which all dispense wine. Upstairs we have a four-bottle unit and that is dedicated to gin. We’re open slightly later on a Friday and Saturday so those are our busy wine bar nights. When when we had the wines on the machine upstairs they just weren’t getting the usage, so we put gin on instead. We’ve got one measure of 35ml, the tonics and garnishes are all there and so upstairs is now a gin bar. The customers can go up and create their own gin. People are using that room far more than they had done previously.
THE WINE MERCHANT may 2019 37
THE CHAMPAGNE DEVAUX MERCHANT PROFILE
ay Wines celebrates its first
decade of trading from a largish shop on the high street in the
Herefordshire town of Ledbury later this
year. Co-owner Jane Salt spent 25 years in
sales and marketing in the pharmaceutical industry before making the first tentative steps into wine in August 2009.
The business started dabbling in
wholesale, employing a local businessman whose own company in Hay-on-Wye had
includes buyer Jeremy Gladwin and account manager Simon Clarke (both ex-Oddbins) and sommelier Michele Longari, whose brief covers sourcing new products,
social media and running the back end
of the website. Chris looks after business
strategy with Jane in charge of day-to-day operations.
What was it like taking over an existing wine shop?
folded, but Jane and husband Chris were
We initially took on the staff that had been
First Quench just three months in provided
tended to want to put lots of cheap stuff
looking to move into retail from the outset. After starting out in Hay, the collapse of
the opportunity to take over the vacant
Wine Rack space 35 miles east in Ledbury. Hay Wines has been there ever since. “We were already looking for retail
outlets and were looking in Hay, but we
weren’t really sure because, although it’s very busy in the summer, it’s dead in the winter,” says Jane.
“The opportunity came up for this
shop and we just jumped at it. It was just
serendipity that it happened at that point. We found out about it and the landlord was happy to let us take over. Most of
the shelving was already here so it was a relatively easy set-up.
“We sorted out the shop and got that
going, started doing tastings, built it up
gradually and it’s gone from strength to strength.”
Over time, wholesale took more of a
back seat but it’s an area Jane is keen to
build up again this year after bringing in
Michelle Goodman to handle that part of the business.
She joins a team of eight that also
Seasoned c Jane Salt’s
working here for Wine Rack but we had a bit of a shift around eventually. They
in the window but you can’t survive as an independent if you’re trying to compete with the supermarkets. It’s not going to work. You’ve got to have a selling point,
which for us is our range and the personal service that comes with it.
What I personally can’t stand about the
old, traditional wine shops is that they can be quite stuffy and I’m not a stuffy person. It can be quite intimidating if you come in
as a customer and don’t know much about wine. I want them, whether they know about wine or not, to feel comfortable
coming in here. No question’s a stupid
question. It’s about us engaging and being open to helping people. Nobody should
walk into the shop without being greeted
and asked if they’d like some assistance in
some way. If that doesn’t happen, I’m not a
happy person. It should happen every time, no matter how busy we are.
Jane Salt quit the pharmaceutical busine Herefordshire shop has done well enoug
Why did you decide to stick with the Hay Wines name after moving to Ledbury? It works because it’s still Herefordshire.
‘No question’s a stupid question. Nobody should walk into the shop without being greeted and asked if they’d like some assistance’
THE WINE MERCHANT may 2019 38
There was already a Ledbury Wines …
although it’s in Tewkesbury! Sometimes
people call us Hay’s Wines because they assume we’re called Hay.
How have you made your presence known to the outside world? We go to food festivals, Christmas fairs,
chocolate festivals, you name it. We don’t
campaigner first decade in wine
Not only do we make money at the
shows, but we get knock-on sales in the shop and from people buying online.
There are too many people doing gins at
shows now so you need to have a broader selection. Wine doesn’t work at shows
either. People don’t go there expecting to buy a case of wine.
What’s your approach with wine instore? The number of people who work through the door and go “wow” ... everything’s
displayed by country, so we have whites
and reds together. For bigger countries we divide into regions, with shelves running from north to south from top to bottom.
Do you have areas in wine you regard as specialisms? We have a good range of organic,
vegetarian and vegan. And a small range
of natural wines, which is one of Michele’s specialities. Ledbury’s starting to get a bit
of a reputation for foodie things. We’ve got
an organic shop down the road which does a lot of vegetarian and vegan food but they don’t do wine. If anyone goes in looking
for wine they send them to us. We’ve done
food and wine matching partnerships with Jane Salt, Ledbury, February 2019
ess a decade ago to join the wine trade and hasn’t regretted her decision. Her gh for her to consider opening a second branch, as Nigel Huddleston hears
take wine, we take interesting liqueurs
Our most recent find is an Apple Pie
that we put on taste and sell by the bottle.
moonshine made by a guy in Exeter. We
made by two artisan liqueur makers in
smaller bottles because he was only doing
We have a range from Italy that we import ourselves that’s exclusive to us. They’re
Trieste. The chocolate mint is just like a
liquid After Eight but with an alcohol base, which is grappa. There’s also a tiramisu and a coconut.
took it to the shows at the end of last year and it just flew out. He made us some
70cl ones. We also have our own Awesome Amaretto and we’re having new products developed this year: a wild strawberry
liqueur, a caramel vodka and a ginger one.
THE WINE MERCHANT may 2019 39
Natural wine’s a big thing in London but
it’s not really reached Ledbury yet, though we do sell them. Biodynamic less so; if
people ask me what it means I tell them it’s organic with knobs on.
We’ve done well with orange wine. It’s a
Marmite moment; either you like them or you don’t. A customer came in the other
day who’d read about them but never tried one. He bought one to go with a particular meal and really liked it. He likened it to a rough cider and I can see where people
get that. Often they’re made from aromatic Continues page 40
THE CHAMPAGNE DEVAUX MERCHANT PROFILE
From page 39
varieties like Malvasia so you get the floral character but with a real tannin hit in
there. If you don’t have it with food it can be an acquired taste.
All of our Proseccos are vegetarian,
vegan and low-sulphite and we have
organic as well, which is unusual. We have a full range of Prosecco. Most people will
have a DOC and a DOCG, but within DOCG we’ve got brut, extra dry, dry, a single vineyard, frizzantes and more.
You have a large section of more Wine regions are split north to south, from the top shelf to the bottom
obscure wines. Do the likes of Turkey, Uruguay and Slovenia earn their corn? It’s about having the breadth of range but also for wine tastings you need different things to put on. On the back of tastings we sell a lot of all of them. One of our
bestsellers is a Greek Assyrtiko at £12.99, which is great value, but you have to get
‘Online has really picked up – it’s about 10% of all retail sales. More than 50% of transactions are from mobile phones’
people to try it first.
of them and they’re all on the cloud so if
the month and gin tastings maybe every
never have picked up off the shelves. It’s
descriptions though and many will take our
rum tasting. Rum is definitely on the up.
We have tastings in-store on Saturdays
which gets people to try things they would not just the wine geeks that buy them.
There are tasting notes on everything on the shelves. It helps because most people don’t know about wine. We have built a big database
the computer dies we don’t lose all that work. Not everyone’s interested in the recommendation.
Our bestselling wine by miles is an
Italian which is on the bottom shelf
because it’s from Sicily. It’s made from Nero d’Avola and Frappato, using the
passito technique, but only on the Nero
d’Avola. They dry the grapes before making the wine which intensifies the sugars and
the flavours, so you get a full-bodied, fruity wine with a bit of sweetness that’s very
easy-drinking at £10.99 a bottle.. People
and at the end of last year we did our first They’re in the shop and we bring chairs
in and they’re formal tutored tastings.
Actually, no, they’re more like informal
tutored tastings. We get 30 people if we’re full, which we normally are. Sometimes
it’s Michele or Simon who leads them and
other times we get suppliers in. The whisky writer Ian Buxton lives nearby and does our whisky tastings.
What about other forms of marketing?
try it and they love it. The come back and
We don’t do paper advertising. I’ve tried
alternative we could import ourselves but
occasionally with Google Ads or Facebook
buy it by the bucketload.
It comes from Alliance. We looked for an
we couldn’t find one. They’ve just nailed it. What about events at store level? The store was once a Wine Rack branch
three months. Likewise for whisky tasting,
We do a wine tasting on the last Friday of
THE WINE MERCHANT may 2019 40
it but it’s expensive for what you get.
We do some targeted online advertising which hits the right areas more easily.
We have pre-selected cases of six bottles
of wine. It’s just easy for people who want
a mixed case. We do easy-drinkers in either
red or white, bestsellers in red, white and
about 10% of all retail sales.
steadily. They’re probably due for a revamp
Not really. It’s just how people are buying
gives people that same offer on six and an
thing driven by younger people. My
mixed, an organic box and an introductory one for a single producer. They go out
to be honest. We only normally offer a 5%
discount on a 12-bottle case, not six, so this incentive to buy. They do really well with people buying for gifts.
The spirits selection is quite extensive. We specialised in whisky for a while, so we had over 140 malt whiskies, but gin
has gone from one little shelf behind the
counter to over 100, and we’re now selling more gin than we have whisky. When
we started out Chase was really our only local gin but there are four or five that
have come in even in the last six months.
Everybody’s doing gin but there’s a limit to how much you can fit in.
How do you decide if one gets the nod? We taste everything, for starters. It’s
important to keep it fresh so it’s not the same old things all the time. Customers
don’t really ask for what’s new but they
like to browse, so we’ve separated them
Is that down to anything you’ve done? wine. More than 50% of our transactions
are from mobile phones. It’s a generational daughter would never look on a laptop, because she looks at everything on her
phone. We do really well when people are searching for specific wines rather than
generic things like Prosecco. Our SEO-ing is really good on that. We sell a lot of orange wine from Les Caves de Pyrene online
because people try it in London and then search for it online.
So, no regrets about leaving pharma? I’ve never regretted it. It’s hard work but I used to work hard then. It’s just great
working for yourself and I love this place.
We’ve got a model for the shop that works
so we’d like to take it elsewhere as well. It’s about finding the right place at the right
You’ve a lot of space here but haven’t
traditional, citrus, floral, spicy and savoury
any need to go for Enomatics? I don’t think
to see how they were organising them,
Noooo! I don’t want to get into food. That
and flavoured. We also have printed
so. Proper wine shops have a lot to offer.
garnishes. It gives people a little bit extra. We have open tasting bottles for gins,
local products, whiskies, a few rums,
liqueurs and Armagnacs. My experience is
if you get somebody to taste it and they like it, they’ll buy a bottle.
How has e-commerce gone? We’ve been doing it for five years, but it’s
really picked up a lot in the last year. Sales held up really well in January which is a
quiet time for the trade – better than we
expected. It was quite surprising. Online is
Champagne Devaux is passionate about excellence, service and attention to detail. As such they champion specialist independent merchants and the fine dining market. Two of the house’s leading London on-trade accounts are Gordon Ramsay’s Pétrus in Belgravia and Flemings in Mayfair, which both serve Devaux Cuvée D by the glass. From April 15 until and including June 15 2019, independent merchants who purchase six or more cases from Devaux’s flagship Collection D range – which must include three of the four different varieties – will be entered into a prize draw. The lucky winner, selected at random by The Wine Merchant Magazine, will win an overnight night stay at Flemings and dinner for two at Pétrus. Devaux Champagne is available for purchase from Liberty Wines: order@ libertywines.co.uk / 0207 720 5350 Collection D from Devaux includes the following four wines: Cuvée D; Ultra D; D Millésimé 2008; and D Rosé.
now. That’s the next step.
gone hybrid. Might you, at store two?
information so we can advise people on
Win dinner at Pétrus restaurant and a night for two at Flemings luxury boutique hotel
price. We’ve been looking for 12 months
out by style. We went to look at gin bars
and we’ve ended up separating them into
doesn’t appeal to me at all. Would we have The sector’s not going to crash and burn.
Regardless of what happens in any sector of life, business or economics, people want to
drink. They might not go out to restaurants so much but they’ll want to buy a bottle of really good wine to drink at home.
I won’t have a wine in here unless it’s a
good one. I’m not going to lie through my teeth and say it’s lovely if it’s horrible. It
might not even be to my taste but it’s got to be a good wine. If someone has one of
our wines at a friend’s house I want them
to be asking: “Where did you get it from – because I want to go and buy it.”
THE WINE MERCHANT may 2019 41
The competition is open from April 15-June 15 2019. Entrants must be independent wine merchants based in the UK. To qualify, merchants must purchase at least 6 cases of 6x75cl from the Devaux Collection D range during the competition period (in one single purchase or split over two orders), and include a mix of at least three different cuvées. The cuvées to choose from are Cuvée D, Ultra D, D Millésimé 2008 and D Rosé. New customers to Liberty Wines will need to register with the business in order to purchase from them. Call 0207 720 5350. The winner will be announced in The Wine Merchant July Issue and awarded vouchers for the hotel and the restaurant to claim at a date of their convenience (subject to availability). Flemings Hotel vouchers will cover one night in a Deluxe Double room and a full English breakfast for two. Pétrus vouchers will cover a three-course “a la carte” menu for two people and a bottle of Cuvée D. Additional food and beverage purchases at the restaurant or hotel are not included. The vouchers are valid for a period of 11 months from issuing. Transport costs are not included.
© auremar / stockadobe.com
EPoS you’re worth it It’s easy to get dazzled by the sales talk when choosing new EPoS kit. So how can indies make an informed choice? We asked five merchants to tell us which system they would recommend
Mike Boyne at BinTwo in Padstow uses VestiPOS “VestiPOS was, I think, principally based around the service sector – bars and
restaurants –but they’ve also adapted it
well to work for retail,” says Boyne. “For
our hybrid model we needed something that would serve both equally well.
“They are really receptive to feedback
and are continually developing the product. I can’t think of an instance yet where we’ve asked for a tweak or an adjustment that
they haven’t incorporated. They are just very helpful and responsive.”
He adds: “We pay monthly for the service
and we bought the hardware outright. VestiPOS were able to supply all the
associated hardware – a nifty stand, and a couple of bits and bobs, like a barcode
scanner. There’s no obligation to get the
day, so that helps me make decisions about how we operate the business – what times are better for us to be open or what times we might consider closing. It gives me a
hardware from them but they can supply it if you need it.”
Since switching to VestiPOS, Boyne has
got more forensic with his buying and
forecasting. “For me it’s about better access to data so I can see very clearly trends in what we’re selling,” he says.
“It has a summary of data, which gives
me sales by day of the week and time of
THE WINE MERCHANT may 2019 42
Mike Boyne: a better handle on stock control
good steer on what are my better sellers, and what categories are selling well. “It gives a quick and highly visible
breakdown of what proportion of my sales are down to bar sales versus off-sales. It’s
a decision-making tool and you can use the data to track the effectiveness of changes
that you’ve made, and lines that you might have introduced.
“Like anything, once you’re familiar
with it it’s pretty user-friendly. One of the
reasons we chose it was so we could have
a much better handle on our stock control, and it’s good for that, particularly as we have stock split over two sites.
“Once we start using it to full effect, we
can generate orders for wine on the system and send it to the supplier. When the order gets delivered, it’s simply a matter of going on the system and clicking to say it’s all
come in as expected, and it automatically updates your stock.”
What the supplier says: “VestiPOS is designed for UK retail and hospitality businesses. Our easy-to-use platform enables you to manage sales, stock and customers to grow your business and save time on repetitive admin. “We are driven by customer satisfaction.
“Also it’s extremely simple and intuitive
to use and I think that’s one of the most
valuable things you can have in an EPoS system.
“If you’ve got a new employee, you don’t
want something that they’re going to have to get up to speed with and will take a lot of time to train them to use.”
The Wine Parlour bought two iPads and
a cash drawer as part of the contract. “It
all comes as a package from them, so you
could purchase the till drawer yourself, and the iPad – but there’s no financial benefit in doing that, and if you go with their package they’ll come round and set it all up for you, and show you how the system works.
“They’re a relatively small player in the
market, and they do pride themselves on
having good customer service. But because it’s so simple I’ve had very little cause for speaking to somebody, and when we did,
they were very quick to give us the support that we needed.
“They do listen to customer feedback
and you do get regular updates, which
are really just based on people requesting a specific feature or benefit, which is currently not on the system.”
What the supplier says: “Our initial
Over 80% of our growth comes through
conversations with Norman and Chix
customer referrals, which we believe speaks
[Chandaria] were centred around inventory
volumes for the product and service we
control, the ability to monitor the system
offer. We have a 97% customer retention
remotely and the cost points.
rate, despite not tying anyone into lengthy
“We can provide sophisticated reporting
contracts – our customers stay with us
as well, so people can see how the business
because of the value we add to their
is doing: the busy periods, the quieter times,
the best days, top selling products – that kind of stuff. “The fact that it’s cloud-based means that
Norman Comfort at The Wine Parlour in south London uses The Good Till Company
“iZettlePro is a hospitality EPoS system by iZettle, who we use for card payments,”
says Evans. “It’s not super-sophisticated
but allows us to run both retail sales and a table plan. It has a stock management
side but we haven’t really used it to its full potential, but we are planning to address this in the future.
“In terms of hardware, we just needed to
buy an iPad and a receipt printer. You can also have a cash drawer linked in.
“It has worked so far for us, and I would
recommend it for small businesses who need a little more capability than the simple iZettle app.”
What the supplier says: “iZettle Pro’s simplicity of use and speed of service means
off site, they can check their management
business owners don’t need to leave the app
portal on the move. There are various apps
or input data twice.
for people’s phones and they can see exactly what is going on.
“We are one of their target sectors.
wine bar or shop in mind,” says Comfort.
Kiki Evans of Unwined in Tooting uses iZettle Pro
all the data is live, and so if the owner is
“One of the advantages of The Good Till
Company is that it was developed with a
Kiki Evans at Unwined
“We work with around 2,000 customers across the UK and most of those are in the
THE WINE MERCHANT may 2019 43
“Add and adjust tables to match the layout of your bar and keep track what’s been ordered. Allow big tables to pay separately Continues page 44
From page 33
and open tabs for customers. Take orders on multiple devices right from your customer’s table. Create loyalty accounts and collect email addresses to reward your most valuable customers with special offers and discounts. “Organise and customise products, group and colour-code them for ease of navigation. Keep track of stock, notify staff on what needs to be ordered, manage suppliers and purchase orders. Analyse daily and monthly sales reports to see sales data such as busiest times and most popular products. Set schedules, look over time sheets and keep track of what staff are selling and the hours they are working.”
Hannah Ford at StarmoreBoss in Sheffield uses VendHQ
so that we have different stocktaking
systems across each shop, so we’ll have an exact count of what’s in each location.” One of the other advantages of the
VendHQ system is its ability to award loyalty points to regular customers.
“The system will remember what they’ve
bought as well,” says Ford. “We can also take down an email address or phone
number, and we can send receipts over. It does give you the option for marketing in that sense, targeted marketing.
which we’re paying for over three years,
buy into that in the same way the younger
training. I managed to do it in two training
“Some of the clientele that we have are
from the older generation and they don’t
people do. But it’s certainly a great way to establish regulars. If they gain a certain
amount of loyalty points, they can use it for store credit.”
What the supplier says: “Vend seamlessly integrates with other retail software. It’s simple for retailers to connect with other systems they use for e-commerce, payments
The system used by StarmoreBoss seems
or accounting. Vend is also committed to
to have the flexibility to cope with the
partnering with the world’s best retail apps
build your websites from Vend,” says Ford,
Vend’s in-built loyalty programme provides
demands of a progressive wine merchant.
and payment solutions, such as Xero.
who also highlights the system’s capability
retailers with an intelligent discounting
outlet, we just have the one stocktaking
because we’re looking at opening up a
Andy Smith at Mill Hill Wines in north London uses Cybertill
“We’re finding it quite useful that you can
to help keep an eye on stock levels.
“Currently, because we have only the one
system, which we have across both the
shop and the warehouse. But I know that,
second shop, we’ll be upgrading the system
“By identifying the most frequent visitors,
tool, which suggests specialised offers based on shopping habits and key dates, such as
and then you pay a monthly support.
“As part of the package you do get free
sessions, and keep the third one on the
account. Other people might need three – it depends on how used you are to the till.
“It’s really good in that if I change a price
on the till, it automatically updates the
website. It’s a touchscreen thing, but it’s
cloud-based, so I can access the till with an iPad; I can check on whatever we’re doing as long as I’ve got 4G.”
For Smith, the Cybertill system is proving
to be “well worth” the investment at a time when web business is doubling.
Has he experienced any technical
“You always have a couple of teething
problems at first, mainly down to us
not doing it right, and learning the new
system,” he says. “We’re more or less there now after seven or eight months.”
What the supplier says: “Cybertill was the world’s first cloud-based EPoS. Starting out in 2001, Cybertill were first to connect retail stores together and e-commerce websites,
Smith switched to Cybertill a year ago.
all in real time.
using ProEPOS before which is part of
Fast delivery, click-and-collect options,
into the website.
conveniences are just the tip of the iceberg
“My main reason for swapping was to get
“Cybertill’s retail software, RetailStore,
the website linked in to it,” he says. “I was
serves many off-licence retailers globally.
at the till, but was quite hard to integrate
e-commerce, personalised promotions: these
Imagesoft, which I had no issues with at all VendHQ’s system can reward customer loyalty
The Cybertill interface
“I bought the hardware and the software,
THE WINE MERCHANT may 2019 44
real-time stock levels by store, integrated
for multi-store retailers.”
– no and low-alcohol and gluten-free.
The Beer Lover’s Table
Bullen is keen to point out that this is
not a beer manifesto and she doesn’t want to fuel the debate of beer versus wine.
Claire Bullen with Jen Ferguson
“I love wine,” she writes, “but I’d always
considered the world of wine pairings to
be esoteric and forbidding to newcomers.
Dog ’n’ Bone Books £16.99
Beer instead offers a fantastic freedom.” The result is an exploration and
celebration of taste, a culinary adventure
that feels doable in the domestic kitchen.
collaboration between award-
Regardless of whether you are a beer
winning food writer Claire Bullen and beer lover Jen Ferguson, this
guide to craft beer and food pairing is not what many people would expect.
As Ferguson, a native New Zealander and
lover or not, the suggestions of beers to Each chapter is based around a beer style
co-owner of London indie Hop Burns &
with apricot jam, these are creative dishes
that litter the internet when you search
recipes I’ve followed so far live up to my
Black, explains in the foreword: “We didn’t want to replicate the “dude food” recipes
for “beer and food pairings”. While we love Buffalo wings as much as the next person,
we wanted to enjoy beer alongside a wider range of meals.”
The recipes are definitely a far cry from
“dude food” and there’s plenty here to
appeal to both vegetarians and meat-eaters. From the lamb burgers with quick pickles
and whipped feta to sumac-braised chicken and onion with tahini, via the phyllo tart
with easy-to-source ingredients – and
they yield incredibly tasty results. The
holy grail of cooking where the impressive result belies the minimal effort and skill employed in the process.
This is a collection of 65 exciting and
accessible recipes that would earn its place on any keen home cook’s shelf, but it is
the beer element that gives the book its
USP. Divided into five chapters covering a wide range of beer styles including sours and saisons, wheat beers and
IPAs, each chapter contains Ferguson’s
well-considered beer guide along with a summary of food pairings. The spotlight
on an individual brewer at the start of each chapter further illustrates the attributes of the beer in question.
There’s also a glossary of essential beer
terminology, a guide to key hop varieties
and a useful round-up of “free-from” beers
Jen Ferguson of Hop Burns & Black
complement the dish at the beginning of each recipe will, at the very least, pique
the interest enough to give the pairings a
whirl instead of automatically reaching for a bottle of wine.
ecipe books come and go but there are a few that become family staples; the go-to
reference for the comforting and familiar.
A good cook book will be inspirational to
a degree but only a small percentage of the recipes will make it to the dinner table. A
truly great one will have at least a handful of dinner-party favourites among a host
of reliable simple suppers. The pages will
be well-thumbed, there will be stains and smudges and probably notes hurriedly
made: a tattered but treasured possession.
The Beer Lover’s Table falls into the latter
category and I would personally like to
thank Bullen for including a recipe that
calls for jackfruit. I’ve had a tin hanging
about since a vegan friend came for dinner, and now I know just what to do with it.
‘I love wine,’ says Bullen, ‘but I’d always considered the world of wine pairings to be esoteric and forbidding. Beer instead offers a fantastic freedom’ THE WINE MERCHANT MAY 2019 46
is this the coolest drink on the planet? Vermouth connoisseurs certainly think so, and the selection available to them seems to widen by the month. There’s a world of flavours to enjoy, with producers rejuvenating ancient recipes, and experimenting with quirky botanicals to create a modern twist that takes vermouth far beyond the Cinzano and Martini template. The Wine Merchant’s tasting team put together a line-up of vermouths from Italy, Spain, Australia and the UK – our 12 favourites are featured overleaf.
S C A R PA
S C A R PA
VERMOUTH DI DI
VERMOUTH DI DI
ANTICA CASA VINICOLA
ANTICA CASA VINICOLA
CONTIENE SOLFITI - CONTAINS SULFITES
CONTIENE SOLFITI - CONTAINS SULFITES
Etrusco Nero is a red vermouth produced from blending fine and spices which originate from Tuscany include Roman absinthinum, rhubarb and laurel berries.
PIEMONTE - ITALIA
VERMOUTH ROSSO ETRUSCO NERO Fertuna red wine. It is flavoured with natural extracts of herbs
S C A R PA
S C A R PA
PIEMONTE - ITALIA
Introducing the wild spirit of Maremma
Scarpa is a DOP-classified Vermouth di Torino, produced by one of the oldest wineries in Piedmont according to the traditional method. It has less sugar added than its competitors due to the use of 30% Moscato di Asti DOCG in the base wine. Scarpa is made exclusively from fresh ingredients – never from flavour concentrate. Extraction is entirely by percolation at ambient temperature. We are looking for the best cocktail made using Scarpa. What can you come up with?
Available exclusively from Winetraders uk ltd 01993 882 440 / www.winetraders.eu
Served lightly chilled, Vermouth Etrusco Nero can be an excellent alternative aperitif, a perfect end to a meal or try it in your favourite cocktails for a botanical bitterness! For pricing and availability please contact your Mentzendorff account manager. Mentzendorff.co.uk
THE WINE MERCHANT may 2019 47
© fizkes / stockadobe.com
VERMOUTH EDITORIAL PANEL TASTING
VERMOUTH EDITORIAL PANEL TASTING
EL BANDARRA (RED) Bandarra was a bit of a local secret for
almost 60 years until the Virgili brothers
decided to market their vermouth beyond their local area. Now it’s not only a staple in many Barcelona tapas bars but has
a global following. Maraschino cherry
EL BANDARRA (WHITE) For both Bandarra vermouths, the bottles
alone were almost enough to swing a place in our top 12, but luckily the contents
REGAL ROGUE LIVELY WHITE Based on Hunter Valley Semillon, this
is a full-flavoured white vermouth with a zippy, herbal character thanks to the
lived up to the packaging. There are 40
limes and thyme in the recipe. There’s also
herb extracts here, creating an almost
tropical and coconutty effect, with vanilla
elderflower, lemongrass and chamomile
in the mix, making it a refreshing summer
chocolate and a hint of liquorice. Love Drinks RRP £22
balanced by a gentle sourness on the finish.
coming through strongly. The sweetness is
apertif to enjoy on its own, over ice. For us,
fernando de castilla vermut
VERMOUTH DEL PROFESSORE alla vaniglia
VERMOUTH DEL PROFESSORE torino rosso
richness and sweetness, with plum and
Made from Palomimo and Pedro Ximenez
grapes, barrel-aged for around eight years, this almost alarmingly brown vermouth reminded some of us of uncooked rock cakes; for others it tasted like a heady,
ready-mixed negroni. A winter warmer on its own, or mix with something fizzy and zesty for al fresco shenanigans. Boutinot RRP £18.50
Love Drinks RRP £22
The vanilla is definitely the most
immediately striking sensation here, but there’s far more going on than that in
this deep, dusky and spicy vermouth. The
sense of decadence is underlined by wafts
the highlight of a four-strong range. Enotria&Coe RRP £18.95
A vermouth that definitely takes us into
more savoury territory than most, with a dry, almost vegetal flavour and balsamic
notes. Not very sweet, not very bitter, and with distant hints of plums and Tunes
of upmarket antiques shop and lipstick,
throat sweets, it’s a Nebbiolo-based recipe
Astrum RRP £33.50
Astrum RRP £23.50
maybe rose hips. Would Lovejoy drink this? Almost certainly.
THE WINE MERCHANT may 2019 48
from a producer doing great work with forgotten Italian spirits.
LUSTAU VERMUT ROJO
scarpa vermouth rosso
A blend of aged Amontillado and Pedro
Sticking to a century-old recipe revived
Ximenez sherries, this concentrated and
Christmas-tinged vermouth tastes rather
like an electrified Bristol Cream. It’s full of
in 2014, Scarpa is made with 30% of
get a little hint of that here. That, and a big
vermouths; the body is robust and doesn’t
a medicinal bitterness to balance out the
from Piedmont. The sweetness is more
natural and balanced than you find in some
indeed any form of angled headwear.
orange undercurrent and mint on the finish.
would knock Pimm’s into a cocked hat, or FMV RRP £18.95
rely on any gimmickry. There’s a nice bitter Winetraders RRP £29.99
seven sisters dry vermouth antica distilleria quaglia berto bianco The base wine here is Pinot Gris from
Rathfinny Wine Estate in Sussex. It’s a
grown-up vermouth, almost martini-dry, with a distinctive artichoke and angelica
earthiness. But there’s also a bitter orange citrus seam and a fresh, mineral-edged finish that conjures up, if not the exact
taste of South Downs chalk, then pleasant associations surrounding it. LWC Drinks RRP £25
We’re big fans of petrichor, the smell of
rain hitting the earth, and bizarrely you
Moscato d’Asti DOCG base wine, and herbs
cinnamon, dried fruit and orange flavours, and served long on a warm afternoon
fertuna etrusco nero
Certainly one of the more unpindownable
aromas in our tasting: how can a vermouth
dollop of chocolate and cherry liqueur. It’s based on Maremma Sangiovese and has
sweeter, richer elements, and a refreshingly clean finish.
Mentzendorff RRP £30
causes & Cures Glance through the list of botanicals on
the label of this Australian Viognier-based vermouth and all kinds of mysteries are
smell of flat Coke, an old chest of drawers
resolved. Juniper – well, yes, unmistakable.
orange tartness that gives way to a more
what that is. Tangy and fairly sharp, with
and a hairdressing salon? One for the cocktail connoisseur, with its Seville
accommodating sweetness. Not the most
complex on the palate, but it feels authentic. Astrum RRP £15.50
THE WINE MERCHANT may 2019 49
Star anise? Now that you mention it. Bay
leaf? That’s what it was! Gentian? No idea a slight toffee aroma, this is a versatile mixing vermouth.
Liberty Wines RRP £21.99
GIN ROAD TRIP
Local heroes Just about every city, town, village and hamlet now has its own gin, and sometimes several. Many are confined to a local market while others have gained a national or even international following, often through the addition of unusual botanicals like, er, ants. Nigel Huddleston sets off on a road trip
o we really need to go through this again? The growth of the
gin market in the past five years
has been one of the drinks success stories of the age – or any age for that matter.
British people bought a record-breaking 73 million bottles of the stuff last year, sales
broke £2bn for the first time and 54 new distilleries opened to take the total up to
so here – with the help of one or two indies who are themselves going great guns in gin – we take a look at some of the small-batch gins that are ripping up the regions. And reversing standard journalistic practice, we’re going to start at the top. Scotland
361, with England overtaking Scotland for
Gordon and Vanessa Quinn forage
independent wine shops give themselves
distillery which houses their ancient
distillery numbers for the first time.
So in gin-drenched times, how can
the edge over supermarkets and local © weyo / stockadobe.com
Going local seems like one sensible idea
botanicals for their Badachro gin from the countryside around their tiny Highlands
copper pot still, Delilah. Depending on who you believe, it’s named because it used to
have a partner still called Samson, or after the eldest daughter of the first master distiller who used it.
Rock Rose gin comes from Dunnet Bay
Distillers in Thurso, on the northern tip
of Caithness, and contains locally-sourced botanicals including rose root and sea
buckthorn that grows along the coastline. The producer’s latest spin-off is the first in a series of “liquid garnishes” – small
bottles with a dropper to add a smidge of otherness to a finished G&T.
Brothers Thomas and Alistair Wilson
created Misty Isle gin in their family home on Skye with traditional gin botanicals and a mystery ingredient to be found only on the island.
Edinburgh-based Pickering’s has
become an independent sector favourite,
particularly for establishing the Christmas tradition of gin-filled tree baubles.
Glasgow Distillery’s Makar was the first
gin to be made in the city and has a bottle with seven sides, one for each botanical contained therein. North west
Aaron’s Darke’s niche drinks empire
Zymurgorium includes a brewery, cidery and meadery, but it’s the gins which have won favour with local retailers including There are now 361 distilleries in the UK
Continues page 53
THE WINE MERCHANT may 2019 50
The Dyfi Distillery
01654 761551 email@example.com www.dyfidistillery.com
01763 849739 firstname.lastname@example.org www.pinkstergin.com
The only distillery to have been awarded the trophy for Best British Gin twice (2018 and 2017) is located in the Dyfi UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve: a remote valley in Wales. Here, Pete and Danny Cameron forage 25 different botanicals for their three gins: Dyfi Original, Pollination and Hibernation, the latter being the first gin to be aged in a 100-year old White Port cask. A genuine sense of place lies at the heart of every gin, combined with a meticulous approach to absolute quality, means that production is necessarily limited, with distillation, blending and bottling all done by the family.
Burleighs London Dry Gin 01530 245 402 email@example.com www.burleighsgin.com
A true artisan creation, Burleighs London Dry Gin is handcrafted and bottled in the heart of Leicestershire. Itâ€™s distilled with 11 of the worldâ€™s finest botanicals including Silver Birch, Dandelion, Burdock, Elderberry and Iris. It is these ingredients and the great skill of the distiller that all contribute to the smooth nature of Burleighs.
Produced in small batches outside Cambridge, Pinkster is a premium gin infused with raspberries. Real ones. The ones that grow on bushes. Deliciously dry, with just a hint of fruit and an exceptionally smooth finish, Pinkster makes a refreshingly different G&T. Especially when served with a sprig of fresh, wellspanked mint. The inebriated, leftover raspberries are recycled as natural by-products including Boozy Berries and Gin Jam.
Rock Rose Gin 01847 851287 firstname.lastname@example.org www.rockrosegin.co.uk
Rock Rose Gin gets its name from our first botanical forage along the Pentland Firth cliffs, where Rhodolia rosea was introduced to us by a local botanist. A rose in the rocks! Over a thousand years ago, Vikings would forage the cliffs to gather Rhodia rosea. This was thought to give them extra strength to carry on their long arduous journeys. Our gin uses this botanical along with local and traditional botanicals to create a unique taste from the Highlands of Scotland!
THE WINE MERCHANT MAY 2019 52
GIN ROAD TRIP
Wine]. But by far the main one is Robin of
From page 50
Locksley; we probably do about 60 bottles a month. I think the market’s going away
Cork of the North and Carringtons. The
from tacky flavours and people are going
Irlam-based operation’s output includes
back to proper gin. They research what
the relatively easy-to-say Original
they really want and do their homework
Manchester Gin, a black hop gin called
before they come in.”
Infirmarium made with Leeds brewer Northern Monk, and a Cherry-on-Top
Northamptonshire operation Warner
Bakewell gin liqueur.
Cheshire’s Forest gin has been a big hit
Edwards set the blueprint for farm-gate
with independents, not least for its Wade
gin distillers everywhere and has become
porcelain bottle which contributes to a hefty price tag of upwards of £50. The
distillery is in the marvellously-named hamlet Bottom of the Oven. Northern Ireland Gin makers like a good forage and
Shortcross, based on the Rademon
Estate in County Down, is no different. Its botanical bill includes wild clover,
elderflower, elderberries and locally-grown green apples, in addition to all the usual stuff like coriander, cassia and orange.
Jawbox takes its name from the local,
box-style kitchen sink, nicknamed as such because it’s where the majority of family conversations traditionally took place.
Its Belfast Cut is a classic dry gin in the
London style. More out-there is a range of
liqueurs that includes Pineapple & Ginger.
Sink one in Belfast
Yorkshire Frankie Mitchell at Mitchells Wine
Merchants in Sheffield acknowledges
that county pride plays a big part in the
selection processes of serious gin drinkers. “We do really well with local ones and
have about six or seven which are really popular. The two main ones for us are
Sir Robin of Locksley, which is made in Sheffield, and True North, which is also
known as Sheffield Dry Gin. They do about eight different gins in all. The ones from
further afield are Singsby and Whittaker, both from Harrogate, and Divine which is
in Holmfirth [setting for Last of the Summer
gin that’s gripped the spirit’s legions of
fans for the past couple of years. It’s just abbreviated its name to Warner’s as it
embarks on its next evolutionary phase.
Among the creations of Leicestershire’s
Burleighs is a King Richard III edition,
to mark the discovery of the monarch’s
remains in a Leicester car park in 2012. Sage and thyme favoured by medieval
cooks give it a herbaceous base, while mace and cloves – used to make the wines of the time more palatable – provide some spice. Wales Dean and Margaret Pritchard, at Gwin Llyn Wines in Pwllheli, go big on Welsh drinks
of all sorts, with a special display right by the door of their shop.
bothers at Dyfi Distillery. We’ve got Blue Slate gin from the Dinorwig Distillery,
won awards for its flagship Northern Dry brand but it’s the seasonals and limited
which is very popular, and Chris Marshall’s Forager’s Yellow and Black Label gins.
editions that appeal the most. Picnic Gin is a summery strawberries-and-cream
These are all great small operations.
concoction while its first limited edition of
Then we’ve got the mad morris dancing,
2019 is a Pink Grapefruit & Tonka Bean gin.
fiddle-playing Matt Rowland who makes Merywen gin, which is the Welsh word
The first limited edition from Hepple gin
from which it takes its name.
responsible for a mini-craze for rhubarb
and Hibernation from the Cameron
Sunderland-based Poetic Licence has
made with the needles of the tree species
popular brands. It was also in large part
“In local gin, the big ones are Pollination
producer Moorland Spirit is Douglas Fir,
one of the independent retail trade’s most
Royal endorsement for Burleighs
THE WINE MERCHANT may 2019 53
for juniper. Then we have Llanfair PGin Continues page 54
GIN ROAD TRIP
From page 53
[a reference to the tongue-twisting place name Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch on
Anglesey]. They’ve just brought a rum out. A lot of the little gin people are
experimenting with rum so I’m expecting a raft of new rums this year.
“The other one which is really popular
at the minute is pHure gin from Conwy.
It’s made by three scientists, two of whom have got PhDs in chemistry. They’ve
designed and built their own glass still and
it’s just so smooth: literally, over ice, a bit of strawberry and you can sip it.
“We’re a holiday destination and the
visitors love seeing the local gins, but
the local people want to support local businesses as well.” East Anglia
The big spirits companies have jumped on the pink gin bandwagon of late but
the colour’s first gentle nudge came from Pinkster.
The brand started life when founder
Stephen Marsh was tinkering around
with a bottle of gin and some raspberries on his kitchen table. G&J Distillers now
supplies the base spirit but the fruit that
Be responsible – wear eye protection
gives Pinkster its distinctive taste and hue are still grown close to its base in Cambridgeshire.
Cambridge Distillery has
earned a reputation as a sort of Heston Blumenthal of the
gin world. It’s responsible for
the relatively straightforward
Cambridge dry gin, a Breakfast gin made with distilled
marmalade and Lady Grey tea, and a Truffle gin whose price starts with an eight – and it’s not £8.
Its most famous – or
infamous – creation is Anty,
each bottle of which contains
the essence of 62 red wood ants and sells
the bar scene in Leeds before heading
south in search of boutique gin market
domination. The team also runs the Ginstitute gin blending
experience, and Portobello
Road labels include an open invitation to dissatisfied
customers to go down for free to make their own blend. To
date, no one has taken them up on it.
London-made brands are
legion but we also like Fatty’s
Organic, which comes in a dayglo green bottle.
for £220 a pop on the producer’s website.
The most interest in the Dorset-based
ex-Tawny port barrels gives it a pinky hue
The English capital has more gins to choose from than any other part of the UK, so it’s
a tribute to the liquid quality and branding of Portobello Road that it is one of the It’s what they would have wanted
and Paul Lane learnt their trade on
most heavily featured in top-end bars and off-trade retailers.
Founders Ged Feltham, Jake Burger
THE WINE MERCHANT MAY 2019 54
Conker’s range might well be its Port
Barrel edition. Resting its Dorset Dry gin in and woody spice notes, light tannins and
a bourbon-like vanilla sweetness. Timing is everything, however, as the gin is only made in limited runs of 800 bottles.
Bristol microdistillery Psychopomp
adds grapefruit zest to its main Woden
gin, which comes in batches of just 750
bottles and has a signature
Drinks – that includes a label
of collaborations with on-
the South Downs and locally-
serve with a tonic and a wedge of grapefruit. This and a series trade customers all come in
bottles adorned with product details on a luggage label,
making them all the more striking for their
in the light green of the city’s seafront, milk thistle from grown coriander seed. Overseas
Natural and small have a similar pull to
distributed by Speciality Brands in the UK,
Brighton is one of a host of towns and cities with eponymously-named gins, including Manchester, Liverpool, Edinburgh,
Cambridge, Bristol and Sheffield. Plymouth, of course, has had one for donkey’s years. All have in-built localness and
incorporate ingredient or packaging quirks to reflect their sense of place. In the case
of Brighton gin – distributed through Love
local for many consumers these days and the American small-batch gin Farmer’s,
has the benefit of being certified organic by the US Department of Agriculture.
The same supplier also ships Nikka
Coffey from the Japanese distiller better known for its whiskies. It tops out at
47% abv and contains the citrus fruits
yuzu, kabosu, amanatsu and shikuwasa in addition to the Japanese sansho pepper. We didn’t think we could speak
THE WINE MERCHANT may 2019 55
Not a name that’s welcome in Starbucks
Norwegian, but perhaps it’s not as hard as
we imagined after learning that Det Norkse Brenneri Distillery’s Harahorn gin is
inspired by a mythical hare, with horns.
THE SPIRITS WORLD
© alexeymarchuk / stockadobe.com
numerous other private bottlings with a range of contemporary art designs.
Independent bottlings tackle that thorny
issue of how to stock something different from the supermarkets in a heavily
branded category that’s often heavily pricepromoted at key times of year.
The bold approach is to invest long-
term in your own casks to be stored at the distillery of choice and bottled when they reach the optimum period of maturation.
It’s the romantic way of doing things but
more costly, requiring money up front and Some distilleries allow clients to customise their whisky
Roll out your own barrel Exclusive bottlings are a great way of distinguishing a spirits range, as a number of independents can testify, reports Nigel Huddleston
hen Glasgow whisky
specialist Good Spirits Co wanted to test the
temperature of customer opinion in the
run-up to the 2014 referendum on Scottish independence, it came up with a novel
solution which put a bit of money in the till
at the same time.
It bottled privately-sourced whisky
from the same batch in bottles with two
different label designs: one for yes and the other for no.
The shop, shaped by the old Oddbins
flair of its management team, has produced
longer-term commitment. It’s a service
increasingly favoured by new distilleries because it gives them useful operating
capital to keep them ticking over until they can start selling their own mature whisky. Lindores Abbey Distillery in Fife is
offering cask ownership of its 2019 spirit
from £1,100 and has a shopping list of 18 wood types to choose from, though the
price doesn’t include duty, VAT, bottling and warehousing costs.
Ncn’ean in the western Highlands is
inviting buyers to come forward to secure one of 60 barrels, with prices starting
at £3,000 for a cask that will eventually produce 300 bottles.
Generally, an entry-point 30-litre cask
will typically yield around 40 standard-
sized bottles, which means resellers have
got to be prepared to charge special prices once it’s bottled.
Sweden’s Mackmyra is another that
offers a cask ownership scheme.
hoxton goes bananas
catch an indie rye
from cellar to seller
With coconut and grapefruit in its botanical bill, Hoxton has always had a tropical dimension. Hoxton Banana Rum seems like a logical progression for the brand, made by macerating fresh and fried versions of the fruit in a blend of spirits from Barbados, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic. Buy it from Emporia Brands.
Self-styled “unconventional” importer Spirit Cartel, the spirits division of Berkmann Wine Cellars, has snapped up two rye whiskeys from James E Pepper, a brand which traces its heritage back almost to the declaration of American independence. James E Pepper 1776 comes in a 92 Proof version at 46% abv and a Barrel Proof that packs a 57.3% abv punch.
Cognac house Frapin’s new 15 Years Old is a cask-strength addition to its Trésors de Château collection. It blends eaux-de-vies aged in humid and dry cellars: those from the former adding richness and roundness, those from the latter giving finesse and elegance, according to Frapin. Louis Latour Agencies is the funnel for UK orders.
THE WINE MERCHANT may 2019 56
‘You’re giving consumers the chance to try something they’ve not tried before’
“We’ve got 19,000 cask owners and
we have mature stock in a variety of
permutations in which we can create a
whisky for a retailer,” says Alex Johnson of
the UK sales team. “We’ve done one for The Red Pepper at Cartmel and we’re talking
to a few other merchants in the UK. They
end up with 50 x 50cl bottles of single malt with their own label and logo design.”
or a more cautious approach,
there are plenty of independent bottlers to take care of the
investment and the heavy lifting, releasing a slew of short-run shelf-ready whiskies
that carry the name of famous distilleries.
With companies like Gordon & MacPhail,
Ian Macleod, Cadenhead’s, Douglas Laing
and Hunter Laing there’s the reassurance that they’ve been doing it for donkey’s years and really know their stuff.
Gordon & MacPhail’s established
Connoisseurs Choice, Discovery and
Private Collection tiers are popular with many independents.
Douglas Laing’s recent releases include
the first in a series of barrel-strength,
single-cask bottlings under the name Old
Particular, each inspired by one of the four classical elements of life: fire, air, earth
and water. The initial release is the Fire
Edition, a 12-year-old Craigellachie whisky from a “well-fired” sherry butt.
But the growth of niche spirits in recent
years has opened up an opportunity new entrants into the independent bottling
arena such as Italy’s Hidden Spirits and
the bottling arm of Scotch whisky trading company Fox Fitzgerald.
The latter makes its own permanent
brands, Peat’s Beast and The Corriemhor and limited-run, single-cask bottlings
under the Rest and Be Thankful label,
named after a popular stopping-off point on the A83 in the Highlands.
“We’ve got loads of casks that we’ve been
buying since 2010 and when we actually
think the liquid and market are both right we’ll produce a Rest and Be Thankful bottling,” says director Aidan Smith.
“We don’t panic and say ‘we’ve got to
bottle 10 casks every three months’ or
Lots on gin in this month’s issue but as preparations are in full swing for World Gin Day on June 8 I hope I’m forgiven an extra indulgence. The Bramble is the classic alternative to the G&T for adventurous sorts looking to stretch their perceptions of the spirit, and this extra twist adds fresh fruit and herbs for a summery burst of aroma and refreshment. Swapping the crème de mure for Chambord will give more complex fruit, as it contains raspberries in addition to blackberries.
anything like that. We just look at what the right cask is. If we find there’s too much
out there that’s similar we just say ‘forget it’ and hold that cask for another day. “We’ve found some fantastic
Bruichladdich bottlings. We’re just doing one for a retailer in Germany which is a
2004 matured in Grenache and Grenache Blanc barrels.
“You’re giving consumers the chance to
try something they’ve not tried before.”
pale pioneer hits the uk
Cristalino tequilas are all the rage in the States. They’re aged tequilas that have had the colour removed by filtering to give a sort of hybrid of blanco and añejo (aged) styles. Don Julio 70 lays claim to have pioneered añejo claro when it launched in 2011 and it’s now been decided the UK is ready for it, as it makes it debut through Diageo’s posh Reserve division.
Japanese whisky producer House of Suntory has gone all vodka on us with the launch of Haku. It’s made from 100% Japanese white rice and the literal meaning of the name is “white”, though the subtle way Japanese characters can convey other suggests means it could also evoke “junpaku”, or “untainted brilliance”, we are told.
THE WINE MERCHANT may 2019 57
50ml gin 10ml crème de mure 15ml lemon juice Two fresh blackberries Small sprig of rosemary Soda water
Muddle the fruit and the rosemary in a rocks glass. Add the gin, liqueur and juice and stir with a bar spoon. Add crushed ice and top with soda. Use any extra blackberries and rosemary to garnish.
MAKE A DATE
The London Wine Fair
massive Greek wine pavilion, a
tasting challenge with some very enticing prizes, a meeting with
UB40 … there’s plenty of fun to be had, it seems, at this year’s London Wine Fair. Indeed, Hannah Tovey, the event’s
director, is very happy with how the British wine trade’s annual shindig is shaping
up, staying perky in what are undeniably difficult conditions.
“Brexit means it’s been incredibly
difficult for importers or international pavilions to operate, let alone forecast
and plan or do anything meaningful at the
moment,” says Tovey, who has at least been
spared the potential nightmare of a no-deal
The Esoterica zone will have more than 70 tables
Buckingham Schenk, C&C Wines and
Brexit departure date on May 22, the last
Felix Solis have also returned to the fold,
we’re really excited.”
in the main floor after spending a few
day of the show.
“But given the climate we’re operating in, Although the size of the show remains
roughly the same – in terms of both
exhibitors and registered visitors – as last year, Tovey is pleased that a number of
leading suppliers have either stayed loyal to the show or returned after sometimes years of staying away.
“Where a reasonable comment in the
past would have been that some of the
more premium importers weren’t there, this year I don’t think you could find a
bigger or better collection of importers,” Tovey says.
Leading the returnees are Enotria &
Coe, who have come up with a novel new masterclass theatre-style approach that,
says Tovey, is about them “really going for showing they’re a premium supplier with five classes a day with some of their most
premium producers: Henschke; Trimbach; back vintages.”
while the likes of Condor Wines and Barton Brownsdon & Sadler have taken stands
years with single tables in or around the
buzzy Esoterica section aimed at specialist importers – a section, which Tovey adds, has grown again this year, and now features more than 70 tables.
European exhibitors will also be much
more in evidence, Tovey says, with the
Wines of Greece pavilion a potentially big draw for indies, as well as newcomers such as the Basque Country, Slovakia, a return from Wines of Georgia, and
increased numbers from Spain and Italy.
Britain (yes, it is still a European country) will also be well-represented, with the
Drinks Britannia section, first introduced last year, adding to its range of domestic
premium spirits and wine producers, from Nyetimber and its bus to a large Food & Drink Wales pavilion.
Tovey and her team have also been
working on a novel way of helping visitors
THE WINE MERCHANT may 2019 58
from the independent on- and off-trades
get around the fair, with a new feature, The Extreme Tasting Challenge.
Developed with The Wine Gang, the
Challenge will ask participants to visit eight stop-off points, where they will be able
to taste some of the most intriguing and
esoteric wines at the fair, and then answer a series of questions. Prizes on offer will
include £1,000 in cash and several bottles of rare and expensive wines.
Independents will also once again
be able to take advantage of a bursary to help cover the costs of attending,
which, says Tovey, “was really successful last year. Many exhibitors noticed an
uptick. [Independents] are an important demographic – more and more of our
exhibitors are focusing on them. There are fewer and fewer supermarket buyers and
multiples, and fewer and fewer lines going through the multiples.”
Monday-Wednesday May 20-22 Olympia London W14 8UX
© aterrom / stockadobe.com
The Association of Grands Crus Classés of St-Emilion Around 30 leading members of the Association of Grands Crus Classés of StEmilion will host a tasting of the 2015 and 2016 vintages. These Merlot-dominated wines are
grown on rich, diverse soils running from a limestone plateau down gentle slopes surrounding the medieval town of StEmilion.
Contact Sue Glasgow: sue@
spearcommunications.co.uk. Wednesday, June 5
Landing Forty Two Leadenhall Building 122 Leadenhall Street London EC3V 4AB Chapelle Saint-Roch, Chiroubles, Beaujolais
Beaujolais Annual Tasting
Berkmann Parli Italiano?
FMV Grand Portfolio Tasting
has moved to a new venue following a
For the first time, Berkmann will be
FMV’s biannual portfolio tasting
change of PR agency.
holding a tasting focusing exclusively on
will bring together a wide range of
its Italian portfolio.
producers and spirits brands from
All 12 Beaujolais appellations will be featured at this year’s event, which
Expect a special spotlight on rosé and
white wines from the region, which is
This is a chance to explore a diverse
experiencing something of a resurgence
range, with around 70 different wines to
managed to inject new life into the once-
Expect to see Mount Etna wines from
among many independents.
A number of merchants have even
reviled Beaujolais Nouveau.
For more information about the event
and to register, email email@example.com.
try from some 25 producers in various regions of Italy.
Tasca d’Almerita, Sicily, the new vintage from Marco Felluga and some bubbles from Ca’ del Bosco.
Wednesday, June 12
across the world. Among the producers attending will
be Domaine Ostertag, Bret Brothers,
Champagne Jacquesson, Bodegas Vega Sicilia and Frog’s Leap.
For more information contact Will
Protheroe – Will.Protheroe@fmv.co.uk – or register at EventBrite. Tuesday, June 18
Monday, June 10
Illuminate, 5th Floor
Institute of Contemporary Arts
71 Blandford Street
Imperial College Road
London SW1Y 5AH
London W1U 8AB
London SW7 2DD
THE WINE MERCHANT may 2019 59
seckford agencies Old Barn Farm Harts Lane, Ardleigh Colchester CO7 7QQ 01206 231686 firstname.lastname@example.org @seckfordagency Seckford Agencies Ltd
Meet our winemakers at LWF | Seckford Agencies stand B60 Our new agency – Greystone Wines, from Waipara Valley, New Zealand – is presenting seven wines. Named 2016 Organic Vineyard of the Year, Greystone has twice won
Decanter Wine Trophies for Best Pinot Noir. It was named 2018 Winery of the Year and Dom Maxwell was named 2018 New Zealand Winemaker of the Year.
We have a new stand design and 17 winemakers and winery representatives from
around the New World attending.
• New Zealand: Larry McKenna, Escarpment, Martinborough | Dr John Forrest,
The Doctors and Vine Whisperer | Elizabeth Coombes, Greystone (NEW, organic) • South Africa: Catherine Marshall, Elgin | Suzette van Rensburg, Lemberg |
Johann Krige, and Deidre Taylor, Kanonkop | Tom Mills, Ernie Els | Lia Poveda,
Bouchard Finlayson | Carl van der Merwe, DeMorgenzon | Andries Burger, Paul Cluver | Lourens Relihan, Darling Cellars | Murray Barlow, Rustenberg | Nick Bureau, Glenelly
• Argentina: Stephen Huse, Belhara, Mendoza
• Australia: Anthony Murphy, Trentham | Kym Milne MW, Bird in Hand • Chile: Janina Doyle, Kalfu and VP
To make an appointment to meet our team, please email either David or Philip @seckfordagencies.co.uk.
Famille Helfrich Wines 1, rue Division Leclerc, 67290 Petersbach, France email@example.com 07789 008540 @FamilleHelfrich
Arthur Metz targets younger audience with convenient crémant Arthur Metz Crémant d’Alsace is now available in 37.5cl bottles, targeted at younger drinkers who might currently drink flavoured beers and ciders.
The bottles have a quality image, with a craft paper label and a traditional cork
without foil, similar to artisan ciders.
The format is perfect for two people to share and allows merchants to offer a
competitive unit price.
Famille Helfrich is a family business working with a wide range of UK independents,
shipping mixed pallets of wines representing all its properties throughout France, as well as
partner wineries across Europe and the New World.
For more information about
any of the company’s wines,
including its unrivalled line-up of crémants, call Chris Davies,
sales director for on-trade and
independents on 07789 008540 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
THE WINE MERCHANT may 2019 60
LOUIS LATOUR AGENCIES 12-14 Denman Street London W1D 7HJ
0207 409 7276 email@example.com www.louislatour.co.uk
London Wine Fair news Visit us on stand D39 to explore the A to Z of Louis Latour Agencies. A self-pour tasting of highlights from our range of wines and Cognacs.
Special guests on the stand will include Louis-Fabrice Latour and Bruno Pepin from
Louis Latour, Damien d’Ovidio from Vidal-Fleury, Jgor Marini from Castello Banfi,
Leah Seresin and Sara Fogarty from Seresin Estate, Cristian Urzua from Viu Manent
and Adrian Atkinson from Wakefield Wines. If you’d like to make an appointment to see them please get in touch.
Throughout the fair we are hosting six on-stand masterclasses led by wine educator
Quentin Sadler (pictured) who will interview one of our special guests whilst leading
you through a selection of wines. Highlights include a focus on Malbec from Viu Manent including wines from the 1990s and a vertical tasting to celebrate 10 years of Banfi’s La Lus Albarossa.
For a full timetable visit our website: www.louislatour.co.uk or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
buckingham schenk Unit 5, The E Centre Easthampstead Road Bracknell RG12 1NF 01753 521336 email@example.com www.buckingham-schenk.co.uk
THE WINE MERCHANT may 2019 61
hatch mansfield New Bank House 1 Brockenhurst Road Ascot Berkshire SL5 9DL 01344 871800 firstname.lastname@example.org www.hatchmansfield.com @hatchmansfield
Celebrating 25 years of premium wines made by independent, family-owned producers Come and visit us at London Wine Fair on stand D40
ehrmanns Unit 23, The Ivories 6-18 Northampton Street London N1 2HY 0203 227 0700 www.ehrmannswines.co.uk email@example.com @ehrmannswines ehrmannswines
Visit Ehrmanns at the London Wine Fair 20th – 22nd May Stop by our stand in the trading quarter of the fair to taste some of the highlights of our portfolio. Here are three of our favourite wines that are exclusive to independents: Astobiza Estate Txakolí 2018, Basque Country, Spain RRP £13.99
This vibrant single-vineyard Txakolí is superb. Intensely aromatic and zesty, with marked minerality, it’s a top pairing with seafood.
Bacalhôa JP Syrah Rosé 2018, Setúbal, Portugal RRP £7.99 This dry, fresh and floral Portuguese rosé is typical
of the elegant styles produced in the country today.
With delicate notes of wild flowers on the nose and a
well textured palate with balanced acidity, it makes an unbeatable summer aperitif.
Stellar Organics Running Duck No Added Sulphur Shiraz 2018, Western Cape RRP £8.99
Stellar always puts its people and the environment first, and all wines are certified organic and fair trade. Stellar
also make some interesting wines without sulphur. This fruit-forward Shiraz is a prime example.
THE WINE MERCHANT may 2019 62
richmond wine agencies The Links, Popham Close Hanworth Middlesex TW13 6JE 020 8744 5550 firstname.lastname@example.org
NEW Agency for RWA Introducing Musita, situated in western Sicily in the hilly territory of Salemu.
Musita comprises of 50ha of vineyards at an altitude of 500
metres. Family-run for five generations, Don Ignazio Ardagna
planted the first vineyard on the slopes of Musita. The winery
was handed down through the generations and today Carmela Ardagna is the winemaker.
The name Musita stems from the name of an ancient mosque
(one of the most prominent in Sicily at the time) which was in the area.
Wines available: Catarrato 2018; Regieterre Grillo 2017; Regieterre Zibibbo 2018; Nero d’Avola 2017/18; Regieterre Syrah 2016. www.musita.it
RWA is exhibiting at the London Wine Fair – do pass by and see us on stand C60.
walker & Wodehouse
Welcome to our summer offers 2019! W&W’s summer promotions exclusively for independent merchants have kicked off – available until the end of July.
109a Regents Park Road London NW1 8UR 0207 449 1665 email@example.com www.walkerwodehousewines.com
With some fantastic wines from all over the world, we’re bringing you better offers than ever before.
Ask your Account Manager for more details. 15% OFF GARAGE WINE CO “OLD VINE PALE” LOT #73 2017
@WalkerWodehouse Is it a red? Is it a rosé? No – it’s an old-vine pale! Small, independent vineyard plots are vinified separately to
create something quintessentially un-Chilean in style. This delicious wine is a great summer option for any indie.
THE WINE MERCHANT may 2019 63
fine wine partners Thomas Hardy House 2 Heath Road Weybridge KT13 8TB 07552 291045 firstname.lastname@example.org www.finewinepartners.co.uk
Fine Wine partners are enjoying the wonderful flavours of spring, especially lamb and asparagus, we have some wonderful wines on offer to partner these fantastic ingredients.
Hardy’s HRB Pinot Noir down from £59.37 per case to £53.43 Hardy’s HRB Pinot Gris down
from £59.37 per case to £53.43 Houghton White Classic down from £36.12 per case to £32.51
Houghton Crofters Chardonnay down from £44.62 per case to £40.16
AWIN BARRATT SIEGEL WINE AGENCIES 28 Recreation Ground Road Stamford Lincolnshire PE9 1EW 01780 755810 email@example.com www.abswineagencies.co.uk
COME VISIT US AT
LONDON WINE FAIR
THE WINE MERCHANT may 2019 64
mentzendorff The Woolyard 52 Bermondsey Street London SE1 3UD 020 7840 3600 firstname.lastname@example.org
One of the most keenly anticipated releases of the year is about to land; the 2019 bottling of Bodegas Hidalgo-La Gitana En Rama.
En Rama is sherry at its very best – unfiltered, unfined, pure free run juice directly from the barrel. This wonderful sherry demonstrates glorious concentration of all the aromas and flavours that Manzanilla has to offer at its very peak. Only made from grapes grown from the highest quality vineyards En Rama is released in extremely limited quantities as Hidalgo only select 35 of the best casks from the bodegas. Limited availability so for details and pricing please contact your account manager.
new generation 14 Kennington Road London SE1 7BL T: 020 7928 7300 email@example.com www.newgenwines.com @newgenwines
Join New Generation Wines at stand B52 at the London Wine Fair and taste
authentic, family owned wines with an edge. Meet big personality winemakers such as Ricardo Nunes from Churchill’s and Patrick Ligeron of Domaine des Carlines,
and other forward-thinking pioneers of the industry who challenge perceptions and inspire wine enthusiasts.
New Generation will be showcasing our own handcrafted creations; the delicious
Trastullo range from Northern Italy and the decadent La Belle Étoile wines from the vineyards of Southern France. Taste Masút Pinot Noir from the rugged Eagle Peak
appellation of Mendocino County and Cap Maritime Chardonnay from the beautiful Hemel-en-Aarde Valley of South Africa, alongside Boekenhoutskloof, Reyneke and Leeuwenkuil.
From France we have wines from Bourgogne de Vigne en Verre, The Vinectar
Group (Bordeaux), Château la Mascaronne and Domaine Gayda. From South
America we have the wines from Pyros, Casa Montes, Viňa Von Siebenthal and
Cousiño Macul. Kalleske from Australia and Alpha Domus, Pegasus Bay, Main Divide, Auntsfield and Valli from New Zealand. If all that isn’t enough, New
Generation offer you Guerrieri Rizzardi, Funaro, Tenuta Ulisse, Castello Tricerchi, Erste + Neue and Aurelio Settimo from Italy alongside Weingut Türk from Austria and our homegrown English sparkling wines producer, Jenkyn Place.
Progressive thinking, family values; this is New Generation, and these are the wine
producers we represent. We look forward to seeing you!
THE WINE MERCHANT may 2019 65
Thirty years of Shaw + Smith
liberty wines 020 7720 5350
In the recently published Spring 2019 collection – Australia by the JancisRobinson.com
are moving away from more traditional heavy reds towards a “middle ground”. Adelaide
team, Jancis writes that the country is “nowadays producing some of the finest Chardonnay on the planet”, and comments on the constantly evolving style of wines; many producers
Hills producer Shaw + Smith have been ahead of this curve, with their pioneering coolclimate wines ever since their first vintage in 1990.
Celebrating their 30th vintage this year, co-founder Martin Shaw says:
“Our Chardonnays have never been better and the release of a single
vineyard Lenswood Chardonnay is particularly satisfying.” On Pinot Noir, “the move to Lenswood, [winemaker] Adam [Wadewitz]’s arrival and the
introduction of sorting tables, open fermenters and more whole-bunch and whole-berry has taken these wines to a new level … the same is true
of Shiraz which increasingly have been about aromatics, spice and above all a light touch showing the true essence of Adelaide Hills.”
LEN G E 2
MERCHANT OF THE YEAR
The other founding half of Shaw + Smith, Michael Hill Smith MW,
encapsulates this success: “In any organisation it’s important to keep moving forward. At Shaw + Smith we have avoided doing the same thing
for 30 years, rather we have continued to evolve and refresh over three decades.”
enotria & COE
Enotria&Coe launches Project Indies!
23 Cumberland Avenue London NW10 7RX
Independent merchants have long been a bastion of
deals from some of our most beloved producers,
quality, value and passion in wine retail. Every six weeks we’ll be offering our indie customers stock
020 8961 5161
with the guarantee that these wines won’t be
wines – watch this space, there’ll be more news
found in the grocers or any multiple retail outlets.
Winemaker visits, back-vintages and unique parcel
winging its way to you soon!
First up is Planeta, with a pair of wines that are
perfect for springtime sipping.
This promotional offer is valid from 16th April to
28th May 2019.
Buy 12 bottles (or multiples of 12) of Planeta
Alastro Bianco or Planeta Cerasuolo di Vittoria and get one bottle of that wine free.
Any free stock accruing from the offer will be sent
to customers in the two weeks following the end of the offer period.
THE WINE MERCHANT may 2019 66
A Celebration of Sauvignon Blanc Following a recent study in Marlborough, researchers identified four different styles of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc – which style is best suited to your customer?
Dallow Road Luton LU1 1UR 01582 722 538 firstname.lastname@example.org www.hnwines.co.uk
Tropical: Saint Clair, Pioneer Block 3 ‘43 Degrees’, Marlborough, Sauvignon Blanc 2017
Distinctively Marlborough with a fresh vibrant palate of blackcurrant with layers of tropical passion fruit, white peach and crushed herbs. RRP: £19.99
Herbaceous: Collavini, Blanc ‘Fumât’, Collio, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Sauvignon 2017
Citrus: Domaine MerlinCherrier, Sancerre 2017
Barrel fermented: Lismore, Greyton, Barrel Fermented Sauvignon Blanc 2016
An elegantly styled and aromatic Sauvignon Blanc with a distinctive minty and herbaceous flavour and hints of Parma Violets. RRP: £16.99
Classic Sancerre, packed with intense citrus characters and elegant mineral overtones through to a long, refreshing finish. RRP: £19.99
Funky and sauvage with atypical explosive spice, toffee and passion flower flavours. A true expression of this unique terroir and its equally unique winemaker. RRP: £21.99
berkmann wine cellarS 10-12 Brewery Road London N7 9NH email@example.com www.berkmann.co.uk London, South, Midlands, South West 020 7670 0972 North & Scotland 01423 357567
PARLI ITALIANO? WEDNESDAY 12 JUNE 2019 Time: 11am – 4pm Venue: Carousel 71 Blandford Street, Marylebone, London W1U 8AB Does your wine list speak Italian? Berkmann Wine Cellars invites you to our first exclusive Italian portfolio tasting.
Discover our diverse range of Italian wines and how they can work for you. We
will be offering special food pairings with foods from around the world to show how
versatile our Italian wines really are. With 70 different wines to try from 25 producers across Italy, there is something for everyone!
Some of the treats in store will be the incredible Mount Etna wines from Tasca
d’Almerita, Sicily, the stunning new vintage from Marco Felluga and some extra special bubbles from Ca’ del Bosco.
Limited places are available, register your place using code BWCITALY19 for the
chance to win a special gift: www.berkmann.co.uk/news/parli-italiano
THE WINE MERCHANT may 2019 67
The Wine Merchant issue 80