Page 1

THE WINE MERCHANT. An independent magazine for independent retailers

Issue 84, September 2019

Dog of the Month: Elmo Aitken Wines, Dundee

Catford cocktail king

Xhulio Sina’s mixing things up in south London see page 26

Trade counts the cost of no deal Introduction of VI-1 paperwork is likely to create delays at ports and put more burdens on importers


ith the prospect of a no-deal Brexit looking increasingly likely, independent wine

merchants are braced for disruption – and potentially increased costs – during their busiest trading period after October 31.

The government has pledged a 12-month

suspension of World Trade Organisation tariffs on wine in the event of no deal.

These tariffs could eventually add up to

The Wine & Spirit Trade Association

7p-10p on a bottle of still wine and 21p on

estimates this will add £330 costs for each

reassurance on the introduction of VI-1

VI-1 requirements would be detrimental

a bottle of sparkling.

But Whitehall has given no such

forms – the paperwork accompanying

wines imported into the EU, which include mandatory laboratory analysis of each wine.

of the estimated 500,000 wines arriving in the UK from within the EU. “Introducing for all businesses importing wine from the EU, especially those which import

Continues page four


Inside this month 6 comings & Goings Good Wine Shop, Vagabond and Lea & Sandeman think bigger

14 tried & tested Eight European wines? What’s the problem with the New World?

Revealed: the greatest wine of all

knowledgeable people with a

genuine enthusiasm (let’s not use that

weasel-word “passion”) for what they do.

And more and more of them don’t own the

businesses that they work in. They’re staff. happened to the old familiar complaints about a lack of skilled, or candidates for jobs, and

26 bottle bar & shop The indie that’s mixing things up in south east London

employees who jump ship at the first opportunity?

who would once have bagged buying

trips or tasting events for themselves are encouraging team members to deputise,

sometimes for educational purposes, but

increasingly to represent the business and make purchasing recommendations or even decisions.

Retailers who once struggled to make time for family life

or strategic planning are

entrusting much of the day-to-

day responsibility to energetic and eager staff – who can

possibly do some of the work

more effectively than the boss

Naturally, all of those


problems must still persist,

34 focus on portugal How independent merchants are succeding with Baga et al

52 focus on asian wines The prospects for China and Japan in the UK market – and our

Supplier Bulletin, page 60

brimming with hard-working,

sufficiently motivated,

time! Or maybe not

Make a Date, page 56;


he independent trade is

How have we reached this point? What

18 david williams

top 10 Asian wines

More than ever, wine retailing is a team sport. So give staff some trust

in some quarters. But it’s

been noticeable in recent

times how many independents

are finding high-quality staff, training

them well and allowing them to take an increasing amount of responsibility. As Jim Nicholson of the rapidly

expanding JN Wines in Northern Ireland says: “The key for me is having good

people and if you’ve got good people, give

them autonomy and to a certain extent let them get on with it. Good young people

working in shops these days want to see the business progress.”

It’s a mantra that others throughout

the trade would subscribe to. Merchants

These are generalisations

that don’t apply everywhere,

and for many merchants, the

luxury of even a single member of staff

seems an improbable and unaffordable prospect. Yet those indies who are in

a position to invest in their teams are reaping rewards.

Wine retail is not a dreary, dead-end job,

or at least it shouldn’t be. New recruits should know that there’s a world of

possibility in front of them, in one of the

friendliest and most fascinating industries on the planet. Give them training. Give

them trust. Give them responsibility. The chances are, everyone will benefit.

THE WINE MERCHANT MAGAZINE 01323 871836 Twitter: @WineMerchantMag Editor and Publisher: Graham Holter Assistant Editor: Claire Harries Sales and Business Development: Georgina Humphrey Accounts: Naomi Young The Wine Merchant is circulated to the owners of the UK’s 905 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 september 2019 2


Importers braced for shipping delays From page one

wine from smaller producers which would be unlikely to engage in the significant additional cost and bureaucracy with

producing a VI-1,” the trade body warns. “This would have a major impact on

the diversity of the wine market in the

UK and would especially impact smaller independent wine merchants.”

Martin Treleaven, owner of the freight

forwarding company Wineflow, says his

business has been planning for Brexit for

still only got two people there doing the

Christmas stock before October 31 even

they’re going to use a VI-1 form. That could

know two things: that I’ve got it here, and


“Defra have got to decide whether

be stamped by four different agencies in

Bordeaux to check the quality of the wine. If they insist on going by WTO rules to the

exact letter, you would have to have both of those forms to ship to the UK. And none of these countries are set up to raise them.”

The Imperial Wine Company in Bungay,

Suffolk, imports 85% of its wine direct and MD Nickie Mackenzie-Daste is concerned about long waits for shipments if the UK crashes out of the EU without a deal.

nearly three years and is “quietly confident

going to go up, whether it’s food or drink.” He adds: “At the moment there’s no

infrastructure anywhere in Europe, in Bordeaux for example, or Beaune, to

physically create the correct paperwork for shipping to the UK. Don’t worry about the

problems at the ports – because nothing’s going to be there.

“The actual documentation is probably

going to be a T-form, which at the moment is used for goods going out of the EU.

There are one or two people in an office in Bordeaux doing that. When you suddenly add, I don’t know, 10,000 shipments a

month out of Bordeaux to the UK, you’ve

time – the only time of the year we actually make any money – and we could have our margins destroyed fairly rapidly.

“I’ve got a bit of a war chest [to bring

forward Christmas imports] but it’s not

ideal and it’s obviously not what I wanted. I think it’s madness, the whole thing.”

He adds: “We could end up with an

things up at.”

£500 to £600 a day,” he says. “If a truck was

that. All that means is the market price is

as well. It’s all happening at the worst

off because I don’t know what to cost

“A normal European truck will cost you

“The trade as a whole will take a hit on

obviously there’s going to be a cost to that

preparations for Christmas but I’m holding


increase in costs of transport overnight.

start to hold things at Manston airport

“Normally by now we’d be doing our

delays and rising costs are likely across the

customs clearance, you’ve gained a 25%

“Our stuff comes through Dover – if they

of that, just as we move into Christmas.

deep” and that if a no-deal Brexit happens,

do have to continuously stop in a port for

that we’ve agreed a price prior to any tariffs.

pound through the floor and tariffs on top

But he admits “the complications are

south of France to the UK, and the vehicles

warehousing charges,” he says. “I’d rather

emergency budget, duty going on wine, the

that we are well and truly ready”.

costing you £2,000 to bring wine out of the

though we’ll have to pay more bonded

Noel Young of NY Wines near Cambridge

Christmas wines have already been imported

“For many goods the regulations will

have changed, and the paperwork won’t

necessarily be correct, and obviously that will cause delays,” she says.

“Delays at ports is a concern because

wine doesn’t like being sat in a lorry

getting too warm or too cold. We use reefer trucks which protect the wines, but even

so we don’t want any of our shipments to sit at the port for several days or several

weeks. I really don’t think the preparations are in place from the country’s point of view for exit and entry of goods.”

Russell Hull, owner of Bexley Wines

in Kent, says wine merchants would be

“mad not to be worried” by the current uncertainty.

“We’re going to try and import all our

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2019 4

doubts the situation will pan out as

disastrously as many have predicted.

He argues the onus is on suppliers rather

than retailers to prepare for a no-deal

Brexit and says his business has “not been stockpiling in the slightest”.

“I don’t personally see there’s suddenly

going to be this apocalypse on November 1,” he adds.

“I think it’s going to be a gradual thing

and that there’s a lot of scaremongering, personally. But I could be wrong.”

The weakening of sterling is an issue

that has already taken its toll on merchants across the UK. “Currency is a pain, but you can’t keep adjusting your prices,” Young says. “You’ve got to suck it up. We were

costing everything at €1.12 and we’re now

getting €1.09, €1.10, so it’s not horrendous but it’s not ideal.

“At the moment I’m just taking a view

that it may well come back a little bit.”

The rush to beat Halloween cut-off According to Martin Treleaven at Wineflow, wine importers have been rushing to get Christmas stock into the UK in advance of October 31’s deadline. “A lot of our larger clients are definitely

going to get their goods in before

November 1,” he says. “There’s no doubt at all. I had four phone calls yesterday

[August 28] from big independents saying, here’s a plan, off you go – you’re going to have a really busy October. We expected that because we did the same thing in February.

“In all fairness it will be slightly harder

this time because this is a much busier period. Yes, there will be a strain on

equipment, but as long as the supply chains that are put in place are stringent, which I would say ours are, then I’m not worried about it.”

Liberty Wines boss David Gleave MW has

tried to stay ahead of the game.

“Our aim is to protect our customers

from the worst effects of a departure from

the EU at the busiest time of the year, so we have been talking to our EU suppliers for the past year,” he says. © scanrail /

“We will have shipped our full Christmas

stock requirement before October 31 in

order to avoid any delays that may occur in in the period immediately after that.”

But he adds: “Dealing with the potential

disruption looks quite easy compared to

the other problems that loom ahead. There is currently little clarity as to what the

situation will be like at the end of October. “All we can do is to plan for the various

contingencies, so we can offer our usual

levels of service. However, we expect to see increased costs due to more bureaucracy to ship wines; more paperwork and

increased lead times will inevitably lead to higher costs.

“In addition, a no-deal Brexit will

inevitably lead to a further weakening of sterling, which means a higher price for

the wines we’re importing. Our customers are squeezed by a contracting economy, so aren’t capable of absorbing all these increases. We expect to have some

interesting discussions with our suppliers over the coming months.”

Nickie Mackenzie-Daste at the

Imperial Wine Company is also making

preparations. “We always hold reasonable stocks in bond anyway,” she says. “But we

will be getting a few more orders in before the end of October just to make sure we’ve got what we need for Christmas time, and lots of colleagues in wine companies up

and down the country are doing exactly the same thing.”

“Our Man with the Facts” • Former off-licence chain Peter Dominic, which has not traded since the early 1990s when it was merged with Thresher, is still a registered business at Companies House. It has a share capital of £10,000 and is owned by Whitbread.

....... • Arguably the most complicated cocktail in the world is the Commonwealth, which contains 71 ingredients, each sourced from a different outpost of the British empire. It was created by Glasgow mixologist Mal Spence for the 2014 Commonwealth Games and includes Scottish wild strawberries, Falkland Island bitter cress, Jamaican okra and Isle of Man new potatoes.

....... • According to a paper published by the University of Adelaide, alcohol makes up nearly two thirds of the world’s recorded expenditure on beverages, the rest being bottled water (8%), carbonated soft drinks (15%), and other soft drinks such as fruit juices (13%).

....... • Durif was first propagated in France in the 1880s, the result of Peloursin and Syrah cross pollinating. In the USA it was called Petite Sirah, creating confusion that has endured ever since. Durif is only approved in one French appellation: Palette, in Provence. Wines waiting in containers has cost implications for the entire supply chain

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2019 5

Fourth branch on the cards for GWS

Freeland seals deal for CA Rookes

The Good Wine Shop is back up to three

After 36 years at the helm, John

shops, three years after selling its Esher

Freeland has agreed a deal that will


eventually hand over full ownership of CA Rookes to Daniel Abbots.

The new branch is a former Oddbins

store in Richmond and is likely to be

Freeland estimates he lost £80,000 and

joined by a fourth site, also in south west

all seven employees in what he calls “the

London, early in the new year, owner Mark

John Major recession” and has kept frugal

Wrigglesworth expects.

habits since those cost-cutting days.

“This site particularly works for us

“We’ve survived literally by working

because geographically it’s right on our

damned hard,” he says.

patch and somewhere I’ve had my eye on

for a number of years,” he says. “It’s only a mile and a half from my Kew shop.”

The store will be “predominantly retail”

but like the existing sites will also sell wine for on-premise consumption.

“The hybrid model has worked very

well for us since we started trialling it two years ago at Kew,” Wrigglesworth

says. “We introduced it earlier this year

at Chiswick. It’s a great chance to interact

with customers and learn about what they like to drink. It makes it a more dynamic environment.”

Wrigglesworth reports that trade has

been strong, with sales ahead on a yearly basis, putting the business in good shape for expansion.

“I’ve loved every minute of it, don’t get

Wrigglesworth reports year-on-year growth

“Difficult times produce opportunities,

and the demise of Oddbins and various

on-trade restaurant chains, and the general difficulty in retail, is meaning that sites are becoming available that perhaps wouldn’t ordinarily have been available,” he says.

“I’m in negotiation on another site at the

momen, again on our patch in south west London, so that’s pretty exciting too.

“It gives the scope and the revenue to

develop a proper management structure

and have specialist people doing specialist jobs.”

Platters that matter Mango wood was once burnt but now this beautiful and incredibly durable material is used for things like Burbage display platters, available from WBC. Designed for display, these nested risers, with an RRP of £35 excluding VAT, fit comfortably inside each other for ease of storage, and can be used as a set or individually for different displays, depending on the whim of the retailer. It’s a smart way of displaying cheese and charcuterie, or maybe even mango.

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2019 6

me wrong. Even those people who never

paid their bloody bills one still has a certain amount of respect for!”

Freeland will continue to hold a stake

in the Stratford-upon-Avon business for a limited time as he helps Abbots become established, and will assist as required.

Freeland says the fine wine drinkers that

once sustained his retail trade are now in short supply, but wholesaling has been a trump card in recent times.

“I’ve loved coming to work because my

interest has been in the production of wine and seeing the enthusiasm of consumers that appreciate it. I think there is a great

future for people like Dan. Independents can adapt – and adapt very quickly.”

Calling all indies!


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THE WINE MERCHANT september 2019 8

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THE WINE MERCHANT september 2019 9

Murphy taps into market forces A new foodie-focused shopping destination in Guildford will be unveiled in mid-September. Guild Foods Market, built on an old

petrol forecourt, will provide 4,000 square metres of retail space and Edward Murphy is leading the way with The Cellar, which

began trading in late August, ahead of the official opening.

Murphy has been in the trade for five

years, cutting his teeth at Taurus Wines. “I

had a good time with Rupert and the team, just a few miles down the road,” he says.

Murphy says he will be joined at Guild

Foods Market by businesses including a

florist, a bakery and a butcher: “all sorts of pop-up departments within one space”.

He’s working with various suppliers to

curate his list of wines and spirits.

“We need to expand the range: small-

batch production artisan gins and some more English wines,” he says.

“We will be looking at more traditional

things too – we don’t want to scare away the customers so we’ll definitely have something for everyone.

“There are no plans for a bar or anything

like that and the next stage will be to

organise a programme of tastings, once the dust has settled.”

Vagabond to open at Canary Wharf

Vagabond is set to launch its latest branch in late October or early November in Canary Wharf. It will be the seventh store for the

steadily expanding business. Tessa

Whitehead, Vagabond’s head of commercial development, says: “It’s a similar size to

our store in Victoria, but this will be split

Vagabond’s Battersea branch

over two floors. Both have killer views of the docks. One new aspect will be from

partnering with Pour My Beer so that we

can introduce 10 self-pour beer taps. In the same spirit as our Paddington store we’ll be running a breakfast menu too.”

Frivolity comes to Darlington

Darlington welcomed its third independent this summer with the arrival of Frivolity Bottle Shop. Owner David Tindale has a wine retail

background, which started in Oddbins “before they went bust the first time round”.

He says: “Like most independent wine

merchants it’s finding that niche between things that multiple retailers don’t sell

whilst trying to deliver value for money to the customer.”

He is looking to appeal to customers with

wines that may need more of a hand-sell but are delivering on quality and price.

“I’ve seen a bit of an explosion with the likes of China, Armenia, Romania and

various eastern European countries, places

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2019 10

that have a winemaking history and until

recently haven’t delivered a really quality product,” he says.

Tindale has been importing wines from

the Loire, an activity he has had to put on the backburner for now as all his capital has been taken up with the new shop.

Importing is something he plans to return to, and with his AWRS already in place, he will be wholesaling “a little further down the line”.

For now he is concentrating on being “a

traditional wine merchant” – he doesn’t have an on-licence but regular tasting events are in the pipeline.

“It’s a very mixed client area,” he says.

“There are a lot of wealthy households

within half a mile of the shop, but equally

there’s quite a diverse mix. There is scope

for people who drink fine wines and I had a few good sales initially from that, but

equally there are people popping in on a weekly basis, just to buy a few bottles of wine, or beers or spirits.”

• Lea & Sandeman is set to open its fifth store this month. The shop, the first the company has opened in 10 years, will be in Fulham, near Parsons Green tube station.

Adeline Mangevine Royds avoids being the next Arkwright The Haslemere Cellar is now trading exclusively online after 27 years on the high street. Having closed the shop in June, owner

Richard Royds says the business has

“ticked over nicely”, even during what he

describes as the traditionally lean period of July and August, just by keeping his

customer base up to date and contacting clients electronically.

“We worked out that we were generating

something like nearly two thirds of our

wine sales from emails we sent out rather

than people just turning up in the shop,” he explains.

“Casual bottle sales were dwindling and

the real substantial part of our sales we

were generating ourselves. Obviously some people would come in and say: ‘Got your

email, we’ll have some of that please’, and

some would reply to the email with ‘please deliver me a case of that’. So we felt we didn’t need to have the shop.”

Royds admits he hasn’t done a full

analysis on the figures but says: “In terms of business rates, rent, electricity, all that sort of stuff, I reckon the first £110,000 we were taking in a year was just going to cover all that, before I’d paid myself

anything. So even if we lose a third of the business we are ahead of the game.”

Does he miss the cut and thrust of day-

to-day retailing? “To be quite honest with you, no,” says Royds. “I’ve stood behind counters for 30 years of my life and I

thought if I didn’t stop soon I’d end up like Arkwright from Open All Hours.”

• Barrique Wines, which opened its first wine shop, bar and deli in Lytham in 2016 and its second branch in Birkdale last autumn, is hopeful of opening a third site in north west England before the end of the year, according to owner Jake Crimmin.

Hasty despatches from the frontline of wine retailing


lexa, what is corkage?

“The noun corkage is usually

defined as a fee charged in a

restaurant for serving wine or liquor

simply ordered the whole bottle, and paid the corkage.”

But Alexa, that’s nuts!

“Yes, it is. You may also find that

brought in by a patron.”

patrons who object to corkage and

table located within the store?

for £31 from decent glassware – will

How does it work in wine shops that

allow, er – patrons – to drink a bottle at a “It’s complicated. The wine store

charges the fee to cover table occupancy, service and glassware which is not

provided if the patron takes the bottle

home to drink. The patron cannot always grasp this basic concept.”

Alexa, what if we just displayed drink-

in and take-out prices and didn’t refer to corkage?

“The patron cannot always grasp this

basic concept.”

What if we didn’t charge corkage at all? “It would probably eat into your

margins if you need two people on

during busy periods – one to serve tables, wash glasses and look after patrons

drinking in, and one to serve those taking wine away. Corkage helps cover these

cannot see the bigger picture – like

drinking a delicious Rosso di Montalcino quite happily order a mass-produced

and utterly mediocre Chianti at the local gastropub for £35 without batting an

It requires a higher form of intelligence to grasp the idea of corkage. Hey, Alexa . . .

eyelid. Or even care it is being served in thick, cheap pub glasses.”

Can’t they tell the difference?

“Of course. They just don’t understand

additional costs. But let’s be honest, it

the economics of a hybrid wine shop

are planning to go the full hybrid. To

whole different experience and they

can also give revenue a bit of a boost.” True, Alexa, true. That’s why we

encourage regular customers to come

in a bit more often, and to attract new

people, who usually frequent the wine aisles in the multiples or buy online.

I’m worried though that some of these

patrons might struggle with the idea of corkage.

“That’s why you offer a by-the-glass

service. Patrons who object to the

concept of a small corkage fee usually

have no problem drinking several glasses of wine – often from the same bottle – even though they end up paying more than they would have done had they

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2019 11

and bar offering. To them, they’re just drinking in a shop. The gastropub is a

expect to pay more. And anyway, if they

buy by the glass, isn’t that better for the bottom line?”

I suppose so, Alexa. So, do you think

being a hybrid shop-slash-bar is a good idea?

“Judging by the conversations I’ve

listened into and recorded between

you and your husband – about finding new revenue streams – then I’d say yes. Just be prepared for the occasional awkward

conversation with those patrons who will never, ever get it.”

Rising Stars Travis Riley The Beckford Bottle Shop Bath


ob interviews can be tricky but occasionally someone walks through the door and the decision is easy, as Tim Gardner found when he was recruiting for the Bath branch of The Beckford Bottle Shop. “It was immediate,” says Tim. “Travis was so enthusiastic and as I was interviewing him, I just said, ‘I would love to offer you the job’, and he has proved to be an outstanding employee ever since.” With a background in both wine and coffee, Travis had the customer service skills the business was looking for, as Tim explains: “Knowledge and hospitality all rolled into one – he’s enormously capable and up for a challenge.” “The things I like most,” Travis says, “are the regular customers who come back and are always excited to try something new – they always inspire me to source new wines. The most interesting thing is trying the wine, understanding what the flavour profile means, which customers are going to enjoy it and how it is going to look on the shelf.” After leaving university Travis’s first job was with the now obsolete Charlie Crown, where he began to educate himself with the help of the Enomatics. “I got to try some beautiful things and I really did get into wine,” he says. Now he is getting to know his customers through regular events. “When we opened I don’t think we knew who our audience was, so we pencilled in about 10 tastings to do throughout the year of what might be interesting, and I was hoping to get a read from that as to what our customers would sign up to. We had a lot of success with “Anything but Rioja” and our rosé tasting, which I think was always going to be a slam-dunk in Bath in the summer.” Working in a hybrid is second nature to Travis, so could he imagine himself in a more traditional setting? “I love retail – to go into a wine shop and see one person’s beautifully curated display of wines – but in reality the business that makes the most sense is getting those wines in front of people with a by-the-glass list. It’s definitely the way the industry is going. “We have a lot of people working here, heading in the same direction to produce something that is better than the sum of its parts. The concept is amazing – you are part of something really worthwhile.”

Travis wins a bottle of Pol Roger Champagne. To nominate a rising star in your business, email

Parkinson sets out his stall Simon Parkinson opened Vinological in Chester Market at the beginning of August. After six years at Corks Out and a couple of years at Whitmore & White he says “it’s nice to have a venture of my own”. Vinological has been in the pipeline since January and while

working behind the scenes of the new business, Parkinson has been teaching WSET courses.

Being inside the market does mean having to operate within

imposed opening hours, which Parkinson insists is not an issue – in fact he has worked it to his advantage.

“The market opens at 7am because we have a couple of fantastic

butchers and a fishmonger, so they need early access. It does close at 5pm every day except for Friday. Fridays are Foodie Fridays

and we are open until 9pm and that’s fantastic. People have really responded to it and there’s always a great atmosphere. I can

operate as a wine merchant during the week then on a Friday I

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2019 12


Reserve Wines’ Altrincham food hall site, soon to be joined by Macclesfield MATURE AND INTERESTING WINES WITH NO MINIMUM ORDER

Simon Parkinson (left) with assistant Will Honeywell

USER FRIENDLY WEBSITE can serve wine by the glass and be a bar. Every Friday, I change my wines so there is always something different on offer,” he says. But Parkinson is keen for his customers not to see him as a


“hybrid wine shop/wine bar” because he wants to maintain the special service they would expect from a wine shop.


“So,” he explains, “all my wine shelves are at one end of the store

and the other end is my seating – people can relax and have a glass of wine. It’s a totally different environment, with art on the walls.”


Wine Company and Halewood International (“Dan introduced me


There is room for 16 covers and a little extra seating outside.

Parkinson is working with suppliers including Liberty, Graft

to some amazing Romanian wines”), and Morgan Edwards which

has a similar retail space to Vinological, with its shop also based in a market.

Parkinson is enthusiastic about the advantages of market versus

high street and says: “Selling wine is an expensive business just purely from stockholding, and if you can get a premises which allows you to operate with lower overheads it helps.

“I was drawn to the market in Chester not only for the lower

overheads but the fact that it’s a niche and cool venue that people engage with.”









THE WINE MERCHANT september 2019 13


Pierre-Henri Gadais Vendange Nocturne Melon Blanc 2018

Quinta dos Roques Reserva 2015

It’s made with Melon de Bourgogne from the western

revolution, Quinta dos Roques is led by Luis and

Loire. So why is it a humble Vin de France and not a

Muscadet? Well, it’s bottled in early December, with no lees ageing, and Gadais wanted the right to name the

variety on the label. It’s gorgeously rich and briney, with a grapefruit sourness, and cries out for oysters. RRP: £10.99

ABV: 11%

Described as the leading small estate in the Dão

Luisa Lourenco, who have put together an inspired

field blend dominated by the Touriga Nacional which thrives hereabouts. The dark fruits, liquorice, tannin and tar are still fairly explosive and will mellow in time, but for now it needs a rich beefy casserole. RRP: £29.99

ABV: 13.5%

Raymond Reynolds (01663 742230)

Boutinot (0161 908 1300)

Famille Deroose Caladoc Rouge 2016

Domaine Joel Delaunay La Voûte 2017

Caladoc is a variety that might not be immediately

Sauvignon fatigue is an affliction that blights the

fruity wines with the added bonus of disease resistance.

in Touraine. The nose conjures up mandarins and

familiar – but it’s been around since 1958, a crossing

of Malbec and Grenache that produces unsurprisingly Here in Corbières it’s created a punchy and rustic IGP red with pleasantly burnt edges and a juicy finish. RRP: £12.95

ABV: 14.5%

wine trade but maybe we’ve found a cure with this satisfyingly fleshy offering from the Cher Valley

blossom; bâtonnage and skin contact adds heft and

complexity on the palate, finishing with a citrus bite. RRP: £15.99

ABV: 13.5%

Liberty Wines (020 7720 5350)

Richmond Wine Agencies (020 8744 5550)

Casa do Valle Vinho Verde 2017

Domaine Paul Jaboulet Ainé Secret de Famille 2015

It seems hard to imagine there was ever a time when

Vinho Verde was out of fashion, and maybe its current

It’s a pretty safe bet that a Grenache/Syrah blend made

zippy citrus and mineral notes. But there’s also an exotic

but agreeably mellow, the cherryish fruit is rich and

revival stands a fighting chance of being sustained.

This is a lovely example, with a lightness of touch and

undercurrent that conjures Moroccan bazaars as much as it does the Atlantic coast. RRP: £11.99

ABV: 12.5%

Portuguese Fine Wine Company

in the Rhône by Jaboulet is going to hit the mark, and so in a sense there are no surprises here. Structured

juicy, the tannins moderate, and there’s a bloody note

of iron on the finish to counterbalance any jamminess. RRP: £16.89

ABV: 14%

Walker & Wodehouse (07813 626491)

Château Capion Le Chemin des Garennes 2016

Disznókő Tokaji Dry Inspiration 2017

Terrasses du Larzac gets people excited for several

The grapes here – a blend of 83% Furmint and 17%

vines with an average age of 30 years, consultant

before oak ageing. It’s one of those wines that seems

reasons, and this is one of them. Blending Syrah,

Grenache, Cinsault and Mourvèdre, harvested from oenologist Claude Gros has created a beautifully

balanced wine with dense fruit and a spicy prickle. RRP: £44.55

ABV: 14.5%

Awin Barratt Siegel (01780 755810)

Hárslevelű – are selected from small plots and vinified separately, often using experimental techniques,

innocuous at first, but suddenly comes alive with its

depth, texture and nuttiness, and its juicy, saline sting. RRP: £22.75

ABV: 13.5%

Gonzalez Byass UK (01707 274 790)

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2019 14


WINES FROM MOLDOVA A HISTORY THROUGH GENERATIONS True values do not change over time. Purcari continues to be Purcari. Since 1827.


he history of Moldovan viticulture and winemaking goes back for thousands of years. In ancient times wine was an important commodity and Moldovan territory was identified as an area of great potential. Moldovan wine has had a strong presence since the 12th century, particularly around the village of Purcari and the Agon Zograf monastery. Moldova’s golden age got underway in the 18th century, with the arrival of French settlers who began to work the land alongside the monks. Château Purcari’s influence grew, especially in the 19th century when it caught the eye of Emperor Nicholas I of Russia. In 1827, the Emperor issued a special decree granting Purcari the status of the first specialised winery in Moldova. In 1878 at the Paris World Expo the French experts were impressed by a dry wine of an intense ruby colour and awarded it a gold medal. They were convinced that it was a new Bordeaux wine, and were keen to identify the producer.

Explore the range Chardonnay de Purcari 2018 won the Platinum medal (97 points) at the Decanter World Wine Awards 2019, with the highest score for a Moldovan wine. The only white among the Platinum winners awarded the Value mark. RRP £12.95 Rosé de Purcari 2018 is like a glorious spring day in an orchard of apricot blossoms. This elegant blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Rara Neagră won Platinum at Challenge International du Vin, Bordeaux. RRP £12.95

Yet, to widespread surprise, the wine had Moldovan origins. This was the birth of the famous Negru de Purcari wine which was soon to be served to royal courts around Europe and enjoyed by Emperor Nicholas II of Russia as well as King George V and Queen Victoria. At the turn of the 21st century, Château Purcari replanted 250 hectares of vineyards, and installed state-of-the-art technology. Château Purcari became the flagship of a new wave of modern and vibrant wines from Moldova. Purcari has won more than 300 awards in international competitions, leading the nation’s international development by selling its wines in more than 25 markets. Purcari terroir is renowned far beyond Moldova. Its unique microclimate, and soil rich in rubidium, promotes the highestquality wine production. Purcari, with its rich history and traditions, is more than just a winery with a glorious past. It is a living legend: proof of an age-long passion and a love for vine and wine.

Negru de Purcari 2016 Noble, with a rich structure and a gorgeous aroma. Voted best wine of Moldova at Mundus Vini (Germany), and awarded 4.3 stars on the Vivino App and reaching the top 1% wine ranking in the world. A royal classic. RRP £24.95 Cuvée de Purcari Brut White Sparkling Voted among the Top 10 Best Sparkling Wines in the world at the Effervescents du Monde 2018. RRP £29.95

Pinot Noir de Purcari 2018 was voted best Pinot Noir in a blind tasting by customers of a wellknown indie in north east England. RRP £12.95 Rară Neagră de Purcari 2018 This elegant rubycoloured wine is 100% Rara Neagră. This wine delights with its full, velvety texture, and notes of dried fruits and vanilla. A real ambassador for this indigenous grape variety. RRP £14.95

With such an impressive collection, it is a great time to start your journey into Moldovan wines. Transylvania Wine Ltd AWRS: XXAW00000100290 The Shacks House, Halifax HX2 0SX. 07952 981036



Bidders emerge for Lay & Wheeler The City billionaire Michael Spencer is engineering a bid for Lay & Wheeler which is being sold as part of its owner’s transformation into an online-only business. Sky News understands that BI Wines &

Jonathan Sutton Michael Sutton’s Wine Cellar, Dartmouth Favourite wine on my list Jean Curial Pouilly-Fuissé. We have imported Curial wines from Maçon for over two decades and this has to be my favourite glass to share at the end of a long day. Reviving and gorgeous!

Favourite wine and food match Barbadillo Solear, a six-year-old Manzanilla, refreshingly delicious and a fantastic match served chilled with fried squid. We love the whole range of sherry from Barbadillo.

Favourite wine trip In January we spent two weeks travelling in the winelands of the Western Cape. The countryside is unbelievably stunning, the farmers are approachable, friendly and passionate, and the wines are prolific and exciting. We never tired of the wonderful offerings from both the well-known estates and the more boutique wineries. Just fabulous.

Favourite wine trade person Sara Bangert of the General Wine Company. A few years back we attended a WSET course run by Sara and ever since then she has guided and encouraged us but most importantly taught us to work hard and play hard!

Favourite wine shop Hedonism, Mayfair. The moment you step across the threshold your senses are alive as the whole shop sparkles in front of you. It is heavenly and you can spend literally hours gazing and dreaming about the contents of all those bottles!

Spirits, which is chaired and part-owned

by Spencer, is among the bidders circling‎

the fine wine merchant, a division of Naked Wines.

The bid from BI, which was previously

known as Bordeaux Index, would add

another dimension to the privately-owned business, but is understood to face stiff

competition from an undisclosed number

The fine wine merchant is part of Naked Wines

for the past decade, is being earmarked

Limited (WCTL) – into administration in

of rivals.

L&W, which has been owned by Naked

for a sale weeks after the listed company offloaded its entire store network to

Fortress Investment Group for close to £100m.

Sky News, August 14

Oddbins loses £10m – and AWRS The parent company of Oddbins lost

and sister company Wine Cellars Trading January 2019.

Oddbins’ losses amounted to £2.24m,

with WCTL amassing losses of £1.87m, while overall debts were recorded as £17.9m, down from £23.6m in 2017. The Drinks Business, August 21

Record numbers take WSET exams

£10m in 2018 and was stripped of its

A record 108,557 people took a

alcohol wholesale registration scheme

qualification with the Wine & Spirit

licence (AWRS) six months before

Education Trust or one of its approved

its retail businesses were placed in

partners around the world in the 2018-


19 academic year.

Walsall-based European Food Broker Ltd

That is a 15% increase on the previous

lost over £10m in the 18 months to June

year, said the WSET, which is celebrating its

year’s loss of £450k.

showed strong growth, said the group,

31, 2018 – an annualised increase of more than 2,000% compared to the previous

The losses were recorded less than six

months before the company’s decision

to put its retail business, EFB Retail Ltd – which comprised Oddbins (Whittalls

Wine Merchants 1 and Wine Merchants 2)

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2019 16

50th birthday this year.

Wine, spirits and sake courses all

which is preparing for its first global wine

education week between September 9 and 15, with 500 events planned across 47 countries.

Decanter, August 21

Veeno closes another branch



How do you feel about wine in cans, bagin-box and other alternative formats?

We’re in quite a small town and we’re still trying to educate people to come here instead of the supermarket. Our clients are quite traditional but we do get asked for half bottles so that might be something we look at. I’m sure it works in some places where they have big parks where people go for picnics, so it would be ideal for them to purchase wine in a can or by the half bottle, but for us we don’t really get tourists or people coming for a day out.

A wine bar has closed just five months after its parent company was bought out of administration. Veeno, which is based in Manchester, has

closed its Nottingham venue on Middle

Pavement, telling Nottinghamshire Live it

had “no longer become viable” after footfall

Debbie Gallacher Gallachers of Rugby

declined around the intu Broadmarsh shopping centre, which is currently

undergoing redevelopment and remains largely closed.

In March, the firm was bought out of

administration in a deal saving 70 jobs.

Veeno, which was launched in 2013, had

venues in Manchester, Bristol, Brighton, Cardiff, Chester, Croydon, Edinburgh, Kidderminster, Stratford-upon-Avon,

I’ve had experience with bag-in-box where some of the batch was damaged because it was not transported the right way. Wine in cans is good for a younger audience. I recently tried one from Renegade in London. It was re-fermented in can with hops and I thought it was lovely – half way between a beer and a sparkling wine and the packaging was perfect for it. It might be interesting to re-brand Beaujolais Nouveau this way.

Nottingham, Reading, Liverpool, Leicester

Alexandre Bal Authentique, London

and Leeds.

The Business Desk, August 22

I don’t disagree with it in principle. It’s festival season here at the moment, and there’s always an event on where they don’t allow glass. But it is getting away from that perception that it’s not very good wine if it’s in bag-in-box or in a plastic bottle. I think there is some marketing that needs to be done. The beer industry has managed it really well, they’ve transitioned from bottle to can really effortlessly and the majority of craft beer drinkers are happy to drink from a can.

M&S told to take porn off shelves Marks & Spencer has been told to change the name of its Porn Star Martini

after a complaint to The Portman Group said it could “open the floodgates” to

Sam Jackson Chester Beer & Wine

other suggestive cocktails. The complaint by a member of the public

was upheld in a ruling by the Portman Group last month. It stated that M&S’s

Porn Star Martini in a can “contravenes

the Portman Code” as it breached section 3.2d banning an alcoholic product from

suggesting “any association with sexual activity or sexual success”.

“If you continue to allow this, it will open

the floodgates to others e.g. Sex on the

Beach, Slippery Nipple, Sloe Comfortable Screw, Liquid Viagra etc,” the complaint noted.

It is something we’ve been talking about. I’ve tasted some good things recently – Vinnaturo do some great stuff in bags. The ethical point is good, the packaging is cheaper and it’s easier to transport. But where do you start? Our shop was created for bottles of wine, so we don’t feel our shelves would display the boxes so well. I have an issue with sizing as well. I’ve seen a couple of rosés in cans that are 330ml and that seems quite big to me. So 330ml of something that’s 14% as opposed to a beer at 4% – that’s a lot of booze to have. Callum Ferguson Tiny’s Tipple, Manchester

Champagne Gosset The oldest wine house in Champagne: Äy 1584

The Drinks Business, August 27

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2019 17


Hunting for GOATs Anyone who works in the trade will be asked at some point what wine is the Greatest of All Time. How do you answer a question like that? Maybe it depends on whether the questioner is a wine lover, or simply a wine drinker


can understand why it happens.

Were the shoe on the other foot, I’m pretty sure I’d be wearing it. But

still, I have to ask: as a wine professional, is there anything more dispiriting than

the non-wine person’s inevitable opening

conversational gambit once they’ve found out what you do for a living? The one that always, always goes: “So what’s the best wine, then?”

The problem isn’t just the numbing

predictability of the enquiry. It’s that

nobody really wants the answer you want to give. They’re not interested in caveats or qualifications or a quiz about their

tastes and budget and level of interest –

just as you wouldn’t want a mobile phone

straight-to-the-heart-of-the-matter simple,

years, where the non-linear, unpredictable

Why can’t we give it to them? Because

between bottles opened at the same time,

one-word silver-bullet answer that you just can’t give them.

there is no such thing as a single all-

conquering “best wine” in the world,

that’s why. Even that old point-obsessed absolutist Robert Parker conceded this

idea, however implicitly, having awarded

changes brought about by bottle age are a

charmingly fascinating part of the fun. But or a matter of weeks apart. Truly no two bottles ever taste exactly the same. But

the way we wine people talk about wine

– the way we rely on the tasting note, that

snapshot of one person’s experience of one

Barolo is ‘better’ than Bardolino; Rioja is better than Ribera del Duero; Chablis is better than Limoux. Sometimes, it pays to say so

professional to go through processor

his ultimate accolade of 100 points to

bottle (one glass) at a single moment in

unwelcome erudition, if you’d popped a

collated on And for all

every person at every time.

speeds, camera lenses and operating

systems in a lengthy display of frankly

similar question about their specialism.

What they want is the uncut goods, the

dozens of wines over the years (the full list, from Abreu to Zind-Humbrecht, is

that the faux-objectivity of the 100-point system sometimes suggests otherwise,

in the wine trade we all know that we’re

mostly comparing unlike with unlike, and that the criteria that make a Champagne great are very different from those that

we’d use to judge a Bordeaux First Growth. And of course we all realise, too, that

there are no great wines, just great bottles. Whenever I’ve bought and drunk my

way through a case, I’m always amazed by the variation. Not just down the

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2019 18

time – suggests that every encounter with a wine will – or should – be the same for No wonder then that people with a

more casual involvement in wine expect us to be able to provide them with an

indisputable GOAT (greatest of all time), and that, should they go on – however

theoretically – to actually buy the damn thing the world of wine will suddenly unfurl in a quasi-religious moment of

pure understanding – that they will finally “get” wine once and for all – the moment

they’ve popped the cork. They don’t want to know that it doesn’t work like that, or

David Williams is wine critic for The Observer

that you can’t guarantee a bottle will be

might cherish terroir and know that much

willingly pay more for a wine from region

a lot of the pleasure comes from the play of

we all have our favourites – and we all

because they want to experience region X’s

great. They’re not interested in the idea

that great wine is great only in context, that expectation and knowledge (about where the wine comes from and what other

wines from that place and/or grape variety have tasted like before) with mood, food, weather and company.


o what should we do, us weary

wine professionals, to ward off the pangs of misanthropy that rise to

the surface whenever the “best” question comes up?

I’ve learned that it pays to be a bit less

precious, a bit less hung-up on nuance,

and a little bit more blunt. For all that we

of the pleasure of wine comes in revelling in difference, we all have our prejudices, know that some regions are, objectively,

much better (in the sense of having a much higher concentration of good producers

and wines) than others. Barolo is “better”

than Bardolino; Rioja is better than Ribera del Duero; Chablis is better than Limoux. Sometimes, it pays to say so.

This isn’t just about quality, either. One

of the characteristics with which you can

distinguish a wine lover from a mere wine drinker, I’ve always thought, concerns a

very specific attitude towards price, place

and quality. For the wine lover, exploration is all-important, to the extent that they’ll

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2019 19

X rather than a wine of the same or even superior quality from region Y, purely characteristics.

For the wine drinker, by contrast,

exploration is secondary to quality: they’ll always be looking for the best quality

(however that’s judged) for the money, and where it comes from isn’t all that important.

It’s wine as travel versus wine as bang-

for-buck quality booze – very different

conceptions of wine with very different

expectations about what the “best wine” might be, and to which the only sensible

answer, albeit with just a hint of mischief, is “sherry”.

ight ideas r b 5: A Voyage of Discovery

. T H E D R AY M A N . Beer’s answer to cocktails


artizan Brewing’s collaboration with Guinness has produced a trio of the most intriguing

launches of 2019. The beers are being billed as “aperitif-style” but that’s a modest description that barely does them justice. The influence of Alex Kratena, former

bartender of the Artesian Beer at London’s Langham Hotel, is palpable. Kratena advised on the project which has ended up with complex, seductive, grown-up alternatives to classic preand post-dinner drinks. L’Amara is my pick of the bunch, a saison that’s a convincing doppelganger for an Amaro Highball, signatureserved over ice, but with a refreshing, beery carbonation. La Brillante is a straight swap for pre-dinner fizz but better than many, a pilsner lager aged in Oloroso barrels, with a moussey head gifted by Champagne yeast. L’Intensa is a dark ale infused with botanicals from the region of Italy that’s the source for the distinctive fruit, spice and bitter ingredients of Campari. It works as a sipping switch for sweet vermouth, and is being served at Kratena’s new Tayēr + Elementary bar with a wedge of orange and an olive to garnish. The beer community has been looking for a way into the modern cocktail scene for donkey’s years but struggled to shake off downmarket oldtimers like Black Velvet. It’s had relatively little success in the UK, though arguably greater cut-through in mixed drinks on the US bar scene, with its more, or less, sophisticated approach. Siren, Guinness and Kratena

Patrick Rohde, Aitken Wines, Dundee

In a nutshell … A ticketed event, held on board the RRS Discovery. A veritable round-the-world tasting.

Tell us about it.

“Dundee Heritage had been wondering what would draw people in and as alcohol tends to do that, they asked me to get involved. I guess it was the most novel tasting I’ve held to date. The Discovery has got quite a chequered history, although it is most famously known for being stuck in Antarctica for such a long time. The historian gave me a whole list of the ship’s stopping-off points and I identified some suitable wines.”

Ambitious! Was it hard to cover so much ground in one tasting?

“We like to start with a fizz so we had a Cape classic sparkler and we just went around the world. So we had Chardonnay from Australia, Gerwurztraminer from Chile, the obligatory Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, a nice Pinot Noir from Tasmania, a classic Bordeaux and then a Madeira, which is a nice one to finish. Actually, I later transferred the theme in-house to my Enomatics and raised the quality of the wines accordingly. It captures the imagination to have a good theme!”

“I later transferred the theme in-house to my Enomatics and raised the quality of the wines accordingly”

Was everything shipshape?

“We had capped it at 30 but we had a full house and, as often happens after the event, we all said we could have made it bigger and had more people, but we could run it again with different wines. I made enough money to cover the cost of the wine, people had a great night out and although I didn’t make any direct sales on the night, I like to put it down to PR and know that in the longer term people will pop in as a result.”

may have hit on a more appetising, sustainable solution: not shoehorning existing beers into convoluted mixological recipes but creating original beers that, in themselves, stand up to the demands of cocktail hour without reeking of novelty.

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

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2019 20

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2019 21

Philip Poulter and David Tilyard are busy selling to independent merchants and wholesaler contacts. They have picked a selection of highlights from the Seckford Agencies New World range, including the exemplary wines from Coriole. Winemaker Duncan Lloyd, the third-generation owner of the estate, visits the UK in September for the SITT tastings to present his stylish McLaren Vale wines.

Bird in Hand Syrah 2017 Adelaide Hills, Australia RRP £17.95-£19.25 Winner of four IWC Trophies and also scooped its producer the IWC Red Winemaker of the Year Award 2019. It was described by judges as “brooding and focused, with elegant floral black fruits on the nose and cool-climate elegance. Understated oak and fine tannins.” Limited stock arrives in the UK this October.

Coriole Nero 2017 McLaren Vale, Australia RRP £14.50-£15.75 The Seckford team just love this wine, which is delicious chilled from the fridge. Winemaker Duncan Lloyd enjoys its “abundant aromas of ripe, red cherries, sage flower and berry bramble”, describing it as “a wonderfully fruit-forward, easy-drinking wine with a velvety, round palate.”

Thorn Clarke Shotfire Quartage 2016 Barossa/Eden Valley, Australia RRP £16.75-£17.95 A wine named for the gold-mining activities that were once dominant in the region. A traditional blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Merlot, it’s teeming with complex notes of black cherry, chocolate, anise and the trademark blackcurrant.

Trentham Chardonnay 2018 Murray Darling, Australia RRP £11.50-£12.50

Glenelly Estate Reserve 2013 Stellenbosch, South Africa RRP £16.95-£18.25

Catherine Marshall Pinot Noir ‘Finite Elements’ 2016 Elgin, South Africa RRP £45.95-£47.65

We have loved the quality and value from Trentham Estate over the 30 years we have worked with the Murphy family. Now with a modern new presentation, it’s even better, with stone-fruit and citrus flavours complemented by subtle French oak. Soft and fresh, with balance and length.

Glenelly Estate is the brainchild of May de Lencquesaing, IWC Personality of the Year 2017. Wild fermented with Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Petit Verdot and Merlot, this is the signature wine of the estate, showing rich spicy plum and blackberry flavours with quality oak integration. Tim Atkin 93 pts.

This is another triumph from the wonderful Catherine Marshall. In her words: “The crafting of this Pinot, that forms part of the Fine Art Collection, is an interpretation of the elements that are unique to a specific piece of soil that reflects harmony, balance and a sense of grace.” Tim Atkin 95 pts.

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2019 22

Get in touch with Seckford Agencies 07766 491412 07799 661859 Office number 01206 231188 Row 1 Sauvignon Blanc 2018 Marlborough, New Zealand RRP £10.75-£11.50 This Sauvignon Blanc is bright and fresh with tropical aromatics on the nose. The palate is lively and crisp, with passion fruit and herbaceous notes, underpinned by hints of citrus and ripe lemon, with depth and length on the finish. Serve this classic Marlborough Sauvignon with fresh seafood or summer salad.

Vine Whisperer Sauvignon Blanc 2018 Marlborough, New Zealand RRP £10.75-£11.50 A category-leading, lower alcohol, fully-flavoured, sustainably-grown, naturally-produced, authentic, dry, modern style of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, produced using a series of “vineyard innovations” by the ever-inventive Dr John Forrest. Only 9.5% alcohol. Exclusive for independent retailers and wholesalers.

Greystone Chardonnay 2017 North Canterbury, New Zealand RRP £25.35-£27.50 New to Seckford this year, this multi award-winning organic producer is New Zealand Winery of the Year and Dom Maxwell is New Zealand Winemaker of the Year. The 2015 vintage won Decanter’s New Zealand Chardonnay of the Year. Hand-picked and wild fermented in 20% new oak, the wine displays minerality, stone fruits and subtle oak influence.

Paul Cluver NLH Riesling 37.5cl 2018 Elgin, South Africa RRP £19.50-£20.95

Darling Cellars Old Bush Vine Chenin Blanc 2017 Darling, South Africa RRP £14.75-£15.85

Belhara Punta Negra Malbec 2018 Mendoza, Uco Valley, Argentina RRP £8.99-£9.99

The winner of the 2018 IWC South African Sweet Wine Trophy and Platter 5* comes with a premium quality free gift box. Such a stylish Botrytis-affected Riesling, with flavours of kumquat, pineapple and marmalade; the mouth feel is full and beautifully balanced with a fresh acidity.

Chenin Blanc produced from low-yielding 42-year-old bush vines in Darling/Swartland a member of the Old Vines Project overseen by Rosa Kruger, included in recent OVP masterclasses at SITT. Such astonishing quality at this price point. Great minerality and length with orange peel and peach / stone fruit flavours. 4.5* Platter.

New Malbec from Belhara Estate vineyards, located in the high altitude of Mendoza’s prestigious Uco Valley. Winemaker and owner Stephen Paul Huse trained at the University of Bordeaux, gaining experience at Châteaux Margaux and MoutonRothschild, as well as in the Napa Valley. His wines are fabulously expressive and wonderful value.

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2019 23


So, who’s going to ship my wine? When things go wrong with couriers, they go spectacularly wrong, says Andrew Wilson. So maybe it’s time for the trade to do more to share information about the most reliable players


s some of you will know,

WBC started life 30 years

ago supplying “Personalised

Champagne” and trading as Liquid ID, so

we knew a thing or two about the trials of shipping wine.

In those days, wine distribution was

in many ways much easier than it is

now. Customers tended not to expect

their deliveries the next day and there

were dedicated services specialising in transporting bottles. We used a great

company called Wine Couriers to do our

distribution for us. Service was three to five

© candy1812 /

days and we could send the Champagne

out in the boxes it was delivered to us in.

We could send them as single boxes or,

as soon as we started offering next-day

lost consignments. But for the most part,

hub-based sorting system, and the choice

for larger orders, as pallets. I’m not going to lie, there was the odd breakage, and

it worked very well, and unlike today, the parcels were insured.

As the market developed, we started

offering individually personalised bottles on a next-day service under the trading

name Not only was distribution simpler but so was the marketing!

In the pre-internet era, we ran a simple

text-only advert in Private Eye and

amazingly this generated enough orders

to keep us busy. Anyway, I digress because

delivery things got complicated – firstly we had to pack the bottle to survive a

in those days was polystyrene or papier mache-style cushioning. We opted for

polystyrene for speed of use and level of protection and that part worked

well. Delivering to home addresses and

unreliable couriers are where it all could go wrong.

Thirty years later …

We no longer sell drinks but are heavily

involved in supplying the packaging they

go out in. We appreciate the problems that

merchants face and are aware that couriers love to change the goalposts and retailers are at the forefront of dealing with that.

We are consistently asked which couriers

are the best for sending wine, and which will insure deliveries. We’re not immune to our own issues with couriers, having

worked our way through most of them over the years to the point where pretty much

only Yodel are willing to carry our parcels. When things go wrong though, they go

spectacularly wrong and it can quickly turn into a customer relations nightmare.

Whilst we know the biggest players in

As well as the familiar big names, there are smaller couriers claiming a more specialist service

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2019 24

the courier market, as part of our research into who carries what and what their services offer, we have come across a

© WavebreakMediaMicro /

Some couriers offer a “white glove” service to ensure more careful handling of goods

number of smaller companies claiming

A recent conversation on our Twitter

to be more specialist wine couriers and

feed amongst several of our wine

some couriers still offer a “white glove”

your wines, who will insure them and

this is backed up by testimonials from

some of our customers. We’re told that service for an additional £0.75/ £1 per consignment that means it is handled

more carefully. Have you had experience with this?

merchant friends was sufficient evidence

that the age-old question of who will ship

what packaging is required for them to do so, has not gone away. It seems we could

some kind of forum to find out what

options there are that have been tried and tested by another merchant.

Or is this a trade secret these days that is

not to be shared with the competition?

all benefit from comparing notes and

finding some industry consensus to find out what is going on – and how you get your valuable products from A to B.

In 2016, The Wine Merchant ran a “Best

Wine Courier” poll. I wonder if it is even

more relevant today when more and more is sold online or needs to be delivered at

the speed of light to increasingly diverse

places. You may well be 100% happy with How WBC started life 30 years ago

your couriers and if you are, we would

love to hear about it. Alternatively, you

may be having issues and would welcome

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2019 25

Andrew Wilson of WBC


Minnie-Mae Stott and Orson Warr, July 2018

Organic growth

Xhulio Sina, Natalie John and son Raphael, Catford, July 2019

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2019 26

Mixing things up in south east London Xhulio Sina and Natalie John have changed the recipe for independent drinks retailing with a shop and bar that specialises in cocktails that are made and bottled on the premises. They’re a hit with the locals, and have also created a useful wholesale revenue stream


ocktails have been trendy for a

half years,” Sina says. “There were pigeons

can feel that. Same thing with the craft

ingredients to save the bother of all that

space for production and bottling and half

these cocktails for all these years, but why

while. And there’s nothing new in the idea of pre-mixing the

measuring, shaking and straining. Yet

nobody seems to be making and selling

ready-to-drink Margaritas, Manhattans –

and much more besides – in quite the way that Xhulio Sina is doing.

Catford in south east London might

seem like an unlikely location for a cocktail revolution to be taking place, but in some

ways that’s what’s happening at The Bottle

in here when we came in.”

The original plan was to use half of the

for the shop and bar area. But now almost

all of the floor area has been opened up to customers, with the bottling and labelling equipment providing a talking point for those venturing towards the rear of the premises.

Were you already making ready-made cocktails before you had the shop, or did


I thought, I have been pre-batching all

can’t we have a shop where you can just

walk in and buy a decent Margarita? There are lots of alcopops out there, 5% or 6% cocktails – but ours are real. Fresh lime juice; fresh ingredients.

The idea in this business is to make,

bottle and label everything in the premises and apart from the shop and the bar, we

are wholesalers. We supply approximately

Bar & Shop, opened just under two years

the two things start at the same time?

following the template of countless

set up the Royal Festival Hall [bar] in 2007;

and how do the cocktails stay fresh?

the only way to keep the consistency and

Quite a few of them naturally preserve

different shapes and forms.

are no natural or unnatural flavours added

25 places in London at the moment.

ago by Sina and his wife Natalie John.

I started making ready-made cocktails

modern indies, attracting a young clientele

I was at the Royal Opera House with 50

Does the liquid naturally preserve itself

the quality was to pre-batch. So for the

themselves but for some of them, I have

In many respects, the business is

with stripped-down aesthetics, small

plates of food and an imaginative line-up of events.

But what makes the place truly different

is its specialism in drinks that are created, by hand, on the premises. After a career

in some of London’s top bars, Sina wanted to put his mixology credentials to use

nearer to his family home, and in his own

business. The house was remortgaged and

the couple took the plunge in a unit a short walk from the train station, a couple of stops south of London Bridge.

“It was an empty shell for three and a

about 10 years ago. I was lucky enough to

What kind of ingredients are you using

bartenders, a 3,000-strong audience, and

because it is so alcoholic?

last 10 years I have been pre-batching, in

a pasteuriser. I don’t add anything, there

About two years ago I decided that I

wanted to do my own thing, and mixology

and cocktails is my passion – I love it. I love wines, I love beer … but mixology is my passion.

I saw a gap in the market. You go to a

lovely wine shop with decent wines made by producers who put lots of love in their wines, and when you open the wine, you

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2019 27

whatsoever. For example, a Margarita is

100% Tequila, Cointreau and fresh lime juice.

A lot of products out there have the name

“cocktail” because they want to sell their product, but it doesn’t mean they are a

cocktail. One of the supermarkets sells a Continues page 28


From page 27

Margarita but if you look at the ingredients, there is no Tequila, Cointreau or lime, it’s just a white grain spirit with flavours.

Anyone can do their own version of a

Martini about two months ago. We will

make a cranberry drink from November to

January. The cranberries are imported from the States or Canada in November and it’s only available for those few months.

The branding has captured the small-

Margarita and there is no one to protect

batch chic – it doesn’t feel too corporate.

it’s like a hundred different ingredients to

here for a year and a half and I could not

the name. Sometimes you see certain

brands saying it’s a type of Manhattan;

make it taste like a Manhattan. If you look at the back of one of my bottles, it’s three

That’s down to my wife Natalie, and the feedback has been great. We have been

the whole thing started. If you wanted to make a Manhattan at home, you would

need to go and buy three bottles, which

will cost £60, for one drink. You can come here and buy a bottle, which will make

four or five drinks and you do not need to purchase several individual bottles. For

example, if you fancy a Long Island Iced

Tea, you have to buy five spirits. It’s going to cost you £100 before you have even

started, when all you might want is one or two drinks.

What has been the trickiest one to get


right? Has there been one that defeated

Do you use branded spirits?

you for a while?

I try to avoid this. I was lucky enough

They are all classics. I am laughing

from my previous work, bottling mass

becauuse if you look in there, I have a jar

quantities: I got in touch with the big

full of oyster shells.

suppliers and buy big containers. I don’t

We do oyster nights in here once a month

buy brands.

and I cannot make an Oyster Martini

without real oysters inside. There are some

Is the bottling process all done here by

guys called the Oyster Brothers who come


here once a month and set up a station at

It is all by hand. We are a team, my wife

and myself. We have one full-time person and two part-timers, who give us a hand. I like to keep things the same: make

fresh, drink fresh, even though they have a

one-year minimum shelf life. I get an order and I make, sell, get another order. I don’t make 100,000 bottles and stick them in a warehouse somewhere, hoping someone

is going to buy them in six months. I never

want to sell to a supermarket, I just want to

the corner of the bar. Food is available all day

have asked for a better start. The market is

you have?

happy when I see someone from Aberdeen

Most of our cocktails are classics, they have been around for hundreds of years and

there is a reason why they are there. We do a lot of seasonal stuff; we only do rhubarb

What’s the best seller? They all sell at different times of the year

order on our website.

are flying during the summer because it’s

and we also sell online. It makes me so

Do you ever worry that because you keep ingredients so simple, customers might just go and make their own

time for the summer. We introduced Lychee

Manhattan at home anytime but that’s how

I introduced a passion fruit daiquiri in

make a gin or vermouth Martini.

tough, but we are a bar, shop, wholesaler,

gin from January to April. We use the pink Yorkshire rhubarb to infuse our gin.

vermouth, and we use that as a base to

‘If you fancy a Long Island Iced Tea, you have to buy five spirits. It’s cost you £100 before you have even started’

keep it the way it is.

Are you always tinkering with the range

We infuse the oyster shells with

versions of your cocktails? The customers could have made the

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2019 28

because they are classics.

The Margaritas and the Lychee Martinis

hot. But in the evening, the classic Negroni sells itself.

Our cocktail, The Remedy, just took off

and people come back and say they can’t get enough of it. It’s a mixture of brandy,

fernet branca, honey, Cointreau and bitters. It’s amazing. We have a few cocktails that


are my own version, like the Lychee Martini which are alongside the classics. Is there a Mojito anywhere?

You can’t bottle a Mojito. The only way to

bottle a Mojito is to put rum with lime juice in it and tell the customer to pick up your

fresh mint yourself and put a splash of soda water in it. To me, it’s not a cocktail. If you see a Mojito bottle it’s just mint and lime flavours added to it.

Are there others like that, that just don’t work bottled? Yes. Two weeks ago, I started bottling

Espresso Martini and for a year and a half

I have been avoiding it, because to me, you

have to have a froth in an Espresso Martini, as you pour it from the bottle.

Due to demand, I bottled it and cold-

brewed the coffee myself, but it does need shaking to get the froth. That is an 80%

completed cocktail, because the other 20% is you have to shake it.

Do you think the range will expand or is it about right at the moment? Sometimes I think I don’t have enough

space in the shop. We have about 20 or so different products in the shop, and that’s

a lot. We replace certain bottles when it’s the end of their season. When it comes to Christmas, we have a big hit called

The premises is a short walk from Catford’s two railway stations

Christmas in a Bottle.

that you had picked the right site?

What percentage in the shop is cocktail sales?

I just grab Christmas and I chuck it in

When I told my friends and family that

this was what I was going to do, they had community has been just unbelievable.

Fifty per cent is cocktails and the

They are very proud of Catford and they

wine and craft beers. A lot of people come

for a decent cocktail but also buy them for

What goes into Christmas in a Bottle? a bottle! It’s vodka-based, with all the

Christmas flavours: cardamom, cloves,

cinnamon, vanilla … you name it. You drink it over ice, or neat.

This year, for the first time, I am going to

bottle mulled wine.

Catford is not the place you would imagine to be the focal point of a cocktail revolution. Were you nervous

reservations, but the local support from the couldn’t be more helpful. There are lots

of families in the area and yes, it’s an odd place to start something like this, but my

main objective is to increase the wholesale of cocktails, and I thought the area needed a decent wine and beer shop, and having the cocktails is a bonus.

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2019 29

remaining 50% is equally shared between gifts and birthday parties.

How do your retail margins compare, with the cocktails and beer? Because I make them myself, I save the

Continues page 30


From page 29

middleman. The margins for my cocktails

are approximately 40%, which covers rent,

business rates and utilities. It’s 30% for the wines and beers.

You offer customers £1 back when they return their old bottle. If you bring our bottle, we sanitise them,

wash them, and if they’re in good condition I’ll reuse them, otherwise I’ll recycle them. We try to do whatever we can to help in

terms of the environment. No plastic, our bags are paper; even our toilet rolls are recycled and our soap is eco-friendly.

‘I never entered this to be a billionaire. I entered this so I can be happy, enjoy my life and make enough money to go on holiday. I don’t care about anything else’ are just great because they know what I

And we are thinking, come September and

wine shops, but I think we’ve covered the

What other regular nights do you have?

want. We only have just under 80 bottles, we don’t have the 400 bottles like other main areas.

You had a French evening here last night. How does that work? My missus does the French social evening.

October, of introducing wine and cocktails to the evening to make it, like, a thing.

We do wine tastings every first Tuesday of the month with different themes. In July we did low-intervention, natural wines

and orange wines, which was very well received.

This Friday we’ve got casual dining. It’s

local guys, a husband and wife. The guy

has worked with some Michelin-star chefs and now he has his own kitchen thing and he lives not far from where we live. He’s

going to come an do casual British dining.

And then we have a wine and oyster tasting once a month starting again in September. You offer wall space to local artists. Is that a useful revenue stream for the business? This is exhibition number four and Natalie takes care of that. We’ve sold quite a lot

actually. We’re all local and we’re not an art gallery, it’s not our main income. But we Xhulio Sina: CV includes the Royal Festival Hall and Royal Opera House

What about your wine range? Which suppliers do you use? Only one: Theatre of Wine. I think being

such a small and caring company they’re just perfect and great suppliers and we work so closely with them.

I’ve been lucky enough to have tasted

loads of wines for 20 years in the industry. And people like Tom and Daniel [Illsley]

It’s mainly for the people in the local area

have the walls: why not use them for the

local artists? I think we help each other, but we don’t take anything.

And what about tonight’s comedians’

who are French, and they would like to

wine tasting?

and you can see the person that you met

about three months ago. In the beginning

meet all the other French in the area. It’s

It’s a local guy, he’s a doctor by day and a

last night, and it’s a community feel.

I was like, really? I don’t want to bring any

great because you can walk on the street At the moment it’s just about catching up

and speaking French only around the table and we do offer discounts on the cocktails.

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2019 30

comedian by night. He reached out to us

old comedian in here. But I thought about

it and I thought it sounded like a great idea because he wants to do a wine tasting with


other comedians. The comedians don’t

You must be using good quality

sommelier so one of them is going to be

biodegradable, it’s paper and we don’t use

have a clue what wines they are tasting.

packaging if things are not breaking.

like, the judge. Have you seen Never Mind

any bubble wrap. If someone orders a case,

But one of the comedians is a qualified

The foam that we use is eco-friendly; it’s

the Buzzcocks? It’s going to be that kind of

I use APC Overnight.

set-up. There are 40 people coming, it’s all booked.

You’re obviously working hard and always thinking of new ideas. Does it

How much have people paid for tickets?

ever wear you out?

I think it’s a fiver for the comedians. When

It does sometimes. I’m glad I’ve had the

door?” “Nothing, it’s fine.” It’s Wednesday

but it’s different when you work with

we first started the discussion they were like, “how much do you want for the

night; everybody wins. We have the same

approach whether it’s the comedians, the

exhibitions, the food tasting … we all help each other.

Do you serve food every day? Yes, from when we open at 2pm. For the cheese, we use a local deli called Good

Food, which is next to where we live. It

saves me having to have a minimum order and I’m supporting my local deli.

We help each other out. For the

charcuterie, it’s a local guy who does

everything himself using the same style that he did with his dad in Italy, but

everything is free-range British produce. It’s such a great way to work like that

rather than buying from big companies.

When it comes to marketing, is social media important to you? Five years ago if you wanted to tell your

regulars that you had something new you

had to put it on the menu outside the door, but these days if you are a regular you can

just look on social media. Natalie takes care of all the social media.

Which courier do you use to send out internet orders? Royal Mail second class. It’s been a

year and a half and we’ve only had one breakage.

experience that I’ve had. I’ve worked in

some great, but tough, places to manage,

someone else, it’s different when it’s yours, when you eat and breathe your thing.

But I’ve never been more happy. And I

see my kids and I see Natalie more now than I used to see them when I worked

Monday to Friday for other businesses.

How would you deal with expansion? You’re more likely to survive if you’re small, independent and if you do

everything in house. Expansion sometimes

is a dangerous thing; sometimes it can be a recipe for disaster. But when you are small you are who you are, and people will buy your stuff.

Time will tell but you couldn’t keep that

quality if you go too big, hence I’m not keen on mixing outside of here. I would rather sell 10 bottles and know they are great

quality, and I know you will come back and buy another one later, than make 100,000

and you’d probably buy one and never buy another one after that.

I never entered this to be a billionaire. I

entered this so I can be happy, enjoy my life and make enough money to go on holiday – that’s all I want to do. I don’t care about anything else.

When I get something new, I bottle it and

give it to the regulars to try, and I see their faces and their happiness. And what more do you want? Life is too short. I want to maintain being small and independent.

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2019 31


Aurélie Neveux Le Manoir Champagne visitor centre manager The Manoir was built on the bank of the Seine river in the 18th century. It’s quite a unique location as it’s surrounded by two hectares of park. Along with the dovecote and greenhouse, it has been completely renovated in the past 25 years to keep its authenticity but also to create a premium hosting site for our guests. Each part of the facility is currently used for a specific aspect of the Devaux experience. For instance, we explain the diversity of our terroirs and our sustainable vineyard practices in the greenhouse. We have a couple of recurring events at the Manoir to encourage visitors to discover Devaux in another way. For instance, we organise chocolate and Champagne masterclasses but also several outdoor events in our park such as a music concert (Art Sur Seine) – where we recently introduced a cocktail based on a rosé Champagne. The Manoir is definitely an attractive asset to showcase who we are and what we believe in. It’s dedicated to hosting general public as well as our trade guests all year long. I think we have crafted a truly memorable experience for all our visitors. They’re able to discover our premium Champagnes in a refined environment. In the end, there’s only one message we aim to deliver: Devaux is a premium Champagne House, exclusive but not elitist, which brings tradition and modernity together.

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


From green Spain to the Med The landscape of northern Spain can be lush and humid, barren and mountainous, searingly hot and even bitterly cold. It creates a fascinating starting point for producers of red wines, as WSET Educator David Martin explains


panish red wine is a firm favourite

region is the confluence of two widely

amongst the UK’s wine drinkers.

opposing climates in the Atlantic and the

In this article I focus on northern

Mediterranean. Rioja is made of three

Spanish reds – refreshing the basics and

sub-regions; the smallest is Rioja Alavesa

looking at what’s new.

in the north; Rioja Alta is to the west; and

The geography of northern Spain can

Rioja Oriental (the new name for Rioja

be split into three major areas: the north

Baja) in the south and east. Tempranillo is

Atlantic coast, the inland areas protected

the main variety again although Garnacha

by the Cantabrian mountains, and

(Grenache) is grown in the hotter, drier

Catalunya in the east – which is heavily

oriental sub-region. Mazuelo (Carignan)

influenced by the Mediterranean.

plays a supporting role: good for colour,

The north west Atlantic coast is famed

tannin and ageing. The highly acidic

for its zesty and refreshing wines made

Graciano variety is also planted.

from the white grape Albariño. It is a

region dominated by the cooling influence

of the Atlantic along with its heavy rainfall

– which is why it’s known as “green Spain”.

However, travelling away from the coast we find Denominación de Origen (DO) Ribeira

“Ageing is just a number” Old vines in Ribera del Duero

Sacra and, still further inland, DO Bierzo.

Hot, dry summers change quickly into

acclaim for their red wines made from the

best-known regions here. At an altitude

Both these regions have been rejuvenated in recent years, resulting in international

high-acid variety Mencia. These wines are perfumed, fruity-style reds. Many of the vineyards here are terraced, due to the

mountainous terrain. Poor soils result in low yields but offer wines with intense flavours.

Moving farther south and east, we reach

the northern half of the central Iberian

plateau, shielded from the Bay of Biscay’s maritime influence by the Cantabrian

mountain range. The vineyard areas are

exposed to strong continental influences.

sharp, cold winters. The DOs of Ribera del Duero and Toro are two of the

of between 600m-950m above sea level, diurnal temperature shift is significant

and therefore the styles generally retain

high acidity but also develop high levels of

sugar and consequently high alcohol levels. Tempranillo is the main grape variety

although each region has its specific clones which have their own unique styles.

Rioja sits in the north east of Spain.

While the Cantabrian mountains north and west of Rioja mitigate the worst of

the weather from the Bay of Biscay, the

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2019 32

A common question is “how long are the ageing requirements for Crianza and

Reserva wines?” These numbers are simply minimums and the style and quality of

the wine is far more important than the numbers associated with these names.

Crianza and Reserva are terms also used

in other DOs in Spain and their minimums can vary to Rioja’s. Here are the newly updated ageing minimums for Rioja:

• Crianza – released in its third year, with a minimum of one year in oak barrels

• Reserva – three years’ minimum ageing,

with a minimum of one year in oak barrels and six months in bottle

• Gran Reserva – minimum five years’

ageing, with a minimum of two years in oak barrel and two years in bottle.

Rioja has started to make more of its

great vineyard sites in terms of how wines



Freddie Herring Noble Green Wines Hampton Hill Middlesex are labelled. The new Viñedo Singular

geographical indication designates wines from particular vineyards or estates and

is directly linked to the terroir. It has also revamped the labelling laws of Vinos de Municipio and Vinos de Zona to allow

greater focus on wines from specific towns and zones.

Navarra sits just east of Rioja and

“Be brave and you might be surprised to see how customers respond to things that may be a bit off-thewall”

grows many international varieties such

as Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. It has

a reputation for old-vine Garnacha though Tempranillo is still the predominant variety in volume.

Catalunya’s wine regions on the

Mediterranean coast provide a different

style of wine. Priorat is the most famous of Catalunya’s regions for red wine. The

wines are powerful, robust and rich. This

Tell us about your Enomatics. We were the first retail premises in the UK to have Enomatic machines back in 2005. These are still the same ones, so they’ve done well. We’ve got two machines, both eight bottles, and we put red in one and white in the other, with a couple of rosés over the summer. We have never charged for it. We want to get people trying as much stuff as possible. As a high street retailer, you have to do things differently; you have to have customer interaction. People need to try stuff and you can’t do that online. Where have you put them? We’ve got quite a large doublefronted shop. On the right-hand side at the front we have both the Enomatics against the wall and adjacent to that we have our tasting bar with all our sample spirits. There is a table with stools so people can spend a bit of time. Sometimes we have Diploma students coming in and they ask if they can try. We have people coming in every week and making a thing of it, so we make it an informal space. What’s the most esoteric wine you’ve put on? We focus on putting new listings in there and forgotten gems – things we think need showcasing a bit, and real oddities. Things we think people might not want to risk taking a punt on at £18, so a Sicilian orange wine, for example. We had a Pedro Ximénez white from Jerez, a very weird wine, it’s £23, it’s off-dry, but we sold about 20 bottles as a result. It’s one you have to try before you buy. What advice would you give another merchant? Be brave and you might be surprised to see how customers respond to things that may be a bit off-the-wall. We stay away from more entry-level wines, because an £8 Primitivo tastes like an £8 Primitivo. It’s a good opportunity to showcase bits that independents should be doing.

is due to the warm climate and licorella

soil, which is a type of slate with very poor

water-holding capacity. This forces the vine to work hard to find water and is one of

the factors in creating intensely-flavoured,

low-yielding grapes. The Montsant region, which neighbours Priorat, creates similar styles of wine without the same level of

intensity. Here Garnacha and Monastrell

How do suppliers respond to the Enomatics? Generally they are happy to give sample bottles. Some suppliers have offered to almost rent a space so there is always one of their bottles in there, but we’re fiercely independent and we won’t do that. We will always choose what goes in the Enomatics.

(Mourvedre) also play an important role.

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

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2019 33


Mouchão from Awin Barratt Siegel is one of Graham Northeast’s pricier Portuguese offerings at Bonafide Wines in Dorset. But most of his range comes in at under £14, to keep within the comfort zone of customers taking their first steps in the category.

Natty reds

There’s a playful and experimental side emerging to some Portuguese winemakers. Nat’Cool is an example of that kind of creative thinking – it’s a designation open to winemakers who choose to work in a low-intervention or even natural way.

The potential of Portugal Yes, some of its grapes are hard to pronounce, a problem that’s exacerbated by the country’s predeliction for blends. But there’s an awful lot to love about Portugal right now. David Williams talks to three independents about their Portuguese portfolios

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2019 34


f Portugal didn’t already exist as a

wine country, some clever marketing bod would have had to invent it. It

fits a particular brief so well: “Find me a European country with thousands of

years of winemaking history, a wealth of indigenous varieties that are relatively

unknown beyond its borders, a spread of

climates and terroirs with a corresponding variety of styles, and some of the world’s most talented, boundary-pushing winemakers.

Creating a monster

Dirk Niepoort has a cult following among many UK independents – and their customers. By his own admission his early efforts at winemaking created “monsters” but his ongoing quest to make wines with a lighter touch, and reflect the diverse terroir of his homeland, puts him at the vanguard of Portuguese wine production.

© acnaleksy /

Alfama architecture in Lisbon

“Oh, and if you can give the wines an

average price roughly half of what you’d

pay for equivalent quality elsewhere, then so much the better.”

All of which leads to the question: why

are Portugal’s light wines – fortified may well be a different matter – not better

known or more widely disseminated?

That’s not an easy question to answer –

although, on the upside, there are definitely signs that some Portuguese regions have

become brands in their own right. Rare is

the supermarket that doesn’t now stock

the sheer variety of Portuguese wine

Alentejo have meanwhile become go-to

we’re talking about Portuguese wine in

a Douro red or two (and sometimes a

white as well) these days. The Dão and the buys in the sub-£10 “wines that taste and feel like wine (as opposed to fruit juice)”

sector. And modern Vinho Verde (with no little generic backing) has shaken off its

70s Portuguese Liebfraumilch-alike image to become a regular light white range staple.

Retailers truly making the most of

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2019 35

(including two of the world’s great

fortifieds) are still rare, however. When

the UK, we’re almost always still talking potential. But for those that take it

seriously, Portugal has become an essential part of their business, with the country’s individualistic, frequently superb value

wines offering a real point of difference.

Continues page 36


© TMAX /

Andy Langshaw Harrogate Fine Wine Company How are you feeling about Portugal at the moment? I think Portugal is a little under-exposed. But there’s such amazing quality if you actually dig deeper – some genuinely amazing and individual products.

Harvest time in the Douro

Are customers open to it?

I think so. One of our best sellers, and one

knowledge rather than using just one

I thought that was interesting, because I

customers that it’s Portugal but just next

and ABS.

having a nice bottle of Port that’s what I’m

of the most interesting things in our range, is the Soalheiro Vinho Verde. We can tell to Spain: it’s Albariño, which they know,

from just over the river and they can grab

hold of that information and understand it.

supplier, which would be very dull. We also pick up some bits and pieces from Indigo Are there any regions that you are finding particularly interesting right

Those fresh kinds of whites do really well


And the reds?

again: the wines can be a little bit rustic –

for us.

I’ve always really liked the wines of

By and large, as a sweeping statement, they

or traditional may be a better word. But the

can be a little bit full bodied and we have to dig deep if we want to find something super light or summery. There’s Dirk

Niepoort, who has done a relatively new

range called Nat’Cool, and the Baga in that

range is quite light, from a red perspective. They also do a Pet Nat Vinho Verde: it’s

Bairrada. We’re back to the Baga grape

acidity is so incredibly fresh. When you go

think people have started to struggle to

position Port in their day-to-day life. If I’m

having – it’s the centrepiece of the evening. But for most people it’s something to have

at the end of the meal, when you’ve already had a bottle or two of wine. So half a bottle going round four people is perfect.

White Port still works really well for us.

It’s a way of offering people that slightly

different product, something to have just before dinner. We do two from Niepoort,

‘You’ve got the pinnacle of modern, adventurous winemaking’

cloudy but so fresh and vibrant. That’s

to Bairrada, suckling pig is such a common

his Dry and the 10 Year Old, which is much

as being very controlled and very old

brought home, with that acidity cutting

Is Portuguese wine still good value?

something about Portugal: [winemakers] can be incredibly progressive as well

fashioned, and then you’ve got the pinnacle of modern, adventurous winemaking. What suppliers are you using?

Raymond Reynolds is the main one for us.

We’ve been around a long time, and we buy

product, and when you’re drinking a glass of rustic Baga with it the match is really through the fat. Obviously there are the

About a decade or 15 years ago, we really

both are making exemplary wines.

Douro reds and different things coming

Luis Pato wines, and we have Casa de

Saima, which are a bit more rustic. But How about fortified?

off 30 to 40 suppliers: we’ve always taken

We did Niepoort 2017s [Vintage Port] this

really like to home in on them and their

how we offered it and people responded.

the view that the specialists, the absolute

niche importers, are the ones to go for. We

more complex and richer.

year and for the first time we did more half bottles than full bottles by the case – that’s

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2019 36

had a big, big range from Portugal. It was

so well priced: there were so many of the

through, and we’d be telling people, “You’d be crazy to leave this on the shelf. It tastes twice as good as we’ve priced it!” But I guess there’s been a bit of levelling of

pricing. They’re still worth the money, but not quite as intensely good value.

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2019 37


Oxford Wine Company How is Portugal doing in your business at the moment? Well if you take as a point of reference this year compared to a couple of years ago,

there’s been a marked increase in sales. I think it’s because the general public

aren’t scared of the unusual anymore,

and consequently they’re happy to buy

currently deal with Nick Oakley, which is a

there is interest among people who are

And how about fortified?

of sherry. Tawny Port is doing well – but

shame, because he has a lot of good wines.

I think we’ll change that in the near future. Madeira is on a plateau. We have good variety, but the demand is static. The

wines for cooking are on the decline, but

knowledgeable about wine. It’s still great

value, but it doesn’t have quite the sexiness so is white Port. We have four exhibiting

different styles, from those for mixing with tonic, to the richer end, from Quinta de La Rosa, Kopke and Churchill’s.

‘The general public aren’t scared of the unusual anymore’ © Inna Felker /

John Chapman

from Portugal because it offers points of difference and interest.

I blame the craft beer and gin craze,

which has left people always looking for

something different, but Portugal offers a

plethora of different styles to choose from. How many do you have as a company?

We have a total of 40. We’ve tried to focus on differing cépages and regions. The

two main regions are the Douro and the Alentejo.

The Douro, because of the Port houses

and the branching out a bit more into red

wine – a little richer and a little headier in style; the Douro whites are a little harder to get enthusiastic about.

The Alentejo is the Languedoc of

Portugal, with international varieties and styles that help to bring new people in.

Then there’s the Minho; two Bairradas, one in the Algarve. We’re a bit lacking in Tejo and the Dão.

Which suppliers are you working with? We’ve always dealt with Raymond

Reynolds: classic quality. But there are a lot of Portuguese wines in a lot of portfolios

these days. From Delibo we have the Terra d’Alter wines from Peter Bright: they’re

from a more modern angle, but you need

those sorts of wines to help people in. We also have Quinta de la Rosa [FMV] and

Churchill’s [Jackson Nugent]. We don’t

The medieval village of Marvao in Alentejo, a region described as “the Languedoc of Portugal”

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2019 38

> THE WINEMAKER FILES Dirk Niepoort, Niepoort Wines A popular visitor among UK indies, Dirk joined the family business in 1987 and led a transformation by taking the company’s expertise into still wines from the Douro/ Bairrada/Dão triangle in addition to the Ports it had been associated with since 1842.

I was never pushed into wine, but

I think the great thing about the Douro

naturally I was connected to it. My

is you have vineyards which go from 80

bottles and decanting the wine.

vineyards and picking at the right time.

less alcoholic. I have made some wines

there and I’m always excited about how

family never made wine, we sold wine,

to 800 metres and are north-facing. So

I did a stint in California in 1986 and

Tinto Amarela is a favourite variety of

than ever. I find it more and more

Tinto Francisca is also a favourite.

push me to make experiments. They make

and I was responsible for opening the

before I got back to Portugal, a friend, Gary Andrews, asked me if I would do wine in the Douro. I said at the time,

well, I think my first wine is going to be a

it’s a question of working with the right

mine because it’s very earthy, not so dark and seems fresher than it actually is. Baga is the most similar thing to

monster but in 20-25 years time, I think

Nebbiolo, Barbaresco or Barolo. Its

beginning? I said, because I don’t know

Nebbiolo doesn’t usually have, and quite

I will be making fine wine. He said, why are you not making fine wine from the

anything and my skill is with Californian wine, and at the moment I like big wine.

wines excel by having a lot of acidity;

they can have a lot of colour which maybe a lot of tannin. It makes wines which

represent the character of their terroir

good they can be.

At the moment I’m having more fun challenging and interesting. I’m also

working with younger people and they

it exciting. If an experiment doesn’t work, it doesn’t matter. My son wanted to make a Madeira-style wine with Malvasia. I

said, bloody hell – that’s exactly what you should do. In fact don’t just do one pipe, do two!

Portugal is on a fantastic wave, in food,

and age very well.

in tourism, in wine. What I think we

from different parts of the world. It

is Portalegre in the upper Alentejo.

and better and make sure this is not just

in the Mosel sort of brainwashed me into

of little parcels of old vines and the wines

I learned to make wines more elegant by tasting wines and visiting producers

One area that’s of particular interest

turned out I liked wines like Gamays and

Most of Alentejo is flat but Portalegre is

liking finer, elegant wines.

are a lot fresher, a lot more vibrant and

Burgundies. Wilhelm Haag from Freitag

the mountain area where there are lots

should be doing is investing the money

we’re making into making things better a wave but the beginning of a fantastic

future. It’s beautiful to see how Portugal is changing and the wines are getting more popular.

Lagar de Baixo 2015

Conciso Branco 2016

Redoma Tinto 2017

RRP: £23.50

RRP: £26.50

RRP: £38.50

It’s the sexiest wine in Portugal. 100% Baga, it’s fairly light in colour but a good structure, fresh acidity and some tannins. It has no new oak, and it’s very aromatic and expressive. It sings chalky soils and the character of Bairrada. It’s wonderful to drink now but I think it will age very well for a long time.

We bought the Dão property in 2014 and we made some mistakes, but it turns out they're 'mistakes' we continue to make! It’s a wine with a lot of character; it’s not very fruity but it’s very expressive. It’s austere but generous. It smells of granitic soil but it’s not heavy due to the good acidity that we have.

It was a great vintage and Redoma, for me, is the ultimate Douro red wine. It’s a wine that’s aged in big oak, and has a lot of Tinta Amarela, from north-facing vineyards. It’s full of life; it has a lot of character and a lot of tannin without being over-extracted. It needs the right food: the obvious thing is steak but pizza works too.

Niepoort Wines are imported into the UK by Raymond Reynolds 01663 742230

THE WINE MERCHANT MERCHANT september may 2019 2019 THETHE WINE WINE MERCHANT MERCHANT november september june 2018 2019 THE WINE MERCHANT 39 15 39


‘Nearly all our Portuguese wines are under £14’ Graham Northeast

How big is your range?

Bonafide Wines Christchurch, Dorset

can see I’m very passionate about it. I go

Looking at the shelf I can see 24. So you

to the Wines of Portugal tasting every year. And there are wines that do well. Prunus,

from the Dão, from Berkmann is one of our

How are you feeling about Portugal at

best selling wines. It does help that last

the moment?

year’s vintage was particularly fruity and

Portuguese wine is fabulous – but it needs

low tannin. The price is £10.69.

to be hand-sold. That’s the biggest problem

I do have some top-end stuff from ABS,

going against it. People don’t come in

who are good: the Ravasqueira wines,

asking for Portuguese wine. You have to take them to it. Why is that?

It could be pronunciation. And people are

“Wines need to be hand-sold”

scared of the grape varieties. Even I’m

cost of Australian wine. You don’t get much

That doesn’t help sales. But once they can

Portugal – and Spain and Italy – at the

scared of them! I know about 10, but the

other 250 or whatever it is, not so much. see through that, people are interested.

And you have all styles from very light and low tannin to really big blockbuster stuff. Is Portuguese wine still good value?

© George /

which are lovely but a bit of a difficult sell;

The thing that’s really helping now is the

under £12, and that’s where Portugal

comes in. We’ve really increased with

expense of France. It’s a cost issue. Some merchants have customers who don’t

care about price. Our customers are not cheapskates, but when it goes up above £14 they get nervous, so nearly all our Portuguese wines are under that.

and Mouchão, which are great wines. I had a guy email me asking for all the stock, my last six bottles. He lived in Portugal and

wanted it air-freighted, too. That’s £32 x 6 plus £65 DHL!

Does the range skew towards red? We have about 20% white. The thing with Portuguese whites is that the wines are

gorgeous, but £12 whites aren’t the easiest things to sell at the best of times, let alone from Portugal. Customers are quite happy to buy Vavasour New Zealand Sauvignon

Blanc at £12. But if you think of the Prunus

range: there’s a white in that range too, but we sell 60 to one red to white.

I’ve also had the Esporão whites, which

are fabulous, but they’re a difficult sell.

We’ve also just taken on Quintas do Homen Vinho Verde from Alliance, a couple of

wines for about a tenner. My strapline for

them is, “When was the last time you had a Vinho Verde? When you were about 12?” And what about fortified?

It’s very easy to get in this very boring

world of Port, an old man’s drink. But we have the Portal range, which is different: a white Port, a tawny and a pink Port.

They’re all really good, really exciting, and

Vineyard terraces on the Douro

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2019 40

they sell out.

“Indigenous Portuguese grape varieties, vinified using the latest techniques to produce modern style wines with the essence of Portugal.” Peter Bright, winemaker

SPECIAL OFFER SEPTEMBER 2019 Encruzado & Verdelho Buy 6 cases, get 7th case FREE

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Vinho Verde from the charming Quintas do Homem estate. We’re a family business using integrated sustainable practices and only natural resources. Our wine is quintessential Vinho Verde, made in the heart of Portugal. Sun, sea, vines and Vinho Verde! Felicidades! Sold in the UK via Alliance Wine 01505 506 060 @alliancewine |

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2019 41


From sails to sales Special bottling of Madeira completes boat journey to UK shores

Atlantic Rainwater is not an ordinary Madeira. So transporting it to the UK

was suitably unconventional, at least by modern-day standards.

The wine is a special bottling by Barbeito

that replicates 18th-century Baltimore-

style Madeira. It’s a blend of barrel-aged Tinta Negra, Verdelho and Sercial.

The project is a collaboration between

Raymond Reynolds Ltd and Ricardo Diogo

de Freitas, the third-generation winemaker at Barbeito.

Loading up for a 1,200 nautical mile journey to Penzance

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2019 42

On August 19 at Penzance harbour,

Reynolds was up early to welcome the

arrival, from the island of Madeira, of the Grayhound lugger, skippered by owner Marcus Pomeroy-Rowden.

Many hands helped unload the precious

cargo under the watchful eye of Penzance’s harbourmaster, making this the first

Madeira to be shipped to the UK by sail in 140 years.

Rainwater is available in a one-off run of

2,400 x 50cl bottles.

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2019 43


In search of the twentysomethings In the second part of our coverage of The Wine Merchant’s Leeds round table in partnership with Santa Rita Estates, we begin with the thorny issue of attracting millennials to the wine category

But what we’re also finding is there is

How can wine merchants attract

a very different market now to what was

younger consumers?

around 10 or 15 years ago. Students and

Auty: The millennials invented this pre-

young people are drinking less and when

they do, they want to drink higher quality.

loading culture and beyond that there’s a

But they’ve also proved to be unbelievably

smaller market of 18 to 24-year-olds that

fickle, and I blame craft beer and I blame

we have none of at all in our business. Why

gin, because they don’t try the same things

is that? Is that because of what we do? Is it

twice. They’ll walk through the door and

that we don’t have the products that they

it’s like, oh yeah, I’ve tried that – what have

want? Is it that we’re not talking to them

in a way that they understand? Are we not putting ourselves out there in the social

circles that they have digitally? Or do we even want them?

Welsh: They’ve got no money. Deal with

the customers that you’ve got, rather than chasing ones that don’t have money.

Hill: For three years, students probably have more disposable income than I do

Cloudwater and Verdant have youth appeal

now, even though they’re borrowing it. And while we don’t necessarily offer a student discount, if you can capture their interest

as a student or as a recent post-graduate …

half these people end up being employed in the bar trade and that’s where spirits are a door-opener for us.

Chris Hill Barry Starmore Starmore Boss Sheffield

Latitude Wines Leeds

Ake & Humphris Harrogate

Denby Dale Wines Huddersfield

Auty: With craft beer, people want

something new every single time and if you don’t have something new, they will stop coming.

In the past year we’ve shifted to

something like 70% cans and 30% bottles

which is indicative of the kind of beers that people are wanting to consume. There’s still a core of diehard people that want John Morris

Phil Padgett Paul Auty

you got that’s different?

Rob Hoult Hoults Huddersfield

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2019 44

Bradman’s Duffield

Sean Welsh Flourish & Prosper Howden

© pressmaster /

properly-brewed traditional beers that are

the same year in, year out. But that isn’t the younger ones.

The younger customers are very much

driven by the big names in craft beer,

so Verdant and Cloudwater and Wylam are very important, and you’re able to

achieve a reasonable margin and people will buy things off the shelf that’s £8 for a can of beer. I never thought that was

going to be possible but it’s something

that’s happening. You don’t want a lot of

those beers because some are still going

to be there in six months’ time. It’s a case of getting them turned over fast. They’re better fresh anyway.

Hill: It’s also created a market that’s so

driven by label and image. Often Wylam,

Younger drinkers are “unbelievably fickle” in their buying habits

Cloudwater and all of these have created

more entertaining and more fun.

retired at the age of 47 with the idea he

following. They’re following what’s cool on

a case of the same wine. People want

to France. You want people aged 25 and

their market digitally and they’ve become cool digitally, and that’s what people are Instagram.

From the wine perspective, that’s why

so many people come into our shop saying

“have you got any natural wines?” And then I spend the next 20 minutes explaining

what organic, biodynamic and natural is, and telling them that because it’s got a

funky label or it’s cloudy, it might not be to their more commercial palate. But they’ve

read it, they’ve seen it, therefore they must try it.

Hoult: I think there’s not enough

photography on labels and that comes

back to seeing Cloudwater cans. But there is a thing where the funkier the label,

the shorter the lifespan of it. Fat Bastard,

Arrogant Frog, Cat’s Pee on a Gooseberry

Bush, Old Git, Old Tart … Old Tart reached its nadir when they packaged it one

Christmas with a thong. That’s a present for your grandma, isn’t it?

I think much more can be done with

labels and much more can be put on them

in terms of information and to make them

Nowadays people would much rather

spend £100 on a mixed dozen than buying variety.

Morris: I genuinely don’t want the kids

because they bring in drugs, they bring in

that element of youth culture of today that

I’m not interested in and our clients are the

demographic of a place I would like to go to have a drink and buy a bottle of wine.

was too old to attract younger customers, so he put me in charge and off he went upwards, 30 and upwards.

I want them to behave. It’s not a

nightclub culture. I don’t want people to

glug wine. I want people to sit and enjoy it. There are enough people within that age

group that do want to start looking at that. I think the wine bar thing is a much bigger

Hoult: I want younger people. My father

SUPPORTED BY SANTA RITA ESTATES Our Leeds Round Table event is the third in a series of regional disussions featuring independent wine merchants, organised in partnership with Santa Rita Estates. The company’s principal wines in the independent trade are Carmen from Chile and Doña Paula from Argentina, both distributed by Hallgarten & Novum Wines. Visit

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2019 45

Continues page 46


From page 45

draw for them than the wine shop.

Welsh: The things they like are sweet.

They’ve got horribly sweet teeth. We sell a lot of gins through the wine bar. The

older ones will drink the dry gins and the

younger ones will drink what we call fruity gins. They love all that stuff.

Hill: More than half of our sales are spirits. I think what you want to generate at any age is loyalty. We can scream from the

rooftops to get people through the door, and it’s really hard because ours is an

intimidating railway arch that’s just one

corner too far to be called the city centre,

but what we do is make sure they become loyal customers when they get there. So

our range has to reflect what we’re trying to attract, and that has changed because the younger demographic wants more

‘The Instagram generation want to go to the latest street food festival. They want to be entertained and try drinks they’ve never tried before’ choice and something new.

back time and time again.

hence we’re now pushing 1,600 products.

could have booked Showaddywaddy as

You constantly have to have churn on

your shelves whether you like it or not, Graham Holter (Wine Merchant

editor): Is it worth doing outreach work, like teaming up with a wine club at a university?

Hill: They want an experience and they want it to be as cheap as possible and I

don’t see many of them coming back and spending money afterwards. Whereas those people you can appeal to on a

personal level and want value, they’ll come

Hoult: You’re entertainment. And they much as they could have booked you.

Hill: Look at the bar trade now. Many of the established bars that have been around for

ages are really struggling because there is a millennial Instagram generation who want to go to the latest street food festival. They

want to go and see a band. They want to be entertained by the bar staff. They want to have drinks they’ve never tried before.

It’s an experience, it’s not “it’s Friday,

let’s go out on the piss”, which it was in my day.

Morris: A lot of it can be celebrity-led as well; what celebrities are drinking.

Whispering Angel is a classic example. I

sell gallons of it, only because it’s all over

Instagram with all the celebrity that people see.

In the cricket world we’ve got a lot of

people who are doing wine. Goochy’s just

done a range of wines. The rappers’ world

of Champagne and all that. The kids look at that. It gets them involved.

Hill: The kids that are looking for Cîroc

and Cristal are probably the ones you don’t want in the shop. But the kids who might be drinking a white Zinfandel now or a

pink Moscato, they’ve been saved from the alcopop world, so you have to encourage Be prepared to compete with Showaddywaddy if you get involved with students

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2019 46

them, otherwise they will just be buying a bottle of plonk from the supermarket. So don’t knock sweet wines!


The case for Oddbins and Majestic Does it help or hinder the independent trade if the two remaining wine retail chains survive and thrive? It was a subject that divided opinion among our Leeds panelists

Hoult: The independent trade needs

Padgett: It’s a bit of a dilemma because

benchmarked in some fashion.

coverage. They get customers talking

an Oddbins or Majestic, or a Wine Rack,

the likes of Majestic, the likes of Oddbins,

or someone. Because we have to be

they get the headlines and the newspaper

I don’t expect to be compared to other

about and interested in wine.

independents because we’re all different.

Whether they then stick with them or

It’s not that I want someone to say, “oh,

come to us … that’s the dilemma. If they

you’re so much better than Majestic, or so much better than Oddbins”.

There’s great staff in Majestic and great

staff in Oddbins but it’s not their own

Oddbins in Leadenhall Market, London

place, and it is ours. It’s our own fiefdom

want to dance on their graves, but I don’t

dust, that thing that sets us apart. If they’re

and I think we should all be very happy

and that’s what shines through to new

customers. They should see that extra gold

not there, we’re compared to supermarkets and I don’t want any association there. An Oddbins the way it was would be perfect. Welsh: They have been the way into the wine trade for an awful lot of people. They’ve been really big educators.

Hill: When I opened 11 years ago there

were four Oddbins in Leeds. I don’t mean this maliciously at all, but would I be in

the position I am now as the predominant independent in Leeds, still growing

and making a mark, if four Oddbins has continued to be at that level?

We’ve gone down from two to one

Majestic in Leeds. I’d like to say that

perhaps we’re all winning the battle. If you look at the rise in the numbers of indies

over the last 10 years, how many of us have benefited from that demise? And I don’t

think the consumer particularly wants

multiple branded units around the country, about that.

Auty: I don’t think it’s possible to retail the kind of wines that we might like to drink

at a national level. I told my boss the most shops we could ever have was 10. Beyond

that we’d be compromising on quality and price.

When you’ve got 100 shops or even 50

shops, you’re spreading the quality really

thinly and you’re actually clashing with the top of the supermarket market – you’re

fighting a losing battle. Threshers lost the

battle first because they decided to go head to head against the supermarkets in both price and brand.

In the mid-90s Oddbins were on a

similar line and did a big U-turn when they realised going head to head against the

supermarkets was a bad idea, and actually being different was the way forward.

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2019 47

go completely, how’s the market going

to develop if there’s nothing at all in the middle?

Hoult: We need superstar independents.

Maybe we can all be on Saturday Kitchen, one after another?

Holter: It’s interesting how people have bought into Naked’s concept of angels

and forming a connection with individual winemakers. There’s probably scope for

more of that kind of customer engagement. Hoult: That angel thing … it’s still about the deal. It’s about the sizzle. Naked’s trying to get people on the database

and then doing something cleverer than

Laithwaite’s do by getting people to give them 20 quid on a regular basis. It’s

nothing to do with the wine. It’s Netflix.

Hill: Whenever anyone comes in and ask me if we run a wine club, I always ask if

they’ve ever joined a wine club, why they

did it. “Oh, because when we joined we got a case of 12 wines for 50 quid.” Then, why are you coming to me? “Oh, because now they expect us to spend 100 quid!”


Are journalists missing a trick? Pedestrian wine choices on Saturday Kitchen ... three wines that taste of berries in the Sunday supplements ... and never any AA Gill-style polemics against wines that critics didn’t enjoy. Why, our Leeds panelists wondered, does wine journalism often occupy such a boring rut?

Hoult: One of the things about wine

journalism is that it’s generally all very

positive. When you think about restaurant reviews … the late AA Gill was wonderful to read, but his best reviews were his

most acerbic reviews, so you wanted that negativity.

With wine, if you don’t like it you don’t

write about it. So there’s not that fun

element and I’m not sure you can do it; I’m

not sure there’s that Clarkson and Gill style

about the picture on the bottle and that it tastes of X, Y or Z. The wine industry is about personalities and stories, it’s

about journeys, it’s about agriculture, it’s

about science. There’s so much more that I personally engage my customers with when they ask a question about wine.

Every single weekend supplement has

three wines you should be drinking this


Welsh: What made Clarkson’s journalism

it’s more down to the fact that editors are saying, “we’ve got room for three wines”.

Hoult: The big problem is not so much

Hoult: I feel for wine journalists to a

that they reference the big supermarkets, it’s the fact that they fall short of actually

degree because what’s left to write about?

helping. They just plump for wines that

You’ve got to come up with something

you could pluck off the shelf with little risk.

every week.

What they should be doing is saying, “this

There’s cars popping up all the time

is brilliant, and you can match it up with

is that the wine industry is not just

wine. You’re going to go to what people are

Hill: When I say it’s lazy journalism, I think

to the masses. There’s all this fancy food …

Hill: My frustration with print in particular

know what they think is a good bottle of

same with wine.

it’s lazy journalism and they want to appeal

goes for print and TV.

and the science behind it. They want to

a good story. That’s what they like. It’s the

never features any independents because

teach in any way, shape or form. And that

overly concerned about how it’s made

way. People engage with gins that have got

Welsh: The Saturday Kitchen show … it

people are shopping anyway, so they don’t

who are reading it because they’re not

cars, he wrote about them in a different

trade by the sound of it.

quid”. They’re falling into exactly where

it’s journalism that matters to the people

interesting was that when he wrote about

of wine journalism. It’s not a very well-paid

this dish. Let me tell you about this, it’s 15

Padgett: You say it’s lazy journalism, but

and restaurants popping up and there’s Where Romanée-Conti and orgasms collide

weekend and they taste of … berries. I think there’s an enormous trick being missed.

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2019 48

something to write about. Any change

in wine … it’s a natural product and it’s trickier.

Welsh: I promise you, the next article I

write, I’m going to point out some of the

shite producers and say why I dislike them, and see what happens.

© stokkete /


Rob Hoult: “I feel for wine journalists to a degree, because what’s left to write about?”

Starmore: I think there’s got to be more

if you put something like “from 60-year-

Welsh: “Why I hate Pinot Grigio”. That’s

product. A lot of wine journalism goes


going to be my first article.

Hoult: I wrote this incredibly verbose wine list for the bar and there’s a wine in there

that someone pointed out that at no point

did it tell you what the wine tasted like. We don’t do much of that sort of thing. Writing a wine description is very tricky anyway … “what’s another word for fresh?”

Hill: I used to have this principle that if

there’s more than seven words in a wine description nobody’s going to read it

and therefore they have to be really taut,

precise adjectives. Nowadays it’s just “it’s

white and it tastes of something”. Whereas

old vines” or “from a family-run business”

it’s attaching personality to that particular about it the wrong way.

Hoult: I wrote one about orgasms and wine. Roald Dahl references Domaine

Romanée-Conti in My Uncle Oswald. Oswald sits on a wall with his father with a chicken sandwich at Domaine Romanée-Conti and his father says, “to taste Domaine

Romanée-Conti is to have an orgasm in

the mouth and the nose at the same time”.

Which is probably the best tasting note out there, and it’s in a Roald Dahl book.

I put up a sign saying “No When Harry

Met Sally scene is to be recreated in this wine bar”.

When you look at the way wine

journalists interact with each other on Twitter, and you will be pooh-poohed

for a silly opinion, maybe that doesn’t

help engage younger drinkers. It helps perpetuate the myth that wine is a bit elitist, and a bit red-trousers.

‘Saturday Kitchen never features any independents because it’s lazy journalism and they want to appeal to the masses’

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2019 49



lack is back in fashion, in the

form of the vinyl LP. The format has enjoyed a resurgence in

popularity among people looking for a

touch of real-world authenticity in the way

Vinyl flair

they enjoy music in the onslaught of the digital revolution.

Music industry body the BPI says that 4.2

million vinyl albums were sold last year,

representing annual growth of 3.6%. The

increase has slowed on previous years, but sales are still up 128% since 2015 and the

format has enjoyed 11 years of consecutive growth.

Wine shops too have been bitten by the

There’s a natural affinity between good music and quality wine, and an overlap between people who seek out both commodities in specialist shops. So it’s not really a surprise to see some wine merchants installing record players on their premises to provide an extra talking point and a bit of background entertainment, as Nigel Huddleston discovers

vinyl bug, a turntable and a stack of albums providing a talking point and making a statement about a shop’s personality.

Some – such as Winyl and Hop Burns &

Black featured here and the Hops ’n’ Pops

beer shop in Cardiff – have also made vinyl

an extra revenue stream by selling records. Cargo Records and One Nation Vinyl

Distribution are among the suppliers to Google to set you on the way.

Steve Tattam, Winyl, Manningtree “I spent 20 years working for Virgin

Records and then worked in duty-free and

learnt about wine, so when it became time

to open my own business it was just a case of putting the two together.

“We’re a 50-50 split between wine and

records. We sell vintage vinyl and new

records. The reason I got a turntable at first

‘We’ve got Enomatic machines so people can choose their own wine and choose their own music. It’s nice that way’

was so people could test out the vintage

Jen Ferguson, Hop Burns & Black,

vinyl, and check they were happy with the


people putting on records in the shop.

avid vinyl collectors so when we opened a


“We have a turntable in our Peckham shop.

We’ve probably got between 800 and

shop it seemed like a natural thing to do.

“But over time, it’s just become about

1,000 singles. After a couple of glasses of

wine people put those on and have a dance around or chat about the good old days of music.

“All our events are combined with music.

We do a Singles Club once a month, which is quite interesting because some people assume it’s a singles-club singles club

rather than a record singles club. People

bring their own stuff such as rare items or new things they’ve picked up at boot fairs they want to share. We also have a songwriting circle.

“Some people bring in records they don’t

play anymore so I have done trades of wine for vinyl as well. We always keep the stock

turning over. The old classics go well: Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon is one that

keeps selling. One of the surprises has been Billie Eilish. Younger people have been

coming in and buying her album on vinyl rather than download.”

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2019 50

[Co-owner Glenn Williams] and I are both

We weren’t going to sell vinyl originally, we

just wanted three things in the name, and it came from that, our three obsessions: beer, hot sauce and music. It seemed a shame to have records sitting around at home when we spent most of our time in the shop.

“The majority of stuff we play is funk,

soul and disco, while Glenn tends more towards modern indie and electronica.

Those are the things that tend to go down best and it’s important to have stuff that’s not going to scare the horses too much as well.

“We cleared out a lot of the double-ups

we had in our collections and that was

probably a lot of what we sold originally. It’s quite easy to have a bin sitting on a

counter. A lot of the records we sell have

been vintage vinyl and second-hand finds,

but we’ve gone towards new records more, repressings of old soul and funk releases and 180g re-releases.”

Hardy Ovaisi, Levels, Eastbourne “We’re a hybrid shop so we like to have

music on and the vinyl is a nice attraction.

We’ve got quite a collection and people can choose what they like and we put it on for

them. When we’re busy and we haven’t got

time to keep flipping discs we put a Spotify playlist on but when we’ve got time or people ask, we put a record on.

“It’s 90% record player and 10% Spotify.

It gives us more character. A lot of people comment on it and like the idea that we

have vinyl. It’s become a lot more popular generally in the last few years and it isn’t just defined by one demographic. We get 19, 20-year-olds coming in who really

appreciate it and then you have a 50-year-

old who’ll come in and see a Genesis album they remember playing when they were young. It’s a nice mix of people who are interested in it.

“We’ve got a really good range: Britpop,

reggae, ska, David Bowie all through the years. The most popular are probably

Hunky Dory by Bowie, The Queen is Dead by The Smiths, Never Mind the Bollocks by the

Sex Pistols … and Elton John’s Greatest Hits, believe it or not. And we’ve got an Easy

Star All-Stars album of reggae covers of Radiohead which is very popular.

“Levels is quite interactive. We’ve got

Enomatic machines so people can choose their own wine and choose their own music. It’s nice that way.”

Tim Peyton, Real Ale, London “We have a nice area at the rear of our Notting Hill store with a 10-person

Sales of vinyl have more than doubled since 2015 to 4.2 million albums

communal table, an Enomatic and a record

natural light and a little patio area. Vinyl

that customers could do their own thing,

through the records we’ve got. We’re all


“The vision for that was to make it so

pour a glass of wine, put on a record and settle in.

“It’s almost like someone’s front room

with an inviting warm atmosphere, lots of

works well in that setting.

“It allows us to express who we are

passionate about music and a lot of our

customers are into it as well. We’ve got a big range of funk and soul, jazz and hiphop, and some dance music and a bit of

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2019 51

indie. Customers are welcome to have a

rummage and put one on or even bring in their own.

“It’s all from team members’ collections

and some are records that I’ve nicked

off my mum. Rough Trade has an office opposite and they give us records occasionally.”


Latent orient China and Japan already have established winemaking cultures, but can the wines these countries produce succeed in a market as competitive as the UK? Two importers are quietly confident that they can

© kunio /

Michael Sun, whose Panda Fine Wine

business imports a range of Chinese

wines aimed at independents, admits that conditions in China can be challenging. “Winemaking in China is not an easy

task compared to other wine regions in

the world, due to the extreme climate and weather conditions,” he says.

“It is so extremely hot in summer and

super cold in winter that all the vineyards in central to northern China have to bury the vines underground for four months during the winter.”

Most vineyard and winery owners in

China “are successful entrepreneurs who

are either millionaires or billionaires”, Sun says.

“Most grapes being planted in China have

European origins, particularly the French varieties, as most vineyards are in the

northern region of China which has similar altitudes to the French vineyards,” he adds. Japanese wines have a bright future in the UK, Boutinot predicts


sia – and China in particular – has been a hot topic in the

wine business for several years.

But the continent tends to be discussed

more in terms of its consumption than its production.

Indeed it was once calculated that if

Chinese adults ever acquired British levels

of per-capita consumption, there would be

no wine left for anyone else in the world to drink.

Yet many parts of Asia have

enthusiastically embraced viticulture,

partly to keep up with domestic demand, and partly because vignerons and

consultants from overseas have spotted

the huge potential that many regions have for quality grape production.

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2019 52

“Some less common varieties adapt to

the local climates well and are becoming very popular in China, such as Marselan. Many people are saying that it might

become the future signature grape for China.”

How does Sun feel wine styles have

evolved in China?

“The quality of Chinese wines is getting

better and better and they are starting to

form their own distinctive characters and styles, even with international varieties,

just like wines from all other regions in the new world,” Sun says.

Boutinot has recently made its first foray

driving force behind contemporary

Product manager Robin Naylor says:

findings with other wineries in the region,

into Japanese wines with its partnership with Chateau Mercian.

“We were interested in Japan as a region, principally with Koshu as it is something new for the UK market.

“Mercian’s exceptional expressions

of Koshu are elegant, precise and most importantly delicious.

“We loved the wines when we tasted

them before we knew the history. Chateau Mercian are the oldest established winery in Japan, starting out in 1870 having sent two young men to France to understand

winemaking in the European tradition. In fact, their descendants are still growing Koshu for Mercian today.

“Mercian are passionate about



Japanese winemaking. They invest in

“It’s early days for Japanese wine in our

showing a passion to improve winemaking

trade,” Naylor says.

viticultural research and share their

beyond just their winery which we find very admirable.”

Naylor is quick to shut down any

suggestion that the wines are there merely for novelty reasons.

“The wines add another dimension to

our portfolio,” he says.

“We love the depth of history and

culture from such a unique region with an indigenous, albeit hybridised, grape variety. At a time when there’s huge

interest in the region in terms of food,

art and culture it seemed like an obvious step to be involved with wines from this exciting place.”

portfolio, but we’re really chuffed with

the level of interest so far from across the “We’ve had many repeat purchases

which show the wines are already gaining traction. Of course, any product that’s

new to the UK market requires a relative

leap of faith, but the quality of what is on

offer is undeniable, and the IWC Japanese

White Trophy and Gold medal for Chateau Mercian’s Left Bank Chardonnay makes this leap much easier.

“We believe the future of Japanese

wine in the UK market is strong because fundamentally the wines are both interesting and delicious.”

Editorial panel tasting, page 54


winemaking in their region and are the

How well are the wines actually selling?



Pure elegance and finesse from Japan’s Oldest Winery @chateaumercian

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2019 53


Beasts from the East Asian wines have yet to make a major breakthrough in the UK market, with wines from China in particular in surprisingly short supply in the independent trade. The Wine Merchant team put a selection of indie-focused imports through their paces and selected a top 10 based on samples submitted from Japan and India, as well as China. Our conclusions: there are some excellent wines out there, many with distinct European accents, but the best examples also come with an exotic Asian flavour. They need enthusiastic hand-selling – and they don’t come cheap.

Rongzi red label 2014 Rongzi is based at a modern facility 3,600 feet up in the loess-rich central Shanxi

region, where former Pétrus winemaker Jean-Claude Berrouet is in charge of

things. This blend of Marselan, Cabernet

Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc has plummy and leathery Bordeaux accents, and a

simple, delicate finesse that makes it ready for drinking now.

Panda Wines RRP £20.45

helan qingxue jia bei lan 2015

skyline of gobi cabernet/ marselan 2015

This boutique winery, set in the foothills

The label is as Chinese as they come, but

of the Helan mountains in Ningxia, picked up the Decanter World Wine Awards international trophy in 2011 for its

Grand Reserve. This is a bold and smoky

the wine inside the bottle has a French

flavour, blending Cabernet Sauvignon and Marselan to create a concentrated and

three sites in India, working with 13

varieties imported from Europe – in this

case Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s all overseen by Tuscan winemaker

Piero Masi, who has crafted a firm but fresh

even a humble chow mein.

tannins that offer a gentle squeeze.

the sense it would stand up well to some of

Panda Wines RRP £33.45

Panda Wines RRP £18

accomplished wine with nice purity.

This Indo-Italian collective operates from

meaty wine with herbal flourishes. You get

affair, with a solid Cabernet structure

and fine details of plums and herbs. An

fratelli sette 2015

the richer and more exotic Asian sauces, or

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2019 54

raspberry and blackcurrant-tinged blend, with vanilla notes, a metallic streak and

Hallgarten & Novum Wines RRP £20.99

bolongbao 2015 Hailing from the suburbs of Beijing, this is a blend of Petit Manseng, Viognier,

Kanaan winery ningxia riesling 2017

chateau mercian fuefuki koshu gris de gris 2017

Fang Wang earned the nickname Crazy

Château Mercian is Japan’s oldest winery,

foothills of China’s Helan mountains, and

weeks of skin contact. It’s a complex and

Chardonnay and Roussanne, aged for

Fang when she decided, with no previous

generous, fleshy yellow fruit on the palate,

to work with Riesling. But it turns out she

eight months in used French barrels.

There’s a bready character on the nose and

experience, to start a winery in the sandy

starting out way back in 1870. The

on-trend orange hue comes from three thoughtful wine, with more power and

kept honest by a zippy acidity. The abv

wasn’t mad after all. This is a joyous affair,

pungency than you might expect but also

Panda Wines RRP £22.89

Liberty Wines RRP £25.99

Boutinot RRP £19.50

comes in at an abstemious 11.5%, but you don’t feel short-changed on flavour.

bursting with grapefruit, apple, citrus and spice characters.

ch mercian hokushin left grace koshu hishiyama 2016 bank chardonnay rivalis 2017 Some of us are prone to get a bit uppity

Another old winery, established in Japan’s

Katsunuma province in 1923, and another

about grapes as ubiquitous as Chardonnay

example of why Koshu is such an enigmatic

Chardonnay, which strikes that eternal

seems to act as a good foil for the wine’s

cropping up in exotic climes like Japan. But we need to face facts here: this is a lovely balance between richness and austerity, warmth and acidity. An elegant and polished wine, and only 12.5% abv. Boutinot RRP £40

gentle hints of almonds and apricots. Definitely a friend of sushi.

sula dindori reserve viognier 2018 OK, this isn’t the most refined or

understated Viognier in the world, but

grape. Six months on lees has added a

maybe it’s the most fun. Its tropical lychee

juicy peach flavours, honeyed notes and

whether you’re enjoying it on the hillsides

Hallgarten & Novum Wines RRP £23.99

Hallgarten & Novum Wines RRP £11.49

texture that verges on roughness, but it

hazelnut finish. It’s all underpinned by the variety’s natural acidity.

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2019 55

and peach fruit flavours rebound all over the place, creating a party in your glass,

of Maharashtra or on a wet afternoon in Macclesfield.


Vindependents Tasting

Ribera del Duero Annual Tasting

Vignobles et Signatures Tasting

Vindependents attracts members with

Taste a selection of Tim Atkin MW’s

Sixteen wineries from across France will

what it claims are 40% margins on its

2019 Top 100 Ribera del Duero wines.

showcase their wines in London.

RRPs, but its range is also constantly refreshed to keep its roster of independent merchants enthused. New arrivals include Pete’s Pure, a £10

range from New South Wales; Domaine

For more information or to register email

They are Paul Blanck & Fils, Alsace;

Domaine Cauhapé, South West; Couly-

Asia House

Drappier; Jean Durup Père & Fils,

Tuesday, October 8

les Caizergues, from Terrasses du Larzac;

63 New Cavendish Street

Cortese, Barbaresco; and Martínez

Tuesday, October 15


Manchester M3 3WD

Dutheil, Loire; Coume del Mas, Banyuls; Calvados Roger Groult; Champagne

Burgundy; Figuère, Provence; Guilbaud

Domaine la Sarabande, Faugeres; Mas

London W1G 7LP

Lacuesta Vermouth.

Chamber Space

Tuesday, October 1

Wednesday, October 30

Cecil Sharpe House

National Museum of Scotland

Tuesday, October 15

2 Regent’s Park Road

Chambers Street

University Women’s Club

London NW1 7AY

Edinburgh EH1 1JF

2 Audley Square, London W1K 1DB

Blanch i Jove, Costers del Segre; Giuseppe To register and for more information,

Frères, Loire; Domaine de L’Hortus,

Languedoc; Joseph Janoueix, Bordeaux; Alain Jaume & Fils, Rhône; Famille

Lesgourgues, Bordeaux / South West;

151 Deansgate

Domaines Piron, Burgundy; Domaine Roux, Burgundy; and Château de Tracy, Loire. Contact

© lobodaphoto /

Wines of Georgia Tasting “Just three years ago, Georgia and Georgian wine were unknown to all but the geekiest wine lover,” says Sarah Abbott MW, who heads up the country’s UK campaign. “But with a new focus on exports,

the enthusiastic response of UK wine

buyers and sommeliers, and mainstream

coverage of Georgia as an amazing tourist destination, that has changed.”

The afternoon event, launching a two-

month long Georgian wine festival in the

Qvevri wines are “really exciting territory for consumers to explore”

UK, will also feature a masterclass.

varieties so as a wine-producing country,

proportion of the different styles of wines

a lot of unsigned wine talent in Georgia,”

styles of wine. The qvevri-made amber

Wednesday, October 2

Exports to the UK increased by over a

third from 2017 to 2018. “But there is still says Abbott.

“There are over 500 native grape

it offers something genuinely different and exciting for customers looking to try new wines are really exciting territory for

consumers to explore, but this is just a tiny

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2019 56

they produce in Georgia.”


Central London venue

Armit Autumn Showcase A five-star Mayfair hotel provides the backdrop for this year’s autumn tasting, with selected wines paired with canapés in partnership with Claridge’s executive chef Martyn Nail. Armit is renowned for its enviable

Italian portfolio but the company wants to demonstrate its strength in depth in other areas too.

Visiting producers at this year’s

autumn showcase include Astrolabe from Marlborough, Chateau Dereszla from

Tokaji, and from closer to home Digby Fine

Dominik Huber of Terroir Sense Fronteres

English from Sussex.

vines up in the hills close to Priorat.

project in Montsant from Dominik Huber

led by Robert Eden, who is expecting to

New agency Terroir Sense Fronteres

is also represented: a cutting-edge

producing whole-bunch pressed, minimalintervention wines made from very old

Another new arrival is Château Maris,

the organic champion from the Languedoc

break off from harvest duties to attend the London event.

For more information and to secure a

place email Tuesday, October 1

Claridge’s, Brook Street London W1K 4HR

Out the Box This highly-anticipated fixture of the tasting calendar is where Red Squirrel and The Knotted Vine first became acquainted, sowing the seeds for the merger that recently created The Graft Wine Company. But the new business has no intention of

outmuscling fellow exhibitors at this year’s tasting.

David Knott, formerly of The Knotted Vine, now joint MD of Graft with Nik Darlington (right)

Nik Darlington, Graft’s joint boss, says:

Wines, and 266 Wines – a spin-off from

wines on show, so this year we’re keen to

What it absolutely doesn’t mean is a bigger

Maltby & Greek, Swig, Roland Wines and

For more information and registration

“It feels strange being part of an event without The Knotted Vine headlining!

presence for Graft because two former

exhibitors have been blended into one, and if anything it’s enabled us to open up the

event to more exhibitors, which can only be a good thing.”

Those newcomers include Carte Blanche

The Sampler’s trade arm.

Familiar names Basket Press Wines,

Uncharted Wines will all be present and correct.

Darlington adds: “We are keeping

exhibitor ranges as tight as possible this

year, some of the feedback from last year’s event being there were perhaps too many

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2019 57

give visitors a short, sharp and exhilarating view of what each of us has to offer.”

details, visit Tuesday, October 1

The Crypt on the Green Clerkenwell Close London EC1R 0EA


Private Vins du Médoc Masterclass

Rioja 10 x 10 Trade Tasting

The 10 categories are unoaked white;

oaked white; rosé; crianza; reserva £10

Launched in 2015, 10 x 10 brings together a collection of some of Rioja’s

This two-hour session is hosted by an

top wines, blind-tasted and selected by

accredited Médoc wine tutor and offers

a panel of leading experts from across

an opportunity to learn more about

the wine trade under the guidance of

the region and discover the diversity of

co-chairs Tim Atkin MW and Sarah Jane

styles that it has to offer.

Evans MW.

The tasting will include eight wines.

Find out more, and register, by visiting Tuesday, October 15

Avery’s Wine Merchant

Earlier this year, 100 Rioja wines were

hand-selected in 10 categories and these

wines will be presented to trade and press at next month’s event.

- £14.99; reserva over £15; gran reserva;

generic over £15; non-Tempranillo red; and the chair’s choice.

Independent merchants will have the

opportunity to taste 100 wines from 70

Rioja producers, join in with masterclasses, and discover exclusive wines not currently available in the UK.

Register or find out more at riojawine@

Thursday, October 17 Central London location

Bristol SW19 1RH

Stone, Vine & Sun Portfolio Tasting More than 50 wines will be available to taste, focusing on new discoveries in Italy, Spain and Slovenia. The event will also feature a variety of

wines for autumn and Christmas.


Wednesday, October 16 The Barrister’s Court

Browns, 82-84 St Martins Lane

Wines were selected by experts from across the wine trade

London WC2N 4AG

Union des Grands Opportunities Crus de Bordeaux A tasting of organic and biodynamic

Western Australia Wine Tasting

wines from European producers

Around 115 members of the Union

seeking UK importation and

A trade tasting for Western Australian

des Grands Crus de Bordeaux will host


wines available in the UK.

a tasting of the 2017 vintage at this annual trade event.



Wednesday, October 23

Thursday, October 24


Australia House

Wednesday, October 16

39 Whitfield Street


Central London venue

London W1T 2SF

London WC2B 4LA


THE WINE MERCHANT september 2019 58

Alsace Rocks Trade Tasting Around 100 Alsace wines will be available to sample at this year’s event. A series of themed tables will feature top

wines from what the organisers describe

at “possibly the most geologically diverse region in the world”.

There will also be a masterclass.

Email for more


Monday, October 28 Chandos House 2 Queen Anne Street José Alberto Zuccardi with son Sebastián

Wines of Argentina Trade Tasting Roadshow For the final Barullo sessions of 2019, Wines of Argentina will be showcasing more than 30 wineries in both London and, for the first time, Edinburgh too. This will include masterclasses with

David Bonomi (Norton) in London and

Phil Crozier from Wines of Argentina in Edinburgh.

Themed tables will be devoted to “new

exciting trends” from Argentina and

representatives from many of the wineries will be attending.

This tasting provides an opportunity for

anyone who wants to catch up on the latest trends in Argentina, as well as a showcase for some smaller, independent wineries looking for representation.

Wineries represented London include

Altos Las Hormigas; Andeluna; Bodega

Amalaya; Bodega Argento; Bodega Catena Zapata; Bodega Colomé; Bodega de Arte

Claroscuro; Bodega Norton; Bodegas Fabre;

Bodegas Salentein; Bodegas Staphyle; Cave Extreme; Don Cristobal; El Esteco; Familia

Zuccardi; Finca Flichman; Finca Las Moras; Kaiken; Los Haroldos; Masi Tupungato;

London W1G 9LQ

New Zealand New Release

Mendoza Red Wines; Montlaiz; Proemio

Experience the 2019 vintage as well as

Arriba; Vasija Secreta; Bodega Gualinchay;


Hormigas; Andeluna; Bodega Amalaya;

New Zealand House

Wines; Riccitelli Wines; Susana Balbo Wines; Trapiche; Bodega Nanni; Valle and Zorzal Wines.

In Edinburgh, expect to find Altos Las

other new releases from New Zealand. Contact for

Tuesday, October 29

Bodega Argento; Bodega Colomé; Bodega

80 Haymarket

Cristobal; El Esteco; Familia Zuccardi;

Wines of Germany Tasting

de Arte Claroscuro; Bodega Norton;

Bodegas Salentein; Bodegas Staphyle; Don Finca Flichman; Finca Las Moras; Kaiken; Los Haroldos; Masi Tupungato; Mendoza

Red Wines; Riccitelli Wines; Susana Balbo Wines; Trapiche; Bodega Nanni; Valle

London SW1Y 4TE

This event is an opportunity for buyers

Arriba; Vasija Secreta; Bodega Gualinchay;

to explore a range of unimported,

for more details.

The Crypt on the Green

Moonchu Hall

Clerkenwell Close

32a Gerrard Street

London EC1R 0EA

London W1D 6JA

Vinos de la Luz; and Zorzal Wines.

For more information contact Gisela@

Tuesday, October 22

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2019 59

unrepresented German wines.


Thursday, October 31

New Agency News

FMV 24-34 Ingate Place Battersea London SW8 3NS 020 7819 0360 @fieldsmorrisverdin @fmvwines

We’re delighted to announce Château La Nerthe will be joining the FMV portfolio as an exclusive new agency from the end of September. This familyowned producer is one of the oldest in Châteauneuf-du-Pape – dating back to 1560. All wines are certified organic, made with 100% estate-grown fruit. We will offer four current releases, as well as an exciting new library programme for highly regarded vintages, drinking well 10 years after their first release date. Join us in Manchester and Bristol for our Forward Drinking tastings. Manchester: Tuesday 24th September, 10am-4pm The Refuge, Oxford Street, Manchester M60 7HA Waterford Estate and Château La Nerthe will be attending.

Bristol: Tuesday 1st October, 10am-4pm Paintworks (Verve Events), The Airstream, Main Courtyard, Bath Road BS4 3EH Bodegas Mustiguillo and Waterford Estate will be attending.

To register, contact your Account Manager or RSVP to

Old Barn Farm Harts Lane, Ardleigh Colchester CO7 7QQ 01206 231686 @seckfordagency Seckford Agencies Ltd

Greystone Wines, North Canterbury New Zealand With six wines that are now available in UK.

© rh2010 /

seckford agencies

Seckford Agencies are delighted to be launching their first fully organic wine range from “Our approach has been, and always will be, to let the different elements essential to the grapevine sing in the bottle. We let the season and the soils have their say and nurture it through the winemaking process to show a style that will withstand the test of time.” Nik Mavromatis, GM Greystone • 2018 Pinot Gris, Sand Dollar dry (Organic) • 2018 Pinot Gris off dry style (Organic) • 2017 Chardonnay • 2017 Nor’Wester by Greystone Pinot Noir • 2017 Vineyard Ferment Pinot Noir (Organic) (small volumes) • 2016 Thomas Brothers Pinot Noir (small volumes)

Greystone named 2018 NZ Winery of the Year by Raymond Chan. Dom Maxwell awarded Gourmet Traveller 2018 New Zealand Winemaker of the Year. Decanter Magazine and DWWA Trophies for Best Pinot Noir & Best Chardonnay of the Year and in Top 3 Pinot Gris of the Year. For more information, please email either David or Philip

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2019 60


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

0207 409 7276

As Cognac begins to shed its traditional image the time is ripe to introduce wine lovers to this diverse grape-based spirit. Cognac Frapin is one of the area’s oldest names. The family can trace their vine

growing history back to 1270 and have long been known for the quality of their eaux-

de-vies. Located on a single estate in the heart of Grande Champagne, Frapin’s Cognacs are made entirely in-house, from vine to bottle, employing time-honoured techniques without additions, standardisation or shortcuts.

Frapin offers a diverse selection of Cognacs to suit a wide variety

of tastes and here are four to get you started.

1270: Focused on youthful orchard and stone-fruit characters typical of Frapin’s eaux de vies. Enjoy straight, with tonic or in cocktails.

VSOP: Richer and more concentrated than your average VSOP, this Cognac is characterised by dried apricots, nuts and spice. Great on

its own or with ginger. Make a simple long drink with green tea and ginger ale.

Château Fontpinot XO: A single-vineyard Cognac made and aged

at Frapin’s château, this unusual Cognac is elegant and intense with herbal and nut characters. Delicious sipped neat or over ice.

15 Years Old: Launched this summer and a first for Frapin. A limited-edition cask

strength, non-chillfiltered expression blended from barrels aged in ground floor and attic cellars. Enjoy neat with ice or mixed.

hatch mansfield

Proudly Introducing Zuccardi ...

New Bank House 1 Brockenhurst Road Ascot Berkshire SL5 9DL

We’re incredibly excited to welcome Zuccardi to the Hatch Mansfield portfolio. As pioneers in the region, they are known for producing sublime wines of the highest quality and Sebastián Zuccardi is widely recognised as one of South America’s most innovative and exciting winemakers.


Created in honour of the noble olive tree, as much a part of the Zuccardi family as the vines themselves, these wines are a perfect introduction to the style of the Uco Valley, showcasing its wonderful minerality.

01344 871800


Valles | Apelación ranges

Wines which express Argentina’s most representative grape varieties by recognising the best growing regions specific to each, and selecting top vineyards sites along the foothills of the Andes Mountains.


Please contact Hatch Mansfield for further information

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2019 61


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

Walker & Wodehouse Christmas Promotions W&W’s Christmas promotions exclusively for independent merchants will kick off at the beginning of October. They will feature great wines and spirits including Champagne Palmer (pictured), Plaimont, Catena, Spier, Charles Smith, Bolney Estate, Vallado Port and Eden Mill Gin. Ask your Account Manager for more details.


buckingham schenk

Pormenor Vinhos, Portugal

Unit 5, The E Centre Easthampstead Road Bracknell RG12 1NF

Pormenor Vinhos was established in the Douro in 2013

01753 521336

(which means “detail” in English) produces wines with

@BuckSchenk @buckinghamschenk

following the dream of three friends – José Silva, Miguel Cardozo and Pedro Coelho. With vines ranging from 50 to 100 years old planted at high altitudes, Pormenor

moderate alcohol, freshness and elegance. Even though Pormenor does not consider itself to be a natural wine producer, the winery does not use any kind of non-

natural product and most of its work is done in a very

non-interventionist way to let the natural conditions of each vintage be expressed in the wine.

We’ve picked this Douro tinto as a great example of

what the winery does best. It’s a traditional blend of

Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Amarela and Rufete,

produced from 60-year-old vines planted at 500m above sea level. Focusing on elegance rather than power, it

offers refreshing black fruits with well-integrated French oak, balanced by a streak of minerality and wet stone.

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2019 62


Budureasca Romania – Gold, Silver and Bronze again at Decanter 2019

UK importer: Transylvania Wine The Shacks House Halifax HX2 0SX

07952 981036

We are proud to be confirmed once again as one the the most successful vineyards from Romania based on Decanter results. The Noble collection has a special place in Budureasca’s portfolio. These are the signature wines created by well-known British winemaker Stephen Donnelly and they have been rewarded with Gold and Silver in the latest Decanter results. Are you ready to expand your range with great wines from Romania? Just give us a shout!

A selection of Budureasca wines are available in the UK. If you would like to organise tastings for your customers or to receive samples please contact the importer.

GOLD Budureasca Noble White 2017 95 points Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Muskat Ottonel. Luxurious and absolutely laden with fruit. A sublime mineral finish. RRP £16.99

SILVER Budureasca Noble Five 2016 90 points Cabernet, Pinot Noir, Shiraz, Merlot, Feteasca Neagra. Rich, ripe and fresh, with liquorice-tinged, concentrated dark fruits. RRP £17.49

BRONZE Vine in Flames Pinot Noir 2018 88 points 100% Pinot Noir. Tobacco, cinnamon and black pepper characters amid fine red fruits and elegant tannins. RRP £11.99

BRONZE Premium Tamaioasa Romaneasca 87 points 100% Tamaioasa Romaneasca. Strong Muscat character, with citrus blossom on the attractive finish. RRP £12.99

The Beaujolais quality renaissance

liberty wines

BRONZE Vine in Flames Feteasca Regala 2018 87 points 100% Feteasca Regala. Pure and driven by fruit which shows admirable concentration and a lively character. RRP £11.99

BRONZE Budureasca Origini Shiraz 2015 86 points A generous and spicy dry red wine, with proper Syrah notes including tobacco, spice and dried dark fruits. RRP £19.99

By David Gleave MW

020 7720 5350

High prices for wine and land in Burgundy are proving a boon for Beaujolais as producers

trained Gamay vines grown on granite soils the same care and attention they would to

generation of winemakers from established domaines, are applying to the old, bushPinot Noir in the Cote d’Or.

Frédéric Berne is a case in point. He makes Beaujolais in the village of Lantignié, where

sustainable viticulture is at the core of his commitment to making modern Beaujolais.


Modern Beaujolais is Florent Georger’s concern when he says that “people are starting

to understand Beaujolais’ worth: its grape, its soils and the different vinification methods

practiced”. This shines through in the Brouilly Florent makes at Château de Pierreux, one of the region’s great estates.

The outsiders include Mathieu Moron and Pierre Olivier Garcia, who arrived from

Nuits St Georges two years ago. Their decision to make wine in Brouilly came from a

characteristic Burgundian problem: a destructive spring frost in the Cote d’Or that almost







from the north head south in search of value. These new arrivals, along with a younger




decimated their entire crop.

Jane Eyre, known for her Pinot Noir from Mornington Peninsula and Burgundy, sums up

the situation: “Beaujolais suffered greatly due to the damage done by Beaujolais Nouveau.

But there are many winemakers today making great wines that are changing people’s perception. It is not just a light, early drinking variety. It can only be upwards from here.”

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2019 63


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

Casas del Bosque was founded in 1993 by Juan Cuneo Solari and was one of the first wineries in the Casablanca Valley, today it is still family owned and managed. The family have 245 hectares of vines in the Santa Rosa Estate, located on the west side of the Casablanca Valley. The Casas del Bosque philosophy is based on the constant search for excellence, quality instead of quantity is at the heart of their viticultural practices. In 2013 and again in 2014 Casas del Bosque was awarded top honours at the International Wine & Spirit Competition as Chilean Wine Producer of the Year.





For more information contact your Account Manager or email us at

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


New Agency for RWA! RWA are proud to announce an exclusive distribution

agreement with Marques de Riscal for England and Wales. This historic yet innovative winery has been producing

wines of the highest quality since 1858 and remains familyowned and run to this day. Pioneering a Bordeaux-style

approach to winemaking in the 19th century, helping in

the creation of the Rueda DOC in the late 20th century and

constructing the Frank Gehry-designed City of Wine (below)

are just some examples of the constant drive for improvement.

Contact info@ richmondwineagencies. com for more details and prices.

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2019 64

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

Domaine Clavel. Nestled in the village of Saint Gervais, one of the 18 villages of the Côtes du Rhône.

Claire Clavel is a descendant of a family of vignerons stretching back to 1640. A

member of the Femmes Vignes Rhône, Claire maintains her 80 hectares with the help of her father Denis, utilising the varying terroirs of over 100 parcels. The vineyard

is located mostly on the village of St Gervais, with well exposed south-facing slopes

composed of sand, clay and limestone soils along a cool and windy plateau. Sheltered 07789 008540 @FamilleHelfrich

and protected, St Gervais is an area of sandy soil, sometimes

limestone, where the wines express lightness with a delicate touch rarely seen in this region.

Domaine Clavel works the vines with full respect to the

environment. Domaine Clavel joined Terra Vitis in 2010 to guarantee transparency, traceability and quality and also certified High Environmental Value.

The Claire de Lune range represents Claire’s premium

cuvées. The red is a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault from the red clay sandstone on the plateau, benefiting

They’re all smiles to your face from … the cooling Mistral wind, offering a distinct freshness to complement the more

traditional spicy flavours of the Rhône. The white is a 50/50 blend of Viognier and

Roussanne, fermented and aged in barrel to give powerful yet well balanced flavours. As Claire herself would say, a perfect gastronomic wine!

hallgarten wines Dallow Road Luton LU1 1UR 01582 722 538

RULLY 1ER CRU ‘RABOURCÉ’, GOUFFIER | 2017 Burgundy, France


RRP: £35.99


RRP: £42.50



A vineyard’s terroir can say a lot about a wine. Whether it is made with organic or biodynamic principles, or LAKE CHALICE ‘THE RAPTOR’, CHARDONNAY | 2017 Marlborough, New Zealand RRP: £19.49

from vines older than time, this month we are taking a closer look at wines which show an innate sense of place. TIKVEŠ ‘BAROVO’, SINGLE VINEYARD | 2016 Tikveš, Republic of Macedonia RRP: £21.99

Please get in touch for more information on our Earth promotion. THE WINE MERCHANT september 2019 65


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

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

ehrmanns Unit 23, The Ivories 6-18 Northampton Street London N1 2HY 0203 227 0700 @ehrmannswines ehrmannswines

Ehrmanns at the Wines of Chile Tasting Ehrmanns will be taking part in the Wines of Chile Trade Tasting on the 24th September. We will be showing the latest vintages from Santa Carolina, including the independentexclusive Reserva de Familia range.

With a rich history dating back to 1875, Santa Carolina is one of the oldest wineries in

Chile. The Reserva de Familia range has played an integral role in its history and helped to forge the

reputation that Chile holds for premium winemaking. In the late 19th century, the wines were made from the best grapes set aside by Santa Carolina founder Luis Pereira and the Cabernet Sauvignon was the

first Chilean wine to gain international recognition, winning a gold medal in Paris in 1889. Today, the

Reserva de Familia range offers wines from Chile’s finest winemaking valleys. These elegant wines

are concentrated and complex, with well-defined structures and classic varietal definition.

Reserva de Familia Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenère – RRP £16.99

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2019 66


The Wine Merchant Top 100 Trophy Winners from Mentzendorff

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

Best Fortified Wine:

Best Fortified Wine

Best Value Fortified Wine

Henriques & Henriques 10 Year Old Bual Madeira RSP: £20.00 What the Top 100 judges said: “Delicious rum and raisin richness and toffee notes that are so inviting. It really has lovely balance and length – with lift as well as intensity.” Best Value Fortified Wine: Fonseca Unfiltered Late Bottled Vintage Port 2012 RSP: £16.50 What the Top 100 judges said: “Such an appealing layered nose with fresh exuberant fruit but also some mature secondary flavours just starting to show through. In the mouth, it has so much sweet berry fruit and structured but velvety tannins – delightful texture. This is very high quality Port and exceptional value for money.” For details and pricing please contact your account manager.

enotria & COE

Join us at our Autumn/Winter tastings

23 Cumberland Avenue London NW10 7RX

Sniff, swirl and sip your way into Autumn/Winter 2019 at our tastings in London, Bristol

wines, spirits and beers from around the world, and will be joined by a collection of our most charming and inimitable producers.

020 8961 5161

and Manchester over the 16th and 18th September.

In the run-up to the busy festive period, we’ll be showcasing an unrivalled selection of


16th September The Music Room London

18th September Prince Street Social Bristol

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2019 67

18th September Ply Manchester

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