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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

before long.

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

page 60

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 01323 871836 Twitter: @WineMerchantMag Editor and Publisher: Graham Holter Assistant Editor: Claire Harries Sales and Business Development: Georgina Humphrey Accounts: Naomi Young 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



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 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.


“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.


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.

Enomatic machines.

“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


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.

staff position.

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.


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



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.

RRP: £30

RRP: £23.99

ABV: 14.5%

Hallgarten (01582 722538)

ABV: 13%

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

RRP: £20.95

ABV: 13%

ABV: 15.5%

Bancroft Wines (020 7232 5440)

Bancroft Wines (020 7232 5440)

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

ABV: 13.8%

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

ABV: 12.5%

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

ABV: 14.5%

Fells (01442 870900)

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

ABV: 14%

Mentzendorff (020 7840 3600)



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.


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 or or call 01432 262800 Twitter: @Pol_Roger



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

most popular.

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


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.



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


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


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


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



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










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 /

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”



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


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


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


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


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.


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., 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

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.


© /

‘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.

ounced back

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


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.”


Sekt, glorious Sekt Put new fizz into summer

Bibo Runge

Oliver Zeter


Zeró Brut and

Riesling Rosé

Sauvignon Brut

and Riesling Sekt

The Old Pigsty, Rose Cottage, Church Hanborough OX29 8AA 01993 886644 email


ight ideas r b 1: Organise a Wine Walk

. T H E D R AY M A N .

Tim Worth from Worth Brothers, Lichfield

Sour times


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@ or call 01323 871836.


© Szymon /


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


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

imported wines.

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

the opportunities

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


18% 15%

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.


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 “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.

3. Collaborate

• 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


supplies. Find out more at

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


Ted and Louise

Julia and Nick


Hal, Ben and Charlotte

Kat and Tim

Jesal and Sam


Jonathan and Henry



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


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



Chris Bailey

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.




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’


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.



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


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


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@ / 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 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 /


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


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.

hospitality sector.”

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


“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,


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.

Claire Harries

‘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.















Etrusco Nero is a red vermouth produced from blending fine and spices which originate from Tuscany include Roman absinthinum, rhubarb and laurel berries.


17% vol

VERMOUTH ROSSO ETRUSCO NERO Fertuna red wine. It is flavoured with natural extracts of herbs




Introducing the wild spirit of Maremma

18% vol

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 /

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.


© fizkes /



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



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.


from a producer doing great work with forgotten Italian spirits.


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


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


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 /

Going local seems like one sensible idea

convenience stores?

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 Dyfi Distillery

Pinkster Gin

01654 761551

01763 849739

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

A true artisan creation, Burleighs London Dry Gin is handcrafted and bottled in the heart of Leicestershire. It’s distilled with 11 of the world’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

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!



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

North east

producer Moorland Spirit is Douglas Fir,

one of the independent retail trade’s most

Royal endorsement for Burleighs


for juniper. Then we have Llanfair PGin Continues page 54


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.

South west

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


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

South east

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


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.


© alexeymarchuk /

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.


‘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

No. 5

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

untainted brilliance

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.


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.


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


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 /

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@ 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

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 – – or register at EventBrite. Tuesday, June 18

Monday, June 10


Illuminate, 5th Floor

Institute of Contemporary Arts

71 Blandford Street

Science Museum

The Mall


Imperial College Road

London SW1Y 5AH

London W1U 8AB

London SW7 2DD



seckford agencies Old Barn Farm Harts Lane, Ardleigh Colchester CO7 7QQ 01206 231686 @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

Famille Helfrich Wines 1, rue Division Leclerc, 67290 Petersbach, France 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


LOUIS LATOUR AGENCIES 12-14 Denman Street London W1D 7HJ

0207 409 7276

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: or contact

buckingham schenk Unit 5, The E Centre Easthampstead Road Bracknell RG12 1NF 01753 521336

@BuckSchenk @buckinghamschenk



hatch mansfield New Bank House 1 Brockenhurst Road Ascot Berkshire SL5 9DL 01344 871800 @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 @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.


richmond wine agencies The Links, Popham Close Hanworth Middlesex TW13 6JE 020 8744 5550


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.

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

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.



fine wine partners Thomas Hardy House 2 Heath Road Weybridge KT13 8TB 07552 291045

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






mentzendorff The Woolyard 52 Bermondsey Street London SE1 3UD 020 7840 3600

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 @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!



Thirty years of Shaw + Smith

liberty wines 020 7720 5350

In the recently published Spring 2019 collection – Australia by the

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.”










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.


hallgarten wines

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


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 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:


Profile for The Wine Merchant magazine

The Wine Merchant issue 80  

The Wine Merchant issue 80

The Wine Merchant issue 80  

The Wine Merchant issue 80


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