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THE WINE MERCHANT. An independent magazine for independent retailers

Issue 82, July 2019

Dog of the Month: Minty GrapeSmith, Hungerford

Harvest festival

Mix your drinks

Six independents make their contribution to the Mendoza vintage effort – page 20

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

Supermarket sweep could be illegal Independent wine merchants who regularly stock up with discounted drinks lines in supermarkets risk being prosecuted under the terms of the Alcohol Wholesaler Registration Scheme. For decades it has been common

practice for specialist drinks shops to take

advantage of cheap offers on certain lines – typically big-name spirits and Champagnes

– when the major multiples are selling at prices that beat those of recognised wholesalers.

But supermarkets are not classified as

wholesalers and so do not have AWRS

accreditation, which creates issues for

independents who are required to carry out checks on all their suppliers.

Although the rules do allow for

exceptions, and the issue is regarded of

something of a grey area, one legal expert has warned that retailers who regularly

source drinks from supermarkets with the intention of resale are risking prosecution and fines.

“The problem with exceptions to general

rules imposed by HMRC is that the trader will have to prove that he or she was

Continues page four


EDITORIAL

Inside this month 6 comings & Goings New name and new site for Hugh Elliott’s Winesolution

10 tried & tested Wine in a box, of all things, and a sparkling Bacchus from England

14 david williams Why it’s a natural move for supermarkets to list orange wine

30 DUNELL's The Jersey merchant is relieved to reach its 50th anniversary

36 BIODYNAMICS Even English wine producers are messing around with cow horns and sheep skulls

48 coffee time It smells good, pulls in a daytime crowd and the margins make wine look like a lot of fuss about nothing The Spirits World rum special and editorial tasting, page 40; Supplier Bulletin, page 50

Keep your wits about you at wine tastings, or you’ll be eaten alive

T

here was an anecdote on Twitter recently about an independent wine merchant – hello Paola – who was involved in an unusual spat with a winemaker. The incident happened at a London tasting at which the producer was one of many pouring his wines. The merchant was taken to task for having the temerity to sample the wines “in the wrong order” and the “rudeness” to step away from the table (surely a gesture of unselfishness?) as she did so. The story is so bizarre that the natural response is simply to laugh at the pomposity of the vigneron. But maybe it shines some light on the rather strange rituals that have grown up around trade tastings. As we shuffle from table to table, struggling to absorb staccato sermons about elevation, soil type and rainfall and glasses are refilled almost faster than we can empty them, in noisy rooms full of sharp elbows and spittoons around which sockless sommeliers have chosen to have their water-cooler moments, concentration is rarely easy. What was that last wine you poured me? Was it the 2015 or the 2016? What page of the booklet is it on, if it’s there at all? No, I think I’ve already had the Estate Syrah. Or maybe that was the Reserve that I tried.

And actually it was only really the Riesling that I was interested in. Bags slide clumsily off shoulders. Dropped pens are trodden underfoot. Notebooks are desecrated with Touriga Nacional. Smashed glasses create a momentary hush and glares from spooks in polo shirts. Glossy leaflets, never to be read again, are politely accumulated in back pockets or handbags. That last wine was very nice. But can we be sure, with this noise, this pressure to rush, these friendly interruptions from old colleagues, these glasses, those miserly samples, and that weird background smell of fresh paint and meat stew? We each have to make sense of trade tastings in our own way, with our wits about us and our defences up. Any sign of weakness and they’ll leave us dazed and exhausted, dragged into energy-sapping cul-de-sacs of alluvial fans, yeast cultures and genealogy. And unwanted wine. So yes, we will taste in the wrong order. And we will sometimes step away from the table to gather our thoughts, and to make room for others to have their turn. But if exhibitors forget that this is supposed to be a two-way encounter, not merely a rather crass selling opportunity, we might not return at all.

THE WINE MERCHANT MAGAZINE

winemerchantmag.com 01323 871836 Twitter: @WineMerchantMag Editor and Publisher: Graham Holter graham@winemerchantmag.com Assistant Editor: Claire Harries claire@winemerchantmag.com Sales and Business Development: Georgina Humphrey georgina@winemerchantmag.com Accounts: Naomi Young winemerchantinvoices@gmail.com The Wine Merchant is circulated to the owners of the UK’s 913 specialist independent wine shops. Printed in Sussex by East Print. © Graham Holter Ltd 2019 Registered in England: No 6441762 VAT 943 8771 82

THE WINE MERCHANT JULY 2019 2


Welcome to the Graft Wine Company, the next adventure for The Knotted Vine and Red Squirrel. Two little wine importers, grafting together to become an ever-so-slightly bigger little wine importer with the same dreams, ideas and love for naturally delicious, authentic wine.

coming soon. contact us for more details, new wines and more.

graftwine.co.uk


NEWS

From page one

entitled to use that exception – and it is

problems with the law.

scheme may be subject to prosecution or

Registration Scheme, or indeed any

keep records of the [supermarket]

“HMRC does not turn a blind eye to non-

compliance with the Alcohol Wholesaler other scheme,” the spokesperson added.

“Businesses which fail to comply with the

penalties.”

HMRC says that “the purchaser should

transaction in their normal business records”.

they who will suffer if they get it wrong,”

says Anthony Galvin, director of Altion Law. “If you have genuinely acquired

goods under a lawful exception to the

requirements, such as the ‘incidental sales’ exception, then you should have nothing to fear.

“It should however be all too obvious

that the more something is done, and the

more regularly it is done, the less likely it is to be an exception.

“To put it another way: if every year

in the run-up to Christmas hundreds

of companies, as regular as clockwork,

seek to use precisely the same ‘incidental exception’, is it actually an incidental exception at all?”

HMRC’s own guidance explicitly

states that if a trade buyer is found to

have purchased from a non-approved

wholesaler they could face prosecution,

be liable to a penalty or have their alcohol stocks seized. It also states that if the

trade buyer holds a retail licence, HMRC

may make an application to the relevant

licensing authority to consider sanctions to that licence.

“Whilst exceptions may look appealing,

the consequences for applying them

incorrectly could be fatal to your business, and could ultimately result in criminal prosecution,” Galvin says.

An HMRC spokesperson ruled out the

idea that compliance teams might turn

a blind eye to supermarket wholesaling, but suggested that a smaller retailer occasionally sourcing drinks from

supermarkets could argue that the

purchase was “incidental” and avoid any

Independents often take advantage of supermarket spirits discounts

What are the AWRS exceptions? The AWRS rules are more concerned with protecting retailers who unwittingly make wholesale sales than they are with those using supermarkets as wholesalers. “For example, often where the purchaser is unknown to them, the only indication a retailer may have that the purchase is being made for commercial purposes is if a tax invoice is requested,” the guidance says. “This exclusion only refers to persons who are authorised retailers who hold a relevant authorisation – for example, an alcohol retail licence.” Examples of incidental sales include: • A supermarket that sells to another business through the checkout and would not know at the time of sale that they were selling to another business; this would be unintentional and therefore deemed an incidental sale. • A shop that does not in any way set out to make wholesale sales but is aware that the local pub landlord may exceptionally run out of a particular line and call in the store to make an ad-hoc purchase; this would be an exception rather than the rule and would be classed as an incidental sale.

THE WINE MERCHANT JULY 2019 4

© bodnarphoto / stockadobe.com

Warning on bulk buying from mults


Wine Place closes Kensington site The Kensington branch of The Wine Place has closed, just months after it had risen from the ashes of Vini Italiani, which went into administration last autumn. Owner Bruno Cernecca said in an

interview with The Wine Merchant,

published in May, that he accepted that

“Our Man with the Facts”

were having a “great time” at the South

• The vine pull scheme initiated by the European Union in 1998, which was deemed necessary to deal with the continent’s chronic oversupply problem, resulted in the destruction of 320,000 hectares of vineyard. That’s an area a fifth of the size of Wales and bigger than all of the USA’s combined vineland at the time.

business was going to “take quite a while to settle” and reported that the team Kensington branch.

At the end of June a message on the

company’s Twitter feed read: “Dear wine

lovers, we have some sad news. After eight years in this lovely location we are closing down. But worry not! We are not dead!

You can come to see us in Covent Garden

The business is now focused on Covent Garden

or online where you can find our amazing wines.”

.......

Knotted Vine and Red Squirrel merge

doing business are increasing so much year

Red Squirrel and The Knotted Vine have

customers means a better level of service,

announced a merger and will now trade under the name of Graft Wine. Nik Darlington, founder of Red Squirrel,

will jointly run the new business with David Knott of The Knotted Vine. The

company will have a team of eight and

will be run from the Stockwell premises

in south London occupied by The Knotted Vine.

Darlington says the plan has been

hatching since the start of the year and

that the two businesses would dovetail

almost perfectly, with minimal conflicts

either within their respective portfolios or customer bases.

“We both could’ve continued as we were,

but we’ve both reached a point where the

industry is so competitive and the costs of

on year,” Darlington adds.

“We wanted to get out of that really

tiny area of the market, which for our a much better range of wines, whilst

maintaining the small company ethos.

“The only area of crossover is Australia,

but even then there’s no crossover of the internal regions. So we’ve got a dozen

producers broadly spread geographically, and this probably creates the best

Australian portfolio in the country – so that’s exciting.

“We were always going to be reviewing

our Spanish and Portuguese range, and it so happened that David’s got very good range in that regard.”

Darlington says the new business will

“absolutely not” be looking to increase its customer base beyond the independent and premium on-trade sectors and to expand into the multiple arena.

THE WINE MERCHANT JULY 2019 5

• The Moldovan wine Kagor takes its name from Cahors. But unlike the French region, where Malbec is dominant, Kagor is made with Cabernet Sauvignon.

....... • Cava was known as Champaña until 1970, when the term was abandoned in favour of the Catalan word for cave or cellar.

....... • Many of Australia’s most prestigious wine companies were founded by doctors. They include Lindeman, Penfold, Hardy, Houghton, Angove, Stanley and Minchinbury.

....... • Around 8% of English wine is exported. The United States is the main export destination, with California the biggest customer, followed by New York, Texas and Florida, according to Wine GB.


Wellington shop gets the boot Having quit his shop within Willowbrook garden centre in Wellington, Hugh Elliott has definitely found his happy place. “I’ve got a beautiful little shop,” he says.

“It’s been a bit of a crazy few weeks but it’s up and running now. My business is still called Winesolution but I’ve named the

shop Wine & Dandy. We’ve softened it and it’s a bit more bohemian so I feel more at home.

“Garden centres aren’t my cup of tea, to

put it lightly. Brexit has trashed everything and garden centre people especially

stopped spending money. Now people walk into my shop and they are looking for wine rather than looking for daffodils.”

The new shop in Taunton is about seven

miles away from his previous Wellington base but Elliott says that a lot of his

Hugh Elliott has relocated from a garden centre to a smaller site in Taunton

with attractive new signage, suitably

until I moved to a smaller shop that I

into the sign – come in, bring your children,

with what I get in.”

conveys his welcoming attitude. He says:

“We tried to incorporate our friendliness bring your dogs …”

The shop, fitted out with bespoke

customers used to come from Taunton

shelving and a new counter all made by

customers from Wellington are coming

buying habits. “Most of us independents

anyway. “They are all delighted that I’ve moved here,” he says, “and some old

over to see me, plus I’m making new customers by the minute.”

Elliott is hoping his rebrand, complete

his son Jack, is considerably smaller and

Elliott admits that this will have to curb his do it because we love wine, and I am a compulsive wine buyer,” he admits.

“The last shop was so huge – it wasn’t

Reclaim the advantage The new range of Indian folding display tables from WBC, available from £125 plus VAT, are made with original iron bases and reclaimed wooden tops. The tables are built for mobility and are easy to collapse, making them ideal for most retail spaces as well as pop-ups, markets and events. The full range can be viewed online at wbc.co.uk – there’s no minimum order and free next-day delivery is offered on orders of £150 and above.

THE WINE MERCHANT JULY 2019 6

realised how much flipping wine I had!

Now I’m going to be a bit more prudent

So, beyond possibly teaming up with the

local bookshop or the restaurant over the

road to hold some tastings, what else is in the pipeline? Certainly no more shops.

Elliot says: “I’ve given up expanding. I am

very happy being a one-man band. I plan to do this for six years or so and then I’ll hand it over to my kids, or I’ll sell it. I’ve lived

my life at a million miles an hour and now


Adeline Mangevine Hasty despatches from the frontline of wine retailing shop and hopefully it will make me enough money to tick on.”

Laithwaite’s says so long, Solihull

Laithwaite’s has recently called time on its Solihull shop. Creative director Andrew Stead admits

it was a “tough decision” but the footfall had significantly reduced since the

development of a mall in the town, and the loss of the local parking facility.

“It was an isolated and site-specific issue

rather than any sort of change of thinking from our business,” explains Stead.

“We’re absolutely committed to retail as

it’s been a big part of our story since Tony [Laithwaite] opened his first shop in a

Windsor railway arch all those years ago.” He adds: “Overall trading is strong

across our other stores and the business in general.”

Laithwaite’s now has 13 branches plus

around 50 Laithwaite’s Local concessions in garden centres and farm shops.

The company claims to have more than

400,000 customers and to work with 450 winemakers.

It’s all gone peak tong Birchgrove Products has revamped its port tongs, which are now made of burnished iron rather than having a black wrought iron-effect finish. “They should therefore be much cleaner and easier to use because there is no paint to burn off,” the company says. The tongs have oak handles and brass ferrules. Prices on request.

H

er name is Abi. She’s very senior at a political think

tank. Often a panelist on radio

and TV debates, she also writes opinion pieces for one of the broadsheets. Yet

there’s one thing that appears to outwit her on a weekly basis – the ability to

understand my shop wine fridge. And

she is not alone. Men and women holding down really pointy-headed jobs seem to

just fall apart when trying to select a cold bottle of wine.

When I opened, I made it easy for them.

I followed the model of having a selection of classic wines chilled – all in neat

lines and all with prices clearly marked. I thought it would be an easy way to

sell wine to the time-poor and the lazy

drinkers. What I’d underestimated was

the number of people who’d only look at the contents of that fridge from April to September. As it was near the door (for convenience – ha!) the rest of the shop

could have been empty, so powerful was the lure of that fridge.

So, I started putting more esoteric

wines into the fridge, the ones that I

believed made my independent wine shop stand out against supermarket dross. If most customers were only shopping from the fridge, then I

was going to showcase whites from Tenerife, Corsica and Greece; rosés

from Lebanon and Austria; and pet

nats. It certainly moved a few more of those wines than before – but often,

my dreams of suggesting Assyrtiko to someone yearning for a cold Chablis

were shattered by that someone turning on their heels muttering about “going to Waitrose”.

My next plan of action was to sacrifice

some shelving and move the fridge to the back of the shop so that customers were

THE WINE MERCHANT JULY 2019 7

forced to walk past tempting whites on

centre displays. The problem was, with

only one fridge, I couldn’t fit everything

in. Cue more customer disappointment, and more frustration for me at people’s

lack of ability to chill their own sodding wine.

Then I had an epiphany. I bought

another fridge but hid it in the staff

area, while scrapping all the neat rows of wines in the main shop fridge. The

No, I won’t chill out when my customers will only buy white wine from the fridge idea was to cram at least one bottle of

every white, rosé and sparkling wine into both fridges while hanging “I’m chilled” signs around the bottles on the shelves.

Alongside this were free-standing signs

suggesting customers look for these tags and ask the staff to find their chosen bottle.

Have customers ever noticed these

signs? No. Have they spotted the neck ties on almost every bottle? Rarely. Do they stand in front of the main

fridge squinting to see if they can spot something they fancy? Without fail.

No matter how many times I suggest

to seriously clever people like Abi that “they look on the shelves first and the team will find a cold

bottle”, they remain squinters. Every single week.

© flairimages / stockadobe.com

I’m just going to sit in my beautiful wine


Site is worth the four-year wait Established Bedford independent The Blue Glass has moved to a larger premises and re-opened as a hybrid shop and wine bar. Owner John Barnes says the response

from locals has been “fantastic”.

“Bedford was crying out for a wine bar,”

he adds, “so that inevitably took over in the beginning, and the retail side did take a bit of a knock, but people are getting used to

the concept of having a wine shop and bar in the same space.”

the lease to expire and to find somewhere

and he is joined by Shaun Smith, formerly

really well so far,” he says.

of wine retailing experience to the new

suitable and not far away from the old

shop. We managed to do that and it’s going Local businessman Kevin Kavanagh

has bought into the company. “Kevin’s

background is in catering and we are doing charcuterie and that kind of thing, so it

seemed like the natural thing for the two of us to do together,” says Barnes.

Borough Wines store is rebranded

The Kensal Rise branch of Borough Wines is the first off the starting blocks as a franchise. But as Guy Butters – who took the shop on in May – is keen to explain, “franchise” is a term that doesn’t accurately describe the relationship. “It is best considered as a trading

Cigars are popular at the new premises

Despite having the capacity to seat 60

inside and 16 covers outside, people have been turned away at weekends because trade has been so buoyant.

“It’s quite chilled out, we’re tucked away

just a five-minute walk from the high

street,” Barnes says. “It’s the place where grown-ups can go for a quiet drink.”

association,” he says. “We are working

with Borough Wines under a licence-andsupply arrangement, where we run the

shop [newly branded as Rise & Vine] as

an independent entity but still continue to provide the core Borough Wines product range that customers have grown to expect.”

Butters previously managed the

Turnham Green and Kensal Rise stores,

Borough’s retail operations manager.

Between them they bring over 20 years venture.

Butters says: “Our new business is called

Rise & Vine but is presented in association with the Borough Wines brand. At times,

this might be presented as Rise & Vine with Borough Wines. At others, where we are participating in a larger Borough Wines

initiative: this will be presented as Borough Wines at Rise & Vine.”

The new logo has been designed to

reflect this more fluid relationship, a nod towards Borough’s established identity,

with the intention that the two brands can sit comfortably alongside each other. “Muriel [Chatel, Borough Wines’

owner] is concentrating on her specialism of sourcing and supply, leaving us to

concentrate on what we’re best at, which is listening to and working with our

customers to bring them the products and services that they want,” says Butters.

“So as well as Borough Wines’ wines,

we’re also stocking some additional lines that fill previous gaps in our selection.

We’re buying our own spirits and beer

directly too. We are continuing to stock the Kernel and Beavertown beers that

our customers expect, but we have also introduced additional beer ranges.”

Customers can choose from 16 wines

by the glass and have the option to drink anything off the shelf for a modest £8

corkage. The introduction of cigars has proved popular.

Barnes says: “It’s early days but I’m

doing some Cognacs by the glass too, and I think once the summer kicks in, more

people will stop by for a cigar and relax outside.”

The move has been in the pipeline for the

past four years. “We were just waiting for

How the Kensal Wines store used to look

THE WINE MERCHANT JULY 2019 8


DEDICATED TO THE VALUATION AND AUCTIONING OF FINE AND RARE WINES

CAPACITY CROWD AT FINSBURY PARK

Stroud Green Road in Finsbury Park continues to rack up its

MATURE AND INTERESTING WINES WITH NO MINIMUM ORDER

hipster credentials with a new wine shop and bar. Tolga Koymen

USER FRIENDLY WEBSITE

opened Bacchus N4 in mid-May and has spent some rainy days discovering just how many people he can fit into the shop. “Normally I can seat between 25 and 30 people with the outside space too, but last weekend the weather wasn’t so great and so it was good to see how many people we can actually seat

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inside my shop,” he says.

RARE & MATURE WINES

12%

Currently working with suppliers including Berkmann, Indigo and

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Borough Wines, Koymen has curated a range of around 160 wines. Customers can also choose from a menu of 20 wines by the glass served alongside olives, cheese, cured meats and nuts, and any

GLOBAL AUDIENCE

bottle from the shelf is available to drink in for a small corkage fee. A tap system may well be on the cards as the business develops. Koymen says: “I am looking at it for refill only. I don’t want it to affect

BI-MONTHLY AUCTIONS

2018 JAN MAR MAY JUL SEPT NOV

my by-the-glass offering. “Once the paperwork is through I will direct-import a little, mostly from small vineyards in Italy and Spain,” he adds. “But only small amounts, because I won’t be wholesaling.” Koymen reports that he completed the premises re-fit himself in just two months and he is particularly pleased with the feature he’s made of the exposed joists. “It makes a nice atmosphere in the shop,” he says.

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THE WINE MERCHANT JULY 2019 9


TRIED & TESTED

Domaine of the Bee Bee Pink 2018

Casa Silva César Noir 2017

Made in Roussillon by local hero Jean-Marc Lafage,

France and the variety has existed in Colchagua since

The Romans (who else?) introduced César Noir to

1912, despite rumours of extinction. It’s from these

this Provence-pale rosé (or “FT pink”, if you prefer) is

vineyards that the grapes for this intriguing and

made with a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Grenache

initially unforthcoming wine are sourced. But behind

Gris. It’s pleasantly perfumed, with summery flavours

the tannin and acidity is an intense, silky treat with

of almonds, peaches and red fruit on the palate. There

notes of figs, leather and rich ripe fruit.

should be a fine for anyone who drinks it indoors. RRP: £12

RRP: £17

ABV: 12.5%

ABV: 14%

Jackson Nugent Vintners (0208 9479722)

Domaine of the Bee (020 8274 8980) domaineofthebee.com

jnv.co.uk

Chapel Down Sparkling Bacchus 2018

When in Rome Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso

Two things seem certain in English wine: not all fizz will

Boxed wine has to make a breakthrough sometime

aims to preserve the freshness and aromatics of the

the juice itself is unpretentious but drinkable: the

be made in the traditional method, and Bacchus has a

role to play in sparkling wine. This carbonated example

variety. The result is a simple, uncomplicated wine with a markedly fruity – in fact almost tropical – edge. RRP: £17

ABV: 12%

soon and it will be brands like this that spearhead

the movement. The packaging is indie-friendly and kind of bracing, light, raspberry-infused red you’d be happy to find in a Roman trattoria. RRP: £29

ABV: 12.5%

When in Rome (020 7101 9412.)

Chapel Down (01580 763033) chapeldown.com

wheninrome.co.uk

Painted Wolf The Pack Guillermo Swartland Pinotage 2014

Fairview La Beryl Blanc 2017

The blurb says “elegant and balanced”, which are

decadent sweet wine (184g/l) is described as a labour

claims that only begin to ring true after the initial

of love, with Chenin and Muscat grapes dried on straw

sensation of rugged earthiness: it seems this Pinotage

for four weeks and then fermented for six months. This

is ready to put up a fight. But it mellows out in its

is definitely a “sticky” in the truest sense, with a sunny

own sweet time, with warm, comforting notes of juicy

golden hue, mouth-coating viscosity and ripe mango

blueberry and vanilla. RRP: £15.95

A tribute to Charles Back’s late mother, this rich and

punch on the palate.

ABV: 13.5%

RRP: £21.99

North South Wines (020 3871 9210)

ABV: 11%

Liberty Wines (020 7720 5350)

northsouthwines.co.uk

libertywines.co.uk

Kozlović Malvasia 2017

Thymiopoulos Xinomavro 2017

Hailing from coastal Istria in Croatia, here’s yet another

The Thymiopoulos family are still described as “rising

market. It’s not an overly complex wine and certainly

as they can; turkeys are on pest-control duty and

wine that makes you wonder why Malvasia still hasn’t

“done an Albariño” or even a Grüner Veltliner in the UK

not showy, but its tight minerality, and notes of lemons, herbs and green apples, make it a versatile food match. RRP: £14.49

ABV: 12.5%

Hallgarten & Novum Wines (01582 722 538) hnwines.co.uk

stars” of new-wave Greek wine but they’ve been doing their thing in Macedonia for generations, as naturally

wines are unfiltered. Berkmann thinks of this as “baby Barolo”: it’s serious, savoury and tinged with tar. RRP: £14.70

ABV: 13%

Berkmann Wine Cellars (020 7670 0972) berkmann.co.uk

THE WINE MERCHANT JULY 2019 10


SPONSORED EDITORIAL

MAKING A MEAL OF IT Robert Sinskey Vineyards makes wines that are designed to work with food. With the owner married to a chef, perhaps that’s only to be expected

A

lot of California wines claim to be food-friendly. But at Robert Sinskey Vineyards, it’s indisputably true. With a chef having a say in the final blend of all its wines, it’s hardly surprising that the range pairs so elegantly with all kinds of cuisine. Based in the Los Carneros and Stags Leap districts of Napa and Sonoma Valleys, Robert Sinskey has grown his organic and biodynamic-certified winegrowing operation to over 200 acres of premium vineyards over the past 25 years. His wife, Maria Helm Sinskey, is the winery’s resident chef and author of two cookbooks. “From the beginning we were focused on more of a European style, really focused on making the wine in the vineyard and of course enjoying wine with food,” she says. “My husband’s father was in Napa in 1982 when things really started changing here. Parker came in and wineries really started going for it and purposefully making these wines of high intensity, high alcohol and big lush fruit. “It’s not something that Robert wanted to do. He said, ‘this is not what Napa is about. This is what someone’s palate is about. I want to stick to the roots of Napa and get to something that’s more graceful and more representative of what Napa can do’. That happened to be these foodfriendly wines.” When we speak, it’s 6am in Napa and the heat is already searing. How can it be possible to make elegant, restrained wines in such conditions? Maria argues that those making overripe, excessively alcoholic wines are making a conscious decision to do so. “We practically dry-farm because most of our vineyards are in the Carneros, which is much cooler than the valley floor,” she says. “So we have the benefit of fog. “If you have control over everything

The winery operates along biodynamic principles

you’re growing, you can really grow it well, with balance, and get the alcohols you desire. “Once in a while we’ll have a really hot vintage and we’ll have Pinot tracking at like 21 brix, and all of a sudden it will be 97, 98, and everything will sugar up and get ripe. And then we’re picking 24 hours. Sometimes we do get 14.2% alcohol and if we can’t blend it down, if the wine just doesn’t fit, we sell it. We really find that the sweet spot for Pinot Noir is about 13.5%. “You can make the wine you want to make. It doesn’t have to be this big blockbuster.” The Sinskey range includes the beautiful copper-hued Orgia, described as a “bright, vibrant wine with the initial impression of a white and the gravitas of a red”. The Vandal Vineyard Cabernet Franc and Los Carneros Pinot Noir retain a sense of Californian generosity, but clearly pay homage to northern French traditions too.Then there’s the limitededition Abraxas Vin de Terroir, an enticing blend of aromatic varieties. “I guess I cook for the wines, but it’s not difficult,” says Maria.

THE WINE MERCHANT JULY 2019 11

“Making wine is so much like cooking and everybody has their style. Some people like to follow a recipe; other people like to see what ingredients they have and go from there. It’s the same thing with the cellar. You’re not doing the same thing every year – you look at what comes in from the vineyard and then direct it. “Our wines are so versatile, so we can stretch them with acid, we can stretch them with vinegar, we can stretch them with chilli peppers. They can take a lot. The Abraxas is phenomenal with asparagus and artichokes. I’ve had winemakers from around the world come here and go, ‘why are you doing this to your wines?’ I just say to them, ‘just sit down and eat!’”

Find out more

Visit www.polroger.co.uk or www.robertsinskey.com or call 01432 262800 Twitter: @Pol_Roger


BITS & BOBS

Magpie

French vineyard prices on the rise A single hectare of Burgundy grand cru vines may cost up to €14.5m, according to the latest figures from French land agency Safer. It said the average price was €6.25m per

hectare in 2018, up by 4% on 2017 and

Steve Tattam Winyl, Manningtree Favourite wine on my list If I have to choose a consistent treat it has to be the OPS from Loxarel in Penedès, Catalunya. This is a Garnatxa Negre which is 100% biodynamic, and aged in clay amphorae so the full pure fruit comes through.

Favourite wine and food match I do love a long bean with black lentil dish with a fresh white Grenache. Whil’s choice is some blue cheese and a chilled Passito but if we’re being naughty, and as Whil is from South Africa, we both enjoy a finely trimmed ostrich steak and Cab Sav from Boschendal.

double the price from 2011.

That kept Burgundy grands crus top of

the French vineyard price ladder last year, despite the wide disparity in the value

of deals. Some grand cru hectares were

available for a comparatively low €2.85m, said Safer.

In Bordeaux, Pauillac rose by 10% to an

average €2.2m and Pomerol jumped by

20% to €1.8m, although Pomerol’s best plots could sell for up to €3.6m and the cheapest might fetch €1.2m.

AOP vineyard prices across France rose

by 2.4% in 2018 to an average €147,300

And you thought London was expensive

Prices were as low as €5,000 per hectare

in parts of Beaujolais.

producers – often stocked in just one or two of its stores.

per hectare.

Decanter, June 19 Favourite wine trip Driving through Valpolicella and the Soave regions, finishing up in Venice. We went to visit the Bonazzi vineyard and it got a bit messy in the tasting cellar with the owner Georgio, tasting his Amarone, Recioto and their very special and unique I Camponi.

Favourite wine trade person They have all been great since we opened late last year, however Derek Robertson from Lea & Sandeman has gone above and beyond, driving emergency stock up to us, pulling out the stops to keep us supplied with their organic and vegan Chaval.

Favourite wine shop Before I opened my own wine business I used to spend time in Mr Wheeler at Dedham, chatting to the ever-charming Luke about the range, helping me to pin down my favourite regions, tasting (and buying) some amazing wines.

Retail Gazette, June 27

Cheaper spirits at Majestic branches

Chardonnay ‘is a migraine trigger’

Majestic Wine has lowered the price of

A woman who suffered from migraines

its entire spirit range and removed the

so severe that she was unable to see or

category’s two-tier pricing as part of a

speak believes she has found the source

wider business review.

of her problem: Chardonnay.

The retailer said it hoped to appeal to a

new generation of craft spirit drinkers who are being supplied by a 620% increase in UK distilleries since 2010.

The move is the first stage in a review of

range and trading by the retailer’s newlyappointed buying and merchandising director, Robert Cooke.

Majestic said it currently stocks over

330 spirits across its store network, of

which almost 60% are from small, local

THE WINE MERCHANT JULY 2019 12

Thirty-one-year-old retail manager

Alex Deliou from Leeds says that, since

swapping Chardonnay for a different white wine, her symptoms have completely disappeared.

She underwent a finger-prick blood

analysis by YorkTest Laboratories,

which produced results claiming that the Chardonnay grape was her most troublesome “trigger” food. The Mirror, June 19


Vines unchanged for 900 years

?

THE BURNING QUESTION

What is your council doing to support trade in your town?

I’m pleased to say that Horsham is bucking the negative trend, largely due to activities that the council put on. They are very active in supporting the high street. They realised several years ago that the town centre was changing and they had to provide a different reason for people to come into town. We have several events featuring street food and local traders get involved. It makes the town really buoyant and I’ve met so many new customers from these events.

Scientists say they have discovered that vines producing Savagnin Blanc grapes today are genetically identical to vines grown in Orléans 900 years ago. “It tells us a lot about the ingenuity of

winemakers … so they have been using

similar techniques for hundreds of years

and they have been keeping alive certain

Luke Smith The Horsham Cellar, Horsham

vines that consumers really like,” said Dr

Nathan Wales, a co-author of the research from the University of York. The Guardian, June 10

Oddbins has just 58 stores left

Recently the council has made a really concerted effort, they are getting more involved in talking to the shop owners to find out what we think and what our future plans are. The main issue seems to be business rates, but we never see any action on that. We have a local traders group and we meet regularly and there’s a lot we do to keep the town thriving. The big thing for Southwell is free parking and that is funded and supported by the council.

Nearly half of the retail stores operated

Gosia Bailey The Wine Bank, Southwell

by Oddbins’ parent company European Food Brokers Retail were unprofitable and have already been shut.

I’d say pretty much nothing! They don’t always remove the rubbish and sometimes it stays there for a number of days. If rubbish is left there it encourages fly-tipping. Sometimes it’s people dropping their coffee cup but similarly you get vans dropping off a radiator or something and when the waste people come they don’t take the radiator and you have to report it. The council is not doing anything we are aware of apart from the Governmentsponsored relief on rates at a certain level.

Documents filed at Companies House

confirmed that 45 unprofitable stores were identified across the group, and these were closed by March 19, as part of an exercise to reduce further losses.

The closures affected more than 200

employees.

Currently 58 stores remain trading, but

more store closures may happen during

the potential sale process, if the incoming purchaser is unable to agree terms going

forward with the landlords, the document said.

The Drinks Business, June 24

Wayne Blomfield Park Vintners, Wimbledon Park

Markinch was a small town which had a distillery and two or three large paper companies. It meant that 30 double-decker buses brought women into work and that gave a real boost to shopping in the town. Now all the factories have closed and so it’s a very pleasant but quiet small town with almost no high street. However, the local authority has had money to help to tidy up the high street and we’ve been recipients of funds for the external re-painting. It was nice that they were very helpful.

Sandy Stewart Markinch Wine Gallery, Glenrothes

Champagne Gosset The oldest wine house in Champagne: Äy 1584 Forty-five branches have closed

THE WINE MERCHANT JULY 2019 13


JUST WILLIAMS

Curious orange It’s no surprise that the multiples are sniffing around the natural wine scene, and certainly not that orange wine has been deemed the safest bet as they try to add an edgier element to their ranges. Aldi’s much-heralded arrival has plenty of detractors. But maybe it can broaden the market for everyone

I

magine, if you can bear it for a moment, that you work in

wine NPD at a supermarket. You’ve been given the task of attracting more drinkers in that tricky demographic that

your bosses still insist on calling “hipster millennials” but which is better understood as “all those people aged roughly between 25

and 40 who have been locked out of the housing market and spend any spare cash that isn’t sucked into appallingly

over-priced, sub-standard rental accommodation

and shouting: “OK, do it! You’ve got one chance to get us as many of these hairy snowflakes as possible! Don’t fuck it up.”

And so you set to sourcing. You visit the Real Wine Fair and

Raw and, despite feeling like an off-duty policeman at a rave,

you arrange to visit a handful of exhibitors in France with your

supermarket’s main wine buyer the following month. You’re not exactly sure you liked any of their wines, but

some of the packaging really had something to

on very specific food and drink trends.”

it. In the haze of barnyard and cider aromas you

It doesn’t take you very long to identify which

may even have used the phrase “cool label” with

of those food and drink trends would be best for

the charming French woman in the FCK SO2

burnishing the image of your employer’s wine

T-shirt.

range – an image that has been badly damaged by

The visits, however, turn out to be a disaster.

years of ruthless cut-backs and a single-minded

As the buyer says in a furious dressing down at

buying process largely conducted on bulk-wine

Nantes airport: “No volume, no distribution,

exchanges and in blind online Dutch auctions.

no fucking idea! Filthy wines that won’t pass

And so you raise the possibility at the next

a single one of our QC tests; filthy people

planning meeting. “We need a natural wine,” you

who can’t be relied on to get out of bed

say. “It’s what all the young people are drinking,”

to process an order; filthy thinking from

you add, clicking to a series of PowerPoint

slides with shots of attractive men and women

you! What a waste of time.”

Back in the UK, the clock is ticking on

in vintage workwear on electric scooters tending extravagant

your master plan. You have just a week to find a listing

beakers.

of some not-too-bad Languedoc offered by one of your

collections of houseplants in between nibbling avocado toast and sipping glasses of cloudy white wine from school canteen-style

Your boss, having sat through your presentation with eyebrows

twitching and an unnerving smirk, surprises you by suddenly

banging his heavily be-wristwatched arm on the boardroom table

There’s a yearning to capture some of the counter-culture glamour of natural wine in the supermarkets

that the buyer can tolerate, and you’re contemplating

going instead with something altogether safer: a tank

regular brokers which can be made to look like a natural

wine – maybe with a crown cap, you think, or at the very

least an agitprop-style label like those “Solidarité avec les Soiffards!” posters at the Real Wine Fair.

But then you realise there may be a way out of this

mess. There is a style of wine that has yet to reach the supermarkets but which is very much considered a

part of the natural wine scene – and that could surely be made on the sort of scale and without the risks (of

re-fermentation and bottle-to-bottle inconsistency) that

THE WINE MERCHANT JULY 2019 14


David Williams is wine critic for The Observer

Rising Stars

you’ve convinced yourself are intrinsic to the natural wine scene.

Tim Peyton Real Ale, London

Orange wine! All you need is a bit of skin contact. No worries

about amphorae. Sourced from the right place – there’s a producer in Romania who could do it for you – you could even get it organic. What could possibly go wrong?

H

ow close is the above to the processes that brought us first Aldi Orange Wine last year, and, as of this

summer, Asda’s “Orange Wine” with its label legend:

“Naturally made with no added yeasts, sugars or sulphites”? In

spirit, I don’t think it’s all that far off. There’s been a yearning to

capture some of the counter-cultural glamour of natural wine in the supermarkets for years. Now they’ve found a way to do it –

thanks, in both cases, to Cremale Recas, the largest producer in

Romania – that fits into their way of doing business. Compared to many natural wines, orange wine made in a large, clean modern

winery is relatively safe and easy – and cheap – to pull off, and in large volumes, too.

This is unlikely to please the natural wine true believers. As

Alice Feiring, hitherto the truest natural wine believer of all,

writes in an essay on the growing pains of natural wine for The

World of Fine Wine, the Aldi Orange wine is an example of a “lowrent knock-off” spurred by the “phenomenal success” of “real”

natural wine. “A machine-picked ‘orange’ natural wine is out from Romania,” Feiring goes on to say. “Recently tasted, it was caustic. I had to feel pity for those who snatched it up for their dinner.” For all the cynicism – or, if not cynicism, the nakedly

commercial intent – that may have lain behind Aldi and Asda’s decisions to try marketing an orange wine, I don’t share Feiring’s disdain. In the context of sub-£10 wine (of all

colours and retailing environments) in the UK, I thought

Aldi’s (I’ve yet to try the Asda version) was a pretty good

effort: like a slightly spicier, grippier take on a commercial white wine. It went perfectly well with my stir-fry, thanks Alice. No need for pity.

And as well as being a perfectly decent wine, I also

can’t share the Cassandra-like groaning from retailers

and natural devotees about the impact corporate orange wines will have on the natural wine scene. There have

been complaints that Aldi and Asda are undercutting the independent sector, where small producer-made orange

wines rarely come in at under £15, somehow. But isn’t that what they always do, with all styles of wine?

From where I’m drinking, getting the idea of orange

R

eal Ale, as the name suggests, is a champion of craft beer, but owner Zeph King admits that in order to survive, a wine offering was key. “We hired Tim because he had good wine knowledge and we knew it was something we could nurture,” he says. Six years on and an additional two shops later, Real Ale is drawing in customers as thirsty for wine as they are for beer. “People recognise us as a stockist of a really, really good range of wines; in Notting Hill we have become better known for our wine range than we are for our beer,” says Zeph. “That is really challenging against the backdrop of our name, so we’re lucky to have Tim. “Beer runs completely through our DNA and we wanted to do with wine what we do with beer, but we didn’t have that knowledge and passion. And then Tim came along.” Tim worked at Wine Rack and Threshers before a five-year stint at Great Western Wines. “Alan would open up just about everything and anything – aged Jurançon to Grand Cru Champagne – and that was pretty cool. “Since I was manager at Twickenham we have changed the range enormously and now wine is as important as beer. We just want to be as allencompassing as possible.” He adds: “Real Ale is a great place to work; very dynamic. We’ve grown from a small shop in Twickenham to having three stores in west London with ambitions for more, so it’s hard work but definitely rewarding.” Tim is responsible for the wine buying, as well as driving a natural wine revolution: “We’ve got something from a Czech producer Petr Korab, Saint Laurent. It’s about as natural as you can get,” he says. “It’s turned a few heads and we’ve sold loads of it.” Zeph adds: “Tim oversees all three stores and I know we’re in safe hands. He’s very good on the shop floor; he has a very relaxed way of demystifying wine. He also has a great training programme with our staff. Tim is such an important member of our team.”

Tim wins a bottle of Robert Sinskey Cabernet Franc. To nominate a rising star in your business, email claire@winemerchantmag.com

wine to a wider audience seems like a pretty good thing for makers – and sellers – of orange wine. The trick, as ever, is

to make sure your customers know why your orange wines

are so much better – and more expensive – than theirs.

THE WINE MERCHANT JULY 2019 15


ight ideas r b 3: Encourage online wine reviews

. T H E D R AY M A N . Go large on lager

B

y July last year, lager season was all but over, the nation exhausted by the barbecue

fatigue of an early summer heatwave. The ramp to lager-y heights has been a little gentler this year, allowing for a more considered approach than lastminute loading up with cases of Peroni. Lager is a beer style that’s surrounded by the stench of mass production, but there’s plenty to go at for those who want a bit more class in their pilsner glass. London’s Orbit brewer makes the fantastic Nico in the traditional kölsch style associated with Cologne, involving an ale yeast fermentation but with a lengthy, cold-temperature maturation. Its clean, refreshing finish relieves a deep and complex herb and spice starter. Harviestoun’s Schiehallion is something of a modern classic: all the fresh-cut grass of a Loire Sauvignon with a gentle, grapefruit citrus tail. Actual grapefruit puts in an appearance in Coast, the latest fruitcut lager from the Cornish start-up Jubel. Urban is the pick of Jubel’s range, as crisp as a Kohli cover drive with a pleasing floral hint and a touch of green apple from the addition of elderflower: a feasible alternative to Prosecco as an alfresco aperitif but much more elegant. More grown-up and punchy is Danish brewing legend Mikkeller’s I Don’t Have a Red Shrimp, a pils that, despite the name, demonstrates how the fine art of balance always trumps wacky innovation. Small Beer’s 2.1% abv Lager is a lighter option to fend off over-indulgent dehydration, a lower-alcohol brew where the addition of oats to the mash

Tom Jones, Whalley Wine Shop, Lancashire

In a nutshell … “We are confident in our wines,” says Jones. “We know that people always come back and say how much they liked them, so we thought: why not get the customers to explain to other customers how good the wines are and encourage them to sample wines they’ve not tried before? It’s as straightforward as snap a picture of the wine, write 50 words about why you liked it, and put it on our website.”

Where did the idea come from?

“More than anything the idea was to get people to engage with each other on our new website and to build up a photo record – so many people use their phones to store a record of what they’ve been tasting. People barely remember the name of the wine, but they’ve got an image of it on their phone. So we’re tapping into that as well as the popularity of peer reviewing. People are driven to comment on what they’ve had and so we might as well get it on our website so other customers can see it.”

How are you promoting the initiative? “We wrap all our bottles in tissue and we’ve been toying with the idea of printing a message on that tissue, something along the lines of ‘Like this wine then write a review at www.thewhalleywineshop.com’. We’re talking to WBC to see if it’s possible. Also, we have just recruited a full-time marketing manager, so we’ll be cranking up everything we’re doing on social media, across the website and in our communications with customers.”

“Reviews are a double-edged sword, but it’s part of our culture now”

Will you veto any negative reviews?

“Reviews are a double edged-sword: you open yourself up to abuse if it goes wrong, but it’s part of our culture now. People just like the idea of sharing. “You’d sort of hope that most people would only go on if it was positive, but at the same time, if there was a negative, I think we’d get in touch with them first and find out a bit more about why they didn’t like it, but it hasn’t happened yet. I think it’s only fair to let customers have their say.”

gives some muscle to the body. Lager’s job doesn’t end when the nights draw in, either. Iceland’s Einstök Doppelbock is amber in colour and all brown bread and dried fruit on the palate, but with a lightness of touch that means it drinks much lower than its actual 6.7% abv.

Tom wins a WBC gift box containing a bottle of Hattingley Valley sparkling wine, a box of chocolate truffles from Willies Cocoa and a half bottle of gin liqueur from Foxdenton. Tell us about a bright idea that’s worked for your business and you too could win a gift box. Email claire@ winemerchantmag.com or call 01323 871836.

THE WINE MERCHANT JULY 2019 16


> THE WINEMAKER FILES Mike Dawson, Journey’s End Journey's End in Stellenbosch is a sustainably-run wine estate owned by the Gabb family. Winemaker Mike Dawson joined in 2015, having been named top student on his winemaking degree course and starting his career at Steenberg in Constantia

We are eight or so kilometres off the

relationship in that he does give me

coastline so the mean temperature

complete leeway in trying new things

in our area is 4 to 6 degrees cooler

and experimenting. I think that if things

than in other regions in the middle of Stellenbosch. We are the most

southerly situated vineyard block in the Stellenbosch region which is the reason

our name is Journey’s End. We have a nice

you have to treat quite gently and the red wines you can work a bit harder.

Sauvignon Blanc is something I really

become stale – if you are making the same focus on. That and Chardonnay are my kind of wine constantly – you become a

bit bored as a winemaker. So it’s great to work for a person like Rollo who gives

favourite grapes to drink.

There have been a couple of difficult

you a bit of freedom to try new things and

years in South Africa because of

This year we are fermenting

market it in unique ways. A lot of

see if they work.

the drought, but people are finding

All of our slopes are south facing. We

Chardonnay in a concrete egg. We have

winemakers are moving away from oak

The whole idea behind Journey’s End

Chardonnay batches that we can make

view that goes over the coastline and we

get a prevailing wind from the south east, which basically blows into our slopes.

get wind speeds from 110km to 130km sometimes. Almost gale force winds.

is to let the vineyard make the wine. We use as little intervention as humanly possible inside the cellar. We do have extremely high quality Chardonnay

grapes specifically, so if you just put it in

the tank and leave it to do its thing, we’ve found that it makes the best wines for us. Rollo Gabb and I have a great

also got amphorae in which we have

some Chardonnay. We are trying to find

innovative ways to make wine and

and making fresher styles.

The South African wine industry

in quite a structured and serious style

is a close-knit community. There is

concrete and the clay pots there’s an anti-

and always willing to help out. If you

but to pull back on the oak characters

that you’re getting from barrels. With the oxidant effect, so we have used very little sulphur in those wines. We’ve also done carbonic Grenache for the first time.

Chardonnay is a huge passion for me. I love making white wine. It’s something

competition, but the winemakers are all on a really good page with one another have any questions or queries you can ask pretty much any winemaker and

they’ll give help and recommendations. It’s hugely beneficial. If everyone is too competitive I don’t think the industry grows as quickly.

Journey's End Huntsman SMV 2017

Journey's End Cabernet Sauvignon 2016

Journey's End Destination Chardonnay 2017

RRP: £11.90

RRP: £15.20

RRP: £21.50

This is 85% Shiraz, 10% Mourvedre and 5% Vigonier to freshen it up a bit. Ten per cent of the Shiraz is fermented carbonically. We get a very fruity wine, very low in tannins, and we use that as a blending component to drop the tannin of the wine a little.

The grapes are handpicked and destemmed. We do a five-day pre-fermentation cold soak which is where you extract more of your aromatics and your flavour concentration into the wine. It’s put into 30% new French oak and 70% second and third-use French oak barrels for 16 to 18 months.

This is really the pinnacle of our winemaking, from our oldest block. In the section that gets the afternoon sun you often get peachy, stone fruit characters and the part that gets the morning sun there's more lime and zestiness. It's whole-bunch pressed and aged in French barrels.

Journey's End wines are imported into the UK by Bibendum www.bibendum-wine.co.uk 0845 263 6924

MERCHANT JULY may 2019 THETHE WINE WINE MERCHANT MERCHANT november june 2018 17 15


WSET WINE WORKOUT

Fizzical education Sparkling wines are as popular today as they are diverse, both in style and quality. There are many well-known brands and regions, but what are the principles that connect them? WSET educator David Martin looks through the major factors affecting style and quality in sparkling wine, defines some key terms and touches on the major regions that are important today

A cool climate is very important for

sparkling wine as high natural acidity helps

front of mind, sparkling wine can be made

© ftfoxfoto / stockadobe.com

Climate

from Riesling, Seyval, Nebbiolo, Pinot Gris, Grenache, Glera, Xarel-lo, Shiraz, Moscato … anything goes, but success comes if

create a refreshing wine. Additionally,

the producer can stick to the principles

low sugars in the grape keeps alcohol

mentioned above.

moderate, which is especially important for wines which are fermented twice – such

Sparkling winemaking

as Champagne. A fundamental principle of

grape growing is finding a balance between

Once grapes arrive in the cellar, they

ripening at the same time. If the grapes’

whole bunches. Gentle pressing minimises

physiological and phenolic ripeness. In

are pressed to release their juice. In

short, this means sugars and flavours

premium wines this usually involves

time on the vine can be lengthened, then

phenolic bitterness – which has no place in

generally more complex flavours develop.

sparkling wine. In the traditional method

This works best in cool climates, where

grapes will not become overripe. Though the trinity of Champagne varieties –

Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Meunier – are

a warm fermentation takes place, creating Crémant: a traditional-method sparkler

a neutral base wine which is a canvas for

autolytic development. However, aromatic tank-method Moscato would be fermented

cool to preserve floral character. Malolactic

KEY TERMS Base wine: Dry, still, high-acid wine which is refermented to make sparkling wine Blanc de Noir: White wine made from black grapes (the juice of black grapes is clear) Tirage: Mixture of sugar and yeast which is added to the base wine for second fermentation Lees ageing: Time spent ageing on the lees (dead yeast cells) creating autolytic flavours Autolysis: Breakdown of the lees, giving the wine flavours of brioche, biscuit and toast over time Riddling: Regular turning of bottles to move the lees into the neck of the bottle Disgorging: Removal of the lees from the bottle (by freezing bottle neck and opening bottle) Dosage: Sweetening agents and wine added after disgorging to adjust the sweetness and ensure the bottle is full Extra-Dry: A confusing term, as this wine will be noticeably sweet (most often seen on Prosecco labels) whereas Extra Brut means very dry. In Champagne, the scale from driest to sweetest is: Brut Nature, Extra Brut, Brut, Extra-Dry (or Extra-Sec), Dry (or Sec), Demi-Sec and Doux but this varies by region.

THE WINE MERCHANT JULY 2019 18

fermentation may or may not happen,

depending on the vintage and desired style. What happens in the next stage depends on the chosen winemaking method.

Traditional method: Used in producing

Champagne, Cava, Crémant, Franciacorta and the best quality sparkling wines. A

very high acid base wine, around 10%-

11% abv, is bottled with sugar and yeast

added. This ferments in the bottle, creating fine bubbles.

The lees, responsible for the

development of autolytic flavours over time (between nine months to over a

decade) are eventually disgorged from the wine before dosage. Minimum time spent on the lees varies by region (nine months


ENOMATIC

Stories

Frederic Ahuir

for Cava and Crémant, 12 months for NV

St Swithins Wine Shippers London

Champagne (plus three months in bottle) and three years for vintage Champagne).

Transfer method: Used primarily in the

New World. Identical to traditional method, except that upon disgorgement the wines

are drained into a tank and the wine is then bottled in new bottles.

Tank method: Used in Prosecco and in

the New World, the base wine is fermented again in a sealed stainless-steel and then

“The selection is fairly classic but with 48 wines by the glass you have space to include some different things as well”

bottled under pressure.

Aeration: The simplest and cheapest

method, this involves bubbling carbon

dioxide in the wine. The bubbles are large and short lived – and there is no autolytic

Tell us about your Enomatics. We have six machines that hold eight bottles each. We introduce every customer to the machines. They can have a card and then they can help themselves to different measures. We put on premium wines so the customers can access the good stuff and if they only want a taste of it, they can do that too. We do charge for the sample sizes from the machine but we want people to be happy and we are as flexible as possible, so if someone says they want to buy a bottle of something and they ask for a taste first, then of course we do that. Have your bottle sales increased since you had the machines? From the start, the concept was always that we would be a tasting room as well as a shop, so we had always planned to have the Enomatics. We’ve had the machines since we opened in September 2015. But the answer of course, is yes, I think we sell more bottles as a result because if you get the chance to try what you might like to buy first, it helps. Has it helped your customers broaden their wine knowledge? If you are going to spend £10 on the card and try three different wines, then yes, absolutely. It’s a good tool to use and people like to sit down and basically hold their own wine tasting. Does the line-up constantly change? We have a bit of everything for everybody. The selection is fairly classic but with 48 wines by the glass you have space to include some different things as well. There are a couple of wines we have had on there since the beginning, especially some English wines. A few others remain because we like them. When I see something is not selling much, I will replace it. Or if I see something interesting that I like, I put it on – it’s always good to see how people react. They like classic stuff but they are always keen to try new stuff as well.

flavour.

Pétillant naturel: (Pet Nat for short)

involves the precarious practice of bottling partially-fermented must which finishes fermentation in the bottle and traps the

CO2. Unlike traditional method, the lees are not disgorged and the wine remains cloudy. There is much to learn about the styles

and history behind the individual types of sparkling wines. Many principles

carry over from still wines, but there are also large differences which need to be recognised.

Do the machines need much maintenance? The Enomatic guys look after us on a regular basis – they do a check-up a few times a year. If there is ever a problem they respond straight away. It’s all very good.

• Look out for our article on the premium red wine regions of the New World in next month’s issue. To find out more about our qualifications, alongside a great range of free resources and learning tools, visit www.wsetglobal.com.

THE WINE MERCHANT JULY 2019 19


BUYERS TRIP TO SOUTH AMERICA Our kind of wines

“I was particularly struck by the regional diversity. We visited some great properties in Mendoza – Los Haroldos, Familia Falasco and Altocedro – but also the Finca Quara wines from Cafayate in Salta and Bodega Del Rio Elorza in Patagonia were a real point of difference with their cooler-climate wines. I was impressed by the freshness and balance. The producers we visited were toning down the oak and preserving fruit and acidity which is the style of wines we try and list. The blends at Altocedro and Familia Falasco were outstanding.” Simon Thomson, Talking Wines, Circencester

Indies head to the Andes Condor Wines’ latest visit to Chile and Argentina was a chance to reward six of its most loyal indie customers – and to take stock of new developments on both sides of the Andes. If the plan was to redouble enthusiasm for South America, it seems to have worked

THE WINE MERCHANT JULY 2019 20

An exciting approach

“I was impressed by the quality of most of Karim Mussi Saffie’s wines. The ingenious way he approaches winemaking from the Uco Valley is very exciting. I appreciate his commitment to making something exciting and interesting with the terroir he has. The stand out-winery for me was Finca Quara.Each and every wine was of the highest quality and I enjoyed the reliability that they offered.” Aljoscha Wright, Oxford Wine Company

L

ee Evans, as his customers know, has an evangelical zeal for South

American wine. That’s all Condor

Wines sells, with Evans proud of the fact that his focus is not diluted by imports from other countries.

“We are a true specialist, and this is what

separates us from most other agents, large or small,” he says. “Customers have begun to see us as their own South American specialist and our niche sets us aside

particularly from the larger, more widely-


IN ASSOCIATION WITH Exploring new options

“The Granito wines from Bouchon I just think are outstanding. We all thought Requingua Toro de Piedra Carignan Gran Reserva was really lovely with juicy dark fruit. Very classy indeed. It’s good to see that they’re slightly moving away from the better-known varieties and exploring other options. The evening spent with Karim Mussi Saffie was just fascinating. He’s making some fabulous wines: his Paradoux white blend, a sort of Bordeaux blend, was elegant and balanced. The single-vineyard Torrontes from Quara was just beautiful. There was just so much going on and not just aromatics and florality.” Chris Connolly, Connolly’s, Birmingham

Connolly’s, Birmingham; Philip Trease of Weavers of Nottingham; and JJ Moore of The Wine Cellar, Isle of Man.

The itinerary was packed. The Chilean

leg encompassed Viña Requingua and

Bouchon, with the Argentinian schedule

beginning with Estancia Mendoza, followed by Domaine Bousquet, Familia Falasco,

Bodegas Los Haroldos, Altocedro, Finca Quara and Algodon.

For Moore, it was a first visit to South

America. “It was a superb trip,” he says. “To

me it’s all about meeting the people behind

the wine and understanding the stories. We can pass that on to our customers, and that makes it more of an experience and not just a drink.”

Moore was pleased to discover “a lot of

hidden gems” in Argentina amid the more familiar Malbec, picking out Cabernet

Sauvignon and some interesting red blends as personal highlights. “We’ve also taken Under the shade of old-vine Torrontes in Finca Quara, Cafayate Valley, Salta

focused agents.”

Condor has been shortlisted as IWC

South American Specialist of the Year

and Evans wants his customers to get as

immersed in South America as they can. He has now run two “discovery trips” as part of a sales incentive scheme for indies.

The most recent of these was attended

by Aljoscha Wright of the Oxford Wine

Company; Raoul Flageul of Victor Hugo

Wines, Jersey; Simon Thomson of Talking Wines, Cirencester; Chris Connolly of

on a Bonarda from one of the wineries we visited and it’s proved very popular,” he

adds. “We’ve also taken a Cabernet Franc from Altocedro.”

Wright at the Oxford Wine Company

speaks for many of the merchants when he sings the praises of Finca Quara’s barrelfermented Torrontes.

“A variety that usually relies on the

purity and freshness of youth, turned on its head and made oxidatively, was incredible,” he says. “The Hermandad Cabernet Franc from Familia Falasco was also a pleasant

surprise which I’m eagerly anticipating for early in 2020.”

Evans is delighted that the trips are

proving so successful and helping to

THE WINE MERCHANT JULY 2019 21

consolidate the work that his small but growing business has been doing with

independents since its inception in 2011. “We have had good success with sales

incentives among our customers,” he

says. “Through league tables and a points

scheme, we have hosted 13 independents

through our Chile and Argentina Discovery Trip incentive in 2017 and 2019.

“As a specialist for this region we feel we

can represent it more effectively through hosting customers, providing them with

a unique a trip of a lifetime and a deeper

understanding of the region. The incentive also encourages our customers to drive sales of South American wines in retail and wholesale, which helps us to raise

the profile of the category and get more

consumers trying wines from the region.” Condor does not sell direct to the

on-trade or to consumers, which Evans

believes has helped it build trust with the independent trade.

“We have been experiencing significant

growth the last few years, so the plan is to increase the size of our team and improve our systems so that we can continue to

deliver the level of service our customers have come to expect of us,” he says.

“We will also invest in further expansion

of our South American portfolio, ensuring

we always have the best and most relevant range possible for our customers.”

Condor Wines

Visit www.condorwines.com.uk South: Lee Evans 07508 825 488 North: Graeme Oliver 07515 717 739 Email: info@condorwines.co.uk


BUYERS TRIP TO THE LANGUEDOC

The beautiful south Who better to lead a buying trip to the varied and dynamic landscape of the Languedoc than a company with an equally varied and dynamic portfolio? Six merchants signed up for the Famille Helfrich tour

T

ake two wineries. One is a highlydecorated producer with coming up for 200 hectares of vineyard

and brands that are recognised the world over. The other is based in a town centre garage, possesses a single barrel, and

requires the services of a mobile filtration service.

The contrast is instructive. Both wineries

– Domaine de la Baume and Domaine Plan de l’Homme – are based in the Languedoc. Both are also owned by Les Grands Chais de France.

The company’s specialist division for

independents and the on-trade is known as Famille Helfrich: for all its scale, the

company is still family-owned and run.

The best way to understand its eclectic

portfolio is to visit its wineries in person

– both those that it owns outright, and the ones with which it has partnerships.

That was the purpose of a recent buyers’

trip to southern France, organised in

association with The Wine Merchant. The

itinerary was designed to give a real flavour of the Languedoc and Les Grands Chais’

Some have described it as the wild west

ago. Now we’re doing a red wine as part

experiment with their own styles without

in the Languedoc.

of France, a near-anarchic environment where vignerons have been free to

being reined in by tradition or regulation.

Davies understands the point, and enjoys

the freewheeling spirit of the region.

It’s a region in which the family evidently has a great deal of faith: it now owns 19 estates and has exclusive supply agreements with a further 41 domaines Les Grands Chais has interests all across France but has made the Languedoc an area of particular focus, he says.

“A couple of decades ago it used to

place within it. It’s a region

be a great big space for buying cheap

now owns 19 estates and has

vineyard surface area as Chile, which puts

in which the family evidently has a great deal of faith: it

exclusive supply agreements with a further 41 domaines.

For Chris Davies, who heads

up Famille Helfrich in the

UK, part of the appeal of the

Languedoc is its sheer variety.

industrial type wines,” he says. “Over the

past 20 years they’ve grubbed up the same things into perspective, and because of the next generation of winemakers coming through they’re now more about the intricacies of smaller appellations. “Cité de Carcassonne is not an

appellation you’d have heard of five years

THE WINE MERCHANT JULY 2019 22

of our house wine range to help develop it

and show that there are regional variations “There are these little nuggets that you

find, like Plan de l’Homme and Mas Belles

Eaux … the profile of the wines has a good fit with the UK consumer in both reds and

whites. And it’s great to be able to find and discover new things in a region that we

used to take for granted. I like that you can travel 20km and find yourself in a whole new region.”

T

he three-day tour got underway with a stop-off at Domaine de la Baume, where the group of

independents was able to taste the main range but also the top-tier Terre de la

Baume wines. “Like all Famille Helfrich

wines, these are very much indie and on-

trade exclusives and we don’t make them every year – it depends on the vintage,” Davies explains. “It’s very much at the winemaker’s discretion.”

Next on the itinerary was Mas Belles

Eaux, situated near Pezenas in the Hérault. Acquired by Les Grands Chais in 2015,

the property has 70 hectares of vineyard

planted with Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre and Carignan.

The first day ended with a crémant

tasting, featuring local offerings from

Limoux as well as from the Loire, Alsace Continues page 24


THE WINE MERCHANT JULY 2019 23


BUYERS TRIP TO THE LANGUEDOC

From page 22

and Burgundy: GCF is the largest supplier and producer of crémant in France.

Day two started at Domaine Plan de

l’Homme in Terrasses du Larzac, where Rémi Duchemin lovingly tends his 10

hectares and makes impressive reds from

Grenache, Carignan and Cinsault, and whites from Roussanne and Grenache Blanc. Next stop was Château de Sérame,

set in hundreds of hectares of natural woodland near the Canal du Midi in

Corbières. Production here is on a grand scale but the business also makes wines

under the Domaine l’Orangerie label, and these are aimed squarely at the specialist trade. Alsatian varieties including

Gewürztraminer and Pinot Gris thrive. The visit was followed by a visit to another

Corbières property, Château la Boutignane. The final visit, on day three, was to

Maison Salasar, a specialist crémant de

Limoux producer joining the GCF family in 2018 and where a surprise rosé proved to be one of the finds of the trip.

L

es Grands Chais de France is,

naturally, best known for its massdistribution brands such as JP

Chenet and Calvet. But its Famille Helfrich

division, which ringfences a more specialist wine selection, is making increasing headway among UK independents. The company holds no UK stock,

aggregating orders in Alsace from

across France and indeed the world. The

minimum order is a half-pallet, which can be divided to include individual cases.

Davies and his team believe that, even

Rob Hoult

Paddy Eyres

Hoults, Huddersfield

Fenwick group buyer

“I have to say that the three days were terrific,” says Hoult. “It was helped by being truly useful from a wine-buying point of view. I’m a shopkeeper, plain and simple: in wine terms I look for wines I like, first and foremost, but the second consideration is always commercial. Do I want to drink it, and can I sell it and make a nice profit doing so? “We met with passionate winemakers and vineyard owners and the number of wines which tickled my palate was really lovely. “The south of France is not an area that I am unfamiliar with and I have some great relationships with wineries down there that I ship direct from. I find it an exciting part of the wine world and there is some seriously great value to be had. “So, do I need to buy wines from a company as big as this? The answer is no. Do I want to? Well, yes I do: I found wines that will work for me, and the attitude of Chris and Andy from Les Grands Chais was refreshingly straightforward, no apologies for the size of the company and what they do.” Hoult’s personal highlight? “Les Belles Eaux: terrific wine across the range and a run-down château that the six of us discussed buying and turning in to a timeshare.”

Fenwick has specialist wine shops in eight of its nine stores and is hopeful of working with Famille Helfrich sometime in the future. “What I found most interesting is the fact that by working directly with the supplier it is a more cost-effective business model as you don’t have the UK logistics to pay for,” says Eyres. “The pricing was refreshing as well. The labelling and presentation of the products was more contemporary than I had expected.” Eyres was impressed by the range of crémants in the Famille Helfrich portfolio. “The Prosecco market is very mature right now and people are looking for something new and more interesting. People are used to paying £8 or £9 for a bottle of fizz but with the right product they are happy to pay £12 or £15 and that’s where crémant sits. This could give Fenwick real cutthrough in such a saturated marketplace.” Eyres was particularly struck by the quality of oaked Chardonnay. “Oaked French Chardonnay is an area of real opportunity for Fenwick right now. There were a few that really stood out – the Domaine de la Baume Elite d’Or was delightful and retailing for about £12. It’s quite hard to find Burgundy-style, fairly full-oaked Chardonnays at a price that is accessible. These ticked all the boxes.” Eyres reports “a number of very good reds”, including a “fantastic” Minervois – Domaine de Tholomies – and Château des Jaume, “which was lovely; light and a little bit sweet”. He adds: “There was also Château Seguala Tautavel; that was stunning, and we had all three at dinner. All retail between £13 and £25. For that quality of presentation and the quality of liquid, I thought they were excellent.”

in these quantities, ordering from the UK

is surprisingly cost-efficient. But there are further savings to be made for merchants who can commit to one or two pallets,

perhaps teaming up with another business to split the order if there are storage or cash flow issues.

THE WINE MERCHANT JULY 2019 24


© Leonid Andronov / stockadobe.com

The famous castle at Carcassonne – now a city with IGP status

George Unwin

Jefferson Boss

Dylan Rowlands

Baythorne Hall, Halstead, Essex

StarmoreBoss, Sheffield

Gwin Dylanwad Wine, north Wales

“What I found most interesting about the trip was getting a real sense of the direction in which the Languedoc is heading,” says Unwin. “We saw traditional wineries that were being adapted to modern winemaking practices, we tasted wines made from varieties rarely planted in southern France until recently, and nothing we tasted could be classed as good-old rustic southern French plonk. The wines, in general, were vibrant, concentrated and fresh. “A number of the estates we visited were new acquisitions by the Helfrich family, and everywhere we went we heard about the investment in the vineyards rather than the châteaux and properties – we saw this firsthand.” Unwin’s personal highlights included Mas Belles Eaux Les Coteaux Blanc, a Grenache Blanc/Vermentino/Roussanne blend “with the faintest hint of oak”; Domaine l’Orangerie de Montrabech Grenache Gris (“a very pale coloured, soft-textured, peachy rosé”); and Domaine Tholomies ‘La Liviniere’ Minervois – a biodynamically-produced Syrah/Grenache/ Mourvèdre, aged in new oak. “A big gutsy red.” Unwin adds: “I was already familiar with the wines from some of the estates we visited having purchased from Les Grand Chais in the past, but I tasted a lot that I wasn’t familiar with. The wines from Maison Salasar and Domaine l’Orangerie de Montrabech are real contenders to be added to our list, plus some of the more premium reds which really did show the exceptional quality that can be produced in this beautiful and varied part of France.”

“It was a really good trip. The Grands Chais model is quite unique,” says Boss. “I thought all the wines were super-good value for what they did. I couldn’t fault any of them for their positioning on the pricing and where they were in the market. “Salasar I thought was excellent. There were some really good wines across their whole range that I was really impressed with. “Crémant is going to be a growth category, definitely. We’ve noticed a slight downturn in Prosecco sales but our Champagne sales have picked up, which is really good, and feeding into that is crémant which comes in just above Prosecco and a long way below Champagne. “Château Sérame was really good; I really liked the philosophy from them. We met the winemaker Philippe and he’s planted Gewürztraminer and Petit Verdot which is interesting. They’re apparently one of the biggest organic producers in the Languedoc. “Domaine de l’Orangerie were planting quite unusual grapes for the Languedoc. I thought the wines were really consistent and very good value for money as well. “Generally the wines were excellent, classical and consumer-friendly. There were a couple of really good ones that we will stock. I wouldn’t have a problem kicking off with half a pallet. It would make sense to include a couple of lines that we could put into wholesale. Then we could start ramping up to the pallet and two-pallet rates. We would happily team up with other independents too.”

For Rowlands, the trip was “an incredible and invaluable experience”. He adds: “Although we have been importing directly for many years, the Languedoc has long been a gap in our range. “It may be Les Grand Chais can plug that gap in one fell swoop with the advantage of grouping in France before shipping. “I was surprised by the range of wines and varieties available – I had no idea there would be a great-value, well-made Gerwürztraminer so far south,” he adds. “There is no better way to get a feel for producers than visiting them on home turf and the drive up to Domaine Salasar to try their sparkling and still Limoux wines illustrated the added altitude that their vines profit from. “There are a number of new producers I feel we can work with and I look forward to getting them in the shop and presenting them to the good people of north Wales!”

THE WINE MERCHANT JULY 2019 25

““For Rowlands, the

Famille Helfrich is keen to work with independent merchants across the UK For more details about the full range and shipping terms, contact Chris Davies: cdavies@lgcf.fr 07789 008540 @Famille Helfrich


SUPPLIER PROFILE

California gems E&J Gallo Winery may be one of the best-known names in the world of wine, but its premium wines – which are aimed at specialist merchants – are more of a secret. We invited a group of indies to try some

E&J Gallo Winery works with over 100 wineries, a growing number of which fall into the fine wine category. Over the past five years the company has

acquired over 9,000 hectares of premium wine estate across Napa Valley, Sonoma County, Russian River and beyond. The

wineries are run independently with their own winemakers and their own unique

story. The one thing they have in common is that they are under the Gallo family umbrella.

The Gallo mission is to be a leading

supplier of fine wines with deep roots in

California, with its eyes open on premium regions around the world. Gallo is

committed to changing people’s ideas and

broadening the horizons of what it is about and can offer to the trade.

With this in mind we invited eight

independent merchants to taste through

a selection of 17 wines from the E&J Gallo

Winery Fine Wine portfolio at a Wine

Merchant lunch at Christopher’s in Covent Garden.

The focus of the Gallo family is to invest

in the luxury end and to grow within that

category. Like many other family wineries,

E&J Gallo Winery is committed to investing in the generations to follow, to give them

options of what brands and wines they can make in the future.

While it is early days for the premium

Californian offering in the UK, the selection that E&J Gallo Winery has already

introduced, which includes wines from

some of the most prestigious vineyards in Sonoma County and Napa Valley, has

been well received. As Gallo matures into

the luxury and premium sector, it plans to

Louis M Martini director of winemaking Michael Eddy

bring over other styles to strengthen the

well as fine wines from further afield such

the diversity that California has to offer, as

tasting on page 28.

interest within each winery: this includes

a range of different varietals that highlight

as Provence and Marlborough.

Merchants give their reactions to the

Rattlesnake Hill is the highest part of the Monte Rosso vineyard, where fruit for Louis M Martini is sourced

THE WINE MERCHANT JULY 2019 26


Explore the premium portfolio SUPER PREMIUM Whitehaven A small, privately-owned winery in Blenheim, New Zealand. Winemaker Sam Smail has a reputation for crafting distinctive and critically-acclaimed Sauvignon Blanc from the Marlborough region. Fleur de Mer Winemaker Florian Lacroux works in partnership with a traditional growers’ co-operative with more than 50 years of winegrowing and winemaking experience in Provence. ULTRA PREMIUM J Vineyards & Winery Reputed as one of the top sparkling and varietal wine producers in California. Winemaker Nicole Hitchcock showcases her expertise through a portfolio of highquality wines. Ghost Pines Named for the indigenous Grey Pines

LUXURY

Dave Phinney and Orin Swift’s innovative blends, expressive wines

Talbott Rob Talbott built the legendary Sleepy Hollow vineyard virtually by hand and it is this vineyard, more than any other, that has helped put Monterey and the Santa Lucia Highlands on the map.

on northern California’s hillsides, Ghost

and imaginative, thought-provoking labels. On Gallo’s acquisition of the brand in 2016, Phinney said: “The philosophy at Orin Swift is to be humble and to over-deliver, and that describes Gallo’s philosophy too. We’re

Pines embodies the progressive spirit of

Louis M Martini

putting Orin Swift wines

Californian winemaking.

Established in 1933, Louis M Martini is an

in the hands of people

iconic Cabernet-focused winery generally

who know what they are

considered to be the “go-to” for premium

doing.”

Frei Brothers A survivor of the prohibition era, Frei

Napa Cabernet Sauvignons.

Brothers is a beloved part of the fabric of Sonoma and was Gallo’s first ultra

Gallo Signature Series

premium purchase.

Third-generation winemaker Gina Gallo has created a distinct collection of wines

Bear Flag Sonoma County native Aaron Piotter is the

and the Signature Series represents her

For further

return to smaller-lot winemaking.

information, contact sarah.

winemaker who harnesses the untamed Zinfandel vines the region is famous for

Orin Swift

dixon@ejgallo.

and crafts a bold wine, full of flavour.

Gallo has long admired winemaker

com

THE WINE MERCHANT JULY 2019 27


SUPPLIER PROFILE

Merchant feedback: ‘Wow! What a wine!’ Graeme Woodward Grape Minds, Oxford

to see the investment in such premium stuff.

punt on that, it is a really well-made wine.

“We do pretty well with California and

“I thought Frei Brothers Russian River

it’s about getting that balance between cool

Valley Sauvignon Blanc was a really good

“When our customers see places like Sonoma,

producers, like Orin Swift, and some of the more

quality wine and would do well. Generally with

Russian River or Napa on the label, they

classic Californian styles.

California, I find that my customers look for red

associate that with quality and are prepared to

“Our Californian range starts at about £20

pay. They just need the reassurance that we’ve

and up so the Gallo Premium offering is certainly

done our homework.

the sort of thing we’d be interested in stocking.

“There were some absolute stand-outs and

“The Talbott Sleepy Hollow Chardonnay

or Chardonnay, but a really good American Sauvignon would have a wide appeal. “The J Vineyard Russian River Valley Chardonnay 2017 had a bit of subtle oak with

we would also like to get some of Gallo’s Super

notes of apple, pear and citrus and a good

Premium wines to sell as a stepping stone to the

body. That would definitely sell. “There is a definite trend for people asking for

Ultra Premium range.

wines with a bit of oak so the Sleepy Hollow

“The Louis M Martini wines in particular were stunning. The Alexander Valley Cabernet

Chardonnay, with all the classic notes of

Sauvignon 2016 [RRP £35]: if we could get this

brioche and butter, would hit that mark. “I took away a half bottle of the Orin Swift

[at the right price] that would be amazing to have on the shelf. That would fly. And the Napa

Papillon [a Cabernet-based blend of all five

Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 [RRP £40]

Bordeaux varieties] and it was incredible. I let

really excites me. Here is something with a bit of

a few people taste it that afternoon. I left it out

age with so much fruit flavour and structure and

the back of the office with the cork in it and on

it will appeal not only to the people who want

Thursday I remembered I had it and I thought

a great Napa Valley wine and to people who

it would be shot, but do you know what, the

are serving good food, but also people who are

customers who tasted it, even after four days, all

interested in laying down wine and exploring

wanted to buy it. Wow! What a wine.

how it develops over the coming years. “That gives me a three-pronged approach to

Whitehaven winemaker Sam Smail

“It’s only been in the last three years that we’ve managed to find American wines, particularly red, coming in between £18.99 and

selling that wine and it’s tripled the amount of people I could sell the wine to: it tastes great, it

2015 had a lovely balance and finesse. It

£25 and at that price point they’ve been over-

could age and it’s great food wine.

was creamy and smooth, what you’d look to

delivering. Even at this level, which is a step up,

California for, but it still had some savoury stuff

you are still getting a good return.”

“The J Vineyard Russian River Valley Chardonnay 2017 had a lovely

going on. The Talbott Sleepy Hollow Pinot

complexity with so many layers of

Noir 2014 was very interesting too.

flavour.”

“The Bear Flag was fantastic Zinfandel and

Carlos Blanco Blanco & Gomez, London

I’d always find room for that. It will certainly be

Matt Illman The Wine Reserve, Cobham,

worth me sticking an order in. The fact that it’s not available everywhere is very attractive.”

Surrey “I was surprised at the depth of the

“For me, the range of Louis M Martini along

with the Gallo Signature Series were the standouts. The cuvée Monte Rosso was my particular

Nish Patel

favourite as it is a wine that once it reaches

The Shenfield Wine Company, Essex

maturity will be as good as any of the big players from Napa Valley.

range. We took Abstract from Orin

“The Louis M Martini range and the rosé from

Swift as soon as Enotria had access

“I was amazed by the J Vineyard Russian

to it, but I hadn’t seen the full scale of

River Valley Pinot Noir; it was so smooth, with

Provence, Fleur de Mer, would easily fit in with

what Gallo is doing and it’s fantastic

raspberries and cherries. I could definitely take a

my current range.”

THE WINE MERCHANT JULY 2019 28


NOT YOU AGAIN!

customers we could do without

5. Barry Frogmore … All right, here’s a question for ya: what’s the best wine in the entire world? What’s the best wine you’ve ever had? OK then, what’s the best wine in this shop? No, come on, you tell me, if I could only choose one wine in the whole universe, what wine would you tell me to buy? I’m asking because you’re the expert, not me. I’m just a man on the street,

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aren’t I. Is it Rioja? What about this one here, made by Crianza? Do they

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make the best Rioja, these people? No? Who does, then? OK, let’s put it

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THE WINE MERCHANT JULY 2019 29


THE CHAMPAGNE DEVAUX MERCHANT PROFILE: DUNELL’S

Minnie-Mae Stott and Orson Warr, July 2018

The shop front faces the busiest road in Jersey, with 33,000 traffic movements a day through the roundabout

THE WINE MERCHANT JULY 2019 30


Island records As Dunell’s approached its 50th anniversary, Neil and Jane Pinel embarked on an ambitious refurb project that created chaos at their Jersey premises for almost a year. Yet revenue still hit an all-time high, and the business – with three branches on the island – now has the perfect springboard to aim even higher in the next chapter of its long story

N

o wonder Neil and Jane Pinel are smiling. Last year’s refurb lasted 11 long months and tested their

sanity – as well as that of their loyal team

– to its limits. Relaxed in the newly-created events room of their Jersey wine shop,

which has just celebrated its half-century, they are reaping the rewards of almost a year of aggravation.

Discovering that the building was

effectively balanced on a sand bank, without foundations, and requiring

underpinning was one little surprise that the couple could have done without. It

wasn’t the only one. “There were a couple of hairy moments, and an awful lot of

concrete going in to sort it out,” says Jane. Yet despite the upheaval, the store, on

the island’s southern coast at Beaumont, remained open for all but 10 days. And

customers weren’t deterred by the drilling and the dust. “We had the best year, to be honest,” says Neil.

Jane adds: “We were really surprised.

The customers who still came were our super-loyals. They still came when it

looked awful – it was dirty, it was dusty, it was noisy and they still came. To me that

is testament to our brand, and what we’ve been trying to achieve over these years.” The shop, across the road from where

Neil’s family ran bakery and grocery

Dunell is still a shareholder,” Neil says.

of rooms” into a spacious, open-plan

Jane says.

businesses a century or so ago, has been

transformed from “a complete mish-mash premises, dominated by wine fixtures but accommodating a seating area, a

beautifully-lit display of glassware and accessories, and a separate room for

events. It also encompasses an office.

“People were intrigued,” says Jane. “We

Is the older generation impressed by

the new look? “They are really proud of it,” “It has always been something to be

proud of,” adds Neil. “But the last 12

months have just moved us totally into a different league.”

How much did the refit cost and how did

had a brand new shop front and for a while

you finance that?

started that Dunell’s was closing and so

years and we’d not really invested in the

we had scaffolding up and boards and we

Neil: The whole thing cost about three-

we put posters on the front of the building

building – yes, we’d changed the look of the

looked like we were shut. The rumours

saying that we were still open. Once the

hoarding and the scaffolding came down

and we revealed the new logo, people were impressed.

“We didn’t take any advertising

anywhere, other than emailing to our

database and some social media, and we

had a record Christmas. It hasn’t stopped since.”

Dunell’s remains a wholly-owned family

business, with a turnover of around £4.5m, helped along by satellite shops in St Helier and Gorey.

Neil’s father Winston – who retired in

2000 at the age of 55 – still pops in to help with finances. “And my great aunt Gladys

THE WINE MERCHANT JULY 2019 31

quarters of a million. I’d been here 30

shop occasionally and we put in computers and that sort of thing, but we still had the

original 50-year-old fluorescent tube lights on the ceiling. So from my point of view we hadn’t really invested in the future.

It got to the stage where we needed to

do some remedial work on the property

and we thought we’d just tart the offices up a little bit. But then we thought, if we want to be here for another 50 years,

something has got to be done. It’s all been

funded by careful releases of cash through stockholding and stock control.

Continues page 32


THE CHAMPAGNE DEVAUX MERCHANT PROFILE

From page 31

You didn’t bring in outside investment – is the company still family owned? Neil: Yes. I don’t like borrowing money. I

tried my best to do as much as I could. It

was a good way of doing it really because it constrained us as to what we could finally spend.

Jane: It meant he didn’t sleep for a year. He was constantly on the computer working it all out.

Neil: We’d spent years and years building up our stock as well so we had all this

fantastic stock that you can realise when you need to.

Was that sold on the open market? Neil: No, just general sales. Instead of

buying in 20 new wines in a month, we

brought in 10 and reduced our stock by another 10 here and there.

How do you work with suppliers based on the mainland? Neil: We have a core of about six suppliers; Liberty, Seckford, Ellis of Richmond …

I don’t know what they do in the UK

about sending out samples, but they do

have to send samples out to us here. They

will normally send 24 samples a couple of

Jane and Neil Pinel were both born and bred in Jersey

‘Loyalty and trust are our big things. Jersey is so small so if you lose that trust, you’re in trouble’ Neil: When we first started the main wine

would have a blending area here. That

blend it, bottle and label it. Back here used

How do your roles dovetail as a

business in 1967 we were bringing barrels over from France and my father would

to be a bottling plant. The barrels used

to come in through the windows; my dad

was my weekend job, me and my brother, bottling wines.

husband-and-wife team?

times a year, then the rep will come over

and taste them with us. We do try and get away to tastings as often as we can.

Jane: A lot of our team are involved in the

actual tasting, so for the whole team to go over to the UK for a wine fair or whatever – it’s just not possible for us to go over to suppliers’ showcases, so they will send

over what they think is missing from our

portfolio and we’ll sit down as a team, with varying palates, to go through them. That’s been really important.

Have your direct imports increased or declined over the years?

The shop is air conditioned and kept at 18˚C

THE WINE MERCHANT JULY 2019 32


DUNELL’S

Neil: Jane is the artistic one and does all the

the tasting machines and trying to find

share. There were 10 of us. All I did was

say to the team, “look, we’re doing a tasting

company. Loyalty and trust are our big

Jane: We called it Cellar Friends. It was a

social media and that side of stuff.

We have this conversation often where I

and you are better at standing up and talking about the wines than I am”.

My time, unfortunately, is spent running

the business. I don’t sell wine in the shop every day, learning about the wines all

the time. What we’ve done, particularly in the last few years, is build our team up so

we’ve got a great bunch of people who can sell wine better than I’ve ever been able

to sell wine. They know more about wine than I’ve ever known.

Jane: He is the nuts and bolts of the

business, basically. We need him to run

something new.

We are an established, family-run Jersey

things. Jersey is so small so if you lose that

trust, you’re in trouble. So when customers come through the doors, they become friends.

You can quickly gauge their palate,

especially when you take them over to

the machines and get them to taste a few

things. When someone buys something and they come back in and say, ‘that wine was amazing, really, really good,’ rather than

asking them if they want to buy another

supply the food and they each bought a bottle of wine along.

fantastic evening. We had 10 people in here and we decanted all the wines and talked

through them all. We did it as a thank-you to some of our really top clients. They

might buy these wines to take to a friend’s house and the friend might not even care less about the wine. But they’ve bought this wine and it might be £150 a bottle

and they want to share it with people who

will appreciate it. We tasted some brilliant

wines and they were all a similar value. All

the business. There is no way he could

run three shops and a warehouse, as well as be on the shop floor selling wine. It’s

impossible. So the team has been key to

the success of this. There didn’t used to be the demand on marketing and websites,

like there is now – those are new things we have to do.

What kind of marketing do you do? Neil: We don’t do much advertising in local press anymore. It’s all done through social media, and direct email marketing. Our

website is a selling tool but also a massive information tool for people. We sell our

events on there. All that takes time and it

puts us in good standing when people see

The business runs WSET courses in its new events room

what we’ve been selling there.

How do you think your customers are getting their information about wine? Are they reading about it and watching TV programmes? Jane: I think so. One of our key things is

wine education. People used to come in

and buy the same thing week in, week out

and one of the things we wanted to do was to get people to experiment more with their wines.

People are quite open to having a go on

case of that, we actually guide them

10 were incredible. We started decanting

the same wine, we’ll have people coming in

from us but in the email I sent out I said

through and suggest an alternative. So now instead of people buying multiple cases of

with their shopping trolley and they could have 40 or 50 different bottles.

Neil: We had a tasting in here last Friday night. Something I always wanted to do

was to ask some friends and customers to bring a bottle of wine from their cellar to

THE WINE MERCHANT JULY 2019 33

at lunchtime.

Neil: Some of the wines had been bought

the wines didn’t have to had come from me, and I also promised that if any of the wines were corked we’d pour them away and it

wouldn’t matter. I said to everyone around Continues page 34


THE CHAMPAGNE DEVAUX MERCHANT PROFILE

From page 33

the table, “this is not a selling evening,

this is just us as friends trying wine”. We

‘We do see the Grüner effect, we do see the Picpoul effect, but it normally happens a couple of years later for us’

did a hand-out so we knew what we were drinking. It was purely come and enjoy

the wines with like-minded people. The

dynamic really worked. I think we’ll do it

natural wine, but the problem is they are

are happy to hand-sell the orange wines.

How do you curate your range and

could end up with a wine that doesn’t taste

what it was 10 years ago?

stay on top of our portfolio. Jersey is so

we are really picky what we choose. We

Bordeaux and things. I don’t really think

One of my jobs is to see what is moving out

Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Portugal

quarterly. We’ll definitely do it again.

adapt to new things in the market? Jane: It’s incredibly important for us to

influenced by the outside world and you’ve got to be able to move when they move.

there and then to speak to the rest of the team and say, “is Jersey ready for this, or not?”

We’ve had some good experiences with

natural and so they keep changing in the bottle and six months down the line you

How would the range compare now to

any good any more.

Neil: Obviously the core things are always

have quite a multi-cultural team of people

they’ve changed in size much, those ranges.

There is a market for orange wine, but

now. We employ people from France, Italy, – lots of different countries. And our

managers in Gorey and the town shop: one is from the Czech Republic and one is from Slovkia; they are quite experimental and

going to be there, the good range of

We need more rosé. That has changed

massively. I think we have increased our range of wines from places like South

Africa. For me South Africa and the South of France are the best value places to buy wine from.

The “Cellar Friends” evening saw guests bring along their favourite wines from their personal collections

THE WINE MERCHANT JULY 2019 34


DUNELL’S

the weekend.

Jane: When people come here, they have

driven, they have parked outside and they get their trolley.

Neil: The Gorey shop is similar to here so they do a few more cases in there.

How much of the business is wholesale? Neil: In the past I would have said about 50/50 but now I would say it is 45% wholesale and 55% retail.

Is that roughly where it will sit for the foreseeable future?

The business now has a team of 14 The refurb has transformed a building that was once “a complete mish-mash of rooms”

Jane: I think so. There isn’t a big explosion in restaurants happening. There are

restaurants opening but there are also

restaurants closing. At the end of the day Jersey is only a certain size.

Having done all this and with three Jane: We’ve definitely seen various cycles.

sites, what’s next?

happens a couple of years later for us over

Island gin. Our distiller is in Guernsey from

Neil: We do see the Grüner effect, we do see

Jane: We have one project on the go now

here. It’s possibly because we are getting

Wheadon’s Gin. We told him what sort

the Picpoul de Pinet effect, but it normally it in six months after the UK starts selling it – by the time the merchants come to

us and sell it to us, by the time we take it

out to our hoteliers and restaurateurs it’s

another season gone, so by the time it gets

onto a wine list over here, we’re another 18 months down the line.

Muscadet is having a revolution. It’s no

longer the dry acidic stuff I used to sell in

litre bottles 30 years ago. They’ve changed

the style of it, it’s really beautiful food wine now.

What would be your average retail price for a still wine? Neil: This shop, between £8 and £12. The town shop [St Helier] between £20 and

£25. They do a lot of gifts in there and the spend per bottle tends to be a lot more.

There are no cases in there and no trollies so people pick up two or three bottles for

– we have developed our own Channel

of gin we wanted. The main components

are fresh raspberry, pink grapefruit, pink peppercorn and hibiscus. We’ve gone

through the prototypes and he’s distilling it as we speak. I’ve learned so much.

The Channel Islands are built on granite

and in Jersey it is colloquially known as

pink granite, so that is what we are calling the gin.

The label has been designed in granite

colours. The actual gin will be clear, not

coloured. Luke from Wheadon’s is against using food colouring, so we could do a

special edition in the future if we can find

the right natural colouring. We’re starting clear and keeping our options open. We

don’t want it to be exclusive to us, we want to get it out there.

Neil: I’ve always had a hankering for a wine bar but after last year, we said no more projects – for a while.

THE WINE MERCHANT JULY 2019 35

ARTISANS OF CHAMPAGNE

Eric Joly, Grower Being based in the heartland of the Côte des Bar, we primarily source Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from the area but we also grow grapes in other locations such as Montgueux, Côte des Blancs and Montagne de Reims. All of our plots are different because they feature variations in soil types, age of the vines, and sunlight exposure. At Devaux, the ‘D Selection’ represents our highest quality standard for crafting wines. All the growers work side by side with the House to achieve the best understanding of each plot and to get the best out of it. In practice, it’s patience and precision work as each vineyard is different and requires a bespoke approach. As a grower, I feel my role is more of a steward of the land: bringing to life these individualities and passing them along to our talented Chef de Caves who will then enhance them through our blends. For more than 20 years, Devaux has never stopped questioning its own practices in order to get the best grapes possible. Today, our vineyards are committed to sustainable viticulture with some plots being certified organic this year. There’s not the growers on one side and the House on the other. Devaux has a longstanding family legacy that is shared by the growers but also by many other people involved with the House. As a grower, I may experience a different sense of ownership because I have spent weeks looking after the vines. But I have to admit it’s quite a unique feeling to know that the grapes you have grown will end in your Champagne flute. Cheers to that!

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 www.libertywines.co.uk


ANALYSIS

Biodynamics is a concept that many still find baffling and scientifically dubious. But if it can work in English vineyards, could there be some truth in it?

Sedlescombe Vineyard ‘A responsibility to the land’ Sedlescombe Vineyard near Hastings was established 40 years ago by Roy Cook, whose decades of trial and error helped him discover which varieties thrived, and which struggled, in his 22 acres of Sussex countryside. The farm had always been run organically, even before the first vines went in the ground. The switch to biodynamics happened in 2010. Part of the reason that Sedlescombe can operate biodynamically is that it puts its faith in the kind of varieties that are proven to succeed in cool, wet English conditions. Rivaner, Rondo, Madeleine Angevine and Solaris aren’t grapes that enjoy superstar status, but they are perfect for the (mainly still) wines that Sedlescombe produces and sells to the trade via Bancroft. Kieran Balmer, a former teacher who now owns the estate with wife Sophie, has never considered abandoning Cook’s biodynamic project, even if this means adhering to a stricter regime than if the vineyards were merely farmed organically. “The easiest way to explain it is that biodynamics is based on a series of preparations,” Balmer says. “We are talking about liquid solutions with things in them that we use in lieu of artificial chemicals and sprays. The most important one is Preparation 500 – this is the bit about stuffing cow manure into cow horns, and burying those horns in various parts of the vineyard over the winter to allow them to ferment and mature. “We then dig them back up in the spring and mix them with rainwater. You use roughly a solution of 25g of fermented manure in 13 litres of water per acre. You stir it all together for an hour in a specific manner and then you spray the resulting liquid all over the vineyard soil. “The idea is that although it is a

treatment of sorts, it is gentler, it’s non systemic – it doesn’t soak into the plant itself. You are treating the soil as much, if not more, than the vines themselves. Biodynamics looks at the vines and the soil as a complete ecosystem. “That’s just Preparation 500. There is a list of them going up to Preparation 508 and some of them involve things like camomile flowers stuffed into cows’ intestines and buried over the winter and using that to break down compost. Stinging nettles buried for a year and then turned into a solution. Oak bark buried in sheep’s skulls and turned into a solution.” When it comes to harvesting, does the biodynamic calendar dictate the order of play or does it make more sense to base the decision of when to pick on weather conditions? “There will be points when you look at the biodynamic calendar and it says, today is a great day for harvesting, get cracking – then you look out the window and it’s a torrential downpour. “But if that’s the case you should already have been harvesting anyway, so it’s very rare the weather would do something that would make me ignore the biodynamic calendar. If it’s hammering down with rain that means I won’t necessarily enjoy that day harvesting because I’ll get soaked to the skin, but it doesn’t mean it’s the wrong day for doing it.”

A

s one of a tiny number of biodynamic producers in the UK, is Balmer a Rudolf Steiner evangelist, or would he prefer to reap the rewards of occupying a quirky niche? “Generally speaking, I would like to see biodynamics more widely adopted because I believe that Roy is right, I believe that other pioneering biodynamic producers are right and I believe there is serious merit in taking a longer view rather than saying, ‘oh, we’re going to be here for 20 years, let’s make as much money as we can’. “There’s value in looking at what we are leaving behind for the next generation. What will the soil be like in 100 years? We’ve got a responsibility as land owners. Even if it was a potato farm or a livestock farm, I’d still be thinking about the condition of the soil and wanting to leave it better than I found it. I think that drives me more than any other aspect of it.”

THE WINE MERCHANT JULY 2019 36

Faith and Steiner’s


d science collide in vineyard vision

Albury Vineyard ‘More cost, more effort, more risk’ “We are very much a commercial vineyard,” Nick Wenman insists. “We are not quirky hippies that dance naked at midnight.” Yet Wenman, who founded the 12-acre Albury Vineyard in 2008 after 30 years in the IT business, is happy to acknowledge that biodynamics is “more of a faith-based philosophy” than an exact science. “But there are some things that you can see the logic in from a scientific viewpoint,” he adds. “We spray horn silica on the leaves and that’s all about improving the ripeness and encouraging the effects of the sun. “If you look at the cycles of the moon, certainly it’s scientifically proven that has an impact on people – sleep patterns for example. There are elements of it where you can see the scientific side but I would say it is mainly faith-based.”

‘The cycles of the moon are scientifically proven to have an effect on people – sleep patterns for example’

Nick Wenman on cow horn duty at Albury Vineyard in the Surrey Hills

THE WINE MERCHANT JULY 2019 37

Albury’s Surrey Hills vineyards are planted mainly with Champagne varieties, which it deploys in a range of sparkling wines. Wenman originally went through a three-year conversion process to organic accreditation before being seduced by the idea of going the more holistic biodynamic route. “There are tighter restrictions than for organics on the vineyard, particularly in terms of use of copper for example,” Wenman says. “In an organic vineyard you are restricted to six kilos per hectare per year and in biodynamics it’s three kilos. “There are additional sprays on the vineyard because there are all the biodynamic preparations. That involves more effort – for example, we’ll spray equisetum on the vineyard two days before Continues page 38


ANALYSIS

a full moon at Easter to suppress fungal activity back down to the earth. We’ve got a few preparations like that to spray on the vineyard and on the canopy. “We make our own compost and we include biodynamic preparations in those composts.”

A

lthough all Albury’s fruit is certified as biodynamic, not all of its wines are. “In the winemaking process, the big difference is that if you are biodynamic you have to do a wild ferment,” Wenman explains. “You are not allowed to add yeast for the first fermentation process. As a young vineyard that is a little tricky. Our winery is not at Albury – we use contract winemakers nearby to make our wines for us. That makes that process a little risky. “When we make our biodynamic wines we make a pied de cuve, which is when you pick grapes about 10 days before the harvest and you do a small fermentation on the vineyard and then you use that to kickstart the fermentation in the winery. So you are using the natural yeasts from the vineyard. Obviously the thinking behind that is that you have more of a sense of place or terroir because the yeasts are representative of the terroir or land you are growing the grapes on. “That’s a risky process, so for a lot of our wines we do introduce an organic yeast which means that they are certified organic but not biodynamic.” Wenman estimates that organic viticulture is 50% more expensive to manage than running a vineyard in the conventional way. “Geisenheim [University] did some studies on organic viticulture and reckoned that it was about 15% less yield than in a conventional vineyard. So you do end up with less and maybe there is a bit of a price premium. It’s definitely a niche market.” Is biodynamics really worth the risk in such a marginal climate? Wenman believes so. “Our worst year was the year before last when we lost 40% to frost,” he says, “but conventional vineyards are going to suffer from that too. Through disease we haven’t lost anything.”

‘The first time we did a big commercial tasting on a fruit day, we saw a 30% increase in orders on the previous year’ Retail perspective: Philip Amps Amps Wine Merchants An epiphany in Burgundy

Philip Amps thought biodynamics was “absolute nonsense” until a memorable night in Burgundy a decade or so ago. An “utterly delicious” bottle of Nuits Saint George whetted the appetite for a visit to the producer the following day. “We had the tasting with him of his bottled wine and current vintages,” the Oundle-based merchant recalls. “Everyone was saying, ‘it’s not showing as well as it did last night’. “We went to lunch and he served the same basic village Nuits Saint Georges, which last night had been stunning but now was OK but didn’t have any opulence or elegance. There was nothing wrong with it, but it just wasn’t jumping out the glass. “When we queried it, he just turned round and said, ‘well, yesterday was a fruit day and today is a root day’. That was the first indication that there was something in it for us.” Amps began to take notice of the biodynamic calendar: the fruit and

Fruit suits Amps and his team

flower days when wines supposedly taste best, and the root and leaf days when their flavours are said, by biodynamic practitioners, to be more muted. “When we were doing tastings in the shop on certain days the wines were really singing, and we started noticing these were on fruit or flower days – usually a fruit day,” Amps says. “We started changing all our big commercial tastings to only ever doing them on a fruit day. The first time we did one on the fruit day we saw a 30% increase on orders on the previous year. “It was noticeable the amount of people who said, ‘I could buy any wine you have on display here tonight; they are all delicious’.

The horns of plenty of controversy

THE WINE MERCHANT JULY 2019 38

© FreeProd / stockadobe.com

From page 37


“This was a real trigger for us because we made the change and we got an instant response from consumers who didn’t know we’d done anything different. From that point forward we started to monitor it. “It’s not an exact science, as some people will tell you it is, but it’s more of a guide that on a fruit day the wines do really sing.”

A

mps and his team now talk to customers a lot about biodynamic principles. “Mainly because, as we’ve discovered, it’s not just about tasting. More and more we are finding that those accurate, precise, really well-made wines are from people who are acting under biodynamic principles. Those people make great wine.” Amps is one of the wine trade’s thinkers and not a man easily impressed by extravagant claims or marketing guff. So how does he make sense of a philosophy that some critics argue is no more credible than astrology? “I’ve read a lot about it and I’ve read a lot about how other people are interpreting it,” he says. “You’ve got the people who take it through to the burying of the cow horns and they believe that makes a difference … even in their office, restaurant, cellar door, from start to finish they are operating under biodynamic principles and their whole world is run by it. “Then there are those who just pick and choose the bits that work for them; those who use it to bring their soils back to life.

Harvest time at Albury. Disease has never been an issue, Wenman says

We’ve always said that poor soil is the best thing, but actually we’re realising that if vines are healthy, they will look after themselves. “Vines go through a conversion: they go from expecting to have their antibiotic or sprays every other week, and at first they

struggle and you lose production. And then they come through the other side and start becoming disease resistant. “It’s hugely complex. I’m pretty sure it was Paul Boutinot who said, biodynamics is all about mumbo jumbo – but it’s mumbo jumbo that works.”

THE CASE AGAINST / ‘THERE IS NOT A SCINTILLA OF TRUTH’ “Rudolf Steiner was a complete nutcase, a flimflam man with a tremendous imagination, a combination, if you will, of an LSDdropping Timothy Leary with the showmanship of a PT Barnum. His books, writings and lectures should be catalogued under science fiction because there is not a scintilla of truth in any of his writings.”

“The movement is controversial because at its core it is a philosophy, not a science. It is an entanglement of some good, science-based organic practices with alchemy, astrology and homeopathy. As long as biodynamic preparations continue to be at the heart of the movement, it will continue to be questioned by the scientific community.”

“Biodynamic enthusiasts are being ripped off … its promises are fictions. Biodynamic agriculture is quackery. Snake-oil. Complete bullshit. A marketing tool aimed at the badly informed, the gullible and the narcissistic. Don’t let yourself get taken in.”

Stuart Smith

Linda Chalker-Scott

Richard English

Smith-Madrone Winery, California

Associate professor, the Center for

Author of The Wine God Rants blog

Author of the Biodynamics is a Hoax

Precision and Automated Agricultural

blog

Systems, Washington State University

THE WINE MERCHANT JULY 2019 39


THE SPIRITS WORLD

R

um is the most versatile and

varied of spirits, but its virtues can sometimes be its downfall,

making the category hard for consumers to understand.

The default way of segmenting the

market is by colour – white, dark, golden and spiced are easy cues for drinkers,

but perhaps don’t always provide much

information about the nuances of different spirits. The breadth of styles covered by our tasting panel (see article overleaf)

indicates the sheer level of diversity in the sector.

The Whisky Exchange and its sister

wholesale company Speciality Drinks have decided to classify all the rums they sell in a different way and hope it could lead to a

bigger conversation about how rum is sold. Head of buying Dawn Davies is behind

the move, which sees The Whisky

Exchange’s range divided according to how each rum is made and what it tastes like. Store staff are trained to talk to

customers using the new classifications

and the categorisations are appearing on drop-down menus on its website.

The range is divided into single-distillery

rums and “multi-distillery” blends. The

former are then sub-divided into single

traditional column still, single traditional

Dawn Davies hopes her system will encourage trading up

We need to talk about rum A new classification system is designed to help consumers make sense of a sometimes confusing category, says Nigel Huddleston

In addition, rums are being placed

sphere as whisky there needs to be more

tropical and fruity; fruity and spicy; dry

“If they don’t, they won’t go up the ladder

pot still, single traditional blended and

into six “flavour camps”: light and

into blended traditionalist and blended

and spicy; and rich and treacly.

single modernist rums.

Multi-distillery rums are divided

modernist categories.

uncomplicated; herbaceous and grassy; “If we want to put rum into the same

transparency and some way for the

customer to understand it,” says Davies.

because they’re nervous of changing their habits.

irish whiskey

GIN

SAKE

silkie smooth

the italian job

south london and proud

The upmarket Reserve arm of Diageo is adding an Italian gin called Villa Ascenti to its arsenal. It’s made with Moscato grapes from Piedmont and juniper from Tuscany, the region famed in the spirits world for its juniper as much as it is in wine for its Chianti. Ticket price is a ball park £35.

Kanpai is a sake with a difference: it comes from Peckham, not Japan, though it is made with rice and yeast from the brewed-drink’s original source. With a nod to London’s craft beer scene, the range includes a sparkling, hopped saké called Fizu, and the producer has just signed up with Amathus Drinks for wider distribution.

Donegal-based Sliabh Liag Distillers – pronounced “sleeve league” … and then “distillers” obviously – is releasing Silkie blended Irish whiskey in the UK through Vine Distribution Services. There’s also a “maritime” gin made with five varieties of seaweed called Au Dúlamán, named after a folk song about seaweed collectors. Who knew?

THE WINE MERCHANT JULY 2019 40


“Gold tells you nothing but it’s much

more helpful if consumers can understand that a pot still gives a heavier rum with a

certain character and a modernist rum will have a lighter character.

“We’re not saying there’s anything

negative about any particular style in all of this. I think that’s very important. It’s just about different styles.

“At the end of the day, if we didn’t have

Bacardi, we wouldn’t have half the sales of rum we do in the world. You have to work with what consumers want.”

Davies says that, in practice, the technical

classifications and flavour profiles overlap “95% of the time”.

T

he move has had a broadly warm reception from rum suppliers. Michael Vachon, co-founder

of Rumbullion distributor Maverick

Drinks, says: “Rum has become a pretty

complicated world and people need that

kind of guidance. Things like this do a lot to break down the barriers and demystify the category.”

Joseph Walsh, commercial director for

Angostura rum supplier Distell Europe,

adds: “Classifying rums in a new way for

curious consumers is helpful. However, I do think that the idea of distinguishing rums based on the type of still alone may not

go far enough. One alternative could be to classify by raw material – cane juice, cane syrup or molasses. This has an impact on the final product.

“I like the idea of ‘flavour camps’. It

moves rum into the same domain as

whisky and wine profiles which consumers will feel comfortable with already.”

Thomas Hurst, creator of the Rockstar

Spirits rum range, says: “It’s similar to the

work supermarkets did a few years ago in

terms of ranging malt whisky according to taste profile.

No. 8

“This makes it easier to expand your

brand repertoire with confidence and

is great for people who are new to the category.

“The system also helps to improve

the classification process for rum

geeks who can deep-dive into their

preferred provenance and production methodologies.”

Samantha Burke, managing director of

Love Drinks, whose portfolio includes El

Dorado and Don Q rums, adds: “It’s great to see The Whisky Exchange challenging the status quo.

“More needs to be done to help

consumers easily discover the different

styles, origins, production methods, taste profiles and producers.”

Davies is aware how daunting it could be

Recent NPD has redefined “pink gin” to mean something very different from a few years ago. The Pink Gin cocktail was originally a simple serve of gin punched forward by a dash or three of Angostura bitters. Here’s a modern, pinkthemed upgrade without using a modern pink gin. Hoxton’s split-theroom grapefruit and coconut gin does the trick, though actual pinkcoloured pink grapefruit variations of Whitley Neill or Chase make great Instagrammable alternatives if that’s your thing. Bob’s Bitters and The Bitter Truth both make grapefruit bitters.

for non-spirits specialists to undertake the same process with their own rum range.

“If they want my classifications, how I’ve

laid it out or my crib sheets, I’m happy to share them,” she adds.

“If we don’t talk to other people we’re

never going to build this as a classification system.”

50cl gin Two or three dashes of bitters Ice

Stir the gin and the bitters in a rocks glass with ice. Strain into a Martini

GIN

vodka

the mancunian way

spirits of speyside

Mancunian civic pride is making its presence felt in gin. Manchester Gin is planning an edition to honour the Hacienda nightclub, Didsbury Gin has made a spirit in the style of Manchester Tart, a delicacy with flavours of raspberry, vanilla, coconut and Maraschino cherry, while city marketing vehicle I Heart MCR has made a gin with City of Manchester Distillery and jam firm Duerr’s.

Eight Lands vodka is one of two products from start-up Speyside distiller Glenrinnes. It’s made with barley and wheat, bottled at 42% abv and made in pot and column stills. The company is eschewing the region’s whisky tradition for now and also making Eight Lands gin containing local sorrel and cowberries in its botanical bill.

THE WINE MERCHANT JULY 2019 41

glass. A fancy upgrade involves coating the glass with the bitters, shaking out any excess and adding gin from a chilled bottle.


GOLDEN AND SPICED RUM EDITORIAL TASTING

ANGOSTURA 7 YEAR OLD

CHAIRMAN'S RESERVE ORIGINAL

Appropriately for something that’s been

In an era where so many producers chuck

seven years, this rum has got tremendous

no-nonsense rum with few airs and graces

sitting around in once-filled bourbon casks in a warehouse in Trinidad & Tobago for staying power. A wonderful, lingering

honey, melon and spice finish comes after initial chocolate and toffee overtures,

DIPLOMATICO MANTUANO With Diplomático’s distributor bidding to

the kitchen sink into their spirits in the

refocus minds on production methods over

is very welcome. This is a well-made,

and pot still spirits aged in American oak

hope that they land on the latest trend, a approachable, all-rounder from St Lucia,

as at home neat with a lump of ice or in a

colour we should note that this 8-year-

old blend combines column, batch kettle from bourbon and Scotch casks. More

pertinently, it’s a joyously complex drink,

a reminder that a bit of controlled

Golden Mojito. The Ben Stokes of the rum world – but not nearly so belligerent. Emporia Brands RRP £24

leading to luscious spices and a rich texture.

DON PAPA SMALL BATCH

EL DORADO 5 YEAR OLD

GOSLINGS GOLD SEAL

complexity can be fun.

Distell Europe RRP £28.45

Rum’s versatility means that there really is something to suit all tastes. This seven-

year-old spirit goes some way to proving

Plenty of rum producers use wood to

age their spirit but using it as the actual

distillation apparatus is a different kettle of

the point, with a powerful vanilla – almost

sugar cane. El Dorado is made by Demerara

more composed affair on the taste, with

This rum also spends at least five years in

Quintessential Brands RRP £32

Love Drinks RRP £26

cream soda – nose, with some soft

pineapple chunkiness underneath. It’s a a swirling creamy depth that could add complexity to a Piña Colada.

Distillers of Guyana in what is claimed to

with soft dried fruit and oak aromas Speciality Brands RRP £32

The Bermudan distiller’s Black Seal is

the original rum of the Dark ’n’ Stormy

cocktail and this detour into golden was

its first launch in a century. A liaison with once-used American bourbon oak leaves

be the world’s only wooden column still.

pleasant traces of vanilla and butterscotch,

sipping experience.

dark partner’s signature serve.

oak resulting in an intense but rewarding

THE WINE MERCHANT JULY 2019 42

though there’s enough cinnamon and, er,

ginger spice to work as a paler twist on its Love Drinks RRP £22.50


HOXTON BANANA

NEPTUNE

Hoxton has been among the more divisive

This super-smooth, start-up golden rum is

of coconut and grapefruit botanicals

race horse breeder and hot air balloon

of the modern gins that have deluged

the market in recent years, its inclusion

offending some juniper zealots. Fear not, the dominant flavour in its first rum is

a subtle sort of banoffee pie waft that’s

PIRATE'S GROG SPICED The latest addition from the rum brand

the creation of British polymath Richard

that embraces the spirit’s yo-ho-ho image

pilot – but is made at the highly-rated

classic rum cocktails or sitting in a rocks

Davies – at various times a restaurateur,

Bajan distillery Foursquare. Top marks for being able to claim on the label to be both

deliciously balances spice and sweetness. It will be equally at home twisting

glass with ice for a warming late-night

treat. Excitingly, it’s made with a secret

crying out to be turned into a banana

British Rum of the Year and Barbados Rum

RED LEG

RUMBULLION

TWO SWALLOWS

The red leg hermit crab that this rum’s

With its brown paper label and black wax

Billed as a spiced rum but, as the dominant

when feeding. It’s apt, then, that it’s a

Cloves dominate the spiced Caribbean

might be a better word. It’s all very

daiquiri.

Emporia Brands RRP £31.50 (50cl)

named after is prized by aquarium owners, partly because it cleans up after itself

very clean spirit, balanced and buffed of

of the Year in 2018.

Neptune Rum RRP £37.99

seal, Rumbullion is one of the coolest-

looking customers on the spirits shelf.

rum’s aroma, while a honeyed whisky-

rough edges with harmonious ginger and

barrel sweetness brings to mind a fireside

crustacean on the label.

Maverick Drinks RRP £35.95

vanilla flavours, a smooth texture and the only fieriness in the scarlet limbs of the High Spirits RRP £20

glass of Drambuie – no bad thing in our book. Turns out rum really can be for sipping neat after all.

THE WINE MERCHANT JULY 2019 43

ingredient – if only we could find that treasure map.

Pirate’s Grog Rum RRP £32

active ingredients are actually sweet

lemons and salted caramel, “leavened”

pleasant, the pair taking turns to do the

lifting on aroma and palate respectively.

The creator’s ancestor was Matthew Webb, first man to swim the Channel, and the

name references a traditional naval tattoo. Rockstar Spirits RRP £25


SMALL BUSINESS MATTERS WITH WBC

Smashing eco credentials might mean smashed bottles Ideally all wine transit packaging would be eco-friendly. It isn’t always the case, says WBC boss Andrew Wilson, but the quest for greener options is continuing

A

s a packaging business, we

presently available for the high-value,

have been trying to balance the

temperature-sensitive items that many of

three key concerns of our wine

you sell. Rather than take a hard line on

audience for some time now: cost versus

this, I rather think my job is to offer my

level of protection and environmental

customers the unvarnished truth about the

friendliness. With the new Producer

packaging options open to them and allow

Responsibility Regulations 2017 looking

them to make a choice.

likely to come into force in 2020, our

current “tax” of £18,000 could possibly

How green is your transit

increase tenfold to £180,000. That alone is

packaging?

When customers ask why you’ve sent their

enough to focus the mind.

Eighty per cent of the wine packaging

we sell has a high recycled content

and is 100% recyclable. In an ideal

world, we would not sell the other less environmentally friendly 20% which includes polystyrene and plastic. So

Breakages in transit are the curse of retailers

why do we? In almost all cases, they

are in fact the best if not only solutions

BIODEGRADABLE v RECYCLABLE PLASTIC Our current bubble wrap and plastic bags are recyclable but not biodegradable. If you make them biodegradable then they cannot be recycled as they are designed to degrade in landfill over an unprovable (in our opinion) length of time. So our feeling was that recyclable was better BUT it is not that easy to recycle a plastic bag and you are not allowed to put them in your domestic recycling bin in a lot of places. More recently we have started to see “compostable” plastic bags being advertised but from our research these will only compost on a carefully managed compost heap that is kept at constant 60 degrees and with the correct levels of humidity. This rules out most domestic compost heaps – so how does the consumer compost them? There seem to be initiatives in place to improve recycling of plastic so our feeling is that in the medium term, recyclability is better than biodegradability and compostability.

THE WINE MERCHANT JULY 2019 44

wine in polystyrene or inflatable plastic transit pack, what do you say? Can it be

recycled? Is there a more environmentally friendly alternative (MEFA)? These

are questions you will grapple with

increasingly, but they become secondary when safe delivery is at play.

Breakages in transit are the curse of the

modern wine retailer. One breakage usually renders the rest of the case unsaleable,

and the costs involved can be painful. On higher value or rare bottles, they may be

irreplaceable altogether. So there’s a choice to be made.

Eco versus level of protection

Polystyrene or inflatable plastic transit

packaging is used as commercially safe

courier-approved packaging for sending

bottles. Many companies claim polystyrene is recyclable but the truth is, try putting it in your recycling bin and you will


The future of wine packaging

Where does the future lie for offering

environmentally friendly wine packaging? We have noted the emergence of

lightweight and plastic wine bottles as well as cans and refillable bottles and we all do well to keep track of these developments.

We are actually launching a new box that

fits through a standard letterbox and holds two of the new flat Garcon Wine bottles.

I am not sure I would want a flat bottle of wine dropped through my letterbox but I am probably not the target audience!

We are also looking at honeycomb card

options to replace polystyrene but the cost and speed of use are prohibitive at the WBC has planted more than 30,000 trees – one for every transit packaging order received

usually find it’s rejected. Our polystyrene

Courier-approved eco options

that are able to do so in the UK are few

couriers or doing your own deliveries)

is EPS expanded polystyrene and whilst it is 100% recyclable, recycling centres and far between. This is a thoroughly

modern conundrum and reflects the level of protection v MEFA decisions that wine retailers need to make.

Biodegradable options

In our quest for the greenest wine

packaging available, we’ve found that often many biodegradable materials are even

more damaging to the environment as they break down into microplastic particles

that end up in the water courses and food chains. If plastic is the problem, the lack of efficient infrastructure to recycle it at present is compounding it. Whilst 82%

of card packaging is recycled, this drops to 44.9% for plastic. So how does that

help you? Well knowledge is power, and

whilst both these transit options fail the

MEFA test, they pass the level of protection with flying colours, so from a customer

satisfaction level, there simply is no other

alternative at present for high-value wines (although we are working on it!).

It is not all bad news though: for lower

value bottles (or those of you with careful the world is a greener place with bottle

backing and transits that carry up to 70% recycled content and which are 100% recyclable pretty much anywhere.

We are by no means the only provider

of transit packaging and no better or

worse than others in terms of our constant struggle to be greener and still deliver a product that works. However, as a large

user of wood-based products, we decided to try and minimise our impact at the

moment.

However, we keep trying. Little things

can go a long way, and it’s important that they spill into how you run your place of work too; replacing bottled water in the

office with filtered tap water and reusable bottles; going “back to the future” with

milk delivered in glass bottles … we even have a compost heap (a great testing

ground for supposedly biodegradable

plastic compost bags – all of which have failed the 18-month test so far!)

The fact is, as a small business owner

trying to navigate my way through kinder materials and practices, I’m not about to

save the world on my own. But every little surely has to help.

height of the CO2 story 10 or so years ago.

In true WBC style, we decided to go it alone and bought 61 acres of land near Bordeaux (mainly because it was way cheaper than

buying land in the UK) and planted a tree for every transit packaging order that

was placed with us. Over the years, we

planted 30,000 trees that are still a way

off from being harvested. It is just one of

several actions we as a small business have taken along with being transparent with

our customer bases and reviewing all our packaging to find MEFA where we can.

THE WINE MERCHANT JULY 2019 45

Andrew Wilson of WBC


NEW GENERATION WINES

Callie Louw Porseleinberg

Take 5 New Wave South Africa is back in London this September: the perfect tasting for any merchant who wants to catch up with the coolest producers from the world’s most exciting, dynamic and occasionally bonkers wineproducing nation. We asked five of the organising importers to nominate just one star name from their portfolio that they think independents should put on their must-taste list on the day. But there will be 55 producers represented in all, including the likes of Eben Sadie, Blank Bottle, Lismore, Reyneke and many, many more. Register now at newwavesa.co.uk

Callie Louw personifies the raw culture of a New Wave winemaker. That said, he’d prefer to be known as a farmer. “The thing I like most is farming. The winemaking side of things is an opportunity to see how well you’ve farmed,” he says. In the Swartland, just a few miles south east of Riebeek-Kasteel and perched on a rugged outcrop lies Porseleinberg (Porcelain Mountain). The farm presents a stark contrast to the delicacy and fragility which its name suggests. This extreme terroir of brutal schist soil is, Callie admits, the toughest land he’s ever farmed. The harsh drought which has gripped the Western Cape over recent years has tested the most resolute individuals in these parts. But Callie isn’t fazed: “If farming were easy, everyone would be giving it a go. Tough years like these make for some exciting wines and, more importantly, expose how well – or poorly – we’ve farmed,” he says. Uncomplicated wine growing is followed by minimal winemaking: 100% wholebunch and fermented in concrete, the wine undergoes élévage in a combination of concrete eggs and foudres. The result is a Syrah of incredible intensity and focus, more akin to Cornas or Hermitage. The most extravagant pastime at Porseleinberg is label printing. Callie carefully prints each label on his restored 1940s Heidelberg press. Don’t expect Callie to try and convince you that his wine is good or worthy of media praise: on the contrary, he’ll likely shrug and tell you to drink something else. If you don’t enjoy his wine, there’s no need for panic. His Syrah will outlive many wines – so perhaps your kids will get the pleasure …

Tuesday September 3 Vinyl Factory Soho THE WINE MERCHANT JULY 2019 46

INDIGO WINE

Johan Meyer JH Meyer Wines Johan Meyer, a rising star of the New Wave South African wine scene, makes his JH Signature Wines from selected grapes in the cool regions of Elgin, for the Pinot, and Walker Bay for the Chardonnay. “I fell in love with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay while working in Santa Barbara,” he says. “There’s great potential for both grapes in South Africa, and, as they are less widely planted, you have a chance to put your own stamp on the wines if you do a good job.” Johan is passionate about sustainable winemaking, which is one reason why he’s invested in his own vineyards rather than relying on bought-in grapes. He’s recently bought land in the northern Swartland where he’s now planting vines and building a winery and cellar. To start with the focus is on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, along with Chenin Blanc, which he regards as the region’s signature variety. The holistic approach that Johan takes was inspired by time working in California with Tom Lubbe and in Roussillon at Domaine Matassa. Closer to home, his inspiration has come from the likes of Adi Badenhorst, the Mullineuxs, Eben Sadie and the Swartland Revolution. “It opened doors for the younger producers in South Africa such as myself,” he says. “I met a great group of people there, and the contacts I made have helped me to build my business and continue to develop as a winemaker.”


FMV

SWIG

Chris Mullineux Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines

Adi Badenhorst

Andrea and Chis Mullineux: tannin nerds, winemakers and viticulturists. They met on a train in France in 2004, when Andrea was working the harvest in Châteauneufdu-Pape, and Chris in Bandol. They discovered a mutual passion for elegant and finessed old-world wines and headed back to Stellenbosch to recreate this style using modern winemaking. Andrea and Chris make their Mullineux range from vines in Stellenbosch. The Leeu Passant wines derive from Franschhoek. It is Andrea who takes care of all things in the cellar; Chris is in the vineyards. Since 2007, when they began their winery, they have farmed organically, allowing natural yeasts into the cellar. Most of the vineyards are bush vines, including the whites, so all work is done by hand rather than machine, enabling them to preserve the topsoils. In the cellar, Andrea likes to do as little as possible and to work as gently as possible, only using sulphur at bottling. It is the soils which define their wines. Vines for the whites, predominately Chenin, are grown on granite, schist and quartz. Those for the reds, mainly Syrah, are grown on granite, schist and koffieklip (aka iron ‘coffeestone’). Granite gives acidity, perfume and length and allows the vine roots to grow deep into the earth, leading to bushy canopies. Schist makes for more shallow roots and smaller canopies, giving the whites more phenolic fruit with high concentration, and leading to structured wines that are tightest and most brooding up front. Quartz soil gives their Chenin a sunshine and white spice character and the koffieklip gives generosity on the mid-palate.

DREYFUS-ASHBY

Newton Johnson Family Vineyards Newton Johnson was founded in the mid-1990s by Cape Wine Master (CWM) Dave Johnson and his wife, Felicity (née Newton). Over the past 20 years, the winery has built a reputation for producing some of the Cape’s finest Pinot Noirs. This is not a massive surprise since Dave’s CWM thesis was on the variety. Add to that one of the smartest Chardonnays in the country plus, more recently, a pair of outstanding Rhône-style wines and – the result? Well, three Platter Five Stars in the 2016 guide is a good benchmark to start with. Dave and Felicity bought the current farm in 2001; it was virgin land, untainted by chemicals. There was a conscious effort to plant only the best virus-free vine stock. Having established the vineyards and built themselves a new cellar, their reputation accelerated quickly once they began to work with their own fruit in 2009. Today, there are 15ha of vines planted on north-facing slopes of the Upper Hemel-enAarde Valley, with a further 3.5ha on southfacing sites which are planted exclusively to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. These are orientated directly towards the cooling South Atlantic Ocean. The soils are based on a vein of decomposed granite which the NewtonJohnsons believe gives linearity and a particular perfumed quality to their estategrown wines.

THE WINE MERCHANT JULY 2019 47

Adi Badenhorst was a founding member of the Swartland Revolution, which really was the catalyst for New Wave South Africa. It was incredibly liberating for other non-conformist producers. They saw what Adi was doing, making wines with soul, and immense character, without investing anything in the cellar (the most expensive bit of kit in the Badenhorst cellar is the espresso machine). The ripple effect of the Revolution and New Wave South Africa is being felt worldwide, and few new-wave winemakers around the world don’t know of Badenhorst, or wouldn’t doff their cap out of respect for his pioneering spirit. In 2008, after nine years at Rustenberg, Adi bought a piece of land in the Paardeberg with his cousin, Hein. Here they found the oldest Grenache vines in South Africa, but also wonderful old bushvine Chenin and Cinsault. They practice biological farming and make natural wines in the traditional manner. The entry-level wines, Secateurs, are made from oldvine Chenin and Cinsault, and are still remarkably well priced at £13.50 retail despite being placed among the top ranks with the Huet Vouvrays by The World of Fine Wine. The Family white and red, which are multi-variety blends, have amazing depth, complexity and ageability. Adi has planted 10 Mediterranean varieties which will bear fruit soon. Badenhorst is a paradox in that he is anti-establishment, but has utmost respect for the great wines of the past. He also has respect for the humble wines of the past that made daily life better and, in the search for what made these wines so good and ageworthy, he has embraced the simplicity of what his forebears did.


There’s something brewing in wine merchants

Coffee is big business for hundreds of independent wine merchants. We asked five indies what hardware they use in their premises – and if they would recommend it to other retailers

Dan O’Connor Yardarm, Leyton La Marzocco Linea Classic Yardarm buys its beans from Square Mile Coffee Roasters and gets through 20kg a week, making around 300 cups per day over the weekends. O’Connor and his partner Eliza bought their machine outright. “It’s by no means the cheapest option,” he explains, “but there is a quality assurance with the brand and customers will know you mean business when they see it behind your counter. “It’s easy to programmme to any size of espresso, from lattes to piccolos. The number of styles is only limited by the number of different cups you want to get. “I have used many machines over the years and find the La Marzocco to be one of the most consistent and reliable machines available. Cleaning takes less than 10 minutes at the end of every day – occasionally twice a day if it’s very busy and gets a lot of use. “Getting a good quality grinder is just as important. We went for a Victoria Arduino Mythos One.”

THE WINE MERCHANT JULY 2019 48

Jeff Folkins Dalling & Co Kings Langley San Remo Verona “There are lots of good machines out there and every supplier will tell you a dozen reasons why theirs is the best … a gazillion boilers, superior steam arms, gold-plated and diamondstudded bits, which apparently justifies the relatively huge expense of what is a high-powered kettle with bells and whistles,” says Folkins. And he should know, as he’s now on his third machine in 10 years. “Some are better than others, for sure,” he says, “but if someone’s looking to get one I would advise to look at the value in leasing versus buying outright. Also, they can be expensive to fix and can take time to do so – make sure that the supplier/ service provider offers a loan machine as an option.” As for his San Remo Verona: “I would recommend a two-group machine. You don’t need a threegroup unless you’re planning on running a concession at Heathrow!”


Rich Eagle Grape & Bean, Hexham

Jake Crimmin Barrique Wine Store Lytham

Casadio Dieci 2 Rich and Helen Eagle bought Bin 21 a year ago and re-branded as Grape & Bean. They inherited the coffee machine with the business, which came with a lease purchase agreement from Ringtons, which also supplies the coffee. “There is lots of local competition,” admits Eagle, “but we get rave reviews about our Dark Horse coffee – we use a really strong, dark roast.” He says his machine is “very simple to use”, but all his staff are trained baristas. “It’s not an automated machine,” he explains. “There is a process to go through with each style of coffee you’re making, whether it’s a flat white, a latte or a mocha, so you have to know what you’re doing. It does need to be flushed through every night, but that’s very simple with just a couple of buttons to press. It’s connected to the mains water and it’s fairly straightforward. “I think machines are all fairly generic really; they all do a similar thing. It’s about the coffee you use. “There are ridiculous margins on cups of coffee, plus it’s a really good way of getting people in.”

Nespresso Aguila 220

Jackie Peirson North Coast Wine Company, Bude La Spaziale EK2 As the bar manager at North Coast Wine, Peirson is very hands-on with the coffee machine, which she says has been in place for 18 months. “I’ve worked with a couple of different coffee machines in the past and this one is so easy to reset and programme,” she says. “You can learn how to use it in a matter of minutes – it’s quite self-explanatory. “It runs really smoothly and it’s surprisingly easy to clean. It’s brilliant.” North Coast sells a lot of coffee and the customers are eager to learn about the different styles available. “We like to make sure the coffee tastes right,” Peirson says, “so we’re always testing it and making sure that the grind is perfect for the machine.” The company sources its coffee from Monsoon Estates, near Stratfordupon-Avon.

THE WINE MERCHANT JULY 2019 49

“Nespresso do a couple of different deals where you can buy the machine outright or have it on a lease with a minimum pod order,” says Crimmin. “This may work out at about twice the price of a normal beans-to-grind coffee machine, but it saves us money in labour because it’s so easy to use.” The machine produces everything from hot chocolate to iced lattes. Crimmin says that its automated system means “someone can pretty much run a busy coffee service on their own”. He adds: “We’ve had it for three years and we’ve had the engineer out a few times for various things but the service has always been really good. “I’ve worked in restaurants before where you have proper barista coffee and the machines are so high-maintenance. This produces consistently good coffee and I always recommend it to anyone who’s interested.”


SUPPLIER BULLETIN

walker & Wodehouse 109a Regents Park Road London NW1 8UR 0207 449 1665 orders@walkerwodehousewines.com www.walkerwodehousewines.com

LET’S GET FIZZICAL Last chance to get your hands on W&W’s Summer Promotions – 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.

@WalkerWodehouse 10% OFF RIDGEVIEW BLANC DE NOIRS BRUT 2014 Stay local with Ridgeview’s sumptuous Blanc de Noirs. Rich, earthy red fruit on the nose and a long finish.

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Nestled between Carcassonne and the Pyrenees, the

countryside of Limoux hosts some of the oldest vineyards in France. With more than 2,000 years of history, the Sainte-

Hilaire vineyard is a true gem in the region’s crown. Indeed, the vine-growing culture is mentioned here in the writings of the Roman historian Tite-Live in the 1st century.

Domaine Les Ors, situated on the sunny hillsides of the

Pyrenees foothills, is named in honour of ‘Les Ours’– the Catalan word for the bears that once used to roam this

landscape. The often extreme Mediterranean climate is

naturally tempered by elevation and cooling ocean breezes. Here the grapes can ripen slowly in a more Burgundian style, maintaining freshness and adding a real finesse.

Our fruit is hand-picked to avoid crushing the grapes, which

HIGHLY COMMENDED

must arrive in the winery in whole bunches for pressing. Limoux

white wines are unique in being the only Languedoc appellation where fermentation and ageing must occur in large oak casks, for anything up to 10 months.

A blend of 75% Chardonnay with 25% Mauzac, it offers a nose of vanilla, candied

tropical fruit and toasted hazelnut notes. A well-balanced, fresh palate with a great background minerality and delicious texture follows. Not your typical Languedoc Chardonnay ….

THE WINE MERCHANT JULY 2019 50


Michael Seresin is a Marlborough pioneer. In the 1990s, when he founded Seresin

LOUIS LATOUR AGENCIES

Estate, he eschewed the conventional and instead created a haven where vines, olive groves, vegetable gardens and livestock coexisted, a pocket teeming with life.

He was influenced by his experiences in Italy and adopted organic and biodynamic

practices early on. His approached has always been to make wines as naturally as

possible, without compromising on quality. Seresin Estate wines have a sense of time

12-14 Denman Street London W1D 7HJ

and place that comes from the land, the season and the hands of the people that made them. Seresin Reserve Chardonnay

0207 409 7276

A selection of the year’s most interesting

barrels which receive further ageing in large

enquiries@louislatour.co.uk www.louislatour.co.uk

puncheons to allow the wines further time to develop and integrate. The result has

poise and concentration, savoury with finely balanced oak characters and warm orchard

fruits. It has a broad mouthfeel backed with acidity and salinity.

Seresin Tatou Pinot Noir Low-yielding vines help bring depth and allow the essence of the site to fully express

itself in the finished wine. It has aromas of wild hedgerow fruit with undertones of spice, earth and dried herbs. The palate is dense, with fine-grained tannins giving structure to softly textured bramble and rosehip notes. A very elegant wine.

Tuscany 2016 – the best ever?

liberty wines

By David Gleave MW

020 7720 5350

“2016 is the best vintage I’ve seen in 40 years,” announced Giovanni

order@libertywines.co.uk www.libertywines.co.uk

region joined him in hailing the vintage a uniform success.

alone, as Paolo De Marchi of Isole e Olena and producers from across the

What made 2016 so special? In short, the cool autumn extended the

growing season and lent the wines a particular freshness, acidity and tannin structure, which makes them immediately approachable but

@liberty_wines

gives them everything they need to age beautifully. The Chiantis are

now in stock, while the highly-sought after top wines from these estates (Cepparello, Flaccianello, Fontalloro etc) will arrive in September.

The tasting also introduced two additions to our list. ‘Vigneto Erchi’

is a new single-vineyard Chianti Rufina from Selvapiana and represents

the first time this south-facing plot has been bottled separately. The Chianti Classico Riserva from Félsina comes from sites across the estate

18

CH

AL

AL

RNATION TE

IN

Manetti of Fontodi at our recent Tuscany tasting in London. He wasn’t

LEN G E 2

MERCHANT OF THE YEAR

0

and complements the single-vineyard ‘Rancia’, offering a richer style of Sangiovese.

By the end of the tasting the excitement had spread from the producers

to those tasting the wines – complex, alluring and beautifully balanced wines that will be enjoyed and remembered in the years to come.

THE WINE MERCHANT JULY 2019 51


SUPPLIER BULLETIN

hatch mansfield New Bank House 1 Brockenhurst Road Ascot Berkshire SL5 9DL 01344 871800 info@hatch.co.uk www.hatchmansfield.com @hatchmansfield

richmond wine agencies

Strandveld Vineyards – First Sighting

The Links, Popham Close Hanworth Middlesex TW13 6JE

defined by severe winds, billowing mist

020 8744 5550 info@richmondwineagencies.com

@richmondwineag1

Hailing from the fashionable coastal Cape

Agulhas region, Strandveld Vineyards are and below-average temperatures. This

southernmost vineyard area in Africa is ideal for aromatic whites and cool-climate reds. RWA are pleased to have taken on an

award-winning pair of wines under the

First Sighting label which pays homage

to the Portuguese sailors who discovered this corner of the continent in 1488. The

Sauvignon Blanc is a blast of tropical and

citrus fruits with a minerality derived from the terroir while the Shiraz exhibits white pepper and spice associated with cooler climates.

The Sauvignon Blanc has just won Gold

(96 points) at the 2019 Decanter World Wine Awards while the Shiraz picked up a Silver.

THE WINE MERCHANT JULY 2019 52


buckingham schenk Unit 5, The E Centre Easthampstead Road Bracknell RG12 1NF 01753 521336 info@buckingham-schenk.co.uk www.buckingham-schenk.co.uk

@BuckSchenk @buckinghamschenk

Cave de Cairanne Cave de Cairanne is one of the latest producers to join our indies portfolio and this outstanding cooperative is one of the unsung heroes of the Southern Rhône. Founded in 1929, it gathers 65 local growers who are passionate about their cooperative at the heart of their community. Spearheaded by head winemaker Denis Crespo who believes in making wine like a small producer rather than a larger operation, its focus is on making wines with minimal intervention, that are ready to drink and be shared rather than rot away in dusty cellars. This cracking Cairanne red is perfect example of that, with bags of red fruit, great structure and concentration. It has a deliciously long and round finish which you’d expect from the Cairanne appellation. Please contact info@buckingham-schenk.co.uk whilst we still have some stock!

hallgarten wines Gérard Bertrand, ‘Hampton Water’ Rosé 2018 - RRP £19.99

Dallow Road Luton LU1 1UR 01582 722 538

Languedoc-Roussillon, France

sales@hnwines.co.uk www.hnwines.co.uk

Voted the top pink in the world in Wine Spectator’s coveted Top 100 ranking with a 90-point score, this trendy rosé, made in collaboration with rock superstar Jon Bon Jovi, his son Jesse and French winemaker Gérard Bertrand, has everything to be the talk of the summer.

@hnwines “A nicely crafted rosé, with a hint of creamy richness lining the strawberry, melon and white cherry flavors. A dash of minerality imparts depth through the long, mouthwatering finish. A crowdpleaser. Grenache, Cinsault, Mourvèdre and Syrah. Drink now” Available exclusively from Hallgarten & Novum Wines.

THE WINE MERCHANT JULY 2019 53


SUPPLIER BULLETIN

fine wine partners Thomas Hardy House 2 Heath Road Weybridge KT13 8TB 07552 291045 info@finewinepartners.co.uk www.finewinepartners.co.uk

Fine Wine Partners The home of some of Australia’s most iconic, beloved and highest awarded producers. Contact us to continue the spread the message of Australia’s diversity, character and share in these amazing wines.

AWIN BARRATT SIEGEL WINE AGENCIES 28 Recreation Ground Road Stamford Lincolnshire PE9 1EW 01780 755810 orders@abswineagencies.co.uk www.abswineagencies.co.uk

@ABSWines

10:30 - 18:00 11 09 2019 ONE GREAT GEORGE STREET WESTMINSTER LONDON SW1P 3AA RSVP to Lesley Gray at lg@abswineagencies.co.uk or call 01306 631155 to register

THE WINE MERCHANT JULY 2019 54


mentzendorff The Woolyard 52 Bermondsey Street London SE1 3UD

Bollinger Rosé demonstrates unique blending and red-winemaking skills: a true alchemy and a very technical wine. Since Bollinger Rosé was created in 2008, the Poirier Saint-Pierre and Montboeuf plots, in Verzenay, are worked in the same style as the Côte aux Enfants plot to complete the production. A small amount (between 5 and 6%) of Pinot Noir is vinified as red wine, helping to add a powerful element to the finished wine.

020 7840 3600 info@mentzendorff.co.uk www.mentzendorff.co.uk

“If it’s lobster, smoked salmon or perhaps a lingering picnic before the performance starts, Bollinger Rosé, with its tangy fruit, beautiful colour and power on the palate, is an ideal match. A sensational wine, with silky strawberry, cherry and toast.” Will Lyons, The Sunday Times Magazine, 2nd June 2019

For details and pricing please contact your account manager

enotria & COE 23 Cumberland Avenue London NW10 7RX www.enotriacoe.com 020 8961 5161

@EnotriaCoe

THE WINE MERCHANT JULY 2019 55


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