THE WINE MERCHANT. An independent magazine for independent retailers
Issue 88, February 2020
Dog of the Month: Bacchus The Wine Bank, Southwell
Inside number eight Vagabond’s latest branch opens in the City of London
Solidarity with our Aussie friends Independents join in fundraising effort as wildfires threaten lives and livelihoods in NSW and Victoria
ndependent wine merchants are
getting behind fundraising campaigns to support the communities affected
by the wildfires in Australia, which
continue to rage across New South Wales and Victoria.
Although Wine Australia calculates that
the footprint of affected land is less than 1% of Australia’s total vineyard area of
more than 146,000ha, that will be little comfort to Vinteloper in Adelaide Hills,
which lost 95% of its vines to the fires as
well as its farmhouse.
people have lost their lives and as many as
lobby group Australian Grape & Wine,
It’s thought that the fires have wiped out
a third of wine production in the Adelaide Smoke damage is a cause for concern
even where fires have not been a direct
threat. The impact on the 2020 harvest is expected to be severe.
Despite some rainfall, the hot, dry and
unpredictable weather is hampering
efforts to control the fires. It is reported
that 2,000 homes have been destroyed, 25
a billion animals may have perished. Tony Battaglene, chief executive of industry
says that while it’s important to donate to emergency services, he is keen to stress
that the majority of Australia’s wineries are still open for business. “Australia is hurting from the fires. We need donations to the relief funds, support for our emergency
Continues page 5
Inside this month 6 comings & Goings The new Hertfordshire merchant with an on-site winery
14 tried & tested Paddling pools, frangiapane, wafts of this, hints of that
24 UK-BOTTLED WINe Counting the environmental costs of shipping in bottles
28 david williams How vins de soif were reimagined by New World marketeers
30 bottle & Jug DEPT The story behind what’s probably the coolest shop in Worthing
38 champagne Shippers show signs of bargainbasement fatigue as indies focus on premium wines The Spirits World, page 46; Make a Date, page 48; Supplier Bulletin, page 54
Insularity doesn’t suit the wine trade, but the world is changing
ustralia is on fire. China is on lockdown with the coronavirus. The prospect of a fully-fledged conflict between America and Iran looks more likely than it’s done for a generation. Welcome to the new decade, everyone! Here in the UK, we’re still wondering what Brexit will mean for global trade, and hoping that whatever happens next doesn’t result in the kind of currency shock that makes imports more expensive than they already are. Or that international capital doesn’t drain out of the country, with the consequences that would have for the economy, jobs and disposable income. We’re also becoming more aware of the environmental costs of travel, of importing food and drink over long distances, and indeed the eco-inefficiency of much of our own agriculture. There are uncomfortable questions being asked about these things, and the answers may require radical thinking. The wine trade is, by definition, an internationalist business. For British merchants in particular, with (until recently) no domestic viticulture to speak of, it’s always been about new frontiers, broadened horizons and trans-continental alliances. We are, unashamedly, citizens of the world, and the idea of a more insular existence makes most of us a little queasy.
Perhaps Andrew Jefford is right when he speculates that we face an existential crisis, and that “wine – any wine – may come to seem like one of the luxuries of a lost and delusional age”. But the wine trade is surely resourceful enough to ensure we don’t quite get to that point. And history has shown that whatever hardships humans face, there’s usually a way of ensuring the wine – or something resembling it – keeps flowing. But maybe we will have to start taking a more serious look at UK-bottled wines, for financial and environmental reasons. It could be that wine consumption will take a serious knock in the coming years, and that the market polarises further towards bargain-basement fare and premium once-a-week treats. And it’s possible that, with the doubleedged sword of climate change, the UK will start to meet more of its own wine demand. As we report in this issue, a new independent merchant is about to open in Hertfordshire with its own on-site winery. Its owners won’t save the planet, reverse Brexit or stop epidemic illness. But they will generate a little less carbon than they might otherwise have done, and possibly start a trend. Just as importantly, they will also contribute, in a small way, to the gaiety of an uneasy nation.
THE WINE MERCHANT MAGAZINE
winemerchantmag.com 01323 871836 Twitter: @WineMerchantMag Editor and Publisher: Graham Holter email@example.com Assistant Editor: Claire Harries firstname.lastname@example.org Sales and Business Development: Georgina Humphrey email@example.com Accounts: Naomi Young firstname.lastname@example.org The Wine Merchant is circulated to the owners of the UK’s 911 specialist independent wine shops. Printed in Sussex by East Print. © Graham Holter Ltd 2020 Registered in England: No 6441762 VAT 943 8771 82
THE WINE MERCHANT february 2020 2
These South African
BEAUTIES EXCLUSIVELY AVAILABLE from...
AVAILABLE FOR IMMEDIATE DELIVERY. email@example.com / 01258 830 122 / www.museumwines.co.uk
BLACK ELEPHANT VINTNERS & CO. FRANSCHHOEK, SOUTH AFRICA www.bevintners.co.za . Also available from Museum Wines: Aristea, The Garajeest, Haut Espoir, Holden Manz, Môreson, Natte Valleij, Stark-Condé, Survivor and Uva Mira
Long queue to join winebuyers action
including investment in customer service.
Revell says the company is working with
“600 or so” suppliers and merchants and
is gradually incorporating more. But new
When Ben Revell came up with a plan
enquiries inevitably join the end of a long
to revolutionise the way wine is bought
and sold online, he fired off a “really
“We can get about three live a day and
awful” 3am email to 15,000 merchants
that’s us maxed out,” he says. “We’ve
got a backlog of something like 1,300
“I thought if I get 30 back in a week then
I’ll run with it as an idea,” he recalls. “I think 2,700 replied overnight.”
What gradually emerged was
winebuyers.com, a platform for businesses
people who want to get listed but we can’t Ben Revell: 2,700 email responses overnight
to sell wine for a monthly listing fee. The
Friarwood and Museum Wines, as well
the privilege of being members.
wines on the site.
site does not charge commission on top of
that, and consumers do not have to pay for “We’re a unique outfit,” says Revell. “We
are a wine merchant because we sell wine but because we don’t make any money on the sale of the wine, technically we’re a
marketing platform just selling advertising space.”
The site now has some 300,000 users,
around a third of which are buying on a
monthly basis from a selection of 50,000 listings. The orders are processed by the
website but fulfilled within 24 hours by the suppliers.
“I wanted to get away from what I call
the spreadsheet generation – suppliers
selling stock on behalf of producers in 10
countries that they don’t necessarily have,” says Revell. “I wanted the consumer to be
able to purchase the product immediately. “The price is exactly the same as you’d
pay from the supplier directly. Packages
range from £100 a month to £450 a month depending on how many listings the supplier wants.
“Some people use it purely as a brand
awareness exercise: £100 is less than
they’d pay for a social media ad. Then there are companies who want to sell more than they pay in fees.”
Independent merchants including
as suppliers including The Antipodean
Sommelier and Master of Malt, list their It’s possible that the same wine could
be listed by more than one supplier, at
different prices, and this is tolerated by the
facilitate it at the moment.”
Suppliers count cost of collapse Corks Out had accumulated debts of more than £390,000 when it went into liquidation late last year. Companies House documents for
Corks Out (Stockton Heath) Ltd show
says a spokeswoman. “However, one may
Kong-registered business run by former
“We might have two suppliers selling the
exact same wine at different price points,” have a minimum order of 12 bottles, or
delivery to the customer’s location might be slightly more expensive; perhaps
they have a two-week lead time; or they
perhaps don’t ship to that location at all.” What about offers and discounts – are
they funded by the website or the supplier? “It’s a mix of both,” the spokeswoman says. “If a supplier has reduced products
on their website, our tech will pull these through onto our platform too. We often
run themed marketing promotions where
suppliers are invited to put forward special offers and discounts such as Christmas and Valentine’s Day. We also set aside
marketing budget for members’ incentive schemes with occasional members-only discounts and vouchers.”
The business, based in Soho, now has a
staff of 31 and has recently opened offices in Amsterdam and India. New funding is
intended to make more expansion possible,
THE WINE MERCHANT february 2020 4
that £127,000 of that figure was owed to IAW Global Investments, the Hong shareholder Ian Wood.
The other major creditor is HSBC, which
was owed £109,000. HMRC was due £10,919.
Fifty-two other creditors have been
named, including a host of suppliers. These include Boutinot (£25,821); Mentzendorff (£7,887); Pol Roger (£7,673); Moët
Hennessy (£7,612); Connoisseur Estates (£6,709); Barton Brownsdon & Sadler (£7,369); The Antipodean Sommelier (£6,943); and Walker & Wodehouse (£5,782).
Assets available to preferential creditors,
including cash, stock and fixtures, totalled £62,724.
New limited companies have recently
been established by Richard Wood
meaning the Corks Out stores in Stockton
Heath and Alderley Edge are trading again, with the Chester and Knutsford sites now closed.
Indies raise funds wildfire victims From page 1
services, and consumers to buy our wine and visit our regions,” he says.
In Hampshire, John Carlisle at Auriol
Wines in Hartley Wintney reacted by
holding a dedicated Australian tasting. “We got some new products in to beef up our
selection, particularly with more relevance
to Hunter Valley where they’ve had a really bad time,” he says.
“We had about 30 customers come in on
a Sunday to taste 14 Australian wines. They paid £10 a head and we provided nibbles. Usually on a tasting day if people want to buy, we reduce the price, but we said on
this particular day, if they wanted to forgo their discount, we would match fund that
as well. We were pleased with the turnout
we had and the people who weren’t able to come at least shared the story.
“We donated to Salvation Army Australia
and Wildlife Rescue. All the charities are doing such a fantastic job.
“It’s a lovely place and it must be
absolutely devastating to see everything go up in smoke, everything you’ve worked for. It’s hard to contemplate that an area the size of England has been burnt.”
Lloyd Beedell at Chesters Wine in
Abergavenny agrees. “It was so difficult © toa555 / stockadobe.com
to watch, and I suppose when you’re in
the industry and you see other people’s
livelihoods going – it’s awful,” he says.
“We’ve sold the Vinteloper wines since
we opened, and I wanted to do something.
So we did an event with 14 people, at £150 a head. It was a six-course tasting menu
with wines to match from Vinteloper. We held it at The Angel Hotel just down the road and we did a charity auction too.
I think we raised just shy of £1,900 on
the night. [Vinteloper winemaker] David Bowley suggested we donate it to the
Adelaide Hills Bushfire Winemakers Fund.” March will see a series of three “test
match” challenges involving Richard Kelley MW of Dreyfus Ashby and Australian native Miles Corish MW of Milestone
Wines. Jon Campbell of DeFine Food &
Wine in Cheshire and Andy Langshaw from Harrogate Wines are the indies who are facilitating the first two events.
Other indies who have organised
• The Wine Bank in Lee on Solent sold 40
tickets in three days for its Australia tasting to raise funds for the Australian Red Cross. • The Vinorium in Kent held a wine
auction, which raised £5,000 for WIRES and the NSW Rural Fire Service Fund.
• The Wine Bank in Southwell donated
10% of all its Australian wine sales during January to the Australian Red Cross.
• Luvians in St Andrews combined Burns Night and Australia Day in one fell swoop and donated 100% of all ticket sales plus the profits from bottle sales from that
event to the Adelaide Hills Wine Region Bushfire Fund.
“Our Man with the Facts” • Research at King’s College in London has found that red wine drinkers have a more diverse collection of gut bacteria than consumers of other alcoholic beverages. This may play a beneficial role in maintaining heart health.
....... • Despite his reputation as a killjoy, Oliver Cromwell appears to have been a moderate drinker and at his daughter’s wedding in 1657, while Lord Protector, is recorded to have enjoyed alcohol, danced and even doused guests in wine.
....... • The oldest solera system used in the production of Sherry dates back to 1770 and belongs to M Antonio de la Riva in Jerez. Up until about 1760 all Sherries were bottled as vintage wines.
....... • Buckfast Tonic Wine was marketed in the 1920s with the slogan “three small glasses a day, good for health and lively blood” and some ads claimed it soothed depression.
....... • Although the first vines were planted as recently as 1973, Sauvignon Blanc is now New Zealand’s most widely grown variety, accounting for 73% of production and 86% of exports. An area the size of England has been destroyed by fire
THE WINE MERCHANT february 2020 5
Urban winery within new shop Jamie Smith and Alex Taylor have combined their skill sets to create Tring Winery – a wine shop and tasting room complete with an urban winery. Taylor has a master’s in viticulture and
oenology from Plumpton and Smith’s
background is all restaurants, bars and fine dining – the perfect recipe for this particular venture.
Smith says: “We’re going to make 10,000
or 15,000 bottles, if that, to start with. The
USP is that people can walk down from the shop and tasting room and see the tanks and barrels and at harvest time they can
see grapes getting crushed – it makes it all that little bit more interactive.”
Smith references the success of the
craft breweries who are making “fantastic products” with imported hops and barley, when he explains that although the wines will be made at Tring Winery, they have
Vagabond continues to grow with the launch of a new branch near Monument in London. This site, in a former Santander bank in the City, is number eight for the business. The company celebrated the launch at the end of last month by installing an ATM with a difference. The bright yellow machine, rebranded as the Vagabank, dispensed Prosecco to passers-by to help spread the word.
“zero land under vine”.
need,” Smith says.
we’ll continue to source from all over. We
play wine with us – we’ll bring the right
He adds: “The wine Alex made recently
was with grapes sourced from Puglia and
are talking to some English vineyards at the moment as well as people in Spain.”
As for the rest of the wine they will
be serving and retailing, Smith says he
is using companies he’s worked with in
the past, including Hallgarten, Roberson,
Fells, Gonzalez Byass and New Generation. “We’re also dealing direct with Gusbourne and Bolney,” he adds.
The pair are expecting to cover all bases
themselves and will start to employ people when they have a feel for how the business is going.
“I’ve worked in so many places before
“We’ve had people drop in with their CVs
so there are people wanting to come in and people on board.”
Being just a 30-minute commute to
London by train, Smith describes the
Hertfordshire town as being a “relatively affluent” area with a good mix of
commuters, young families and locals who will be a captive audience for the new
business, which opens in late February.
Sampler calls time on Putney branch
After the closure of The Sampler’s South
where they’ve taken on 50 people one
Kensington store and the following
until we know where we are and what we
opened in 2018.
minute and then ended up laying them off – I don’t want to promise anything to anyone
success of the shop in Wimbledon all eyes were on the Putney site, which
THE WINE MERCHANT february 2020 6
Sadly, alarm bells had been ringing for a
few months leading up to Christmas and break clause in the lease persuaded the
business take the bold decision to admit defeat, for now at least, and call time on the Putney High Street branch.
Third store for The Bottle Shop Bottle Shop owner Dan Williams is busy getting branch number three ready but at the moment he admits it is a “bit of a building site”. The site in Pontcanna, Cardiff, is some
way off being finished and if Williams’ Twitter feed is anything to go by, he’s
making interesting discoveries as he’s
letting the light in on his new premises.
The company’s existing branches are in
Roath and Penarth.
Adeline Mangevine Weavers: the fifth generation Weavers continues to uphold tradition with the appointment of Philip Trease as managing director. He is the fifth generation of the family to be at the helm since George Trease bought the Nottingham wine and spirit merchant in 1897. Before joining the business full time in
1998, Philip had worked on the original Boots website and one of his first tasks at Weavers was to oversee its debut in
e-commerce. Today his main roles involve
sourcing and buying the wines and spirits as well as running Weavers Wine Club,
managing the company’s online presence and now overseeing the business as it moves ahead into a new decade.
Hasty despatches from the frontline of wine retailing
i Adeline, remember me?”
comes the email from a young somm who I met on a trip to
Bulgaria last year. Oh I do, I do. And the
lousy two-day hangover that followed as I’d tried to keep up.
“I wondered if you’d like to be on
my next MUST Drink programme on
YouTube. We’ll be looking at Bulgarian
wine. I remember you had lots of great opinions.”
Flattered, I say yes before I even
check out the format of MUST Drink.
Or if anyone actually watches it. I tell
Gav, who rather sniffily informs me that
online is where it’s at these days for wine coverage. Merchants who still moan
about lack of wine on mainstream TV are out of touch. Who cares about Saturday Kitchen and its obsession with mass-
produced cheap plonk? A smaller but
more engaged audience is more valuable
a comment after every MUST Drink
episode. Gav. No wonder he was a bit peeved.
“Who is MUST Drink aimed at?” I ask
Tom as we sit around a table in a private
resides in a Grade II listed building. Owners Ben and Vanessa Crofton have employed Dan Fletcher (a Great British Menu finalist) as head chef and plans are in place to recruit a dedicated member of the team to run the wine shop.
varieties, Mavrud in different styles
and a couple of obscurities Anton has brought in from his personal cellar. Recording begins and Anton and
Rachel vie to prove who knows most about the history of Bulgarian wine, while Tom and I chat over how to
YouTube if you want to. The lady’s not for turning down a chance to face the cameras
slipped by and we still have SO much to
notice a very engaged viewer making
Somerset, last month. 28 Market Place
up of wines to taste – some international
not just small, it’s minuscule – and that’s after two years of sharing content. I also
bakery and wine shop opened in Somerton,
keep discussions flowing, we have a line-
pitch Bulgarian wines to our different
I click onto Tom the somm’s channel on
• A business comprising a restaurant,
called Thrace Yourself. To help our panel
YouTube and notice that the audience is
published a book on Bulgarian wine
room at the central London restaurant
where he works. “The modern, engaged wine drinker who is more interested in provenance than points,” he trots out.
That rules out many of my customers, then, and includes a good number the
trade who, you could argue, are already quite engaged.
Two other people appear: a specialist
importer in Bulgarian wine, Anton and a blogger, Rachel, who recently self-
THE WINE MERCHANT february 2020 7
customers while we all slurp and spit on camera. Before we know it, an hour has say.
Three weeks later, Tom sends a
surprisingly brief email informing
me that the Bulgarian episode is now
online. After work, I sit down with Mr
Mangevine to watch. After 10 minutes, Mr M bails. Apparently, the history bit
was interesting but all that slurping and
spitting was not just tedious, it was quite off-putting. I carry on watching for the
full 30 minutes and realise I barely say a
thing. I have been edited heavily, and am reduced to the odd “hmmm”, “yes” and
“I agree”. So much for my great opinions. When I finish watching, I notice someone has
commented below. It’s Gav. “Best episode yet.”
Back in Chester, this time for good
plans to move back to a more traditional
hot on the heels of the new Richmond
high street location.
Hill store, which opened in November,
Whitmore & White may have closed
constraints on my part I really would like
the doors on its Godstall Lane shop in Chester last March, but with a phoenixlike flourish, it reopened just before Christmas as a pop-up. Manager Nick Thomas explains: “It really,
really worked over Christmas and we had
lovely feedback from the customers saying ‘thank god you’re back,’ so that’s been gratifying.”
Buoyed by the festive success, the
decision has been made to stay open,
although until the season fully picks up, Thomas says he will just be opening Thursdays through to Saturdays.
The licence has been changed so wine by
the glass is now on the menu to drink in the tasting room or, as the weather improves, outside.
“Chester council missed a trick,” Thomas
says. “They should be marketing this area as Chester’s Diagon Alley. Liverpool did the same thing for Queen’s Arcade and
since they started marketing it as such it’s
“I came up here to attempt the hybrid
their fourth branch will shortly open in
to be just retail and I wanted my own little
are delighted to have finally secured a great
of a healthy retail environment, but for
came up, until now. It further extends our
thing, which was working, but due to time
shop again,” explains Andrew.
site in Teddington. It has been on our radar
Town market days may be an indication
business at The Grape & The Good, the twice-weekly events were more of a
hindrance. “When the market is on, vehicle
access just isn’t possible and my customers can’t get anywhere near the place if they want to pick something up in their car,”
he says. “At my new shop on Broad Street, I’ve got a customer parking space and
I’m amongst all the other independent
retailers, which is the main thing. There’s
a butcher and a deli and all my customers use them.”
Mark takes on Famous Wines site
Owner Mark Wrigglesworth says: “We
for many years, but the right site just never geographical dominance in affluent south west London and we know the people of Teddington are excited about our arrival judging by the local reaction so far.”
The site was formerly home to Famous
Wines, which closed last summer.
Wrigglesworth adds: “The shop gives
us great scope to continue our hybrid
operating model, dominated by our retail wine range but with a strong ability to
offer drinking on the premises, as well as a fantastic events space.”
• The Whisky Exchange, the London spirit merchant established in 1999, has opened a third branch to join its existing stores in Covent Garden and Great Portland Street.
It’s been a busy few months for the
The new shop is located in Borough High
team at The Good Wine Shop. Following
Street, near London Bridge.
absolutely jiving down there.”
In the absence of Chester council
embracing Harry Potter-themed retail
shenanigans, Thomas has plans in place to create his own buzz. “I want to do a spring jazz festival and get some of the other
traders in on it – we can get together and
raise the profile. Chester itself is as dead as a doornail at the moment.”
Out of the pub and into the street Since opening in 2015, The Grape & The Good has tried a couple of locations in Wells, and after a while operating within a pub restaurant at The Crown, the owner is pleased to announce his
THE WINE MERCHANT february 2020 8
FRESH THINKING IN TOKAJ Grand Tokaj is reaping the rewards of a major investment in its winery, and marketing its acclaimed dessert and dry wines to a new audience of open-minded foodies
odernity and Tokaji wines don’t always seems like
natural bedfellows. The wines
date back to the 1630s and are rightly considered timeless classics.
Yet Grand Tokaj, which owns 70ha of
vineyards in this Unesco World Heritage
landscape, refuses to stand still. Not only is it modernising its winery, it has freshened up the wines it makes, broadened the styles, updated the presentation, and
changed some of the rules about how Tokaji wines should be enjoyed.
Deputy CEO András Györffy reports that
€50m has been invested on new stainless steel tanks and a new bottling facility.
“With this equipment we can protect the
quality of our wines and keep them fresh and fruity as much as possible,” he says. “We can stop the fermentation of the
wines by cooling and filtration. The sterile
bottling is crucial with sweet wines, so now with the new technology we don’t have to use sorbic acid, or pasteurisation for the
sweet wines like in the old days and we can also avoid unwanted oxidisation.”
Grand Tokaj makes dry Furmint wines,
in two styles – a fresh, easy-drinking
version and an oaked, single-vineyard wine described by András as “intellectual”.
As for the late-harvest wines, the style is
fresh and fruity. “We produce Szamorodni, which is now a more serious wine, with
more concentration than before,” András
explains. “In a way it is now replacing the 3 and 4 puttonyos aszús as well.”
He adds: “For the aszú wines we use
young barrels; for the top aszús, new ones. These top wines are also fermented in
these barrels. The style is fresher, fruitier
and not as oxidised as before. With the new
Winemaking in the region dates back to the 17th century
bottling equipment we can preserve the
Peking Duck or with a Kung Pao Shrimp.”
ultimate pudding wine, the company is
like to show to the wine drinkers in the UK
quality of the wines much better.”
Although Tokaji aszú is perhaps the
encouraging consumers to explore its versatility.
“The aszú wines are about the balance
between the sweetness and the acidity and
it helps a lot to match them with food,” says András. “A young aszú, especially from a
cooler, more acidic vintage, can be a good aperitif on its own, or it goes well with canapés, pâtés or foie gras.
“For mains it goes well with a pork roast
or with some game dishes. It is good with spicy Asian dishes that combine heat and
sweetness with acidity, like Sichuan or Thai dishes. A young aszú works well with a
THE WINE MERCHANT february 2020 9
Sales in the UK are going well, a market
that has always been important. “We would that we not only make the best sweet wine
in the world, but now we make world class dry wines as well,” says András.
Find out more Visit www.polroger.co.uk or or www.grandtokaj.com call 01432 262800 Twitter: @Pol_Roger
Greedy landlords: Bottle List gets a Exhibit A door of its own Smashing Wines owners Clément
Chris Bain opened his shop The Bottle
Sigaut and Rebecca Murland have been
List within Mr Pook’s Kitchen in 2018
forced to move from their premises in
but, finding that his lack of shop
Woodbridge, Suffolk, due to spiralling
front curtailed retail growth, he has
rents, but they are determined to look
now moved to a nearby site in Castle
on the bright side.
Douglas, Dumfries & Galloway, and
“We are now able to offer a more
warehouse-style shop and we have the
rebranded his business. Harris & Co, a shop, deli and wine café,
added bonus of parking for our customers,”
will launch later this month and will offer
are killing Woodbridge. It’s a shame
start – and it’s on a good part of the main
explains Murland. “Unfortunately we were pushed out of the town – greedy landlords because there are so many empty shops.” Smashing Wines can now be found at
the Base Business Park in Woodbridge
alongside other independent merchants, offices and workshops.
Bain the opportunity to grow. “My new
premises has got its own front door for a street,” he says. “It’s big enough to have
a wine shop, a deli and a seating area for about 30 covers. During the day we will
serve coffee and cake and in the evenings, I’ll do cheese and wine.”
Bain’s wine background includes
comes to that.”
With all the extra space Bain will be able
to extend his list but he hopes to maintain his habit of constantly developing and
changing what’s on his shelves. “Customers come in all the time asking what’s new,
and that constantly changing line-up does reflect the menus here and the seasons. “Our average bottle price is about
£14.50. I’m not getting huge traffic of
people. I might get someone coming in
spending £300 but I won’t see them again for a month. Our philosophy is drink less
but better. It seems to have struck a chord with a lot of people.”
Greedy landlords: Exhibit B Pantry & Co in Waltham Forest, north
has built up a bit of a following with his
Enotria’s head of buying and also worked
who know their wine. It took a while
renewal that is unrealistic and we had no
in Glasgow, where he met his partner. In
London, closed last month.
wholesaling, tastings and wine club.
for Mitchells & Butlers, says: “After four
He says: “I’ve got some great customers
because it was hard to get people to
come to me instead of Naked Wines or Laithwaites and all these online guys
because customers seem to think they are getting a better deal.”
Apart from “inheriting a burst pipe”, the
move to the new premises in King Street
is going smoothly with just some planning formalities to sign off with the local council.
“I want to do wine on tap and refillable
The original shop, near the riverside
the wine on tap – they are pioneers when it
working at Berkmann and for Peckham’s
the two years since moving to the area he
Rebecca Murland and Clément Sigaut
the woods. I hope to work with Graft for
Owner Joan Torrents, who was formerly
years, our landlord imposed a lease
other option than to close it. Unfortunately business rates and greedy landlords are killing the high street.”
Torrents also owns Halex, a wine bar
with a retail element which continues to
thrive. “Not everything is lost in our neck of the woods,” he says. “We are simply
one independent merchant less in east London.”
• In the spirit of the film awards season,
bottles and focus on sustainability,
we’ll take a moment to remember the stores
the usual suspects: Berkmann, Liberty
Ruby Red Wine Cellars, Bradford on Avon;
of a punt for them me being in this neck of
and Kris Wines, Holloway, London.
which people are showing more of an
we have unfortunately lost in recent months.
and Ellis. They’ve all been great and really
Negozio Classica, Westbourne Grove,
interest in,” he says. “I’m working with
They include The Bottle Bank, Falmouth;
supportive, especially as it must be a bit
London; The Bottle Corner, Manchester;
THE WINE MERCHANT february 2020 10
NOT YOU AGAIN!
customers we could do without
9. Vivian and Duncan Ethelthwaite … We’ve been on our holidays to Italy, several times actually haven’t we Duncan, and the people are so friendly and so welcoming … and the food! Well, it’s just delicious, nothing like the Italian food you get here, is it Duncan … and the wines! So much nicer than the Italian wines we get in this country, and so much cheaper. Three euros we paid for the red we liked, and it was exquisite … so lovely and fruity and what’s the word I’m looking for Duncan? Smooth. Lovely smooth wines, not like the stuff they send over here, they like to keep the good stuff for themselves … well, you probably know ... I took a picture of the bottle I think, if I can find it on my phone I’ll send you it because you’ll be able to track it down I expect and sell it in here, in the shop. It would shift like hot cakes at that kind of price … or hot panettone, maybe! We had some amazing panettone in Italy, didn’t we Duncan, nothing like the panettone you get in this country …
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ANAGRAM TIME Can you unscramble the following winemaking processes? If so, feel free to close one hour early next Wednesday.
THE WINE MERCHANT february 2020 11
1. American Bit Raccoon 2. Non Teabag 3. Pup Removing 4. Men Midgets 5. Machete Varnishing Mark Matisovits
What 28 independent wine merchants do in the shadows The Rolleston Group is a quietly efficient buying consortium that offers exclusive wines at decent margins. And it’s looking for new members
Stunning stemware Even the most highbrow wine tasting can fall flat if the glassware is substandard but that won’t be a problem with the new Spiegelau Professional “Profi” range, now offered by WBC alongside the classic ISO models. The company also offers blind-tasting covers and Le Creuset drip-free pourers for a professional finish. Prices for the glassware and gift packs start from £1.50 plus VAT per unit.
t’s entirely possible to spend a
lifetime in wine retailing without ever
encountering the Rolleston Group. It’s
not intentionally secretive, but neither is it
in the business of courting publicity for the sake of it.
Twenty-eight independent merchants
count themselves as members, and
Alexander Nall – who handles the group’s
admin – is looking for more, particularly in the London area.
But what exactly are the benefits of
joining? “We’re a small group, which
effectively provides entry-level wines for group members,” says Nall. “That’s the main raison d’etre but on top of that I
think members find it useful to meet up
and discuss issues. One of the benefits of
any group, no matter what the size, is that
like-minded people are able to share their
Strike a light South Carolina-based Rewined repurposes old wine bottles to create all-natural soy wax candles with fragrances based on wine aromas, including Syrah, Viognier, Chenin Blanc and Malbec. For UK sales enquiries visit shop-rewined.com.
interests and problems.”
Rolleston has sourced a range of wines
including Norte Chico from Chile, Rolleston Vale from Australia, Makutu from New
Zealand, Andersbrook from South Africa, Ponte di Rialto from Italy and Castillo Ladera from Spain.
These wines offer a “standard retail
margin” of between 30% and 40% to
members, who pay a nominal membership fee for the privilege.
“The main appeal, as members tell me, is
exclusivity in their patch,” says Nall, “and
that is jealously guarded. So in other words, to introduce a new member in an area
where there is perhaps an existing one is
not necessarily straightforward. The main benefit is the exclusivity aspect of it all.”
THE WINE MERCHANT february 2020 12
Rolleston’s members include Auriol
Wines, Bucktrout, Connolly’s, Field & Fawcett, Flagship Wines, George Hill,
HangingDitch, ND John, Portland Wine,
Sandhams, Talking Wines, Villeneuve and Wadebridge Wines, to pick a few.
No member is obliged to take the entire
range. “We’ve always had quite a loose
policy I suppose compared to some other
groups,” says Nall. “Members are asked to
take what they can. Clearly there might be one or two things they don’t particularly care for, so we ask for members to take approximately 75% of what we offer.”
The list of what’s available continues to
grow, with an Argentinian Malbec, Vista Sierra, recently joining the range.
“We’ve recently created a French vin
de pays brand that we’re getting through
Foncalieu. That at the moment is shipped by members direct and redistributed amongst the membership.
“Up until that point we have used agents
or UK DPD suppliers who are agents for a particular brand over here and they provide their own labels. Norte Chico
comes from Santa Carolina. They also provide the Vista Sierra.
“I suppose the latest thing is we have
gone to members shipping direct. We are
trialling this with Foncalieu: the members can ship in pallets and the smaller members can draw off that.”
As for the future, Nall is happy to
respond to members’ needs. “It’s not a
complicated set-up at all,” he says. “There are other groups who work in different ways, but we are smaller and simpler.”
TRIED & TESTED
Boulevard Napoléon Le Pal Grenache Gris 2017
Paxton Jones Block Shiraz 2016
Boulevard Napoléon is a collaboration between
produces a range of acclaimed wines that lean towards
Minervois restaurateur Trevor Gulliver and winemaker friend Benjamin Darnault, specialising in classic
varietal wines. This one is juicy to the point of tropical, but there’s also a roguishly rough underbelly, with
distant wafts of smoke and a satisfying nutty finish. RRP: £27.99
Working biodynamically in McLaren Vale, Paxton
the savoury/European end of the spectrum without
ever losing their core Aussieness. This is a reminder
of why Australian Shiraz took the world by storm: it’s a soft, cuddly comfort blanket of a wine – rich and intense, but with freshness and balance too. RRP: £23.99
North South Wines (01432 262800)
Liberty Wines (020 7720 5350) libertywines.co.uk
Zuccardi Los Olivos 2018
Château Oumsiyat Cuvée Membliarus 2018
Argentinian Malbec has many similarities with the
current Liverpool team. Both play in red; both have
Who would you suppose might be behind Lebanon’s
crucially of all, both keep winning. So the inky depth
Valley in partnership with Hallgarten’s latest agency.
first Assyrtiko wine? Why, it’s Steve Daniel of
won admirers far beyond their heartlands with the
course, blending grapes from the edge of the Bekaa
simple relentlessness of what they do; and, most
and elegant fruit here will come as no surprise, but
the sagey bitterness and glinting minerals add a twist. RRP: £11.60
Hatch Mansfield (01344 871800)
He’s sculpted a bracing, tightly-wound wine, with subtle fruit and moreish citrus sourness. RRP: £11.49
Hallgarten & Novum Wines (01582 722538)
Cascina Amalia Barolo La Coste di Monforte 2012
Matošević Grimalda Red 2017
The cool kids may have moved on to the next vintage
put Croatian wine on the map and his efforts have
Nobody has done more than Ivica Matošević to
but we thought we’d wrestle with the 2012, with its
rightly earned international acclaim, even if the man
alluring aromas of liquorice and newly-unpacked
himself modestly uses words like “honest”, “common”
paddling pools. On the palate it’s a riot of frangipane
and “savage” to describe himself. Grimalda has the
and cherries, and and it doesn’t go down without a
leathery, vanilla-y depth of a classic claret or Rioja,
fight. It will teach us more in a year or two. RRP: £14.40
and a delicious juicy tautness.
Layton’s (0207 288 8880 )
Liberty Wines (020 7720 5350)
Caliterra Petréo Carmenère 2017
Doran Vineyards Georgia Maeve 2017
A whiff of ripe, warm runner beans hanging on the
There’s plenty to like about this barrel-fermented
Colchagua charmer reveal themselves. A hint of iron,
African André Badenhorst. Unctuous, spicy and
vine; then a tang of cherries and blueberries as the
mysteries of this concentrated, but never overcooked,
pencil sharpenings and a sprinkle of black pepper add a pleasant seasoning. RRP: £16.15
Hatch Mansfield (01344 871800) hatchmansfield.com
blend of Chenin, Grenache Blanc and Roussanne,
the handiwork of Irishman Edwin Doran and South
pleasingly weighty, with white fruit and nutty notes, it’s solid enough to enjoy even at room temperature. RRP: £14.99
Doran Family Vintners (07968 803256) doranvineyards.co.za
THE WINE MERCHANT february 2020 14
Small can be beautiful and not much can be done on the glass itself so
One of many alternatives – which also happen to be reusable – are window clings that use static to attach. It takes the
we’ve ended up hanging things from the inside. At
fear factor away, and you can re-use them. You put
Cambridge Wine Merchants we hung AYALA bottles
them back on the paper they come from and they re-
from the ceiling and used a 3D display board.
engage with the static and you can use them again
You can always do something with a window. Some shops have windows with very small panes
six months down the line. In my experience they’re
Lucy Holton, trade marketing manager at Mentzendorff, has helped dozens of independent retailers make a little go a long way with their in-store merchandising.
Window stickers come in many forms,
more expensive than vinyl.
from the old favourite vinyl to window cling (which Vinyls can incite fear and cold sweats at the thought
Hanging boards are lightweight and not expensive to produce. Imagery is readily
of the installation. Wonky lines and bubbling artwork
available from suppliers. I’ve used those sticky hooks
adheres through static) and many things in between.
aren’t going to do you any favours, but there are
before, but if it’s going to become a regular
plenty of tutorials on YouTube and handy
thing that you use, then why not put in
hacks. It’s just a case of taking time
two permanent hooks on the ceiling?
and not rushing it.
That being said, I’ve gone into a lot of places where people have
In the second of a series of articles for The Wine Merchant, she considers how to make window displays stand out even when space is limited
put in their own hooks for different
You can use masking tape to line up the vinyl. You can
displays and before you know it
use a squeegee with a padded
you’ve got 15 or 20 different hooks
edge so you don’t damage the vinyl
in the ceiling and it just looks really
and you slowly push away from the
messy. You could even end up with some
masking tape. A lot of the technique is in the preparation.
of the ceiling coming down and if you’ve got alarms in your shop, the last thing you want is one of
the boards to come down in the middle of the night. if there is a bubble underneath the vinyl, it
still end up with a bubble you can prick it with a pin
Always consider printing double sided if the back of the board is visible inside the store. You don’t really want a boring white board.
and you won’t necessarily see the hole. Little bubbles
It’s a very simple thing but often people forget. You
over time will often dissipate because of the heat so
could have the same message or something different.
don’t panic too much.
It’s not that much more expensive to print double
means you’ve probably laid it on too quickly. You’ve got to try and go as slowly as possible. If you
sided. You can block out daylight with window
picture, but it’s got very tiny circles that let the light
Podiums cost a bit to begin with, but you can rewrap them with artwork and rebrand them in different styles so it’s worth the initial investment. Even if you find
through so from the inside you can see all the way
one on eBay that’s in a sorry state you can rewrap it
anyway. You get the eyeline height for the product.
displays and risk making the shop dingy and that’s where Contra Vision comes in handy. It’s a two-way vinyl: on the outside it looks like a full
We’ve used these for Delamain Cognac showing just
People are looking at greener alternatives to vinyl, which essentially is landfill at the end of the day. There is an
the bottle and the box, and it’s really effective.
alternative to Contra Vision called PET One Way. It’s
in the next issue of The Wine Merchant. If you’d like
100% recyclable and it’s PVA-free. You print directly
Lucy to offer any advice on your in-store project, or
on to it – you can request it from a printer. It’s one I’m
if you have any creative tips of your own that you’d
going to try to drive in our business for sure.
like to share, email email@example.com.
THE WINE MERCHANT february 2020 16
• Read more of Lucy’s creative merchandising tips
BITS & BOBS
Key wine varieties facing climate crisis A 2˚C increase in temperature would result in a 56% loss of suitable land for 11 popular varieties of wine grape, according to researchers at the University of Alcalá, Spain. The white grape variety Ugni Blanc (also
Jez Greenspan The Wine Twit Wandsworth London Favourite wine on my list Antonio Mas Cabernet Sauvignon 2014. I started selling his blend but when that ran out, I moved over to the straight Cabernet, which is amazing. Full of dark berry fruit, hints of spice and cocoa, then add in the silky tannins it’s now developed and it all just works perfectly. Favourite wine and food match Botonero Nebbiolo 2017 and roast lamb. I know it’s a bit safe, but I did a shoulder of lamb over Christmas with just garlic and rosemary, and they worked perfectly. The lovely red berry fruit and acidity of the wine just made the both of them sing.
Favourite wine trip Unfortunately I haven’t been on one in years! Favourite wine trade person Tony Wellings from The Antipodean Sommelier – great guy. I have worked with him for a number of years now; he has always been very supportive, and he has great wines which is even more of a bonus! Favourite wine shop I don’t really have a favourite wine shop, but I always love looking round others just to see what hidden gems they’ve got tucked away at the back of the shelves.
known as Trebbiano Toscano) is expected to lose 76% of its suitable growing area,
and Riesling 66%. Grenache is predicted
to lose 31% of the area currently deemed suitable for growing the variety.
But the research also shows that if these
areas could be replanted with a more
Healthy soil at Rivetto
suitable wine grape, or newly suitable
areas planted, only 24% of growing area
a 2˚C temperature rise.
The Guardian, January 27
revealed that 2019 had witnessed 60%
Rivetto claims a biodynamic first
more extreme weather events than the high winds, tornadoes and hail.
within current regions would be lost under
Rivetto has become the first winery in the zones of Barolo and Barbaresco to be certified biodynamic by Demeter. Rivetto’s entire 100,000-bottle annual
production will be labelled biodynamic, starting with its 2019 wines.
Other Barolo and Barbaresco producers
have adopted biodynamic methods without
Italian agriculture group Coldiretti
previous year, including heavy rain, snow, But Coldiretti also noted that early
reports suggest that Italian wine exports in 2019 totalled €6.4 bn, a 4% rise compared to 2018.
The Drinks Business, January 24
Aussie giant calls in administrators McWilliam’s Wines, one of Australia’s
pursuing certification. Most notably,
oldest wine brands, called in
Decanter, January 8
143-year-old family company, said the
Ceretto farms all 160 hectares of its vineyards this way.
Rain, tornadoes and hail take toll Italian wine production fell by 12% in 2019 as a result of unfavourable weather conditions, a report from Italian national statistics institute Istat
THE WINE MERCHANT february 2020 18
administrators KPMG in January. David Pitt, chief executive of the
business had relied too much on its long
history of making lower-end commercial
wines sold below $10 (£5.25), where profit margins were razor thin.
McWilliam’s then missed the trend
towards premiumisation and a new
generation of drinkers willing to spend more on higher-quality wine. Decanter, January 13
Fake wine ring busted in Italy
THE BURNING QUESTION
How often do customers return faulty wines?
We get a couple of corked wines back each month – I suspect that’s way less than the actual number of corked wines sold. Sometimes we get oxidised wines returned to us. It’s very rare that someone will bring something back simply because they don’t like it. It can happen with funky natural wines. If someone returned a more conventional wine that they knew was correct but just not to their taste, I would refund them but make it clear that I thought what they were doing was a bit off.
Italian police have dismantled a wine fraud organisation, which produced and commercialised more than a million litres of fake wine. In dawn raids on 28 premises and homes
in several Italian regions, five Italians were
arrested on January 22. Police said a wine
co-operative in Oltrepo Pavese and several winemakers had worked together using large quantities of sugar, additives and
illicit grapes to make fake Oltrepo Pavese DOC and PGI wines.
The arrests were made just two days
after Italian police, acting on a separate
judicial order, reportedly seized 10m litres of alleged fake wine in Lecce, southern Italy.
Meininger’s Wine Business International,
Darren Ellis Grape & Grind, Bristol
We have a policy of saying to customers, ‘if you open the wine and have a taste and you really don’t like it, bring it back and I’ll drink it’. In the two years we’ve been here we’ve had only one person who has done that. And I do think on that particular occasion there was actually something wrong with the wine because we tasted it and it was possibly corked. We had one bottle that came back over Christmas because they couldn’t get the top off – it was a screw-top!
Michael Watts The Wine Bank, Lee-on-Solent
Trade mourns Hazel Murphy
I think if I had more than six bottles returned in a year that would be the limit. It very rarely happens. We know our customers well and look after them, so if they did return a bottle, I wouldn’t even question it – I’d just take their word for it and give them the option to take something else or have a full refund. I would then take a photo of the back label and email it to our rep and 100% of the time we get a credit. Generally we don’t have a problem and it’s very rare for a wine to be corked these days.
Hazel Murphy, a “great friend” to and trailblazing champion of the Australian wine industry, has died.
Murphy, who spent more than 20 years
working with producers in Australia, is
credited as one of the sector’s leading lights and
helped to raise the reputation of the nation’s
wineries on an
particularly in the UK.
Her “glass in the hand” promotion
contributed to a steady increase of
Australian wine exports, growing from
AUS$1.4m in the 12 months to June 1985 to $897.1m by 2002.
Nish Patel The Shenfield Wine Company, Brentwood
Very occasionally we might have a wine with tartaric precipitations, which is far from ideal, as the end consumer doesn't understand it. If the wine is purchased in the UK, generally the supplier is helpful. If the wine is shipped, you will also generally get a credit from the winery but the paperwork involved in claiming the duty back is horrendous so we never bother. We don’t get any wines returned because they are corked and I must say that it seems the problem is getting better.
Gilbert Viader Viader Vintners, Cardiff
Champagne Gosset The oldest wine house in Champagne: Äy 1584
The Drinks Business, January 20
THE WINE MERCHANT february 2020 19
© matteozin / stockadobe.com
Are you a winner? A record number of independent wine merchants took part in this year’s Wine Merchant reader survey. Huge thanks to the 199 businesses that took the trouble to fill in the online questionnaire. We’re now crunching the data and will be reporting on the results in our March and April editions. Five participants were selected at random and will each receive a Coravin, courtesy of our survey partner Hatch Mansfield. They are: Lockett Bros, North Berwick Flourish & Prosper, Howden, East Yorkshire Portland Wine Cellars, Southport Ann et Vin, Newark Champion Wines, Chislehurst
THE WINE MERCHANT february 2020 20
ight ideas r b 8: Promote your winemakers
. T H E D R AY M A N . Bearly legal
n the modern beer world, how you look counts almost as much as what your beer tastes like. Especially with the rehabilitation of the can as a packaging preference: day-glo colours, cartoon images and shouty typefaces have been utilised like never before to gain on-shelf standout. So far, things have gone relatively unchecked by trade busybodies, but Tiny Rebel, a hefty puncher on the craft beer scene, has come a cropper with its Cwtch red ale called out by the Portman Group’s complaints panel. The panel had already suggested changes in 2017 and it’s just done so again after fresh complaints that its bright yellow can and cartoon bear logo make it look like an energy drink. Tiny Rebel says it did what it was asked; Portman says it failed to ditch the bear character, which remains a stumbling block. The brewer has hinted it might ignore the new plea, which could prompt advice to retailers from Portman not to stock Cwtch, whose name is Welsh for “hug” and which has been suitably embraced by many beer-oriented indies. Such instruction would be nonbinding but there’s an attendant risk for shops in not complying: Portman will inform local authorities and police forces of its wish, which could impact shops’ future conversations about licensing conditions and the like if they don’t play ball. There’s been a lot of sympathy for Tiny Rebel from those who see it as the underdog in a one-sided fight, but perhaps the beer industry should think a bit more broadly about how it wants beer to be perceived. If the product’s great, why drown it in infantilised whimsy that merely extracts gravitas? Magic Rock, Cloudwater and Northern Monk cans all look great but grown-up, for example, while the likes of Five Points and Kernel let typographic-led minimalism do their talking. Dressing up doesn’t have to mean dumbing down.
Mike Boyne, Bintwo, Padstow
In a nutshell … Create POS material featuring photos of the winemakers alongside some information about their story and philosophy.
Tell us more.
“We were thinking about re-arranging the shop and different ways of merchandising and we decided to have fewer items on the shelf, to make the wines stand out as a distinct block, rather than a shelf crammed with lots of bottles. This has created a bit more space between the wines, which allows us to use our newly created ‘meet the winemaker’ point-of-sale cards.”
Have you noticed a difference?
“We saw that it had an immediate impact. Having that visual of the winemaker and some easy-to-digest information allows the customer to make the allimportant connection between the product and the maker. Dare I say it, but we were trying to do a bit of a Naked Wines thing in conveying the relationship between the wine and the person who made it in a way that makes the consumer feel involved.”
It sounds like you’ve been swotting up on your retail psychology. “I’m genuinely quite geeky about it. I read a great book by Phil Barden called Decoded: The Science Behind Why We Buy and we picked a bunch of ideas from there. One of the subjects he covers is how people respond to faces and I think this is why our own-label wine, Jammy Git, has worked so well [Jammy Git features a likeness of Mike on the label]. I mean even the little things like reorganising our by-the-glass menu, so that we started with the most expensive and worked down towards the least expensive, resulted in our revenue going up by 12%.”
Is that because people can’t be bothered to read all the way to the end?
“Yes – that’s absolutely it, so you might as well start with your most expensive items first! It is more common for drinks to be listed from the cheapest first but studies have shown it’s more profitable to do it the other way around, and our experience backs that up.” Mike wins a WBC gift box containing a bottle of Hattingley Valley sparkling wine, a box of chocolate truffles from Willies Cocoa and a half bottle of gin liqueur from Foxdenton. Tell us about a bright idea that’s worked for your business and you too could win a gift box. Email claire@ winemerchantmag.com or call 01323 871836.
THE WINE MERCHANT february 2020 22
PORTFOLIO TASTING 2020 FINE | HAND CRAFTED 300 wines | 20 producers Food | Music Scan here to RSVP or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
I N TO R E TH E F U TU
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THE WINE MERCHANT february 2020 23
Matt Illman The Wine Reserve, Cobham
© johnalexandr / stockadobe.com
wners Carol Edwards and Tim Walker bought The Wine Reserve in 2015 and since employing Matt Illman the following year, they have found that three is the magic number. “The three of us are incredibly different,” explains Carol, “from our eating and drinking habits and even our politics, but the three of us together are the dream team. As a retailer, finding staff is one of the hardest things and to find someone who is intelligent and with that passion for specialist wine and spirits – well it’s a rare thing. We feel incredibly lucky that he came along. “We have to have that point of difference because we’ve got Majestic behind us and Waitrose just two doors away, and Matt just has this nose for seeking out new things,” she says. “He’s developed our spirits range pretty much single- handedly; he is constantly researching and we are now fully stocked with really interesting and unusual super-quality products. “It’s the same with wine, too. If he’s bought something new, he can answer any question about where it’s come from and what it’s like. He’s built up a reputation among our clients as being incredibly trustworthy and our customers want to come in and ask him what’s new and what they should try, and yet he still does really basic but important things like carry their purchases to the car for them – he’s a really good guy.” Matt’s background in graphic design and fine art always involved working with wine. He had part-time jobs in Thresher and Wine Rack during his studies and while he was working as a freelance illustrator. He says: “Eventually I realised I didn’t like working as a freelance illustrator and I decided to focus on wine as my career because I love it. I’d gone through various bits of training with Thresher and wine is a great business to be in because it’s so sociable. “We are a close-knit little team and I genuinely feel I have a say in how the business is run and where we are headed. It’s hands-on and I get to flex my creativity. I really enjoy merchandising – arranging the shelves and doing displays and things is always fun. “Working in Cobham, we do sell the kind of wine that I’d love to be drinking all the time but certainly can’t afford to,” he says, “so it’s great chatting about it with customers and we’ve got some real wine nerds who come in. It’s also been great fun going to people’s houses and doing their cellars for them – again I guess that comes back to merchandising.”
Matt wins a bottle of Grand Tokaj Aszu 5 Puttonyos 2013 To nominate a rising star in your business, email email@example.com
Is UK bottling a cri
The independent trade loves its wines bottled at source. Bu
n the specialist end of the market, few words generate as
much contempt as “bulk wine”. This is the cheap supermarket filth, barely fit for human consumption. It has absolutely
nothing to do with what a decent independent would sell.
That’s all well and good. But let’s look at things another way.
Shipping wine in bottles is an environmental nightmare. As
Andrew Catchpole recently wrote in Decanter, “the existing carbon footprint of wine is unsustainable”, and 68% of that carbon comes from glass production and the fumes belched out of container
ships. It’s not a good look, particularly for indies who are vocally
lauding sustainable viticulture and conspicuously cutting back on plastics.
Shipping wine in bulk has environmental advantages that are
hard to argue with. Liquid is transported in 24,000-litre bags, the equivalent of 33,000 bottles. In that size container, you’d only
fit 14,000 bottles. That’s a 40% reduction in carbon footprint,
THE WINE MERCHANT february 2020 24
© JackF / stockadobe.com
DEDICATED TO THE VALUATION AND AUCTIONING OF FINE AND RARE WINES
Bottled wine takes up two and a half time the space of wine shipped in bulk
ime against wine?
ut the environmental costs of shipping are horrific
MATURE AND INTERESTING WINES WITH NO MINIMUM ORDER
USER FRIENDLY WEBSITE
according to figures shared by Accolade wines on a recent
Batonnage podcast hosted by Liam Steevenson MW and Fiona Beckett.
Not only that: Accolade believes the wine arrives in better
condition, as bags are subject to far less temperature variation on
the high seas than is the case with glass bottles. The company also claims that its world-leading filling equipment ensures that wine
is packaged with far less oxygen ingress than you’d find at a typical bottling line anywhere in the world.
ulk wine now accounts for 35% of all imported
volumes in the UK, according to the Wine & Spirit Trade Association. Very little of that, as far as anyone knows,
ends up in the specialist independent trade. But are we right to
Continues page 26
RARE & MATURE WINES 12% COMMISSION
GLOBAL AUDIENCE BI-MONTHLY AUCTIONS 5% COMMISSION
2018 JAN MAR MAY JUL SEPT NOV
A FINANCIALLY ATTRACTIVE ALTERNATIVE TO BIN-END DISCOUNTING
BUY & SELL YOUR WINES AT WINEAUCTIONEER.COM/ WINEMERCHANT
THE WINE MERCHANT february 2020 25
ANALYSIS: UK-BOTTLED WINE From page 25
be so sniffy about UK bottling, and might
more importers start considering it as an option?
Ellis Wines has already dipped a toe in
the water. “We’ve got a Mendoza Malbec
that’s just arrived and it’s being bottled up at Greencroft,” says Rupert Lovie.
“I think there’s a definite conundrum,
because a lot of wineries are set up with
bottling lines and they want to keep them running and they employ people to do
that – you don’t want to put people out of
work in other places just to save a few bob
here. But at the same time there are the eco concerns.
“You have to balance everything and
rationalise everything. We’re not in the same ballpark as Accolade so the vast
majority of our wines are always going to
be from smaller producers and it’s just not feasible, as we speak, to ship it in bulk. So
thankfully for us it’s not such a big ethical decision.
“If indies want to compete at various
levels, they shouldn’t have [UK-bottled
wine] as a hang-up because it probably means they’re missing a trick.”
Laurie Webster (pictured right) at Las
Bodegas, the Argentinian specialist, says he’s “looked into it in fine detail” but
rejected the idea of bulk shipping simply
because the volumes involved are far too high.
“The advantages are slightly cheaper
DPD pricing and ‘doing your bit’ for the environment, arguably,” he says. “It’s mainly about price, let’s be honest.”
And the disadvantages? “Extra logistical
complexity unless you are doing lots,” he says. “I am still not 100% convinced of
quality implications either, though like
everything else, there are good bottlers
and bad bottlers – and some wines never start out life good in the first place.”
Daniel Lambert of Daniel Lambert Wines
minimal, but I do get it. Would we do it?
are at predominantly working with family
another for this green-minded importer?
adds: “I get the environmental argument, I get that completely; the impact is
Well, not really. You have to think about
the ethos of what we’re trying to do. We
producers, so our ethos is very much about domaine-bottled, château-bottled etc etc.
To go down the road of UK bottling would be a real break from what we’re already doing.”
Lambert is also less than convinced
that quality can be maintained with bulk shipping. “It’s the use of sulphur that
worries me because each time you move wine you have to treat it with sulphur, obviously, to protect it and to prevent
oxidisation. So each time you move that product you’re going to have more and
more sulphur – and as we know it’s the
sulphur that’s giving off the hangover at the end of the day.
“You have the original tank where
they’ve made the wine, that’s the first treatment. Then you’ve got to get it to the lorry, the
lorry to the port, from the port
to the flexitank, the
the UK … you’ve got
potentially six to eight sulphur treatments in the process overall.
“There’s no doubt in my mind you’re
going to have quality issues and it just
takes one of those procedures to fuck up and you’ve got a big problem, actually.”
He adds: “I’m not saying technology in
the UK is better or worse than it could be.
I’ve seen some pretty dismal places where stuff gets bottled in Italy and France and
there’s no doubt that corners can be cut at
these places. I think it’s the oldest adage of all: you get what you pay for.”
THE WINE MERCHANT february 2020 26
es Caves de Pyrene, arguably
more than any other major agency business, has a reputation for
trying to respect nature. Surely UK bottling has been on the agenda at one time or
“At one point we were flirting with the
idea of shipping wine in tank, like 1,000
litres, then bottling off that,” says director
Doug Wregg. “It would save around 40% of the cost of the wine.
“But it was too complicated because it
meant finding a place to have the tanks,
finding the containers to put the wine in –
the idea was to use 25-litre demijohns that restaurants could have, or wine bars could put on the counter with a tap.
“But then you have to collect them,
clean them … we’d have to set up a
separate company just for that and employ
someone, so a lot of the savings would have been negated.
“It was less practical than KeyKegs
in the end. KeyKegs are the next viable alternative, more for environmental
reasons than for cost reasons. Because there’s a monopoly company that
produces them, the cost is really high, and they started to produce them without recycling in mind – but
solutions to that problem started to
Does the environmental cost of
shipping wine cause him any sleepless
“Yes, totally. But everything is connected
to everything else. This is one element of all the transportation that goes on in the wine world – think of all the wine fairs and people flying around pretty much
constantly for six months for no reason. “I don’t know what the answer is. You
have to get goods from A to B somehow. There are some more environmental
options than others. A grower we work
with would ship his stuff to Denmark on a schooner. But in Denmark, they’re happy to pay.”
The Wine Merchant Top 100
Now in its eighth year
Chaired by David Williams
Winners shown at LWF
Classic styles welcome
Esoteric styles encouraged
Meticulous judging process
Entry deadline March 20
25 independents involved
10 Trophy winners
Highly commended wines
Supplement for winners
Endorsed by indies
Entries are now open for the only competition that is focused entirely on wines sold in the independent trade. It's also the only competition where all the judges are independent merchants themselves. If you distribute or retail wines that can stand out in this dynamic market, visit www.winemerchanttop100.com for an entry form or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Drinkability comes at a premium Vins de soif were once what sustained horny-handed sons of the soil. Now the idea of simple, drinkable wines has been repackaged and sold back to us at inflated prices by admiring New World imitators
t’s been a feature of high society since the Roman aristocracy discovered pepper. First, take a simple, even
slightly maligned, abundant and cheap item that is an integral part of the everyday lives of the lower orders at home or out in the
colonies. Then, to use a technical Marxist term, fetishise the arse out of it. Finally,
watch as the price rises so steeply the item becomes unobtainable to the very people
that gave it the patina of authenticity that made it so attractive in the first place.
It almost doesn’t matter what the object
is for this maddening process to get
started. Indeed, in many cases, you feel, the more banal it is to begin with, the better.
Take for example the East London boutique
your interior design. And the price of that sophisticated, “handmade in England” craftsmanship: a cool £28.
But it’s in food and drink where the
process is at its crudest and most severe. Examples abound throughout history of
the sudden swing from peasant abundance to upper-class delicacy.
Famously, in Dickensian London, as
Dickens himself, in the guise of one of his
characters in The Pickwick Papers, puts it:
“The poorer a place is the greater call there seems for oysters … Blessed if I don’t think
that when a man’s very poor, he rushes out of his lodgings and eats oysters in regular desperation.”
era hardware store to well-heeled East
to keep out of sight under the stairs but
occasionally managed to get the price
Labour & Wait, which specialises in selling the aesthetic of the post-war austerity-
Londoners. Here a dustpan and brush is no longer something strictly functional a “real English classic” to complement
or much of the 20th century,
however, the oyster became a
symbol of luxury, a partner for
Champagne (or at the very least, Chablis)
that, even today, when supermarkets have down to 25p a pop, retains an upmarket
These wines are simply too expensive to function in the same way as the wines that inspired them THE WINE MERCHANT february 2020 28
position in the world of bivalves that the mussel harvester can only dream of.
Similar trajectories have been taken by
lobster (which was once the East Coast
USA working man’s favoured lunch), foie
gras (which has gone from Gascon farmer staple to Michelin-starred essential),
and, latterly, quinoa (the sudden fashion for this grain among affluent health-
conscious westerners in the 2010s made
it unaffordable for the Peruvian peasants
for whom it had long been a life-or-death staple).
Something like this luxurification
process has also been happening – and
bringing about quite profound effects – in the world of wine in recent years.
It’s particularly noticeable, I think, in
the developing wine cultures outside of
Europe, such as California and Australia. In
both these countries, the boom in wine has been accompanied by a particular outlook on what constitutes fine (or luxury) wine:
a sense that to be taken seriously you need
to approximate, albeit with an American or
Australian accent, what the French call vins
de garde. That means weighty wines, wines
that can be laid down and that have spent a greater or lesser period in oak.
Recently, however, an increasing number
of New World winemakers, many of them
© JackF / stockadobe.com
David Williams is wine critic for The Observer
Straw hat: DKNY, £105; Shirt, Issey Miyake, £320; Braces, model’s own
adjacent to (if not fully paid-up members
beans in a high-end restaurant: with price
generally been presented as having the
excited by wines that the French would
are simply too expensive to function in the
of) the natural wine scene, have been
moving away from this model. They are
call vins de soif, rather than vins de garde
– everyday wines that are prized for their
thirst-quenching, food-matching, everyman vitality, rather than their complexity or
ageability. The kind of thing you’d find in a
rough and ready restaurant’s pichet rather than a Riedel on a white tablecloth.
And so, this group of generally youngish
points that tend to start at £20 and reach well into the £30s and beyond, the wines
same way as the wines that inspired them. They feel out of context. At first you’re
impressed by the likeness of the facsimile; then you start asking yourself why you’d pay as much as four times the price for
what is basically a quite good Beaujolais Villages.
or Dolcetto rather than classed-growth
however, observing this wave of Australian
Africa or New Zealand) has an ingrained
producers has been making wines that are explicitly inspired by non-cru Beaujolais Bordeaux or Barolo.
For the European drinker especially,
and Californian Gamays, Barberas and
Crozes-alikes can be an uncomfortable experience akin to watching an
arrangement of football chants in an opera house or eating a plate of luxury baked
f course, the easy, if somewhat patronising, explanation for
the rise of the expensive New
World vins de soif is that neither California nor Australia (nor, for that matter, South
wine culture like Europe. A whole range of
drinking and winemaking – unpretentious, affordable, daily – was overlooked in the
rush to prove competency in the realm of “fine” wine. Even the cheaper wines have
THE WINE MERCHANT february 2020 29
same qualities as fine wine (all those prolix tasting notes for branded wines!) but at a
For all that, the contemporary insistence
on drinkability seems like a largely benign development to me. The best is so often
the enemy of the good, and the total sum of good wine would be enormously increased if more producers stopped straining to
make fine wine only to end up producing something ponderously undrinkable.
The rise of the vins de soif – and not
just in the New World, but also in Europe, where buvabilité is such a key idea in the natural wine movement – has also had a
positive influence in shaking up our ideas of what constitutes fine wine. The idea
that honest simplicity and drinkability in
wine can be virtues as much as length and complexity has taken hold. And so long
as that doesn’t lead to a luxurification of Muscadet, what’s not to like?
MERCHANT PROFILE: BOTTLE & JUG DEPT
Minnie-Mae Stott and Orson Warr, July 2018
Worthing gets the funk A small shop focused entirely on natural wines and craft beers has proved to be a shot in the arm not just for a once-sedate seaside town, but for its owner as well, as Graham Holter discovers
shop selling craft beer and
natural wine would probably
feel quite at home in Brighton, or
Bristol – Tom Flint’s home city. Worthing, for all its charms, seems like more of a punt.
The Bottle & Jug Department occupies
a compact unit in a residential part of the West Sussex town, not particularly close
to the seafront but handily adjacent to the main railway station.
“Our location gets a split reaction,” says
Flint, “with half saying ‘why did you open
here? It’s such a weird place to have a shop’, and the other half saying, ‘what a great place to have a shop’.”
Across the road there’s a parade of
shops including the Brooksteed Alehouse, a bar which isn’t exactly a sister business, but might qualify as a half-sister. There’s a certain amount of co-operation and
co-ordination that goes on between the
THE WINE MERCHANT february 2020 30
respective owners, but the Bottle & Jug Department is its own separate entity.
Until a couple of years ago, Flint had
a desk job in the NHS and, by his own
admission, was “bored out of my mind”.
“I was doing freelance writing – food and
restaurant reviews – and working in the pub,” he says.
“Brighton had a food renaissance about
two years ago, but it’s levelled off now perhaps.
“Food is still lacking a bit in Worthing;
I think it’s a price-point issue. Obviously new people coming in are prepared to
spend money, but locals were complaining about the new Thai restaurant because
its curry was £10. I think it’s Worthing’s biggest challenge.
“Café culture is really kicking off in
Worthing, so that’s a start. It’s about
‘I did the same as a lot of people, spending £120 on a case from Majestic and similar places and ending up with 12 wines that were pretty forgettable’ What’s the funkiest thing you’ve got
getting people used to spending a little bit
here? Anything you wouldn’t give to a
seen a demographic shift in recent times.
from Martinborough: it’s really, really
more and getting better quality.”
“When I moved here five years ago, it was a
funky, quite out there. I tend to have a
Like many coastal towns, Worthing has
completely different place,” Flint says.
“Round here we have young families …
every couple of weeks there’s someone
who has moved from London or Brighton. Instead of going out to the pub, because
Probably something like Cambridge Road couple of orange wines here and there – a few people are into them, and I’m really into them.
When did you get into that style of wine
they have a young family, they come here
yourself, as a wine drinker?
income and they want nice things. The
and buy some nice beers and wine to enjoy at home. They’ve got more disposable
demographic shift is definitely going the right way for places like this.
“We do get passing trade from the train
station. Brighton has lost a couple of beer shops now and I have a lot of people who
Two to three years ago, mainly from going to places like Plateau in Brighton and
They’re slowly trickling into restaurants
around Brighton. As I was doing my
reviews and tasting them, I was like, “wow
– this is exciting wine”.
I did the same thing as a lot of people,
buying a lot of wine from Majestic and
similar places, spending £120 to £150 on
a case of tip-top wines and ending up with 12 wines that were pretty forgettable. You drink it and it’s fine but you wouldn’t get excited by it. You might get one or two in that 12 that are OK.
I really like funky beers as well, Belgian
sours and that sort of stuff. Those flavours work well for me.
What is it you like about natural wine? The allure and appeal of natural wine is Continues page 32
work in Brighton and so they come here on their way home.”
Is everything that you list here natural, and how would you define natural? Natural for me basically means naturally fermented; wild yeasts and no other
additions apart from some sulphur in the bottling. It’s hard to find any with zero sulphur – there is some out there but
unfortunately if you do find it the price point is massive.
The really, really hardcore stuff is quite
unapproachable for a lot of people who
aren’t used to natural wine. I need to come in at a point where I can get people into
the idea of it but with more approachable wines. The ones that are made with minimal intervention.
Tom Flint got the natural wine bug when reviewing restaurants
THE WINE MERCHANT february 2020 31
From page 31
‘Once people try them, it’s rare that people say ‘natural wine is not for me’, especially if you show them the freshness and the vibrancy … they often have very soft tannins’
the unpredictability. It’s a living, breathing
bottle of wine that can just change. No two bottles will be the same. It takes away that very strict way of tasting wine – which I massively respect – but I think wine
should also be fun. Open a bottle, drink
it and enjoy it for what it is. If you over-
study something, for me it takes out the but that is part of their charm. I have a
customer who came in because he said he
our bread and butter, but the wine side has
How do sales break down between beer
Would you extend the range further if
fun. Natural wines are hard to categorise
the demand was there?
was bored with wine and his interest has
The beer is definitely our strongest side, taken off quicker than I expected.
I’m quite happy with it now. A lot of wine
been reinvigorated by our natural wines. It’s engaging so many young people
as well. It’s such a tiny percentage of the industry so it’s not threatening anyone. Where do people hear about it?
Wine bars help. Social media pushes it a
bit with blogs and podcasts. I have a lot of
Plumpton students come here for wine too. The Real Wine Fair is really good, you see a totally different demographic to other tastings.
It is gaining traction and people are
seeking out natural wines more than they were.
Once people try them, it’s rare that they
say, “natural wine is not for me”. Especially if you go with the stuff that’s a bit more approachable and you show them the
freshness that’s there and the vibrancy in the wine – they often have very soft
tannins, they’re drinkable and very juicy.
When I first opened, I would’ve had
about half as much wine as I’ve got now. You slowly get a reputation; people find you. People come back for a particular thing, so I’ve definitely doubled the
amount of wine I’ve been stocking. I’ve got customers now who come to me just for
wine. Word is getting out and they know
they can get these things without travelling to Brighton, London or other big major cities.
It’s amazing how little value people
place on wine. I have a chap who comes in and will spend about £30 plus on beer for himself and he’ll say, “I’ll get some wine
shops you walk in and they can be quite
intimidating; shelves and shelves of things, making it hard to choose.
I like to keep it small and keep it
changing. It might mean that when
someone comes in and asks for the same
wine again I say, “no, I haven’t got it, but I
have this one instead”. Keep it quite fluid to reflect what is happening with the beer. The beer changes constantly, there’s
a new beer every few seconds it seems,
new breweries non-stop, so that’s always
changing. There are a few that I keep fairly regularly. So every time someone comes in there’s something new for them to look at. Is that partly also because people are
for my wife” and go over and look at a £10
not particularly loyal to beers?
year to produce and beer takes about six to
Untappd where people are scoring beers. I
bottle of wine and say it’s too expensive.
People constantly want to try the new
eight weeks. It really throws me out when
think with wine, some people get stuck in
It’s weird. A bottle of wine takes at least a people spend on quality beer but won’t spend £10 on a bottle of wine.
The mural recalls Hogarth’s famous Gin Lane engraving
THE WINE MERCHANT february 2020 32
thing. You look at places like [the beer app] the habit of buying the same thing because they know they like it. My job then, if I
BOTTLE & JUG DEPT
haven’t got what they’re looking for, is just to try to steer them to something else and get them to try something new. It takes time for people to trust you.
Which wine suppliers do you use? Mainly Les Caves, Swig and for the English stuff I work directly with a few people.
Now that we’ve been open for a little
while I have been trying to talk to some
new suppliers and change it up a bit. It’s very much price-point led – Worthing is
still a price-orientated place. People can
get obsessed with how much things cost.
The sweet spot for us is £12.80. There’s
Martinez wants a fine wine focus
a lot of great wine for around £15 and it
might not be the most super natural, funky, out-there stuff but it’s good wine and I
know it’s made properly and has no added crap in it.
Is the green/eco side of things as much of an issue for customers as the flavour? Obviously in the food world, people have become much more conscious about
what they are eating and what they are
putting in their bodies. But when it comes to alcohol and drinking generally, people haven’t really made that connection.
People will be like “I’ll only buy organic
Beer dominates the range, but wine sales have advanced more quickly than expected
but people didn’t respond.
shop. I’ve done a Greek wine tasting and
Festival for the last two years and that
events, like pop-up bars at festivals. I can
We do events and things as well – we’ve
had a stall at the Worthing Food & Drink helps. Last winter we put on a festival at
Worthing FC, and we’ll do that again in the summer.
We do tastings on a Monday night in the
other ticketed events.
I think I’d like to get out and do more
take the casks and kegs and a marquee and get out there.
Continues page 34
meat” but then they’ll buy a crate of
Foster’s to drink. I think they are slowly
coming around and supporting local and independent producers.
What kind of marketing do you do? Marketing is a funny one. I’m doing an
experiment this year: I’m not going to pay for any advertising. Since we opened I’ve paid a few grand out and I’ve not really seen a massive return on it. I’ve done
print, leaflet drops, online, town maps, all manner of different things.
I did a local leaflet drop of a few
thousand leaflets with a 10% discount offer and I only had about six come in.
Maybe it’s the wrong type of advertising,
Wine comes mainly from Les Caves de Pyrene and Swig
THE WINE MERCHANT february 2020 33
From page 33
Is the shop leasehold? Yes, we have a landlord – it’s nice and
cheap. One of the reasons we did it was
because the rent was so good and the first
three years is fixed. And we know what the increases will be.
It was a very old-fashioned bike shop
before. Bike shops seem to be disappearing hand over fist – it’s all online now.
Do you think wine shops will go the same way? It is a worry, yeah. Online will always be a
And you might be on the train home and
cottoned on but they are only ever going to
Alcohol retailers have got a decent
are made by Heineken or whoever and
think “I fancy a bottle of wine” and online isn’t going to help you out right then.
defence against online but pricing will
always be an issue. It’s amazing what I see online retailers charging for beers compared to what we do.
Maybe they can afford to have loss
leaders. Maybe they know if they can put
There are so many beers out there that
packaged to look like craft beer.
I work directly with all the local guys
and work with about four different wholesalers.
How do you decide what constitutes a
a super high-end beer on for zero profit,
craft beer that you’re happy to list?
that’s how they make their money.
bought out by Lion who also own Fourpure
people aren’t going to buy just one, they’ll
I only sell beers from owner-operated
What’s happening in the beer world at
– all owned by a pharmaceutical company
buy that one and six or seven others and
competitor but I think with wine, people
I would think it is fairly robust against
new brewery every three weeks. I think
still enjoy coming in and picking it, talking
It’s hard to keep pace really, there’s so
online competition in that regard.
supermarkets are a big danger, they have
to people, getting recommendations – so
be interested in core beers.
much going on. There seems to be a
breweries. So last year Magic Rock was
in Hong Kong. I’ve delisted Beavertown because they are now part-owned by Heineken.
How do you explain that to your customers?
Clothing makes for a neat sideline – the T-shirts and sweatshirts are printed by the business next door
THE WINE MERCHANT february 2020 34
BOTTLE & JUG DEPT
I’m an independent shop and I want to
I first opened I had casks in here as well.
they will undercut everybody else, flood
curve. We use Lindr. I’ve got red wine,
work with other independent businesses
like myself. All those guys, Beavertown etc, the market and put all the independent people at risk. Why would I want to support them?
I think Brewdog is still pretty much
independent, they sold just 21% but they are big enough and they are everywhere
and that’s not what this shop is about – we
I thought it would be amazingly popular,
but it hasn’t been, so that’s been a learning
they are still independent. There are a few
others who I don’t massively stock because they are in the supermarkets.
A lot of breweries have really pissed off
white wine and bag-in-box cider as well.
independent shops like us because they’ll
these super-fancy refill machines but they
supermarket at the same price we bought
I really thought this side of things would
fly, but it hasn’t done. I know you can buy are so expensive.
release a beer and we’ll buy an amount at cost and then a few weeks later it’s in a it from the brewery for.
‘I only sell beers from owner-operated breweries. Last year Magic Rock was bought out by Lion and I’ve delisted Beavertown because they are now part-owned by Heineken’
want to find things that are smaller, quite hard to get and we want to massively support local.
I have a huge selection of local breweries
and I have as much Sussex beer as I
possibly can. As soon as I get an email from Burning Sky, I say yes please. Their price points are amazing too.
What margins do you work to? The margin on beer is about 40%, and on
Would you ever consider brewing
You’ve got a nice sideline with T-shirts
How are spirits doing? Very slow – even gin has slowed down. I
I’ve never done home brewing. It would be fun, but I don’t want to be stuck with 20
litres that I can’t get rid of, because with
I was making online videos talking about
the best will in the world it won’t be as
thought I’d sell them. I only just got them in
did hardly any gin at Christmas.
It’s trying to work out what people want. I think online and in the supermarkets
they have really monopolised spirits.
How did you come up with the look of the shop and the mural? I pictured it in my head how I wanted it to
good as what’s on my shelves.
We’ve done collaborations before and
we’ll do that again probably with a local brewery. They came up with the base
recipe and the hop profile was our choice.
Is there an end in sight for the craft beer
be and we managed it.
signature – you’ll see his artwork around
for doing it: if I was a bloke who started
A friend of ours called Will who is a local
artist did the wall. The little people are his Worthing and Brighton. I asked him to do something along the theme of Hogarth’s
Gin Lane. He just came and sketched it in pencil and then used marker pen. You’d
think after a year and a half you’d be bored of it, but I still love it.
Tell us a bit about your take-out service. I do it with jugs and wine bottles. When
There will just be more buy-outs and that’s
what will kill it. I don’t blame the breweries off home-brewing in my shed and 10 years down the line someone offered me a few million, I’d take it!
For every one of those that goes, there’s
probably four or five to take their place and I see this shop’s role as supporting those
guys, rather than the ones who have made it.
I have still got big-name breweries, but
THE WINE MERCHANT february 2020 35
the beer and wine and all that anyone ever wrote was “ooh, like your jumper,” so I
before Christmas. I make about £10 profit, which is great for something that also works as a bit of marketing.
What do you think the future holds? I don’t envisage myself retiring with a
nice fat profit any time soon. It’s a lifestyle thing. I did years of working in offices and
it was driving me mad – I didn’t want to be stuck doing that for the rest of my life and hating it. I’d rather be doing something I
enjoy. I was good at office work and it paid well, and I had a lot more free time. But it was so unrewarding. I was unhappy.
I toy with the idea of a second one – I’d
go down the hybrid route and have a wine bar place with a few keg lines and maybe
specialise in Belgian beer. It’s about finding the right unit and the right location. That would be the next natural step.
WSET WINE WORKOUT
From Alpine elegance to Puglian punch Even seasoned trade veterans can get in a tangle with Italian red wines. WSET educator David Martin is your guide through a complicated country that rewards a little effort
taly has a myriad of DOCs and
indigenous grapes. This provides wine enthusiasts with plenty to discover –
but it can be intimidating knowing where
to start. This article provides a framework
that serves both as a refresher and a broad guide from which to base future study.
Italian varieties are not as widespread
globally as the “international varieties” –
by which we largely mean French varieties such as Merlot, Pinot Noir and Chenin
Blanc. Examples of Sangiovese, Nebbiolo and Nero d’Avola can be seen around the world, but not to the same extent. When
approaching more than 400 DOC or DOCGs and the hundreds of grape varieties, the
simplest breakdown is to split Italy into the northern, central and southern wine regions. Northern Italy
Northern Italy generally has a moderate climate with dry, short summers. The
climate is influenced by the Alps to the
north and the large Po valley that stretches across the region.
Northern Italian reds are dominated by
two main wine regions – Piemonte and
Veneto. In Piemonte the most famous reds
are those made from the Nebbiolo grape in
the DOCGs of Barolo and Barbaresco. These wines are usually pale in colour but high in
tannin and acid, with long ageing potential. They are recognised as some of the best wines in Italy.
In the wider area of Asti and Alba the
reds are usually prefixed with the name of the grape, for example Dolcetto d’Alba or
Barbera d’Asti. Dolcetto is medium to full-
bodied and usually softer and rounder than the high acid but lower-tannin Barbera. The Veneto is famous for Valpolicella,
a light high acid red – similar in some
ways to Pinot Noir or Gamay. These wines are made from Corvina and other local
grapes. They can be made into the much more powerful Ripasso and Amarone
styles by use of the passito method, drying the berries before fermentation. This
dehydration process increases the colour, flavour, tannin, acid and alcohol to create robust, concentrated wines. Central Italy
Chianti Classico has its own DOCG. The
term Gran Selezione is relatively new and is the highest designation.
Southern Tuscany is home to Brunello di
Montalcino DOCG. The climate is warmer than Chianti so powerful, high-alcohol
wines are often produced. Winemakers can declassify these wines to Rosso di
Montalcino DOC, where an indication of the style is often seen at a lesser price.
The Tuscan coast is famed for its success
with Bordeaux varieties. This is where the so-called Super-Tuscans – powerful, fullbodied, oak-aged red wines – are made.
Some are labelled under the Toscana IGT
but are the quality and price of top DOCG wines. Bolgheri DOC is a relatively new appellation and Merlot is particularly successful here, along with the other Bordeaux varieties. Southern Italy
Tuscany dominates the red wines of
The heat of southern Italy means it is
region in the north, the hills and valleys
has Aglianico as its most prestigious black
central Italy, which can itself be broken
into three parts; the mountainous Chianti to the south and the flat coastal plain.
Sangiovese is the dominant grape variety
and tends to produce high tannin, high acid wines that are medium to pale in colour.
Chianti is broken into seven sub-zones and
THE WINE MERCHANT february 2020 36
home to full-bodied, powerful red wines.
The rugged Campania region near Naples grape. It has deep colour, high acidity
and tannin and the best examples, such as Taurasi DOCG, will develop earthy,
forest floor flavours in bottle. Basilicata
is more mountainous, with vineyards at
© V Bengold
Tuscany is the dominant region in the central region, with Sangiovese the key variety
900 metres on the extinct volcano Mount Vulture. Aglianico del Vulture DOC is
considered the best wine of the region.
Further south in Puglia, the black grapes
Negroamaro and Primitivo (Zinfandel)
produce full-bodied, black cherry-fruited reds with high alcohol. The hot climate
is responsible for baked fruit flavours in these wines.
On the island of Sicily, large volumes
of IGT red are produced – often from the
in Italy. Though there is much to explore,
styles. On Etna DOC, noteworthy reds are
dominant Nero d’Avola grape, which makes medium to full-bodied, early-drinking
made predominantly from the Nerello
Mascalese grapes grown at high altitude.
understanding the classic styles will help
you to evaluate lesser known and up-andLook out for our article on Burgundy in next
These fragrant, pale, high-acid wines are
month’s issue. To find out more about our
and winemaking techniques to learn about
gaining an international reputation.
There are many more regions, grapes
THE WINE MERCHANT february 2020 37
qualifications alongside a great range of free resources and learning tools visit www.
Champagne’s true worth There are signs that Champagne is tiring of bargain-basement deals and getting behind wines that sell for realistic prices. David Williams talks to three independent merchants about how the market is evolving
hasn’t meant that Champagne shippers have always viewed it that way.
A region with a knack for marketing
that the rest of the wine trade can only dream about, and with a dozen or so
names that each has a strong claim to be
among the world’s most recognised drinks brands, hasn’t always been able to resist
the downsides that go with that fame: the
hen you think about it, there is perhaps no wine more
suited to the independent
trade than Champagne.
It’s a product with all the right indie
ingredients. There’s the high average
bottle price, hovering for now at around
the £22 mark, not exactly the kind of level your average supermarket is generally comfortable working with.
Then there’s the proliferation of different
styles, producers, villages, and arcane but fascinating winemaking techniques and differences (from dosage levels to malo v non-malo, ageing times, the precise
contents of the liqueur de dosage and the formulation of the grape variety blend
…): a combination pretty much designed to appeal to interested and involved (as
opposed to merely casual) wine drinkers
who get their kicks from the exploration of fine differences.
Of course, that Champagne has always
seemed to be custom-made for the
exclusive use of the independent trade
discounting and price wars of those fairweather friends, the supermarkets.
Recent years, however, have seen a
distinct change in focus in the way the Champagne trade has approached the
UK market, a sense that the race to the
bottom that was best symbolised by the discount supermarkets battle to bring a
drinkable £10 Champagne to their shelves is no longer sustainable. It’s there in the
shipment data, where most of the decline in sales is traceable to the bottom end of the market.
And it’s there in the anecdotal reports
of independent retailers themselves. As
Alastair Stewart, co-director of Newcastle’s Richard Granger Fine Wine Merchants, says, there’s a real feeling among
Champagne importers that chasing volume in the supermarkets is no longer the smart tactical move. “What is the point of selling something that the big boys are going to carve up at Christmas time?”
Stewart sums up the indie perspective. “I
think you’ll find the Champagne shippers are saying the same thing. I was talking
to a shipper the other day. I put in a small
THE WINE MERCHANT february 2020 38
order for their grande marque, and they
understood why – these are the thing they are talking about.”
Greg Sherwood, buyer at Handfords
in Kensington, has also detected the
change in mood and behaviour. “I would say Champagne sales kind of slowed a bit towards the end of the [credit]
crunch years, as people shied away from
© Hesam / stockadobe.com
conspicuous consumption,” he says. “Now Champagne is really taking in the higher
ground – in fact they’ve taken it. There is a lot of competition coming in [at lower
prices], so they’ve deserted the £20 to £28 position.”
That has left importers to concentrate
on the strengths that separate it from
other sparkling wines. “Champagne has
certainly seen a resurgence, and with the
‘08 vintage releases on the big names, and collectibles, they’ve all sold through very well,” Sherwood says. “The top stuff, the
Krugs and the best of the prestige cuvées, are selling much better than they were a few years ago. And there are some more top vintages coming in the pipeline.”
obert Boutflower, private house sales director at Tanners,
agrees with Sherwood about
the strength of higher-end Champagne
sales – and their relevance to independent
customers. “There are still plenty of people who want to buy Champagne and talk
to us about it,” Boutflower says, giving the example of Bollinger’s recent 007
collector’s release. “It’s £150, with a snazzy bottle, the ordinary NV but as a limited
collected item, which is sold to coincide
with the new Bond film. It sells well, even better than one expects it to.
“But we have people who like to
collect the next vintage of their favourite Champagne shipments to the UK in 2018 dipped 3.6% to 26.8m bottles
“Champagne has certainly seen a resurgence. The top stuff, the Krugs and the best of the prestige cuvées, are selling much better than they were a few years ago, and there are some top vintages in the pipeline”
Champagne, who buy it up in case
quantities and put it away, so yes we like
Champagne. And I think people like coming
to independents to talk about and buy good Champagne.
“We shouldn’t get carried away. It’s still
too easy to pick up a bottle of Moët from any store – it’s even in the local garage down the road. But allowing for that
fact, there is very good interest about Champagne as a wine.”
Indie picks on page 42
THE WINE MERCHANT february 2020 39
> THE WINEMAKER FILES
Sebastien Walsiak, Champagne Collet Sebastien has worked in Champagne since 1982, starting out with Pommery before a stint in New Zealand. He joined Champagne Collet, based in Aÿ, in 1994, becoming head winemaker in 2011. The house makes wines from Premier and Grand Cru vineyards.
You don’t learn the job of winemaking at school. You have to become cellar manager first, deputy winemaker and then winemaker, with experience and know-how passed on by your senior colleagues, in addition to the experience you gain from thousands of tastings. It’s a business that presents a permanent challenge because each year is different in terms of wines; you must be flexible and have a good memory of what you taste. It is a passionate job that needs a lot of hard work. The Collet style is all about tenderness and delight, with a lot of fruit but without excess. Our wines are left ageing for a long time in our cellars and we add low dosage, and a limited
Champagne Collet Brut 1er Cru, Art Déco NV - RRP £38.49
Champagne Collet Brut Rosé NV RRP £39.49
amount of sulphites. I like to say we take pleasure in enjoying Collet Champagne to the point of having a second flute. Our visual identity is inspired by Art Deco since our house and our brand were established in 1921, during the Roaring Twenties. Our style is very consistent, year after year for each cuvée: finesse and elegance is what we are looking to achieve for Collet. We are very close to our growers. We meet them several times during the year: in January for a New Year ceremony, in February and March for the clear wines tastings, in May for our annual general meeting, in September during the harvest and finally for a party celebrating the end of the year. A team of eight people, in addition to myself, are fully dedicated to the relationship with our growers. We are committed to help them to pass the certification of the vineyards, and we ensure there is a lot of quality control before and during harvest.
Champagne Collet, Brut, Vintage 2008 RRP £47.99
Environmental issues are our main priorities. We are committed to a programme of using fewer chemical treatments throughout the vineyard. Our
Champagne Collet is imported into the UK by Hallgarten & Novum Wines www.hnwines.co.uk 01582 722538
THE WINE MERCHANT february 2020 40
company is certified ISO 14001 and 22000, for quality control and environmental issues. We also help our growers as much as we can, sharing best practices, and will soon have the cuvées fully certified. We also have full product traceability with our tracking system. Thanks to the Champagne Collet culinary prize book, I meet Michelinstarred chefs on a regular basis and share with them some of my pairings. I am particularly proud of pairings with some desserts you can create with our cuvée rosé. Not a usual pairing, but I recently enjoyed some French cheeses with our cuvée 100% Meunier old vines – this pairing is unusual but terribly efficient. Our cuvée Art Deco 1er Cru is probably the one you can pair with most courses and is the one I would recommend if I had to pick only one cuvée amongst our range.
Since I can benefit from a large supply, with grapes mainly coming from Premier and Grand Crus for Champagne Collet, I try to create a specific cuvée every year that goes beyond the classic and traditional vintage. I work with unusual grape varieties, like Pinot Blanc, or with specific fermentations, or even with oak barrels, both for reserve wine and for ageing. These cuvées are part of a “private collection”: all the bottles are numbered and are going to be released in the coming years. This helps to promote the diversity of the Champagne area and our know-how at Champagne Collet.
A new generation, with an old tradition of innovation In 2016, a new generation of Drappiers joined the family estate. Charline, Hugo and Antoine embody the same family values and have the intention of living up to their father’s experimental approach to Champagne making
• Charline is responsible for the distinctively homespun artwork on the wines’ labels. “For Clarevallis I based the artwork on the original bible that a local monk designed 800 years ago,” she says. “I drew my own text and made it a little bit more modernised. We definitely wanted to say that it was from Clarevallis, something very different, but at the same time we wanted to show the heritage. It’s a little bit radical, but that’s fine: my father approved and I think my parents are very happy because they see it as a one-of-a-kind Champagne. “For Père Pinot it’s slightly different because we only produced 1,200 bottles. I got a white page and I drew this character, our great grandfather, with the grapes. This one is definitely radical; people love it because it is homemade, even though it’s not perfect!”
nder the benevolent eye of their grandfather (André Drappier, 92) and their father (Michel Drappier, 60), the siblings unleashed their creative energy to craft micro-cuvées inspired by the history of the estate. The eighth generation of Drappiers has begun to write the new chapter in the family narrative. Four new wines have joined the Drappier line-up, which honour the pioneering spirit of previous generations: the family has long promoted organic viticulture, low sulphur, and under-the-radar grape varieties. The first is Père Pinot, a limited-edition cuvée that celebrates the work of Georges Drappier in planting Pinot Noir across the region. “We wanted to pay tribute to my great grandfather, who was famous locally for reintroducing Pinot,” says Charline. “My brother Hugo worked on a new version that is our own interpretation of the variety.” Also new to the Drappier range is Trop M’en Faut, made entirely from Fromenteau, the local name for Pinot Gris. It comes in a still style (designated as Coteaux Champenois) as well as a traditional sparkler. “We thought it would be interesting to see what the same juice becomes as a still wine and as a sparkling wine,” says Charline. “Hugo wasn’t sure that a 100% Pinot Gris, which is quite heavy, would make a good Champagne. So he thought, why not make a still wine too? It’s an experimental cuvée for sure.” Then comes Champagne Clarevallis, an unfiltered organic blend dominated by Pinot Noir but with a little Pinot Meunier, Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc in the mix. “The idea was to make the Champagne like the wine back in the day,” says Charline, “so obviously using no pesticides; using horses; not using a lot of modern techniques, at least in the vineyard. “My father focused on the Pinot Noir, which is still our identity, and people know Drappier through our Brut Nature, which is 100% Pinot Noir with no dosage, which was very innovative in the early 90s. “My brother wanted to reintroduce something even older than that, back from Charline Drappier my grandfather’s time.” The wine is an extra brut, the only example of that style in the current Drappier range. “To achieve the balance that he wanted, Hugo just made a small dosage,” says Charline. “For us, no dosage only works with Pinot Noir. “With Drappier Pinot Noir, we get a lot of red fruit flavours. With Clarevallis we have a crispy, floral, lighter version of Drappier, enhanced by the light kimmeridgian limestone.”
Sponsored by Champagne Drappier, imported in the UK by Berkmann Wine Cellars. Visit www.berkmann.co.uk, call 020 7609 4711 or email email@example.com.
THE WINE MERCHANT february 2020 41
Favourite fizz Three independent merchants pick out some Champagne highlights from their ranges
Alastair Stewart Richard Granger Fine Wine Merchants Newcastle-Upon-Tyne What’s your best selling Champagne? It’s the Canard-Duchêne Cuvée Léonie. Why? Because we recommend it and
that tends to get the ball rolling, and the customers enjoy it. And because it’s not
bargain basement (it’s just shy of £30) and it’s reserved for the indie trade.
How about your personal favourite on
Robert Boutflower Tanners What’s your best selling Champagne? We do 1,500 cases of Tanners Ordinary
What’s your best
is all much of a muchness: about 100 cases
Champagne, one that
Champagne and 800 cases of our Special,
of Bollinger, Roederer, Pol Roger. When
we’ve been shipping for
which is the vintage. Everything after that
we push growers’ Champagnes, people
years, is Louis Brochet,
definitely appreciate the price; they’re a bit cheaper, and we can do 200 cases.
Do you have a personal favourite on the
the Richard Granger list?
I drink a lot of Canard, but I would go
I’m such a skinflint, and I like a grower’s
with Pol. I like the wine; it’s got
that elegance and finesse, and, having done the Champagne Academy, I got to know and like the basic ethos of the business.
Greg Sherwood Handford Wines, London
Champagne: the premium cuvée of André Cluet, Un Jour en 1911, the premium
quality Champagne. It’s just such good
quality for what it is, and you don’t have to
spend a lot of money on it – around £50. If you pointed me to the list, that’s what I’d take.
which was £17.99 when I started in the business
20 years ago, and is now £27.
When it comes to the
brands, we sell what we really like. Pol
Roger white label still does really well – it
goes out as soon as it comes in. The Charles Heidsieck grey label is such a great wine and it does really well.
We still do very well with Roederer and
Ruinart. For the non-grandes marques
we tend not to do a direct competitor for Brocher [which is Pinot dominant] so
most of our favourite growers tend to be
Chardonnay-based. Palmer & Co, Gimonnet, Delamotte (Brut and Blanc de Blancs) are
great, and we’ve dabbled with a few newer ones for us such as Pierre Paillard from Bouzy.
We also do a lot of L’Atavique from
Mouzon Leroux. That’s a fantastic
Champagne – we get it through Tiger Vines. We did a blind tasting of non-vintage wines Boutflower: “I’m such a skinflint”
THE WINE MERCHANT february 2020 42
with 40 customers, and it came out top. It’s an excellent wine and it’s also one of our best selling.
THE WINE MERCHANT february 2020 44
Â© Miki Studio / stockadobe.com
Vineyards in the Montagne de Reims
Taittinger remains one of the few Champagne Houses to be owned and actively managed by the family named on the label. Prélude is a wonderfully seductive cuvée made solely from fruit grown in Grand Cru classified vineyards. A Champagne with the consistency of a Non-Vintage but the depth and complexity of a great Vintage, this is a wine to start off any great occasion. The muchawaited Prélude Magnums are also soon to be available in 2020.
A founding member of Champagne's prestigious Grandes Marques houses, Champagne Deutz of Aÿ has been making distinctive Champagnes marked by finesse, elegance and complexity since 1838. Distributed by Gonzalez Byass www.gonzalezbyassuk.com 01707 274790
Distributed by Hatch Mansfield www.hatchmansfield.com 01344 871800
Philipponnat Blanc de Noirs Extra-Brut 2012 THE 2012 VINTAGE of Champagne Philipponnat’s Blanc de Noirs Extra-Brut is now available in the UK. It’s the fourth vintage of this soughtafter cuvée, following 2008, 2009 and 2011, since it replaced the house’s Réserve Millésimée. It was an outstanding vintage, combining concentration and precision. It was a very low-yield harvest for Philipponnat, at only 6,000kg to 7,000kg per hectare. This
resulted in a first pressing of 30hl to 35hl per hectare. (The house does not make wine from any taille pressings.) For this wine, the house’s finest Pinots were selected, from exclusively Premier and Grand Cru plots in the Montagne de Reims including communes such as Mailly, Verzenay, Aÿ and Mareuil-sur-Aÿ. Just under a third of the vinification took place in Burgundy barrels, and without malolactic fermentation to preserve the
Sponsored by Champagne Philipponnat
freshness of the vintage. Disgorged recently with an extra-brut dosage of 4.25g/l, the cuvée shows great vinosity, fruit and wonderful persistent minerality that is very characteristic of the vintage. This cuvée is an addition to the existing range of pure Pinot Noir expressions as Les Cintres, Le Léon, and La Rémissonne. Allocations are being handled by Justerini & Brooks.
THE WINE MERCHANT february 2020 45
© A. Karnholz / stockadobe.com
THE SPIRITS WORLD
Port Ellen on Islay
Dram busters Forget the multinationals: much of the excitement in the Scotch whisky category is being generated by new players, as Nigel Huddleston reports
he significance of the name Viet Nguyen Dinh Tuan in connection with Scotch whisky may not be immediately obvious, but he is a useful temperature gauge for the world market. His collection of 535 rare bottles was judged in November by valuer Rare Whisky 101 to have a combined estimated auction hammer value of just under £11m. It earned him a Guinness World Records place and the average bottle price of just over £20k confirmed the stratospheric
direction the collectors’ market has been heading in for some time. The highest actual auction price for a bottle of Scotch is £1.2m for a 1926 Macallan. Only 40 were ever released and Viet has three of them. Such silly prices can be both a help and hindrance to Scotch; they give it kudos but risk putting off the casual spirits shopper. They have, though, arguably broadened choice away from a clutch of distilleries owned by global multinationals. Whisky has become an attractive proposition
for new start-ups, such as the acclaimed Kilchoman farm distillery on Islay, and some older distillers, like Tomatin, which previously focused on making bulk whisky for blending now hone their skills on brands of their own. We’ve also witnessed the emergence of boutique blenders like the highly-regarded Compass Box, and agency firms and distributors have also created their own blends and malt brands that have found traction in the independent market.
grant's goes bananas
have your cake and drink it
essex eau de vie
A rum made with banana peel is the second launch under William Grant’s Discarded label. The peels are steeped in alcohol and the results blended with rum that’s already been used to charge whisky barrels for a finishing maturation. A vermouth derived from the redundant berries from coffee production was released in 2018.
The latest entry to the gin market is Bashall, which takes its name from the Lancashire village of Bashall Eaves, home to the founding Worsley-Taylor family. There’s a London dry and three flavours: Orange & Quince, Damson & Elderberry and Parkin Cake, taking its ginger and treacle cues from an old family recipe.
An apple brandy has joined the line-up of Reliquum, the spirit range made by Essex fruit farmer Pete Thompson in conjunction with the county’s English Spirit distillery. It is bottled four months after being turned from a cider into an eau de vie, following a maturation period in French oak red wine barrels.
THE WINE MERCHANT february 2020 46
One start-up coming on stream with its first whisky in the next few months is organic producer Nc’nean on Scotland’s west coast. It will release 10% of its 2017 production as a three-year-old this year and keep the rest back for further ageing, though it has already released two botanical spirits on to the market. “It’s important for us to be accessible,” says founder Annabel Thomas. “We’ll be premium, but not too premium. “There’s a danger that Scotch whisky is becoming similar to Cognac and red wine in the 1980s and all about ridiculously expensive bottles.” Sales are being targeted at the UK and elsewhere in northern Europe. “Those are the markets that really take Scotch seriously,” Thomas adds, but he says that doesn’t mean just targeting traditional consumers. “Whisky can be difficult, especially for people that aren’t used to drinking spirits neat, and we want to get people thinking about whisky in a different way: that you can mix it and it’s not just about old men sitting by the fireside.” Atom Brands has just released Aerolite Lyndsay – the first whisky under a new Character of Islay umbrella brand – and Darkness, an eight-year-old finished in Oloroso octaves, the small size of which creates a more intense “sherry bomb” flavour. Head of whisky Sam Simmons says the aim was to move away from limited editions. “The idea is to create a range that you can get again and again, that’s listable for an independent,” he says. Simmons thinks Scotch needs to find a way to retain its luxury credentials without
becoming inaccessible. “It’s a premium product created in a careful way, slowly, over time. It shouldn’t be cheap. “[Diageo’s] Lagavulin 16-year-old has been £45-£50 for the last 10 years. Everyone criticises Diageo but I think they’ve done an amazing job to keep it reasonably priced as everything else has gone up and up. That’s the price we want to compete at.” Simmons also beats the drum for a recalibration of whisky drinking habits, suggesting a highball signature serve for Aerolite Lyndsay, and a simple mix with Coke for Darkness. “Everyone understands how to make a gin and tonic. It was so easy for gin to have a boom because there was no barrier about how to consume it – but whisky has that.” Japanese-owned Tomatin is one distiller that seems to be getting a lot of love from independents. Recent releases include a 2009 Caribbean Rum Finish at £49 and a 2006 Amontillado Sherry Finish at £60. Head of brand Jennifer Masson says: “We’ve always priced ourselves as good quality but value for money in that market. We price it according to what the whisky is worth rather than what we think we can get for it. “When we repositioned ourselves five years ago it was as ‘the softer side of the Highlands’. It reflects who we are as people – we’re corporate but we are accessible and get the job done in a fun way – and the whisky itself is a light, soft fruity malt. “We’re a small team and we’ve been able to build relationships from the ground up and spend time with independent retailers. As long as you’re offering them a quality product, they’ll be willing to sell it, if it’s not at silly prices.”
the age of experimentation
swedes and blackcurrants
Le Hechicera Colombian rum has released a blend of rums aged for between 12 and 21 years and finished in Muscat wine barrels that donate flavours of walnut, prunes and leather, we’re assured. It’s called Serie Experimental No 1 and carries a UK price tag of around £60. UK supplies are through Mangrove.
A sipping gin matured in ex-Ardbeg whisky casks is one of two new additions for Herno, Sweden’s first dedicated gin distiller and the world’s most northerly when it opened in 2011. The other is a blackcurrant gin and both are available through UK agent Love Drinks.
THE WINE MERCHANT february 2020 47
Next month’s St Patrick’s Day is a perfect chance to explore diversity in Irish whiskey, with Teeling, Sexton, Redbreast, and Kirker & Greer a few of the names to conjure with. This Irish coffee is pimped up with a chocolate liqueur, whose sweetness balances the bitterness of the coffee. Austria’s Mozart does a whole range that might negate the traditional requirement for sugar but that might not apply with the less sweet, grappa-based Nero dark chocolate liqueur from Prosecco producer Bottega.
40ml Irish whiskey 25ml chocolate liqueur 120ml freshly-brewed coffee Demerara sugar to taste Cream
To a toddy glass, add the whiskey, liqueur, coffee and sugar to taste, stirring as you go. Pour cream over the back of a warm spoon to float on top. To get the cream to float for a Guinness-style look, use pouring cream rather than denser whipped, which is likely to sink.
© Jarek Pawlak / Marcus Wiesner
MAKE A DATE
“Sangiovese is capable of really subtle differences that can reflect terroir”
UK, especially at lower price levels,” says
and quality of Sangiovese expressions from
Sangiovese Reset aims to focus attention
saw a notable change away from the super-
where the grape could play a big part in
on the growing trend among leading Italian producers to make the grape the hero in single varietal wines. Jancis Robinson’s Italian specialist
Walter Speller and Jane Hunt MW have
collaborated on the project and hope it
will re-establish a distinct personality for Sangiovese, which they say was obscured
in not-so-distant history by the use of new oak or blending with French grapes.
A focus table will feature new releases
with many older vintages available on
the individual stands of the 87 producers taking part.
A series of seminars through the day
will look at the expression of terroir in
central Italy, new-generation Sangiovese
wines from Romagna and a vertical vintage flight of wines from acclaimed Brunello di Montalcino producer Biondi-Santi.
“I always believed in the grape variety,
and so did Jane, because what we saw in Italy did not reflect what we saw in the
Speller of how the idea came about.
“In Chianti Classico, in the last 10 years, I
Tuscan model of very concentrated wines
with lots of new oak and use of Merlot, that were almost stripped of their Sangiovese identity.
“More and more producers have since
started to focus on Sangiovese, and the
wines for me are much more vibrant and interesting, and show that Sangiovese is
capable of really subtle differences that can reflect terroir.
“A year ago I did a large-scale Sangiovese
tasting of Chianti Classico with Jancis in New York because I had come across so many estates that were doing radically different things like whole-bunch
fermentations, small plot fermentations,
working with concrete eggs and amphorae, or doing long macerations of 30 to 40 days. “A very clear picture appeared of
across Italy’s leading wine regions. Speller tips Romagna as a place
transforming the region’s future.
“We wanted to keep the whole event
independent from producer organisations,” adds Speller, “not because we don’t want to work with them, but we feel that if we
want to convince the market that this is an outstanding grape variety we need to have the best.
“My hypothesis has always been that
a grape variety that has been in Italy for
hundreds and hundreds of years cannot be based on mediocrity.
“You would never judge the Pinot Noir
variety based on the many mediocre wines that are on the market, but that is how
people have viewed Sangiovese. We need to change perceptions.”
Register at huntandspeller.com.
different emerging styles, which was an
Tuesday, March 3
style, the tasting aims to show the variety
London SW1P 2PB
extremely exciting development.”
Rather than focus on a single region or
THE WINE MERCHANT february 2020 48
Royal Horticultural Halls Elverton Street
Vine Trail Portfolio Tasting
Alliance Wine Portfolio Tasting
The Bristol-based importer has a firm
This year’s tasting aims to take a look
following in the independent trade for
into what the future holds for the world
its collection of wines from France and
northern Spain. This year’s London tasting will showcase
the wines of 18 growers, most of whom will be present on the day to pour their wines.
For more information or to register,
email firstname.lastname@example.org. Monday, March 2
Carousel London 71 Blandford Street London W1U 8AB
Fundamentally Alliance believes the key
component is people. The business prides itself on its personal relationships with
its producers and at next month’s tasting around 20 of these personalities will be
in attendance, pouring from a selection of around 300 wines.
Alliance works with a roster of producers
from across Europe and the New World, including Garagiste (Australia), Riecine
(Tuscany), Odjfell (Chile), Abel Mendoza (Rioja), Domaine des Baumard (Loire), Domaine Berthet-Bondet (Jura), Iona
(South Africa), Equipo Navazos (Jerez)
and Paul Hobbs (California). They have
recently been joined by some new wineries including Manos Negras (Argentina), Qupe (California) and San Polino (Tuscany).
Wines from all these producers will be available to try at the tasting.
To register email: events@alliancewine.
Wednesday, March 4 China Exchange 32a Gerrard Street London W1D 6JA
Mentzendorff Portfolio Tasting Mentzendorff boasts an eclectic list including heavyweights such as Bodegas Hidalgo, M Chapoutier, Champagne Bollinger and Delamain Cognac. This year’s tasting features two
seminars. The morning session, starting
around 11am, is hosted by Peter Richards MW and entitled Future Proofing the
Vineyard. The seminar is a discussion on
viticulture and climate, with Bodegas Roda, Turkey Flat and Hamilton Russell signed
up to discuss the challenges that they face as wine producers.
The second seminar at 2pm is a Klein
Constantia Vin de Constance vertical
tasting masterclass, including the 2016 vintage, hosted by Hans Astrom.
To register for the tasting or to book
places at either seminar, email rebecca@
Alessandro Campatelli of Riecine
Essential California The California Wine Institute UK & Ireland is joining forces with California
importers to showcase a wide range of
One Great George Street
served from 1pm to 5pm. Providing a taste
Tuesday, March 3
London SW1P 3AA
wines, priced up to £50 in retail. A California-style barbecue will be
of quintessential California cuisine, fresh
THE WINE MERCHANT february 2020 49
off the grill, the menu will focus on slow
smoking and cooking over coals, including salmon cooked on planks, beef and grilled salads.
For more information or to register,
email email@example.com. Thursday, March 12
The Yard, Shoreditch 89 1/2 Worship Street London EC2A 2BF
MAKE A DATE
Seattle, capital of Washington State, is home to Microsoft and Amazon
Washington State Tasting Washington’s relative scale to California means it will always risk being overshadowed, in wine terms, by its southern counterpart. But as many UK independents know, Washington is far from being a minnow. The state’s viticultural history dates
back two centuries and Washington is
now home to more than 1,000 wineries,
producing a wide diversity of wines from
59,000 acres of vineyard spread across 14 growing regions.
The largest and most familiar region to
UK merchants is Columbia Valley, which is
official figures, the number of wineries has
sub-AVAs within its borders: Red Mountain,
every 15 days.
home to 99% of all the wine grapes grown in the state. It includes some well-known
Yakima Valley, Walla Walla Valley, Wahluke Slope, Rattlesnake Hills, Horse Heaven Hills, Snipes Mountain, Lake Chelan, Naches Heights and Ancient Lakes.
Washington cultivates almost 70 grape
varieties, with Cabernet Sauvignon the
most important, followed by Chardonnay, Riesling, Merlot and Syrah.
The first commercial-scale vineyard
doubled. Today it’s estimated that a new
winery opens somewhere in Washington
Producers like to think of their wines as
varietally typical, displaying a blend of Old World and New World styles. Merchants will have an opportunity to put these claims to the test on March 10.
To register, email arnaud.maltoff@
Tuesday, March 10
plantings began in the 1960s, and
The Hansom, Kings Cross Renaissance
In the past decade alone, according to
London NW1 2AR
investment has poured in ever since,
accelerating markedly in recent times.
THE WINE MERCHANT february 2020 50
Hotel Euston Road
Armit Italian Portfolio Tasting
Last year Armit unveiled a host of new
producers from Piedmont and expanded its offering among its existing agencies. The focus has shifted towards local varieties
Armit may have seen some changes
such as Freisa and more accessible Langhe
as a business in recent years but Italy
wines. “The response has been very
remains the heart and soul of what the
positive and our sales surged throughout
company is about.
2019,” Hill reports. “Indies in particular
are leading the charge here, up 25% year
“We take great pride in representing
some of the finest wines from Italy, but
With consumers ever-more conscious of
also in exploring new generations and
the origin and ethics of their wines, Armit
developing regions,” says brand manager
will be highlighting all vegetarian/vegan/
According to the company, independent
merchants have continued to show
enthusiasm for Italian wine, with lArmit’s
The Langhe landscape
ike-for-like volumes to indies up 16% in
with the introduction of a new producer,
strong overall, with 19% growth in
innovative producers in the appellation.
2019 against 2018, and value up 22%.
“The demand for Tuscan wine remains
independent retail,” Hill adds.
“We are delighted to announce that
we will be investing more in this region
Michele Satta, one of the founders of
Bolgheri DOC, who remains one of the most Giacomo Satta will be presenting these
wines at our tasting in March at one of our masterclasses.”
clearly, and hosting a panel discussion on the future of these issues in the Italian category.
To register, email marketing@
Wednesday, March 4 One Great George Street London SW1P 3AA
Daniel Lambert Portfolio Tasting The Bridgend-based importer, which has established a loyal following in the independent trade, is unveiling a host of recent additions to its agency roster at its fourth annual portfolio tasting. Late last year the company brought on
board Sonoma-based Angeline Winery, along with Bodegas Pascual Larrieta of Rioja Alavesa and Hollick Estate from Coonawarra.
Since then the business has been
appointed UK agent for Champagne de
Saint-Gall, which produces Premier and
Grand Cru wines in partnership with the
Union Champagne group of cooperatives.
Also new to the portfolio is Klinker Brick
Winery from Lodi, most famous for its oldvine Zinfandel.
Languedoc stalwart Calmel & Joseph will
An ancient Zinfandel vine at Klinker Brick Winery
be represented at the tasting, along with a
long list of other French producers that the company represents.
Other mainstays of the Daniel Lambert
stable include Lawson Dry Hills (New
Zealand), Trefethen Family Vineyard (Napa Valley), Montgomery Vineyard (Wales), Westcott Vineyards (Ontario) and R&A
THE WINE MERCHANT february 2020 51
To register for the tasting email carl@
daniellambertwines.co.uk. Tuesday, March 10
Novotel London Paddington 3 Kingdom Street London W2 6BD
MAKE A DATE
Vindependents Portfolio Tasting Vindependents is a collective of independent merchants spread across the UK, acting as an agency business in its own right. Members operate 87 stores, and are free
to select as many or as few wines from the range as they choose, at preferential rates. Find out more at vindependents.co.uk.
of Abreu Vineyards, Dalla Valle Vineyards, Gallica, Robert Sinskey Vineyards, Staglin
2 Regent’s Park Road London NW1 7AY
Yapp Brothers Spring Tasting The event will feature more than 40 wines from both Yapp’s traditional strongholds of the Rhône, Loire and southern France as well as “some exciting new discoveries from further
To register email marketing@
Family Vineyard, TOR Wines and Kindman
Alsatian producer Josmeyer and Joseph
Bernardi’s Restaurant & Bar
Drouhin of Burgundy.
62 Seymour Street
Tuesday, March 24
Les Caves de Pyrene Mad March Tasting
Other names include biodynamic
To register email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sessions House 22 Clerkenwell Green London EC1R 0NA
Wednesday, March 18 Cecil Sharpe House
(Barolo) and Trossos del Priorat.
Raymond Reynolds Portfolio Tastings As part of its 30th anniversary celebrations, Raymond Reynolds will be hosting two full portfolio tastings. The company has established a strong
reputation for its Portuguese specialism
but has a portfolio that reaches into other areas, notably Spain and Germany.
For more information or to register,
Wednesday, March 25
London W1H 5BN
The UK’s leading importer and proponent of natural and minimalintervention wines is back in London to showcase its wares. To register email pr.events@lescaves.
Tuesday, March 24 China Exchange 32a Gerrard Street London W1D 6JA
Thorman Hunt Portfolio Tasting
Monday, March 23
The East Rooms, Tate Modern, Bankside
The importer will be showcasing wines
67 Pall Mall
London SE1 9TG
from across its broad portfolio.
afield”. To register or for more information email
email email@example.com or call Monday, March 23
London SW1Y 5ES
Pol Roger Portfolio Tasting Pol Roger Portfolio is celebrating its 30th anniversary with tastings in
Tuesday, March 24 Mackie Mayor, 1 Eagle Street Manchester M4 5BU
Astrum Spring Trade Tasting
London and Manchester. The business is 95% owned by
Astrum’s impressive portfolio will be
Champagne Pol Roger, with the remaining
open to independent scrutiny next
including a cluster in California in the form
stake held by Glenfarclas. Its portfolio
features an eclectic mix of family estates,
Expect to see wines from Champagne,
Burgundy, Jura, Beaujolais, the Rhône,
the Loire, Alsace, Bordeaux, Languedoc-
Roussillon, south west France, Provence,
Italy, Spain, Hungary, Lebanon, California, New Zealand and Argentina, as well as a selection of spirits.
To register email vanessa@thormanhunt.
Tuesday, March 31
month, including wines from new
Merchant Taylors Hall
additions Albino Rocca (Barbaresco),
30 Threadneedle Street
Cantina Valle Isarco (Alto Adige), Oddero
London EC2R 8JB
THE WINE MERCHANT february 2020 52
© Noradoa / stockadobe.com
Txakoli vineyards in Spain’s Basque country
Wines from Spain Annual Tasting Once again the Sky Garden in London is the venue for the Wines from Spain Annual Tasting, the 31st to take place in the capital. More than 60 importers and exporters of
Spanish wines will present their portfolios on the day, including a selection of the
latest vintages and releases available to the UK. Producers seeking distribution will be among the exhibitors.
Spain continues to perform strongly in
the independent trade, with merchants
displaying a willingness to venture beyond Rioja and other major regions in search of lesser-known styles and varieties.
The tasting is an opportunity to take
stock of all of Spain’s DOs and to check
such as organic wine production. Our
indigenous gems – some with strong
trends and talk to the people behind the
in on the latest developments with
Tempranillo and Garnacha as well as
regional identities such as Galicia’s Mencía and eastern Spain’s Bobal. Spanish whites will also feature heavily as an increasing
number of traditional varieties are making their mark on the wine scene around the world.
Wines from Spain director Fernando
Muñoz says: “We are looking forward to showcasing the extraordinary breadth
and depth of Spain’s wine offering and
to sharing the energy and passion of our
winemakers with both trade visitors and consumers.
“The Spanish wine category continues
to go from strength to strength, showing innovation and leadership in key areas
THE WINE MERCHANT february 2020 53
annual tasting is a great opportunity for all to discover new wines, keep up with new labels.”
Doors will open to consumers in the
evening for a celebration of Spanish wine, food and culture, hosted in partnership
with Three Wine Men. UK wine enthusiasts eager to explore the Spanish wine category will be encouraged to develop their
knowledge, try new styles, discover new regions and enjoy the flavours of Spain
from the top of one of London’s most iconic landmarks.
Tuesday, March 31 Sky Garden 20 Fenchurch Street London EC3M 8AF
walker & Wodehouse 109a Regents Park Road London NW1 8UR 0207 449 1665 firstname.lastname@example.org www.walkerwodehousewines.com
Walker & Wodehouse welcome Small But Perfectly Formed
We are delighted to introduce our new range of wines in a can, Small But Perfectly Formed.
Our goal was to create a range of great tasting, quality wines served in a more convenient and sustainable way. The wines aren’t pasteurised – so the freshness and the quality of the wine doesn’t deteriorate by rapid heating. Cans also shield the wine from UV light so it stays in perfect condition throughout its lifecycle, unlike glass and PET which can suffer from light strike. Small But Perfectly Formed is available as Malbec (Mendoza, Argentina), Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough, New Zealand) and Zinfandel Rose (California, USA). For more information please contact your account manager.
liberty wines 020 7720 5350 email@example.com www.libertywines.co.uk
Two rising stars from Burgundy
by David Gleave MW
We’ve had much to celebrate about Burgundy recently, not only previewing the ripe and forward wines from the 2018 vintage (available this spring) at our tasting last month, but also welcoming two of the region’s rising stars to our portfolio.
Thirteenth generation winemaker Pierre Girardin impressed us with both his
expertise garnered from his father, Vincent Girardin, since childhood and the host of new ideas and practices he has introduced at his own winery in
Meursault. Pierre completed his first vintage in 2017, aged 21, and actively
seeks out interesting, often overlooked parcels and growers who share his commitment to sustainability. To capture the purity of individual sites in his wines, Pierre vinifies on a “micro-cuvée” scale using low intervention
techniques, including indigenous yeasts, very gentle bâtonnage for whites, custom-made barrels, and minimal pigéage for his reds.
The Parinet family (of Château du Moulin-à-Vent) has injected energy
and dynamism into Domaine du Roc des Boutires since its purchase in 2016. With the current generation, Edouard Parinet, at the helm, the
domaine is producing outstanding wines, including the first to join our
list from the small appellation of Mâcon-Solutré. Each parcel from their
0.6 hectares of 45-year-old vines in the commune of Solutré-Pouilly (overlooked by the famed Roche de Solutré limestone escarpment) is vinified separately then blended to give an expressive, richly textured wine with an emphasis on balance and freshness.
THE WINE MERCHANT february 2020 54
LOUIS LATOUR AGENCIES 12-14 Denman Street London W1D 7HJ
0207 409 7276 firstname.lastname@example.org www.louislatour.co.uk
The Banfi Sustainability Report 2018 Banfi is an Italian wine estate with vineyards in Tuscany and Piedmont. Sustainable working practices are at the heart of the business and they have a comprehensive plan in place for its contribution to the fight against climate change addressing the important issue of sustainability in the environment, all laid out in Banfi’s 2018 Sustainability Report. This will interest to those who wish to gain a greater understanding of the work that goes into making top quality wines in today’s challenging environment. The report outlines the established processes Banfi undertake to ensure that every part of the wine production process; from farming the vineyards to the production of the wine, is socially fair, environmentally safe and economically feasible. Banfi was founded 40 years ago and is credited with creating the extraordinary success of Brunello and Montalcino all over the world. The key to this success lies partly in Banfi’s commitment to nurturing its surrounding area and its community by adopting sustainable methods of production and preserving the area’s heritage. Search online at www.castellobanfi.com/en/sustainability/ for the full report.
hatch mansfield New Bank House 1 Brockenhurst Road Ascot Berkshire SL5 9DL 01344 871800 email@example.com www.hatchmansfield.com @hatchmansfield
On Taste at
SITT LONDON 26th February 2020 Lindley Hall
Errazuriz MAX VIII Aconcagua Valley, Chile
Created to celebrate Errazuriz’s 150th anniversary in 2020, Max VIII is so named as the grapes which make up this elegant wine are sourced from the eight “Max” vineyards in the stunning Aconcagua valley. A blend of Syrah, Carmenère and Cabernet Sauvignon, with a touch of Grenache & Mourvedre, it’s a fresh, fruity and beautifully balanced wine.
- Available from Spring 2020 -
Vidal Soler Chardonnay Hawkes Bay, New Zealand
Planted in 2008 the vineyard is situated on an old river bed, naturally low vigour soils and the good airflow of this river bed site, combined with shoot and bunch thinning allow the production of premium Chardonnay. Rich & Complex
Please contact Hatch Mansfield for further information
THE WINE MERCHANT february 2020 55
AWIN BARRATT SIEGEL WINE AGENCIES 28 Recreation Ground Road Stamford Lincolnshire PE9 1EW 01780 755810
VINIPORTUGAL 27TH FEBRUARY 2020 11:00AM - 5:00PM
The Boiler House, London, E1 6RU
Come and meet our producers and taste through their ranges, try Quinta do Portal, from the Douro alongside Herdade do Mouchão, Howard’s Folly and Monte da Ravasqueira all from the Alentejo region. For further details of the wines on pour please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
fine wine partners Thomas Hardy House 2 Heath Road Weybridge KT13 8TB 07552 291045 email@example.com www.finewinepartners.co.uk
NV Rosé Perfect for Mother’s Day
celebrations… A sublime rosé sourced from Piccadilly Valley, in the Adelaide Hills. “Pale pink. The strawberry-accented flavours are totally delicious, and the dosage is relatively low. On a hedonic scale, this is the best of the three Croser releases.” 94 Points – James Halliday, Wine Companion 2019
THE WINE MERCHANT february 2020 56
buckingham schenk Unit 5, The E Centre Easthampstead Road Bracknell RG12 1NF
Casali Del Barone, â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;150 +1â&#x20AC;&#x2122; Barbera, Piemonte
Casali del Barone is a range of wines that reflect the tradition and history of Piedmont. It is the result of a collaboration
01753 521336 firstname.lastname@example.org www.buckingham-schenk.co.uk
between head-winemaker Daniele Ress of Schenk Italia and the 150 members of the Vallebelbo cooperative where this wine is made, hence the 150+1 reference.
A blend of Nebbiolo and Barbera grapes gives this wine
warmth and intensity. Ruby in colour, this Barbera has floral
hints and nuances of red fruit on the nose. On the palate it is a well-rounded and medium-bodied red with a hint of dark chocolate, which will keep you going back for more.
hallgarten wines Dallow Road Luton LU1 1UR 01582 722 538 email@example.com www.hnwines.co.uk
THE WINE MERCHANT february 2020 57
richmond wine agencies
WHISPERING ANGEL 2019 Now available from RWA!
The Links, Popham Close Hanworth Middlesex TW13 6JE 020 8744 5550 firstname.lastname@example.org
This cult rosé is from some of the most favourable sites in the region surrounding La Motte en Provence. The grapes – Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah, Carignan and Vermentino – are harvested in the cool of the morning to retain freshness. Batônnage adds complexity to the pure and elegant profile of this much heralded wine.
Famille Helfrich Wines 1, rue Division Leclerc, 67290 Petersbach, France email@example.com 07789 008540 @FamilleHelfrich
They’re all smiles to your face …
THE WINE MERCHANT february 2020 58
mentzendorff The Woolyard 52 Bermondsey Street London SE1 3UD 020 7840 3600 firstname.lastname@example.org www.mentzendorff.co.uk
enotria & COE 23 Cumberland Avenue London NW10 7RX www.enotriacoe.com 020 8961 5161
Roadshow tastings in February Enotria&Coe will be on the road on February with a who’s who from the world of wine. Mark your diaries now, you won’t want to miss this! Brighton, Monday 24th London, Tuesday 25th
Manchester, Wednesday 26th Edinburgh, Thursday 27th
THE WINE MERCHANT february 2020 59