The Wine Merchant issue 88 (February 2020)

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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

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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

Hills region.

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



BLACK ELEPHANT VINTNERS & CO. FRANSCHHOEK, SOUTH AFRICA . 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

and suppliers.

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, 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 /

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

fundraising activities:

• 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

these days.

YouTube and notice that the audience is

Philip Trease

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

Mark Wrigglesworth

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 or or 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


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.

Georg Prieler

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

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.”


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

ABV: 14.5%

ABV: 14.5%

North South Wines (01432 262800)

Liberty Wines (020 7720 5350)

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

ABV: 14%

Hatch Mansfield (01344 871800)

He’s sculpted a bracing, tightly-wound wine, with subtle fruit and moreish citrus sourness. RRP: £11.49

ABV: 13%

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.

ABV: 14.5%

RRP: £28.99

Layton’s (0207 288 8880 )

ABV: 13%

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

ABV: 13.5%

Hatch Mansfield (01344 871800)

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

ABV: 14.5%

Doran Family Vintners (07968 803256)

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

THE WINE MERCHANT february 2020 16

• Read more of Lucy’s creative merchandising tips



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

has found.

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



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

January 24

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

international level,

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 /

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@ 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:


London China Exchange 32a Gerrard Street W1D 6JA Wednesday 4th March | 11am - 6pm

THE WINE MERCHANT february 2020 23

Matt Illman The Wine Reserve, Cobham

© johnalexandr /

Rising Stars


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

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 /


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



BUY 12%

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








THE WINE MERCHANT february 2020 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

flexi-tank to

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 for an entry form or email


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 /

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

bargain price.

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?


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

Mange Tout.

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

and wine?

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


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

the moment?

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


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

wine 35%.

anything yourself?

and sweatshirts.

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.


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

coming wines.

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 /

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


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 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, call 020 7609 4711 or email

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,

selling Champagne?

of Bollinger, Roederer, Pol Roger. When

we’ve been shipping for

which is the vintage. Everything after that

Our biggest-selling

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?

Tanners 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

© Miki Studio /

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 01707 274790

Distributed by Hatch Mansfield 01344 871800

Charles Philipponnat

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 /


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


Sangiovese Reset

“Sangiovese is capable of really subtle differences that can reflect terroir”

Sangiovese Reset

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

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

of wine.

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 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 Thursday, March 12

The Yard, Shoreditch 89 1/2 Worship Street London EC2A 2BF


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

on year.”

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/

Alex Hill.

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.”

organic/biodynamic/sustainable wines

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

Pfaffl (Austria).

To register for the tasting email carl@ Tuesday, March 10

Novotel London Paddington 3 Kingdom Street London W2 6BD


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

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

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

Tuesday, March 24 China Exchange 32a Gerrard Street London W1D 6JA

01662 742230.

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 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 /

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


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


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

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 for the full report.

hatch mansfield New Bank House 1 Brockenhurst Road Ascot Berkshire SL5 9DL 01344 871800 @hatchmansfield

Introducing .....

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



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

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

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, ‘150 +1’ 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

@BuckSchenk @buckinghamschenk

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


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


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 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

enotria & COE 23 Cumberland Avenue London NW10 7RX 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