The Wine Merchant issue 81

Page 1

THE WINE MERCHANT. An independent magazine for independent retailers

Issue 81, June 2019

Dog of the Month: Hugo Vineyards, Sherborne

Mix your drinks Free entry for wine merchants to Imbibe Live: see page 49

Indie crashes with £500k debts Hailsham Cellars, the East Sussex wine merchant, has collapsed with debts of more than £500,000 in what is thought to be one of the biggest insolvency cases ever seen in the independent trade. Parent company Neulin Trading Ltd,

established by Peter Rehberg in 1994, is in

the process of being liquidated. But its long list of creditors stands no chance of seeing

any significant payouts as the business has

so few assets.

• Hatch Mansfield (£18,738)

known names in the trade.

• Moët Hennessy UK (£20,508)

Suppliers left out of pocket as a result

of the collapse include some of the bestThose worst affected include:

• Alliance Wine (£19,785)

• Berkmann Wine Cellars (£24,645) • Berry Bros (£12,813)

• Enotria&Coe (£18,566) • Fells (£15,822)

• Justerini & Brooks (£54,987) • Liberty Wines (£32,014)

• Walker & Wodehouse (£16,260)

Hailsham Cellars described itself as “one

of the largest independent wine merchants in south east England, supplying fine

Continues page four


Inside this month 6 comings & Goings Yet more indie merchants decide it’s time to open a wine bar

10 tried & tested Some gems from the recent Hungarian and Canadian tastings in London

12 david williams We can reimagine our high streets. Just ask the Alsatians

26 connolly's Punk music at an old-school family merchant? Are you sure?

32 italian wine Making sense of a complicated category with the help of four independent trade experts

39 cava editorial tasting Nicer than Prosecco, cheaper than Champagne – so what were our favourites? The Spirits World, page 46; Supplier Bulletin, page 50

It may take gimmicks to get casual wine drinkers engaged. So what?


here was a mild buzz of media excitement last month when Aldi press-released the announcement that it was on the hunt for volunteers to review its wines on a quarterly basis and post their thoughts on Twitter. The discounter reaped the PR benefits of the idea even before it sent out the first batch of free booze. Once again, the words “Aldi” and “wine” were juxtaposed in a zillion social media posts. For independent merchants, it’s rarely welcome when that happens. There were digital squeals of delight from the hopefuls eager to join Aldi’s happy band of citizen tasters. We can probably assume that few of the applicants are WSET Diploma students. Judging by a snapshot of responses I scanned on various timelines, they seemed to be, in the main, a bunch of cheerful chancers who love a glass of wine and are thrilled at the prospect of tasting the stuff for free and having their benefactor listen to their opinions on what they imbibe. This kind of thing happens quite a bit in the independent trade, though without the same kind of media fanfare. Several merchants, such as Dalling & Co in Kings Langley, run regular events in which customers are invited in to taste a range of wines that suppliers are pitching. The ones

that they like will probably be listed. The ones they don’t will be politely rejected, with the merchant able to blame the bad news on the public. Just like Aldi, such independent retailers are discovering that even casual wine consumers can be brought into the fold, given the right encouragement. The object need not be to turn them all into wine connoisseurs. Rather, the aim should simply be to help people form a stronger bond with those who make and sell the wines they like, and to learn to trust their own palates. Not too many people really want to achieve these things with interminable PowerPoint presentations, or with the aid of samples of schist being passed around a table by a visiting export director. But offer them the chance to support – supposedly – a struggling artisan vigneron in the Languedoc (© Naked Wines) or to taste free samples of wine in return for candid feedback, and suddenly they are engaged. Some in the trade will reject such schemes as gimmicky. Poorly executed, perhaps they are. But too many consumers who love drinking wine have yet to form a real emotional or intellectual bond with the category. Using a little imagination, independents are in a pretty strong position to win hearts and minds.

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 912 specialist independent wine shops. Printed in Sussex by East Print. © Graham Holter Ltd 2019 Registered in England: No 6441762 VAT 943 8771 82



Collapse of Hailsham Cellars From page one

wines to customers throughout the UK and overseas, as well as catering to a

wide range of trade customers including restaurants, hotels, universities and the military”.

It also claimed to be one of the first wine

retailers in the UK to sell wines online,

starting in 1996. Later, Rehberg jointly

bought Sainsbury’s Wine Direct website, which itself went into administration in January, though by that time it was no

longer connected in any way with Rehberg or the Hailsham Cellars business.

The case has spooked some suppliers

at a time when wider concerns have been

raised about slow-paying customers.

cash flow, there is no good business.”

its independent customers in a variety of

December 31, 2017, do not suggest that

One agency business said that, although

the company was keen to offer support to

ways, this could only happen if clients stick to agreed credit terms in an atmosphere of mutual respect.

It added: “When a business sadly ends

up in a position like Hailsham Cellars,

there is an assumption that suppliers will somehow ‘write the debt off’. There is an assumption that companies are insured against bad debt. The reality is that for

most smaller companies that is not the case. “Insurance is not only expensive, it

generally only covers a certain type of

customer. So all that happens is that it hits the bottom line – that very thin margin

that companies like ours make. Any default from normal credit terms puts pressure on cash flow, and as we know, without good



The most recent accounts on file

at Companies House, for the year to

Hailsham Cellars was in serious trouble, though there were indications that the

health of the firm was not as robust as it had once been.

The company’s net assets were put at

£82,454, up from £77,587 the previous

year, though stock value was down slightly to £286,942 and the amount of money

owed to the business at the time of filing had risen from £8,089 to £79,277.

Almost £400,000 was owed by Hailsham

to trade creditors at that point, up

£100,000 on the previous year, though

there was enough equity in the business for it to continue as a going concern.

The liquidation of Hailsham Cellars is

being handled by Quantuma in Brighton.

“Our Man with the Facts” Some of the right people at the crowded Esoterica area

Fewer visitors, but better visitors “It’s been the best London Wine Fair ever. The right people were there.” That was the verdict of Red Squirrel

boss Nik Darlington on a show which

saw visitor numbers fall by 7% this year

– a result that organiser Brintex says it is

comfortable with. Exhibitor numbers rose 11% to 516, meaning the fair delivered a

ratio of 26 visitors to each stand, compared

to ProWein’s nine and Vinexpo’s 20.

Show boss Hannah Tovey says: “Our

massive visitor increase last year – 17% up on 2017 – meant that we could more

than withstand a fall in numbers this year. Implementing the charging strategy for

some visitors also meant we expected a

slight drop this year, something which our exhibitors were on board with.”

Wine and book shop numbers in sync The number of independent wine merchants and independent book shops appears to be settling into some sort of correlation, after years of growth in one sector and decline in the other. According to The Booksellers

Association, there are 883 independent

book shops. The Wine Merchant calculates

there are 912 specialist independent wine retailers, many of which thrive in the sort of locations that also sustain small book shops.

In 1995 there were 1,894 independent

book shops, according to the BA, a figure that had almost halved, to 987, by 2013. But since 2015 numbers have seen a

modest recovery, and the trade body is

confident that the industry has stabilised despite an “increasingly challenging

landscape” characterised by “unequal business rates, unfair competition

from online retailers and post-Brexit uncertainty”.

It is calling for the Government to “take

the steps needed to protect the future of book shops and their high streets”.

Meanwhile the number of independent

record shops is also on the rise, according

to the Entertainment Retailers Association. It reports that store numbers now stand

at 425, with the Record Store Day initiative having a positive effect on the sector.


• According to the Wine & Spirit Trade Association, 60% of uk adults drink wine, the equivalent of 31 million people. It also calculates that 48% of UK adults drink spirits, which equates to 24 million people.

....... • Wines flavoured with wormwood – the forerunners of the vermouths of today – were used a treatment for intestinal worms by Indians almost 4,000 years ago. In 400 BC, Hippocrates described similar wines as a cure for anaemia. In the Roman era, the wines were valuable enough to be given as prizes in chariot races, according to Pliny the Elder.

....... • Whispering Angel’s first vintage was in 2006 when 130,000 bottles were released. That figure had exceeded 6 million by 2017 and the brand is now the world’s bestselling rosé. Half the production is sold in the United States.

....... • Jerepigo is a South African fortified wine made by adding brandy to grape must before it is fermented.

....... • When Germans clink glasses and say “prost!”, it is customary to maintain eye contact. Superstitious people believe that if eye contact is lost, the offending party will endure seven years of bad sex.

Lant Street moves up a level with bar Central London wine merchant Lant Street Wine is opening a wine bar in addition to the shop in its existing premises. “It’s going to be very low-key in a sense,”

says manager Rudi Honjo, pictured. “We want a little quiet place in SE1 where people can get away from the hustle

and bustle and sit down and relax in a nice environment.”

The bar will be part of a

warehouse space – a

one-time cork factory – attached to the shop, which began trading as Waterloo Wine in the Borough district in 1986.

“The warehouse is

on two levels,” says Honjo.

“The basement is where we

The bar will be called simply Lant Street

be part and parcel of The Little Wine Shop,

and is aiming to open in mid-June.

meaning customers can drink in and enjoy

designers in and we’re getting close to

Ninkasi Sussex says final farewell

“We’ve been rejuvenating the space

over the last month or so, getting a few launching,” adds Honjo.

The bar won’t take any space from the


“There is a view that later on down the

line we may change the shop as well, but as it is we’re just adding the warehouse space and opening a new venue in there, essentially,” Honjo says.

“The wines we showcase in the bar

will be from the shop. We don’t want

to make it too fancy, just a basic nononsense wine bar. We want to

keep it real and keep it honest. “It’s adding feathers to our

bow. We feel it will invigorate

the shop side of the business because we’ll have people

coming in and trying a glass who

want to buy a bottle.”

platters of cheese and charcuterie.

Ninkasi Sussex in Burgess Hill, West Sussex, has ceased trading, owner Gill Stenning has confirmed. The store, named after the Sumerian

goddess of beer and brewing, opened in

August 2016. Although its main specialism was beer, the shop listed around 150

wines and an eclectic range of spirits and

liqueurs. The business is now in liquidation with debts of around £80,000, with most of the money owed to Stenning herself.

Deli merger’s good news for wine fans A Norwich deli and wine shop has been

hold stock and the upstairs

• Earlier this month Philippe Messy

rebranded as Les Garrigues under the

has up until this point been

reopened The Little Wine Shop at

ownership of Damien Cabanis.

is a horrible way to use it

Taunton. The relocation heralds a

because it really is a lovely

new business partnership with Max

used as overflow, which

his new premises in Foundry Road,


Palmer. Social Wine Bar will now

New gift bags for 2019 WBC designs all its gift bags in-house and has a new selection of single-bottle options available to independents. Three of the new designs are pictured opposite, each with that all-important impulse-purchase appeal. “A bottle bag is a cheap and simple way for retailers to turn bottles into a gift,” the company says. “Priced from just 87p a unit, they’re possible the best profit margin you’ll find this summer.”


Les Garrigues is based in the former

Louis Deli owned by Graham Charlesworth in Upper St Giles Street in the city centre. Cabanis previously traded as Les

Adeline Mangevine Hasty despatches from the frontline of wine retailing Garrigues at another city centre location before merging with Louis last summer, but he has now relaunched under his

original business name on Charlesworth’s retirement.

The site has been completely renovated

and some of the costs were met through a successful crowdfunding campaign after roof repairs ate into the original budget.

A Crowdfunder appeal raised £14,641

from 178 supporters in 28 days.

The concept is based on French produce

and wine, with a focus on natural wines. “My business has always been French

wines, mainly natural, and a selection of French cheeses and cured meats,” says

Cabanis. “As well as browsing the shelves and getting a bottle to take out I wanted

customers to be able to sit down and enjoy a proper cheese board with a nice glass of wine on the premises.

“I was originally importing all the wines

myself but I quickly realised that the

combination of wine and cheese was really what made me known in Norwich.

“I’m now working with two importers in

the UK and I’ve stopped importing. I might get back to it but the renovation made

the cash flow a little bit tense – and it was

difficult to go to France and spend the time finding new wines.”

Piccadilly Gin Decanter Gin labels are often lovely but perhaps not as sophisticated as Waiter’s Friend’s Piccadilly Gin Decanter. “It rightly deserves pride of place on any table and wouldn’t look out of place in a scene from The Great Gatsby,” the company declares. The decanter has an 80cl capacity and comes with a suggested selling price of £42.


et’s get this right. You’re

spending thousands on the dress and the venue. You’ve had a stag

weekend in Prague and a hen weekend

at a health spa. You’ve bought outfits for a gaggle of bridesmaids and pages, and hired a vintage sports car so you can

drive off like Harry and Meghan. Let’s not forget the DJ, the cake and the flowers

(and the honeymoon in the Maldives).

And yet your budget for red and white wine is a measly £6 a bottle.

is the happy couple who thinks good

wine is one of they key parts of the big day. Even more rare is the couple who

plan their wine in advance – apart from perhaps Champagne.

The wine merchant’s dilemma is

always whether to accept the business

because the happy couple may become customers, or whether to send them

to Majestic/Naked/wherever and save yourself all that bother for about £120

take a loud intake of breath as you tell

Why are young lovebirds so wedded to the idea of cheap plonk for their big day?

with open arms. Think of the profit we’ll

profit – and that’s before you consider

ask for a tasting and we say there’s a fee,

ever worth it.

You don’t want to go to a supermarket

because having Tesco or Lidl plonk just doesn’t feel special. So you go to that

wine shop you pass on the way to work. A friend recently went in for a wine

flight experience and said it was quite nice. You are a bit surprised when we

us your budget. You’re catering for 200

guests FFS. We should be welcoming you make!

You’re further taken aback when you

redeemable on purchase. Thank heavens you stocked up on Champagne in France last year! You just can't understand why it's all soooo much cheaper over there. Eventually you plump for an

Argentinian Viognier and a Chilean

Merlot. The labels look expensive, and no one really cares what they drink at weddings, do they? So long as there’s Champagne for the toast and cake

cutting. Oh – and some cheaper bubbles, too, for when people arrive. You ask

us what deal we can offer on Prosecco … and if we could deliver … and write tasting notes for the menus ...

Sound familiar? Of course it does. It’s a

scene repeated in wine merchants up and down the land come the summer. Rare


the redeemed tasting fee or delivery.

Weddings are a mug’s game. Rarely is it

There is, however, an emerging upside

to wedding season: the trend for 10-year anniversary wines as gifts. This means that while bride and groom will spend peanuts on wine for their guests, they

expect these guests to spend top dollar

on a wine they can open after a decade of wedded bliss.

I see an opportunity. We’ll find

something cheap and just about drinkable for our lovebirds, if they send

their guests our way for gifts. That’s my kind of deal.


Öreg Király Dulo Dry Furmint Barta 2015

Nachbil Feteasca Neagra 2017 Boutinot is making some interesting finds in central

and Eastern Europe and this natural wine from north

Furmints were showing well at the recent Wines of

and fermented without cultured yeast. There’s a

grapes, it’s a classy and almost Burgundian iteration of

Hungary tasting and this was arguably the pick of the

western Transylvania is one it’s rightly excited about.

The organic grapes are processed in a modern winery

wildness to Nachbil’s wines, and in this case a red-berry flavour and an authentic agricultural edge. RRP: £20.99

ABV: 13%

bunch. Made with what might be described as grand cru this newly-fashionable variety, with pure fruit richness, a gentle jolt of acidity and a faint smokiness. RRP: £23.95

ABV: 13.5%

Corney & Barrow (020 7265 2430)

Boutinot (0161 908 1300)

Le Vieux Pin Sauvignon Blanc 2018

Norman Hardie Pinot Noir 2016

Modern Sauvignons are often so clean that they risk

Peninsula “might have tasted like Syrah” had nature

According to its creator, this Pinot from the Niagara

becoming sterile and featureless, so it was a pleasant

surprise to get a whiff of the sweat and animal aromas

on this British Columbian example. Gooseberries, herbs and citrus fruit also come to the fore in a balanced but complex wine, as enjoyable for its texture as its fruit. RRP: To be confirmed

been allowed to run amok in what turned out to be a

very warm vintage by Ontario standards. But Norman Hardie doesn’t make wines like that and what he

produced is a model of Burgundian restraint, with pure red fruit flavours and a subtle earthiness. RRP: £29

ABV: 12.5%

ABV: 11.4%

Bibendum Wine (0845 263 6924)

Flint Wines (0207 582 2500)

Quinta do Montalto Nao Condenado 2017

Hatzidakis Santorini Familia 2018

There are so many talking points here it’s hard to

Who knows – there may still be people living who have

That the organic vineyards near Lisbon have been

silky and mineral-infused three-quarters-of-a-litre of

know where to start. Maybe that it’s a 50-50 blend of

yet to experience the thrill of Santorini Assyrtiko. Strap

red and white varieties, Trincadeira and Fernão Pires?

them to a chair and demand they drink this: a full, rich,

pruned for decades by the same woman, now well into

flower and lemon-scented gorgeousness. A summer

her 80s? Soft, fresh and versatile, with lively red fruits. RRP: £19

holiday in bottled form.

ABV: 14.5%

RRP: £25-£30

Portuguese Story

ABV: 14%

Eclectic Wines (020 8788 4048)

Domaine Rolet Arbois Tradition 2011

Staffelter Hof Little Bastard White Blend 2018

An equal split of Chardonnay and Savagnin from Jura’s

Let’s face it, there are some merchants who would be

earth. With its regional oxidative character, it’s rather

more fun. A fresh, lively and fruity blend of Mosel

largest family-owned estate, alive with bready, yeasty

aromas and packed with bass-note flavours of nuts and like a juicier (and less alcoholic) version of a Fino or Manzanilla sherry, and crazily moreish. RRP: £32.99

ABV: 13%

Berkmann Wine Cellars (020 7609 4711)

tempted to buy several cases of this on the strength of

its name, and label, alone. But beyond the fun … there’s Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Muller-Thurgau and Muscat, it retains a little CO2 to provide an extra tingly thrill. RRP: £24

ABV: 11.5%

Modal Wines (07776 322 374)



NATURALLY VIBRANT Chablis isn’t the easiest region for winemakers. So when a plan comes together as well as it’s done for the fresh, balanced 2018 vintage, it’s a cause for celebration


he 2018 release of Drouhin-

Vaudon Chablis has been met with a mixture of pride and relief by its


“Since 2010, every vintage had been very

small; Chablis suffered deeply from frost or

hail or both,” says Véronique Drouhin-Boss.

“And sometimes we also had problems with oidium or mildew and so production was

very small. In 2018, that was not the case.” It was a warm vintage – not hitting the

searing heights of 2012, 2013 or 2016, but with the mercury rising enough to ensure that volumes hit what might be described as normal levels.

Not that the year was without

its challenges. “In some cases the

The Joseph Drouhin vineyards have been biodynamically farmed since the 1990s

fermentation was very slow, so I was a bit

find some fern flavours.

healthy and happy. Plus there’s the good

says Véronique. “We needed to balance

be pressed, the juice ferments in the tank

character of the 2018 wine”. Given all

concerned about flavours being a little

bit riper than we would like for Chablis,”

that with some malolactic fermentation in order to keep the freshness and vibrancy that we like in Chablis.”

Joseph Drouhin is based farther south in

Burgundy and also has a project in Oregon, but you sense that Chablis has a special place in the family’s affections.

“It’s a very good region if you like

Chardonnay in a style that’s vibrant – usually with more

vibrancy and acidity than the

wine from the Côte d’Or or the Mâconnais,” says Véronique.

“Also what I like in Chablis is the fact

“For our village and the premier cru

wines, the grapes will be picked, they will

and will be bottled directly from the tank.

For the grand cru we’ve tried many things

and we find what suits the style we want to make is barrel fermentation, but actually

no new oak. The idea is that the wine gets this slow breathing through the oak but it doesn’t get any flavours from the wood.” Joseph Drouhin began farming

organically in the mid 1980s and converted to biodynamics in a

decade later, a decision made by Véronique’s brother Philippe.

“I can’t say that wines that are

biodynamically farmed are better than

that you don’t try to change anything from

wines that are not,” Véronique admits, “but

flavours to the classic Chardonnays of

of acidity which is quite important here.

what the grapes give you.

“The wines of Chablis have different

the Côte d’Or. There is a little more citrus flavour; I find some coriander flavours; I

for sure we’ve seen in the profile of the

juice, over the years, a really good balance That’s something we can measure.

“The plants themselves look unbelievably


feeling of not polluting the soil.”

Véronique is “happy with the final

the challenges of working in Chablis, a

good year like this must be particularly

gratifying. “It does give you satisfaction,”

she agrees, “because when you go through all these difficult times, with the frost and the hail, and then with disease, you say:

is it worth it? And then at the end of the

process you taste the wine, and customers send you so many compliments, and you say: OK, it was worth doing it!”

Find out more

Visit or or call 01432 262800 Twitter: @Pol_Roger



Douro dear? Not in Aldi, says Port boss Cheap Douro wine sold in discount retailers in the UK is doing “serious damage” to the industry, according to Paul Symington of Symington Family Estates. Symington said: “Port volume sales are

Tyvian Vigrass The Racketeer, London Favourite wine on my list Jean Maupertuis’ Pink Bulles, a natural biodynamic pet nat rosé. It’s a tiny but perfectly formed production which runs out within a couple of months once it becomes available every spring. Sublime but don’t drink it all please.

Favourite wine and food match Alain Brumont Gros Manseng and Sauvignon with a hunk of goats’ cheese. Or to go off piste, and not a pairing as such, how about a sangria: Tempranillo, substitute brandy for gin, stir in some sugar, throw in some summer berries and citrus fruit; tapas on the side and think of hazy summer evenings in Spain.

in decline, which is having a big structural impact on the region, as it hasn’t properly

adapted to the new commercial reality yet. “The fundamental issue is about Port

grape prices, which are high, while Douro

wine grape prices are sold as a by-product at two thirds less than the cost of growing them, which is a suicide mission.

“Our yields are 80% lower than in Chile

and yet you can find Douro wines on the shelves at Aldi for £5.99, which is utter madness and is doing serious damage

to the industry. We mustn’t devalue our region by selling our wine too cheaply.” The Drinks Business, May 20

Favourite wine shop Diogenes the Dog in south east London is run by a fantastically dynamic and friendly team. It’s superbly welcoming inside so I’m far too easily distracted and stay when I should be simply picking up a bottle to take home to my wife.

division posted a 10% increase to just over £4m.

Chief executive Frazer Thompson

said that, although the UK remains the

company’s key market, it is “developing to become a player with serious potential in growth markets”.

The firm said it is targeting export

opportunities in several countries, especially the USA.

Aberdeen Evening Express, May 30

English sparkling wine in a can Britain’s first English sparkling wine in a can is now available in supermarkets. Waitrose is the first supermarket to stock

The Uncommon. Two styles are available: a and £5.99 respectively.

Both are made “using high-quality,

hand-harvested grapes from vineyards in

I spent a week in a fattoria/agriturismo in Radda Chianti whilst taking part in a vintage bicycle race last year. Riding through the idyllic Tuscan countryside and being greeted by local wine suppliers with their finest Sangiovese, grappa or freshly squeezed grape juice in hand I will never forget.

Favourite wine trade person

11% to £8.98m, while the beer and cider

Bacchus and a Pinot Noir rosé, priced £4.99

Favourite wine trip

Dan Whiskin from Boutinot and Laura Callanan at Les Caves. Both have been instrumental in helping guide our young bar during its turbulent and humble beginnings almost two years ago.

year. In wine and spirits, turnover leapt

Hampshire, Surrey and Kent”, according

to the supplier, owned by Henry Connell

and Alex Thraves, who bought 65 tonnes of grapes this year and have produced Paul Symington: “£5.99 is utter madness”

150,000 cans of wine.

Selfridges is also stocking the brand.

The Mail, May 30

Chapel Down looks for export growth

• Around 3 million vines have been planted

England’s biggest winemaker, Chapel

body WineGB. The UK now has an estimated

Down, has reported another year of

3,500 hectares of vineyards, up by 24%

sales growth as it invests in measures to

versus a year ago. Most most of the new

increase production.

plantings are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and

Overall sales at the posterchild for

English wine were up 10% to £13m last

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2019 10

in England and Wales this year, nearly double the amount planted in 2018 and up from 1 million in 2017, according to trade

Pinot Meunier, plus Bacchus. Decanter, May 29



High noon for high streets Our town centres are part of the national character. They’ve been battered by a combination of technology, austerity and political indifference. But their decline does not have to be terminal, if we follow the example of the French and reimagine the high street in a way that benefits everybody


© highwaystarz /

he idea of the high street has

a powerful hold on the British

imagination. That means it tends

to get used as a symbol, although what it

symbolises rather depends on who’s doing the talking.

It might be a weathervane for the

health of the nation, a microcosm of social

dysfunction, or a site of nostalgia for a time that never really was.

And how we like to revel in just how bad

the modern British high street can get.

The vox-pop interview with monosyllabic

hooded youth or raging, barely coherent

A healthy high street has effects that go beyond economic wellbeing

pensioner before a row of boarded-up

shops is a staple of TV news items and broadsheet colour pieces.

In the tabloids, there’s the regular

jostling for the crown of worst high street in Britain. In recent weeks the title has been foisted on Swansea High Street

(“where prostitutes charge £10 for sex on ‘condom alley’”, according to The Mirror)

and Byker Shields in Newcastle-upon-Tyne (where one in five of the available retail

spaces are closed, and those that are open

are dominated by discount stores, cheap

in the UK with a mere 5.7% its available

property consultancy” Harper Dennis

centres, with Byker Shields or Stretford

fast food, and betting and charity shops,

according to a ranking by “strategic retail Hobbs).

There’s something about the contrasting

fortunes of different high streets that helps cement prejudice about different parts

of the country, too. We view Cambridge

(ranked the “best high street for shopping”

Councils had little alternative but to cut out the kind of of things that, without us really noticing until it’s too late, make high streets work THE WINE MERCHANT june 2019 12

retail space unused, in the same HDH

report) as the Dorian Gray of UK town

taking the role of the decaying picture in

the attic. Relief and mockery, or resentment and rage, ensue.

For all that it tends to be expressed

in lurid pieces of poverty porn or

metropolitan safari, however, the concern

for the British high street is real all over the country. And there’s no doubt that the past

decade has been a period of unprecedented difficulty for the UK’s town centres. Their traditional role has come under attack

from a formidable array of forces which,

although they will be familiar to readers of

Williams is wine critic for The Observer



How do you feel about the travails of Oddbins and Majestic?

this magazine, are worth listing here purely

I think that there’s a sadness but an inevitability about Oddbins. With Majestic I can see it making more opportunities for indies like us because I think the supermarkets will sweep up whatever custom is relevant to them and hopefully, with any luck, the mid-tier who they were supplying will go to the indies because we can offer a service and experience that the supermarkets can’t do.

to remind us of just how life-threateningly severe they are.

First came the biggest recession since

the 1930s followed by wage stagnation not seen since the Napoleonic wars, massively

reducing most people’s disposable income.

Add to this the ever-growing rise of

Alistair Coulthurst Levels, Eastbourne

internet-based alternatives, from Amazon to Deliveroo, catering to an increasingly

time-pressed and sofa-bound population

and the continued development of out-oftown retail parks.

Then spice it all up with a massive

dose of austerity, which meant town

councils were forced to cope with a 37% drop in the funds allocated to them by

central government, leaving them with

Majestic had a unique idea, with a 12-bottle minimum purchase. They reduced to six, and then single bottles, but they were in completely the wrong sites for that. What they had was fine but when they expanded and went on the stock market it blew them. I feel really sorry about Oddbins. When Seagram’s pulled out, that was the death knell. I think independents have an advantage, but it’s location, location, location.

Chris Beckett The Bottleneck, Broadstairs

little alternative but to cut out the kind

of things – regular street cleaning, public toilets, buses, libraries – that, without us

really noticing until it’s too late, make high

I started my career at both Oddbins and Majestic. I was involved in Oddbins’ closure the first time round. It’s good to have high street wine shops but I think it shows that independents can work it better than the chains. We are more flexible and dynamic in our approach: how we deal with customers, what goes on the shelf, and whether you go hybrid or fully wine bar, whereas Majestic was always a bit slower and Oddbins seems to have just relied on its social media since the early 2000s.

streets work.

Finally season with a sprinkling of

rising and confusing business rates that often have little or nothing to do with a

business’s turnover or value, and wonder – bitterly, sarcastically – why councils

were sending out bailiffs to more than 220 premises a day to collect unpaid business rates in 2017 and 2018 (according to a report by ratings advisor Altus).


t’s easy, when reading the litany of

defunct or struggling big high street names – from Woolworths to BHS,

and the almost complete destruction of the specialist multiple off-licence – or the figures showing net closures for

independent retailers in 2018, to get

depressed about the future of the British high street.

Matt Monk The Whalley Wine Shop, Lancashire

It’s a different world. I think they still cater still to the older market and I get a lot more younger consumers coming in who actually want to learn about wine. We don’t have an Oddbins or a Majestic near us any more; they closed down. When I go into another indie I can always tell if someone is from that world because it feels a bit more scripted. From their first couple of words you can tell if they are Oddbins or Majestic-trained. The training is very good, but they’ve all gone through the same training.

Clare Deer Ruby & Claret, Earls Barton, Northampton

Champagne Gosset The oldest wine house in Champagne: Äy 1584

Continues page 14

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2019 13


From page 13

But there are signs of life, suggestions

of what’s possible if stakeholders can get together and use a little imagination.

One of the most striking I’ve come across

may surprise those who still have an

A wave of small stores has been encouraged in Mulhouse, by low business rates and grants, to set up in the town: more than 500 have opened

idealistic view of retailing life on the other

academic studies, articles – and online

that provide an antidote to the cavernous

local independent retailers that many of us

readers of this magazine: that the

Mulhouse and other French towns.

France is by no means the paradise for

imagine. Just as the country has taken to

McDonald’s with an enthusiasm that belies

our view of a nation of gourmets (France is the burger chain’s second-largest market), so many of France’s centres have suffered the same hollowing-out as the UK, with an average of 12% of retail properties

lying vacant beyond the increasingly glitzy boulevards of Paris, Lyon, Toulouse and Bordeaux.


ne place that had felt the effects

travel forums – I’ve read about Mulhouse returns is the one that will not surprise

flourishing scene of independent shops

has been absolutely critical to its success. A wave of small stores has been encouraged, by generously low business rates and

grants, to set up in the town: more than 500 have opened in a decade.

They are there as businesses, but the

local government and community know they are more than that: they are vital

social places, conceived on a human scale

hypermarchés – and online warehouses –

that had done so much to rip out the soul of Is it too much to expect our own local

councils – and central government – to acknowledge this fact, and help save

the British high street? You’d hope so. A

healthy high street may not be the answer

to every social problem or a way of healing all the UK’s bitter divisions. But having one in your own town goes a long way

to making the trials of modern life more bearable.

© MIPImages /

side of the Channel.

particularly strongly was the

declining textile-industrial town

of Mulhouse, in Alsace. The town, with a

declining population of just over 100,000, had become something of a laughing

stock, a grey and troubled place that stood in stark contrast to neighbouring cities such as Strasbourg, its social problems

grittily summed up, when I was last there in the early 2000s, by the state of neardereliction of its high street.

In the past two decades, however, the

town has been transformed, and the French press has been filled with articles about the “métamorphose” Mulhouse, with excited details of its transformation.

A lot of that has been down to far-sighted

and cleverly targeted investment: in public transport, in the renovation of public (and via grants) private property, and in the

provision of benches, flowers, pavements and traffic-free spaces.

But the one theme to which all the

Mulhouse was seen as “a grey and troubled place” before its transformation

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2019 14

Bottling grapes Quinta do Portal’s boutique approach to its still winemaking builds on its expertise in crafting its famous Ports. That’s why wines from its Colheita range have found a natural home among independents


he concept could hardly be simpler. “The idea,” explains Quinta do Portal owner and winemaker Pedro Mansilha Branco, “is to bottle grapes.” Naturally it helps that the grapes in question come from a terroir as conducive to quality as the valley of the Pinhão river, a tributary of the Douro. “We have vineyards in both the east and west slopes at altitudes that vary between 150 metres and 600 metres,” Pedro explains. “We have 360˚ of solar exposition. This leads to a substantial difference of temperatures and even humidity. All this diversity, allied to the different grape varieties we have planted, plays a major role in the fruit that we get to work and then blend, depending on the objective for each wine.” Quinta do Portal describes itself as a “boutique” producer, best known for its Ports. But since 1991 its table wines have also been developing a loyal following. “We wanted to produce outstanding wines from the same vineyards where we had been making Port for such a long time,” Pedro says. “I don’t think we can completely separate Port and Douro wines. They are like family: the older brother, Port, and younger brother, Douro. “Sometimes we plan to pick grapes from

a certain parcel for Port and upon arrival at the winery we may decide that after all they’ll be producing a Douro wine, and vice versa.Therefore we can’t separate both wine types.” True to its ambition of “bottling grapes”, Quinta do Portal is a minimumintervention producer making wines through a series of micro-vinifications of individual parcels. “The micro-vinifications are completely artisanal,” says Pedro. “We started them when we created the Quinta do Portal Douro Red AURU 2001 [winner of both the James Rogers Trophy and the Portuguese Trophy at the IWC]. They are very helpful in order to better understand the parcels, the different grape varieties in different altitudes and solar expositions, and how the wines will respond to different types of oak, for example.” The wines are performing well in UK independents, Pedro reports. “The feedback we have is very positive, with the independents telling us that the demand for Portugal is finally there and people are looking for good quality wines and not just cheap, as Portuguese wines tended to be seen by most of the trade. “The wines offer authenticity, drinkability, elegance, freshness – and a lot of pleasure!”

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2019 15


Quinta do Portal is running a summer promotion for independent merchants on three of its key table wines. Alongside a price promotion to drive volume, the merchant with the most innovative in-store display during June posted to Instagram (#quintadoportal, #ABSWines) will win a trip for two to the Douro to visit the Quinta do Portal winery. Five runners-up prizes are also on offer. The Colheita range features in the promotion, with all three wines being line priced at £54.60 per case (6 x 75cl) and for every 24 cases purchased, mixed across the range, an additional two cases will be added free of charge. To encourage sales, an additional bottle of each reference will be provided to use as in-store tasting stock. Wines included: Colheita Branco 2017, Colheita Rosé 2018 and Colheita Red 2016.

Feature sponsored by Quinta do Portal

For more information about the promotion, contact your Awin Barratt Siegel Wine Agencies sales representative or call 01306 631155

Rising Stars


Elisa Bollecques Le Vignoble, Plymouth

Elisa wins a bottle of Drouhin-Vaudon Chablis 2018. To nominate a rising star in your business, email

© scaliger /


annick Loué says it was “pure luck” when Elisa walked through the door looking for work last summer. It wasn’t just her impeccable timing (he was just about to face a busy bank holiday without enough staff). Yannick explains that Elisa’s continuing “hard-work and professionalism have made her a real asset to the company”. At the time Elisa was working as an au pair and admitted to having no wine knowledge. But she assured Yannick she could collect glasses and stack shelves. “I told her if she survived the bank holiday she could have a full-time position, and she did marvellously,” he says. “In the past year she has just flourished. Her confidence has grown and she has a real love for wine. She smashed her WSET Level 2. It’s just so nice to see someone starting out with very little confidence do so well. “Elisa is just 22 years old and has her head screwed on. Work-wise she is very professional and I don’t often see that with the younger generation. “She is a keeper. We joke sometimes that she will be the general manager here someday – and why not? It’s the same with Megan who works for me: she started at the bottom of the ladder here and five years later she is running the show for me in Bath, so there is definitely potential within the company. For people like Elisa, it’s a no-brainer for me.” Elisa learned English while she was working as an au pair and says: “I thought it would be interesting to work for a French company in England. I told Yannick straight away that even though I’m French I knew nothing about wine and he said it would be easy to learn if I wanted to. “It is always a pleasure to work with Yannick because I learn something every day, and now I have a passion for wine so that’s a good thing. “I love working with Yannick and the team and I still have so much to learn about wine. For now I just want to get better at my job and then I’d like to do my Level 3.”

After a stellar 2018, some Loire produce

The Loire les

Liz Sagues reports back from Val de Loire Millésime 2019, the region’s more esoteric appellations, as well as produce


here are both smiles and frowns on the faces of the Loire Valley’s vignerons as the foundations of the 2019 vintage are laid. The smiles acknowledge the success of 2018 – both a high-quality harvest and high-volume one, essential after a run of low-yield years. The frowns follow early April’s cruel succession of rain, sub-zero temperatures and bright sunshine that destroyed already opened buds. All will depend on how secondary buds develop, but growers fear losses of up to 90% on some plots. If the damage proves to be severe, how will it affect the increasing emphasis on finding more markets for the valley’s wines as French demand decreases and competition mounts? “We don’t have another solution but to export,” Sylvain Naulin, director general of regional grouping InterLoire, told journalists gathered at Nantes in late April for Val de Loire Millésime 2019, the third edition of a three-day event crucial in making those exports happen. His words were reinforced by Claire Duchêne, as we talked on the final evening, when some spectacularly good wines were poured. Some are available in the UK; many more should be.

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2019 16

© /

ers are braced for a severe volume decline in 2019 due to April’s cold wet weather

ss travelled

, where much of the excitement centred around some of rs who are taking a greener approach to their wine

There has been an effort to stabilise stocks, holding back wine from generous vintages to fill gaps from leaner ones. But if the 2019 harvest falls below 50% of average, meeting demand will be difficult, Duchêne warned. She acknowledges that the Loire offer can be hard for outsiders to understand: “You can’t explain 50 appellations to a stranger.” Instead, the aim is to make Val de Loire familiar as a broad brand and emphasise the diversity of the offer (a theme of Millésime was exactly that – colours white, rosé and red, styles from sparkling to richly sweet). Specifically-targeted export initiatives will follow – UK independent merchants are on InterLoire’s list. I came away from the intensive tastings, masterclasses and vineyard visits with two particular impressions. First, while the general quality of wines from the western Loire valley (Millésime coverage stretched from the Nantais to Touraine) is good, there are some stand-out sub areas, not always familiar in the UK. Second, there’s an encouraging effort towards more sustainable, organic and biodynamic farming. But there are still far too many plots where vines emerge from compacted, herbicide-full soil; such a contrast to the happy greenness where nature flourishes.

There has been an effort to stabilise stocks. But if the 2019 harvest falls below 50% of average, meeting demand will be difficult It surely wasn’t a coincidence that a large proportion of the best wines I tasted were from the environmentally-minded growers. Let’s turn to some of the wines that left me smiling most. Touraine-Chenonceaux, an appellation only since 2011, offered concentrated, elegant, long-lees-aged Sauvignon Blanc, and stylish, flavoursome reds: Côt (better known as Malbec and increasingly in focus in Touraine) with Cabernet Franc. The 2017 Sauvignons from Guy Allion, Domaine Gibault, Domaine de la Grange, Domaine Joel Launay (Christopher Keiller, Exel Wines), Domaine Thierry Michaud and Domaine de La Renaudie (Wine Cellar Club), and the red blends from Château de Fontenay, Domaine de la Rochette (Swig) and Domaine Sauvète were all excellent. They come from flinty soils on either bank of the Cher; the bottles are distinctive, thin-necked and heavy-based; and while a minimum ex-cellar price is set to reward growers’ efforts, the wines are tempting value.


ouraine-Oisly is a similar newcomer, Sauvignon Blanc only, on sandier soils, with more mineral wines. Benjamin Delobel is a fine young grower there, carrying off the Denis Dubourdieu Trophy in the 2019 World Sauvignon Competition for his very fine Cuvée Exponentielle (AOC Touraine – no oak is allowed in Touraine-Oisly). It was only his fourth harvest. Then the ageworthy Muscadet crus: these take the shellfishfriendly quaffer to a different level of quality. It’s unfair not to highlight more wines from the 10 cru areas, each with different volcanic-origin soils, but these – vintages 2010-2015 – proved particularly impressive: Clisson, Domaine de la Grenaudière; Château-Thébaud, Famille Lieubeau (Charles Sydney, Justerini & Brooks); Gorges, Auguste Bonhomme (Tanners); La Haye Fouassière, Domaine Landron (Les Caves de Pyrene, AG Wines); Mouzillon-Tillière, Michel Luneau & Fils; Le Pallet, Château de la Mecredière; and Vallet, Domaine du Moulin Camus (François Boulanger). Millésime 2019 ended with a happy evening in Nantes wine bar Bé2M, as biodynamic and organic growers opened exceptional bottles. Long memories are made of wines such as these: Domaine Bellevue’s La Justice Chardonnay 2016, Domaine de l’Ecu’s remarkable orange Faust (Tannico, H2Vin), the pet nat-style La Bulle de l’Ouest from Domaine Julien Braud, Château de BoisBrinçon’s Garance 2017 from the sadly disappearing Pineau d’Aunis grape (Dreyfus Ashby, The Solent Cellar), Coteaux de l’Aubance 1995 in magnum from Domaine de Montgilet (Thorman Hunt, Christopher Keiller). There will be much attention on Val de Loire wines as 2019 continues. This year’s Paulée d’Anjou gathering of organic and biodynamic growers (joined now by those in Saumur), has a much more international emphasis. And it is immediately followed by the Chenin Blanc International Congress at Angers in July. Time, surely, to make more Loire wines available to UK buyers.

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2019 17

ight ideas r b 2: Host a Mums & Babies Tasting

. T H E D R AY M A N . Let’s enjoy the low life


he 21st century fashion for hops, and lots of them, has transformed perceptions of low-alcohol beer. Bunging in extra humulus lupulus has provided a quick fix to dial up flavour and mask the stripping-out of body that comes from removing alcohol. It’s a problem solver that has put beer ahead of dealcoholised wine; you can’t just add more grapes to give extra flavour because that’s not how it works, with the character of a wine relying on all of those variable factors bundled up in vintage and terroir. Adding other fruit flavours to low-alcohol wine as a workaround doesn’t help either because it just detracts from any essential winey-ness. Adding hops to season low-alcohol beer, on the other hand, makes it more beery, not less. This theory has resulted in practice in a proliferation of perfectly drinkable, and in some cases desirable, reduced-strength brews. Sometimes they lack a bit of oomph, but that’s more likely to be in body than flavour. London producers Small Beer and Big Drop are dedicated to producing high quality, low-alcohol beers with a craft beer swagger, while Nirvana does the same with brews that technically qualify as alcohol-free. None produces anything that could induce inebriation or a hangover. St Peter’s and Adnams have added flavoursome alcohol-free beers to their grown-up ale armouries. Beer geek heart-throb Kernel delivers a great Table Beer at under 3% ABV, and has been a trailblazer that other notable craft champions have followed. Brilliant London microbrewer Orbit has even teamed up with posh soda company Square Root to make an Earl Grey alcohol-free shandy in what may be a beer and soft drink collaborative first. It surely won’t be the last.

Ben Williams, In Vino Veritas, Walthamstow In a nutshell … A sociable tutored tasting for new mums and their babies. The tickets are £10 each and the event includes a tasting of five wines accompanied by cakes and nibbles.

Where did the idea come from?

“We did a few when we first opened in 2015 because one of my business partners, Ellie, had just had her baby. We started them up again a few months ago because there was so much demand for it.”

Talk us through a typical Mums & Babies Tasting.

“We’re restricted to 12 people simply because the buggies are so big, and even then we have to take half the furniture out the shop. We have about 10 minutes’ chat about each wine. It is a tutored tasting, but it is also very sociable because most of the mothers know each other anyway through the local NCT. I’d say about 90% at each tasting are new faces and people who have been before will often try to organise a private tasting.”

Is this a regular event?

“The advertised ones are held fortnightly and we tend to fit in some private ones as well. Walthamstow is very quiet during the day so if we run them between 2pm and 4pm we find that we’re not losing anything – it certainly doesn’t negate any other revenue streams.”

Babies and alcohol: sounds risky. Any exploding nappies or other traumas? “We haven’t had any problems. We have baby changing facilities in the bathroom. It is relatively labour intensive because we make all the cakes and things here. There’s the set-up and clean-up, and the online part, and once we’ve bought the wine and food and paid for staff time there is no real profit from the ticket sales. But I don’t think we’ve done one yet where we haven’t sold at least what equates to a bottle per head. We might make a few hundred pounds.” Ben 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.

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2019 20


A FLAVOUR OF ROMANIA Budureasca’s British winemaker specialises in indigenous as well as international varieties


udureasca is a name that has its roots in antiquity and tells a beautiful story of Romanian wine. Budureasca vineyards are set in the heart of the Dealu Mare DOC area, in the south of the country. They stretch across 275 hectares, embracing the 45th wine parallel, on the same latitude as Bordeaux. In our vineyards, you will find indigenous Romanian varieties enjoying worldwide recognition such as Feteasca Neagra, Feteasca Regala, Feteasca Alba, Tamaioasa Romaneasca and Busuioaca de Bohotin, alongside international varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Muscat Ottonel, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Shiraz. We have also established an organic vineyard and a separate area in the cellar for making and blending these wines. We are proud to have in our team well-known British winemaker Stephen Donnelly. He has won more than 180 international awards for Budureasca in competitions like the Decanter World Wine Awards (claiming the first Decanter Gold medals for Romanian wines), the Berliner Wein Trophy and many others. Budureasca Cellar is just an hour’s drive from the capital, Bucharest. It is one of the most modern cellars in Romania, covering an area of 5,200 square metres. It is buried on three of its sides to ensure thermal stability and provide an effective space for the annual production and storage of own-grown grapes. Budureasca wines have proved very popular both on domestic and international markets. We export to Japan, Belgium and Germany, to name just a few, and we are happy to see a constant increase in our presence in the UK market, mainly driven by independent shops. The market has seen an increasing demand for new, intriguing and interesting wines from indigenous grape varieties – and Budureasca wines can fulfil this demand.

Discover the range Budureasca has quality at all price points Vine in Flames is a collection of dry wines, especially created for the export, bringing out the best characteristics of each grape variety. Budureasca Premium is a collection of dry wines, matured in oak barrels and aged in bottle, especially crafted for wine connoisseurs. Our Noble Collection is a range of blends that address the needs of even the most demanding wine enthusiasts. The Origini Collection represents a selection of distinctive and elegant wines. Only the very best grapes are selected to create these exquisite wines, which have extraordinary ageing potential. Wines in the Organic Collection are produced in limited quantities, from grapes hand-picked in the Budureasca vineyard. Vine in Flames Feteasca Regala 2018 (white) Full bodied on the palate; ripe juicy fruit with a mineral core. Very nice length, and balanced acidity that keeps it fresh and lively in the mouth. RRP £11.99 Vine in Flames Pinot Noir 2016 Ruby in colour with complex aromas of raspberry and red cherry, and a hint of spice and black cherry. A medium to light-bodied wine with lovely soft tannins, giving it a lovely long finish. RRP £11.99 Premium Tamaioasa Romaneasca 2018 (white) Gold yellow in colour, with flavours of elderflowers and passion fruit. A fullbodied wine, with pleasant notes of fruits and flowers, fresh acidity and a long and soft finish. RRP £12.99 Premium Feteasca Neagra 2016 (red) Dark ruby in colour, with aromas of ripe cherry and black forest fruits. Full-bodied, with soft tannins and good ageing potential. RRP £12.99 Noble 5 2016 (red) Dark ruby in colour, with an elegant structure and a fruity taste that develops a long finish. It is a wine that shows its true potential with time. RRP £17.49 Origini Reserve 2016 (red) Selected from the best parcels, aged in new American oak. Dark red in colour with aromas of black cherries. A well balanced wine with notes of plums, and soft and delicate tannins giving its velvety aftertaste. RRP £19.99

A selection of Budureasca wines are available in the UK. If you would like to organise tastings for your customers or to receive samples please contact the importer. Producer’s contact: Viile Budureasca SRL, Gura Vadului 472, 107300, Prahova, Romania, +40 726 777 568 Importer’s contact: Transylvania Wine Ltd, AWRS: XXAW00000100290. The Shacks House, Halifax HX2 0SX. 07952 981036

Bacchus Bargain hunt














Nobody wants to encourage cynicism when it comes to analysing consumer behaviour, but sometimes it does seem that clever marketing counts for very little. An experiment carried out at Amps Wine Merchants in Oundle a few years back appears to confirm those suspicions. The business had just listed a new Spanish wine. “To prove a point to the staff, I made a stack at £6.99 marked ‘reduced from £14’, and then right beside it I made another stack of the same wine and priced it £5.99, no discount,” recalls owner Philip Amps. “During the Saturday that we did the experiment we sold 14 sixes of the half-price ‘reduced’ wine … and a case and a half of the £5.99 wine. “We had three people who took a case of the reduced wine and said, ‘I’ll have one of these and see what it’s like for £5.99’. They didn’t see that it was the same wine.” The lesson for the Amps team is that even customers at specialist wine shops are more motivated by a supermarket-style price deals than merchants may care to acknowledge. “All this clever marketing … and we think that social media is helping us sell wine. But what really helps you sell wine is saying it’s half price – then it’s out the door,” Amps reflects. “Bin ends and things like that don’t really work, but bankrupt stock flies out.”

Pops knows best The award for the most convoluted way of buying a bottle of wine goes to a customer at Shaftesbury

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2019 22

Wines, the famed emporium in the picture-postcard Dorset town. “She looked around the shop and was reading all the shelf-talkers,” explains owner David Perry, “and instead of asking me about the wines, she’d phone up her dad and say, ‘Oh Pops, it’s Rubes here, can you just Google this wine?’ “I offered to help but she totally ignored me.” Finally, Rubes alighted on a bottle that was exclusive to Shaftesbury, duly photographed it and sent it to Pops to Google on her behalf. Perry says: “He came back to her and read the description. I asked her which website he was looking at and she said, ‘oh, there’s only one, and it’s Shaftesbury Wines.’ “I said, ‘you’ve just Googled me to read to me what I wrote. No one else stocks this wine, and rather than ask me about it you phoned your father to Google it. He got one hit, which is from me at Shaftesbury Wines, which is where you are standing right at the moment!’ She bought it eventually.”

Unlike a virgin

Colin Thorne is, as all civilised people know, a buyer for Vagabond Wines. So why exactly did his London Wine Fair badge instead identify him as “DRC Virgin”? One explanation is that registration for trade shows is a job that is sometimes best contemplated before a hard day of tasting, rather than after one. But there was an element of opportunism too. “You never know what people might have lurking under their tables,” as the man himself points out. Indeed.


Aroma therapy The aromatic varieties of western and central Europe have set a template that has inspired white wine producers across the globe. WSET educator David Martin runs through the essential details

monthly series of articles aimed at refreshing your

WSET wine knowledge. WSET’s courses

such as Sonnenuhr. Proximity to water

© ftfoxfoto /


elcome to the first in a new

aids ripening and mitigates against frost. In certain cases, the humidity provides the conditions for high quality sweet

are based on a theory of principles that

wines, such as the wines based around

give students the skills to make sense

Neusiedlersee in the Burgenland region of

of the vast, varied and ever-changing

Austria. Soils play a major role too. High

world of wine. This means that when you

quality vineyards tend to have soil which

are presented with a wine outside the

is poor in nutrients with a free-draining

mainstream – perhaps a Sauvignon Blanc

and heat-retaining texture and colour. A

in Mosel, a Hárslevelű in South Africa,

good example is the Alsace Grand Cru site

or a Brazilian Gewürztraminer – you

Brand. Its predominately dark granite

can use the principles you have learnt to

soil warms up quickly and retains that

understand, explain and ultimately to sell

heat throughout the day. There Pinot Gris,

the wine. In this first article I will illustrate

Riesling and Gewürztraminer can develop

this approach, looking at the principles

behind the aromatic white varieties from Germany, Alsace, Austria and the Tokaj region of Hungary.

highly complex flavours and, unusually for Ripe Gewürztraminer takes on a pink hue

things to remember ... …

Growing conditions

• The four noble varieties of Alsace - Riesling, Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer and Muscat are also the major aromatic varieties across Germany, Austria and Tokaj, with a few local exceptions.

because the grapes retain naturally high

• Wines labelled under the VdP system as “Grosses Gewachs” are dry wines, usually of outstanding quality. • Vineyards that are close to a lake or river are ideal for aromatic varieties in cool climates - they help radiate heat to protect against frost and aid ripening. • Unusually for a white wine, Gewürztraminer’s skins are so pink when ripe they might be expected to make a light red wine. High quality Gewürztraminer can have a deep golden colour.

Cool climates are best for aromatic whites

levels of acidity, have moderate sugar levels (which means naturally lower levels of

alcohol) and thinner skins (which means the wines will be low in phenolics – generally good for white wines).

In these cool climates, the specifics of the

vineyard make a big difference. Often the

best vineyards are found around lakes and rivers. These large bodies of water warm

up during the day and radiate heat at night, as well as reflecting sunlight onto sloped

vineyards. This is perhaps most famously seen on the steep vineyards of the Mosel,

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2019 24

these varieties, alcohol levels of up to 14%. Regulation

There is a plethora of regulation across these regions. In Alsace over 50 sites

are classified as Grand Cru – meaning they have the exceptional soil, aspect,

and location that produces wines with

pronounced flavours and a long finish. In

Germany the Pradikat system (ie Kabinett, Spatlese etc) refers to the level of sugar in the grape must, not the sweetness of the

final wine. The German VdP system, which classifies vineyards, is an unofficial but

influential classification system for dry

wines. Those labelled Grosses Gewachs are comparable with Grand Cru in Burgundy. Many idiosyncrasies exist throughout

these regions which are worth studying in detail. Some producers even complain the controls are not strict enough!



Danielle Freer Amps Wine Merchants Oundle Winemaking In the cellar, we can talk about entry-level and premium winemaking. In general,

the aim with entry-level wines is to retain aromatics and provide a balance between sweetness and acidity.

In order to retain aromatics, wines

are fermented in stainless steel at low

temperatures (12-15°C). Sometimes a

specific strain of yeast is added to help create the right flavours.

“Customers don’t have to pay for any of the samples. We have always believed that people shouldn’t have to pay for something they might buy”

With premium winemaking, the focus

Tell us about your Enomatic. We’ve had our Enomatic since 2013. I think we were one of the first shops to have one. We’ve got an eight-bottle machine in our Oundle Wharf store and it’s given our customers the opportunity to try something different. The wines that would usually be a hand-sell work really well if we put them on the machine. It’s definitely a really good selling point for us. What’s the most esoteric wine you have had on taste? We had a Txakoli in there that worked really well. That was something I hadn’t personally tried before I put in on the machine. We’ve had a couple of wines from Crete, an Assyrtiko and a Kotsifali blend – both worked really well too. How often do you refresh the wines? We update the website every time we change the wines, which is around every 10 days. I know the machine keeps the wine fresh for three weeks but the samples tend to run out before then. We will send out an email to let people know what’s on taste at the weekend and then we’ll pop it onto Instagram and Facebook to say we’ve loaded some fresh new wines. How does the Enomatic fit in with your business? Customers can come in and taste all eight wines and they don’t have to pay for any of the samples, because [owner] Philip has always believed that people shouldn’t have to pay for something that they might buy. We are about to introduce cards for people who want to buy a 125ml glass, but the samples will remain free.

is on texture and complexity. Grapes are

often direct pressed in whole bunches, as

this is the most delicate way to extract juice without picking up bitter phenolics.

Another option is to carry out short

skin contact (12 to 48 hours) in order to

provide texture and intensity of flavour on the palate. Fermentation is often in large oak barrels of central European origin.

Have you configured the store around the Enomatic? We have done now, yes. Originally it was at our Market Place store and we don’t have any seating there. In preparation for when we start selling by the glass from the machine, we have introduced floating shelves and bar stools and the there’s a really nice outlook over the fields. We’re going to do olives and nuts and crisps, that kind of thing.

This oak has a neutral character, providing a richer texture and blanched hazelnut aromas from gentle oxidation.

The aromatic varieties play an important

role in the world of wine, having expanded from their traditional homes to vineyards in the New World. They provide some of

the most expressive and interesting white wines available.

How do your customers react? Sometimes people are daunted by using it to start with. As soon as you say, ‘it’s free of charge, we want you to try it,’ people find it fascinating and say: ‘I wish I had one of these at home!’

• Look out for our article on sparkling wines in next month’s issue. To find out more about our qualifications alongside a great range of free resources and learning tools, visit www.

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2019 25


The new-look bar area with the shop to the rear. “It cost us a lot of money, but I wanted to do it properly and I didn’t want it to lack ambition,” says Connolly

Minnie-Mae Stott and Orson Warr, July 2018

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2019 26

Connolly’s arching ambition It was always atmospheric, it was always nicely positioned, but Connolly’s wine shop in Birmingham wasn’t necessarily realising its revenue potential. Now the space is operating primarily as a bar, with a separate retail area attracting not only the old crowd but a new clientele


onnolly’s is one of the grand old

names of the independent trade, a bastion of tradition and old-world

expertise, a gimmickless standard-bearer for the doughty family businesses which, for decades, quietly dominated the fine wine scene.

Chris Connolly sips the coffee that one

of his 14-strong team has brought to him

and scans his eyes around the Birmingham railway arch that has been the heart of the

business for almost three decades. There’s going to be a gig here tonight, he says:

a band called Church of Elvis. “It’s sort

of early 80s punk, in some respects,” he explains. “So we’ll see how that goes.” Punk being performed at a family

wine merchant that is perhaps best

Abigail. The Connolly’s Wine Merchants


wholesale market with the remaining 40%

Burgundy and 25 labels.

business, which also operates a shop

in Solihull, does 60% of its trade in the

going through the tills of the two stores. Looking around the space that the

Connollys have created – Chris’s wife Tania

also works full-time in the business, having originally agreed to help out for six weeks – it’s clear that the revamp wasn’t rushed, bodged or skimped on in any way. This


Are there other family members

mists of time: my great-grandfather was

The bar is operated as a separate

company, run by Connolly’s daughter

We lost dad in 2001 and mum in 1995.

I was studying economic history at

since last year, when the premises, next to


up again. We’ve been here since 1991.

would be a good bar.”

started it up in 1976. Going back into the

sized footprint towards the rear of the

made him redundant in ’72, so he started

very atmospheric, and I always thought it

“It’s a lovely space,” says Connolly. “It’s

are a-changing. That much has been clear

a discrete shop area planting a decent-

continued to work for Harveys until they

family business?

I’ve got two sisters and a brother who have

and still incorporates a retail element, with

and his sister sold out to Harveys. Dad

determined to get it right.

involved in the business?

bar: Arch 13. It has a seated capacity of 37

When grandfather died in 1960, dad

Did you always plan to take over the

(Connolly’s personal Twitter handle is

Snow Hill station, was converted to a wine

They had four or five different barrels of

was a proper project and the family was

known for its Burgundy specialism

GrandsEchezeaux) is a sure sign that times

They used to do all their own bottling.

a small interest. The old man [Patrick]

a farmer’s son from County Longford and came over – he had cousins over here

and he built up a chain of pubs which he sold and then started a wine merchant’s business in Wolverhampton. Then he

bought a place in Birmingham and he fell out with his son Maurice, so Maurice ran Birmingham and Lewis continued to run

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2019 27

I joined when I got kicked out of university. I wanted to be – not that I knew who he

was then – Robert Peston!

I find that whole subject absolutely

fascinating. You look at what’s going on

at the moment, from our perspective, and

you just think “oh god”. But actually, if you

can take a step back, this is one of the most fascinating periods in English history.

What would this place have looked like in 1991? When we first moved in here, it was a shop and offices and some storage in the back. Continues page 28


From page 27

Then we changed things around a bit and put the office in the back and made the shop bigger.

When we opened in Solihull we put the

office over there, which was not a good

move at all. The cellars are down the road

[from the main premises], so when you’re

here you’re within touching distance of the engine room, effectively.

We stuck with that for a couple of years

and realised we had to be in place to be in

control. So now the office is in a shed in the warehouse. It’s not ideal, but it works, and it means that there is control there.

How did you arrive at the decision to open a bar here? We had a big barn of a shop, which was

OK, but there was a huge amount of space not really doing anything. Our daughter, Abi, was studying at UCB up the road

Chris Connolly with daughter Abigail

‘We had an awful lot of wasted space before. Retail figures have dropped slightly but not as much as I imagined’ of customer that you attract here?

Is the range of wines sold in the bar also

restaurants and then she started running a

What we’ve seen is a new retail base. New

available in the shop?

she’s a certified sommelier; she’s got a

they’ll come into the shop, so it is certainly

can have by the glass or by the bottle and

doing culinary arts and working at various wine bar.

When that closed, we thought: essentially

culinary arts degree. If you’re ticking boxes for the ideal person to run a wine bar, then she ticks every box. And she’s family.

people come in and have a coffee, a glass

We’ve got seven whites, seven reds, a

bringing a new customer base in.

you can buy it in the shop.

of wine, a cheese toastie, whatever … then

couple of rosés; an orange. Everything you

Is the shop area now about a third of the size it was originally? Yes, probably about a third of the size. I think we saw it as an opportunity. The

retail area is a lot smaller in terms of floor space but we have used all of the shelving that was in the old shop. We have lost a

little bit of stock holding but not as much as you’d think – we had an awful lot of wasted space before.

Retail figures have dropped slightly but

not as much as I imagined.

How has the revamp changed the kind

Cheese and meat platters are a popular choice

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2019 28


We work on a £7.50 corkage, so you can

this so near to a railway station.

choose a wine off the shelf and drink in.

We get early-doors business from 5pm to

£35. OK, we’re not a restaurant, we don’t

here now than there was 27 years ago.

It’s great value so you can come and have

a really good Burgundy and you’re paying have a kitchen or a chef, but you’d pay three times that in a restaurant.

We do cheese and meat platters.

Sometimes, particularly in winter time, people like a hot lunch.

Did you take inspiration for the project from other merchants? Before we opened, we did go and have a look around at what other people were doing. We visited Corks Out in Chester,

DeFine [in Sandiway, Cheshire] … I went

7pm. The area is still in transition and it is

clearly changing. There is more residential The car park [a large space opposite the

entrance] has had so many false dawns.

When we first moved in it was going to be a Malmaison hotel. Then it was going to be a

new coach station, then various concepts of mixed use, retail – whatever.

Apparently Birmingham has the youngest

demographic of any city in Europe and the

most multicultural demographic, and it’s the fastest growing city.

Fine. It’s a very different set-up; it’s a

wine merchant but it’s a neighbourhood off-licence to a degree because it’s so residential.

It’s on a parade of shops, a standard

1930s shopping parade with a complete mix of 30 to 40 mostly independents,

which makes it quite unusual. There’s a gentleman’s outfitter’s which seems to

cater for an awful lot of footballers – it’s high-end.

In terms of retail opportunities I don’t

think there is a better shopping parade

anywhere locally because of what’s on offer there. We take double or so what we do

to Tanners’ place in Chester; I visited Ted

[Sandbach] down in Oxford. I wanted to see how other people were doing it.

I always felt, possibly because I’m

paranoid, that rather than keeping the whole thing open and having a bar in

the middle of a shop, we’d keep the shop

separate, which actually works rather well. From a security point of view if you have

a really busy evening you can just shut the [shop] gates and let them get on with it.

Have there been any bumps in the road with the bar? You’ll get customers you’d prefer not to have on the premises.

The shop now occupies about a third of the floor area

Is it your job to get rid of them? Or is

Are there any inherent problems with

that Abi’s brief?

being in a railway arch?

Yes, I wouldn’t argue with her! They’re few

Occasionally you’ll get little drips coming

Is your metal shelving system bespoke?

with everyone who is in a railway arch – is

and far between but you do get characters in.

We had a firm of designers to put the whole thing together. It cost us a lot of money, but

I wanted to do it properly and I didn’t want it to lack ambition.

It must be good to run a business like

through. Our biggest concern at the

here. It’s a stand-alone retail store and it’s a very good pitch.

Birmingham has a competitive

moment – and we have this in common

wholesale market. How are you doing?

know much, if anything, about them. There


that we have new landlords and we don’t

seems to be a lot of inspections. They say

that effectively the terms of our lease will remain unchanged.

How are things going at Solihull?

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2019 29

We seem to be getting our fair share and there’s new stuff coming through all the We look for gastro-pubs; nice little

independent restaurants who are looking

to do different and exciting wines and have Continues page 30


From page 29

a regular ongoing dialogue with somebody. The sort of restaurant who can ring us up and say, “we’ve got this new dish on the

‘People are no longer buying GevreyChambertin at £140 a bottle. They are looking for more minor appellations’

menu, what can you do?”

I love Burgundy. I don’t get over there as

and wholesale, tends to be of interesting

this kind of business?

and we’ve still got some really, really good

simply because they are what they are, and

How long do you spend prospecting for It’s where I spend most of my time, either

servicing or developing that side of things. What’s getting you excited at the moment about wine? We’re keeping our heads down slightly and

see how things play out, rather than get too excited, but Austria … we need to get back to it and see what they’re up to.

Is Burgundy still close to your heart? The world has got bigger in some respects.

often as I used to. It used to be an annual

pilgrimage. We’ve just bought some 2017s people over there.

The business has changed. The sort

of thing we sell here is not going to be

Grand Cru or Premier Cru, but really good drinking Burgundies at the village level.

Talking to restaurant customers, people

value. Wines that have left their egos at

home. Some wines sell at ridiculous prices

you are buying a label. There are all sorts of opportunities elsewhere. People are doing some interesting stuff and recognise that they need to be commercial.

Where would you go for a really good

are no longer buying Gevrey-Chambertin

Pinot Noir?

more minor appellations.

lovely wines over there. I was slightly

Premier Cru at sort of £140 a bottle in a

restaurant, they are looking for the slightly They’ll sell on the private market. But

what we do ourselves, in terms of retail

The bar has attracted a new type of customer to the shop

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2019 30

There’s some really good stuff coming

out of South Africa and Germany. Some

disappointed when we went to Romania that so many of them are trying to grow



cellarmaster Michel Parisot on the role of oak

The business now has a team of 14

international varieties.

say, “we want to buy your wines, we work

interesting opportunities. And northern

Do you think you could replicate this

I’m not necessarily a huge fan of Kiwi

Pinot. In the Pfalz there are some more Italy.

After so long in the trade, is it possible to become a bit jaded? We did a South African trip a couple of

years ago which was really exciting. I’d

never been before and it really made me think that we need to have something

different to offer people; we can’t rely on UK suppliers all the time. We were there

for two weeks and averaged two or three wineries a day and came back with a

portfolio of half a dozen different wineries. When you go overseas, do you think the independent trade is taken as seriously as it is here?

with our growing customer base, but we can’t give you national coverage”. set-up elsewhere in the city? It would be interesting to do something

elsewhere, but we’d need to make some decent money first.

In some respects it would be a braver

move to do something else as a stand-alone elsewhere in the city. The shop might not be making a fortune but it’s paying the rent.

The bar doesn’t need to make a huge

amount of money to make it worthwhile. I don’t want to open another shop in the

city because it would be cannibalising what we’re doing here.

If the business as it stands was your

I think not entirely. There is a

road map to retirement, would you

small independent regional merchant and

great plan to do anything else but neither

misunderstanding to a degree. Ultimately

settle for that now?

there are people we can do business with.

am I thinking about retiring. It would

we have to accept the fact that we are a

But we’re not an agent and we cannot

give them agency support. You need to

manage their expectations a little bit. And

Watch this space. We’ll see. There is no sometimes be nice to have a bit more freedom – some time to play, and go cycling.

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2019 31

At Devaux, oak is essentially used to increase the aromatic complexity of our wines. We’ve found that forests of Champagne can supply great quality oak for making and ageing wines. We currently source oak from three local areas: Argonne, La Montagne de Reims and Othe. Each provenance brings its own specificities, but we also work with three different coopers to add more variations. In the end, our oak barrels display subtle contrasts that help to achieve more aromatic complexity while getting more roundness and keeping the freshness in our wines. The toasting level brings toasty and grilled aromas, but even chocolate notes sometimes! At Devaux, it’s of prime importance that we keep finesse, freshness and fruitiness in our wines. So we encourage a light toasting level to get only delicate grilled flavours. Reserve wines play a big role in Devaux’s style – especially for our ‘Collection D’ range (up to 40%). So we put a great effort into ageing them the best possible way. What really matters is not so much related to oak but rather to vessel’s size and ageing technique. Using the ‘solera’ technique, our reserve wines are aged together in large old vessels (foudres of 7,000 to 14,000 litres) which limits the influence of oak aromas. This allows us to blend several vintages together – back to 1995 – which combines aromas of young and old wines while keeping complexity and freshness intact. Reserve wines will define Devaux’s style and influence our blends like a generous pinch of mixed spice in your signature dish!

CHAMPAGNE DEVAUX A premium range of Champagnes from the Côte des Bar, including the Cuvée D: a Pinot Noir-dominant multivintage blend of 15 different vintages, aged for a minimum of five years on lees. Distributed by Liberty Wines

ITALIAN WINE Still a family affair

© ronnybas /

Tommasi, a top seller at Toscanaccio in Winchester, has wineries across Italy. It was founded in 1902 and has grown to be the largest familyowned vineyard estate in Valpolicella Classico. In the UK it’s represented by Maisons Marques et Domaines.

Making sense of Italian wine It’s never struggled to win plaudits from merchants and wine drinkers alike. But the complexity and richness of Italy’s wine offer can sometimes seem overwhelming. We ask four merchants with Italian expertise what currently floats their gondolas

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2019 32


talian wine is ideal for independents. Its fragmentary nature – the

thousands of producers in every

part of the country, the hundreds of

grape varieties, the 334 DOCs and 74

DOCGs – means there is plenty of scope for independents to source wines that

differentiate their range from that of the

multiples (who, beyond the usual suspects, don’t cover the country very well at all).

After France, it’s the country that leads

the way in diversity and in that sense

Pecorino hits the sweet spot

Pecorino is a wine that consumers are asking for specifically in some shops – Umani Ronchi and Contesa, from Berkmann and Boutinot respectively, are two popular choices. The variety was once considered extinct but was rediscovered in the 1980s – its fans enjoy the style for its combination of sweetness as well as acidity. Cat Brandwood Toscanaccio, Winchester Customers now particularly identify with Puglia. That’s not greatly surprising: there are reasonable prices, the wines are easy to drink, and fruitdriven. A lot of customers have been converted

away from the New World with Puglia. It’s a good alternative.

Another thing is that, when they go on

holiday, they’re interested in what comes

from there. A lot of people go to Sicily now, and Tuscany is popular here in a wealthy part of the country. A lot of people go to Bologna for a weekend break, and ask

for wines from that area. And Lambrusco

absolutely goes with that. Although I long claimed it was making a comeback, if I’m honest I was never really was convinced, but now it really is. We list three, which

is quite a lot when you think we have six Holidays in Italy often give consumers the taste for Italian wine

of wine being a part of the culture, of

customers really get Italian wine: how

least in principle – that some Italian wines

matter, whisperingly subtle whites without

tradition, which means there should be

less resistance to customers accepting – at come with a premium, and are born to go with food.

And yet, of course, all those strengths

can so easily be viewed as weaknesses.

The complexity becomes a trial – to source and to sell. How many of those Italian

DOCs have you actually heard of, let alone your customers? And how many of your

many are comfortable with high acid and

prominent tannin in their reds, or, for that dominant fruit flavours?

No wonder, then, that so many Italian

ranges amount to little more than several SKUs of Prosecco plus a cheap Puglian

red and a couple of never-sold Chiantis,

Valpolicellas or Barolos. But it doesn’t have to be that way, as the following selection of highlights from Italophile indies shows.

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2019 33


Personally I’m a fan of northern Italy.

We’re actively thinking of extending

ranges from Trentino and Alto Adige; also Lombardy – there’s a lot there we haven’t

explored, and Tuscany, although it can get prohibitive quite quickly price-wise. And

the south, but not Puglia, because we have

a fairly decent range of wines there, but we want to go to other places.

We do well with producers like Fontodi.

Of the not-huge names, Tommasi do really well for us; it helps that they’ve got a

Continues page 34


From page 33

Puglian estate as well. We’ve been able

Piemonte. Etna obviously. Greco from

Ben Robson

failing. Trentino DOC is really hot. We’ve

label their wines so well.

to attract more and more customers to

Bat & Bottle, Rutland

well and fly out. Bella Vista, too: Petra in

more in the Alto Piemonte and Valle

Ornellaia, Antinori, and we do well with

because the climate is so unreliable on

We’ve been here getting on for seven and a

and Verona. People keep talking about the

deal of info from our staff.

Adige, but more across to Aosta and Alto

names such as Ca’ dei Frati and Pieropan – their entry-level wines do surprisingly

For the past few years we’ve been doing

any reasonably large name: San Guido,

looking at altitude more and more,

Tuscany, their Tuscan arm as it were. And

d’Aosta, from Donnas to Gattinara. I’m

other things if the staff get behind them.

ground level throughout Italy.

half years now, and anyone who’s shopped

heat of the wines of Sicily, but Valpolicella

Obviously, we run a lot of tastings here.

here for a while will have picked up a great A lot of people holiday in Italy, and a lot

of people have made the effort to learn

what they like. Pecorino people ask for it specifically. We’ve got three Pecorinos at the minute, one from Boutinot, Contesa;

and Umani Ronchi [shipped by Berkmann], which flies out, and one by the Farnese

group, under the Santini label, which is not my style but it is some of the customers’. As for suppliers, we use Berkmann,

Liberty, and MMD; Boutinot do the entry

level well, and Bancroft. We’ve also started © LianeM /

natural, organic and vegan wines. And they

with Les Caves de Pyrene because of

The temperature is the same in Palermo

is the same! So we’re looking at Alto-

The temperature is the same in Palermo and Verona. I think the general word on the street is altitude is the way to go. That’s what it’s all about

Irpina and around there. We keep trying

to find wines from the Oltrepò Pavese but just brought in Lombardio Groppello: it’s fun but won’t make us rich.

I think the general word on the street is

altitude is the way to go. That’s what it’s all about.

My warehouse man has made some of

his own wine, the English Winemaker, just looking at slightly different styles of wine.

We’ve done the biodynamic and natural for a long time, the extra skin contact. I was shown an aged Moscato d’Asti the other

day, aged for eight years. It had Viognier-

like characteristics. There has to be a good future in that, getting more flavour from Muscat.

One of my favourites is Camillo Favaro,

making Erbaluce. I’m quite excited

by Donnas, the co-op there, but it’s a

minuscule co-op. And we do very well with Antoniolo, Gattinara producers.

We’re sounding a bit north west-

dominated at the moment – that’s where we’re going – but we also like Lapo Berti

in Barolo: almost garagistes making wines from rented vineyards, like the micronegociants of Burgundy.

Cantine di Marzo, in Campania: they’re

barking mad, but they seem to have

finally worked out that they are almost

where Greco di Tufo was created – some

ancestors escaping plague took their vines with them. It’s such a silly story it might

actually be true. It’s a very noble family and they seem to have finally worked out that they have to make money from wine, and do it properly and make “cru” Greco. And Palmento Costanzo on Etna: we’re doing really well with them.

Decent quality Arneis at under £14 on

the shelf, and chunky Nebbiolos at £15 are what drive the business.

Continues page 37

Terraced vineyards in Valle d’Aosta

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2019 34

Boutinot ad

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2019 36


© veta_zarzamora /

From page 35

Lucy Taylor Philglas & Swiggot, London We have really good access to some really great Sicilian stuff, and we have a lot in the north of Italy. We really like our Barolos and

Barbarescos and Valpolicellas. [In the

Veneto], we have a winemaker Vicentini Agostino: a really great range of whites

and reds, some lovely Soaves and Ripassos. And then in Sicily, we have the COS guys – really interesting biodynamic stuff – and the Terre Nerre wines.

I’d say the style that people are looking

for is that pure fruit style, a bit more pithy and skin-contacty. The COS white fits that style, so that’s quite popular. Federico Bruschetta Passione Vino, London I think at the moment we quite like Valtellina – because it’s still Nebbiolo but much more approachable much earlier, and more elegant than the Langhe. We have a couple: Marco Fay and Dirupi. There’s always Etna, which is always

interesting. It’s just that it’s in a way an

atypical wine from Sicily: it’s in Sicily, but it doesn’t belong to it. It’s much more about the volcano and the altitude, and in blind tastings it’s often confused with Alpine wines. We have I Custodi delle Vigne dell’Etna.

[For white wines], the Marche region

has some fantastic value for money, a lot of sapidity and minerality – a lot of the

Verdicchios they do offer excellent value. Accadia also does one with a bit of skin

contact, Ca’Liptra, and another producer, Aurora, does a Pecorino-Passerina blend

that is not your normal crispy white. It has much more depth and interest.

Lunch in the Wine Merchant office

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2019 37


That other fizz It’s not Prosecco, and it’s not Champagne, but that’s part of Cava’s charm. The wines have been rather sidelined in the UK market in recent times, but there are plenty worth exploring


n the great global fizzy gold rush – when sparkling wine has

become one of the wine world’s biggest success stories – why choose Cava?

It’s a question that even some of the style’s most noted

producers are asking. A number have gone off to form a breakaway group, Corpinnat, to make sparkling wines that they feel better reflect high quality and terroir expression in Cava’s main

production zone, around Sant Sadurní d’Anoia in Penedès.

Given the recent conciliatory noises emerging from some of

those producers about the possibility of rejoining the Cava DO,

however, there is still an understanding that Cava remains a strong brand.

And, indeed, there is plenty to get excited about in a style that is

Which is why both the Corpinnat members and the Cava DO

itself has spent so much time working out ways to promote Cava as more than just cheap Spanish champers.

The introduction of a new top category – Cava de Paraje (or

Cava de Paratge in Catalan) – for wines made, initially, on a

dozen (now 14) classified special sites in 2017 went some way

to acknowledging this. The wines are compelling answers to any

questions about where Cava fits in the fizz firmament: a sparkling wine with a distinctively Mediterranean charm.

• The Wine Merchant’s editorial team put a range of Cavas (and other Spanish sparklers) through a taste test. Find out which ones made our top 10 overleaf.

responsible for some 18 million cases of sparkling wine each year. Cava’s great advantages are paradoxical, in that it is

simultaneously both very similar to, and completely different to, Champagne.

The similarities: unlike a certain all-conquering Italian bubbly,

there is no charmat in Cava country. Second fermentation will

always happen in bottle, and ageing on lees will be for a minimum of nine months, or 15 months for Reserva and 30 months for Gran Reserva.

The differences: although Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are

planted, and contribute to a handful of the region’s best wines, the heart and soul of Cava is its own trio of local varieties: Macabeu, Parellada and Xarel.lo. At their best, the trio combines to bring a range of flavours –

orchard fruits, white flowers and herbs – and intriguing textures – chalkiness, earthiness – that make any comparison with

Champagne seem a bit daft. Yes, you have the baked bread and yeasty notes that come from secondary fermentation in bottle – and at all price levels, Cava can offer some of the best value traditional-method sparklers in the world.

But it seems a little strange that, while we can accept that a

Spanish red or white wine can and should taste different to a

Burgundy, we are still looking for Champagne flavours in Catalonia (where 95% of Cava is made).

Perelada Brut Reserva voted in the Wine Merchant Top Ten Cava 2019. Available from Barwell and Jones

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2019 39


Gramona III Lustros Gran Reserva Brut Nature 2011

JuvE & Camps Juve & Camps Reserva de la Familia 2015 Cinta Purpura Reserva 2016

Cava is often a simple pleasure but this

Made mainly from free-run juice, this is a

Juvé & Camps Cavas are popular for good

something pretty austere, even by Cava

with genuine sense of fun about them. As

was the most complex and characterful

in our selection. Aged for 84 months and made with biodynamically-grown fruit,

brut nature Cava, which might convince some drinkers to brace themselves for

reason, perhaps because, like Púrpura,

they are relatively full-bodied and fruity,

it’s beautifully structured and balanced,

standards. But no: there’s an elegant seam

consistent Cava, crying out for tapas.

of sweet(ish) fruit along with the zesty

one comes complete with an exotic musky

Ehrmanns RRP £13.99

Ehrmanns RRP £19.99

with an obscure exotic note entwined with the almonds and candy. An assured and FMV RRP £48.25

citrus, and a spicy undercurrent, redolent of pink peppercorns.

bodegas Sumarroca Brut RosE 2016

bodegas Sumarroca Brut Reserva 2016

Carlos Sumarroca and wife Nuria describe

This time Sumarroca plays a slightly

well as a soft and creamy mouthfeel, this scent that reminded us of cloves and patchouli oil.

bodegas Sumarroca NUria Claverol brut reserva RosE 2016 Possibly the most elegant bottle that

straighter bat, with a classic, almost

we saw in the tasting, though we’re far

and Garnacha. There’s a pleasant cherry

component. A little bit of bread on the nose

flavours with a trademark savoury note

Alliance Wine RRP £14.49

Alliance Wine RRP £13.49

themselves as the largest estate-grown

Cava producers in Spain. They’re proud

of their sustainable techniques and use of only free-run juice, in this case Pinot Noir sweetness here, with a bracing, almost salty freshness.

Champenois approach to a more or less

equal blend of Paralleda, Macabeu and Xarel.lo, bolstered by a 10% Chardonnay

and just enough fruit on the palate make it a wine to celebrate, and for celebrations.

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2019 40

too hard-bitten to allow such things to influence us. This is 100% Pinot Noir,

which gives tightly-wound tart red fruit

towards the finish. Charming, but definitely robust too.

Alliance Wine RRP £26.49

Roger Goulart Gran Reserva 2011

Colet Navazos Reserva Extra Brut 2013

If you saw someone venturing into your

Not classified as a Cava, this glorious

cellar and giving your maturing Cava a

vigorous annual shake you’d be tempted to rugby tackle them. Yet that technique – déplacé – helps extract the autolytic

characters found here in a classy, sherbety

Penedès sparkler is 100% Chardonnay, aged under flor for 41 months and, to

continue the theme, given a sherry dosage

at bottling. We loved its yeasty aroma, rich golden colour, rounded stone-fruit palate

and gently saline wine, with notes of honey

and slightly oily texture, and its faint burnt

Perelada Brut Reserva NV

Bocchoris Brut NV

and nuts and a lovely full mouthfeel. Hatch Mansfield RRP £20.40

Fifteen months of lees ageing has certainly

added depth and complexity to a wine that won thumbs-ups for its toasty, burning-

note toward the finish.

Alliance Wine RRP £31.99

Admittedly, we didn’t like the crispy

cellophane capsule very much, which

seemed to take most of the afternoon to

electrical-circuits character, along with

dislodge. But happily the wine was worth

– are selected from four sites in the Alt

Cavas we tasted, due in part to up to 20

Barwell & Jones RRP £11

The Knotted Vine RRP £16

its hint of caramel and arresting lemony

freshness. The grapes – a blend of 45% Xarel.lo, 30% Macabeu and 25% Parellada Penedès region.

the aggravation: a joltingly-dry shock to the system full of lime and green apple flavours, with more texture than many months’ ageing.

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2019 41


Close to their roots For Martin and Claire Murray, the launch of of Rock Rose Gin has been a chance to express some of the natural flavours of their native Caithness. It’s a success story that has resonated across the UK and beyond, and spawned some quirky brand extensions. Fish-flavoured gin, anyone?


ne of the things I love most about the business is the commute,” says Martin Murray. “In the

summer, I walk along the beach to the

distillery. It’s a 10-minute walk but if I want to extend it I can go through the dunes and

walk through the forest. It’s one of the best commutes you could ever do.”

Murray doesn’t miss his old commute – a

helicopter ride from Aberdeen to the North Sea oil and gas field, where his work as an engineer took him away from home for

two weeks at a time. In 2014 Martin and his wife Claire decided it was time for a

complete lifestyle change and established

the UK’s most northerly mainland distillery in their home county of Caithness.

“Our plan at the start was for me

to continue to work in an offshore

environment for three years and try and

build up enough traction for us both to be employed at the distillery,” Martin says.

“But I left oil and gas just six months after starting up the business – then three

months later the oil price crashed and all my back-up plans went out the window.” As things turned out, this wasn’t a

disaster at all. “When we launched we sold

the first year’s production in the first three

months, and that gave us real confidence in what we were doing,” he says.

The Dunnet Bay Distillery had an instant

hit on its hands with Rock Rose Gin,

packaged in its now-familiar hand-waxed

ceramic bottles. “We had a pretty simple

goal in that we wanted to create a gin that

both of us enjoyed and would be our go-to gin,” Martin explains.

Rather than buy in the expertise of an

experienced distiller, the couple wanted

to familiarise themselves with the process from start to finish and to understand the

role of botanicals, some of which are locally sourced. There were 55 experiments before the right formula was found.

“For Rock Rose we start off with a very

earthy, floral base using the rose root

that we distil. That was one of the local

botanicals that we were introduced to by a herbalist. I feel that it is a real key building

block for a gin; we layer that with spice and some sweetness.

“As it warms in your mouth you get these

lovely citrus notes from the lemon verbena and sweetness from the bilberries, and

lemon sherbet finish which comes from the Bulgarian juniper.

“It’s a very complex gin with those

different flavours but it’s really interesting what you can identify at different

temperatures and depending on how long you hold it in your mouth.”

What about the sea buckthorn on the

botanical bill? “It was growing on our site, so we tried it,” Martin says.

“On its own it’s quite acidic but when you

add other flavours to it, it works. If I was Rock Rose products are packaged in ceramic bottles, each hand-waxed and numbered

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2019 42

drinking sea buckthorn juice at home I’d have it with some apple juice just

to balance out that strong acidity. It’s

Claire and Martin Murray – not displaying any sea buckthorn stains or abrasions

known as a baked-bean bush because that

has won the brand enthusiastic reviews.

the salmon flavours.”

different flavours it can bring, like

people on a journey through the gin flavour

has created 16 jobs in the place where

is what it looks like.

“What we really like about it is the

mandarin, citrus and peach. You can have these almost tropical flavours that we

harvest right from the doorstep of our distillery.”

There is a downside, however. “We didn’t

realise just how much sea buckthorn

can stain clothes,” says Martin, “and how

painful it is to harvest with those thorns!”


he success of Rock Rose gave the

couple the impetus to launch new products. First came the Navy

Strength version, a response to requests

from bartenders for a gin with a higher oil

content to make it shine a little brighter in cocktails.

Then came Holy Grass vodka, flavoured

with a locally-growing wild grass

discovered by an amateur botanist in the 19th century. It’s essentially the same

species as the bison grass used to make some Polish vodkas, and adds a

creamy and vanilla element that

Dunnet Bay has also achieved a first

with its range of seasonal gins, which “take wheel”.

“One of the challenges we had was to

make a citrus gin using the ingredients

from our garden,” says Martin. “We don’t

have an orange grove or lemons growing

in Caithness, so we grew things like lemon thyme, lemon verbena, lemon balm and

pineapple sage and we were able to create a citrus profile with herbal undertones. “For the winter edition we harvest

spruce tips; we freeze them then distil them in our vapour baskets.”

Martin does not take much encouraging

to let his imagination run wild. “We’ve

done some really divisive products such

as the smoked salmon gin for Mac & Wild

Martin and Claire are happy to be

running a successful rural business which they grew up, surrounded by family and visited by gin-lovers from across the UK and beyond.

“The way we run the business is

not the way big business would do things, based on return on investment – we do

things because they are fun and we want to learn,” says Martin.

“Everything has been developed in-

house and that is something I’m incredibly proud of. We learn about all the different flavours and then we use them in the

very best way we can to get the very best product that we can.”

in London. We were resistant at first but

Feature sponsored by Dunnet Bay Distillery

at and added kelp, which really balanced

Contact: 01847 851 287

then we wanted to challenge ourselves.

We tweaked the temperatures we distilled it out. If you were to taste it in a blind

sampling you’d like it because there is

some smokiness and the kelp balances out

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2019 43

Sponsored Feature

THE RIGHT CHEMISTRY Beaulieu Vineyard’s history dates back more than a century, being founded by a French chemist. Today the winemaking baton is in the hands of California native Trevor Durling, who has a natural affinity with this prestigious Napa Valley producer

Trevor Durling, a UC Davis graduate, joined Beaulieu in 2017


here is much to say about Beaulieu Vineyard – from

vineyard to bottle, its story is a fascinating one. However,

let’s begin with a spot of history. Georges de Latour was a

French-born chemist who had a hugely successful cream of tartar business in the Napa Valley that brought him into contact with

winemakers and their vineyards, which in turn gave Latour the

knowledge to help find and secure prime vineyard land. However, it was another group altogether that would help secure the

estate’s future survival – the Catholic church. As Beaulieu Vineyard made sacramental wine, it not only kept going when Prohibition came into force but increased its business fourfold during that

time. As a result, Beaulieu is rare in having an unbroken record of winemaking that has lasted well over a century.

Current general manager and chief winemaker Trevor Durling

has recently been in the UK for a relaunch that means the wines are now available in the UK through new owner Treasury Wine

Estates ( Only the fifth winemaker in

Beaulieu’s 119-year history, Durling has a smile as broad as the Golden Gate Bridge and more than a splash of Californian sun-

drenched charm. He’s impossible not to like. This is a man with a

deep respect for Beaulieu’s history and reputation but rather than carrying it as a burden, it is his evident motivation for continual improvement.

A California native, Durling is a graduate of the UC Davis

Viticulture and Oenology programme. From there he went to work at some of Napa’s finest wineries, including Moon Mountain and Hewitt Vineyard. He landed at Beaulieu in 2017.

He tells a lovely story of being invited to a blind wine tasting

in his younger days, an event that saw him pick out the 1968 BV Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon as his

wine of the evening and ultimately the “ah-ha!” wine – the one that inspired him to become an oenologist. Fitting then that he finds


himself at the Beaulieu helm now.

and great energy. The Tapestry Reserve 2015 is a blend of 75%

are supplemented by long-term grower partnerships. Durling

hedgerow fruit, spice, herb and dark chocolate; the acidity keeps it

One of the largest producers of Cabernet Sauvignon in the Napa

Valley, Beaulieu has almost 450 hectares of estate vineyards which says that half of the world’s known soil types can be found in the Napa Valley and as Beaulieu’s holdings stretch across the Valley, it is in the fortunate position of being able to pair varieties and

their clones to the sites and plots that will suit them best. It also

allows for fun and experimentation: the Tempranillo and Touriga Nacional vineyards have yielded wines for selling at the cellar door.


n a nutshell the winemaking is all about “quality, terroir and a sense of place”. Perhaps the most notable feature of

the winemaking in the flagship wines is

barrel fermentation on the skins. A decision influenced by the lack of consumers who have the facilities (and patience) to age

wines themselves, fermenting in barrels

Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Merlot, 7% Malbec, 4% Cabernet

Franc and 3% of Petit Verdot. It’s full-bodied with ladles of black

bright and vivid and really, you would want to come back to this in a year or two’s time.

Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon was

first made in 1936 and the iconic winemaker André Tchelistcheff came on board in 1938. He tasted the 1936 wine in barrel and

insisted it be bottled separately and named Georges de Latour Private Reserve, in honour of Beaulieu’s founder, who died in

1940. The wine has been made every year since and has been a

Perhaps the most notable feature of the winemaking for flagship wines is fermentation on skins

gives a softer and more approachable style of wine upon release. It’s an expensive

and labour-intensive process. Only new oak is effective, and the barrels have to be spun regularly to manage the cap during the

fermentation. Historically this was a process done by hand and

whilst Durling smiles as he recalls the resulting arm muscles, he’s happy to report that the engineering team have now devised a system that allows for the rolling to be done mechanically.

There were some wry smiles when one journalist noted that

choosing to ferment in this way perhaps also led to higher scores on release. Well, maybe so, but with customers eager to buy and merchants as keen to sell, such cynicism seems a touch unfair.

Interestingly, Durling did say that the team have tracked the wines

favourite with critics and customers across the decades. The grapes come from the

finest Cabernet Sauvignon vines from the

western bench of the Rutherford AVA in the

famous BV Ranches No 1 and No 2, that were originally planted in the early 1900s.

We were treated to four vintages of

the Reserve: 2015, 2012, 2006 and 1991.

Though only the 2015 is available to buy, the good news is that it is a deeply impressive

wine with a lovely bouquet that has vivid red and black cherry fruit, floral, herbal and savoury notes too. The palate is both

elegant and charming with the balance between the oak and fruit

striking in its precision. One suspects that it’ll be getting top scores from now and for many years to come.

Trevor Durling is far too young to be talking about the end of his

career, but he sounds endearingly sincere when he says he can’t

imagine finishing anywhere other than Beaulieu. It appears to be a very happy match.

fermented in stainless steel against those exposed to new oak.

Although he says the early differences are evident, they do “catch up” with one another after about five years or so. After 20 years, Durling suggests, you would struggle to tell them apart.

Another feature of the winery is the level of automation: each

barrel has an individual pump that can be controlled remotely.

Maybe that sounds a touch unromantic, but it’s a valuable asset. The wildfires of 2017 meant that Durling and his team could not physically access the winery, but this automated system

guaranteed the pump-overs and punch-downs were still able to be carried out as normal.

The tasting that accompanied the talk was just as interesting

and fun. Of the two entry-level Cabernet Sauvignon wines from

2016, the Rutherford shone with a lovely ripe texture, bold fruit


The wines are sold in the UK via Treasury Wine Estates


What do you mean, no character? If you think that vodka’s a boring, neutral spirit you either live in America or haven’t been paying attention, says Nigel Huddleston

should have the same balance that you’d expect to find in any fine wine or malt whisky.

More than one producer is on a mission

to give vodka back its credibility by

emphasising genuine ingredient-led

quality over more nebulous properties such as purity.

Vestal has been built on founder William

Borrell’s theories about the impact of

terroir and vintage on vodka potato crops


and the effects of bottle maturation over several years.

t’s one of the alcohol market’s greatest

Kavka is also the vision of one person:

mysteries: how can vodka be both

Jan Woroniecki, managing director of

the nation’s favourite spirit yet be so

London’s Baltic Restaurants group, who

widely disregarded by many who specialise

wanted to honour the traditional vodka-

in selling alcohol?

making heritage of Poland by looking back

Many independents feel more

to centuries-old production techniques.

comfortable selling gin, perhaps because

Adnams has twice won the IWSC’s vodka

it’s something they understand and enjoy

trophy with its Longshore brand, which

on a personal level – an option that gin’s

takes the company’s history of brewing

recent dramatic growth rates justify.

expertise as its starting point, with a three-

Yet it doesn’t have to be a choice between

grain bill of East Anglian barley, oats and

the two, and with vodka still outselling gin

wheat, that it uses to create a 7% abv wash

by around two bottles to one in the whole

using the two-strain yeast that’s fermented

off-trade, there’s a suspicion that a trick is

Adnams beers for more than 70 years.

somehow being missed.

It’s largely a problem of perceptions:

principally that vodka (a) lacks character, and (b) is just a carrier for other flavours

in a longer drink. A Bloody Mary is usually

more about the tomato juice, Lea & Perrins and the stick of celery than it is about the vodka.

But a good vodka can enhance a Moscow

Kavka celebrates Polish distilling heritage

Mule or a Seabreeze just as a top-grade

London dry gin can shape a decent G&T. A great vodka can be nutty, spicy or

fruity, as unctuous as a fine Riesling, and


rewdog Distilling’s head of

distillation Steven Kersley says

its Rogue Wave vodka is all about

the ingredients and the distillation process, rather than spurious claims around poststill filtering. It also borrows from the company’s brewing expertise.

“It’s made from scratch from malted

irish whiskey



marussia clinches hinch

a toast to roasted pineapple

here come the kumquats

The Hinch distillery in the grounds of the Killaney Estate south of Belfast has gained UK-wide coverage in a deal with Marussia Beverages. The distributor will initially take three whiskeys with varying wood-age profiles and Hinch’s Ninth Wave small-batch gin. Single Pot Still whiskey and a Peated Single Malt will be added later this year.

Midlands gin maker Nelson’s has broken ground in rum with the launch of not one product, but two. Nelson’s Signature blend is a combination of rums from Barbados, the Dominican Republic and Jamaica, and there’s a Roasted Pineapple version to accompany it. The distiller has also expanded its sales team so it could be on more wine shop radars soon.

A liqueur made from golden oranges – or kumquats as they’re less exotically known – is lining up a UK launch for its second batch. The first run of 300 bottles of Fortunella, the creation of London-based bartender Lukas Stafin and the capital’s Bimber Distillery, was snapped up by the Far East.

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2019 46

‘In the US, vodka is defined as a spirit that’s odourless, colourless and characterless’

barley, malted wheat, the ale yeast that we use to ferment Punk IPA and Elvis Juice, and water,” he explains.

“We do a lot of hard work up front to

make sure we’ve got the best flavour before we put it into the still. Our vodka doesn’t

need to be filtered. Filtering removes bad

flavours but it removes good ones as well. “There’s a history of vodka marketing

hype about ‘filtered 10 times’ but if your starting point is

Kavka’s pack has a stunning label, albeit

on a simple bottle, and Woroniecki says

the starting point, as with Brewdog, was what’s inside, not outside, the glass. The

brand looks back to 18th and 19th century Poland.

“Back then each distillery had methods

to accentuate the character of different vodkas,” he says.

“Ours is a base of good rye and wheat

spirit blended with small quantities of plum and apple fruit spirits. It is still a

plain vodka, but the fruit spirits give it an extra depth and complexity.

“The US has driven the vodka market

internationally and, because the legal

definition of vodka there is a spirit that’s odourless, colourless and characterless, it’s created a rush to the

bottom to make vodka a clean,

that you’ve got to filter it 10

anodyne spirit where the only

times to make it taste great

difference is how many times

there’s something inherently

it’s been filtered and what it’s

wrong with the liquid to begin

been filtered through. Then it


just becomes all lifestyle and

Rogue Wave’s pack design

is understated – both for modern vodka, and for

bling marketing.”

Independent wine

merchants including

Brewdog – and it comes in at under £20 a

Handford Wines in London have taken

led for as long I can remember,” adds


bottle retail.

“The vodka market has been marketing-

Kersley. “Brands that don’t have a distillery, procure neutral spirits and put them into

fancy packaging … you’re not paying for the liquid, you’re paying for the marketing.”

on Kavka and Bibendum’s Walker &

Woodhouse division is among a handful of

“Vodka’s never going to have the intense

flavour of gin,” adds Woroniecki “but we’re saying vodka can have difference, can have

Wimbledon is beckoning, with the accompanying traditional hankering for Pimm’s, but there’s the potential to upsell to multiple spirits by planting the idea of a home-made summer cup in people’s minds. The recipe results in a respectable substitute for a single measure of the proprietary brand, before the obligatory addition of lemonade, fruit and the trimmings, of course. The measures just need scaling up according to the expected numbers of participants at a summer bash. Replace the gin with a good quality vodka for an alternative to the alternative.

25ml good junipery gin 25ml sweet vermouth 12.5cl PX sherry 12.5cl Cointreau or triple sec

taste and can have complexity.”


malt whisky

wood works

islay arrival

Balkan oak makes a rare appearance in these pages courtesy of Proximo Spirits’ Maestro Dobel tequila. The wood has been used to age the brand’s Diamante cristalino expression which is getting a UK launch alongside Humito. That deploys mesquite wood to produce what is billed as the world’s first smoked silver tequila.

No. 6

The latest addition to the canon of independent whisky bottler Hunter Laing is Scarabus, an Islay single malt which retails at around £38. The gorgeous label is inspired by the work of the island’s John Francis Campbell, inventor of the sunshine recorder which is, alas, a device for measuring daylight hours, not an obscure folk instrument.

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2019 47

Put all the ingredients into a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously. Serve in highball glasses with lemonade to taste, and the traditional garnishes.


the drink leaving a shimmer of lemon oil.

A Spirited Guide to Vermouth

I like to drop the shard of lemon peel into the drink and watch it sink to the bottom and glimmer like a little piece of gold.” Poetic, but not for the time-pressed.

The inclusion of bar snack ideas is pretty

Jack Adair Bevan Headline Home £16.99


ingenious but again the Calcot & Romesco (ie grilled and blackened onions with nut sauce) is not for those in a rush, and if

I’m going to that much trouble, I want a

photograph of the finished dish so I know

ermouth is on the up and this

where I’m heading. It is a shame that there

book is an enthusiastic love letter

are no accompanying images because so

to the drink that has for too long

many of the recipes sound delicious and

languished, forgotten and overlooked, in a

are crying out for some full-on food-porn

category known as aromatised wines.


Bevan, a restaurateur and an award-

The compilation of herbs, spices, roots,

winning drinks and cocktail creator, has

charted the journey of vermouth from its

earliest recorded beginnings in Ayurvedic

medicinal texts, where the wormwood herb

It’s the cat’s whiskers

was used in recipes for Indian herbal wine,

Bristol. “Their growing vermouth range

and tonic makes a brilliant lower alcohol

Bevan. “Dominic believes that the sudden

to what has a fighting chance of becoming the next big thing: the V&T. “Vermouth alternative to a G&T,” Bevan argues.

His detailed research demonstrates

that vermouth is inextricably linked not

only with basic epicurean delights such as the art of foraging, but with the evolving relationships between cutting-edge

gastronomers and mixologists and their ensuing collaborations.

Many trendy cocktail bars, restaurants

and industry professionals are

namechecked in the book, including

Dominic and Rachel Higgens at Corks of

over the last five years is a testament to the growing interest in the category,” writes

rise in popularity is primarily a result of

the burgeoning cult status of the negroni

cocktail, as it introduced so many people to sweet vermouth.”


nd so to the cocktail recipes.

When there are directions for making perfect “clear ice” as

opposed to bog-standard ice cubes in

trays, squashed at the back of the freezer,

then perhaps you know you’re in for some seriously detailed advice.

For a perfect martini, Bevan explains: “I

strain the drink into the chilled glass, then

squeeze the lemon peel over the surface of

Is the negroni behind vermouth’s revival?

barks and fruits is particularly interesting and chronicles the history and properties of each botanical. Most of them are

household names that usually don’t get a

second thought when used in the kitchen. Who knew that dill was used by early

North American settlers who would give it to their children to chew during long

church services as an appetite suppressor? Bevan is a vermouth ninja: he not only

knows how to drink the stuff and what to

pair it with, he knows how to make it too. Jungle Vermouth, a recipe contributed by Anya Montague, has a list of ingredients that includes dried kumis kucing root.

There is a bracketed clarification of “Cat’s

Whiskers”, but nope, that doesn’t help. Not a clue.

I’d rather just buy a bottle. After all, there

are loads of brilliant new vermouths out there just waiting to be discovered.

Claire Harries

Bevan has charted the journey of vermouth, from its earliest recorded beginnings in Ayurvedic medicinal texts to the V&T THE WINE MERCHANT june 2019 48


Imbibe Live The on-trade magazine’s live manifestation reaches its 10th anniversary next month when it returns to Olympia for a two-day run. Hakkasan wine boss Christine Parkinson

is among the show’s ambassadors who’ve put together talks and tasting sessions

across seven theatres on the exhibition floor.

The Winemakers Cellar brings together

the likes of Opus One, New Zealand’s

Ata Rangi, Pol Roger and Trimbach for

masterclasses and tutored tastings. There will also be focus tastings on English still wines and the Gamay grape.

Chef’s Table is a new feature of the show

for 2019, focusing on the skill of food and drink pairing, featuring sessions with

James Fowler, founder of Bournemouth’s Larder House restaurant and Library cocktail bar, and Heidi Bjerkan of the

acclaimed Credo restaurant in Tronheim, Norway.

The Beer & Cider Hub offers the chance

to delve deeper into those product

categories. One intriguing feature is an “in conversation” with Jonny Mills, of

spontaneous-fermentation beer specialist

“Cutting-edge innovation” is promised across a range of drinks categories

Mills Brewing in Gloucestershire, and

English wine producer Exton Park and

Tom Oliver of Oliver’s Cider, looking at the

Moët Hennessy are among the exhibitors,

cider, beer and wine compete to see what

useful supplementary areas of business.

crossover between the two drinks.

Gabe Cook will oversee a tasting in which

goes best with cheese. Spoiler alert: Gabe

also goes under the name The Ciderologist,

but he’s great value on the subject and well worth a look.

The Cocktail Lounge is an “action-packed

mixology lab” with demonstrations from

bar-world luminaries such as Pietro Collina from New York’s Nomad Hotel and the

team at Sheffield speakeasy Public. Yes, you’re right, it is in an old public loo.

but the show is also an opportunity for

wine merchants to brush up on all those Hot properties in the craft brewing

world including Northern Monk,

Cloudwater, Great Heck and Tiny Rebel

will be exhibiting through the specialist

distributor Euroboozer, while more than 50 spirits brands will be in attendance

including Siberian vodka Beluga, Scottish

Borders whisky producer Three Stills and Northern Ireland gin maker Boatyard.

The organisers also promise “cutting-

edge innovation” across low-alcohol, posh soft drinks, tea, coffee and water.

Event director Lindsey Coleman says:

“For our 10th anniversary we wanted to do something special. That’s why we will be

showcasing the latest product innovations spanning beers and ciders, wines, spirits and soft drinks from the UK.”

Wine Merchant readers can ensure free

entry – it’s a tenner for mere mortals – by entering the code 19LIVE25 when registering at Monday-Tuesday July 1-2 Olympia A number of craft breweries will be present, including Northern Monk and Cloudwater

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2019 49

London W14 8UX


hallgarten wines


Dallow Road Luton LU1 1UR 01582 722 538




The purity of air and its effect on vineyards is clear. Whether it be pure mountainous air, cooling sea breezes or warm air from the sundrenched land, the air around the grapes is a key factor in their final quality.


Hallgarten Wines has launched a promotion exclusively for independent wine merchants based around the wines influenced by the air around us.


Famille Helfrich Wines 1, rue Division Leclerc, 67290 Petersbach, France 07789 008540 @FamilleHelfrich


Three fun facts from France! • Twenty-eight per cent of rosés sold in the world are French.

• Provence wines represent 18% of French rosés.

• We have just over 70 still and sparkling rosés in our on-trade and indie list. Here’s another trio of our new rosé wines for this year.

Exhib' Côte de Thau from Cap d’Agde IGP A hidden IGP limited to the village of Cap

d’Agde. The wine is fresh and fruity with eyecatching packaging. La Baume Rosé from Languedoc AOP

A premium, sustainably-sourced, very pale and aromatic rosé with great acidity.

Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah are in the blend: a beautiful looking rosé for the summer. Château La Galinière Organic from AOP Cotes de Provence Sainte Victoire

The château is east of Aix-en-Provence, in the foothills of Montagne Sainte Victoire. The blend is 40% Syrah, 40% Grenache and 20% Cinsault: a classic Provence.

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2019 50

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

0207 409 7276

Wakefield Wines Mark its 50th with a release To celebrate its 50th anniversary, Wakefield Wines has released a super limited-special edition wine: Wakefield The Legacy 2014. Predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon, the

wine gives prominence to the grape variety that inspired Bill Taylor Senior and his sons to establish their Clare Valley vineyards.

Wakefield The Legacy 2014 was crafted with chief winemaker Adam Eggins

and is testament to the accumulated winemaker knowledge passed through three generations of the Taylor family. Adam says the wine “has a huge

presence, but is still delicate. You almost fall into it. A glass of this wine is a wonderful experience”.

The wine and its packaging remain true to Wakefield’s pioneering spirit.

To protect against fraud, the wine has a world-first

protective bottle over cap and security chip to confirm it is

authentic and unopened. The wine has had its first UK outing with Matthew Jukes at the London launch of his Best 100

Australian Wines and there will be a further chance to taste it

this autumn when Wakefield’s Neil Hadley MW is in town to host a series of tastings.

Just 1,080 bottles have been made with a small handful

coming to the UK this autumn, retailing at around £550.

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

@BuckSchenk @buckinghamschenk

Boccantino, Susumaniello in Wine Merchant Top 100!

We’re delighted that our Boccantino, Susumaniello has made the Wine Merchant Top 100! Produced by our colleagues from Schenk Italian Wineries in Puglia, it is made from the indigenous Susumaniello grape variety which is rapidly gaining a following with our customers. With intense red fruit aromas and notes of liquorice and bramble on the palate, it is a great little partner to Mediterranean dishes but also extremely quaffable on its own. Please contact whilst we still have some stock!

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2019 51


hatch mansfield New Bank House 1 Brockenhurst Road Ascot Berkshire SL5 9DL

Hot Summer RosĂŠs

01344 871800 @hatchmansfield

Please contact Hatch Mansfield for our latest offers

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


Contact for more details

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2019 52

Top 100 and IWC Trophy Success

liberty wines 020 7720 5350

The major wine awards have now been announced and we’re delighted with the success

to experiment with new wines. The Wine Merchant Top 100 should have

our wines have enjoyed. We know gongs aren’t everything, but we are convinced that third party endorsement remains a useful tool to encourage consumers particular relevance to readers of this magazine.

We’re delighted that eight of our wines secured a Top 100 place, two

of which also won trophies and a further 13 were ‘Highly Commended’.


Ever consistent, the Charles Heidsieck Rosé Réserve NV picked up the

‘Best Sparkling’ trophy, while the Fèlsina Berardenga ‘Fontalloro’ 2016 was named ‘Best Red’ (available from September).

The International Wine Challenge has also named its 2019 Trophy

winners and 15 of our wines have scooped 22 trophies between them, with a further 16 awarded Gold medals. While Champagnes, fortified wines and sweet wines dominate our trophy line-up, we were happy that










walker & Wodehouse 109a Regents Park Road London NW1 8UR 0207 449 1665


the 2017 Papa Figos Tinto from Casa Ferreirinha took the Portuguese Red Trophy, an outstanding achievement for such a good value wine.

To see a full list of all our medal-winning wines, please get in touch

with your usual contact, or email

W&W’s Summer promotions exclusively for independent merchants have kicked off – available until the end of July. 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.

10% OFF LAFAGE MIRAFLORS ROSÉ Provence pricing is going through the roof, but this rosé from Lafage can compete with its more expensive cousins from down the coast. It’s light and savoury, with a full fruit flavour. Oh, and it comes in a great bottle too. An absolute must for when the sun comes out.

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2019 53


fine wine partners

Meet our Wine Merchant Top 100 winners

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

Grant Burge Miamba Shiraz 2016 RRP £18.99

Grant Burge Filsell Shiraz 2015 RRP £24.99

Grant Burge Holy Trinity 2012 RRP £24.99

Highly Commended House of Arras Grand Vintage 2007 RRP £34.99

Houghton Thomas Yule Shiraz 2014 RRP £49.99

Houghton Gladstone Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 RRP £49.99

AWIN BARRATT SIEGEL WINE AGENCIES 28 Recreation Ground Road Stamford Lincolnshire PE9 1EW 01780 755810


WIN A TRIP TO QUINTA DO PORTAL During the months of June, July and August we will run an Competition across the independent trade for the best in-store Quinta Do Portal display featuring 2017 Colheita Branco, 2018 Rosé and 2016 Colheita Tinto. To participate photographs of in-store displays must be posted on Instagram & Twitter. The winners will be notified in September. FIRST PRIZE Return flights to Porto for (2 people), transport to Quinta do Portal and back, 2 nights stay and 1 dinner. 5 RUNNER UP PRIZES A signed magnum + 2 polo-shirts


#QuintaDoPortal #ABSWines For more information contact your Account Manager or email us at

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2019 54

mentzendorff The Woolyard 52 Bermondsey Street London SE1 3UD

AIX Rosé: Great Rosé, Great Places

020 7840 3600

born from generosity, AIX is the wine for people who enjoy life; for people who enjoy celebrating in style.

based mostly on grenache, AIX rosé offers classy notes of flowers, watermelon and strawberries in a crisp, medium to light-bodied, lively, pure style. it’s hard to resist and is a perfect, chuggable rosé. The Wine Advocate for details and pricing please contact your account manager

enotria & COE 23 Cumberland Avenue London NW10 7RX 020 8961 5161

In case you missed it, Enotria&Coe is launching Project Indies! Every six weeks we’ll be offering independent merchants stock deals from some of

our most beloved producers, with the guarantee that you won’t find these wines in the grocers or any multiple retail outlets. Terms and conditions apply.

Winemaker visits, back-vintages and unique parcel wines – watch this space, there’ll

be more news winging its way to you soon! Tarapacá: Leaders in sustainability


The Viña Tarapacá estate was founded in 1874 in the heart of the Maipo Valley. The old-vine vineyards were established in

the foothills of the Andes with varieties originally from France

– Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Sauvignon and later Carmenere.

These days the winery forms part of Viña San Pedro Tarapacá,

one of the wine world’s leaders in sustainability. Voted as the

Drinks Business Green Company of the Year 2016, it has made a commitment to producing all of its wine using 100% renewable

energy by 2021. In 2016 the estate inaugurated its mini hydroelectric plant, El Rosario. The Viña Tarapacá Reserva range is new to the UK and currently only sold to

independents. Offer: Buy 12 bottles, get one free!

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2019 55