Page 1

THE WINE MERCHANT. Issue 86, November 2019

Dog of the Month: Roscoe Tanner, Tanner’s

Safely gathered in It was a soggy harvest at Rathfinny in Sussex, but yields were up by 19%, the producer says

Indies are backing Beaujolais The style was once derided by specialists, but many are finding that a new crowd appreciates Nouveau


eaujolais Nouveau is showing signs of a comeback in the independent trade, with dozens of merchants

planning to get behind the new wines when they arrive on November 21.

Just a few years ago the category seemed

in danger of extinction in the UK, but many specialist retailers say there is a consumer

appetite for a wine that has seen a surprise

revival in its fortunes, partly on the back of

a less gimmicky style than has traditionally dominated the market.

Matt Tomas of Vinoramica in east

London says: “Personally I love it. We like to get in a few cases and sell it over a few

days. It always seems to go down quite well. “I think it’s shaken off a bit of an image

problem it maybe had a few years ago.

People are definitely interested in lighter,

slightly lower ABV reds, even in the winter.

“I think the growers are releasing decent

quality Beaujolais Nouveau and it’s good to enjoy it when it’s there. Generally, the slightly younger age group, between 25

and 45, are the ones who have got excited

Continues page five

Viv Blakey, Rathfinny Wine Estate

An independent magazine for independent retailers


Inside this month 6 comings & Goings Good news for Bedminster, Crowborough and Cirencester

12 tried & tested We rather like Olaszrizling and Petite Sirah. OK?

18 david williams Reporting back from some quite boring supermarket tastings

26 the old bridge wine shop A place for everything and everything in its place at this Huntingdon independent

32 buyers trip to austria Discovering Burgenland and Styria with some intrepid indies

46 French connections Eleven artisanal producers have wines they believe are tailormade for specialist merchants The Spirits World, page 58; Make a Date, page 60; Supplier Bulletin, page 61

You think you hate Vivino? Just imagine what might come next


eing naturally fearful of change, and not particularly up to speed with digital media, we were quite late to the party here at The Wine Merchant when it comes to Vivino. Most, if not all, independents will have encountered the app by now. It’s a kind of Shazam for bottles of wine: simply snap a picture of the label, and within seconds you’ll have a wealth of information at your fingertips, including stuff about grape varieties, producer and region, and reviews from fellow Vivinists – possibly a word we’ve invented – telling you what the wine tastes like. That’s all very exciting stuff, and it doesn’t cost anything to be part of the action. It’s quicker than a Google search and you get to store all your favourite wines, along with your own review, for easy reference another time. Vivino also gives users a guideline price which is based on the kind of figure that an e-commerce site might be able to offer if you disregard things like courier costs and minimum orders. That detail doesn’t stop customers from using Vivino as a stick with which to beat their friendly local wine merchant or restaurant, against whom they believe they now have rock-solid evidence of shameless profiteering.

Many merchants despise Vivino for exactly that reason. They also resent the fact that some customers seem determined to keep their noses stuck to their smartphone screens, reading reviews that say “cracking red!” in the company of a retailer who would happily, if called upon, tell them everything they need to know about the wine in question. But, as Edward Symonds of Saxty’s in Hereford argued at our recent round table event in Birmingham (see pages 41-45), this kind of technology is only going to get better, and if Vivino isn’t the long-term app of choice for wine drinkers, something else will come along. The technology is not about to be un-invented. The challenge for indies is to find their own ways of engaging with their customers in the digital space. Some have apps of their own, admittedly not as allencompassing as Vivino, but they do a job. When 5G goes live, and technology moves on even more, we’ll probably look back at the current version of Vivino and smirk. But whatever comes next will pose more challenges for retailers, and possibly present lots of opportunities. Those of us who like to pretend digital media is an irrelevant fad would do well to at least try to keep up with developments.

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

THE WINE MERCHANT november 2019 2


Matt’s all smiles at being out of date

restaurants which have gone bust. “It’s

been a bad year for restaurants,” he says,

“but a really good year for our customers. We are able to get wines that could retail

Matt Ellis at the Smiling Grape Company

for £16 but we can do them for £6.99. We

in St Neots is often head of the queue

can get very cheap spirits that way too.”

when it comes to innovative ideas.

Ellis is currently considering locations

This is the wine merchant who is

for some pop-up shops leading up to

well known for his sideline in extreme

Christmas with the intention of harnessing

adventure tours: at the end of this year

the party crowd who might not be able

he is inviting customers to join him on

to resist the huge discounts on offer. For

an expedition to Ethiopia. “Join us,” his

example, Ellis is able to offer cans of Resin

website reads, “for the adventure of a

lifetime as we visit the Danakil Depression in Ethiopia, aka The Gateway to Hell.”

Perhaps more mainstream is his interest

in beer. Ellis says that a significant part

of his business is now selling out-of-date

from Sixpoint Brewery with an RRP of This man can sell you £4.50 beer for just 99p

“The breweries contact us and we buy it

beer both from his shop and from www.

from them at a very cheap price and people

really taken off and helped the business,”

with Tesco and once the beers become

lowcost, the website he’s set up specifically for this retail offshoot. “It’s

Ellis explains. “We worked out the other

day that we have sold 60,000 bottles and cans over the past year.

are quite happy to buy it from us. We also

work with a couple of breweries that deal out of date, they send them back to the brewery.”

Ellis is also buying up stock from

Join us at the UK's first ever Cava Summit The first ever London Cava Summit will include a round-table discussion for independent wine specialists, hosted by The Wine Merchant. The event brings together experts and industry influencers to discuss the promising future of premium Cava in the UK. The summit takes place on Monday, December 2 at The ICETANK, London WC2 where personalities from across the wine trade will debate the way in which merchants, together with the prime movers in the DO Cava, can influence the way consumers drink and appreciate Cava. The event starts with a keynote address by DO Cava president Javier Pagés, followed by a a panel discussion including Sarah Jane Evans MW and Dawn Davies MW. An open tasting, featuring a selection of Reserva, Gran Reserva and Cava de Paraje wines, will take place from 12.30pm. The Wine Merchant round table starts at 2pm. Merchants interested in taking part in the round table can contact To register for the event itself, email

THE WINE MERCHANT november 2019 4

£4.50 for just 99p each.

Are there any dreaded health and safety

implications when it comes to drinking out-of-date beer? Ellis says not and

explains that although it would depend on

how the beer is made, breweries generally allow a drinking window of “more or less” two years beyond the best-before date.

“Another plan in the pipeline is to have

our own out-of-date beer bar called The

Best Before Bar,” he says. “We can become the next Wetherspoons.”

Merchants gear up for Nouveau party From page one

about it. They are more curious and tend to buy it without any of the baggage.”

Greg Andrews of DVine Cellars in south

London says: “We do something with

Beaujolais Nouveau most years and it’s always good fun.

“We use the event to broaden people’s

understanding – they understand the difference between the crus and the

Nouveaux once they’ve been told, but

I don’t think the level of knowledge is necessarily there at the moment. I’m

seeing cru Beaujolais become a little more

popular in light of the escalating Burgundy

confident that the region as a whole is now back on track and ready to take its rightful place on the world wine stage.

“There’s a lot of good things going on

in Beaujolais,” he says. “People realised

the whole of Beaujolais had to improve, not just Beaujolais Nouveau. One of the

biggest issues was over-production and

yields have been radically reduced. If you compare now with the end of the 1990s,

even early 2000s, yields have dropped by

20% per hectare and an enormous amount of vineyards have been grubbed up.

“I think the young winemakers are

making a huge effort to concentrate on quality and grow their vines on fairly

difficult steep slopes compared to a lot of regions in France.

“The new generation of winemakers have

“This year the plan will be to have three

Beaujolais Nouveaux as well as a showcase of cru Beaujolais; a Morgon, a Fleurie and maybe a Saint-Amour.

“The suppliers I’m working with have

– even more so than last year’s I’d say. I

Yields have dropped by 20%

think the quality has improved over recent

different ideas of how to make wine, and

francophiles either. I’ve been surprised that

changed their whole viewpoint – there are

years – it’s a lot more serious. It’s not just

a whim for the cool kids or the traditional the demographic who are interested are mostly drinkers in their 40s.”

Devon merchant Christopher Piper

has been making wine in Beaujolais for

almost half a century. The majority of his

wines are Brouilly, Morgon and Beaujolais Villages – he began making Beaujolais

Villages Nouveau 15 years ago when he

started to view it not just as a “cash cow”

but rather a “legitimately interesting drink, created for the Lyonnaise market in the 19th century”.

Piper has witnessed the rise and fall in

the fortunes of Beaujolais Nouveau and is

• Although sparkling red wines ae often regarded as an Australian novelty, they were being produced in the country as early as 1881. It is thought that the world’s first sparkling reds appeared in Burgundy in the 1820s.



all been positive about the ’19 vintage

“Our Man with the Facts”

they’ve travelled. But it’s not necessarily a

question of age. There are people who have people in their 50s who are quite radically forward thinking. It’s about people

opening their eyes, realising the region has

huge potential and trying to grab it and run with it.”

Modern Beaujolais Nouveau can be a

very different animal to what was knocked back in the 80s. “We’re after red fruits,

dark fruits, the floral side of it,” says Piper. “I will ferment my Beaujolais Nouveau for six or seven days. We don’t do too much

pumping over or extraction – we want it to be fruit-forward and tannin-guarded, but also to be a serious wine.”

THE WINE MERCHANT november 2019 5

• According to research, the cost of growing organic wine grapes is on average 10% to 15% higher than that for conventional grapes. The cost of growing biodynamic grapes increases by a further 10% to 15% compared to that of the organic product.

....... • A study into terroir, carried out at UC Davis, analysed red wines made from grapes from five different vineyards within a 40-mile radius, vinified in separate wineries. It was found that both the vineyard and the winery impacted on the chemical composition of the finished wine, throwing yet more doubt over the real effect of terroir.

....... • Rather confusingly, Morillon is both an old French synonym for Pinot Noir as well as the word used in Styria, Austria, for Chardonnay. The term was once also popular in Chablis.

Food hall moves to Hercules site Popular Kent food hall Macknade has taken on the Faversham branch of Hercules Wine Warehouse and rebranded as Macknade Wine & Spirits. Macknade’s general manager Finn

Dunlop says: “Sarah [Dodd] had been a tenant for 10 years and now she is

concentrating on her shop in Sandwich. We just bought the stock and amalgamated the wine shop within our existing business.”

“It was a very good offer,” admits Dodd,

“one I would have been foolish to turn down … so I didn’t!”

She explains that while the Faversham

site was always 100% retail, the wholesale, e-commerce and private client side of the business has always been handled from

Finn Dunlop expects the current range of 400 wines to grow

Sandwich. “It’s business as usual,” she says,

in regularly and conduct tastings for

make a perfectly comfortable living,” he


has a soft spot for wine from eastern

things, and that’s what I’m going for with

“but I wouldn’t rule out taking on another site if one popped up in the ‘perfect’

Dunlop and his team will continue to

engage their customers through wine events and tastings.

“Already with our customer base

we encourage people to explore the

boundaries of their palate, with their

cooking and so on, so we want to do that

not just in culinary terms but in wine terms as well,” he says.

The food hall had already been retailing

wine but this new development brings its

customers,” he says.

Looking further afield he says he

European countries. “I think they are

both underrepresented and underrated

Phoenix rises in Cirencester Simon Griffiths was managing the Cirencester branch of Appellation

suppliers including Boutinot, Berkmann

the helm of his new shop, Phoenix Wines,

at which point he decided to go it alone.

and Alliance and is “open” to working with

which he set up with a little financial help

deals with a large number of Kentish

wine producers. “We are dedicated to

maintaining strong relationships with

the winemakers, who are invited to come

The remainder of the selection is based

I ever anticipated because it seems to be

interest amongst our customers,” he says.

that it expects to grow.

Dunlop is proud to say that Macknade

the shop.”

on wines Griffiths has tasted and decided

Nation when the lease came to an end,


price point because they all offer different

and I very much want to reinvigorate that

offering to more than 400 wines, a figure

The company buys from a number of UK

says. “But you can get great wine at every

Fast forward a few months and he is at

from his dad.

Griffiths admits that being in the heart

of the Cotswolds his clientele has classic

tastes. “I could probably get by with having a shop of three square feet with nothing

but white Burgundy and red Bordeaux and

THE WINE MERCHANT november 2019 6

were “good for the money”.

He says: “I’ve got more Australian that

showing really well at the tastings I’ve been to.”

Currently he has around 380 lines

including spirits and he estimates that

he is 80% of the way to full capacity. The company does some direct importing:

“We’ve got a Champagne, Bernard Lonclas in Bassuet; very Chardonnay-led, just the sort of thing that I like, and a Côtes de

Gascogne producer who does our house red and white,” he says. But he is also

working with a number of UK suppliers including Liberty, ABS and Graft.

Wholesaling is on the agenda once the

AWRS accreditation is in the bag, and plans are also in place for a tasting room on the

Adeline Mangevine Hasty despatches from the frontline of wine retailing first floor of the building.

Appellation Nation’s other branch, in

Cheltenham, continues to trade.

A reason to visit south Bristol A new wine bar and shop called Kask opened in Bedminster, south of Bristol, last month. The focus is on minimal intervention

and organic wines with a four-tap wine

wall that was installed on the premises by


av comes back from a couple

of days of hanging out with his cool wine pals in London . “We

went to an amazing place in Hackney

called Folliard where all they serve is Gamay. I can’t wait till the 21st.” I look puzzled.

“Beaujolais Nouveau day!” he exclaims,

in disbelief, with a quizzical look that

says “you’re in the trade, how can you not know?”

Well, I should have remembered, given

Uncharted Wines.

the amount of enticements I now get

up with their university pals Charlie and

I couldn’t give a fig. And judging by the

Sophie and Henry Poultney, owners of

Grace + James in Birmingham, have teamed Natalie Taylor to launch the new business. “Kask is pretty much the same concept

as Grace + James,” explains Sophie, “but

the main difference is that we have really

from suppliers who are all jumping on

Beaujolais’ supposed revival. But frankly, dust that gathers on my finer bottles

of Gamay, most of my customers don’t, either.

Don’t get me wrong. I like some of the

homed in on the wine-on-tap thing.”

stuff. I’ve been known to really like some

corkage fee.

Burgundies would be the bottles I saved.

There are about 100 lines in stock to buy

by the bottle and any can be drunk in for a On top of that there are 12 wines

available by the glass at any one time and the business is using Graft and Les Caves de Pyrene for the tap wines.

“The idea is that we only buy one keg

of each wine and so we always have

something different for customers to try,” says Sophie.

“We’ve got a number of orange wines,

lots of skin contact, lots of chillable

reds, sparkling reds, lots of pet nat. We

encourage people to have a little sample and taste the wines before buying and we’ve had some great feedback.”

of the cru stuff (oh all right, Morgon). But

what sort of wines we’re doing here.”

supplier lists are awash with carbonic wannabes from Chile to New Zealand,

when what I really need are some more

rib-sticking but interesting reds that my customers actually want to drink at this

time of year. Wines that take them off the beaten track but still satisfy the need for

Du vin, du pain, du Boursin. Why all the excitement over something as retro as Nouveau?

wants to run a campaign, go ahead. He

their beret-wearing shenanigans every November, racing to be the first back from France with their Beaujolais

Nouveau – to be consumed with gusto

with Boursin and supermarket baguette (they never had time to stock up on

food in France, so keen was the contest). That confected smell leaping from their glasses still haunts me. Of course, they

don’t touch the stuff now. “Have you seen the prices, Adeline?” Yes. I have.

I also find the near-cult worship of

through what I suffered. Now, the rest of

all around simply because they’ve heard of

creating the original smashable red. Now

their friends for my neutrality, with

You could blame my parents and

have to – everyone goes north of the river. But we’ve had a lot of people come from

I also blame Beaujolais itself, for

a robust and hearty liquid.

Beaujolais among younger members of

one goes south of the city unless you really

extensive list of Beaujolais.

if the shop was on fire, my Barolos and

She adds: “Kask is in a suburb south of

the city, and there’s a joke in Bristol that no

opening gambit is telling me about their

the trade a bit off-putting. Perhaps I am just envious that they never had to go

the trade is trying to sound hip and with

it. Pity the poor potential supplier whose

THE WINE MERCHANT november 2019 7

When I explain all this to Gav, he looks

(as ever) downhearted. So I tell him if he can choose the supplier, the producer

and do all the paperwork and promotion. But I want to see all those bottles sold, and for a decent margin.

So, here I am working in the shop

wearing a beret and a striped T-shirt, looking just like my mother all those

years ago. It’s part of Gav’s promotion

for his FEELING NOOVY night. We’ll have a DJ playing 80s vinyl and be serving Boursin and

baguettes – because Gav’s realised that in our neck

of the woods, it’s the best way to get people

enthused. Go retro to show people the new Nouveau.

Career change in Crowborough Chartered accountant turned wine merchant Alastair Wighton is confident that his recent career change was the

environment where people are working

under one roof, we’re not only able to

because they want to do it. I don’t expect to

relationship with our range of offerings.”

because they feel they have to, but

everyone I talk to in this industry does it

make millions but I can make a living out of it and enjoy it.”

right move. He and his wife Teresa opened their

expand our hours for both sides of the business but develop a more flexible

Customers will now be able to select

any bottle of wine from the shelf to drink in, and the by-the-glass list is changed frequently – “at least once a week”.

shop, Alteus Wines, in Crowborough, East

Wine shop is Bourne again

independent wine merchant on this site

for over 40 years,” says Alastair, “and the

Victor Chapman has bought the Artisvin

somewhere that sells alcohol.

off – I’m not making any massive changes

Sussex, six months ago and life is sweet.

“There’s been either an off-licence or an

reason for holding out for this location

store in Eastbourne from Steve Hodden.

“We gutted the place completely and

but I am having a tasting at the weekend to

“The plans are to pick up where Steve left

was the local community knows it as

revamped it. We had a chap come in to

help us with the shelving and we’re really pleased with it. It’s absolutely solid – nothing is falling off there!”

Teresa is still working full time as a

sales director for Bupa Global, but shares

Alastair’s passion for wine. “Teresa studied

Organic and natural wines are Forest’s focus

Marrying the grill next door

get an idea of what the locals like to drink rather than filling the shelves with what I like,” Chapman explains.

Chapmans Wine Merchants displays a

huge black and white photo of a group of

men on board a ship. “It’s the ship that my great-grandfather and his two brothers

left Nantes on,” he says. “They were laying

for her Diploma many years ago and l

When things become a squash and a

for Level 3, which incorporated a bursary

immediate neighbourhood.

customer relationships through a series

to be able to do just that.

Canadian. “Up the road from here in Meads

forces with our Bar & Kitchen space. By

back to Canada,” he says. “I’ve worked in

did my WSET Level 2 and 3 last year,” he

squeeze not everyone is able to expand

explains. “I was lucky enough to win a prize

their retail space and still remain in the

The business will focus on building good

Wines in Walthamstow, was lucky enough

from the Vintners Company.”

of tastings and events. Alastair, having

recently escaped the corporate world of

boardrooms and long commutes, is happily embracing his new role.

“The biggest fun I have is sourcing

the wine,” he says “putting together this

But Jana Postulkova, owner of Forest She says: “In September we made a

big move – all the way next door – to join

marrying our takeaway and sit-in service

close to my heart.”

Eastbourne is familiar ground for the

is the hotel management school where I

graduated from 28 years ago before going other countries over the years and I’ve

been working for the last 15 years with wholesalers all over the south east of

Chapman is keen to engage with the local

that people are going to be interested in.

community and in addition to the weekend

So I have actually cast the net quite wide in

tasting he mentions, there are plenty of

terms of the suppliers I’m using.

so friendly and helpful. I’m used to an

got a particular focus on the Loire, it is

with to stock my shelves.”

balance, the right price point; getting stuff

It’s been fantastic; people have been

Canada, where I’m from. So while I haven’t

England, a lot of whom I’m now working

collection, trying stuff, getting the right

“They’ve all been really supportive.

cable across the ocean and they settled in

Any wine can now be enjoyed on the premises

THE WINE MERCHANT november 2019 8

other events he has in mind. But he says

he’ll keep it “light, interesting, informal and fun – not too cerebral and stressful”.

Tissue’s a big issue WBC’s in-house artist Gabriela Soria de Felipe has designed some limited-edition wine-themed tissue paper, guaranteed to add a touch of pizzazz to even the most modest of bottles. Available in three designs, the tissue is printed with water-based inks and is priced at £16.50 plus VAT for a pack of £400 sheets. There’s no minimum order and free delivery on orders of £150 and above.

A daring decanter Fashioned after the ebullient Macebeo grape, a staple for white Riojas, the styling of The Waiter’s Friend Company’s Macebeo decanter is described as “a daring departure that promises to both intrigue guests while chilling whites to pleasing perfection”. The newly-launched decanter has a capacity of 90cl and comes with a suggested retail price of £49.99.


customers we could do without

7. Mrs Carmichaels … You’re not the lady that was here last time, she found me a lovely wine, beautiful it was, pretty label as well, even my sister said how delicious it was and she doesn’t drink, or she’s not supposed to, because she’s on tablets. Begins with a Sh. Do you know that one? I think it was a Sh. Some sort of picture on the front. I can’t remember what of. A flower of some kind? Or it might have been an animal. Do you know the one I mean? No, not a Sherry, I don’t think it was a Sherry. It might have sounded like Sherry. Shandy? No, I don’t like beer, it gives me wind. Shiraz, did you say? No, none of those looks right. Château what? No, no, I can’t even read that tiny writing, and it’s all in foreign. It definitely

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wasn’t Château. What colour was it? Now you’ve got me thinking. Wine-coloured, definitely. Chablis, did you call it? What’s that when it’s at home? A kind of Chardonnay, you say? Ah – Chardonnay! No, that wasn’t it either. Not Champagne, that tastes like battery acid. Gives me heart burn. Oh, you know the one I mean, it’s won some sort of award. I can’t remember how much the lady said it cost, but I bet you it wasn’t cheap, five pounds or probably even more. Not Chenin. I can’t really tell you what it tasted like I’m afraid, I’m no expert, but it certainly got me a bit tipsy. Schuchmann Saperavi ... might have been that. No, definitely not that. Chappaz Fendant des Copains ... now that does ring a bell … no, that wasn’t it. Hmm. Maybe it was Sherry. Oh come on, you must know the one I mean …

DECEMBER DOES NOT EXIST This is The Wine Merchant's last issue of 2019. We now take our usual one-month publication break and will return with our January edition, in which we'll be writing about Australian wine, cava, ready-made cocktails, canned wine and all sorts of other things. It will also be time to launch our annual reader survey, and The Wine Merchant Top 100. Thanks as always to our readers and advertisers for your support this year and good luck with the festive sales period.

THE WINE MERCHANT november 2019 9


Be afraid of the light It’s marketing madness to sell Champagne in clear glass, according to some experts. So why do producers persist with a format that can make wine smell like rotting cabbage or sewage?


Fiona Blair

lear glass is ruining countless bottles of Champagne and

sparkling wine. Yet there is a

with a UV filter that blocks UV light from

packaging, despite all the evidence that

entering the shop, so I am confident that

ultraviolet light can make even the best

any clear bottles on shelves we sell will not

cuvées smell like mouldy vegetables or

suffer light strike – at least until they have

human excrement.

left the shop!

That’s the claim of Tom Stevenson and

“Rosé certainly looks less appealing

Essi Avellan MW in the new edition of

in coloured glass and I cannot imagine

Christie’s World Encylopedia of Champagne

any producer voluntarily abandoning it,

& Sparkling Wine. A section is devoted

despite the risks to their product. A very

to so-called light strike, which it seems

few follow the Cristal route of a protective

is being almost wilfully ignored by

sleeve, but that invites the question: why

Champagne producers – particularly when

put it in clear glass in the first place?

it comes to blanc de blancs and rosé wines.

UV can wreck wine in the space of one hour

their creations but insist they are routinely

The problem is caused by the breakdown

Privately, many winemakers in the region

overruled by marketing departments.

Lanson, Mercier, Perrier-Jouët, Taittinger,

Heidsieck & Co Monopole, Louis Roederer Cristal, Ruinart, AYALA and Gosset are

among the marques that sell at least some of their range in clear glass. There are many others.

Stevenson and Avellan accept that

the presentation can look beautiful but

maintain “it makes no sense whatsoever” to use clear glass bottles.

“Traditional-method sparkling wines are

particularly vulnerable to light,” they say.

“At its very worst, affected wine smells of

stagnant water, old drains and sewage. At lower thresholds, goût de lumière merely

inflicts an otherwise fresh aroma with the barest hint of rotten cabbage.”

either – brown glass is the best solution.”

He adds: “All of our windows are coated

worrying trend for producers to favour this

accept that clear glass is inappropriate for

but green glass is not a perfect UV barrier

of a sulphur-bearing amino acid called

methionine, which can happen within 60 minutes of exposure to UV.

“Readers are advised never to purchase

a clear bottle of any wine straight from

the shelf, particularly sparkling wine,” say Stevenson and Avellan.

“Clear-glass bottles are marketing

madness. What is wrong with the sparkling wine industry that they continue to market a potentially flawed product? The best

solution would be to ban clear glass bottles by law.”


eroboams wine director Peter

Mitchell MW (pictured right) says

Stevenson and Avellan “are entirely

correct that it is potentially a big problem,

THE WINE MERCHANT november 2019 10

“It is marketing madness, but I am not

in favour of banning things just because they are stupid. I try to train our staff to

tell customers about the dangers of storing clear glass anywhere that is exposed to

light and make sure that we look after the bottles properly.”

Tuggy Meyer of Huntsworth Wine in

London says: “I have many firm opinions

on wine but not religiously strong on this.

“We typically have one bottle on display

and the rest of any stock still in their original boxes. We don’t leave any bottle out too long and if we do, or it is in the window briefly – very briefly – it will typically be taken home by one of us.

“And that is for

traditional green glass. For clear

glass, the same

ENOMATIC principle applies but obviously even more


so. I would give a customer a clear glass

Champagne from an opened or unopened box and when buying retail, I would

request likewise. Currently out of around

35 Champagnes we stock, only one is in a clear glass bottle.”


hristine Marsiglio MW of the

WSET School in London says

Alex Proudfoot Grape to Grain Prestwich and Ramsbottom

“light strike is definitely one

of the faults found in wine that is least understood by consumers”.

She adds: “It’s hard to know the

prevalence of light strike in wines as it tends to happen to individual bottles,

rather than batches, as it depends on the storage conditions of the bottle. Clear

bottles can really only block around 10% of UV light, whereas green and brown

“Nothing ever stays in there for very long. In some shifts we can change the contents of the entire machine twice”

bottles can block upwards of 50%; this

makes wine in clear bottles much more susceptible to light strike.

“Light strike means that delicate, fruity

wines will start to smell of cabbage and

their fruit aromas will fade. This process is accentuated in sparkling wines because of the dissolved CO2.

“As a consumer, I would be wary of

Tell us about your wine jukebox, then. It’s an eight-bottle unit that draws the nitrogen from the atmosphere rather than using an argon tank. We’ve had the machine since we opened three years ago. We have four reds and four whites by the glass that we have on indefinitely and that offering changes seasonally. The idea is that if you don’t fancy what we have on by the glass, or you’re feeling a bit more lavish or you want to try something a bit more out-there, anyone can use it. How do you select what goes in there? It depends on our mood and the seasons. Sometimes we might have standard things in there like a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and then sometimes we’ll put in a £150 bottle of Montrachet. We had a bottle of Antinori Tignanello 2015 – that was a good one. We’ve had a few really exceptional bottles in there but every now and then you get taken by surprise by a wine that punches well above its weight and its price tag. Does that automatically translate to bottle sales? Yes, absolutely. If you are trying to hand-sell a bottle and the customer is unsure of it, if you’ve got something in the machine and you can just whip out a little taster, it makes it much easier. You have to sell the idea of a wine to somebody but if you can actually give them a taste, it changes everything instantly. How often do you change the selection? The beauty of the machine is that we can keep more expensive bottles open for longer, but nothing ever stays in there for very long. They fly out. In fact in some shifts we can change the contents of the entire machine twice.

buying clear bottles, especially for wines

that have been on the shelf and exposed to

sunlight, or even fluorescent bulbs, for any

period of time as there is the risk of tainted wine.

“I’m not sure banning clear bottles is

necessary but it would be wise for supply

chains to ensure wines in clear bottles are

What does the Enomatic mean for your business? For the sake of diversity in what people can try in your shop, it’s certainly worth doing. It increases your offering by a massive amount and it opens up a whole different avenue of wines to people that they wouldn’t normally try. It’s earned its money back for us, definitely. It works very well.

protected from light and stored in dark conditions.

“Perhaps having showcase bottles on

shelf could be the answer? The stock to be sold could then be kept in less damaging conditions.

“This would be particularly important

for any wines that are meant for long-term ageing, be they in clear or darker glass.”

Has your Enomatic got a name? It’s called the wine jukebox by quite a few people.

THE WINE MERCHANT november 2019 11

Rising Stars

Balfour The Red Miller 2018 Last year’s almost perfect conditions got imaginations racing at Hush Heath, hence this still Pinot Meunier.

Ivana Mendes Vinoteca City, London



It’s got quirk value aplenty, but that’s not what makes

he rewards of wine education for both employers and staff are clear and as Ivana Mendes is finding out, her WSET Level 3 is proving to be a solid stepping stone in her career progression.

Since starting at Vinoteca as a waitress three years ago,

this lovingly-crafted silky and spicy red so enjoyable to drink. The fruit has ripened beautifully, and there are savoury edges reminiscent of Pinot Noir and a

freshness that all adds up to a very classy affair indeed. RRP: £40

ABV: 12%

Ivana is now one of the duty managers at the City branch

Hush Heath Estate (01622 832794)

and her manager predicts she will continue to go far.

“We are mainly a wine bar and restaurant with a bit of retail, so it is a little more complex in terms of what we expect from our staff,” says Federico Vicani, general manager at Vinoteca City. “Ivana is really great with customers and she’s very good at managing people. She is running shifts on her own and is in charge of all the staff inductions and training. Ivana is very young and it is harder nowadays to find younger people with such a hardworking attitude. She knows what she wants and it is good for her and good for us; it is great for us to have this sort of person in the business.” Ivana joined Vinoteca when she was 21 and was newly arrived in London. “I did work a little bit with wine before in France, because all restaurants have wine, but nothing as intense as now,” she says. “Here we have a lot of training

Tandem Inmune Garnacha 2017 A blend created with grapes from several high-altitude vineyards spread across Navarra, including bush

vines that have been in the ground for 80 years or so.

There’s dark, meaty, concentrated and saliva-inducing fruit here, and hints of dark chocolate, but also a

brisk acidity, all seasoned with a healthy sprinkle of mountain herbs. RRP: £13.49

ABV: 14.5%

Hallgarten & Novum Wines (01582 722538)

and tastings and all my colleagues and I have had the chance to do our WSET qualifications.” She admits that it was hard, English not being her first language, but she says by Level 3 she had really worked on her language skills. Federico says: “The next step for Ivana is to be a manager and she can do that in a couple of years. Potentially she can go very far at a very young age.” “I love the hospitality part of my job,” says Ivana. “What I really enjoy is the customer engagement. I like to recommend wine and to match wines to food. I am happy if they are happy enjoying their meal and their wine.” Can she see another role for herself within the trade, maybe as a buyer? “That would be great, but for the moment, I am still learning and it takes such a long time to gain experience and knowledge of wine, so I don’t want to jump ahead of myself, but when I’m ready, why not?” she says.

Martinus Olaszrizling 2017 Zesty, petillant and dry: “It’s like licking the inside of a cave,” as one of our tasters put it, presumably

talking from experience. That would be a Dolomitic

limestone cave in Hungary’s Mount Tagyon, the source of the grapes that were fermented in stainless steel

and blended after six months on fine lees. Racy and invigorating, with notes of citrus and nuts. RRP: £13.50

ABV: 12.5%

Davy’s Wine Merchants (020 8858 6011)

“I really love the atmosphere at work, it’s great. It is a sharing sort of job; you work with your colleagues and the customers and I think this is really nice – sharing is caring, as you say in English.”

Ivana wins a bottle of Artadi Viñas des Gain 2016. To nominate a rising star in your business, email

Cortese Vanedda Bianco 2016 A blend of Sicilian Cattarato and Grillo fermented on skins aged in large oak botti, creating a gorgeously

honeyed wine that, during certain phases of the moon, could easily be mistaken for New World Chardonnay.

Lots of tropical notes on the nose, especially pineapple, followed on the palate by yellow fruits, vanilla, hazelnuts and a touch of spice. Excellent stuff. RRP: £15.99

ABV: 13.5%

North South Wines (020 3871 9210)

THE WINE MERCHANT november 2019 12

Weingut Corvers-Kauter Assmanhausen Pinot Noir 2016 “It’s like a ballerina with a six-pack,” declared

winemaker Philipp Corvers at the Graft tasting in

London, a reference to the elegance and power of this Rheingau red from a Riesling specialist. It’s bolder


and more rounded than might be expected, thanks to judicious lees contact and a malolactic moment. RRP: £40

ABV: 13%

Graft Wine Company (0203 490 1210)

Ironstone Petite Sirah 2016 Sometimes wine just needs to be a comfort blanket and this is just the job for a bleak winter evening

after a long, fruitless conversation with the Talk Talk technical team. Lovely aromas of blackcurrant and

spice, and a luscious, rich but not-too-heavy palate of cocoa, vanilla and blueberries make this pretty irresistible, however uncool it might seem. RRP: £14

ABV: 13.5%

Walker & Wodehouse (07813 626491)


Bride Valley Chardonnay 2018


Aspiring young wine writer Stephen Spurrier has

chanced his arm with this offering from his chalky

west Dorset estate, and a very curious and entertaining beast it is too. The wine spends four months on its lees and sees no oak, resulting in a wine with such saline


and citric qualities that thoughts turn inexorably to fish


and chips, straight out of the wrapper. RRP: £24.99


ABV: 12%

Liberty Wines (020 7720 5350)


Monte da Ravasqueira Vinha das Romãs 2016


Until 2002 the Alentejo vineyard that gives birth to

this blend of Touriga Franca and Syrah was a field of

pomegranates, and the vine roots now intertwine with

those of that former crop. Precision viticulture is doing its job here, as witnessed by a solid, earthy but elegant

wine, full of black fruit richness ... but no pomegranate. RRP: £27.30

ABV: 14%

Awin Barratt Siegel (01780 755810)







THE WINE MERCHANT november 2019 13



Wines won’t need VI-1 forms, for now The UK government has confirmed it will temporarily suspend import certification requirements – known as VI-1 forms – for wines from the EU, for nine months from the date of the UK leaving the EU.

Henry Poultney Grace + James Birmingham Favourite wine on my list Probably Gentle Folk Blossoms 2018 from Adelaide Hills. Sophie (my wife) and I first drank this whole-bunch Pinot Noir with winemaker Gareth Belton in his garden by the pool with some of his family and friends. It was one of the hottest days ever recorded in a major city – as Adelaide hit over 46˚C. This wine reminds me of good times.

Favourite wine and food match

The paperwork was to be introduced

if the UK agreed to a no-deal Brexit, and

applied to EU wines coming into the UK, as well as English wines exported to EU countries.

The WSTA had been urging the

government to suspend them again, as it

believes shoppers will choose wines

without being swayed by the label or price. Participants, who can buy tickets for £4,

will get to sample eight 75ml taster glasses of wine along with light nibbles.

Lidl’s Richard Bampfield MW said: “At

Lidl Châteaux Noir, we want to encourage

visitors to see if they can identify a wine’s

quality in a completely new setting – using

darkness to dispel common prejudices that come with buying wine.” The Sun, October 26

claimed failure to do so would cost the UK

• Sotheby’s has branched out from sales

been impossible from the start, and would

France, Italy and California, which has gone

wine industry at least £70m a year. It also

into production with the launch of a

have added 10p to each bottle of wine.

on sale in the US.

warned that introducing VI-1s would have

12-strong own-label wine range from

Decanter, October 21

The Drinks Business, October 30 © auremar /

Vin Jaune and Comte.

Favourite wine trip Last January Sophie and I travelled around Australia and New Zealand searching out some of our favourite organic vineyards. Some of the highlights were Alex Craighead’s Kindeli Wine in Nelson; Anna and Jason Flowerday’s Te Whare Ra, a small winery in Renwick; and Lance Redgwell’s Cambridge Road on the North Island, who make some serious Pinot Noir. In Australia, as well as Gentle Folk, we visited the natural wine wizard Tom Shobbrook who has just moved to a new vineyard in Flaxman.

Favourite wine trade person Andrea Asciamprener of Les Caves de Pyrene who helped us set up our first wine list. Top chap with great hair!

Favourite wine shop Loki in Birmingham. Loki’s wine educator Paul Creamer first got me into wine and I have been obsessed ever since. I also love Dalston’s natural wine shop and deli run by Kirsty Tinkler called Weino BIB. Such a great place with a focus on sustainability, bag-in-box and wine on tap.

The VI-1 forms would have meant more unwanted aggravation for merchants

Customers kept in the dark by Lidl

Bordeaux boss quits after fraud

Lidl is hosting a series of pop-up wine

The head of the federation that

tastings in the dark.

represents Bordeaux’s most acclaimed

The events called Châteaux Noir will take

place in London, Manchester and Glasgow. By shutting out the light, the supermarket

THE WINE MERCHANT november 2019 14

châteaux has resigned amid claims his fraud conviction tainted their image. Hervé Grandeau is standing down as

chairman of the Federation of Great Wines



of Bordeaux to try to end the rows that have split the region since his trial.

What plans have you been making for the Christmas sales period?

Grandeau and Régis, his brother, who

Christmas is a very important part of our calendar and we have a Christmas wine tasting here in the first week of December – we have four suppliers coming down for a ticketed event. We’re all geared up for Christmas; we’ll be getting some more stock in. We’ll shut about 6pm on Christmas Eve and open up again just before New Year. I haven’t thought about what I’ll be drinking with my Christmas dinner yet – I usually wait and see what’s left on the shelves and take a case of wine home.

own Château Lauduc, were found guilty of

fraud in connection with the sale of almost 800,000 bottles of wine worth more than €1.3m that failed to comply with French regulations.

The Times, October 30

Tesco considers Xmas wine bars Tesco plans to take its Finest brand into the on-trade with a string of pop-ups in major cities across the UK over the leadup to Christmas. The supermarket is looking to open wine

bars complete with their own sommeliers, offering food tasting platters and ticketed

John Barnes The Blue Glass, Bedford

We have a large winter tasting on November 22 that we’ll be doing with about 50 wines. We’ll have lots of our suppliers there and some producers and we’ll have between 150 and 200 guests. We expect to take a reasonable amount of advance orders that day. It gets everyone into the swing of spending money and thinking about Christmas. We’re just finalising a gifting range including a mixture of wine and produce. We’re bringing in some vacuumed packs of local meats with wines to match.

Kent Barker Stony Street House, Frome

masterclasses with an eye to boosting the

presence of its posh range over the coming


We do buy in more top-end things and look at Christmas gifting. We look at more classic areas such as Champagne, nice Burgundies, good Rhônes, some super Tuscans. We have a bar as well and we are doing a Christmas menu and trying to make it a fun Christmas where you can drink great wine matched with some great food in a party atmosphere. I think you have to make people aware of what you’re doing as early as you can – let them know what’s available and what’s possible.

The Grocer, October 23

Aldi hands out free wine diplomas

Aldi is launching the Aldiploma, its own wine course which will be available for

Robin Nugent Iron & Rose, Shrewsbury

free. It’s the first supermarket course of its

type in the UK and those who sign up will

be able to learn about wine and how to pair it with food, without having to spend any

money or being subject to any pressure to buy.

Aldi’s MW, Sam Caporn, who has devised

six online modules and video tutorials,

said: “Aldi is known for its affordable, great quality wines so this creates the perfect

platform to help consumers try new things and gain the perfect introduction to the world of wine.”

This year we’re doing our first Christmas tasting event on November 16. There’s a restaurant two doors down so we’re doing it there and we’re teaming up with a lot of other independents in the village. There’s a couple of butchers who are working alongside us and the fish and chip shop is doing some food on the day, so our Christmas tasting will be a community event with everyone getting together. It’s a nice way for people to taste a wide range of wines and take the opportunity to shop our Christmas promotions on the day. Sarah Mehan Village Vineyards, Barnt Green, Birmingham

Champagne Gosset The oldest wine house in Champagne: Äy 1584

The Mirror, October 24

THE WINE MERCHANT november 2019 15

ight ideas r b 6: Dynamic Dartboard Discounts

. T H E D R AY M A N . Verbosity by the pint


ho’s for a To Øl Sjø Tæhm Speciel Fejø Limited Don’t You Be Messing With The

Mikkeller Bar Tender Crew Or They Will Fuck You Up! Dobbelt Vintage Ekstra Extra Barrel Aged Edition Cassis x 2? The beer – for that’s what it is – was among the suggestions in a Rate Beer discussion group for the longest-named beer on the site and, quite frankly, we can’t top it. And, really, why would you want to? There’s little argument that the flair and colour that goes into modern bottle labels and cans has had a transformative and positive effect on beer’s image. But the age of collaboration, novelty/esoteric ingredients and factors such as wood-ageing and unconventional fermentation have also made it increasingly difficult for a lot of people to understand exactly what it is they’re being invited to drink. Of course, Don’t You Be Messing Etc is a wilful gallery-play on its creators’ parts to the nerdy-geek world, but branding such as Gamma Brewing x Lervig Pretty Good Regards Imperial Stout With Pistachio & Coconut is increasingly becoming the norm. Some product descriptions are becoming so long that they’re relegated to tiny type on a side or back panel so as not to obscure the psycho-funk graphics used to achieve shelf stand-out. So here’s a plea to all those colourful craft beer producers out there: keep the lovely bold colours and the Bridget Riley patterns but try to distil your beer names and product descriptions to a few easy-to-grasp words that you put on the front – then let rip with the verbosity on the back if you must. You’ll be doing a favour to retailers who want to sell your stuff and the people who you expect to drink it – and to yourselves.

Rob Hoult, Hoults, Huddersfield

In a nutshell … Install a dartboard and give customers one dart with a chance to win a discount when they bring their purchases to the till.

What the dickens, Rob?

“The idea was simple and fun – whenever a customer made a purchase, they had the option before paying of earning a discount. We gave them one dart and they could stand behind the line and throw it at the dartboard. Wherever the dart landed that was their discount, doubles and trebles not included. If they hit the bull, inner or outer, then they automatically won a bottle of my favourite wine. As such the maximum discount was 20% so nothing too horrendous, but for the customer it made their purchase more memorable.”

Was everyone a good sport?

“The surprising thing was the number of people who missed the board completely and were still perfectly happy. Male customers tended to be a lot more competitive about it and the women were better at embracing the spirit and the sheer joy of it. It engaged the customer, and put a smile on their face and gave them a story to tell.”

Have you done this since you’ve added the bar?

“Before we changed the shop around we had a lot more space. At one point we put a fullsized table-tennis table in the shop and Ben was the shop champion. If you beat Ben you got a free bottle of wine. Luckily for us he was very good so we didn’t give many bottles away. People were bringing in ringers to try to beat him! “We weep regularly for the loss of that table but there’s no space for it anymore. We might bring back the dartboard but it’s where we’d fit it in without damaging our nowlovely walls, because you do end up with a lot of holes – it was like Swiss cheese.”

What would you say to other merchants who might want to give this a try?

“I don’t think anyone else is stupid enough to do it! Really, it wasn’t about mucking around; it was about customer engagement. We can be very serious about the wine side of things and by offering a bit of something different so customers can be involved, the dartboard thing seemed like so much fun. I bought the table-tennis table for about £150, so it’s not a big outlay.” Rob 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 november 2019 16


Caroline Latrive, Champagne AYALA Caroline is a Champagne native who started in her father’s lab, as a consultant to growers, before taking the Oenologist National Diploma and joining Champagne Bollinger. She switched to AYALA after it was acquired in 2005 and became cellar master in 2012. Caroline was recently in London for the AYALA SquareMeal Female Chef of the Year Award goal to increase volume.

The Champagne AYALA winery is a gift

seven years old she was very curious

for AYALA since the beginning. In

focus is to have a vinification of a specific

put words to my feelings.

brut nature cuvée for a long time. I think

There’s a picture of me as a girl with my nose in a glass of Champagne. When my youngest daughter was six or

about everything and I was like that too. I wanted to find aromas in the glass and In 2004 I had the opportunity for an internship at Bollinger and I stayed one and a half years. The family bought AYALA in 2005 and the cellar master

there, Nicolas Klym, needed help. I started at the beginning of 2007 and worked

for five years with Nicolas. It was a very exciting time and I learned a lot.

We relaunched the range in 2005 and in 2011-12 with the aim of making very clear and pure wine. We moved to only stainless steel vinification to maintain the primary fruit. We

maintained the most loyal growers we

were working with, people who had the

same mindset as us. It was necessary for

us to find more growers because we had a AYALA Le Blanc de Blancs 2013 RRP: £55 A very elegant expression of Chardonnay, with fruit from Grands Crus and some Premiers Crus. It spends a minimum of five or six years on lees. There are clear fruity notes and butter and very light pastry too. It's delicious as an aperitif and a perfect match for scallops.

Zero dosage has been a signature 1865 the vintage was made dry for the future King Edward VII. We’ve had a

it’s a very gastronomic cuvée for more knowledgeable consumers of wine.

There’s an echo of history. I think it shows our ability to make a high-quality wine without make-up. It’s very pure; it’s an aromatic explosion, with minerality, citrus, toasted nuts and salinity. I’m

not against dosage; I just think we can express the wine better without it.

I am a Chardonnay addict. It is such an elegant grape variety. It’s a mysterious one because at the beginning of the

vinification it’s a little bit austere and

closed and a little bit aggressive, with a high level of acidity. But if you give

the wine more opportunity to express

its style with age, it’s just an incredible

evolution, with such diversity of aromas.

for me. I have huge diversity of vats, more than 120 vats of different volumes. The

cru and a palette of colours and different

expressions to have a wide choice during the blending process. It’s like being a painter.

It’s been an incredible harvest. It was very dry and sunny at the beginning of

the summer. There was not enough water, and it was too dry for the vineyards but finally we had rain at the beginning of

August and it gave the opportunity for

the grapes to develop. It was so incredible to see this very quick maturation, one

of the quickest we’ve seen for 20 years. It’s amazing the aromas we have in the

winery. Very fruity and delicate and clear. Incredible. It’s early to talk about it – but I’m feeling positive!

It’s not possible to do this job without passion and enthusiasm. You give a little bit of yourself to the blend.

AYALA Brut Majeur

AYALA Brut Majeur Rosé

RRP: £32

RRP: £37.50

It’s the ambassador of the AYALA style and represents about 80% of our production. It’s 40% Chardonnay, with 40% Pinot Noir and 20% Pinot Meunier. We age it for a long time to give richness, a silkier texture and more complexity. A convivial wine for an aperitif or celebration.

It's 50% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir and 10% Pinot Meunier. I want to express red fruit like wild strawberries, as well as blackberries, yellow plums, apricots, violets … sometimes I can sense a touch of rhubarb in this wine. It’s a perfect match for salmon but you can also enjoy it with lemon tart.

Champagne AYALA is imported into the UK by Mentzendorff 020 7840 3600

THETHE MERCHANT may 2019 20192019 WINE WINE MERCHANT MERCHANT november september june 2018 THE WINE MERCHANT 17 15 17


Chain mail David Williams reports back from the autumn flurry of press tastings. Which of the mults, if any, pose the biggest threat to indies these days – or is the trend to boring, industrial ranges continuing?


s we head into the most

important trading period of

the year, I’ve been doing a little

industrial espionage on your behalf. After tasting the ranges of the major multiple

grocers (and the last surviving, still justabout-standing multiple specialist), I’ve

smuggled out a few ideas about what your customers will be offered as they wheel

group’s first-ever half-year loss. Most of the

is actually pulling ahead of the pack at the

were down by 0.8%, and the food-retailing

least in its well-made “W” range of lesser-

damage was done in the department store part of the business, but Waitrose’s sales

wing has been offloading underperforming stores, shaking up its buying department, and preparing for a switch of online

their trolleys past the gondola ends over What are the vinous trends in the

range of suppliers, the willingness to be a bit different (it showed two New Zealand

moving forward is helped by the

unarguable fact that its rivals are either in

view? These are questions from a different

standstill or moving backwards.

retailing universe, maybe, but it’s one that

Marks & Spencer, after years of

impacts the independent galaxy, and one

challenging Waitrose for the most

if it’s only to remind you of how not to do

Waitrose has increased its focus on own-label

Waitrose on top at the top

next year.

Partnership, with the announcement of the

what really marks it out is the still-broad

Of course, the perception of Waitrose

best shape from a wine quality point of

for Waitrose – or at least for the John Lewis

Manseng), launched earlier this year. But

the £10 to £15 region.

Which of the big beasts is currently in the

It has by all accounts been a difficult year

spotted varietals (Mencía, Marselan, Petit

for example), and the strength of its offer in

supermarkets? Where are they on price?


an increased emphasis on own-label, not

Albariños at its most recent press tasting,

the next couple of months.

that is surely worth understanding, even

moment. Like all supermarkets, there’s

partner when its deal with Ocado expires For all that, however, when it comes to

the wine range itself, Waitrose, or Waitrose & Partners as it was rebranded in 2018,

The perception of Waitrose moving forward is helped by the unarguable fact that its rivals are either in standstill or moving backwards

THE WINE MERCHANT november 2019 18

interesting, dynamic and best quality (if

not always best-value) supermarket wine range, has been in retreat for a couple of years now.

This is clearly a response to its own well-

publicised financial troubles. But, while there is still plenty to enjoy in the M&S

range, it was sad to go through a line-up

featuring very few new wines, considerably less of the adventurous sourcing from

new or emerging countries that earned

the retailer so many friends in the presspack in recent years, and a switch to a

smaller portfolio of larger, more industrial suppliers focusing on £10 and under.

David Williams is wine critic for The Observer

The Big Four For now, M&S remains ahead of the Big

Four, but only just. The Tesco range, while not exactly dazzling, has emerged from

the truly dark place it fell into around the accounting scandal, and there’s now a

decent smattering of well-made wines from judiciously chosen suppliers (Feudi San

Gregorio, Villa Maria, De Bortoli, Catena)

in the finest own-label that dominates the range.

It’s a similar story at Sainsbury’s. After

years of stagnation when each press tasting felt like a particularly dull experience of

déjà-vu, with only the vintage moving on

in its never-changing range of own-labels, in the past year or two the company has

started to add a few new wines. The Taste the Difference own-label remains the

overwhelming focus, but, as with Tesco,

there are some good suppliers operating

David Hohnen is represented in the new Tesco line-up

in there (Markus Huber, Viña Indomita,

range to make the pulse race, perhaps.

a major overhaul of the range (for good

Gaillac; a Marzemino) have injected a little

to be, while retaining the odd star buy

its reliance on the centralised, standalone

CVNE, David Hohnen), and a bunch of more adventurous selections (a red and a white

bit of life and fun into what was becoming a stagnant range.

Meanwhile, Morrisons continues its

solid performance under head of wine operations, Mark Jarman. This is not a

But it is dotted with £7-and-under wines

that are often much better than they need (some excellent own-label Port and Rioja, for example) in the indie-bothering £12

region. Asda, by contrast, has been keeping

or ill) in the pipeline. On the strength of

recent experiences of the Asda offer, with

supplier arm, International Procurement & Logistics, this can’t come soon enough.

itself to itself, with no press tasting this

Continues page 20

autumn, and with what I understand is

Monday 20th January 2020 Trade only, 11am - 5pm The Army & Navy Club 36-39 Pall Mall, London, SW1Y 5JN Over 120 fine wines to sample Meet Germany’s leading wine producers in person Complimentary tickets for trade


Amazing 2017 vintages

To book email or visit

THE WINE MERCHANT november 2019 19

© TTstudio /


From page 19

Discounters, The Co-op – and a Majestic revival? Much of what has been happening in

mainstream supermarket wine retail

has been a response to the rise of the discounters.

Aldi, which now has an 8% share of

the UK grocery market, is for my money

the more consistent of the two Germans

when it comes to wine, its vastly improved and improving 100-strong core range outperforming the more piecemeal,

hit-and-miss additions of Lidl. It will be

fascinating to see what the formation of

a centralised wine-buying unit, based in Aldi’s head office in Salzburg in Austria,

and led by former head wine buyer at Aldi UK, Mike James, will bring to the range.

Much reduced prices, no doubt. But will it have the same market specificity that has made Aldi so much more interesting in recent years?

For all the focus on Aldi and Lidl,

however, the multiple retailer that has come up with the most consistently

interesting sub-£10 wines in recent years has been The Co-op. That was again

the case at this year’s Co-op tastings.

And criticisms that some of the more

interesting wines are not available in

much of the company’s sprawling estate have been offset by a website that lets customers track down their nearest stockist.

If it seems unlikely that many indie

customers would actively travel more than a few miles in search of a Co-op

wine, there’s no doubt that a lot of them

would still be happy to make the effort to find an in-form Majestic. Having escaped the Naked greed of Rowan Gormley, the company had a relaunch in October.

The PR word has of course focused

on how Majestic is looking to return

Salzburg, famous for being the home of Aldi’s HQ and centralised wine buying team

to its traditional strength, the wine

to make it a more compelling choice than

parcels that recall the company’s old

questions of 2020. But, given how tough

range, with less of the gimmicky sales

fuss, fewer own-labels, and discounted

knack of securing vintage gems from the Scandinavian monopolies, rather than the recent tendency of passing off any

old listing as a rare and fleeting find. For now, there are quite a few smart buys in

the Majestic range. Whether that’s enough

THE WINE MERCHANT november 2019 20

a supermarket on price or a local indie

on quality and variety will be one of the

the retailing environment is for multiple specialists of all kinds, I wouldn’t be

surprised if new owner, investment firm

Fortress, will be looking to recoup at least some of its £100m investment from store divestments sooner rather than later.

THE WINE MERCHANT november 2019 21


Christie’s World Encyclopedia of Champagne & Sparkling Wine

is still too new to have a discernible track

the changing market with a drier style of

settled opinion on its output.

with its new-found love of terroir, with

Tom Stevenson and Essi Avellan MW

standards have gradually risen around the

Bloomsbury, £200


e live in an age of handsoff winemaking, where

producers boast less about

record, or because Avellan is honest

enough to admit that she has yet to form a Champagne obviously dominates

proceedings, but perhaps not as

comprehensively as might be assumed. As world, and sparkling wines are no longer

regarded as inferior, downmarket add-ons to a producer’s portfolio, Stevenson and

Avellan have been happy to accommodate more names from Argentina, Australia, Chile and the USA within their pages.

what they get up to in the winery and more

It works out at about 10p per producer

But much of the action is found in old

Europe. Avellan describes Italy as “perhaps

for the numbers – maintains is impossible.

in Franciacorta, Trentodoc and Alta Langa.”

assessments of her subjects at least give

the impression of a rigorous and consistent thought process. Indeed many hundreds of the producers she mentions are awarded

no score at all, either because the producer

Encylopedia raised eyebrows in 2003 but might not do so this time with a further

There are words of warning for an

80 and sometimes bestowing unrealistic

obviously highly subjective, but Avellan’s

British Isles, whose chunky share of the

lovers consider them undrinkable.

thousands of those humans, and the wines

some unfortunates. These numbers are

to watch, Avellan says. And then there’s the

makes regular Cava or New World fizz

staggering depth as it introduces us to

98, for Krug, and dips as low as 60 for

China, India and Japan are also countries

“searing acidity” of many of the wines still

of the Encylopedia goes into almost

Avellan’s own scale goes as far as

industrial for their tastes.

ladder, but Avellan points out that the

Stevenson and Avellan. The fourth edition

the Scandinavian MW who is responsible

grands marques a little too formulaic and

many of them keep climbing the quality

the greatest and matters most,” argue

100s that imply a perfection that Avellan –

consumers who might sometimes find the

and more multi-vintage blending will help

the wines where human intervention is

various reasons, often rarely dipping below

producers developing fanbases among

advances to date. Warmer temperatures

specialism. “Sparkling wines are arguably

systems are inherently problematic for

too is opening new frontiers, with grower-

producers based on their remarkable

in Champagne, or anywhere that fizz is the

100-point scale. Usually, such numerical

Penedès leading the charge. Champagne

Avellan offers encouragement to English

This isn’t a claim you hear quite so much

In all more than 2,000 producers are

Corpinnat, Cavas de Paraje and Classic

progress made in the past 16 years.

they like to insist, is at the controls.

profiled, most of whom are rated on a

Spain is also attracting attention

expanded section, such has been the

about how much they don’t do. Nature,

that they toil so hard to produce.

its famous fizz.

currently the most dynamic sparkling wine

country, with exciting progress taking place Even Asti, she points out, has responded to

industry that seems locked on a course

for continued exponential growth and a potential glut of liquid. “Costs are high,” she points out. “Scarcity allows high

pricing today, but in the long run English

winemakers need to make sure that quality develops accordingly, enabling positioning among the finest sparkling wines in the world.”

Graham Holter

Avellan describes Italy as perhaps currently the most dynamic sparkling wine country, with exciting progress in Franciacorta, Trentodoc and Alta Langa THE WINE MERCHANT november 2019 22


FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION Having rebelled against stifling Rioja regulations, Artadi is relishing the chance to make wines like La Hoya, which celebrate the characteristics of individual vineyards


odegas Artadi has no shortage of

land to work with, but one plot in particular is getting winemaker

Juan Carlos López de Lacalle rather excited. La Hoya, an east-facing vineyard between

the river and the mountains in Laguardia, is his current fixation.

Four years ago, Artadi finally lost

patience with the Rioja Consejo Regulador, arguing it makes no sense to bottle and

market wines using terms such as crianza and reserva. By giving up its right to label

under the Rioja name, Artadi was now able to make single-vineyard expressions.

For López, the “inflexibility” of the Rioja

The winery operates along biodynamic principles

regulations was exasperating. “The reality is in our area we have different parcels

and different expositions, different soils

and vineyards of different ages. It’s like a

mosaic of different expressions,” he points out.

All Artadi vineyards have been worked organically since 2002

The latest UK release is La Hoya 2017,

who likes to look after his land properly.

Artadi-owned sites.

through a metre of clay and limestone into

this way in all of its vineyards since 2002.

different plots, and this is exciting,” says

a 100% Tempranillo made with fruit

from 50-year-old vines whose roots delve

the bedrock beneath. This limestone strata acts like a sponge, slowly releasing its

water content so that the vines never get

too stressed. They sound like happy vines. López laughs in agreement. This is a man

La Hoya is an organic vineyard and the

company has been on a journey to work

“The difference is enormous,” says López. There are obvious ecological benefits.

“That’s true, but for me it’s about

preserving the purity of the vineyard, the soil and the vine.”

La Hoya 2017 was aged in older French

barrels, López having moved away from

Artadi’s previous policy of using new oak. “New oak is too much,” he’s now happy to admit.

The end result, in the winemaker’s

own words, is not a big wine, but a fruity, energetic and powerful wine. Juan Carlos López de Lacalle and son Carlos

La Hoya 2017 is now available in the UK

through Pol Roger Portfolio. It could soon be joined by more launches from other

THE WINE MERCHANT november 2019 23

“Our idea with this project is to express

the purity of the different wines and the López.

“We have more than 45 different plots

and every year we can discover more about the potential of the wines they produce. It’s impossible for us to produce 45 different wines – but it is my dream!”

Find out more Visit or or call 01432 262800 Twitter: @Pol_Roger


The answer is blowing in the wind The Manzanillas of Sanlúcar get their world-famous character from the salty ocean breezes. Five merchants were invited to sample the sea air for themselves at Hidalgo, the family business that gave the world one of its most beloved Sherries, La Gitana


he tourist season is over in Sanlúcar de Barrameda when we visit in early October. The unassuming Andalusian seaside town has shrunk back to its natural population of 70,000, there are no horses racing on its sandy beach, and there are tables available in restaurants and tapas bars. (According to TripAdvisor, the pick of the bunch is an ice cream parlour.) But one thing never changes in this part of the world: the wind, delivering the salty humidity that gives Manzanilla Sherry its distinctive tang. Hidalgo’s name is rarely far from view in Sanlúcar – its warehouses have been focal points since the mid 19th century. But the name that most catches the eye is La Gitana, the Manzanilla that accounts for around 70% of the familyowned company’s production. Our visit begins at Hidalgo’s highest vineyard and winery, classified in this case as Jerez rather than Sanlúcar. From this vantage point we have clear views of the Atlantic. There’s a stiff breeze up here, as there always is, and it hasn’t rained properly since January. Fermín Hidalgo fetches a mattock and hacks into the powdery white Albariza soil. At a depth of perhaps 30cm, the ground is remarkably moist. These vines aren’t going to dry out any time soon, with the chalky earth acting as a natural sponge. It’s hard to imagine this was once a vast sea, but the fossilised clams in the calcium-rich soil provide the evidence.

There’s been a move towards a more natural style of viticulture, says Fermín, who left his job at PwC to join the family business in 2014. He now runs the company with his brothers. “We harvest really late,” he tells us. “We get 10% less volume now, but more sugar content in the grapes, which means we fortify as little as possible.” Fermín takes us on a walking tour of Sanlúcar, the town of his birth, where he is greeted everywhere with smiles and handshakes. His family has been part of commercial and civic life here for generations; the obituary for his father Juan Luis, who died last year, described him reverently as “the last gentleman of Sherry”. Keeping up an old tradition, Juan Luis liked to sprinkle his handkerchief with Amontillado, ensuring he was always surrounded by a glorious scent of the wine he produced. As Fermín keeps our glasses charged with La Gitana and the cheese and jamon keep on coming, we watch the sun explode into the sea before heading off for our evening meal. It’s an opportunity to sample some exquisite local seafood, and to prove how well Hidalgo’s flagship Manzanilla pairs with all of it.


olera systems may look sedate in textbooks, but they can be surprisingly noisy. On our morning tour of Hidalgo’s San Luis winery, or “cathedral”, there’s a samba rhythm playing that turns out to be coming from the pumping machine used to transfer wines between the criaderas. Hidalgo operates two separate soleras in both its wineries, blending the wines

THE WINE MERCHANT november 2019 24

from each to create the final product. Some of the solera barrels are almost 150 years old and the building itself dates from the mid 19th century. “I like to say there are particles of wine in your bottle that are from the 1860s,” says Fermín. “And it’s true.”


he system may be ancient, but Hidalgo is experimenting with new ideas. A tool resembling an elongated golf putter has been developed, which is inserted into the barrel to create a sort of batonnage. This way, the dead yeast cells become nutrients for the living flor, intensifying flavour. Fermín reaches for his trusty venencia, dips it into a barrel of unfortified 2017 wine that is likely to be released in limited quantities next autumn, and pours us all a sample. “My first thought is that it’s like a Jura wine – slightly oxidative,” says Colin Thorne of Vagabond. “There are some natural wines, and Savagnin as well, that smell like this – slightly yeasty, miso flavours.” We then try a wine of the same age, but from the first criadera of the solera. There’s a chalky complexity, but “it needs three more years of education”, Fermín says. Next up is a three-and-ahalf-year-old wine from further down the solera, which has more minerality and, according to Thorne, an “olive brine character”. Last of all is the unfiltered, unfined En Rama wine which is already familiar to the group – but which seems even more exhilarating and alive when tasted straight from the barrel.


Beyond La Gitana: some other Hidalgo wines

Pasada Pastrana Manzanilla A single-vineyard wine with a robust, fullbodied character by Manzanilla standards, produced only with free-run juice. Great with charcuterie or tuna. La Gitana Aniversario Effectively this is Pastrana with an extra three years of ageing – “the oldest and most expensive Manzanilla on the market,” Fermín says. The extra intensity conjures up nutty, smoky flavours and the finish is long and complex. Amontillado Napoleón VORS “The good Amontillados are produced in Sanlúcar,” says Fermín. “You could say that Jerez makes Bordeaux and in Sanlúcar we make Burgundy. Our Amontillado is very fine and very elegant, but still with a lot of yeast and saltiness.” Oloroso Faraón VORS Named after a guerrilla leader who fought against the French, this intriguing wine has pronounced bitter orange characters, toasted nut flavours and a volatile acidity that Fermín admits the winemakers don’t attempt to tame. “The smokiness would make this go well with Polish food,” says Natalia Samsoniuk of Evuna in Manchester. Las 30 del Cuadrado “We want to show the Palomino grape is good for making still wines,” says Fermín, pouring this exotic old-vine wine, which is aged in Manzanilla casks for six months and has a tropical nose despite its dryness. “It reminds me of those candied pineapple sweets we used to get,” says Gill Mann of Jaded Palates. “I always think of Palomino as quite a neutral grape, but this isn’t at all neutral.”

For more information, visit or call 020 7840 3600 Email

Larry Cherubino is excited by the potential of Mediterranean varieties in Australia Inside Hidalgo’s “cathedral” in Sanlúcar

Merchants’ verdicts Gill Mann Jaded Palates, Devon “The En Rama stood out for me. It was bone dry with a tangy, mineral and ozone freshness reflecting its coastal location. I was particularly struck with the success of food parings, not only with tapas, olives and almonds as you would expect, but also as a serious food wine, perfect with seafood and to be enjoyed as part of a meal. “I’m sure that the new generation at Bodegas Hidalgo’s insistence on quality and consistency, from the vineyards to the solera, will ensure that La Gitana remains at the forefront of Sherry production. The bodega’s provenance, and the finesse of the wines, guarantees La Gitana a place on our shelves.” Colin Thorne Vagabond Wines, London “There is a great deal of care and attention put into La Gitana Manzanilla that belies

THE WINE MERCHANT november 2019 25

its price. And for me it was fascinating to taste the different stages of solera ageing that go towards refining the final product. That this wine is well distributed, relatively inexpensive and a benchmark for the style should make us all happy. “I’m not sure the word Sherry is reclaimable for the foreseeable future in a customer-facing role. I will be referring to this style as ‘a salty white wine from southern Spain’ to avoid any ‘oh, I don’t like that’ comments before people actually try the stuff! “I did find myself smitten by the 30-yearold Wellington Palo Cortado. A little goes a long way.”


Minnie-Mae Stott and Orson Warr, July 2018

John Hoskins MW Huntingdon, September 2019

THE WINE MERCHANT november 2019 26

John’s master plan Very few wine shops are owned and run by an MW, and hardly any are based inside hotels. The Old Bridge Wine Shop in Huntingdon isn’t your typical independent merchant, and that goes for its merchandising policy too


ohn Hoskins had no intention of

joining the family hotels business; he was going to be a teacher. But

families can be persuasive. After university, in 1985, he found himself lured into a position at Post Hotels.

“They got me interested in wine as they

thought their wine offer was a mess –

which it was,” he says. “It was quite brave of them.”

A list that had been dominated by

the likes of Piesporter Michelsberg and

more local things named after the former

Bob Marley are emanating. It’s strikingly

retrenched to The Old Bridge, which is

A circular Enomatic takes pride of place

than the latter.

These days, the Hoskinses have

bustling with diners of a certain age when The Wine Merchant visits on what for

most provincial hoteliers would be a quiet weekday. Hoskins is to be found in the

smart wine shop, just beside the reception desk, from where the soothing sounds of

Niersteiner Gutes Domtal was given a

well maintained, evidently the domain of

an owner with ferocious attention to detail. and the shelving bays, each allocated its

own taste category (fresh dry whites; light bright reds; earthy reds), are fastidiously arranged.

Hoskins is a Master of Wine, responsible

for setting the practical exams for MW

students. “Being a Master of Wine doesn’t

mean I automatically produce a great wine

list,” explains a prominent sign on the shop

sprinkle of young Hoskins magic. Things

wall. “It’s about being selective. Most wine

rolled along until 1994, when the family

shops try to impress with a big choice

split up the business: “I couldn’t stand

of inexpensive bottles and superficial

working with my uncle anymore,” Hoskins

discounts. I want to sell only wines that are

freely admits.

truly outstanding of their type.”

Together with his wife Julia, Hoskins

Take us back to 1994 when you took the

built up an estate of six or seven pubs as

well as The Old Bridge Hotel, an ivy-clad

decision to strike out on your own.

little town that claims Oliver Cromwell

back but my wife and I were lucky to get

18th century townhouse hotel on the

My father lent me some money to buy the

banks of the Ouse at Huntingdon. It’s a tidy and John Major among its most notable inhabitants: it’s conspicuous there are

business. We’ll be forever trying to pay it Oliver Cromwell: Huntingdon royalty

THE WINE MERCHANT november 2019 27

Continues page 28


From page 27

the chance to run our own business.

We built it up and at one point I had six

or seven businesses including the pubs

and it was then that I realised I hated what I was doing. I hated being a manager of

six or seven places, feeling like you had

no control over them. You’d probably visit them all once a week – here, obviously

more – and find out what disasters had

happened in the last week. You’d look at

the accounts, you’d ring up the accountant ... I didn’t like any of that really. There was hardly any time spent talking about the

North Berwick has become “more and more vibrant”, with a growing tourist trade

menu or talking to the team about wine, or any other product.

I eventually came to my senses about 10

years after that and sold all the pubs and

decided to put a wine shop in here, which took two years. This space was a private dining room before.

Do you enjoy the business side of

The hotel building dates back to the 18th century

MW, and then as someone who owns a

wine shop and who has bought wine for a long time.

Does the shop stand on its own two feet,

what you do as well as the wine side of



This wine shop works because it’s part of a

It’s only in the last two or three years

where I feel I have got the balance right so that I can actually get a measure of

enjoyment out of having this business.

The day-to-day harassment of running

a business: most of that stuff fills me with dread. I do like coming in here and trying to get the team to be as good as they can

be, and trying to get the range of wines as

good as it can be, and making sure the wine

hotel. If I said to someone, “have this wine shop”, I think it would be a struggle.

There has to be some reason why on

earth you’d put in all this effort and all this

and shop – the shop is only 10% of the

wine shop makes on its own is not the

The last two or three years have been

total business – works well.

We have a successful business so I think

I do understand a lot about the hospitality industry – I’ve been in it for 30 years. I

understand a lot about the wine business, having been sort of on the edge of it as an

point of difference and it’s amazing how many people come in and look around.

We keep the food here simple and classic and people know the wine thing is quite special.

What effect has the shop had on the overall business?

‘Wine is about feeling good. If you give someone the nicest moment of their day, then you’re doing your bit’

shop team are really informed.

really good and the mix we have of hotel

The Old Bridge Hotel unique. It gives us a

time into customer care for a relatively

small amount of profit. The profit that the point. It’s helpful. We don’t work it out

separately – we have the hotel accounts and the wine shop is like the bar or the

restaurant or the accommodation – it’s one of the revenue streams.

The point is that the wine shop makes

THE WINE MERCHANT november 2019 28

The wine thing is a key part of what we are as a hotel. Our overall drinks sales went up by about 30% in the first year of putting

the wine shop in, and that was excluding

the wine shop sales, because people think of this as the place to come and enjoy a drink.

It’s not all alcohol of course. Like more

and more places, we are selling alternatives – Seedlip and interesting cocktail-type stuff.


What really makes me proud of this

place is when you go out at lunchtime in particular, and look around the tables,

you see how many people are having a

glass of wine – wine that I’m pleased to be associated with.

People can knock booze all they like, but

wine in particular is about that moment in your life when you’re feeling good. If you give someone 20 minutes of civilisation,

hopefully the nicest moment of their day, then you’re doing your bit.

You said this shop is 10% of turnover. How much time do you spend here? This takes up half of my time – maybe more because we have the website to keep up to date. I’m a bit OCD about wine – not about

too much else, though the team might say I am. You’re constantly changing vintage or changing wine or whatever and trying to keep everything precisely up to date and

FMV and Dreyfus Ashby.

We do virtually nothing direct. We did

import a little bit of wine from Switzerland a few years ago but generally I have no

interest in that simply because the reason

to do it is to get a better margin. But for us two things weigh more heavily than that. One is space, and the second is freedom. I am fanatical about trying to have

wines that are all in really good nick right now. And we have quite a lot of odd cases downstairs where we have started listing

something then taken it off, because wine

does that dip thing and sometimes it’s just not quite in the right spot. It will be better in two years, so we take it off. Or we’ll say to the supplier, “really sorry but if you’re

not prepared to give us the 2018 now then

we don’t want the 2017 anymore and we’ll send it back to you”.

Tell us about the shelving and the


decision to merchandise by style rather

that’s all done on time and that the by-the-

shelves. There’s rigidity to what we do.

We change the Enomatics at the

than country.

beginning of the month, and make sure

We have a very tight system with the

much small detail – keeping all that right

the bottle, you can get a maximum of 10

glass list is completely accurate. There’s so

just takes a long time. I’ve got a really good team who can do quite a lot of that for me but in the end, someone has to write the

text and make the final buying decisions,

Generally, depending on the shape of

bottles on the shelf and I really like that

because it forces me to ask if every wine

Wines are arranged by style, not country …

deserves its spot. You keep trying stuff all the time because you want each bottle to be really representative of its sort.

When I was a student, I worked at

L’Escargot when Jancis Robinson and Nick Lander owned it. Jancis obviously did the wine list and when I was there in 1981-

82, she did the list by taste profile and she must have been one of the first. I thought

it was brilliant and as a waiter, I could see that it worked.

Doing it in the shop is a pain for the staff

because people will come in and say, “what Rioja have you got?” or “what Rhône wines

have you got?” – and those might be spread across all different sections. But that’s the

and that is always me.

price we pay – it does encourage people to try other stuff.

What sort of a place is Huntingdon? Huntingdon is a really good location. We’re busy all the time. There’s stuff going on,

Do you think geography is a secondary

who come here for business or pleasure

geography is what it is all about. For

it’s quite a successful town. We’re close to

consideration to flavour?

meet here because it’s a central point for a

anyone who wants to learn about wine,

Cambridge but also a lot of our customers

In my personal wine brain, I think the

lot of places.

it really is all about geography. It’s about

understanding the different wine areas of

the world, what they are good at and why.

How many suppliers are you working with? About 15, including Liberty, Enotria,

Hallgarten, Winegrowers, Flint, H2Vin,

… but LPs seem to be in a random order

THE WINE MERCHANT november 2019 29

That’s the really exciting thing about wine. Continues page 30


From page 29

What kind of people come into the shop? We have two types of customer. There are customers for whom coming in here is

fine, it’s relaxing and interesting and they

‘I think the top end of eastern European countries will really change things for independents in the next two or three years. The potential is pretty huge’

just want to buy some wine. They might

Is there a part of the world of wine that

have some money or not, but for them it’s

The real answer is wherever you go next or

set as their limit when they walk through

it’s the world leader at the moment.

be wine-nerdy or wealthy people. Then

you’re finding particularly inspiring or

more of an aspirational thing and therefore

you’ve just been. South Africa produces the

there’s the rest of the world who might


how far they’ll trade up is what they have

best value – between £10 and £25 I think

the door.

We have our most expensive wines on a

separate shelf – fine and rare wines. Again, that’s a bit of an aspirational thing.

I think the top end of eastern European

countries will really change things for the independents in the next two or three years.

Croatia, Slovenia, Hungary, Romania

… for a lot of them it started from quite

a low base from an image point of view,

but I think the potential in most of those countries is pretty huge. I think it’s only

just getting going and what’s really good from everyone’s point of view is that it’s

adding to the diversification of our product. In some ways it makes it more difficult

and more complicated for people, but it

gives opportunities for the independent

John Hoskins became a Master of Wine in 1994. “I thought, I’m going to be the first MW from the restaurant business”

THE WINE MERCHANT november 2019 30


merchants to be doing something that the

It’s been great for me because it meant

consumer finds genuinely interesting and

that I was involved entirely in the wine

Would I be opening a can of worms if I

Does your Institute of Masters of Wine



mention natural wines?

work eat a lot of your time?

No, not at all. It’s all part of the

Yes. That’s why I’m going to stop next

that included in the midst of what we sell.

programme and it takes a lot of time. It’s

diversification. From a sales point of view, I think it is fun and interesting to have

But I’m an MW who spends a lot of time teaching, setting and marking tasting

papers and you’re trying to assess people’s ability to analyse wines that are true to

type – wines that have a sense of place, a

sense of variety, a sense of winemaking –

something that was intended to be there in the bottle.

Natural wines can have lots of character

year. For 25 years I’ve been either in

education or in charge of that education

probably 20 full days and a huge amount of

correspondence. It’s been good for me – it’s kept me on the ball.

In a way it works against me, because

people [reps] don’t suggest stuff, because

they’re scared of me – though not because I’m a scary person.

How much wine do you buy to keep in

but quite often – and it’s a complaint I’ve

the cellars?

wine has a personality which is almost

all the Burgundy we sell, or the good Rhône

heard many times before – it’s the funky

We do buy a lot of good wine to keep, not

unique to that bottle.

– lots of weird, interesting stuff.

factor, the unpredictability, that means the Purity is what I personally really like in

wine, that’s what excites me: when a wine feels like a really good example of Pinot

or a really great Barossa Shiraz. I’m very

catholic in my taste; I like nearly all styles if they are really good of their sort.

The natural thing adds an extra

dimension that may be fun for you, the

natural drinker out there, but doesn’t help me in my course.

Do you remember what prompted you to do the MW exams? What has it done for your career? I passed MW in the same year I set up

the business in 1994. I wasn’t really that

interested in the hotel business, but quite early on I saw that in the wine business

you could make a living. But to get good at

it you had to do the academic work. I don’t know how I knew that – I read about it I

suppose, but I thought “I’m going to be the first MW from the restaurant business”.

for ever but for five to 10 years, so nearly

We like to sell wine when it’s mature and

tasting delicious. From a financial point of

view there are two advantages. One is that

quite often you make an extra margin. Most wines that are any good go up in price, so if you can afford to, you keep it for a few years.

The other factor is that quite often you

find that you have got something that is

very desirable for a wine nerd. A lot of the wine we sell on the internet is to people who don’t know anything about us, but

they’ve been Googling for particular wines. We’ve kept it back and we’ve got a full margin.

When most people buy this stuff they

sell it on offer at a lower margin straight

away – there is an argument for that too,

because it’s good for cash flow. I’d rather

wait and make 33% on it. The internet has been really good for people who are into

niche stuff, because those obsessives will find you.

THE WINE MERCHANT november 2019 31


Svetoslav Manolev Master Sommelier Flemings, Mayfair Champagne has definitely always been known as a celebratory drink for special occasions, which is great. However, we are now evolving into consuming Champagne in various other ways. Not only is it a delicious aperitif and celebratory drink but also a wonderful gastronomic wine. Devaux is a perfect example of that with its high quality and aromatic complexity making it ideal to pair with dishes creating ultimate flavour fusions. What I love about the style of Devaux is the versatility in its range of cuvées. From the fresh and creamy Cuvée D to the incredibly mineral and precise Ultra D and the complex and hedonistic vintage D Millésimé … they all have something different to offer, depending on the occasion. Recently, I paired a seven-course tasting menu with the full Devaux range including Stenopé. However, if I had to choose one pairing, it would be the Ultra D with one of our signature dishes – Jersey lobster ravioli with crab and tomato bisque. The low dosage makes it the perfect match for seafood – I could have that every day. We have done a few special events with Devaux in the past, both in the restaurant and in our barrel room. We are currently discussing our next Champagne dinner where we can show the versatility of Devaux’s wines when it comes to food and wine pairing.

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

Austria plays the right notes Whether it’s fresh, zippy whites or elegant, understated reds, Austria naturally produces the kind of wines that consumers are demanding, as our buyers’ trip to Burgenland and Steiermark proved


ritish consumers are increasingly looking for wines that are naturally lower in alcohol, yet big on flavour – and which express the personality of the land they come from. Burgenland and Steiermark may not be names that are immediately familiar in the UK, but the wines these Austrian regions produce could hardly be more on-trend for the evolving British palate. The Wine Merchant recently teamed up with Austrian Wine to lead a buying trip for a small group of independent merchants, all keen to check in on progress in a country which has long been regarded with admiration by the trade, and which many believe may yet make a breakthrough among consumers. Burgenland is heavily influenced by Hungarian winemaking traditions, sharing as it does a border on the eastern side. Its five Districtus Austriae Controllatus (DAC) appellations are Neusiedlersee, Rosalia, Leithaberg,

Mittelburgenland and Eisenberg. Steiermark, whose southern border is shared with Slovenia, has three DAC regions: Vulkanland Steiermark, Südsteiermark and Weststeiermark. Most of the vineyards in Austria are family owned, and more than 70% of total production is white wine. But the group was wooed by the Blaufränkisch variety with its subtle cherry and spice flavours and interesting ageing potential. The Pinot Blancs were generous, with fruit, minerality and well-balanced acidity and appealing apricot, pear and candied fruit flavours – all thirst quenching stuff. The Welschriesling which, despite being the most widely planted variety is hardly ever exported, impressed with its opulent fruit. Perhaps one of the most interesting examples would be the Burgenland Ruster Ausbruch Welschriesling Auf den Flugeln der Morgenrote 2015, which was heavier in body and had lip-smacking baked

THE WINE MERCHANT november 2019 32

apple flavours with a hint of Earl Grey. The Chardonnays were enticing, some displaying saline sharpness and others with creamier textures. Sweetie wise, one of the stand-outs was Haider’s Burgenland Eiswein 2015. Made from Grüner Veltliner, with around 25% botrytis grapes, this was candied and honeyed – a perfect pairing for sorbet. Common themes that emerged among the winemakers and estates we visited were the low-intervention approach, the use of natural yeasts, longer skin-contact times and the adoption of organic and occasionally biodynamic methods. This lack of intervention in the winery and the cellar should not be mistaken for wishful thinking; the choices made in the vineyard from the grape selection and the general viticultural practices are made with classic Austrian precision. The aim is simple – to produce the best wines that the terroir allows.

Gernot Heinrich, Martin Nittnaus and Gernot Letiner

Prieler Schützen am Gebirge, Burgenland “I’m not just a winemaker, I’m a wine drinker,” says Georg Prieler as he fills our glasses with a selection of vintages from his cellar. His vineyards, spread through Schutzen and Oggau, are predominantly planted with Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc) and Blaufränkisch, with a “tiny” amount of Cabernet and Merlot. His father was inspired by “the big Bordeaux of the 1980s”, but Georg is focused on local varieties. “My heart is with the Blaufränkisch and the Weissburgunder,” he says. Georg describes his move to organics as “logical”: he sees himself as merely a custodian of the land until he passes it on to the next generation. “I want to protect it for my three sons – I think it’s the death of a wine region when they start to kick out the flora and fauna,” he says. Prieler’s wines are all minimal intervention. “We have no recipe to how we make the wines,” he says. “Every decision is very spontaneous; it depends on the grapes. We spend most of our time and our money in the vineyards and in the berry selection, so we can be very lazy in the cellar. We bring to the bottle what we have grown in the vineyards.” The resulting wines certainly impress, especially the spicy Blaufränkisch and intense, apricotty Pinot Blanc. It’s a joy to drink the wild, fresh and complex Pinot Blanc Ried Haidsatz 2017 from 70-year-old vines, listening to Georg’s account of how he obtained the small parcel from another family by a chance meeting: “Well, I was a young winemaker, sitting in the pub in the village …”

Georg Prieler

Pannobile Gols, Burgenland

Schiefer Grosspetersdorf, Burgenland

Gernot Heinrich, Martin Nittnaus and Gernot Leitner are three winemakers from the Pannobile collective. This association of nine winegrowers was created in 1994 with the aim of highlighting the quality and character of the region’s wines. Every vintage requires members to put forward a new wine to Pannobile for consideration. The approach of “less is more” in the winery evidently doesn’t apply to Pannobile’s hospitality, as we are greeted in a tasting room that’s as sophisticated as can be. Mood lighting: check; cool bar area: check; glass floor affording an impressive view of the cellar: double check. From Nittnaus, The Tochter 2018 wakes up our tired taste buds with its floral, peppery notes and juicy acidity. Chardonnay Joiser Freudshofer 2016 delights with its popcorn and mint flavours and Leitner’s Pinot Blanc, Salzberg 2019 is all refreshing pear drops.

It’s the last day of the 2019 harvest when we arrive, so we catch a fleeting glimpse of winemaker Uwe Schiefer and are left in the capable hands of estate manager Mark Matisovits. The vineyards in Eisenberg, Leithaberg and Purbach have been farmed organically since 2007 and all the wines are unfiltered. “Our philosophy is to have elegant wines that are not too heavy,” says Matisovits. The estate exports more than 50% of its output, mainly to Germany, America,

‘I think it’s the death of a wine region when they start to kick out the flora and fauna’ THE WINE MERCHANT november 2019 33

Continues page 34

Mark Matisovits

Muster Gamlitz, Südsteiermark

From page 33

Russia, and Japan. Currently only a “small selection” is available the UK via FMV. Victoria from Loki points out she stocks the Blaufränkisch Szapary and the Blaufränkisch Eisenberg DAC Reserve. Wachter Wiesler Ratschen, Eisenberg Christoph Wachter took on full responsibility for the winery in 2010 at just 22 years of age. He farms the family’s 14 hectares in the villages of Eisenberg and Deutsch Schutzen. Thanks to his parents “not going too crazy” with replacing their Blaufränkisch with more fashionable Cabernet and Merlot in the early 90s, most of his vineyards are over 35 years old. He tried organic farming in two vineyards in 2009 and now the 2018 vintage is the first to be officially organic. “But,” Christoph says, “I forgot to put it on the label!” He’s battled frosts two years in succession, but is confident enough to trust his instinct when it comes to winemaking – and rightly so, judging by our tasting. “If you trust your soil and your team picking the grapes you can let the wine do what it’s going to do,” he says. He uses old barrels: “This is a very traditional, very authentic way to produce wine,” he explains. “I don’t want any taste of oak; I like freshness and I like drinkability.” We are blown away by the entry-level Handgemenge 2017, a Blaufränkisch-led blend full of black cherries and a touch of dark pepper. “For me that’s one of the nicest and most easydrinking red styles of the trip,” says Simon Parkinson of Vinological in Chester. “It’s so elegant, with real complexity. I could drink this all day, especially if I had a plate of charcuterie.” The wines are available in the UK through Newcomer Wines. Christoph Wachter

Katherina Tinnacher

Lackner Tinnacher Gamlitz, Südsteiermark It’s hard to imagine this estate was ever anything but cutting-edge design and beautifully manicured grounds (thanks to the robotic lawn mower busying itself in the background), but until Katherina Tinnacher’s great-grandfather took the plunge in the 1920s and moved away from mixed agriculture to focus on wine, the area was poor. “My great-grandfather founded his own nursery for grafting the wines and he did his own vineyard selections,” Katherina explains. “We still have about 80% of our varieties and vines from those selections.” The last of the harvest is just coming in when we arrive and an early morning walk through the vineyard, under the chestnut trees, via the beehives, reveals a few solitary bunches of Sauvignon Blanc. When Katherina started organic farming in 2007, many local winemakers said it wouldn’t work. But now 15% of the vineyards in the area are also farming organically. The extended skin-contact maceration and the use of 100% malolactic fermentation are much the same methods used by Katherina’s grandfather. Her wines, from the beautifully fragrant yet bone dry Muskateller, Weissburgunder and Morillon (Chardonnay), resonate with a sense of place. “Our parents had to focus first on quality management here and in the vineyards, and now we are the first generation who are really into export,” Katherina says. “It’s hard to understand the area with its bunch of different crus, and our different grape varieties, so we need people who can explain this and tell the stories behind the wines. We always find those people in good restaurants and small wine shops and this is what I want to focus our sales on.”

THE WINE MERCHANT november 2019 34

Reinhard Muster is a self-confessed perfectionist and as such he won’t be extending his estate much further. He feels it would be impossible to maintain standards if he spreads himself too thinly. “He has such high expectations of the quality and he only trusts himself,” explains his partner Claudia. Reinhard took on responsibility for the vineyard in 2000 when he was 19 years old. He has taken the production from 30,000 bottles to 10 times that amount. “For our Klassic range we try to produce very fruity and typical wines for the variety and Reverenz is a mix of different vineyards, villages and soil types,” says Reinhard. “We blend grapes with higher acid with grapes with high sugar content.” As we admire a number of huge tanks outside, Reinhard tells us that his next task is creating a building to put them in. “Over the last year we have invested in the vineyards and technical things for producing the wines, but the next thing will be to house these – we have too many tanks outside. Sometimes you cannot imagine the problems we have when we work in winter – we have to remove the snow,” he says. The Steiermark wine style very much depends on hot days and cold nights and with the harvest just in, Reinhard is confident that 2019 is a “fantastic” vintage. There is another more undercover project that Josef has been working on and is particularly proud of: a trio of red, white and rose vermouths made from Traminer. “Delicious, citrusy and Christmassy,” is our verdict.

Claudia and Reinhard Muster

“I was surprised by the amount of producers doing natural and lowintervention wines. They don’t seem to be doing it with crazy philosophies and practices in the vineyard but just for the purity of the wine that they make. They have such a wide range, from everyday easy-drinking to a little bit more sophisticated, bigger, richer wines. “I think a lot of UK consumers are into that freshness and lower alcohol and easy-drinking styles, so we are the same as their domestic market in that respect. “For me the highlight was the Blaufränkisch: the white pepper and the spiciness, combined with the freshness and the fact they served them a little bit chilled.”

Emily Silva, The Oxford Wine Company “That Alpine style – lower alcohol, a little bit more mineral, with some real elegance, particularly with the reds – is where the UK market is heading. People are starting to look for something a bit more subtle. “The reclassification has made things much better because Austria aligning itself with the German system, using the Kabinett, Spatlese and Auslese descriptors, is not the right way to go. Ninety per cent of the wines we tried were quite dry, so separating themselves from that type of classification was a smart move.”

Victoria Platt, Loki, Birmingham “I reckon I have a lot of customers who would really buy into the Pannobile story and their more funky wines, and I’m more into that kind of thing. They were so hip and cool. “I’m definitely a fan of the Weissburgunders, especially the older ones, to see how they are ageing and developing. And I never thought I’d fall in love with an Austrian Chardonnay – but we’ve had some amazing Chardonnays on this trip. “These are the sorts of wines that customers would fall in love with too, but it’s a matter of educating people and having a tasting; they are most certainly hand-sell wines. “That’s where our Enomatics will come in and it would help if the producers can get represented by a good agency who will support them with tastings and events like meeting the winemaker.”

Anthony Borges, The Wine Centre, Great Horkesley “Perhaps the biggest surprise for me was how much I liked the Pinot Blanc wines. Potentially, in my view this grape could be a real winner for Austria. “Blaufränkisch may be a bit niche but put alongside Nebbiolo, Sangiovese and Pinot Noir, it holds its own. My customers who like Burgundy and savoury Nebbiolos will love Blaufränkisch. “There is a whole spectrum of Grüner Veltliner: very serious, long, mineral, quite suave and sophisticated food-type wines to the very succulent and tropical, and I learned a bit more how versatile the grape is. “The limestone-influenced Chardonnay is great. Those we tasted were very slick and stylish, mostly along the citrus spectrum. The minerality of these wines played a significant but not domineering part, and they were textural and delicious. “Although it was clear the Austrians are aiming for a fresh, food-friendly style of Chardonnay – consciously not stirring lees – the evidence was that the wines evolve Burgundyesque richness nonetheless.”

THE WINE MERCHANT november 2019 35

© AWMB / Herbert Lehmann

Auriane D’Aramon, Friarwood Fine Wines, London

Changing cheese an

In their homeland, Spanish wines are bes invited to two masterclasses, in Edinburg The Wedgwood restaurant was the venue for the Edinburgh event


ith Rioja casting such a big

shadow across the category, it’s sometimes hard to get

adequate visibility and recognition on the

shelves for Spain’s diversity of other styles and regions.

For many customers, Rioja is Spanish

wine – the first and last name that crosses their lips. So how to change perceptions,

and encourage more experimentation? The Wine Merchant brought together a group of independent retailers in Edinburgh

and Manchester to take a fresh look at a

selection of winning wines from this year’s

Wines from across Spain were included in the tastings

Wines from Spain Awards, and consider

how to showcase them alongside the best of Spanish foods.

If anyone is going to draw a customer

into new avenues of Spanish experience, it’s likely to be an independent retailer, who can offer the kind of personalised

advice that these regions and styles may

need, especially when it comes to Spanish whites. Gordon Polley of Ellie’s Cellar,

with seven shops in smaller towns across central Scotland, agrees. “Our customers

tend to think of Spain for red wines first,”

he says, “but if you can get them to try the whites they are pleasantly surprised. For Goat and sheep products were the stars of the cheeseboard

THE WINE MERCHANT november 2019 36

example, Albariño has our best repeat

purchase record – once they’ve tried it, they really want to come back.”

g the world with nd charcuterie

st enjoyed in the company of tapas or a more formal meal. Merchants were gh and Manchester, to explore the culinary versatility of a range of wines

James Kelly, of VINo 13 in Kilmacolm,

already has around 20 Spanish wines on his shelves, “from the predictable Tempranillo Reserva to Godello and

Albariño in whites,” he says. “Lagar de

Bouza is a big seller. A wine like the Ribeiro we tasted is a stand-out wine but would definitely be a hand-sell for me.”

Clare Kennaway of Edinburgh’s Great

Grog, which has more than 30 wines in

its Spanish range, is a fan of Godello as a

grape, but understands that it doesn’t have

strong recognition among many customers: “If you can get them to taste it, they love it,” she maintains. She also sees the value of a good back story in attracting customers: “I do a lot of corporate tastings, and will

Here in Scotland, we’ve got 200 years of

Yecla. It’s one of those great wines, if you’re

story, but we’re not making enough of it.”

Our event was focused on matching the

connection with Sherry through the whisky industry – all the roots are there to tell that Looking at reds, and options to draw

customers somewhere other than Rioja, our indies were impressed with the

Vermador Barrica (a blend of Monastrell and Syrah) tasted at the event. “In terms

of value,” says Kennaway from Great Grog, “it was absolutely excellent.” For others, Monastrell is already a winner in store.

McDiarmid from Luvians says: “If you look at our top-selling Spanish wines, first is

a Rioja, and second is a Monastrell from

looking for value and a fairly full-bodied red. It flies out the door.”

wines with a selection of quality Spanish

cheeses and cured meats, and for several of the group, offering wine in this way is

already part of their offering. Laura Hope from Edinburgh-based wine bar Smith & Gertrude says: “We already offer cheese and wine flights, which change each

week – we have two flights available, each pairing three wines and three cheeses.

Continues page 38

often feature unusual grape varieties – and people really respond to the story behind the wines.”

Yet sometimes, there’s a powerful

story that could be usefully engaged in the promotion of Spanish wine styles

that perhaps isn’t being used to its full

advantage. Archie McDiarmid of Luvians in St Andrews sells plenty of whisky

alongside the shop’s wines, and thinks

retailers are missing a trick with one of the trade’s perennial favourites: “With almost every Sherry drinker we have as a customer,” he says, “we were the

ones who introduced them to the drink.

Miguel Crunia led the Edinburgh masterclass

THE WINE MERCHANT november 2019 37

Authentic wine needs authentic food From page 37

It’s all about educating people.” This is

particularly important for the range of

Spanish wines which the business lists

from smaller producers and wines from off the beaten track.

Ian Gribbin, of Abbey Fine Wines in

Melrose, already directly imports Spanish cheeses which are sold in the shop, and

he’s organising an Eat Spain Drink Spain

dinner in late October. “As soon as you put

food and wine together in front of people”,

‘As soon as you put food and wine together in front of people, they are happy’ he says, “they’re happy. It just makes sense.”

Gribbin believes that organising such events


he Manchester event, which took place at the Salut wine bar and shop in the middle of the city,

featured a selection of Spanish goodies provided courtesy of Peter Kinsella of Spanish food specialist Lunya.

The speaker was wine writer Simon

Woods, who also runs the Manchester Wine School.

“I thought it was fantastic,” says Jane

Taylor of Dronfield Wine World near

Sheffield. “Having Simon there to talk

through the wines was just brilliant. I

thought the matching of the food by Peter from Lunya was really useful and we’re

going to jump on board with the Eat Spain Drink Spain initiative.

“We do a lot of tapas anyway because it

just adds to the experience.”

She adds: “I think it will be really nice

to get in touch with Peter and use them

for our more upmarket tapas evenings. It

makes it that extra point of difference – if you’re drinking really good quality wines

from small producers then the same goes

for the food – it makes it more authentic. “Interestingly we’d tasted a lot of the

Boutinot wines at their tasting the week before, and revisiting those wines – that was fab. Actually some of those wines

that I thought were too expensive to put

on, I’m now going to put on anyway – I’ve re-evaluated them to go with the food

pairings. All of the wines were absolutely fabulous.”

Sam Jackson of Chester Beer & Wine has

around 60 Spanish wines in her range at any one time.

“We did have a good taste of the different

cheeses with the different wines,” she

says. “There’s always a market for food and wine pairing, especially in Chester

where every time you turn around a new

speciality restaurant or deli has opened up and they’re pairing up with somebody to

do a tasting. It’s whether you do a ticketed tasting for a formal sit-down event or you just have a bottle open and some ham on the side and have people wander in and you have a chat with them.”

also really helps to focus the mind of a

retailer, “and gets them thinking about what else you can achieve in the future.”

The matching of the wines with top

Spanish cheeses and cured meats proved thought-provoking, with a recognition among the group of the potential for

retailers to extend a customer’s views on a

wine in this context. Clare Kennaway is one of those with a clear idea of a winner. “The standout food for me was the

Iberico Bellota Jabugo, but I think the best pairing was the Ahumado Curado and

the Cornelio Dinastia White,” she says.

“They both had a sweet, smoky note that I thought married really nicely.”

Fernando Muñoz, new director of Foods & Wines from Spain in London, with María Naranjo, global director of Foods & Wines from Spain, Madrid, who came over especially for the event

THE WINE MERCHANT november 2019 38

Merchants came from across Scotland for the Edinburgh masterclass


White wines

Ahumado Curado from Valladolid A semi-hard, raw sheep’s milk cheese, aged

• Fraga do Corvo 2018, Fragas do Lecer,

for six months and then smoked intensely

DO Monterrei

with beech wood. Intense aromas, but

• Finca Viñoa 2018, Pazo Casanova,

subtle flavours with salty and sharp notes.

DO Ribeiro

Cured meats Iberico Ham Bellota Jabugo Free range Iberico pigs, fed on a 100% acorn diet produce ham with intense rich flavours and a delicate soft texture – slighty

• Raimat El Niu de la Cigonya, Raventos

Manchego from La Mancha

smoky with hints of saltiness. This ham was

Codorniu, DO Costers del Segre

Made from raw sheep’s milk, and aged

matured for 36 months.

• Cornelio Dinastia White Barrel Fermented

for 12 months, it has a dry and waxy

2017, Bodegas Cornelio Dinastia,

texture, and a mild fruity taste with hints

DOCa Rioja

of flower and pineapple. Great served with

• Fernando de Castilla Antique Oloroso NV,

membrillo (sweet quince paste).

Bodegas Rey Fernando de Castilla, DO Jerez


Red wines • Vermador Barrica 2018, Bodegas Pinoso,

Acorn-fed Chorizo de Bellota Not your average chorizo. Made from 100% acorn-fed Black Iberian pigs, the meat is minced and finely sliced and cured with salt and paprika. Full of flavour. Acorn-fed Salchichon de Bellota

DO Alicante

Similar to the chorizo but without paprika,

A lactic, set raw goat’s cheese aged for

• Juan Gil Yellow Label 2018, Gil Family

and dotted with black peppercorns, and

20 days, with a firm but velvety texture.

Estates, DO Jumilla

produced with the finest Iberico pork.

Lemony citrus notes with a fuller-bodied

• Peninsula Cadalso 2017, Peninsula

Moluengo from Villamalea


Vinicultores, Sierra de Gredos • Contino Reserva 2015, CVNE, DOCa Rioja • Marques de Murrieta Reserva 2015, Marques de Murrieta, DOCa Rioja

THE WINE MERCHANT november 2019 39

A way to make Europe

European Regional Development Fund




• Pago de los Capellanes O Luar do Sil

Payoyo Grazalema

5j Presa Iberica de Bellota

Godello on lees 2017, Pago de los Capellanes

This strong pasteurised sheep’s milk

Iberico is widely revered as one of the best

DO Valdeorras

cheese is from the Payoyo dairy high in the

meats in the world due to its rich, delicious

• Cuarenta Vendimias Cuvée 2017, Bodega

mountains of the Sierra de Cadiz. It has

flavour. The purebred Iberian pigs roam

Cuatro Rayas DO Rueda

an intense savoury flavour with hints of

freely in the dehesas: sparsely wooded

• Malvasía Seco Colección 2017, Bodegas El

caramel, almonds and subtle spiciness. It

pasturelands that can only be found in the

Grifo DO Lanzarote

is aged for up to 18 months.

south west of Spain.

• Montes Obarenes ‘Selección Terroir’ 2015, Bodegas y Viñedos Gómez Cruzado

Monte Enebro

Morcilla Iberica de Bellota

DOCa Rioja

A pasteurised goat’s cheese log. A gentle,

This cured Morcilla Iberica, or blood

soft cheese with a lemony taste.

sausage, is a traditional Spanish product

San Simon de Costa

paprika, garlic and pig’s blood. It is cured

This lightly smoked cheese from Galicia

for a period of 40 days.

made using meat from acorn-fed pigs,

Red wines • Estola Reserva 2014, Bodegas Ayuso

has a smooth buttery texture and a

DO La Mancha

pleasant, lightly earthy taste.

Casa Riera d’Ordeix Salchichon This Salchichon has been produced by Casa

• Mineral del Montsant 2017, Castell del


Riera d’Ordeix for over 150 years. The main

DO Ribera del Duero

Cold smoked sardines

with some belly pork for flavour, and simply

• Rioja Vega Edición Limitada 2016, Rioja

Sardine loins with shiny skin, a meaty and

salt and black pepper.

Vega-Bodegas Clunia DOCa Rioja

juicy texture, a delicate and light natural

• Voche Crianza 2015, Bodegas Manzanos

smoke flavour.

Remei DO Montsant

ingredient is best quality leg meat, mixed

• Parada de Atauta 2015, Dominio de Atauta

DOCa Rioja • Finca Valpiedra Reserva 2012, Finca


Valpiedra DOCa Rioja

Baby scallops in a traditional Galician mildly spicy tomato sauce from Conservas

All food served at our Manchester event at

de Cambados of Pontevedra, Rías Baixas.

Salut was kindly supplied by Lunya

Eat Spain Drink Spain is running a promotion until November 30 showcasing the potential of matching Spanish food and wine in independent wine shops. Promote a selection of your Spanish wines and you will be sent POS material, a Spanish Gourmet Kit, and featured on the Eat Spain Drink Spain website and social media campaign. If you can encapsulate your promotion in a short report, you’ll also be considered for a £1,000 contribution towards the purchase of any wines from the 2019 Wines from Spain Awards line-up.

For further details, contact

THE WINE MERCHANT november 2019 40



We’re only here for the career

ROUND TABLE 2019 In association with SANTA RITA ESTATES

Our final report on our Birmingham Round Table, organised in partnership with Santa Rita Estates and hosted by Loki, starts with a talk about the thorny issue of recruitment


ne of the perennial problems facing wine merchants is

recruiting quality staff – and

retaining them.

Yet more and more independents are

finding ways of bringing new talent

on board and helping these recruits to

develop their skills as they embark on a career in the wine trade.

David Dodd of Tivoli Wines says he is

“particularly lucky” to employ one member of staff who has been with the company for 17 years and is “part of the community –

Edward Symonds Saxty’s Hereford

people come in to speak to her even if they

the same language and use the same

has thrived as a result of the responsibility

start looking at people like bartenders and

don’t want to buy wine”.

He also employs a team member who

that Dodd gives him. “It’s recognition and

reward,” Dodd says. “We worked out what he wanted to do and what his career path was and made sure he’s rewarded for the gains that he’s making.”

For Dodd, bringing in young people is

a way of ensuring that the business can appeal to customers of a similar age.

“You’ve got to get people who can speak

Chris Connolly David Dodd Tivoli Wines Cheltenham

Connolly’s Birmingham

technology as them,” he says. “So I am all for bringing in apprentices. You need to

mixologists if you want to diversify your

range. I don’t think the future of wine retail is going to be old rich guys selling to old rich guys.”

Phil Innes of Loki admits to a few

recruitment issues at the company’s

Edgbaston branch. “But we’ve become

Continues page 42

Phil Innes

Gosia Bailey The Wine Bank Southwell

THE WINE MERCHANT november 2019 41

Nick Underwood Underwood Wines Stratford

Loki Birmingham


© Robert Kneschke /

From page 41

more ruthless with the part-timers,” he says. “If you don’t fit in within the first month: thank you, see you later.”

Innes now has an “amazing” team,

including a large number of part-timers

– he estimates he has received about 150

CVs from people looking for those kinds of shifts. “We’ve got some fantastic students working for us now,” he says.

What credentials does he want in

new recruits? “We’re just looking for

personality. We’ve found that recruiting from the wine-geek population isn’t

necessarily the right thing because even young people that are really into their

wine tend to have a different outlook to the majority of our customers.

“A lot of our customer base is quite

young, and they don’t necessarily want

this posh toff that’s drunk wine from his

daddy’s cellar all his life and that’s how he knows about wine. They want someone

who’s younger and more engaging. We do WSET courses here so we can easily put staff through them, at our cost. Three of our students are doing the Level 3.”

Gosia Bailey, who runs The Wine Bank

with her husband Chris, has also been fortunate with her recruitment.

“We have Sarah, who’s the shop manager,

but we still have a lot of control, only

because it’s our business and we’ve put everything into it,” she says. “She was

straight out of university; I think she’d

already done the first level of WSET and

Give young team members responsibility and reward and they can flourish, argues David Dodd

she was part of the wine society at uni.

She’d spent time in Champagne as well.”

But Bailey says that generally speaking,

finding decent staff has been a challenge for most local retailers.

“Retail gets a bad press all the time so

it’s not an industry that younger people are interested in,” she says.

Not surprisingly, smaller retailers

are reluctant to commit to employing

a candidate they’re unsure about. “In a

small independent it costs so much money

‘A lot of our customer base is quite young, and they don’t necessarily want this posh toff that’s drunk wine from his daddy’s cellar all his life’ THE WINE MERCHANT november 2019 42

even to have them on the payroll with the

pension and all that, before you even start training them,” Bailey says.

Edward Symonds of Saxty’s believes

that “the art of delegation is the key to

business”, but admits it’s a difficult skill to master.

“We run a family business and we treat

all our staff like they’re one of the family,”

he says. “You go the extra mile to look after

them and make sure they’re happy. As long as you’re looking after your staff, hopefully they’ll stay for a long time.

“We have a small team in the Saxty’s

Wine bit – there are eight of us now. In the bar business and on the events side, we have a few more.

“This year it’s been incredibly difficult to

find people to work on events. Everyone’s found it hard to recruit staff.”


‘I can buy it cheaper online’ The internet may have opened doors for ambitious indies looking to seek out new revenue streams. But it’s also ushered in the age of instant price comparisons


ow much is the independent trade being transformed by

the internet? Our panellists in

Birmingham were broadly sceptical about the potential for web sales to massively boost their bottom line.

Edward Symonds of Saxty’s says his

business does “a fair bit” online, but urges

fellow merchants to approach e-commerce with caution.

“It’s a minefield, there’s no two ways

about it,” he says. “There’s a lot of poor

decisions you can make online that will cost you a lot of money.

“You can get websites built for 20 grand,

30 grand and more, depending on what platforms you’re using, and you can get

websites built for next to nothing. You can buy templates for £150 now.

“There are relatively straightforward

solutions now for online retailing but there is a huge amount of con-merchants out

there. There’s a lot of fraud going on, still.

corner now. That’s going to be a massive

why. You’ve taken half an hour of my time,

getting quicker. The industry’s got to catch

the one that you preferred, and I think

game changer in terms of what you can

access. Technology is only improving and up pretty quickly.”

Phil Innes of Loki feels that Vivino is too

impersonal for his customer base. “You

can’t talk to someone, yet, and you can’t

physically feel the bottle and that sort of thing,” he says.

“Most of my customers aren’t looking

for the rock-bottom lowest price. They’re looking for an experience and some expertise.”

He argues that Vivino has an in-built

bias towards big names such as Moët and Veuve Clicquot, which climb the rankings

due to their likelihood of being consumed as part of a celebration. He also criticises

the app for not having the ability to make recommendations based on consumers’ tastes and buying history.

to scan labels and get instant information


a mixed blessing for independents. But

I gave her loads of gin samples and I saw

It’s a real headache.”

The Vivino app, which allows customers

about wine – including pricing from online merchants – has proved something of

Symonds believes the technology should be embraced. “That’s the future,” he says. “It’s

not going to change and there will be other apps.”

He adds: “You’ve got 5G around the

ut it’s not only Vivino that is

having an impact on consumer behaviour.

Innes says: “A few weeks ago, we had one

lady who spent half an hour of my time. she was on her phone.

“She said, this gin is on Amazon for

£5 less than you’re selling for – will

you honour the price? I just said to her, absolutely not – but I’ll explain to you

THE WINE MERCHANT november 2019 43

which is worth a hell of a lot more than £5;

you’ve sampled a load of things and chosen that’s worth £5.

“She said to me, I have never thought of

it in that way, and bought the bottle. I said, you’re well within your rights to buy that

from Amazon but if you do that, in five or

10 years’ time there’ll be nowhere for you to go and try these things and to get an expert opinion.”

Vivino: it doesn’t talk to you – yet


What’s the point of retail awards? Some of our Birmingham panelists know what it’s like to be a winner in a national retail competition. The question is, did it make any difference to their business?

© asierromero /

Phil Innes: It’s good for profile raising. If I’m honest I’m probably not entering

any more now. lt’s a lot of effort and, for

certain ones like IWC, a lot of expense. IWC is extortionate. It’s £200-odd just to apply, I think.

Gosia Bailey: I don’t see why you should pay money to apply. I think that’s wrong. David Dodd: I had a phone call this

year from one of the awards organisers, basically encouraging me to apply for a

certain category because only one other

person had applied. They’d looked at my

website and said, you’ve got quite a strong range.

We won a Decanter award last year. I

It can cost around £200 to enter an award, and maybe judges won’t even visit the shop

spoke to [retailer awards chairman] Peter

it did bring something in. But did I feel

journalists, the judges.

one of the judges had set foot in my shop. It

highly subjective and not very transparent.

year and this year we won the Newark

Richards that night and said, have you been to our shop – what did you think? And not just devalues it straight away.

We did see a spike in online sales, so

particularly rewarded for it? Not really.

I’m not anti-awards but I do think they’re

If you’re going to run awards, make

retailers, rather than suppliers and wine


Gosia Bailey: We won an IWSC award last Business Awards and we had the biggest response from that, because it was local. We saw a direct increase in sales and

there were more people congratulating us

because it was based within our area. They recognised it; they understand it. To get an

award from the IWSC means nothing to the

Our Birmingham Round Table event is the fourth in a series of regional disussions featuring independent wine merchants, organised in partnership with Santa Rita Estates.

average person buying a bottle of wine.

David Dodd: I quite like looking at awards because I want to know who’s best in

The company’s principal wines in the independent trade are Carmen from Chile and Doña Paula from Argentina, the latter being distributed by Hallgarten & Novum Wines.

class and why they won the award. But

when I’ve visited winning shops, I’m quite underwhelmed.

It’s all so subjective and that’s what puts

people off awards. It all seems to be about


THE WINE MERCHANT november 2019 44

who you know in the industry.


Glass is still top of the class for indies

customers were offered the same wine


quality of the wine,” he says. “And I’m really

sometimes dismissed as obsolete and environmentally damaging,

and likely to lose their dominant market share as consumers buy into cans and boxed wine, and embrace draught dispense.

But the Birmingham panellists need

some convincing that bottles’ days are numbered.

Chris Connolly recently installed a

draught wine system within the shop area

of his Birmingham business but found that customer interest was minimal.

“I don’t think people could quite

understand why it was there,” he says. “And also it’s not particularly eco-friendly. It’s a whacking great KeyKeg, which is non-

recyclable, underneath the whole thing. We moved the kit into the bar and we’re now doing draught beer from it instead. So all was not lost but it didn’t really work.”

David Dodd of Tivoli Wines recently

carried out an experiment in which

canned product to be worth less.

“People can’t get their heads around it

at the moment even though they love the for it.”

Connolly believes that the craft beer

market has helped consumers change their view of canned products. “It just needs

a little bit more time,” he says. “I’m sure it will come. Two years ago if you said

‘canned beer’ you’d be thinking of Carling and Stella. Whereas now you’ve got so

many craft beers in cans – and in many

cases the quality is much better than out of a bottle.”

But for Phil Innes of Loki, cans are not a

long-term solution. “I don’t see the point because canning is an environmental disaster waiting to happen,” he says.

“Although cans are easily recyclable,

actually the mining of the raw material is one of the most polluting industries. And still about 40% of cans get thrown in the bin and taken to landfill.

“Glass is one of the most widely and

most easily recycled products in the world. Why are we suddenly moving away from it?”

© Colin & Linda McKie /

raditional wine bottles are

How are spirits doing?

from bottles and cans. They perceived the

Glass has less environmental impact than cans, Innes argues

THE WINE MERCHANT november 2019 45

“We’re not doing the big brands; we’re keeping it local. We just can’t compete with the supermarkets. We’re now going direct to gin producers because we will only hold stock for so long. Once it’s gone, it’s gone, and we replace it with a new product. It’s not a repeat purchase.” Gosia Bailey, The Wine Bank “Unfortunately for us, a lot of our local gins are in Waitrose. But it doesn’t really concern me massively because it’s brand building. The amount of people that have gone in and seen these gins in Waitrose and then come to me … it’s almost like the convenience model of a supermarket. They’re happy to spend that little bit more if they’re buying local. “How many times a day do we get asked for Whispering Angel? We’re £3 more expensive than Waitrose, yet we still sell out, every single month. “We’ve seen a spike this year in aperitifs and digestifs. It makes me think about whether we should go into pre-made cocktails.” David Dodd, Tivoli Wines “Spirits are a big part of the business for us. We get involved in the whisky more than we ever have been, which is great. It takes a long time to build up access to the really good rare stuff. A big focus for me personally is to learn more about it and have confidence in what you’re buying. It’s something we stepped away from years ago but it’s something we’re actively involved in now. We’re selling more gin than ever before. The big request is: what’s new?” Edward Symonds, Saxty’s “The type of customer that is buying gin now is not the type of customer that was buying it two or three years ago. It’s kind of the less-cool customer now. All the people who are ahead of the trend are now on vermouth or something else, like rum … and Sherry, again.” Phil Innes, Loki

French Connections These 11 artisanal French winemakers were part of the exclusive tasting in London organised by The Wine Merchant and Business France. These are unique wines from producers with stories to tell – and which are aimed at adding a point of difference to the ranges of independent merchants. If you missed the tasting, don’t worry: you can receive samples of wines from any of these producers by emailing


Emmanuel Poirmeur travelled the world in his winemaking career before returning to his Basque coast roots in 2007, founding the EGIATEGIA winemaking workshop. It’s a project where new ideas can flourish, including fermenting wines in marine conditions, for which Poirmeur holds a patent. The process takes place in tanks immersed 15 metres deep in the Bay of SaintJean-de-Luz. This stage corresponds to the second alcoholic fermentation, also known as sparkling method or “tirage” or “prise de mousse” in sparkling winemaking production. “Each and every wine from EGIATEGIA is an occasion of discovery,” says Poirmeur. “Wines made for celebrating; a unique palate; the symbiosis of technical know-how, influenced by the ocean, resulting in truly sensorial wines.” Key wines: DELA DELA White (Ugni Blanc/Colombard); DELA DELA Rosé (Cabernet Sauvignon); DELA DELA Red (Cabernet Sauvignon); ARTHA.



The Turpin family have been winemakers since 1620. They have 16 hectares of

Frey was a pioneer in organic winemaking in Alsace as early as 1997. While those

vineyards in Menetou-Salon in the Loire Valley.

around him scoffed at the science behind organic viticulture, he was creeping out

In 1991, after graduating in oenology, Christophe Turpin, his wife Grace and his

under cover of darkness to collect nettles to make herbal remedies for his vines.

brother Thibault invested their energy and enthusiasm into the estate. It remains a

Today, three generations work together, with Julien contributing new ideas. The

family affair with their parents still heavily involved in the day-to-day running of the

terroir is rich and complex; 17 hectares of vines are based on granite, giving finesse


and minerality to the wine. Every vineyard has its individual personality expressed

The estate is located at Morogues, which is one of the 10 villages of MenetouSalon. Vineyards around the village are based on kimmeridgian limestone and clay. The range include three whites, all made from Sauvignon Blanc; two reds, both

in the wines. The range is classified variously as AOC Alsace, AOC Alsace Grand Cru Frankstein, Frauenberg, Blettig and Rittersberg. The wines cover red, white, rosé and crémant

made with Pinot Noir; and a rosé, also produced with Pinot.


Interesting fact: Acacia barrels are used for the ageing of some of Domaine Turpin’s

Look out for: Pinot Noir Quintessence (“one of the best quality-price ratio organic

white wines.

red wines in France”, according to Bettane & Desseauve).

THE WINE MERCHANT november 2019 46



Château de Gayon is a boutique producer based in Madiran, south west France,

This 9-hectare estate in the heart of Menetou-Salon is run by Viviane and Philippe

near the Pyrenees. The property dates back to the 13th century.


Harvesting is done by hand, and fermentation takes place in small state-of-the-art

Viviane took over the running of the domaine in the 1990s and has made

stainless steel tanks followed by the ageing of the Tannat in French oak barrels. The

enormous strides in terms of wine quality, investing in machinery as well viticultural

final blending results in a full-bodied red wine described as “big, sweet upfront fruit

and vinicultural research and development. Her son Pierre-Emile joined the business

with deep tannins … black raspberry, cassis and currants fill the mouth.”

in 2008.

The Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh, made with Petit Manseng, is a demi-sec wine with concentrated flavours, best served chilled as an aperitif or dessert wine. In the producer’s own words: “Pure citrus, evolving into baked lemon or candied lemon

Half the estate is planted with Pinot Noir for the red and rosé wines, with the other half devoted to Sauvignon Blanc, on argillo-calcareous soils. The fruit comes from sites in Menetou-Salon, Parassy, ​​Pigny and Vignoux-sous-



Interesting fact: The estate is at the southern limit of the appellation, quite close to

rosé wines.

The family works with Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir, crafting white, red and the mountains. Here the weather is different to most of Madiran and harvests tend to be later. “Our unique terroir results in a softer tasting wine,” the producer says.

Look out for: Menetou-Salon Blanc Cuvée Trois Frères.



Nestled in the Black Mountains north west of Carcassonne, at the crossing of the

Founded in 1905, Domaine des Tilleuls is a family-owned and operated winery

east and west winds, Domaine de Cazaban is part of the Cabardès appellation.

dating back five generations.

“Our biodynamic wines tell more stories than those of the surrounding country,”

Located on the western side of the Loire Valley, near the Atlantic, the 35-hectare

the producer insists. Cazaban’s artisanal approach to winemaking includes horses

vineyard is spread over gentle rolling hills overlooking the village, on an exceptional

in the vineyard and the use of indigenous yeasts in the cellar. The emphasis is on

terroir of schist-based soils. The domaine is certified as being of High Environmental

minimal intervention and as little SO2 as possible.

Value and is sustainably run.

“While we identify certain of our wines under the Cabardès appellation, we

Grapes are grown in Pays Nantais vineyards, where cool maritime influences and

maintain a clear choice to release certain other wines as Vins de France to allow as

a long growing season provides a unique environment for Melon de Bourgogne, the

much liberty and creativity as we need,” the producer says.

dominant grape variety, but also varieties such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and

The wines, made from Merlot, Syrah, Grenache, Carignan, Vermentino, Roussanne,

Cabernet Franc.

and Marsanne, are certified by Ecocert and Demeter. Look out for: Les Vénérables – Vieilles Vignes, a complex Muscadet made from fruit Interesting fact: The estate has adapted some of its buildings as holiday lets.

sourced from some of the best parcels and given extended lees ageing.

THE WINE MERCHANT november 2019 47


Domaine de Guillaman is a 120-hectare wine estate in the hills of Gascony that has been in the Ferret family for six generations.


This 100-hectare family estate in Cahors estate is divided into three terroirs. There’s a gravel-and-clay section based on a meander of the Lot river; a clay-

The vineyard area has gradually expanded through a series of acquisitions. Vines benefit from the richness of a typically Gascon clayey soil on a limestone bedrock, while a mild maritime climate helps the fruit to reach a good level of ripeness. The grape varieties are predominantly white: Colombard, Ugni Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Gros Manseng and Petit Manseng make up 80% of the vines. The remaining 20%, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, are used to make rosé and red wines. The family has a firm commitment to the environment, opting for natural methods

limestone scree, situated on the edge of the old bed of the Lot; and a terrace of deep clay. With a mixture of modern know-how and a traditional approach to his work, Philippe Bernède, a seventh-generation winemaker, has run Domaine de la Coutale for the past 30 years. With releases made from Côt (Malbec), Merlot and Tannat, these wines are made to keep. In 2010 the Wine Spectator awarded the 2007 vintage 76th out of 100 best

of combating pests and disease and encouraging native wildlife.

wines in the world.

Look out for: Frisson d’Automne, a blended sweet white wine made with Gros

Look out for: Grand Coutale, a premium blend of Malbec, Merlot and Tannat matured

Manseng and Petit Manseng.

in a selection of new barrels for two years.



A family business established in Burgundy in 1898 in Burgundy, Veuve Ambal claims

Domaine Badiller is very much a family affair. The domaine has passed from

to be the largest producer of Crémant de Bourgogne.

generation to generation since 1789, with Pierre and Vincent taking over from their

Aurélien Piffaut is a direct descendant of Marie Ambal, the original founder, and has been in the company since 2010.

father in 2015. The brothers’ approach is “informal, humorous and fun” rather than traditional.

Its domaines, situated across six different subregions of Burgundy, are managed using sustainable methods.

They are in a village in the Loire that isn’t particularly easy to find, but visitors are always assured a glass of something if they do manage to get there.

Vines are located in Châtillonnais, the Auxerrois, Côtes de Nuits and Côtes de Beaune as well as the Mâconnais. In order to produce its Crémant de Bourgogne, Veuve Ambal draws on the unique characteristics of each Burgundian terroir. The wines are available to UK independents through Enotria&Coe.

The property is nestled on the slopes of the Indre Valley, in the village of Cheillé, where flinty clay helps bring rounded flavours to the wines. Wines are classified as Touraine and Touraine Azay-le-Rideau and include sparkling styles as well as reds, whites and rosés. Badiller works with Cabernet Franc, Chenin and Grolleau.

Look out for: Cuvée Maria Ambal, a flagship crémant made from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and aged in cellar for three years.

They say: “Our philosophy becomes clearer after several glasses.”

THE WINE MERCHANT november 2019 48

Due to future expansion, award-winning independent wine merchant, Highbury Vintners, are seeking two enthusiastic individuals with original ideas to join our growing company. Recently acquired by JN Wine, this is an exciting time to join the team with plans for growth and increased investment in the months ahead.

The Roles Working alongside the management team, you will be involved in all aspects of running a successful wine company, generating wine sales and gaining experience in all areas of the business (stock management, buying, tastings, social media, etc.) You will also be sponsored through your WSET Level 4 Diploma after six months.

The Candidates Self-motivated and commercially aware, you will have a deep understanding of excellent customer service, be friendly and approachable. You will have: • Previous experience in retail or sales • Passion for wine and desire to learn • Physically fit and able to carry 12 bottles of wine • Fantastic communication skills – spoken and written • IT literacy (Office and ePOS experience) • WSET Level 2 minimum (WSET Level 3 advantageous) • UK resident and live within a reasonable travel time of Highbury • Full clean driving licence and comfortable driving a small van The roles involve regular evening and weekend shifts.

To apply, please send your CV to Mr Tom Hemmingway:

THE WINE MERCHANT november 2019 49

Sponsored Feature

CUVÉES WORTH WAITING FOR Piper-Heidsieck’s premium Essentiel range showcases the benefits of extended ageing and low dosage. It’s a style that’s perfect for Champagne connoisseurs and food lovers, says cellar master Emilien Boutillat


t’s said that every eight seconds, somewhere in the world a bottle of Piper-Heidsieck is popped open. No other Champagne house has won as many awards in the 21st century. So the position of cellar master comes with some degree of pressure, especially if you’re following in the footsteps of the great Régis Camus. Emilien Boutillat seems to take it all in his stride. Born into a family of Champagne growers in 1987, he grew up helping his father in the cellar and in the winery. He studied oenology and agricultural engineering at Montpellier SupAgro University before embarking on a career in winemaking that took him to New Zealand, Chile, South Africa and, closer to home, Domaine de la Solitude in the Rhône and Château Margaux in Bordeaux. He returned to Champagne in 2013, taking the Piper-Heidsieck hotseat in 2018. Piper-Heidsieck may have almost two centuries of heritage to draw upon in its marketing but much of its focus, particularly in the specialist trade, has fallen on a more recent development: its Essentiel range. “Essentiel was born a few years ago,” Boutillat explains. “The first batch was based on the 2008 harvest. It’s a non-vintage Champagne. The idea behind Essentiel Extra Brut is to have a longer ageing than for the Brut and also to use a lower dosage, so it’s quite dry. “For me, Essentiel and Brut are two expressions of the same style. Brut is a very versatile style of Champagne that everybody can enjoy – people that know Champagne but also new consumers of Champagne. “Essentiel is an expression of the style dedicated way more to gastronomy; fine wine shops, fine restaurants, and to the wine connoisseur. Because that ageing brings more complexity – that is what we are looking for.” With Essentiel, Boutillat is aiming for a style that offers “freshness, crispness, vitality of fruit and elegance”. He adds: “When we launched Essentiel we wanted full transparency, so on the label there is plenty of information regarding the winemaking, the cellaring date, the blend and the date of disgorgement as well. “That information is there for the consumer, for sure, but also for the retailer and sommelier. “Today Essentiel is not only one cuvée, it is a range inside the range of Piper-Heidsieck because you have Essentiel Extra Brut and Essentiel Blanc de Blancs which launched at the beginning of 2019. Might there be some other additions to the Essentiel range? A Blanc de Noirs, for example? Boutillat chuckles at the question but is giving nothing away. “We might have some ideas, but it’s too early to talk about that,” he says. “The Blanc de Blancs is doing really well and although it is


Boutillat was born in Reims but has worked as a winemaker all over the world

quite new, we are selling quite a lot in the UK, Japan and Italy. The range is a huge success so at some point we might create other cuvées.” What about a zero-dosage option? “It depends on the balance of the wines, so at some point, maybe,” he says. “But what is important for me is not really the amount of sugar but the balance between that sugar and the roundness in the wine; the freshness and the acidity. “The ageing is quite long for the Essentiel range and you have different types of ageing. For the Blanc de Blancs you have 35%

THE WINE MERCHANT november 2019 50

of reserve wine so already you have a certain roundness. Then “Just as with the wine I like to make, the balance is important,” there’s ageing on lees, and in the bottle, and at disgorgement we he says. “I think it is good to rely on tradition because that gives a add the liqueur and the sugar and then we strong story and the wine excellence is there, wait, which is also important. so it doesn’t make sense to me to change “All the ageing will make a difference, those things. The rules of giving creaminess and generosity – and we “Those are the rules of Champagne and it’s Champagne are there part have to pay attention to that when adding of the story. But within that you need to but you need to be the sugar.” be creative, you need to ask questions. Yes, In his spare time, Boutillat enjoys creative, you need to we have rules, but it is healthy to be critical participating in improvisational theatre. Is and challenge every step of the process to ask questions that an opportunity to break away from the make sure that we make good decisions. You traditions and regulations of Champagne or need to be open to everything, to follow your does he think he can express himself well senses and what you feel. It is a good balance enough in his day job? between being rational and creative and free.” Piper-Heidsieck ‘Essentiel’ Cuvée Réservée Extra Brut NV RRP £47.59 in gift box

Piper-Heidsieck ‘Essentiel’ Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut NV RRP £55.99 in gift box

Pinot Noir dominates this lustrous and crisp Champagne, which also contains up to 35% Pinot Meunier and 15% to 20% Chardonnay. Reserve wine makes up 10% to 20% of the final product, which has a dosage of 5 to 6 grams per litre. Boutillat works with 50 different terroirs when blending the wine and is looking for vivacity and fruitiness. “There’s the crispness of the fruit and it’s quite generous in the mouth – because of the Pinot Noir and the Meunier you have a certain roundness,” he says. “It is good paired with fish cooked in a nice sauce, or white meat such as poultry, or veal or pork.”

A 100% Chardonnay with 30% reserve wines in the blend and a dosage of 4 grams per litre. It’s described as an elegant, fruity and structured Champagne. “The wine is made mainly from fruit from Côte des Blancs,” says Boutillat, “and maybe 20% of Chardonnay from La Montagne de Reims. There is fruitiness but it’s more on the citrus side, so like lemon and lime. Toastiness is present as well, and minerality, so the pairing will be more shellfish and oysters and grilled fish.”

Piper-Heidsieck Essentiel is exclusive to independent retailers and restaurants. For more information, contact Liberty Wines on 020 7720 5350 or visit

THE WINE MERCHANT november 2019 51



urgundy can be fiendishly complicated, but there are ways of keeping it incredibly simple. Drink the wine, enjoy the food, stand in the vineyards and you seem to absorb centuries of wisdom almost by osmosis. That was pretty much the formula on a flying visit to the region organised by The Wine Merchant in partnership with Joseph Drouhin and its UK importer Pol Roger Portfolio. No saccharine corporate videos; no drawn-out vertical tastings in laboratory conditions; no interminable presentations about uniqueness of terroir. Instead, we were welcomed with surprisingly laid-back Burgundian hospitality and trusted to make our own judgements about the wines that kept arriving in our glasses. Joseph Drouhin is a family-owned négociant that traces its history back to 1822. It has 73 hectares of vineyards in Burgundy and Chablis, from Montrachet Marquis de Laguiche through to Meursault and to Corton Charlemagne in the Côte de Beaune, and Echezaux to Clos de Vougeot in the Côte de Nuits. Organic and biodynamic viticulture has been the order of the day since 1993, and winemaking is kept as low-tech as possible, with indigenous yeasts and judicious use of oak. New barrels are made from trees individually selected by Drouhin which are then weathered for three years to eliminate unwanted coarse tannins. How much time the wine spends in them depends of the appellation and the characteristics of that particular vintage. This year’s harvest has presented challenges for Frédéric Drouhin, the company president whose sister Véronique is head winemaker. “We have had beautiful weather recently: very warm, dry, sunny, breezy,” he says.

‘Every 10 years we have a perfect vintage with no problems. In the nine other vintages there are always issues’

Buyers on tou in the Côte d’O Forget preconceptions about Burgundy being stuffy. Our welcome at Joseph been friendlier or more informal, with the wines – and the vineyards – takin

“The crop looks very nice, but the quantity is very limited. It’s one of the smallest crops we’ve had for many years.” The problems started with three April frosts, followed by poor flowering in a June that was cooler and wetter than normal. July and August presented their own issues, with very hot and dry weather. “So the grapes remain very tiny,” says Frédéric. “They taste beautiful, they are perfectly healthy, with no mildew and no rot, but clearly we have yielded very low. When you taste the berries, it is a pure delight.” Vintage variations are par for the course in Burgundy, and part of what makes the region so magical for wine lovers. Frédéric’s view is that “every 10 years we have a perfect vintage with no problems. In the nine other vintages there are always issues somewhere”. Global warming is making its presence felt. Studies are being done to work out which vines are thriving in today’s conditions, with early indications suggesting that older plants are better suited to climatic extremes than is the case with more recent clones. “We have changed the canopy management,” says Frédéric. “In the past we were trying to fight against possible rot for the Pinot Noir. Today, we are trying to protect the grapes from the sunbeams.” But he adds: “Overall, global warming is more good news than bad news for Burgundy because in the past we lacked ripeness; we sometimes had some firm or grainy tannins which is not the case anymore. So the whites are quite enjoyable

THE WINE MERCHANT november 2019 52

Sara Bangert does some late harvesting

to drink; they have more colour, good depth and roundness. Consumers like to drink whites earlier than in the past, and the wines are now easier to appreciate young.”


ur host for the two-day trip is the genial Christophe Thomas, whose export duties keep him away from home for 200 days a year. He drives us from Lyon airport to Beaune by way of Beaujolais, where we stop for a leisurely lunch and an invigorating glass or two of peachy Pouilly-Vinzelles 2015 and Hospices de Belleville Morgon 2017 – a ripe, spicy accompaniment to the various main courses that are selected. In the evening, we explore Drouhin’s

© EcoView /

ur Or Drouhin could hardly have g care of marketing duties

warren of cellars, some dating from the 11th century, that spread for an entire hectare under the streets of Beaune. It is, Paola Tich observes, “like a living museum”, and Christophe removes one of the exhibits – a magnum of 1989 Les Baudes Chambolle-Musigny – to enjoy with dinner. Back above ground, the canapes come round and we sample Drouhin-Vaudon Mont de Milieu Premier Cru Chablis 2017 and a soft, rich Puligny-Montrachet Folatières 2017. Also on the menu are Corton-Bressandes Grand Cru 2013, Beaune Clos des Mouches Premier Cru 2016, Beaune Champimonts Premier Cru 2015 and Beaune Cras Premier Cru 2016. It’s an opportunity too to sample some of the excellent Oregon wines that Drouhin produces with the same Pinot Noir clones, and the same oak, that it uses in France. The wines are superb, but the general consensus around the table is that this has been a clear home win for the Burgundies.


ay two is all about driving through the Côte d’Or, often in a quiet mesmeric state as those famous names keep flashing by on road signs: Gevrey-Chambertin, Morey-Saint-Denis, Chambolle-Musigny, Vougeot, VosneRomanée … It’s almost certainly the most expensive farmland on the planet, and today it’s mostly deserted, apart from a few stray pickers, and occasional carloads of Chinese tourists. To Sara Bangert’s horror, some perfectly healthy bunches have been left on the vines at Musigny, so a couple are liberated in the name of education (she has a

The Drouhin cellars cover a hectare under the streets of Beaune

masterclass to host back in England the following day). The harvest is effectively over and it’s down to the winemakers to make sense of another unpredictable year in Burgundy. For us, the silent vineyards serve as a sort of place of worship, or maybe simply meditation. It’s grey overhead; the vines are not yet wearing their autumn yellows and golds, but there’s a sense that nature has finished its job and the vineyards are in the gradual process of shutting down until spring. You can read as many textbooks as you like, but sometimes you just have to stand in places like this, breathing the damp air and getting some terroir under your fingernails and on the soles of your shoes. Burgundy is special, perhaps the most special wine region of them all. It’s a privilege to spend some time here, on a quiet morning, doing nothing very much at all. Merchants’ feedback: page 54

THE WINE MERCHANT november 2019 53

OUR GUESTS Paola Tich, Vindinista, Acton Sara Bangert, The General Wine Company, Hampshire Coralie Menel, The Grocery Wine Vault & Bar, Shoreditch Louise Peverall, La Cave de Bruno, East Dulwich Matt Wicksteed, Streatham Wine House, London Andrew Taylor, Taylor’s Fine Wines, Richmond upon Thames


Wines to remember Sara Bangert The General Wine Company

Paola Tich Vindinista

Andrew Taylor Taylor’s Fine Wines

I just love standing in a vineyard and getting the sense of the place – and then to try the wines close by is probably the ultimate for any tasting. You look at a map and think you have the geography of an area in your head, but it changes when you are actually there and therefore your knowledge improves – particularly the distance between each area. Driving it gives you much more of a sense of how a large area is covered by a producer to create their range of wines. The Joseph Drouhin Puligny-Montrachet Les Folatières 2017 was a surprise to me. I would normally enjoy a wine like this a bit older, so it was interesting to try it young. I thought it had a lovely structure but also more minerality than I would have expected. I will look forward to trying some in a few years’ time to compare. My favourite red was the Joseph Drouhin Savigny-lès-Beaune. I was amazed by its depth of flavour and the weight of the wine, which at that time we compared to the Gevrey-Chambertin 2014. It also moved away from the red fruit flavours I expected to a blackberry tone, and it was great with the beef I had chosen. It wasn’t particularly on my radar as an AC before, but it is now, and I shall look forward to trying more in the future. Before the trip I had no idea just how extensive the Drouhin range is and I think that has to be a great advantage for their future. The fact that Pol Roger are shipping so many of those different wines into the UK also makes us very lucky.

I thought we tasted some lovely wines. They’re well-made and they’re well packaged and I think they come in comparatively well priced. They deliver what a lot of people are looking for in Burgundy. I think the Beaune Premier Cru Champimonts 2012 that we had with dinner was the sort of wine I would like to put on my shelf. I thought Les Baudes Chambolle-Musigny 2012 was a treat. Corton-Bressandes Grand Cru I liked as well. They had that nice blood and meatiness to them. Blood and roses is the way I think of a lot of Burgundy and these had that lovely lift to them – lots of consumer appeal. The Pouilly-Vinzelles that we had at lunch was a really appealing type of Burgundy. I think Burgundy will always have a place. Yes, the prices are higher than when we started seven years ago, and you have to look carefully. The wines that work best with us are usually from lesserknown areas like Fixin and Savigny-lesBeaune that still come in at a good price. At Christmas we’ll look for a name like Gevrey-Chambertin. I’m always looking for Pinot Noir that delivers a Burgundy experience at a lesser price. But I think it’s hard for anyone in the world to replicate what you get from a fantastic Burgundy. Touring the vineyards and cellars, getting a sense of place, was my highlight of the trip.

My favourites were the 1989 Musigny which we had at dinner and I just thought was fantastic, and the CharmesChambertin. The grand crus and premier crus were just fantastic and the one that kicked off that evening, the PulignyMontrachet Folatières, I thought was amazing. It confirmed my feeling that at the top end there’s not any competition for Burgundian Pinot Noir. It’s getting harder and harder to find things that are really good and not ridiculous money, and that’s my constant quest. I have got a lot of Burgundy customers so it’s quite important to try and find things that are going to have a wow factor for a £30 bottle of wine. I got a very good impression of Drouhin.


Most of the Joseph Drouhin range can be sourced from Pol Roger Portfolio. For more information, visit, or call 01432 262800. Email Visit and feature produced in association with Pol Roger UK.

THE WINE MERCHANT november 2019 54

The Drouhin family

Louise Peverall La Cave de Bruno I have a particular memory of the Corton-Bressandes 2013 Grand Cru from the dinner on Monday. It had a beautiful nose and structure. I felt like I’d been wrapped in a velvet blanket; so comforting! And, of course, the 1989 magnum of Musigny was a real treat. We have a good customer base for Burgundy and have found that our range of Beaujolais red and white has become increasingly popular over the past few years, offering a slightly cheaper alternative.


TRADITIONALISTS WHO SOMETIMES BREAK THE RULES Sogevinus has a young winemaking team making some of Portugal’s most exciting still and fortified wines in the Douro


ogevinus brings together four major Portuguese brands – names that are well known among UK independents. The history of the houses may date back centuries, but Sogevinus claims the youngest viticulture and winemaking teams in the Port business. Carlos Alves (right) leads the Port winemaking team, while Ricardo Macedo (left) is in charge of production for Sogevinus’ increasingly successful portfolio of DOC Douro wines. Together with Márcio Nóbrega (viticulture), they are a team that has a deep understanding of the traditions of the region – but know that they don’t always have to play exactly by the book. “We’re not afraid to try new techniques to make new, better and more interesting wines,” says Macedo. Alves adds: “While we

respect the traditional ethos of those who have been making wines in this region for centuries, it is important for us to experiment and be brave. “A young generation of winemakers is now living in the region – most of our winemaking team lives in Douro. They want to make new wines, using and mixing tradition and innovation to create unique styles along with exclusive single grape varieties that are now catching consumers’ attention. “We are very conscious of the legacy of the years of winemaking tradition and we are lucky to have some of the oldest reserves of tawny Ports in the region, which allow us to maintain quality and continue to offer rare, amazing blends.”

The Sogevinus family Kopke 10 Years Old Tawny "We have definitely seen an increased interest in the tawny category in the past five years," says Alves. "The versatility of tawny Ports has caught the attention of top chefs as well as the world’s media and we are seeing increased sales, demonstrating a growing popularity amongst the public as well. "Our 10 Years Old Tawny is an elegant and complex Port with aromas of spice, dried fruit and hints of wood and honey – it's smooth and rounded, with intense flavours of dried fruit."

Kopke is the oldest Port house in the world, established in 1638 by Nicolau Kopke. Kopke has a long-established reputation for producing the finest Ports, especially Colheita, a single-harvest Port that is then aged in oak barrels for as long as necessary. Unlike other Ports, Colheitas are only bottled when an order is placed, so many spend years in barrel. Distributor: Hayward Bros.

Cálem, established in 1859, is the market leader in Portugal. Its visitor centre in Vila Nova de Gaia receives over 250,000 people each year. Cálem is admired for its diversity and innovation.

Kopke Colheita White 2003

Distributor: Amathus.

Since the first Kopke portfolio tasting five years ago when Sogevinus poured the 10 Year Old White, this has been a great success in independents. "Having the full range of aged white Ports available – 10, 20, 30 and 40 – and even a limited-production 50 Year White Port has been a real point of difference from our competitors," says Alves. "It has also won multiple awards in this category, in 2019 and in previous years. White Colheita is very versatile when it comes to food; a couple of our favourite pairings are foie gras or Pata Negra jamon."


is the youngest of the Sogevinus brands, established in

1913 by Manuel Barros de Almeida. Barros combines tradition, authenticity and modern values in its tawny and ruby Ports. Distributor: Hallgarten & Novum Wines.


established in 1750, has British roots. The

individuality of Burmester is defined by its character. Its Port and DOC Douro wines are elegant, reflecting the essence of the terroir in which they are grown.

Kopke Douro Red 2017 The grapes come from vineyards from 200 to 350 metres high at Quinta de São Luiz. It’s a blend of the traditional Douro Valley grapes: Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz and Tinto Cão. Says Macedo: "It has a lovely velvety texture as well as a long and fresh finish and is a great food wine, ideal with game, red meat and cheese."

Sogevinus has been making DOC Douro wines of exceptional quality since 2006. With 360ha of vines spread over three estates (Quinta do Bairro, Quinta de São Luiz and Quinta do Arnozelo), Sogevinus is committed to sustainable practices that seek to preserve a unique terroir.

For more information about Sogevinus, visit

THE WINE MERCHANT november 2019 55


It’s not pulp fiction WBC has developed a papier-mache transit packaging system that offers the same protection as polystyrene, but at a lower cost to wine shippers – and the environment. Andrew Wilson explains the many benefits of the PulpSafe system


s many of you well know, owning a small business presents many day-to-day (and longer-term)

challenges sent to keep you on your toes. We’ve certainly had ours over the last 30 years. Luckily, we’ve managed to survive

and grow at the same time, due in no small part to our loyal customer base. Survival has been achieved by finding a tricky

balance between coming up with new

products and ideas whilst at the same time

trying to ensure our core range of products remains not only fit for purpose, but also the best on the market.

I will be the first to hold my hands up

and say that transit packaging has not had quite as much time invested in it as it probably should have done. It’s

plastic-free debate that’s saturating the

couple of weeks? Well firstly rather than

then it is down to you and your customers

will come in three parts and be top-loading,

media and consumer psyche. We need to come up with options and alternatives – to decide what works best for you.

About 12 months ago we reviewed our

range and started prototyping and testing some new materials that ticked all our criteria: cost, practicality and level of

protection. I am not embarrassed to say

that the final idea came from the products

we had seen in use in the United States that simply needed tweaking in terms of design. Rather than reinventing the wheel, the idea and the material had been right under our noses for the last 30 years.

What do paper, water, wine

bottles, and couriers have in common? PulpSafe! I called

it papier-mache at school

not the

sexiest of

products we sell, but it is a hugely

important and growing area for us and

maybe the success of it has hidden the

need for innovation – it does what it says on the tin. However, times are changing, and the purpose of this column is not

about WBC shamelessly flogging its own

products, but sharing developments that affect us all, particularly in terms of the

but it is more commonly known as

moulded pulp paper; you may have

already used transit packaging made

from it. Essentially PulpSafe is 100%

recyclable, biodegradable, compostable

pulp made from newspaper and complies with all UK and EU statutory regulations and packaging waste legislation. It has an endless lifespan: after use, the pulp

products return to the paper recycling chain over and over again.

So what is the big difference with the

product we are launching in the next

THE WINE MERCHANT november 2019 56

being a clamshell design like a suitcase

around the bottles, the PulpSafe system

making it quick and easy to use and able

to accommodate most bottle sizes found in the UK.

The best bit is that finally there is bottle

packaging that offers similar levels of

protection to polystyrene, at a much lower cost to wallets and the environment.

I am treading very carefully here and

hoping to avoid a Gerald Ratner moment,

but here comes the boring technical stuff!


olystyrene is an important

product for us. Like I said, it does what it says on the tin

– unbeatable levels of protection and

insulation for high-value bottles. However,

I accept it is not the flavour of the month in terms of its eco-credentials.

As UK recycling options and facilities

improve, polystyrene will be more

generally recyclable, but we’re not quite

there yet. Environment aside, polystyrene is bulky to store and expensive, which is

probably why many opt for an inflatable pouch system (Safe Air) that is cheaper

and takes up far less space, although its

eco-credentials are worse than polystyrene and it’s made in the Far East, unlike the UK born-and-bred polystyrene.

The system is 100% recyclable, compostable and biodegradable

Our job is not to tell you what is right or

carrying glass). What we want them to do

• STOP PRESS – We are delighted to have

The new range of PulpSafe packaging


contemporary, courier-proof gifting pack for

being insured through their networks.

details online at

wrong, but to offer you choices and options so you can make your own decisions.

will tick every box that both polystyrene

and Safe Air fall down on. It’s eco-perfect, space-saving, offers excellent levels of

protection and is made in the UK, which we are really excited about.

It means that there is now a solution out

there that you can use cost-effectively with couriers’ hub-based sorting systems. We

are in active discussions with the courier companies trying to get them to approve this packaging, but this is meeting with varying degrees of success.

It harks back to my last article in that

all of the couriers secretly want your

business but many of them say they will not carry glass (whilst at the same time

is promote the fact that they want your

business as long as it is packaged to agreed On that basis, they should then take

responsibility for well-packaged parcels

started working with those clever guys at Flexi-Hex who have developed a smart,

one and two bottles. Another eco-friendly option to add to the range. Watch out for

We intend to keep the pressure up and

will keep The Wine Merchant posted. The

new range of PulpSafe packaging is being

produced as we speak in conjunction with our great friends at Cullen Packaging. It

will be available in 1, 2, 3, 6 and 12-bottle sizes.

If this is floating your boat as much as

it is ours, feel free to contact us now for samples and full details and as always

with any of our products, we appreciate the usual honest Wine Merchant reader feedback.

THE WINE MERCHANT november 2019 57

Andrew Wilson of WBC


Nine Elms: “Somewhere between a wine and a vermouth”

Ready for Dry January Consumers are cutting down on their intake and looking for alcohol-free alternatives that offer them some of the flavour of the real stuff. There are plenty of options to choose from, says Nigel Huddleston


he no- and low-alcohol spirit category is advancing at such a rate that it’s threatening to become the new gin – not for the volumes that are being sold but just for the sheer numbers trying to get on the bandwagon. If we accept that Diageo-backed Seedlip was first of the tidal wave, in just five years since it launched we’ve witnessed the arrival of: • Pernod Ricard’s alt-gin Ceder’s and its dark spirit take Celtic Soul

• Stryyk from the creators of Funkin cocktail mixers, which comes in Not Rum, Not Gin and Not Vodka varieties • William Grant’s spiced citrus and wild blossom pairing Atopia • Colombian-inspired and juniper-based Caleño • Sea Arch made with sea kelp by two Torquay pub owners • Borage-fuelled non-alcoholic gin Borrago • The “enlightened spirit of Persia” Xachoh

• Senser, from an ex-City banker who jacked it in to work with plants after an epiphany in a yoga class. Though there’s a tendency to round them all up under the “non-alcoholic spirit” banner, many of them shy away from the description for fear of direct comparison with the real thing. Among the recent entrants is Three Spirit, a trio of drinks whose combined ingredients list comes to more than 60 items. The drinks aim to replace “feelings”




the secret's out

douro deal pays off

Us and russia reach agreement

A back story involving William of Orange, a two-year search through the rare books section of the British Library and a recipe whose quantities are written in a secret code sounds like something out of a Dan Brown novel but it’s actually the creative process of Amsterdam Craft Gin’s new 1689 gin. Available through Glasgow-based Distilled Brands.

Sweden is an unlikely meeting place for the worlds of wine and single malt but that’s where we find Vintersol, Mackmyra whisky’s latest addition. The whisky is a collaboration with the Douro region’s Quinta Do Vallado and has spent 16 months in Swedish oak casks that previously held its port.

Villa One may be the first tequila named after half a football result … or maybe not. It is, however, definitely a collaboration between US pop star Nick Jonas of the Jonas Brothers, menswear designer and record label owner John Varvatos, and the Stoli Group of Russian vodka fame. Cellar Trends imports it to the UK.

THE WINE MERCHANT november 2019 58

– the early-evening sharpening cocktail, stress-busting amaro and vermouth occasions, and indulgent late-night whisky moments – rather than replicate spirits per se. Co-founder Tatianna Mercer says: “They are alcohol-free spirits in that they appear or behave like spirits. But the notion of non-alcoholic can be a bit negative – about removing something and creating a lesser version. We wanted to think about what we could put in a drink to offer an alternative. “If you’re not drinking, it often feels like there’s nothing that rivals the real thing, so let’s not try to recreate that.”


ercer recognises that it might be hard for retailers to communicate to their customers the benefits of alcohol-less products that typically cost between £25 and £30 a bottle. “The price point is often the issue for the customers, so you have to make something that justifies that, and for retailers to sell at that price they need to understand why it costs what it does. “Wine stores are very good for us. If people can talk about wines in depth they will be able to educate customers on these products as well. “We are very happy to do training and supply samples and we’ll provide booklets and point-of-sale.” Everleaf is the creation of Paul Mathew, who owns three London bars including The Hide in Bermondsey. He favours the term non-alcoholic aperitif, rather than spirit, for the drink which is flavoured with 18 botanical extracts, inspired by his previous life as a conservation biologist. “We extract differently according to the best way to get flavour out of that particular botanical: some are traditional distillation with alcohol, some are steam

distillation, some are maceration, some are vacuum distillation,” he says. The blend of extracts is then cut with a textured base liquid – rather than water as full-strength spirits are – made from gum acacia and a Chinese plant called the voodoo lily. The proportions used of any of the extracts that contain alcohol is low enough to keep the final abv down to 0.3%. “The textured base gives structure and mouthfeel and we build that as a carrier of flavour,” says Mathew. “These products have to be better than their alcoholic relatives to succeed. “Making a non-alcoholic gin isn’t the way to go because, by comparing it with gin, you’ve immediately lost something.” Nine Elms hails from the fresh produce quarter of south London and aims to provide an alternative to wine for food pairing. It’s made from four types of berry and aromatised with herbs, spices and tea to provide tannins, acidity and body. Brand consultant James Morgan says: “Rather than trying to start with wine and take the heart out of it by removing the alcohol we decided to try to build from the ground up. “It sits somewhere between a wine and a vermouth in style.” Co-founder Simon Rucker says it’s the product’s savoury style and lack of overt sweetness that separates it from fancy soft drinks. “There’s the famous quote from the American poet James Whitcomb Riley to the effect that if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck,” he says. “While you could argue that we are technically a soft drink, we’re not because we don’t behave like a soft drink. “It’s a wine bottle and it acts like a wine in the glass.”



jewel purpose casks

grapefruits of their labours

More fortified wine cask finishing action in the form of Nectar Grove Batch Strength, from Scotch whisky maker Wemyss Malts. The wine in question is Madeira and the whisky comes in a bottle and box inspired by the island’s jewellery and ceramics. It weighs in at 54% abv and costs around £55 a bottle in retail.

It’s certainly been a big month for colliding drinks styles with much-admired Huddersfield craft brewer Magic Rock entering the spirit world with a gin made in collaboration with Adnams, the Suffolk brewer-distiller. High Wire Grapefruit gin is inspired by Magic Rock’s pale ale of the same name. No prizes for guessing the star guest botanical.

THE WINE MERCHANT november 2019 59

Led by Baileys Almande, cream liqueurs have magically turned dairy-free for these plant-based times. Besos de Oro is a more offbeat take, a blend of brandy and horchata, a milky Spanish drink made from tiger nuts, which aren’t nuts at all, ticking another allergy box in passing. It’s also gluten-free. This take on the classic Brandy Alexander is an indulgent but lighter-inalcohol festive treat as we’ve double-downed on the 18% abv Besos and snipped out the fullstrength brandy.

50ml Besos de Oro Original 25ml Crème de Cacao Nutmeg

Fill a shaker with ice. Add the Besos de Oro and crème de cacao and shake until cold. Strain into a Martini glass. Sprinkle with nutmeg to garnish.


© dudlajzov /

WineBarn Annual Portfolio Tasting The award-winning German specialist is promising an “interesting day of discovery” at its 19th annual event, which it’s calling Grip the Grape. The event will be attended by

winemakers from across Germany,

representing a range of terroirs and winemaking styles.

There will be around 120 wines on show,

including elegant Spätburgunders (Pinot

Noirs), dry Rieslings and sparkling Sekts. WineBarn director Iris Ellmann, a native

German, will be on hand to advise on wine styles, tasting, food pairings and more.

The WineBarn has been described by

Steven Spurrier as “the jewel in the crown of German wine merchants”. For the past four years it has been named German Specialist Merchant of the Year at the International Wine Challenge.

To register or for more information, visit

Vineyards at Bacharach in the Mittelrhein

Tuesday, January 21

Tuesday, January 21

Monday, January 20, 11am-5pm

B1, Southampton Row

Wednesday, January 22

Army & Navy Club

London WC1B 4DA

Grange Tower Bridge Hotel

36-39 Pall Mall London SW1Y 5JN

London E1 8GP Monday, January 27, 1pm-5pm The Balmoral Hotel

Australia Trade Tasting The “biggest, brightest and most diverse showcase of Australian wine in the UK” returns to London and Edinburgh. Taste crisp vibrant whites, standout

sparkling, elegant reds and thrilling

alternative varieties, from the rogue to the

Princes Street Edinburgh EH2 2EQ

French Wine Discoveries Wine 4 Trade continues its event dedicated to French Wines in London with the 18th edition of the tasting. French producers including family

Borsa Vini Italiani The latest edition of Borsa Vini Italiani will feature around 60 Italian wine producers, the majority of which are looking for UK representation. The event will also include at least one


Email Antonietta Kelly at


estates, co-ops and associations from

Thursday, January 23

London SW6 1HS

Email More

details and registration can be found at

various wine regions will be represented. Contact Anne-Catherine Vigouroux:

THE WINE MERCHANT november 2019 60

Chelsea Football Club Fulham Road


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

0207 409 7276

Vidal-Fleury Festive Promotion Established in 1781 in the Northern Rhône Valley, Vidal-Fleury is the

oldest continuously operating winery in the region. Today Vidal-Fleury vinifies and ages wines from across the Rhône Valley, focusing on the choicest terroirs, allowing ample time to age and mature the wines.

It has a number of wines on special offer from Louis Latour Agencies

for the festive season. Best value is the Côtes-du-Rhône Rouge 2016, a

Grenache-led blend, typical of the southern Rhône, which would be an

excellent choice for versatile festive drinking. Its strawberry and cherry aromas and palate of chocolate, prunes and violets make it a match for richer dishes.

Vidal-Fleury Crozes-Hermitage 2017 and Saint-Joseph 2015 offer more

in the way of depth and complexity if you are looking for something more

serious. From the northern end of the region, these wines have the darker fruit characteristics of the Syrah grape with its trademark peppery finish.

The real delight is the sweet Vidal-Fleury Muscat de Beaumes de Venise

2017 which comes in both 75cl and 37.5cl bottles. This Vin Doux Naturel

fuses refreshing acidity with fresh and dried fruit characters to produce an

elegant sweet wine that can be enjoyed with fruit-based desserts, cheeses or as an aperitif.

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

@BuckSchenk @buckinghamschenk

A top 10 Rioja! The Izarbe Rioja Reserva is another hidden gem in our

portfolio which has now been recognised as one of the 10

best wines at the 10 x 10 Wines of Rioja tasting, selected as Chair’s Choice by Sarah Jane Evans MW.

Produced by Bodegas Familia Chavarri, this wine is aged

in American and French oak for a minimum of two years, followed by three years in bottle. Izarbe Reserva is well

balanced with candied red fruits and toasted oak notes.

The family-owned Bodegas Chavarri combines tradition and modernity and is one of the oldest wineries in the

Rioja Alavesa region. The winery has managed to retain a family atmosphere as well as a cutting-edge style

introduced by the new generation spearheaded by Ruth

Chavarri, whose passion and enthusiasm are the driving forces behind Bodegas Familia Chavarri.

THE WINE MERCHANT november 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 are in full swing. Featuring some of our best wines and spirits, we’re bringing you some fantastic offers as we head into the festive season! Ask your Account Manager for more details. 10% off – Llopart Brut Reserva 2016

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

Kalfu: cool-climate Chile in the press

© rh2010 /

Organic, traditional method, superb quality sparkling wine. So good that they decided not to call it Cava anymore. Llopart are one of nine producers who broke away from the Cava DO to form their own brand, Corpinnat.

Kalfu, meaning blue in the native Mapuche language of southern Chile, is owned by Vina Ventisquero. It offers a range of cool-climate wines from coastal regions which benefit from long slow ripening resulting in exceptional complexity – as the press have noticed:

Victoria Moore, Saturday Telegraph 5/10/19 … From Atacama desert … VV makes very good Sauvignon Blanc here. Kalfu Sumpai Sauvignon Blanc 2017, Huasco Valley – which tastes like white asparagus, white currants and Badoit RRP £17.95 – £18.95 Decanter Magazine October 2019 Panel Tasting – Chilean Pinot Noir Kalfu Molu, Casablanca 2017 92pts Highly Recommended Delicate and refined, with red berries and a touch of light oak, and there’s some floral complexity with good freshness and vitality RRP £10.25 – £10.95 Kalfu, Kuda Pinot Noir, Leyda 2017 90 pts Highly Recommended Quite rich, with well integrated oak, some lovely strawberry and herb tones, and a touch of black cherry. Maintains fruit freshness in a hot vintage. RRP £12.95 – £13.99 Tim Atkin MW 2017 Kalfu Sumpai Syrah Leyda Valley One of a handful of brilliant cool-climate Syrahs from Chile, Kalfu hails from a terraced vineyard that sits just 6.5 kilometres from the Pacific. Peppery, meaty and refreshing, with clove, raspberry, red cherry fruit, fine-grained tannins and understated oak. RRP £17.95 – £18.95

THE WINE MERCHANT november 2019 62

Malbec without make-up

liberty wines

By David Gleave MW

020 7720 5350

From Argentina to Cahors, winemakers are seeking purity over power …

result, they have been able to capture a more precise and distinct expression of

The comprehensive profiling of Mendoza’s diverse soils carried out for Altos Las

Hormigas by “terroir hunter” Pedro Parra led them to move away from using oak. As a site in their wines. Co-founder and winemaker Alberto Antonini explains: “Malbec is a fragile variety that is easily overpowered by young toasted oak. Fortunately, there is a growing appreciation for a fresher, more refined and elegant style.”


Using their experience in Argentina, Antonio Morescalchi (also of Altos Las

Hormigas) and Pedro Parra were excited by the potential of Cahors’ limestone soils to produce the same distinctively fresh, elegant and textured style of Malbec that has been their focus in Mendoza. This is how Causse du Théron was born. Winemaker Leo Erazo says: “Cahors offers a huge diversity of soils and the sites that we are working with give some structure but also delicacy, which we want to retain in its purest form through to the glass.”










Auténtico is Colomé’s sole expression of Salta Malbec with no oak influence.

Winemaker Thibaut Delmotte acknowledges that “with unoaked wine, your

vineyard management and quality of fruit is exposed – it is a wine with no

make-up! Unoaked wines have an honesty and integrity that we think appeal to today’s discerning consumers who are moving towards fresher, more elegant styles of Malbec.”

Save the date!

FMV 24-34 Ingate Place Battersea London SW8 3NS 020 7819 0360 @fieldsmorrisverdin @fmvwines

FM&V will be hosting or participating at the following tastings early in the new year. Please save the date or confirm your place by emailing Sophie McLean and Will Protheroe at . FM&V’s Burgundy En Primeur Tasting Tuesday 14th January, One Great George Street, London SW1P 3AA 10am-4pm Wine Australia: Australia Trade Tasting Tuesday 21st January, B1, Victoria House, Bloomsbury Square, London WC1B 4DA 10am-5pm Wines of Austria Tasting Monday 3rd February, Illuminate at the Science Museum, 5th Floor, Imperial College Road, London SW7 2DD 10.30am-4.30pm

Viñateros! A Spanish wine revolution! Tuesday 25th February, Lindley Hall, Elverton Street, London SW1P 2PB 10.30am-5.30pm. Seven of our producers will be participating: Gramona · Raventós i Blanc · Domaines Lupier · Dominio do Bibei · Rafael Palacios · Telmo Rodríguez · Bodega Mustiguillo. We look forward to tasting with you then!

THE WINE MERCHANT november 2019 63


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


richmond wine agencies

New arrivals for RWA …

The Links, Popham Close Hanworth Middlesex TW13 6JE

Finca Dinamia is a pioneer in Mendoza for organic and biodynamic wines.

020 8744 5550


Finca Dinamia, Mendoza Founded by Alejandro Bianchi (third generation winemaker from Bodegas Bianchi). Its whole ethos revolves around care for the planet and ensuring that it focuses on responsible production. It crafts sustainable, high quality wines embracing ecological packaging with natural cork and recycled cardboard boxes. Buenalma Malbec 2016

The production of this biodynamic wine starts naturally with wild yeasts

followed by a gentle, partial oak ageing. Deep ruby in colour with a rustic nose of brambles, dried herbs and cloves. The palate is full bodied with concentrated black fruits and a slight spicy pepper note on the finish. RRP £20.99

Long Barn Zinfandel 2016, USA With the huge success of Long Barn Pinot Noir, we have extended

the range to include the Zinfandel. Aged in French and American oak, this wine expresses powerful aromas, with sweet forward fruit and a mellow finish. RRP £13.99

Email us to receive a copy of our festive offers booklet

THE WINE MERCHANT november 2019 64

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

Famile Helfrich have a range of Crémants from every region and style across France. The richer, creamy style offers far much more complexity than that “Italian one” and at a fraction of the price of its more famous cousin! To celebrate the festive season we have a selection of our finest cuvées from Alsace; all hand-harvested and produced under the watchful eye of Nicolas Haeffelin – from a family with a winemaking history stretching back to the 1600s. Arthur Metz Cuvée 1904 An expressive blend led by Pinot Blanc, Auxerrois and Pinot Noir, with exclusive parcel selection for maximum quality fruit. Extended lees contact of 24 months gives an unrivalled finesse, with no malolactic fermentation to keep the fresh peach and nectarine characteristics at the fore.

Arthur Metz Perle Noire A jewel of the Arthur Metz crown, stylishly clad in its allblack attire! 100% Auxerrois (a cousin of Pinot Blanc); again we have a minimum of 24 months on the lees for a rich mousse with complex buttery, brioche over baked peach and apricot. Aperitif perfection.

Metz Extra Brut They’re all smiles to your face Arthur …

Minimum 18 months on the lees & residual sugar of just 3g gives a crisp, mineral style of Cremant. Distinctive cuvée of Auxerrois, Chardonnay, Pinots Blanc, Noir and Gris. Complex profile with hints of almond, apricot and delicious toasted notes.

hallgarten wines

Saint Clair Godfrey’s Creek Noble Riesling, Marlborough | 2016 “A deliciously complex dessert wine, with a bouquet of poached apricot, candied citrus and white clover honey. Opulent and silky on the palate with rich orange, lemon and cocoa notes leading to a long, smooth finish.”

Dallow Road Luton LU1 1UR 01582 722 538

Berton Vineyard Reserve, Riverina, Botrytis Semillon | 2017 “A luscious wine with intense and layered aromas of orange rind, apricot and honey. The vibrant palate delights with notes of orange, grapefruit, butterscotch and biscotti which carry through to a beautifully balanced and persistent finish.”

RRP: £17.49

RRP: £12.49

FESTIVE @hnwines

The festive season is the ideal time for your customers to indulge in something sweet. Once the turkey is out of the way, there is only one way to help wash down the Christmas pudding.

Quady Winery, ‘Essensia’, California, Orange Muscat | 2016 “Vibrant orange in colour, this wine delivers luscious sweet oranges and apricots on the palate. The bittersweet orange marmalade notes balance well with the zesty citric acidity.” RRP: £13.99

Michele Chiarlo ‘Nivole’, Moscato d’Asti | 2018 “Floral aromas are seamlessly complemented by peach and apricot notes on the fragrant bouquet. The gently sparkling palate is delicate, light and creamy; with a silky texture and a refreshing finish.” 90pts:

THE WINE MERCHANT november 2019 65


RRP: £10.99


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.

Time to Celebrate

hatch mansfield

Taittinger Folies de la Marquetterie NV

New Bank House 1 Brockenhurst Road Ascot Berkshire SL5 9DL

A ‘Domaine’ wine made only from Taittinger’s own vineyards.

A sumptuous Champagne with a rich story marking Taittinger’s heritage.

01344 871800

Oozing style and panache and made with foodies in mind. @hatchmansfield

Please contact Hatch Mansfield for further information #TaittingerTime

THE WINE MERCHANT november 2019 66

mentzendorff The Woolyard 52 Bermondsey Street London SE1 3UD

Bin 27 shares the heritage & style of the great Fonseca Vintage Ports, as well as much of their depth & character. Blended for consistency of character & quintessentially Fonseca in style, this reserve blend provides reliable & affordable value.

020 7840 3600

Pairing Suggestions Fonseca Bin 27 pairs beautifully with desserts, dark chocolate & berry fruit. It makes an excellent match for chocolate truffles or cassis & raspberry flavoured macaroons. It also goes splendidly with the full flavour & rich creaminess of cheeses such as Taleggio, Brie de Meaux, Camembert, Vacherin Mont D’Or or Pont l’Evêque.

“There’s an uninhibited explosive dark cherry and black berry-fruited lusciousness to Fonseca’s Bin 27 that is lovely on its own but next-level gorgeous with chocolate puddings.” David Williams, The Observer - 21st April 2019 For details and pricing please contact your account manager

enotria & COE

The 12 Wines of Christmas

23 Cumberland Avenue London NW10 7RX

Christmas is coming, and now is the time to make sure that your Christmas wine list

well as plenty to satisfy those who have their go-to festive favourites!

has something for everybody, from the taste traditionalists to the flavour mavericks. Here we have a range which caters for even the most quirky and unusual palates, as Get in touch with your Account Manager to find out more. A customer who purchases a case (6x75cl) of

020 8961 5161

any wine which forms part of the Enotria&Coe Christmas wine offer (‘The Wine Offer’), will


have their account credited to the amount of £5.00 in January 2020. The Wine Offer applies to the following wines: Massaccio Verdicchio Classico Superiore, Trimbach Riesling Reserve 2017, Louis Michel Chablis

1er Montee de Tonnerre 2018, Quinta do Crasto

Douro Superior White 2017, Kir-Yianni Ramnista

Xinomavro 2015, Poliziano Rosso di Montepulciano, Santadi Carignano del Sulcis Riserva, Cruz de Alba

Ribera del Duero Reserva 2013, Georges Vigouroux Ch. Haute-Serre Grand Vin, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Hand of Time, Peregrine Pinot Noir, Bonterra Young Red.

THE WINE MERCHANT november 2019 67

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