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THE WINE MERCHANT. An independent magazine for independent retailers

Issue 89, March 2020

Dog of the Month: Digby Hawkins Bros, Godalming

Reasons to be cheerful in 2020 Survey of 200 busineses shows confidence slowly returning in a trade that saw sales fall by 11% last year

O

ptimism about the coming year

has seen a modest uplift among independent wine merchants,

following a challenging 2019 for traders.

According to The Wine Merchant’s annual

survey of independents, 19% of merchants are “very optimistic” about achieving a

sales increase in 2020, with 44% declaring

themselves to be “fairly confident” of doing better than they did last year.

Despite store numbers holding up well

in 2019, the survey shows that as a whole,

turnover dipped by 11.4% to an average of £550,049 per shop.

This year, 14% of indies say they

are likely to open additional branches,

compared to 11% in the 2019 survey, and 40% expect to increase staff numbers, a figure up from 37% last time.

However the proportion of businesses

expected to sell up this year has quadrupled to 8%.

Shop sales mow account for just under

60% of turnover, down slightly on 2019, with margins holding steady at around

35%. Drink-in sales have risen to 12.5% of the trade’s overall turnover, with average margins of just under 60%.

Wholesale margins are marginally up at

21.8%, but sales from this revenue channel have hit a new low of 15.9% of turnover. • Survey coverage begins on page 24 and continues in our April edition.

Bob’s on the job Tanners in Shrewsbury was one of a number of wine merchants affected by the February floods, but Robert Boutflower was determined to make sure deliveries got through, come hell or high water


EDITORIAL

Inside this month 6 comings & Goings The indies openings in Bristol, Oxford and Hove

12 tried & tested We’re getting whiffs of saddles, mulberries and mystery animals

22 david williams Great wine is made in the vineyard. Maybe the lab, too

24 reader survey Part one of this year’s coverage starts here and continues in April

32 three pillars wine How a humble Staffordshire off-licence transformed into a specialist wine merchant

40 english wine An assessment of 2018 Pinot Noir and a preview of Wine Week The Spirits World, page 48; Make a Date, page 52; Supplier Bulletin, page 57

This is what Brexit will look like, and it’s not going to be pretty

A

t the time of going to press, the budget hadn’t happened, and we didn’t know what sort of duty increases might be coming our way. But this year, an excise hike is unlikely be the worst of the independent trade’s worries. As we report in this month’s issue, some of the fog has lifted and merchants are slightly more optimistic about their prospects for the coming year than they were at the start of what turned out to be a very tricky 2019. But look towards the horizon and you can’t fail to spot an almighty spanner, dangled precariously over the trade’s collective works. Life is about to get fiendishly complicated for anyone in the UK who imports wine from within the EU, and smaller merchants will be hit disproportionately hard. What follows is not Remainer scaremongering, or a worst-case scenario projection. It is the default position that will apply if current plans for the free-trade agreement with the EU are implemented next year. • VI1 documents will be required for every order, including a lab analysis and food safety verification signed by a government inspector. Aside from the fundamental problem of a lack of suitable

lab facilities across Europe, this paperwork will slow down ordering and add to costs. • The current ECMS system will not apply to the UK, meaning importers will need a full Customs declaration from their export partners. Trucks can expect lengthy and costly delays at UK ports, where border staffing is currently inadequate. • All bottles shipped from the EU to the UK will need bespoke back labels naming the individual importer – which may prove too much hassle for producers dealing with a number of small or medium sized UK partners. • VAT must be paid on arrival in the UK rather than through a VAT return. To manage this, Cambridge Wine Merchants has calculated its business will need an extra £70,000 of working capital. If this information comes as a surprise to any wine merchant, it underlines the point that, to date, communication about the post-Brexit arrangements has been confusing, contradictory and piecemeal. Many indies simply don’t know what they’ll be dealing with in 2021. Word needs to get out fast. It’s the only way that the industry can unite – and make its case to those in power that the situation, as it stands, will be hugely damaging for a trade that has quietly become a real British success story.

THE WINE MERCHANT MAGAZINE

winemerchantmag.com 01323 871836 Twitter: @WineMerchantMag Editor and Publisher: Graham Holter graham@winemerchantmag.com Assistant Editor: Claire Harries claire@winemerchantmag.com Sales and Business Development: Georgina Humphrey georgina@winemerchantmag.com Accounts: Naomi Young winemerchantinvoices@gmail.com The Wine Merchant is circulated to the owners of the UK’s 916 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 MARCH 2020 2


© creativenature.nl / stockadobe.com

NEWS

Win one of three trips to NZ New Zealand Winegrowers is offering UK independents the chance to attend Pinot Noir New Zealand in February 2021. For a chance to win one of the three

prizes up for grabs, including return flights,

Vineyards at Blenheim

domestic flights, accommodation, meals

and event registrations, merchants need to run a stand-out New Zealand promotion

campaigns, including an uplift in sales.

formers, or merchants – is an unparalleled

Entry is free and retailers must list at

“Attending Pinot Noir New Zealand will

Kiwi welcome is gigantic, generous and

Previous trip winner Duncan McLean,

for at least two weeks during April and

of Kirkness & Gorie in Orkney, says:

May 2020.

change your business, and quite possibly

least six different New Zealand wines from

your life.

at least three different varieties or regions,

“The chance to meet and mingle with

including at least one Pinot Noir.

hundreds of the world’s greatest Pinot

The judges will be looking for creativity

experts – whether winemakers, opinion-

as well as the overall effectiveness of the

opportunity to expand your knowledge

and taste hundreds of top wines. And the genuine.”

Imagery, POS and other educational

information is readily available to

participants. To register, email chris.

stroud@nzwine.com by Friday, March 27.

E N G L IS H

Wine Week

Sat 23 — Sun 31 May 2020 As retailers, your involvement in English Wine Week can help promote your store and the English wines you stock. From in-store tastings to featured wines and promotions, there are plenty of ways you can celebrate!

GET INVOLVED! Visit winegb.co.uk/trade for more information, marketing materials, ideas & to list your event www.winegb.co.uk Winesofgreatbritain

WineGB Wine_GB

#EnglishWineWeek Image © Gusbourne, 2020

THE WINE MERCHANT MARCH 2020 4


A call from the Prosecco police

“The sparkling wine we served from our

Vagabond has attracted the unwelcome

legally called Prosecco.”

attention of the Consorzio di Tutela della Denominazione di Origine Controllata Prosecco, aka the Prosecco Police. The crime in question: serving Prosecco

from the APM (Automated Prosecco

Machine) that the company set up to mark the opening of its new London store.

The Consorzio’s stance is that Prosecco

cannot be called Prosecco if it has been

packaged in anything other than a glass bottle.

Annah McKendry, head of marketing at

Vagabond, says: “The whole APM thing was a bit of fun – a big yellow box of fun in a

gloomy, wet January, but [the Consorzio] has been very aggressive and unhelpful

because the Prosecco is from a keg rather

than a glass bottle with a mushroom cork.” “Consumers have a right to know the

provenance of the products they consume,” adds Stephen Finch, Vagabond’s owner.

APM is from the Prosecco region and even

the same vineyards and factories. The glass bottle version of this sparkling wine is

The enthusiastic efforts of the Italians

to protect the brand means that any

establishment serving Prosecco on tap,

while calling it Prosecco rather than, say,

Italian sparkling wine, could be up for more than a slap on the wrist.

“Vagabond’s beloved APM would seem

to be verboten under pain of lawsuit,” says Finch. “This is hugely frustrating for us

as we try to find more environmentally

sustainable ways to bring our favourite wines to consumers. We invited the

Consorzio to reconsider its misguided

policy and work with us towards a solution that’s more environmentally sustainable and provides greater transparency of provenance.”

Meanwhile, loath to give up on the eye-

catching dispenser, Vagabond has simply moved the offending machine in-store at

Monument and re-christened it the ABM: Automatic Bubbles Machine.

“Our Man with the Facts” • Grapevines experience two types of dormancy in the winter. Endodormancy involves dehydration and means the plant can tolerate even extreme cold with almost all of its biological systems shut down. Normally vines need around 150 hours of chilling time before entering ecodormancy, during which time the plant is ready to grow, once temperatures hit the required temperatures.

....... • Torrontés is regarded as Argentina’s signature white grape, even though the name is applied to at least three distinct varieties in the country. The name is also given to grapes grown in Spain and Portugal, with questionable links to their South American cousins.

....... • The earliest Champagne harvest on record was officially August 21, 2018, although growers in the Grand Cru of Ambonnay were given permission to start picking on August 17 that year as their grapes were already so ripe.

.......

The flooding caused by Storm Ciara has left Blas ar Fwyd in North Wales needing a complete re-fit. All is not lost as owner Deiniol ap Dafydd and his team have been able to set up a temporary wine and deli shop over the road in their Café Amser Da. Deiniol and his son Osian Deiniol are pictured outside the shop before Storm Ciara hit.

THE WINE MERCHANT MARCH 2020 5

• The Iranian equivalent of marc or grappa is called Aragh Sagi, which translates as “doggy distillate”. Its production is always covert, with some examples hitting 80% abv.


The best of Italy, the best of Kent Since taking the Faversham site previously owned by Hercules Wines under its wing last year, Macknade has really hit its stride with a new food hall and wine shop opening in Ashford in February. Manager Finn Dunlop says: “Macknade at

Elwick Place is a different concept to what

we do at Faversham, where I would say we have 70% retail with 30% food service.

“In Ashford we are flipping that on its

head, and it will be more food service but with a strong element of retail. There are a number of counters including a deli,

MD Stefano Cuomo (right) and father Renato Cuomo, who started the retail side of the business

butchery and salad bar and they are retail

Macknade Fine Wines. To decide which

Place, describes what Macknade has to

have it cooked right in front of them.

Italian company,” he explains, “with

says, “as well as our customers’ growing

or eat in – so a customer could order a

steak from the butcher’s counter and opt to “The bar is the same – there is a

very tight by-the-glass list, but we are

encouraging people to buy a bottle and

drink in for a corkage fee. Equally they can buy to take away.”

Initially there will be around 40 wines

for retail, which Dunlop managed to

select from the 200-plus range he has at

wines made the cut, he had to go back to the company’s roots. “We are a Kentish-

Kentish-Italian ownership, so we wanted to make sure the range reflected that

heritage. All our wines by the glass are

either from Kent or Italy, and on top of that we wanted a broad selection from around the world encompassing different styles and grapes.”

Pete Bowler, general manager at Elwick

offer its new audience. “Our new site will

celebrate and support local businesses,” he desire to shop and eat locally.

“We have a fantastic community of staff,

customers and suppliers in Faversham and we are looking forward to building that same affection at Elwick Place.

“People are increasingly looking to

support businesses with sustainability and provenance at their core. These are two of the guiding principles for Macknade

and these haven’t wavered for the last 40 years.”

So, what’s next for the company? Dunlop

admits that there’s more expansion to

follow. “All the hard work that has gone

into opening Elwick Place is now done and so it’s ready to replicate when opening a

third site, a fourth site …” he says. “We’ve lots going on and it’s very exciting.” • Grape & Bean in Hexham,

Northumberland, which was formerly a branch of Bin 21, has closed. The company prided itself on “café culture ambience” and “sophistication and character that would not be out of place in a Parisian street”.

Initially 40 wines are on the Ashford list

THE WINE MERCHANT MARCH 2020 6


Adeline Mangevine Cave man boasts green credentials Bristol’s indie scene continues to grow with the launch of new hybrid. Owner Martin Hagen describes Cave as

“a wine shop during the day and a wine bar and small restaurant in the evening”.

Hagen’s background is in restaurants

and hospitality, as well as stints working in French wineries. “I’ve been thinking about an idea for a business that encompassed wine, food, shop, bar and restaurant,” he

explains, “and now I’ve got the opportunity to do it.”

He’s working with suppliers including

Les Caves de Pyrene, Vine Trail, Vintage Roots, Indigo and Newcomer Wines to

Hasty despatches from the frontline of wine retailing

A

pparently, I cannot call myself a wine merchant because I

don’t import any wine. This

is according to a fellow trader, featured

not so long ago in this publication, who brings in most of his wine. I suppose

if you look at the true definition of the

word “merchant” he has a point. I don’t trade with foreign businesses directly on a wholesale basis. But neither, I

imagine, do many of the 916 specialist

independent shops who receive The Wine Merchant magazine. However, before we all switch our allegiances over to Drinks Retailing News, let’s ponder this for a minute.

If I am not a wine merchant, then what

create a European-focused range. Hagen

am I? Off-licence sounds so pedestrian

are conscious of sustainability, so we are

down-at-heel parts of town, where you

says: “We have some great wine from

Austria, Slovenia, Hungary and beyond. We working with smaller producers who are growing and farming that way.”

Cave’s eco credentials go further with its

collaboration with More Wine, a bag-inbox company. “They have lots of low-

intervention wine, but in BiB,” says Hagen. “We’ll have three whites and three reds

– all will be available as refill and they will

these days. It smacks of booze, fags and crisps joints on corners in the more pop in to stock up on cheap Chilean

Merlot and big-brand vodka at 10.30pm.

at any time, but the addition of an in-house chef in the evenings will transform the

space into a restaurant and bar. “It’s quite an industrial look, with lots of wood, nice

Licence News changed its name.

Independent Specialist Wine Retailer

reflects my business. I may also be a

re-seller using intermediaries for stock,

I do indeed have a cheap Chilean Merlot, but this has been curated – I’ve selected it from a slew of samples called in from

a number of suppliers, and my palate is still barely talking to me.

I work with a lot of suppliers, many

oak tops and a painted concrete floor,”

of them quite small, so I can select an

the use of lighter paint contrasting with

cheap Chilean Merlot. I know a fair few

says Hagen, “and the shop part is much

lighter with some exposed brickwork and

the seating area, which is darker and more atmospheric.”

of the strain, thank you. I don’t sell fags

or cigars, nor do I sell cheap spirits, and my snacks are definitely a cut above –

chicharróns and garlic-stuffed olives, if you please. I could go on, but I can see

many of you nodding in agreement as I

write this. Maybe not at the snacks – but at how we run our businesses.

I don’t import wine. So am I a fraud if I describe myself as a merchant? There’s a snag to the term

introduce you at a party. Merchant is just

community. People really embrace it.”

glass of wine with cheese and charcuterie

purchases, I let my suppliers take most

terroir anytime soon. There’s a reason Off

and-carry. You won’t find them discussing

but my proposition is entirely different.

Customers will be welcome to enjoy a

While I’ve dabbled in a little ex-cellar

Independent Specialist Wine Retailer

mega distributors and the rest from cash-

be on by the glass too.

are lots of sustainable initiatives in the

thousands of pounds in unsold stock.

Whose owners buy from a couple of

sounds a lot better, and more accurately

“Bristol has a very green ethos and there

vineyards – without having to tie up

exciting and diverse range – while still

remaining accessible to those who want

of my winemakers and have visited their

THE WINE MERCHANT MARCH 2020 7

though, isn’t there? It’s wordy. No one is ever going to use this term when they so much easier to say.

Soon, however, I may not have to use

the term fraudulently. I’ve

been chatting with another couple of wine retailers I met on a trip about

bringing in some wines together as

an informal

buying group.

I look forward

to the day when I, too, can say anyone who

doesn’t do that is not really a wine merchant.


Eynsham sets out its stall in Oxford

KeyKeg system: two reds, two whites, a

Eynsham Cellars is collaborating with

years ago. “Iain and I started in wine shops

microbrewers Church Hanbrewery on a new hybrid shop in Oxford’s covered market. The Market Cellar Door opened in

early February. Oli Gauntlett, co-owner of

Eynsham Cellars, says: “Initially we’re just

rosé and a sparkling.

Gauntlett and business partner Iain

Boyce established Eynsham Cellars over 10 in Oxford and we’ve always had a desire to

be there,” he says. “The Market Cellar Door

is just a one-off – we’re not actively looking to expand further at the moment.”

Steve Pineau has opened in Hove

Steve Pineau and Dimitri Mesnard of

doing Tuesday to Saturday because we’re a bit stretched staff-wise.

L’Atelier du Vin, protégés of the late Gerard

decision and it opened two weeks later.”

hybrid business.

Basset, have teamed up with Phil Bartley,

“It all happened very quickly: the

of GB Charcuterie, to create this novel

opportunity came up, we made the

Cases sells wines from France, Spain,

Oxford council is investing heavily in the

Italy and California, with English sparkling

covered market, which is already home to several independent food and drink

retailers, and Gauntlett admits the business has been given pretty favourable terms to start.

“They’ve given us an initial first six

months on a low rate until we find our feet

and before the market starts opening in the evenings,” he says. “They want to create a

An early customer at The Market Cellar Door

Chorizo, cheese and Champagne

food and drinks hub, and that makes sense.

At Cases, a new wine shop and bar in

have great food markets with wine bars in

Chorizo are paired with Sussex and Kent

250 wines. Six wines are on tap via a

(for £10 corkage), or sold to take away.

If you look at places like Brixton, Tooting,

Hove, Smelly Ha’Peth and Wookey Hole

them.”

sparkling wines.

Altrincham … places like that all seem to

The new venture has a range of around

Cheddar cheeses and Cornish Chilli

The wines are served by the glass, bottle

wines accounting for 55 of its range of 350 bins. Takeaway wine bottles range from £15 to £500. Suppliers include Georges Barbier and Lea & Sandeman.

“Focusing on British cheeses and French

wines would have created a clash,” jokes

Pineau, who says local wines are cheaper than some of their Champagne rivals.

Pineau reckons punters will pop in for

cheese, and then add a bottle of wine, and vice versa. He has no doubts regarding

footfall on Hove’s bustling Western Road. “I first thought takeaway sales would

account for 10% of sales, but I now think

that figure will be more like 20%,” he says.

Gift packs with eco appeal New from WBC, Flexi-Hex is described as a “contemporary, courier-proof gifting solution” for single and double-bottle packs. “The plastic-free honeycomb protector for shipping bottles is both a gift pack and transit in one,” the company says. “It matches the same level of strength as polystyrene or inflatable bag alternatives, but is entirely paper-based, with a whopping 85% recycled paper content, 15% fibres and starch.” Prices start at £1.95 per unit plus VAT.

THE WINE MERCHANT MARCH 2020 8


SPONSORED EDITORIAL

COME AND EXPLORE THE RANGE Pol Roger Portfolio is hosting trade tastings in London on March 24 and in Manchester on March 26, where the full line-up will be on show to independent merchants

F

ollowing the success of the first

agency-wide Pol Roger Portfolio tasting in a decade in 2019, the

agency house is expanding its reach in

2020, with two tastings planned, in London and Manchester.

2020 marks 30 years of the Pol Roger

Portfolio, founded in 1990, and in

celebration of the company’s evolution

it is hosting two tastings to showcase its

full range, from across the globe. Since its foundation, the agency house has gone

from strength to strength, starting the year

with the announcement that two new firstclass agencies, Kinsman Eades and TOR

Wines, are joining the portfolio, and the

Many of the wines in the range will be poured by the principals themselves

tastings will mark the first opportunity for the trade to try these wines.

The outstanding range of producers

represented by the Portfolio now

travel to Manchester and welcome guests

expectations; we were delighted to

Robert Sinskey Vineyards, Staglin Family

views over the city.

which informed serious buying decisions.

comprises Champagne Pol Roger, Bodegas

Artadi, Joseph Drouhin, Domaine Josmeyer, Vineyard, Abreu, Gallica, Kinsman Eades, TOR Wines and Grand Tokaj as well as Glenfarclas Highland Single Malt.

The predominance of family ownership

is not coincidental: the company’s view is that the best practices in wine and

spirit production and family ownership

are symbiotic. Experience has shown that family ownership equates to a long-term view and a personal investment in the

brand’s longevity, thus a commitment to the very best quality.

On March 24 many of the company’s

principals will be present at Sessions

House, London, a grand Grade II* listed

building, with a rich heritage befitting of

the wines and whiskies on offer. On March 26, and in similar style, the tasting will

to Cloud 23 Bar, located on the 23rd floor of Beetham Tower, offering unrivalled

Each agency will have a dedicated tasting

area, showcasing core lines and exciting

new releases as well as some library stock. There will also be a separate room for a series of masterclasses.

Beyond the unveiling of Kinsman Eades

and TOR Wines, highlights of the tasting include the newly released Pol Roger

Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill 2009 as well as Pol Roger Rosé from the much-lauded

2012 vintage. It will also be the launch of

several new vintages from the company’s Californian producers, available in very

small quantities, including the 2015s from Gallica and the 2016s from Staglin Family Vineyards.

Managing director James Simpson

MW says: “2019 exceeded all of our

THE WINE MERCHANT MARCH 2020 9

discover that there was a genuine appetite for a comprehensive agency-wide tasting “We want to be able to invite all of our

existing and potential customers, from

across the country, hence expanding our

geographical reach with a tasting in both

London and Manchester. We look forward to welcoming our agency principals from across the world.”

Register to attend at events@polroger.

co.uk.

Find out more Visit www.polroger.co.uk Twitter: @Pol_Roger


Two new sites for Oxford Wine Co The Oxford Wine Company opened a concession at Millets Farm, Frilford, near Abingdon, earlier this month. Technically this is the company’s

fourth site although owner Ted Sandbach characteristically underplays it.

“In a sense it’s a fourth shop,” he says,

“although it’s really formalising our

existing relationship with Millets Farm. “We’ve been providing wine to them

for about 20 years, but they were also

buying from a number of sources and now The orginal founders of Philglas & Swiggot, Karen and Mike Rogers, popped over from Australia to join Justin Knock and members of the O’Brien family to celebrate the recent refurbishment of the Marylebone store, which now also operates as a wine bar. They are pictured fourth and fifth from left.

they’ve asked us to go in and take it over completely.”

It will be clear that the concession is very

much an Oxford Wine Company offshoot, with associated branding and signage.

Sandbach says the added attraction was

that it will pretty much run itself. “They have their own member of staff already who looks after the existing range of

wines, so [Standlake shop manager] Thom Allinson will just need to pop in once or twice a week to keep an eye on things.

We’ll have a limited range of a hundred

or so wines with some really good shelftalkers so that everything is really clear and obvious.”

Meanwhile, the business has ventured

outside of its heartland for the first time with the launch of a second piano bar, under the Sandys banner, in London.

“It’s all part of the Oxford Wine group,”

explains Sandbach.

“It’s a slightly loose term because we

have the Oxford Wine Café, four shops, the wholesale side and the piano bars, which are my youngest son George’s business.

“The Oxford one is going extremely well

so he wanted to replicate it, and he’s had The Sandys piano bar in Chelsea is part of the Oxford Wine group

THE WINE MERCHANT MARCH 2020 10

his eye on London for some time.”

The new bar is situated in Old Brompton

Road in Chelsea.


NOT YOU AGAIN!

customers we could do without

10. Simon “Sideways” Penhalligon … Yes, I suppose you could say I’m sort of in your game myself, in a manner of speaking … little wine club I run … started out as a bit of fun but actually it’s really taken off and I get asked to talk at all sorts of places. What people like, you see, is that I don’t talk down to them or get all snobby about wine like most people in the trade do – all that “aromas of blackcurrants and bonfires!” malarkey, or “this wine is better than

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that wine because it comes from a different slope” … I try to have a bit

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of fun with it and demystify the subject. People say to me afterwards,

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“we thought it would be terribly dry and pompous, but you really injected some humour into it”, and that makes my day, really. Mind you

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it can get a little risqué, especially after a few glasses, but never blue! Like Pinot Noir – you know, the grape – I might call it Pee No More just to get their attention! Or when I talk about Cabernet I might burst into

ANAGRAM TIME

song: “Life is a Cabernet!” We do have a laugh. Look, here’s my card, I’d be more than happy to give a talk here one evening, it would be a completely different way of approaching things for you – a sideways look at wine with Simon! You

Can you unscramble the following winemaking regions? If so, you win a lie-in with a person of your choice.

could introduce me, you know, like the straight man, and we could have some friendly banter as I come on. Have a think. Number’s on the card but that should be a 6 at the end, not a 9, I didn’t have my reading glasses on when I used the machine in the railway station. What am I like …

Georg Prieler

1. Calmer Navel 2. Lawn Darts 3. Agile Toad 4. LambHour.org 5. Extremer Nudes Mark Matisovits

THE WINE MERCHANT MARCH 2020 11


Rising Stars

TRIED & TESTED

Viña Echeverría No es Pituko Viognier 2019 The name translates as “it ain’t fancy”, which is a good

Vicki Monaghan Reserve Wines, Didsbury

description of the minimalist winemaking technique

C

reativity, imagination, curiosity and a certain zest for life are common traits of wine trade professionals – so it should be no surprise when someone jumps ship from a similarly creative industry to become a wine merchant. Vicki Monaghan had spent 10 successful years in advertising when she started to think of making a career change. She says: “While I was looking around for what direction I could take, I did my WSET level 2 to see if that was where I wanted to go. I was moving from London to Manchester with my partner and Reserve was the company I had set my sights on – I really wanted to work for them. “One of the reasons I anticipated I’d like the job is because of the daily interactions with people – I thought I’d love helping customers to choose their wine and that they would go away feeling happy and satisfied.” Reserve’s operations manager, Michael Stanton, is pleased to confirm that this is indeed the case. “Every customer who comes in is on first-name terms with Vicki,” he says. “She knows where they’ve been on holiday and asks them about their families. People are popping in just to say hello – it’s great. “Retail is so tough and those sorts of relationships are what set us apart and keep customers coming back. Those people are going to come to our tastings and probably use our other sites too.” Vicki started as a sales assistant in September 2018 and the following May she was promoted to assistant manager, a role she says is a sign she’s “on the right track”. Michael says: “Vicki has really hit the ground running with loads of ideas and lots of ambition. She took a career change at a time when most people are probably looking to settle and she took the plunge, sacrificing a lot in terms of salary and personal hours to come into an environment that she’s really passionate about.” Earlier this year Vicki ran her own tasting event at the shop, which was a sell-out, an outcome she describes as being “awesome and also terrifying, in equal measure!” She is already in the process of planning more, along with complementary window displays. “I get quite a lot of autonomy here,” she explains, “and I feel supported by the team to be personally quite inventive and try new things. I don’t think any experience is ever wasted and it has been satisfying to be able to draw on some older experience and knowledge to enhance what I do here.”

Vicki wins a bottle of TOR Durell Chardonnay 2016 To nominate a rising star in your business, email claire@winemerchantmag.com

(ungrafted vines, no added sulphur) but it perhaps sells the liquid itself a little short. The project is

something of a departure for an old family estate: the wine is cloudy, juicy and joyously fruity. RRP: £12.99

ABV: 14%

Hallgarten & Novum Wines (01582 722538) hnwines.co.uk

Somm in the Must Rescued Zweigelt 2005 Sommeliers Nicolas Pierron and Pierrick Gorrichon

tracked down a 13-year-old wine resting on its fine lees in a barrel in Gesersdorf, in the Kremstal appellation. They collaborated with its producer to finalise the

cuvée and the result is a revelation: fresh as a daisy, but with a gamey, earthy intensity. Cerebral fare. RRP: £32.50

ABV: 13%

Flint Wines (0207 582 2500) flintwines.com

Menade La Mision 2017 The vines are up to 140 years old, producing Verdeja grapes (which are slightly smaller than Verdejo and

grow in more oval bunches). Based very close to the village of Rueda, the Sanz family use a mixture of

French oak, stainless steel and amphora ageing to

craft a ripe but zesty wine, with orchardy intensity and maybe even a hint of chilli on the finish. RRP: £24.99

ABV: 13%

Boutinot (0161 908 1300) boutinot.com

Ten Minutes by Tractor Down the Hill Estate Pinot Noir 2017 The Mornington Peninsula producer has now split its Estate Pinot in two, with the fruit here coming

from lower and warmer sites. The company describes this as “more masculine” than Up the Hill, though it’s nicely weighted, with the kind of sweet-and-savoury flavours that characterise the best Aussie Pinots. RRP: £31

ABV: 13%

Bancroft Wines (020 7232 5450) bancroftwines.com

THE WINE MERCHANT MARCH 2020 12


Painted Wolf Guillermo Pinotage 2017 Pinotage’s rehabilitation continues apace with the

latest release of this Swartland wine, produced with organic fruit from the original vines planted on the

estate 14 years ago. The nose suggests all manner of

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North South Wines (020 3871 9210) northsouthwines.co.uk

Allram Grüner Veltliner Ried Gaisberg 1ÖTW 2018 Five months of lees ageing in large oak casks adds

depth to an already charismatic wine, sourced from premier cru vines in a famous Kamptal vineyard.

The warm vintage contributes yet more honeyed richness, but those pure, consistent Grüner characters shine through. RRP: £32.75

ABV: 14%

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Vidussi Collio Malvasia 2018 The Vidussi estate is in the heart of the Collio

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THE WINE MERCHANT MARCH 2020 14


The Big Fortified Tasting is back! 23rd April 2020 The single largest wine show in the world which is solely dedicated to fortified wines.

"...the Big Fortified Tasting, the massive showcase of fortified wines held every year in London, which is so unusually comprehensive that professionals fly in from all over Europe." Jancis Robinson

“I don’t know of any other show that has exactly this angle. You can see how engaging and interesting it is because you see the quality of the people who come. It’s a really unmissable event for the trade.” Sarah Abbott MW

Church House Conference Centre, Westminster, London Register now at www.thebft.co.uk Featuring port, sherry, madeira, vermouth and fortified wines from Andalusia, Australia, Sardinia, Sicily, Tuscany & the Azores

THE WINE MERCHANT MARCH 2020 15


Planning the perfect pop-u There are so many ideas out there for summer pop-ups. Taking your business outside your shop can be a great method of building more sales. The tricky issue is trusting the great British summer, but why not test the water?

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. In the third of a series of articles for The Wine Merchant, she offers advice on how to produce effective pop-ups for summer events

When considering structures to use, think about transport. This really is where the cost can mount up. If you’re going to test the water with one event, then maybe use something you can borrow or hire rather than going to whole hog.

Simple additions can make all the difference to a basic structure. Maybe some “thatched roofing” or a fun, eye-catching colour scheme or a large deckchair for Instagram moments. You can put shelving inside – from a shell you can make something a little bit more exciting.

I found a guy in the north on Gumtree who makes back garden bars for people.

seating for a very low cost with some outdoor paint

It was popular for the World Cup. He put together an

have been delivered to you then the hard work at

AIX rosé bar structure for me and it comes down into

the beginning is obviously sanding them off and

parts.

not making them dangerous things to sit on or lean

and a vision. If you’re going to use pallets that

NATIVE

CREATIVE

against. But they are affordable and once you’ve

Hay bale seating can work really well. You

done the work you’ve got a structure that lasts really

can source them locally to save money or find them

well. Again, you can pull those apart and move

on eBay or Gumtree. The great thing about summer

them around quite easily. There are lots of ideas and

pop-ups is they can scream shabby chic and still look

tutorials online.

awesome.

Pallets are something we all have easy access to. You can make a solid structure and

THE WINE MERCHANT MARCH 2020 16

With the AIX bar I applied a coat of primer and then an overcoat, and the next year I just used a spray can to touch up. You can


up

ENOMATIC

Stories

Rebekah Browning ND John Swansea

make it look less shabby and a little bit glossier by using things like branded acrylic boards and I guess you could use a stencil technique to do the branding if you want to keep it at the shabbier end.

“The Enomatics are absolutely worth the investment … they’ve been a massive gamechanger for us”

Tell us about your Enomatics. We’ve had them for about a year and we’ve recently moved them because we’re setting up a dedicated tasting area for them. Initially they were near the counter and we have just been using them to dispense free tasting samples. We’re really excited that soon our customers will be able to come in and sit down to enjoy a proper sized glass of wine. We are just waiting for a couple of things to be sorted out with licensing and we’ll be up and running. Have they changed your business? They have really helped our bottle sales. Obviously we sell loads of our classics that the customers are really familiar with but now we are selling more of the wine that didn’t tend to leave the shelves so easily. It’s completely changed what we sell. Yes, they are hi-tech and not cheap but they are absolutely worth the investment. They’ve been a massive game-changer for us. They are great for staff as well because it enables us to try what we have. What’s the most esoteric wine you’ve had on taste? Over Christmas we put an ice wine in there and that’s not something our customers would normally go for, but it was flying out. It was like a glass of liquid caramel – everyone absolutely loved it. People came back to buy a few bottles over the Christmas period. We have 16 bottles on, eight red and eight white, and sometimes we stick a couple of rosés in the white section. It would be nice to have a sparkling one – maybe one day.

You can save money by making a bar out of whatever material is available, and then getting a cloth printed to cover the entire front. They’re not massively expensive – you can get them branded for about £70. You could put whatever you wanted underneath as the structure to make the bar, pull it tight at staple it on.

Items as simple as planters can be used with the addition of branding to add some extra visibility to a pop-up. A bit of theatre will be an attention-grabbing element. We’ve bought them from IKEA and resprayed and then we put the acrylic on.

How have customers reacted to the machines? We are the only merchant in Wales who has them and the response has been nothing but positive. We’ve now had lots of cards printed to give to customers to take away and once we start dispensing full measures they will be able to top their own cards up and have much more autonomy. Customers will be able to help themselves rather than waiting for a member of staff to be free and there will be plenty of seating so they can relax and take as long as they want.

Light is always a nice thing to bring to a space. You can get lights from Amazon and they’re not massively expensive and you can get the solar charged ones as well. It’s a risky strategy with our summer, but it means you don’t have to worry about electrical sources. • This is the last of Lucy’s creative merchandising columns for a while, but she’ll be back soon. Meanwhile, we’re still interested in stories about any merchandising and display projects that have worked well for independents. Email claire@winemerchantmag.com.

THE WINE MERCHANT MARCH 2020 17


BITS & BOBS

Magpie

Alcohol-free wines expected to boom The non-alcoholic wine market is growing at such speed that it is predicted to be worth $10bn by 2027, according to market intelligence company Fact.MR. As reported by FoodBev Media, between

Philip Trease Weavers Nottingham Favourite wine on my list All our wines are great as they represent the country, region and district we have sourced them from. If I were to take one home tonight to go with food it would be Los Poetas Libertad, Uco Mendoza, Argentina; great value and great wine. Favourite wine and food match I love duck, and so a great Pinot Noir works for me; Burgundy of course, but there are great Pinots from North America and New Zealand, which I like. Favourite wine trip My first trip to Spain with Burridge’s really got me inspired with the wine trade. I have very fond memories of the late Nicolas Burridge who lived and breathed Spanish wine, and I am now great business friends with his children Teresa and Edward. Favourite wine trade person My father – I have to say that! There are so many good people in the trade, it’s difficult to say. Guy Nightingale I have known since day one from his days at McKinley and now Louis Latour. He knows how to work with and understand his customers. From a winemaking perspective, there are too many to choose from, but Karim Mussi from Altocedro has become my current wine god. Favourite wine shop Always a tough choice. I like forwardthinking, traditional businesses. Tanners is inspirational.

2019 and 2027 the non-alcoholic wine

sector is predicted to achieve a compound annual growth rate of 7% as consumers continue to switch to non-alcoholic alternatives.

While Europe accounted for over 40%

of total demand for the non-alcoholic wine

The glasses also act as decanters

for the category, with a growth rate of over

rippling bowl. The new design plays the

market in 2018, North America is tipped to be the most important market in the world 8% during the eight-year period.

The Drinks Business, February 21

Herbicides off the menu for Moët Moët Hennessy has said all of its own vineyards in Champagne will become free of herbicides in 2020, and that it will also work with contracted growers to help them become more sustainable. The group will also invest €20m in a

research centre dedicated to sustainable

role of both drinking vessel and decanter. “[The flat-bottom base] gives the wine

more space to aerate within the glass,” says Georg Riedel, the 10th-generation head of the family wine glass company. Forbes, February 26

Italian fine wines surge in value Savvy wine investors who have been buying Italian vintage wines enjoyed the best returns from the fine wine sector

winemaking in Champagne.

in 2019, ironically as a result of Donald

Flat-bottomed glasses from Riedel

the top 10 Italian wines increase by an

Riedel, the 250-year-old glassware

drink from the EU, which hit French,

Decanter, February 19

company known for well-made, allpurpose glass, has introduced a new innovation. Veering away from the traditional egg-

shaped wine glass, the brand is proposing a new shape: a flat-bottomed glass with a

THE WINE MERCHANT MARCH 2020 18

Trump. BI Fine Wine & Spirits saw the value of

average of 12.5% during 2019, a jump

which was supported by Donald Trump’s imposed 25% tariffs on certain food and English and German wines, but omitted

Italian. After the tariff was imposed last

October, BI experienced further demand,

which pushed the value of Italian wine up by a further 5%

The World of Fine Wine, February 7


Brexit boom for Australia and Chile

?

THE BURNING QUESTION

What changes are you planning for your range this year?

I made some changes a couple of years ago and started importing a lot more South African wine and unfortunately had to get rid of a few more traditional regions, such as Alsace – it just wasn’t selling. I always make small changes – 10 bottles may come in and I may get rid of 10, but I’m not planning any major changes this year. I’m expecting more people coming in and asking for non-alcoholic wine. My answer to that is, ‘when I find one that tastes like wine, I’ll get it’.

Southern hemisphere wines are set to prosper in post-Brexit Britain with Chile, Australia and Argentina leading the way, according to a leading international trade survey into wine trends and forecasts across the globe.

Wine Trade Monitor, published by

food, drink and lifestyle communications agency Sopexa, predicts that Brexit will

primarily benefit wine-producing countries outside Europe with 53% of wine trade

professionals surveyed forecasting growth for Chilean wines, 45% for Australian

wines and 40% for Argentinian wines. Decanter, February 10

Smoke taint cure could save millions

Matt Barnes Gorey Wine Cellar, Jersey

We recently joined the Vindependents, so any changes are likely to be driven by that. This year, with a 6% increase in wage costs, we need to improve our margins so anything we take on will be with that in mind – we have to fatten the bottom line to survive. We’re a mature business and we’ll evolve rather than revolutionise – we’ll see what fits the range. One of the areas we’re looking at for value is Croatia. South Africa is another country we already do a bit with, but we’ll probably do a bit more.

Sean Welsh Flourish & Prosper, Howden, East Yorks

Researchers in Canada believe they may

I’ll be making some small changes, and maybe add some more wines from different regions such as Romania, Bulgaria and Slovenia. I do already have some wines from eastern Europe which sell really well so I will want to take the new vintages, and I know it will be easy to source additional lines from these regions from my existing suppliers. This is quite a trendy part of London and I think my customers expect to see these sorts of wines.

have found a way to protect grapes from smoke taint. “It’s definitely one of, if not the biggest

concern winemaking communities are facing today,” says Wesley Zandberg,

assistant professor in chemistry at UBC

Okanagan and study author.

Tolga Koymen Bacchus N4, London

“When you look at the catastrophic

wildfire seasons California and the

Okanagan Valley have experienced in

recent years, and the season Australia is

experiencing now, I don’t think a solution can come quickly enough,” he says.

“In 2003, the wildfires in Australia cost

their wine industry $300m in lost revenue, and I imagine they’ll experience a similar loss this year, if not more.”

Researchers found that applying a spray

composed of phospholipids to grapes a

week before exposing them to simulated forest fire smoke reduced the levels of volatile phenols.

We opened just before Christmas so we’re a very new business. I worked for Bibendum and Walker & Wodehouse for the past 20 years and I’m having to practice what I preached, so my list has started off pretty well. We are a lot safer right now than we want to be – we haven’t yet diversified to the weird and the wonderfuls. I want a list that is always evolving. Our evolution has to be through lots of customer tastings. We did a tasting of Grand Cru Alsace Riesling, which people realised they liked. Douglas Williamson Juniper Wine Café, Fife

Champagne Gosset The oldest wine house in Champagne: Äy 1584

Science Daily, February 24

THE WINE MERCHANT MARCH 2020 19


ight ideas r b 9: Create mystery cases

. T H E D R AY M A N . Wood is good

I

n among the slew of no- and low-alcohol beer launches of recent weeks it was unusually refreshing to come across a good old fashioned heavyweight Belgian beer. Duvel is a prince among beers and Batch No 4 is the latest in its series of barrel-aged brews that stretch the skills and imaginations of its brewers. This one was matured for nine months in a selection of 300 barrels from various well-known bourbon producers that lend it richness in the vanilla and caramel departments, and the process and time involved – along with its relative scarcity – go at least some way towards justifying the 11.4% abv brew’s £40-plus ticket price. That’s for a 75cl sharing bottle, mind. Goose Island’s Bourbon County stout had already laid down the roadmap for assimilating US whiskey character into beer, its occasional releases causing a trade scrabble for allocations and its followers more resembling disciples than mere drinkers, much like with Cloudy Bay Sauvignon back in the day. Wood-ageing has also become quite the thing in the modern UK brewing scene, though its path to glory has not always been smooth, dogged by squabbles with HMRC on whether spirits or beer duty applied, and within the industry about definitions. Dust-ups aside, the growing ranks of barrel-aged beers offer an oasis of intrigue and excitement in a desert of session pale ales, often intersecting with the world of wine. Wild Beer Co’s Redwood marries foraged summer fruits with wood that’s previously been kissed by red wine, its character mutating from batch to batch according to the fruit and oak source, much like the variations in wine vintages. Rodenbach Grand Cru is a great example of how wood can round off the sharp acidic edges of a sour beer to import a luscious, winey character that caused beer legend Michael Jackson to call it the “Burgundy of Belgium”.

Chris Coombs, Turton Wines, Bolton

In a nutshell … Shake up customers’ buying habits, broaden their horizons and challenge their taste buds by putting together some mystery cases.

Sounds elementary. Tell us more.

“We noticed that people were sticking to countries and regions they felt safe with. We have great wines from Romania, Georgia and Lebanon for example, and getting people to try them for the first time can be hard. After people have had a mystery case, they come back and buy singles of the ones they really liked in the case and it’s often something they’d never had before.”

Do you have to have fancy packaging?

“Not at all. Although it’s a very visual thing in the shop – we have a display at the front, which encourages customers to come in and talk to us about it – we don’t dress it up. It’s just a brown box with a sticker on the side. There’s usually a few made up ready to go and they get snapped up.”

How do you select what goes in the mystery cases?

“Apart from including wines with different grape varieties guaranteed to get customers out of their comfort zones, we make sure we have plenty of the contents on the shelf or in the bar. It’s also a good way to move vintages and get stock flowing.”

Is it a matter of case solved?

“Well, we’ve only been offering the cases since November time, but the customers seem to love them. We sell around 15 a month in the shop and we also get a few orders online, although generally online shoppers know exactly what they want, so it’s not really designed with them in mind. Our customers are getting a bit of a bargain as well as the opportunity to try something new because with the 12-bottle case they are only paying for 11 bottles. I think our mystery cases complement all the tastings we do in the shop too – it’s all about getting really good wines in front of people and encouraging them to try something different.” Chris wins a WBC gift box containing a bottle of Hattingley Valley sparkling wine, a box of chocolate truffles from Willies Cocoa and a half bottle of gin liqueur from Foxdenton. Tell us about a bright idea that’s worked for your business and you too could win a gift box. Email claire@ winemerchantmag.com or call 01323 871836.

THE WINE MERCHANT MARCH 2020 20


JUST WILLIAMS

Facing up to Frankenstein There are big questions being asked about the future of agriculture, and wine has to be part of that conversation. Maybe lab-based solutions won’t be quite as scary as the nay-sayers assume

L

ab-grown food made from water will soon destroy farming – and

save the planet.” “Meghan Markle

wears lab-grown diamond earrings.”

“Leather: grown in a lab without cows.”

Are these ideas for an episode of Black

Mirror? Scenes from a series of post-

apocalyptic young adult fiction books? A trio of Donald Trump tweets?

It’s actually more exciting – or terrifying,

depending on your perspective – than

any of those. Each of the above represents a real-life tale of technology in a time of

increasing scarcity, extracted, more or less

randomly from, respectively, The Guardian, Vogue and The Atlantic magazine – stories that would have felt feverishly sci-fi a

decade or even five years ago, but now reflect just the latest evolution in our

relationship to the natural world and its resources.

That lab-grown food Guardian article is

about a twist on Jesus’ water-wine process. Patented by a cutting edge bio-food firm

in Helsinki, it takes bacteria from the soil and multiplies it in a lab using hydrogen

extracted from water to produce what the

article’s author, Guardian columnist George Monbiot, calls a “primordial soup”. After

being dried into a kind of yellow flour, the

idea is that the bacterial stew will be used

to make lab-grown versions of pretty much any food you can think of.

Markle’s diamonds, meanwhile, were not

a symbol of newly straitened post-royal

circumstances, but the most public outing yet for the work of London-based firm, Kimaï, one of a burgeoning movement

of high-end “ethical” jewelers who have

in a lab, with carbon “seeds” melting and dissolving in a process that takes two weeks for a 1 carat diamond.

And the lab-grown leather? That’s a

New Jersey firm going by the charmingly bucolic name of Modern Meadow, which “biofabricates” its cow-free material by

cultivating a strain of yeast that’s been bioengineered to make collagen, the elastic

but resistant material that makes leather do its useful leathery thing.

A

s a recent report from market researchers Mintel entitled Global Food & Drink Trends

ditched the time-honoured diamond-

2030 says, these developments are all

before sending in teams of underpaid and

for producers and consumers alike.

sourcing method of waiting a couple

of billion years for diamonds to form

exploited workers to risk their lives to find them 200 miles underground. Instead,

Kimaï’s jewels – indistinguishable from the “real thing”, the company says – are produced by replicating the conditions

Much of the wine world has always been resistant to change and suspicious of anything that can be classified as mucking around with nature THE WINE MERCHANT MARCH 2020 22

part of “a new agricultural revolution” – a revolution with enormous consequences

This isn’t about food fashion, the report

makes plain – this is not, as the work of

market researchers so often is, merely an

attempt at second-guessing consumer fads in 2030. Mintel doesn’t think consumers will be asking for more sustainable

products as part of some more or less

urgent, but frankly rather vague notions about ethical consumerism.

It’s more that the effects of the climate

emergency will have become so pressing that companies simply won’t have any


David Williams is wine critic for The Observer

© auremar / stockadobe.com

other choice but to ditch conventional methods of farming and resource

extraction. They will be forced to revert to such modern-agri-tech solutions as

vertical, floating, and indoor hydroponic farms – maybe even farms in space.

Similarly the fashion world’s jewels and

textiles are highly unlikely to involve the

kind of extreme use of resources required

by diamond or gold mining, and traditional leather and other fabric production. Vin du laboratoire

There are urgent lessons in all this for the

wine industry, although how far it’s willing or able to react to the new reality – and how quickly – is rather a moot point.

Certainly, much of the wine world has

always been resistant to change to the

Making the Pinot Noir of the future, one pipette at a time

point of cultivating a profound suspicion of

anything that smacks of the technologically advanced or that can be classified as

mucking about with nature. When, for

– it was that it would be just, somehow,

insignificant, nor so small that it can be

by scientists to be resistant to rot (and to

rigid traditionalists – and understand that,

solutions needn’t lack glamour or be any

example, the INAO gave its approval to a

quartet of new varieties that had been bred therefore drastically reduce the need for

fungicides) two years ago, the reaction of

many traditional French winemakers was to deride them as “Frankenstein grapes”. Similarly, when Californian start-up

Ava revealed its (ultimately unrealistic) mission to recreate the great wines of

the world in their San Francisco lab with nothing more than flavour molecules,

sugars, acids and ethanol back in 2017,

there was a flurry of indignant criticism

focused not on the project’s viability but its heretical assumptions and possible use in wine fraud.

In Ava’s case, it wasn’t the contention

that it was possible to make wine in a lab that got up the conventional wine

industry’s collective noses, in other words

ethically wrong.

As much as I have sympathy for wine’s

by my own decidedly scientific estimation, at least 80% of wine’s charm comes from

its association with land, vine, season and

year via traditional farming – I don’t think they can ignore the radical reshaping that

is affecting every other form of agriculture completely.

As a brilliant article by Australian

viticulturist Dr Richard Smart on

jancisrobinson.com pointed out recently,

wine may not be in the big league of carbon emissions. But with Australia’s wine

business alone, for example, contributing some 1.6m tonnes of CO2 in 2017

(according to Australian Wine Research Institute estimates) versus 22m tonnes

for the Australian aviation industry, says Smart, “neither is the extent of pollution

THE WINE MERCHANT MARCH 2020 23

ignored, as happens at present”.

As the Mintel report says, lab-based

less aspirational and Instagrammable.

Indeed, for an increasingly large number of consumers, the very fact they’re labproduced (and therefore resource-low

and sustainable) actually lends the likes

of a Kimaï diamond or a Modern Meadow leather belt a very modern form of glamour.

As the climate emergency intensifies,

the wine trade may well have to follow the

fashion and food business and contemplate breaking its own long cherished,

assiduously cultivated connection between traditional production methods and

quality. And while they’re working that out, it surely won’t be long before someone,

somewhere is making a killing out of labproduced fine wine.


READER SURVEY 2020

The fog is finally lifting Last year was as bad as many independent wine merchants had been predicting, with sales down 11% across the trade. But with some of the uncertainty surrounding Brexit now gone, optimism among merchants for the year ahead is in greater supply than it was in early 2019

I

n last year’s reader survey,

independents said they had little

confidence that 2019 was going to be

a good year. They were right to be worried. Taken as a whole, indies saw turnover

dip by 11.4% last year, from an average of £612,553 per shop to £550,049.

The data is based on figures supplied

by 134 independent wine retailers and

represents a significant cross-section of an industry in which 677 businesses operate 916 stores. Not all of these merchants

endured such a gloomy performance, but

with retail as a whole experiencing a host

of well-publicised problems, it’s fair to say that 2019 was largely a year to forget for

most indies. For many, the Christmas sales

retail side of the business has experienced

autumn and early winter period.

not especially optimistic that things will

that can make or break their year-end

figures failed to compensate for a quiet Will 2020 turn out to be any better?

Confidence levels have certainly risen

in this year’s survey, with almost two-

thirds of respondents expecting a sales

lift of some sort. But it’s a measured kind of optimism. Just under 19% declare themselves to be “very confident” of

improving their turnover this year – the lowest figure ever recorded since the

survey started in 2013. Back in 2014, the figure was as high as 41.9%.

One Yorkshire respondent says: “The

predict whether this will continue, but I’m improve.”

Another, in the home counties, adds: “We

have had a rotten year and footfall is down. I don’t expect Brexit to be finalised and people are still hesitant.”

The Brexit theme is picked up by a

merchant in northern England. “There

is still too much uncertainty about trade deals with Europe and I feel people are

going to be very careful with their money,” he says.

A Midlands merchant reports “a very

difficult few years post referendum”.

He adds: “Prior to it, we appeared to be

coming out of recession and then 2016-17

How optimistic are you that your sales will increase in the coming 12 months?

was flat. Since then, sales have been going

down and down with the present financial year being awful. Because of this we had a

60%

50%

Fairly optimistic

40%

30%

Neutral Very optimistic

20%

Fairly pessimistic

10%

Very pessimistic 0

a slight downturn and it’s difficult to

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

2019

2020

Number of responses: 195

THE WINE MERCHANT MARCH 2020 24

surplus of stock for 2019 until Christmas and our cash flow was up the creek big

style. On the plus side, we bought better for Christmas 2019 and have less stock sitting around in January.”

In Scotland, the nervousness continues.

“After a difficult year despite turnover increasing, I’m concerned that our

customer flow is and has been on a steady decline,” reports one merchant. Another

Scottish independent warns that “online competition is getting more and more difficult to go up against”.


A third Scottish merchant bewails “the

utter omnishambles created by Brexit”

which he argues is “destroying the high

Survey partner 2020

street by distracting the government from running the country”.

B

ut many independents feel

that some of the fog has lifted. Chris Connolly of Connolly’s

in Birmingham is “more optimistic than

last year”; John Hodges of The Vineyard in Dorking has experienced “six months of consecutive growth and is hoping for more”.

Liam Plowman of Wild+Lees in

London says 2020 “has surprised us so far, with January sales up 20% on last year”.

He adds: “Maybe the state of the world

Jon Moore of Mumbles Fine Wines in South Wales says: “We understand the

uncertainty that Brexit imposes on most business in the UK. But we are looking

forward and planning to expand in areas that won’t be negatively affected such as

an expansion of our already popular local wine club and expanding our programme of evening wine and dining events.”

Riaz Syed of Stonewines in London is

is such that people have dispensed with

“looking at developing a few new ideas”

such as video clips to promote wines, more private client events, and a pop-up kitchen. Tom Jones of the Whalley Wine Shop

in Clitheroe says: “We are expanding our wholesale operation and opening a new wine bar, so anticipate sales to increase

dramatically following these investments.” Continues page 26

© Viacheslav Iakobchuk / stockadobe.com

Dry January! In any case, we feel pretty confident about this year but are not

complacent – there’s now an illusion that Brexit is ‘done’ but the coming year of

negotiations could yet bring upheaval and economic stress.”

Some of the most upbeat responses in

the survey come from merchants who

are diversifying and finding new ways of attracting customers.

Average margins per sales channel 60%

Drink-in 59.7%

Drink-in Wholesale

50%

Online

40%

Shop 34.7%

30%

Online 31.9%

20%

10%

Retail

Wholesale 21.8% 2015

2016

2017

2018

Number of responses: 185

2019

2020

Independents are getting results from running wine events

THE WINE MERCHANT MARCH 2020 25


READER SURVEY 2020

From page 25

14% Are very or fairly likely to open additional branches in the coming year (2019: 11%)

3%

St Neots is thinking laterally. “We have

restructured our business, selling wine

Wholesale 15.9%

from bankrupt restaurants as well as outof-date beer,” he says.

Penny Champion of Champion Wines

Events 3.9%

in Chislehurst reports that Christmas sales saw their first increase for three

Online 5%

years. “Accepting the American Express card has helped,” she says.

“The card costs more but is still more

advertise small businesses on the high

street. I only wish Amex would do more of the advertising throughout the year and not just in December.”

For some merchants, success is likely

40%

Other 4%

Matt Ellis of The Smiling Grape in

beneficial to have, especially when they Are very or fairly likely to close one or more branches in the coming year (2019: 1%)

How sales are split

to be driven by the new branches. At The Good Wine Shop, like-for-like

sales were up in 2019 and owner Mark

Wrigglesworth predicts that “sales will of course increase as we add new sites”.

Drink-in sales 12.5%

Shop 59.7%

Number of responses: 186 Drink-in sales have leapt from 8.8% of turnover last year, with shop sales falling marginally from 61.6% in 2019. Wholesaling has hit its lowest level since the survey began. At one time it accounted for almost a quarter of indies’ turnover but this year it has slumped from 19.1% to 15.9%.

Rupert Hoare of The Seriously Good

Are very or fairly likely to increase staff numbers in the coming year (2019: 37%)

3%

Wine Company in Lyme Regis has also

seen sales increase. “We’ve moved to new

to see, but we need to make a real push this

comparing like with like here.”

Sheffield says: “The last 12 months have

premises which are much larger and on the high street,” he says, “so we’re not David Smith of The Pip Stop in

Newcastle says: “We’re moving to a higher footfall area so we would expect a city

Are very or fairly likely to reduce staff numbers in the coming year (2019: 5%)

centre site to do better than our current rural surroundings.”

F

or many merchants, the key to

any sort of success in 2020 is a

8%

recovery in consumer confidence,

at least to some degree, and working

harder to reap whatever benefits that may bring.

Matthew Smith of Dunnottar Wines &

Are very or fairly likely to try to sell the business in the coming year (2019: 2%)

Spirits in Stonehaven says: “It is hard to predict the retail market’s prospects. We

have our core customers we will continue

THE WINE MERCHANT MARCH 2020 26

year to attract new customers.”

Jefferson Boss of StarmoreBoss in

been challenging and I don’t see the next

12 months being any different. Our basket values are slightly higher, and we have

good customer retention, but customer frequency is lower – people are buying

better, but less often. We need to grow our

customer base and attract new people into the store, which will be the challenge in 2020.”

At Fareham Wine Cellar in Hampshire,

Roy Gillingham adds: “We have been

seeing for some time customers trading up away from entry-level wines looking for better quality. So good independent

merchants should reap the rewards and benefits of this change.”


Independents keep faith with old favourites

The popularity stakes Position (2019 in brackets)

Regular observers of The Wine Merchant’s annual survey will find few surprises at the top of this poll of favourite suppliers to the independent trade. Yet again Boutinot and Liberty Wines

claim first and second space respectively,

with Hatch Mansfield swapping places with Alliance Wine to claim third spot.

There are impressive performances

from Hallgarten & Novum, Fells and Mentzendorff, with Vindependents,

Astrum, ABS and Daniel Lambert Wines

also registering notable increases in their tallies.

The voting is based on whatever criteria

individual respondents consider most

important: they can cast their votes taking account of any aspect of the range or

service that their suppliers provide, or

indeed the personality of the reps they work with.

Interestingly, even though record

Supplier

Votes received

% of retailers voting for this supplier (2019 in brackets)

1 (1)

Boutinot

54

31.4 (32.5)

2 (2)

Liberty Wines

31

18.0 (24)

3 (4)

Hatch Mansfield

25

14.5 (14.9)

4 (3)

Alliance Wine

24

14.0 (17.5)

5 (9)

Hallgarten & Novum

21

12.2 (7.1)

6 (6)

Fells

20

11.6 (9.7)

6 (5)

Les Caves de Pyrene

20

11.6 (13)

8 (6)

Thorman Hunt

19

11.1 (9.7)

9 (11)

Fields, Morris & Verdin

14

8.1 (6.5)

10 (12)

Mentzendorff

12

7.0 (5.2)

10 (12)

Vindependents

12

7.0 (5.2)

12 (17)

Astrum Wine Cellars

10

5.8 (3.2)

13 (22)

Awin Barratt Siegel

9

5.2 (2.6)

13 (17)

Daniel Lambert Wines

9

5.2 (3.2)

15 (15)

Dreyfus Ashby

8

4.7 (3.9)

15 (-)

Graft Wines

8

4.7 (–)

17 (17)

Condor Wines

7

4.1 (3.2)

17 (17)

Ellis of Richmond

7

4.1 (3.2)

17 (6)

Enotria&Coe

7

4.1 (9.7)

17 (14)

Walker & Wodehouse

7

4.1 (4.5)

21 (–)

Bancroft Wines

6

3.5 (1.9)

21 (22)

Marta Vine

6

3.5 (2.6)

21 (22)

Raymond Reynolds

6

3.5 (1.3)

Number of responses: 172

numbers of independents took part in the

Respondents were invited to name up to three suppliers that they most enjoy working with, in no particular order. No prompts were given. There were 125 suppliers nominated, compared to 130 in 2019, 103 in 2018 and 96 the previous year. Walker & Wodehouse votes include those cast for Bibendum.

survey, the number of suppliers appearing in the popularity list has fallen slightly.

Average transaction value

Average sales price per bottle

£41.54

2015

£43.17

2016

£44.93

2017

£43.28

2018

£41.26

2019

£43.64

2020 0

£10

£20

£30

£40

The highest average transaction value recorded was £201. The highest average bottle price in this year’s survey was £40, and the lowest £6.

£11.62 £12.25 £12.99 £13.71 2017

2018

2019

2020

£50 Number of responses: 179

Number of responses: 180

THE WINE MERCHANT MARCH 2020 27


READER SURVEY 2020

England top, but love affair with France continues

Which countries or regions do you think will see the biggest sales increase in your business this year? 29.8%

1 England

Since 2018, England has gone from

29.3%

2 Italy

seventh to fourth to first place in

27.7%

3 Portugal

the league table of predicted sales increases.

25.7%

4 South Africa

It’s an impressive performance in 2020,

24.6%

5 Spain

even though the 29.8% figure is almost

identical to the 29.7% recorded last year.

6 Argentina 7 Australia

14.7%

That doesn’t necessarily mean that indies

7 Languedoc

14.7%

Portugal also holds up well, though South

Africa, Italy and Chile are markedly down. expect sales to fall – it may simply reflect the fact that these countries have been performing well in recent times and a Greece, which sees its figure increase from 7.1% to 8.9%, and Germany,

which seems to have turned its fortunes

2019

10.5%

10 Chile 0%

2020

11.5%

9 France (most or all)

plateau may be in sight.

Bubbling under in this year’s poll are

24.6%

5%

10%

15%

20%

25%

30%

35%

Number of responses: 191. Respondents could name as many countries or regions as they liked. Only the top 10 countries or regions from the vote are shown. France was split into nine options, combined here. Added together, France’s score was 55.5%.

around somewhat with a figure of 8.4%

compared to 7.7% in the 2019 survey. That represents its best performance since the survey started in 2013.

T

he survey also asks which

countries or regions merchants

specialise in, and the 2020 results

are broadly similar to previous years: Italy leads the way, with the top four positions unchanged.

There are some surprises, however:

Burgundy has stormed into fifth place, and Bordeaux is up from ninth to seventh. As

Which countries or regions do you specialise in? Position (2019 in brackets)

Country

Votes received

% of retailers voting for this country (2019 in brackets)

1 (1)

Italy

78

45.3 (44.1)

2 (2)

France (most or all)

57

33.1 (39.1)

3 (3)

Spain

33

19.2 (19.0)

4 (4)

South Africa

32

18.6 (15.6)

5 (10)

Burgundy

20

11.6 (6.1)

5 (5)

Portugal

20

11.6 (11.7)

with both polls, France would win hands-

7 (9)

Bordeaux

19

11.0 (7.3)

8 (15)

Australia

17

9.9 (11.7)

9 (7)

New Zealand

12

7.0 (11.2)

a “most or all” option in the voting options.

10 (8)

Argentina

10

5.8 (9.5)

10 (11)

Languedoc

10

5.8 (5.6)

down if votes for its constituent regions

were added together – though we do allow Champagne’s figures rose from 2.2% to 4.7%

California was perhaps the biggest

casualty in the 2020 poll, with a figure of 2.9% compared with 5.6% last time.

Number of responses: 197. Respondents were allowed up to three choices. Only the top 10 countries or regions from the vote are shown. France was split into nine options, combined here. Added together, France’s score was 74.4%. Thirty-eight respondents – representing 22.1% of the sample – say they have no specialism in any particular country or region.

THE WINE MERCHANT MARCH 2020 28


What’s your prediction for sales this year in non-wine categories? Number of responses: 178

1 SPECIALITY SPIRITS

2 BRITISH CRAFT BEER

BIG INCREASE 12% SMALL INCREASE 52%

BIG INCREASE 9% SMALL INCREASE 50%

Very few respondents foresee a tailing-off in

A characteristically strong performance,

a category that is still vibrant, despite gin

reflecting the innovation that’s taking place

sales finally peaking in many places.

among new and established brewers.

3 imported beer

4 delicatessen itemS

5 confectionery & chocolate

BIG INCREASE 2% SMALL INCREASE 22%

BIG INCREASE 4% SMALL INCREASE 15%

BIG INCREASE 2% SMALL INCREASE 15%

The rest of the world again plays second

Just over half of respondents admit they

Another category which respondents find

fiddle to domestic brewers. Just over a third

have “no idea” of what to expect from their

hard to predict this year. Around a quarter

of respondents expect static sales this year.

deli sales in 2020.

expect sales to flatline over the 12 months.

6 glassware

7 wine accessorieS

8 cigars & tobacco

BIG INCREASE 1% SMALL INCREASE 13%

BIG INCREASE 0% SMALL INCREASE 14%

BIG INCREASE 0% SMALL INCREASE 11%

Glasses prove a lucrative sideline for a small

It’s probably no surprise to see the responses

Cigars are a beloved specialism of many

number of merchants, but once again sales

almost exactly mirroring those of the

independents, though 13% of respondents

expectations are modest.

glassware category.

expect sales to fall this year.

THE WINE MERCHANT MARCH 2020 29


READER SURVEY 2020

Draught’s not daft Independent merchants remain cautious about wine on tap. But for one Bristol independent, draught wine has been part of the offer since day one, and its owners are reaping the rewards

W

ine on tap is yet to move

into the mainstream in the independent trade, with

just 5% of merchants offering draught dispense.

That’s down from 6% in last year’s

survey, and resistance to the idea of

draught wine seems as strong as ever, with 61% of respondents saying it is fairly or

very unlikely to be on their agenda in 2020. The figure in 2019 was 60%.

But for a small band of independent

merchants, wine on tap is a central part

of their offer, and represents a profitable revenue stream.

One example is Kask, which opened last

year in Bedminster, south Bristol.

“Especially in the first two months of

opening, we had a lot of PR coverage,” says

did it. But also we can work with more

suppliers because obviously it is cheaper to ship one keg – or, as we call them, kasks – more diverse range of smaller suppliers.” Graft Wines, Uncharted Wines and

Les Caves de Pyrene are the main three

is volume of customers rather than high

suppliers are starting to contact us, but we

allows us to have a price range of between

suppliers that Kask works with.

“We’ve noticed more and more keg

haven’t taken any of them on because they are on the expensive side,” reports Taylor.

“Because we focus on the accessibility of

wine, our prices are fairly low. Our strategy

back and they talk about it with friends

and family. It still gets a good reaction from people who are not used to seeing wine coming out of a tap.

“It creates a really good talking point –

it’s a great way to start talking about wine. One of the things we wanted to focus on with the business was breaking down

barriers and making it easier to explore wine.”

He adds: “The ethos behind it, the

sustainability, was the main reason we

to around £280 for 20-litre kegs. That £5 and £8 for a 125ml glass.

“It’s a wide range but the other suppliers

are north of £300 for a keg, and we don’t

put wine by the glass on for more than £8

We already do this

Definitely happening

Possibly happening

No decision/ opinion either way

Unlikely to be happening

Definitely not happening

I would like a wine dispensing machine (eg Enomatic)

12%

1%

11%

7%

30%

37%

I would like to be able to offer draught wine in some form

5%

2%

17%

11%

23%

38%

I would like to serve food for consumption on the premises

29%

2%

7%

6%

14%

40%

I would like to run a wine education programme

21%

43%

28%

17%

16%

12%

I would like to organise trips for my customers

7%

3%

19%

19%

25%

23%

were really interested in the concept.”

“People still love it. Customers keep coming

prices. On average we spend between £130

What extra products and services might be on your agenda in the coming year?

co-owner Charlie Taylor, “and lots of people Happily, that interest has been sustained.

Kask offers four draught wines

than it is 26 bottles, so we can work with a

Number of responses: 182

THE WINE MERCHANT MARCH 2020 30


unless it’s a rare orange, for example.” Kask currently offers four draught

wines – two whites, one red and one rosé

– dispensed from bespoke blue glass taps in a wall. At present around 10% to 15% of its draught wine sales are take-home

purchases, most of which go into Kask’s own branded bottles.

“We don’t charge for those bottles,” says

Taylor. “They are glass with a screwcap.

‘It still gets a good reaction from people who are not used to seeing wine come out of a tap. It’s a great way to start talking about wine’

People bring them back and we give them a new one and sanitise them in-house ready

to go back into our system. Obviously, there is a little bit of waste if people don’t return them, but the majority come back into our system.”

The equipment was “fairly expensive” to

set up, Taylor admits, but maintenance is straightforward.

He says: “It’s not difficult – it requires

factor that into our yield.”

Why does Taylor think other merchants

remain reticent about wine on tap?

“I think it’s probably historic,” he says.

“Part of the theatre of wine is that it is

poured from the bottle – people are so

used to wine being in bottle and it’s like

cork versus screwcaps; it’s a cultural shift. “There’s certainly no impact on

the quality of the wine, as long as it’s

maintained properly, but that’s the same discipline. It’s exactly the same as cleaning a beer line and probably takes 20 minutes.

We do it once a week when we’re changing the keg – or if the keg has been on longer, we disconnect and clean.

“You might get a bit of wastage – two or

three glasses worth – doing that, but we

with bottled wine. There’s no impact on the customer experience once they are drinking the wine.

“I guess it comes down to it being a

new thing. Maybe the cost of installing

it initially might put people off doing it.

The wine industry isn’t known for quick movement. We’ve certainly seen no negative side to doing it.”

Are you considering wine on tap? The wine we have in kegs is just like any other wine we do. Jolly good grapes, from special vineyards, by people who care. Saves you time & space Reduces wastage and preserves wines for months Go green & offer re-fills on takeout wines Cuts transport emissions by as much as 65%

Call us today on 020 3490 1210 or write to us at hello@graftwine.co.uk for our full range including organic & sparkling wines, as well as installation options.

THE WINE MERCHANT MARCH 2020 31


MERCHANT PROFILE: THREE PILLARS WINE

Pillar talk Minnie-Mae Stott and Orson Warr, July 2018

Laithwaites veteran Kieran O’Brien took over a traditional off-licence in Staffordshire in 2017. He liked the oldfashioned exterior, but knew he had to make big changes to the products on the shelves, as Nigel Huddleston reports

E

ccleshall is only about five miles

off a busy stretch of the M6 north of Birmingham but it has a rural

tranquility that seems to place it in less

hurried times. It’s the sort of place where a wine merchant can find themselves taking

in post for the nearby pharmacist who still closes for lunch and selling loose tobacco from Edwardian-looking tins to pipesmoking farmers.

But appearances can be deceptive. “It’s a

bit of a party town in the summer, with lots of live music on in the pubs,” says Kieran O’Brien, dad to three under-fives and

owner of the town’s Three Pillars Wine. Appropriately for a place with such a

split personality, the Staffordshire location doesn’t seem to be able to decide on its own municipal status.

“There’s always a debate whether it’s

a town or a village,” says O’Brien. “Estate

agents like to call it a village; officially it’s

that attracted O’Brien to taking over a

“It’s developed into a big battle. There

a natural choice inspired by the shop’s

a town. On my website I call it a village because it sounds a bit nicer.

are quite a few new housing estates on the outskirts, so it’s a reasonably-sized town really. But you can still park on the high

street, so there are always people out and

about popping into all the independents to do their shopping.”

It was the party town personality as

much as the well-heeled village idyll

‘When this came up, I thought it was the ideal sort of place for a wine merchant. I jumped at the chance’ THE WINE MERCHANT MARCH 2020 32

traditional off-licence in late 2017 and

rebranding it as Three Pillars, the name

exterior architecture which is distinct from anything else on the town’s high street.

He decided to go it alone after 10 years

in retail with Laithwaites in Surbiton

and Solihull, and a short spell at Loki in Birmingham.

Where did it start for you and wine? My first wine job was as a sommelier

at a Waldorf Astoria in London. It was a new hotel opening in Syon Park [to the

west of the city]. The idea was to get all the celebrities to stop outside London,

close to the airport when they were using Heathrow. I was thrown in at the deep end on my first day, opening boxes of

Lafite, Latour and Pétrus. It was a little bit


intimidating. In the first few weeks we

had the England rugby World Cup winning team in. One of the other sommeliers told me to stand next to Martin Johnson and just keep pouring.

I was there for six months. It got

downgraded to a Hilton and all the food and beverage team moved.

How did you make the leap from Loki into Three Pillars? I had six months at Loki, while they were planning the second site in Edgbaston, with the idea that I’d manage the city

centre shop while they opened the new one. The second shop got delayed, and

we all ended up being a bit on top of each

‘I didn’t want to upset the regulars but I wanted to put my own stamp on it and get more quality wines in that you couldn’t find in the multiples’ couldn’t find in the multiples.

When I took over we had a small refit.

A part of me wanted to start again and

It used to look like a proper convenience

base, so I warmed to the idea of keeping all

section out the shop. Everything is really

rip it out and do everything exactly as I

wanted, but it had quite a good customer

the customers it had and building on that

by adding quality wines and craft beer and more premium spirits.

store with big open fridges. We painted

all the category panels around the top to

building towards the next stage. Hopefully that will all happen by the summer.

It’s not a tiny shop, but it’s not huge

What about now – have you got the shop

either. Have you got the space to bring in

something different.

looking the way you want it?

a bar element?

Staffordshire finding the right place. When

I’ve been looking at a refurb to bring a bar building’s gone up for sale. I’ve got five

It’s not huge but the space isn’t used very

years left on the lease and the interested

very small till station with an iPad and that

other in Birmingham, so I decided to do I live in Rugeley and I had thought of

setting up on my own, but it’s tricky in

this came up, I thought it was the ideal

sort of place for a wine merchant. It’s an

affluent area, so I jumped at the chance. It’s an iconic location because everyone you

speak to knows where you’re talking about when you say “the shop with the three pillars jumping out into the road”. The

locals love the fact that we’ve honoured the building with the name.

element in. It’s up in the air because the

parties who want to buy it have said they’d be prepared to sit down with me and put

another 10 years on. If that all goes to plan I’ll decide to invest a little bit more in it

and that’s when those old elements will probably fall by the wayside.

well at the moment. Most of the till area

is completely unnecessary. It could have a would be completely fine. The idea is to

have wood flooring throughout with most

of the current till area as seating and a little bar area at the far end of the shop as well. Continues page 34

It was already an off-licence, so what have you changed? It was the local rugby club bar as well

before that, so I think it’s been a supplier of alcohol for around 100 years in one

form or another. I’ve tried to move it more in a wine merchant direction.

It had a really good range of spirits –

mainly whisky and gins – but the wines were really just what you’d find in the

supermarket, Barefoot and Yellowtail, so I had to get rid of those in the first few

weeks. I didn’t want to upset the regulars but I wanted to put my own stamp on it and get more quality wines in that you

“Organic wines are something I get asked for every weekend – natural wines not so much”

THE WINE MERCHANT MARCH 2020 33


MERCHANT PROFILE

From page 33

There’s an ice cream freezer there which I was going to get rid of from the start, but

then my girls came over to look at the shop and fell in love with it, so that had to stay. But it might have to go now.

‘Private tastings used to be a complementary element to the main business of retail, but for a lot of people it’s become front and centre for turning a decent profit’

What did you change in the wine range? We got rid of the branded wines; I brought in a selection that I’d got to know over my

10 years in wine. Loki has a great selection and introduced me to different suppliers. I got to know a lot through Laithwaites too. They’re quite well known for their lowerend cases but they’ve got a really good mid-priced range.

Nearly all the wines we sell are new

since I came in and I’ve tried to put a focus on organic and natural wines. Les Caves

de Pyrene is one of my biggest suppliers. Organic wines are something I get asked

for every weekend – natural wines not so

much – and in the last 18 months it’s been vegan wines as well. Liberty is another

big supplier just because they’ve got such a wide range that covers a lot of bases. Bibendum is another.

Is the word “natural” a barrier? Do people understand what it means? The natural wine movement often doesn’t

to bring out too many funky, cidery wines because I think a lot of customers might think they’re a bit too extreme.

What’s been selling best for you overall? Traditional styles go well. Red wines –

Malbecs and Riojas – are the best-sellers

still. I get a lot of customers shopping for gifts and I’ve got a few nice Burgundies

that are going down well on that score, and some of the New World fine wines as well. Some of the wines I’m really keen on are

from southern France, a bit more rustic –

unoaked, really pure fruit, really delicious. Appassimento Italian reds are becoming

more popular as well. When we were doing a lot of tastings last Christmas we had an Amarone-style red, but from southern

Italy, which was popular – a NegroamaroPrimitivo with a bit of natural sweetness, low tannin and full-bodied.

What’s your own real love in wine?

do itself any favours because it’s sort of

Red Burgundy. Before I had the kids, I used

confusing. There isn’t a perfect definition

days now and again these days. A nice

saying that other wine isn’t natural – “this is the proper stuff” – and people find that but I think you can explain it to people

quite simply: that it’s more a way of doing things that starts with organic in the

vineyard and then just trying to make wine without the addition of commercial yeast,

acid or sugar. I do a brief introduction on it when we do tastings, but for most people

organic is something they’re familiar with from food.

People enjoy the wines though. I try not

to treat myself to a bottle of Burgundy

Grand Cru every pay day. I only have pay

Crozes-Hermitage or Côte-Rôtie, that’s my

sweet spot. I’ve visited Bordeaux and Rioja a few times so I have a soft spot for those as well.

What learnings from Laithwaites and Loki have you adapted to here? Loki was a big learning curve. At

Laithwaites you’re ordering from a central place and putting things in the required

THE WINE MERCHANT MARCH 2020 34

shop order. Loki had about 25 accounts,

so realising that you had to shop around importers to really get the range you

wanted was important. I’ve probably got

seven or eight suppliers and I’d like to cap it at around 10. I’m thinking of bringing a few in this year. I like a lot of Hallgarten’s

wines, and I’ve been meaning to get them

in from the start. I also want to try FMV for

some of their fine wines. Once we get those two on board I’ll be pretty happy with the range.

We get fine wine parcels in at different

times of year already. I’m planning on

putting a small dedicated fine wine section in though, probably with eight reds and

eight whites, for when people are looking

for a gift or something a bit extra special. It

worked really well at Laithwaites in getting people to trade up a little bit.

Are the tastings important? With the bar being on hold I’ve been

trying to make it an events business as

well. I did 12 tastings in November and

December last year in the shop and there are another six in the first half of 2020.

It’s difficult to make things work with just

what comes through the door. It ticks over quite nicely but I think you need another element to the business. The events do

well and are profitable and they bring in

new customers. If you do an event for 20 or 30 people, you’ll see a handful of new

customers who you start to see on a weekly basis.

I like to do them in the shop because


THREE PILLARS WINE

everyone’s got access to buy everything. I’ve started to do private tastings for

people at home for birthday parties, and

a few staff team-building events for local businesses. Whereas that used to be a complementary element to the main

business of retail, for a lot of people it’s become front and centre to turning a decent profit.

Do you work with other shops in the town? We’ve collaborated quite a bit within

Eccleshall. The butcher round the corner

has just won UK’s best butcher and started a cookery school, so they’re doing food

and wine matching, and we’ve got involved in that. It’s been really positive for us. I

did a few tastings in there last Christmas

and people were picking up their turkeys,

The spirits range was in good shape at the time of the purchase

tasting some of our wines and then coming in here to buy them.

There’s a wine bar up the road called

Sancerre where we’ve done a few tastings.

other locations?

Hatch Mansfield who have some good

Stafford, and I’d set it up as a tasting room

Eccleshall is twinned with Sancerre.

The place if I was going to do something

connections there and we’re trying to

and shop from day one. Stafford hasn’t

We’ve recently started working with

organise some winemakers to come over in the summer and do a tasting and have a bit of a party.

There’s always been a spirit for

independents in Eccleshall and a few business groups that try to support

them. We’ll meet up with other retailers every few months to come up with

new initiatives to make it a destination

shopping area. The way forward is to be

would be a proper town centre, probably

got an independent wine shop of its own.

But the focus now is on Eccleshall, at least for the next 18 months. It’s been two and a half years and it still feels like we’re

building something, but we really saw the

difference last year. I really want to solidify this place first but I’d definitely open a second shop in the future.

Has doing it yourself rather than for

more experience-based because online is so

Loki or Laithwaites been all you’d

work collaboratively to bring people into

feel like coming to work most days,

strong. All the pubs and cafés are working

hoped?

town. There’s a good atmosphere between

not having a boss and making

together to put on events and trying to

I’ve absolutely loved it. It doesn’t really

businesses; everyone’s trying to help each

your own decisions. There are

other wherever they can.

Is there scope to take your model to

times where I’ll do a double

shift or I’ve got four tastings in a week but … I think

THE WINE MERCHANT MARCH 2020 35

you get to the point where you want to do things for yourself and make all the

decisions, and succeed on your own terms, or even fail on them. But so far, so good.


Rhône Wine Festival The next festival will take place in October 2020. For more information about how to get involved in this year’s promotion, contact Gersende Pommery at gersende.pommery@sopexa.com

Join the Rhône rangers

T

he UK’s second Rhône Wine

Festival in October provided the perfect opportunity for

a host of independent merchants to

celebrate the diversity of the region. Around 30 indie businesses took

part in the festivities, focusing on tastings and masterclasses to

get their customers enthused. In

all its forms, including activity in restaurants, online and in grocery channels, the festival reached an audience of more than 1 million consumers and wine professionals. Luvians, St Andrews and Cupar

In addition to running free Côtes du Rhône wine tastings on Thursdays

Wales. Customers buying a bottle

ticketed event for its customers.

value from £50 to £250.

and

Saturdays

month,

Luvians

throughout

organised

the

a

This was centred on a blind tasting

in which four Côtes du Rhône wines were pitted against other classic

Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre

blends from around the world. Two

high-end Côtes du Rhône wines were available in the Enomatic for customers to try. Tanners

Throughout the month, a selection

of Côtes du Rhône and Côtes du Rhône Villages wines could be

found on the tasting tables of all

Tanners branches in Shropshire, Herefordshire, Cheshire and North

were entered in a prize draw to win

one of three vouchers, ranging in Davy’s, London

As part of its annual charity week

Wine Rooms, Kensington and Brackenbury THE FESTIVAL REACHED MORE THAN 1 MILLION CONSUMERS AND WINE PROFESSIONALS

in aid of Royal Trinity Hospice and

The Benevolent, London merchant

Davy’s joined forces with the Rhône Wine Festival to host a

fantastic night of wine and food. After a welcome aperitif, guests were guided through five tastings

of Côtes du Rhône wines, followed by a three-course supper involving food pairings with the region’s

wines. Côtes du Rhône wines were also presented in Enomatics to encourage sampling.

THE WINE MERCHANT MARCH 2020 36

This London merchant focused its efforts on its Enomatic offer with

five Côtes du Rhône wines on pour throughout the promotion. Theatre of Wine, London

The business organised a number of tastings featuring wines from Côtes du Rhône.

Other participating merchants included Cork of the North; York

Wines; CA Rookes, Flagship Wines; Blanco & Gomez; The Vineking; Penistone Wine Cellars; Aitken

Wines; The Clifton Cellars; Dace

Hospitality; Wriggly Tin Wine Co; and Nicolas.


Côtes du Rhône in facts The Côtes du Rhône vineyards stretch from Vienne (near Lyon)

to Avignon in the south of France.

Côtes du Rhône wines account for 75% of the Rhône Valley wines, which is France’s second largest

quality wine region, with 371m bottles of wines from the region sold in 2017.

The Côtes du Rhône AOCs are

organised according to a hierarchy. At its base is the regional Côtes

du Rhône; above this sit Côtes du

Rhône Villages, then the Côtes du Rhône Villages with a geographical name.

Côtes du Rhône vineyards thrive

Bourboulenc, Roussanne,

Grenache

Marsanne,

and/or Viognier.

Blanc,

Clairette

Côtes du Rhône Villages and Côtes du Rhône Villages with names

across 171 rich and varied terroirs.

Just 23 communes are allowed

appellation. In red wines, Grenache,

on the label – these are the Côtes

Twenty-one are

officially

grape

included

varieties in

the

the main grape variety, brings fruity

flavours, warmth, and body. Syrah and Mourvèdre give the wine spicy

aromas, and a colour and structure suitable for ageing. Cinsault adds to the wines’ finesse. The

white

wines

blend

flavour and freshness by mixing

different grape varieties such as

CÔTES DU RHÔNE VINEYARDS THRIVE ACROSS A RANGE OF 171 RICH AND VARIED TERROIRS

to specify the name of the village from which the wine comes from

du Rhône Villages with names. The

demanding requirements of this appellation endow them with great personality.

The following are the 21 villages

that can append their own names

to the appellation Côtes du Rhône Villages:

Chusclan (red, rosé); Gadagne

THE WINE MERCHANT MARCH 2020 37

(red); Laudun (red, rosé, white); Massif d’Uchaux (red); Plan de Dieu (red); Puyméras (red); Roaix

(red, rosé, white); Rochegude (red, white);

Rousset-les-Vignes

(red,

rosé, white); Sablet (red, rosé, white); Saint-Andéol (white); Saint-

Gervais (red, rosé, white); SaintMaurice (red, rosé, white); SaintPantaléon-les-Vignes

(red,

rosé,

white); Sainte-Cécile (red); Séguret

(red, rosé, white); Signargues (red); Suze-la-Rousse (red); Vaison-la-

Romaine (red); Valréas (red, white); Visan (red, rosé, white).


WSET WINE WORKOUT

Get your Côte: a quick guide to Burgundy It’s one of the most revered wine regions on the planet, but it’s certainly not the most straightforward. WSET educator David Martin provides a quick refresher course

W

ith 84 AOCs and over 1,200 climats, combined with

vintage variation and myriad

producers, Burgundy offers seemingly

endless complexity. Yet at its simplest it is

the home of, and the global benchmark for,

problem in isolated areas, due to its

A lot of Macon wines are simple, stone-

small, so vineyards are densely planted.

Saint-Veran and Pouilly-Fuissé.

severity and random nature. The shallow

soil with low fertility means that vines stay Regions

fruited and inexpensive, but very good

quality wines are made in the villages of Winemaking

the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir varieties. It

The heartland of Burgundy is the Côte d’Or

Wines from neighbouring vineyards

specific site they come from, rather than

Beaune to the south. Some of the world’s

vineyard can taste different. Winemaking

is around four times smaller than Bordeaux and the wines are primarily defined by the being blended by a producer.

Climate and growing season Chablis is the most northerly part of Burgundy and we define it as a cool

climate. Further south in the Côte d’Or, the climate is moderate. When tasting, this is

very useful for palate calibration. Chablis’ cool climate gives citrus fruit flavours

whereas further south, a moderate climate expresses stone fruit flavours and, in the

“Golden Slope”. This is divided in two – the Côte de Nuits to the north and the Côte de

most expensive and highly regarded wines are made here. It is 30 miles in length

and in some places only 200 metres wide. The reason for this is that the limestone bedrock, formed by ancient marine

sediment, has been exposed by fault lines

only in certain places. The specifics of each site, such as the aspect, depth, structure

and composition of soil, are the reason why the land is divided into such small parcels,

known as climats. The majority of the Côte

southernmost part of Burgundy, tropical

de Nuits is planted with Pinot Noir and the

far from any large body of water, Burgundy

There are four appellations here. While

pineapple and melon flavours can emerge

– particularly in warmer vintages. Being so has a continental climate, which means

spring frosts can severely damage fragile buds. Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are

early budding varieties, so are particularly susceptible to damage. Towards the end

of the growing season, hail can be a severe

Côte de Beaune with mainly Chardonnay.

The next region south is the Chalonnaise.

they produce wines that are not as

complex as the wines of the Côte d’Or, they can still offer value.

At the southernmost point of Burgundy,

the Maconnais creates wines which are

generally the softest styles of the region.

THE WINE MERCHANT MARCH 2020 38

can have remarkable differences, but it is also true that wines from the same

decisions around pressing, fermentation, temperature, length of time on skins and

ageing determine these differences. White wines are often whole-bunch pressed, which helps retain purity, and then

fermented in barrel. Barrel fermentation helps the integration of oak because of

the heat created during fermentation. Red

wines are not always de-stemmed and this is an important decision. The grape stems can add tannins and complex spicy notes, though critics of this technique say it can give green characters.

Pinot Noir can also be given a cold soak,

which means keeping the juice and berries cool for a few days before fermenting. This

increases the aromatics and aids the colour of this thin-skinned variety. Classifications

• Grand Cru wines represent the best


© Gavin / stockadobe.com

Parts of the Côte d’Or are as narrow as 300 metres wide

single vineyard sites and represent only

stylistic cohesion – for example, the wines

Blanc or Rouge.

Chablis. There are 33 Grand Crus in total.

Montrachet where the wines are more

and regions of Burgundy is an important

1% of production. Chablis Grand Cru

comes from one hillside to the east of

• Premier Cru is reserved for specific sites, regarded for their high quality. They can

be blended across different premier crus or remain as single vineyards which are stated on the label.

• Village wines denote wines made in

specific village areas. These wines have

from Meursault are considered to be rich with vibrant fruit, compared to Pulignyrestrained and zestier.

• Regional wines, white or red Burgundy, mean that the grapes can come from

Burgundy remains a classic for wine

enthusiasts and understanding the wines segment of wine education.

Look out for our article on the white wines

anywhere in Burgundy. They are often

of Italy in next month’s issue. To find out

highly prized vineyard areas to Bourgogne

tools visit www.wsetglobal.com.

lighter, simpler styles but some top

producers declassify wines from otherwise

THE WINE MERCHANT MARCH 2020 39

more about our qualifications alongside a great range of free resources and learning


ENGLISH WINE

A peek into Pinot’s future It’s a key component of English sparkling wines, but a superb 2018 vintage showed what Pinot Noir is capable of producing on our shores as a still wine in its own right. Lisse Garnett assesses the progress that this trickiest of varieties has achieved as a single varietal

P

inot Noir is the UK’s most widely

He adds: “There is no point in us trying

planted grape, thanks to the boom

to make a Central Otago Pinot Noir – we

in sparkling wine production.

don’t have the ripeness; we don’t have the

But what kind of still wines does this

power and the structure. What we can

capricious variety create? Too often they

do in this country is make pretty, fruit-

have been thin, astringent and overly

driven, attractive wines in a lighter style,

acidic. Happily, things have changed, as

a perfumed style. That’s what suits our

the 2018 vintage proved to many of the

climate.”

doubters.

It’s not just the bigger boys who are

Pinot destined for red wines is grown

growing Pinot Noir for still red. Kent

in Cornwall, Hampshire, Kent, Surrey

and East Sussex-based Will Davenport

and Sussex. The Crouch Valley in Essex is

makes his Diamond Fields Pinot Noir from

tipped by some to be a potential hotspot,

certified organic grapes. He sells out every

thanks to its particular microclimate and

year with the majority of what he makes

geology.

According to English wine pioneer

Stephen Skelton MW, “we can make a very few decent ones, and this will increase

slowly as growers determine which are their best plots and which clones and

rootstocks suit their soils”. This will be “a generational process”, he believes.

In good vintages, Kent-based Gusbourne

makes a small amount of still red Pinot Noir, most of which is sold at the cellar door or to their subscribers at a retail

price of £35. Less still reaches the off-

trade (Hedonism, Fortnum & Mason, Harvey Nichols) and a few high-

end restaurants such as Salt in

Stratford upon Avon, The Clove Club in London and The Hand

and Flowers in Marlow, which

going to the on-trade via Les Caves de Inspecting the fruit at Gusbourne

occasionally offers it by the glass. Yields

are kept low (approximately two tonnes an acre) and fruit is sourced from Boot

Hill, where 15-year-old Burgundian clones flourish. This is the favourite parcel of

head winemaker Charlie Holland, not least because here the vines always ripen first.

“Increasingly we are able to ripen Pinot

Noir to a stage that we couldn’t before, and the results are really exciting,” he says.

“In 2018 we made wine which was 13%

natural alcohol with levels of ripeness that

12 years ago, when I first got involved with English wines, I thought wasn’t possible.

THE WINE MERCHANT MARCH 2020 40

Pyrene.

The wine retails for £19.95 and clears a

very healthy return for its maker. A small

amount is kept back for the cellar door and local subscribers, who cannot get enough: his last new release sold out in 48 hours.

Doug Wregg, marketing director of Les

Caves de Pyrene, believes England can

make a go of still Pinot Noir but first we

need to master the basics: work out where to grow it, and take our time.

“It’s probably the most difficult grape,

because it’s the most terroir-driven,” he

says. “That’s why in Burgundy one vineyard is separated from another 10 yards away.

“If you get the right clones, the right soil,

you have the humility not to oak the death out of it and you are ready to take time –


SCHUSTER TAKES A SHUFTI because no one ever made great wine on

the first go, and it’s a learning experience – then you can make a great Pinot Noir.”

Tillingham makes artistically labelled

natural and biodynamic wines not far from

Gusbourne on similar soils of Wealden clay and sandstone. Magnificently situated on

rolling hills above Rye, it specialises in not

specialising: sometimes there are 40 or 50 wild ferments on the go from varieties as obscure as Trousseau.

Founder Ben Walgate’s Pinot Noir

(Germanic clone GM2013) has no

additions, minimal sulphur, no filtering

and is, he says, “as fresh as a daisy”. Every

bottle of Tillingham Pinot Noir (RRP £35) comes with a technical sheet detailing

how it should be served. Much of the fruit comes from Essex’s Crouch Valley which

Walgate cites as the best place in the whole of England for decent yields, high sugars and clean fruit.

Business is booming. Six pallets have

gone to Norway this year and Japan and America are lined up for future exports.

“Financial constraints mean we must sell

our wines now,” says Walgate. “We have no reserve stock and who knows – the 2018s might be some of the best wines we will make.

“For most of the winemakers I admire it’s

all about long élevage; one or two years for still wines. If we do that, I believe that we

have the raw materials here to really smash it, but it will take patience.

“Pinot is revered and there are people

who want to try Pinots from all around the world. If it’s something that is genuinely

high quality and exciting, then people are prepared to pay a premium for it.”

The renowned taster and educator runs the rule over six English Pinot Noirs from 2018 MW bootcamp coach Michael Schuster is enthused by the recent crop of English Pinot. “I’m not sure weight and substance are what one looks for in Pinot Noir,” he says. “More a sweetness of flavour, purity of fruit and fineness of texture, with 'class’, if present, as a bonus. “Given these criteria, and a good vintage, this little tasting suggests that English Pinot Noir can certainly deliver, and that its future is brimming with delicious promise. As with English sparklers, there is just an extra level of acidity, but these wines, remain perfectly balanced, with no suggestion whatsoever of meanness, leanness or unripeness. “The best are currently nudging, and occasionally nestling comfortably within, Premier Cru territory.” Davenport Diamond Fields Pinot Noir 2018; 12%, East Sussex

Deepish purple; black cherry nose with a suggestion of carbonic maceration bubble gum; nicely balanced, medium full wine with a fresh to lively acidity and nicely judged light tannin; a touch of residual CO2 spritz, a sweet, smooth, distinctly Pinot taste, with a fine purity of fruit, a nice length of flavour without being complex, and a good light, fragrant length. Very attractive Villages quality. Delicious – most likely to drink young.

Bolney Pinot Noir 2018; 12%, West Sussex

Pale ruby red; fairly closed, slightly reduced, faintly mineral nose; light to medium full, fresh, with a fine if slightly dry tannin; a pure, sweet, flavour, a modest depth of fruit but of a very fragrant character, moderately long to taste, in a taut, contained style, with a nice light persistence. Refined, subtly aromatic, and full of promise for the future. A top-quality Villages level.

Tillingham Pinot Noir 2018; 13%, East Sussex

Deepish purple; a light sweet black cherry nose with a hint of high-toned volatility; medium full, quite crisp in acidity, a little CO2 presence, a very fine, firm tannin; long and sweet and juicily sapid to taste, a touch warm from the VA on the finish, but with a fine persistence of both fruit and fragrance. Richer in flavour and proportions than the first two wines; another very promising Pinot of fine Villages Lieu-dit quality. Delicious.

Gusbourne Boot Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir 2016; 12%, Kent

Mid purple hued red; a fairly dense nose, still very closed up with the merest hint of reduction; medium full, fresh in acidity, fine but firmish in tannin; overall a denser, firmer style; a very attractive length of rich, sappy flavour, behind a lightly dry tannin texture which just pinches the finish a touch at the moment, and with a very good length of aftertaste. Top Villages / Lieu-dit level, with a greater concentration and depth than the first three wines. Needs a year or two.

Gusbourne Pinot Noir 2018; 12.5%, Kent

Mid youthful purple red; a particularly pretty black cherry fruit scent, persistent too; medium full, fresh, delicately tannic, with a touch of residual CO2; sweet, pure, gently juicy, long and subtle to taste; a real aromatic complexity here, and with excellent aromatic, lightly spicy length. This is very good indeed and, as with the earlier wines, really shows the promise of English Pinot Noir. On the cusp of lesser Premier Cru.

Gusbourne Reserve Pinot Noir 2018; 12.5%, Kent

Deepish youthful purple; a rich and persistent nose, new oak marked (but not coarse), black cherry in aroma; generous, fresh, firmly but finely tannic; deep, sapid, and juicy, with a touch of the wood tannin texture clear, long to taste, gently spicy, with a very attractive aromatic complexity, and with a very nice length of gently spiced aftertaste. If this is English Pinot Noir, well, its future is assured and exciting. This is very special, and brings to mind a fine, complete, mid rank Premier Cru Gevrey-Chambertin, where bottle age will doubtless make for a splendid bouquet, and greatly rewarding glass of mature wine. Bravo!

THE WINE MERCHANT MARCH 2020 41


ENGLISH WINE

Preparing for a summer of celebrations English Wine Week runs from May 23 to May 31, but the celebrations are set to continue across the summer, according to organiser Wine GB. “That week is when we expect there to be a hub of activity,” says marketing director Julia Trustram Eve. “But given the time of year, with the tourism, the new still wines, new vintages and activities going on over the summer, it’s really going to be used as a sort of launchpad for a summer of English wine.” As ever, independent wine merchants are being encouraged to get involved and where possible to team up with suppliers and English and Welsh producers to run promotions, tastings, dinners and other events. Wine GB can provide material for such activity. “We’re going to make a few more assets downloadable rather than have wads of stuff to send out to sellers,” says Trustram Eve. “The popular stuff like the bunting will still be there and we’ll be happy to supply this free of charge. “We’ll be producing stuff that’s going to be more suitable for retailers and other stuff for wholesalers and for on-trade.” Wine GB is keen to promote any activities that independents are involved in. “The important thing is for people to let us know what they’re doing. We’ve found that it’s taken on a life of its own and people actually forget to tell us what they’re doing, and it’s not logged on our [list of] events. It’s not really a problem, as we pick it up on social media, but we just ask for people to tag us in their events. “There is a lot of activity on Instagram as well as Facebook and Twitter. Independents’ customers will be keen followers on any of these social channels and we can deliver all those positive and very affirming messages. “Our job is to highlight the fact that English wines are readily available and there’s a lot going on in regions where there are vineyards, but also in places where you can’t just pop in to a local vineyard, but nonetheless they are flying the flag very fervently.” More information is available at www.winegb.co.uk.

Prosecco-style disrupters undercut traditional rivals Charmat-method wine can be “from England”, but not “English”. No wonder consumers are confused

C

harmat-method sparkling wines have added an extra

dimension to the English wine scene, though their arrival has not been without controversy.

The best-known brand is Fitz, made by a West Sussex start-up,

which went into national distribution last year. Flint Vineyard

in Norfolk makes a Charmat Rosé, and Kingscote Estate in East Sussex has also entered the market.

It’s thought that English billionaire businessman Mark Dixon,

who has embarked on a vast vineyard-planting project across southern England, is earmarking much of his production for

Prosecco-style English wine, which is much cheaper and quicker to make than traditional-method bottle-aged wines.

Many English producers are concerned that charmat-method

wines sell for under £20 – or even under £10, in the case of Aldi’s

Masterstroke wine – at a time when they are beginning to convince consumers that their traditional-method sparklers justify £30 and £40 price tags.

The problem is not so much that the Prosecco-style rivals exist

– but that consumers struggle to differentiate between these

and traditional-method wines. Charmat wines are banned from

describing themselves as “English sparkling wine”, but they can be

labelled as “sparkling wine from England” – a distinction so trifling as to be virtually meaningless.

It’s an issue that has been filling the in-tray of Wine GB, which

is “working on a series of initiatives to help educate the trade and consumers about the different production methods”, the industry body says.

THE WINE MERCHANT MARCH 2020 42


Gareth Davies, winemaker at Fitz, says feedback has been

“fantastic” and volumes are growing. “It’s a very approachable

style of wine,” he says. “We deliberately selected grape varieties

that are grown here in the UK that tend to have lower acidity than

Pinot Noir or Chardonnay, because we are not ageing the wine; we are not looking for autolytic characteristics.”

Fitz typically sells for below £20. “If you compare our wine to

the cheaper end of the traditional-method sparkling wines that are available here, I’ll back my wines all day,” he says.

Davies says the business has come under “quite a lot of pressure

to make sure that we’re not trying to give the impression that this is traditional method, which it absolutely is not”.

He adds: “There was a gap in the market that needed to be filled.

We see it as an upgrade from Prosecco: to provide something that

is locally produced, with fewer air miles, but you will get a similar style of product.

“There is no denying that price point is very key to the

customer’s decision about what they are going to buy. The average

price of traditional-method English wine is £30-£35. We are happy to tap into the area of the market that is not prepared to pay that kind of money for a product like sparkling wine.”

Henners ad supplied separately

THE WINE MERCHANT MARCH 2020 43


> THE WINEMAKER FILES Brad Greatrix, Nyetimber

Since 2007 the wines of Nyetimber have been expertly crafted by Canadian couple Cherie Spriggs and Brad Greatrix. Along with owner Eric Heerema, they are dedicated to unlocking the potential of winemaking in England, which was recognised in 2018 when Cherie was crowned IWC Sparkling Winemaker of the Year – the first ever winner from outside Champagne With almost 120 different parcels

What we strive for is elegance and

Three of our wines are ‘Multi-Vintage’,

across our 10 vineyards, we have a

delicacy rather than power or weight.

which was the result of building up

fantastic breadth of options when

The most important thing is balance, and

reserve wines since 2007. As well as

spot the style throughout the range.

a base wine to become a reserve wine,

harvesting, pressing and eventually blending. As we only use our own estate-grown fruit at Nyetimber, it allows us to really home in on the

minute differences in character across

two different soil types – greensand and chalk – and the three counties in which

we have vineyards planted: West Sussex, Hampshire and Kent.

while each Nyetimber cuvee will have its

consistency, reserve wines also bring a

own identity, we want people to be able to wonderful complexity and depth. For We have seven wines now. They include our 1086 and 1086 Rosé alongside the Tillington Single Vineyard, Blanc de

Blancs, and the MV wines (Classic Cuvee

it has to have great balance and ageing potential. We age our reserves on fine yeast lees and stored as individual

vineyard parcels. There are several

vintages of reserves in storage so we have

Rosé and Cuvee Chérie) which all together a great diversity of wines to draw from. give a great representation of what Nyetimber stands for.

Even after 13 years at Nyetimber it’s

The majority of our time is spent in

down with a bottle, relax and truly

each site. We vinify each small parcel

the winery, and we have a dedicated

enjoy it. I think all winemakers would

the time of blending. We always want

vineyards every day. Over the years

any particular parcel and therefore the

surrounding environment, and Ben has

We only make wines from vineyards that we own. The great advantage of

that is the deep familiarity it allows for

separately and the result is a wonderful

team headed up by our viticulturalist

the vineyard to shine through in our

our viticulture has evolved to be more

diversity of base wines to work with at

Ben Kanstler, which looks after the

wines, so there is no special treatment for

holistic, thinking of the soil health and

distinctions in the base wines come from nuances in the vineyards. I find that very exciting indeed!

Classic Cuvee MultiVintage RRP: £36.99 The signature wine of Nyetimber, a perfect balance of elegance and intensity. Our blend includes varieties from all our vineyards and several vintages.

been instrumental in that. Gone are the

days of compacted soils and using plastic to suppress weeds.

Blanc de Blancs 2013 RRP: £45.99 A wine of complexity and delicacy, aged for a longer time on the lees to develop classic brioche and vanilla aromas. First pioneered in 1992, our inaugural vintage, our Blanc de Blancs has always been a wine of perfect harmony.

still the greatest pleasure to just sit

agree its satisfying to taste one’s own

wines because each one comes with its

own story. Being so closely involved in the production process means that we have a special understanding of the history

and effort that went into making it, and those subtle details are a pleasure to

experience – like seeing all the threads and stitchwork on an elegant tapestry. Tillington Single Vineyard 2013 RRP: £99.99 A true expression of place, this rare and refined wine shows the exceptional Pinot Noir character of one of our most celebrated vineyards.

For more information about Nyetimber, call 0207 734 8490 or visit www.nyetimber.com

THE WINE MERCHANT MERCHANT march may 2019 2020 THE THE WINE WINE MERCHANT MERCHANT november september june 20182019 THE WINE MERCHANT 44 15 44


PROFILE: GUSBOURNE ESTATE

Gusbourne planted its first vines 16 years ago. Its wines are now really hitting their stride, as a recent trade tasting at the Kent winery demonstrated only too clearly

I

t’s a romantic drive to Gusbourne

Estate from the cinque port of Rye.

The old Military Road winds along the

misty marshlands, roughly following the

path of a canal dotted with sagging wooden jetties, ancient barges and patched-up skiffs.

A left turn through the pretty village of

Appledore, then right through a twisting lane and finally a winery looms into

view. The smart-looking building makes a statement without being grandiose or

self-important. In that sense, it suits the Gusbourne style perfectly.

Inside The Nest, as the new tasting room

is known, a selection from the producer’s

range is being uncorked for the pleasure of a group of visiting merchants.

The newly-released Blanc de Blancs

2015 is an obvious place to start. Made

primarily with Burgundian Chardonnay

clones and aged on its lees for 42 months and a further six months under cork, it’s firm and linear in style, with a touch of Gusbourne’s hallmark salinity.

The new Brut Reserve 2016 is also on

show. This cuvée spends 36 months on

its lees and the nutty, toasty notes blend

seamlessly with the subtle, elegant flavours of red berries and even peaches.

The team works with more than 250

base wines to achieve the consistent style that trade and consumer alike have come

Head winemaker Charlie Holland

A taste of Gusbour to expect and enjoy, though subtle vintage

variations are part of the fun. There are no plans to produce any non vintage wines. Still wines make up just 5% of

from the lean, mean English Chardonnays that have seared the palates of so many tasters.

in 2018 meant that winemaker Charlie

G

made with grapes from a single clone from

as potentially the best place in the world

production at Gusbourne in a typical

vintage, but the superb growing conditions Holland and his team could not resist

launching Gusbourne Chardonnay 809, the marshy Bottom Camp vineyard.

It’s warm and strikingly aromatic, with

peach and apricot notes – a world away

THE WINE MERCHANT MARCH 2020 46

usbourne is also achieving great things with its still Pinot Noirs,

albeit in tiny quantities as things

stand. Many years ago, Randall Grahm of

Bonny Doon in California tipped England

to grow this capricious variety. Tasting the latest Gusbourne efforts, his claims are

suddenly sounding rather less crackpot


SPONSORED FEATURE

BLANC DE BLANCS VERTICAL TASTING

“Blanc de Blancs is a very important blend to us at Gusbourne,” says assistant winemaker Harry Pickering, introducing a vertical tasting for a group of visiting merchants. “Chardonnay represents over half of the vines that we have planted and it’s a blend that we’re very happy with. It’s all about elegance, energy, drive and precision, and the balance between citrus and autolysis flavours and minerality. “It’s not necessarily looking for wines with huge fruit expression. We spend a lot of time talking about structure, extended lees ageing and cork ageing on top of that.” Gusbourne Blanc de Blancs 2015 The current release is characteristically bracing. “Freshness is a really important element of Blanc de Blancs,” says Pickering. “If there’s something unique about English wines it is that freshness and acidity.” Gusbourne Blanc de Blancs 2014 According to Pickering, “2014 was a warmer vintage, so the wine is maybe slightly more muscular in style, but still with that characteristic minerality, drive and precision.”

rne’s greatness than they were at the time.

The first vines at Gusbourne were

planted in 2004, in the fields surrounding the winery. Much of this area was once

submerged by the English Channel before transforming into saltmarsh and finally viable, clay-rich farmland.

Gusbourne has also acquired land high

up on the chalk downs of West Sussex, which gives Holland and the team an

enhanced palette with which to work.

It’s been interesting to take stock of the

differences between the Kent and Sussex

fruit, with the grapes from the clay soils in the east tending to display more salinity than their Sussex cousins.

“There’s a huge amount we still don’t

understand about minerality,” says

assistant winemaker Harry Pickering,

“but there’s something going on with the minerality we are getting from certain sites.

“Having said that, no vineyard behaves

the same way each year, and when we’re blending we’ll look at each component separately, and blind.”

THE WINE MERCHANT MARCH 2020 47

Gusbourne Blanc de Blancs 2013 “It was a slightly colder vintage, like 2015,” says Pickering. “We’ve started to see some toastiness in the aroma profile and there’s bags of fruit behind it. It’s a very different style of wine to the 2014. But they’re both correct examples of Blanc de Blancs. “There’s still lots of life in this wine. We’ve kept a lot of this wine back on the lees to see how it will develop.” Gusbourne Blanc de Blancs 2010 “As with all cool vintages it’s interesting to see how the wines are developing with age,” says Pickering. “It’s really exciting to think that this is a 10-year-old wine but it still feels very youthful. It’s had 42 months on the lees.” Gusbourne Blanc de Blancs 2008 “Now we’re moving into some more tertiary characters,” Pickering says. “This has had seven years on the cork. Again, the fruit is still really ripe. I get a Solero ice cream on the nose: mango and cream. There’s complexity, depth and fruit.” Gusbourne Blanc de Blancs 2006 This vintage perhaps illustrates how far Gusbourne has come. “This is the first vintage of Blanc de Blancs that Gusbourne made, with two-and-a-half-year-old vines,” says Pickering. “It’s more oxidised and madeirised in style now.”


© artiemedvedev / stockadobe.com

THE SPIRITS WORLD

“The main thing for us is to encourage farmers to grow organically” – Thompson Bros Distillers

Greener and cleaner Consumers are asking questions about the eco-credentials of the wines they buy. If they get as choosy about their spirits, there are plenty of options available, as Nigel Huddleston reports

T

here’s a distinct green tinge to a lot of the buzzwords in wine at the moment. Organic, natural,

biodynamic, non-intervention, sustainable and vegan are competing to be the top virtue-signallers for producers and

importers in an era when humans’ impact on the environment has reached crisis point.

In spirits, green stuff is all flying a little

bit more under the radar. Overtly organic

products are relatively few in number

grappa and sambuca from Biostilla, Guy

or highlighting them with stickers or

Northamptonshire.

compared to wine, and retailers corralling a selection into an “organic spirits” fixture badges are thin on the ground.

But the numbers are growing. Specialist

organic wine supplier Vintage Roots

lists around 30 spirits, about two-thirds of which are gins, but also including

vermouth and an organic alternative to Aperol from Italian producer Walcher,

Pinard’s Cognacs, Don Abraham tequila and Jelley’s English grain vodka from “There’s a whole new range that’s

become available,” says Vintage Roots

director Neil Palmer. “We started with

Cognac and Calvados 20 years ago and the

range has gown massively. We could easily have more but we don’t want to list too many just for the sake of it.

rum

english whisky

scotch whisky

oceans apart

second's out - round two

mixing bourbon and port

Equiano is a £50-a-pop rum blending spirits from the prestigious Foursquare distillery in Barbados and from Gray’s in Mauritius. It takes its name from the 18th century Benin-born writer and abolitionist Olaudah Equiano, whose travels, like the rum, took him between Africa and the Caribbean. Speciality Drinks is distributing.

Spirit of Yorkshire distillery has unveiled Second Release, one of a series of limited editions as it moves towards creating a flagship permanent brand of whisky as more of its casks mature. Second Release has a bottle price of £55 and was created from a selection of spirits from several bourbon casks and from one sherry barrel.

Speyside distiller Glen Moray’s latest whisky is a 25-year-old single malt that’s served most of its sentence in former bourbon casks before preparing for its release with some time resting in old vintage port barrels. It’s a limited issue of 2,700 bottles, hence the £175 price tag.

THE WINE MERCHANT MARCH 2020 48


“There are another 20 organic gins we

made with organic Sicilian black tomatoes,

“There’s an organic absinthe and a pastis

as “nuances of Merlot, salt and citrus”.

could buy today but unless there’s a point of difference or something amazing … on the market which might be worth

looking at. We try to have a cross-section,

cover all the bases. We’ve definitely seen an increase in sales as the interest in organics has grown.”

T

he Vintage Roots line-up includes Utkins UK5 vodka and Juniper

Green gin from the pioneering

Organic Spirits Co, which have been around since around the turn of the millennium, and which give the lie to the notion that organic has to mean expensive: both

have retail prices around the £20 a bottle

mark. Organic Spirits Co also markets the Paraguyan rum range Papagayo.

Scandinavia is a rich source of organic

options, with Tom of Finland vodka

distributed by Spirit Cartel and Herno’s Swedish gins handled by Love Drinks.

The Amathus-handled Spirit of Hven

range is vodka-led but also includes malt and rye whiskeys, gin and akvavit.

Closer to home, Ceredigion-based Dà

Mhìle’s gins and liqueurs are favourites of some of the top Welsh indies, while London Distillery’s Kew and Dodd’s

organic gins could get a new lease of life after the troubled producer was bought

out of administration by Keepr’s gin owner British Honey.

Among the imports making their mark

is US producer Prairie, whose vodka and gin are billed as gluten-free as well as

organic, and Black Tomato, a curious gin

pimentos and purified sea water to give

what producer Dutch VOC Spirits describes Marussia Beverages’ portfolio includes

Death’s Door gin and Square One vodka from the States.

Phil Thompson, at Thompson Bros

Distillers in Dornoch in north eastern

Scotland, thinks that there’s more to come from organic spirits. His family’s company produces organic gin and will release its

first organic single malt this year, though it already buys and bottles organic-certified casks of whisky from other producers. “With wine you have that direct

connection with the land which has been a large selling point – the source, the

provenance, the soil,” Thompson says. “With spirits a bit more processing

goes on and producers haven’t focused on organic in the same way that wine has. “We don’t go out there and openly

market ourselves as organic but we talk about it in tastings.

“More people are realising there needs

to be a focus on maintaining water courses and having good soil quality.

“The main thing for us is to encourage

farmers to grow organically. We know a

few who are growing to organic standards but don’t apply for certification because of the cost. That’s something that the industry needs to look at.

“We pay a premium for organic cereal

and fruit to put in gin and that encourages more that do, the more likely it is that the price eventually comes down.”

gin liqueurs

pink from provence

swallow the amazon

25ml rhubarb gin 10ml lemon juice 10ml sugar syrup Mint leaves Soda water Ice

more farmers to make the switch. The

gin Provence rosé brand Mirabeau is the latest entrant into the burgeoning pink gin arena. The unfussily-named Mirabeau Rosé Gin is juniper-forward and made from a grape-spirit base, with a bill of familiar gin spice and citrus botanicals reinforced by bay, thyme and rosemary to give it a herbaceous character.

We’re heading into rhubarb season. The vegetable that thinks it’s a fruit has become an unlikely hero of the gin category and its tart flavour is given a chance to shine in a simple long drink with soda, rather than hiding behind tonic. Warner’s (formerly Warner Edwards) is perhaps the best known but rhubarb has also been embraced by the likes of Aber Falls, Tarquin’s and Edinburgh, with variations including additional ginger or raspberry.

Mulberry & Coca is one of the more outthere gin flavours to hit the shelves. It comes courtesy of London to Lima, and is made in Peru with Quebranta grapes, normally used to make pisco, macerated with fruit and Amazonian coca leaves. The brand is handling its own UK distribution for now; contact karenajames@londontolima.com.

THE WINE MERCHANT MARCH 2020 49

Add the gin, syrup, lemon juice add ice to a shaker and give it some welly. Pour into a long glass. Top with soda water to taste. Garnish with a sprig of mint. For an optional touch of freshness, lightly muddle a couple of mint leaves and add to the shaker with the other ingredients. Strain into the glass if doing so.


SMALL BUSINESS MATTERS WITH WBC

My brief escape to the Cape Andrew Wilson’s sabbatical to South Africa gave him a chance to take stock of the huge strides made by wine producers with their visitor facilities – and some interesting packaging trends

A

fter 30 years’ hard slog at WBC

that give the vineyards additional revenue

I promised myself a sabbatical

streams. Twenty years ago, the forward-

over Christmas and January and

thinking wineries were already set up

had an amazing trip to Southern Africa.

with a welcoming tasting room and took

Whilst I am not South African, we have

full advantage of their beautiful natural

had a family home there for 20 years and

settings to make a visit a very pleasant day

I have been lucky enough to be a regular

out. Some of them were starting to offer

visitor. South Africa often gets a bad press

picnics in the grounds, and others had

and there is no doubt that the country

a restaurant on site. The retail element

faces some serious issues, but I am hugely

tended to focus on selling their own wines

positive about everything there from my

from the tasting area.

experiences.

pretend I am an expert on the country but

J

that wine and food retailing has played in

their own right. The shops have a well-

ump forward 20 years and the

Granted, I spend most of my time in

investment has been incredible.

the Western Cape so am not trying to

Tasting rooms have been elevated

to beautiful new buildings. The restaurants

am simply conveying my thoughts on the

are top class and would merit a visit in

transformation I have seen and the part

considered range of wine related and

this.

branded products.

I was reading that every new

The range of wines on offer has grown

international flight slot into Cape Town

to include rosé, sweet wines, straw wines,

creates employment for 3,000 people – so

gins, eaux de vie, vermouth and Campari-

BA, with up to three flights a day, and a new Virgin direct flight just announced, could generate 12,000 jobs.

Independent merchants are well aware

of the improvements in the quality and range of wines being made in South

Africa and although I am a keen amateur wine enthusiast, I am no expert and take as much interest in the presentation, packaging and merchandising side

together with the commercial spin-offs

‘In terms of gift packaging, South Africa is on trend in terms of simplicity, natural materials and sustainability’ THE WINE MERCHANT march 2020 50

style products and, as in many places the craft beer scene has exploded.

Klein Constantia has always been one of

my favourite places to visit and I used to

make an annual pilgrimage there to buy a

bottle of two of their Vin de Constance. The beautiful setting, with its agapanthus-lined driveway past vines and meadows full of cows, was always a major draw, second

only to the wine. But nowadays they have


a great bistro restaurant, a seriously well-

merchandised shop and a fabulous tasting room – so rather than simply buying a

couple of bottles I will eat there, buy a gift

or something for the house and stock up on their great magnums of rosé, the MCC fizz,

a bottle of the Vin de Constance (it used to

be R150 a bottle 20 years ago but now it is over R1,000 but still a treat!) and for the

first time this year a bottle of their Spirit of Constance grappa, which I can highly recommend.

Clearly, they are very good at what they

do and have found ways of getting the

Klein Constantia: always a favourite stopping-off point

I am not sure what lessons we can learn

• For the record, the standout wines I

average transaction value to multiply many

in the UK from this. Clearly the climate is

enjoyed whilst I was away were Klein

just have easily told a similar story about

customers that they are doing or planning

Marshall Pinot Noir; Springfield Estate

multiple income streams.

Rosé magnums; Klein Constantia Spirit of

of crowd funding. Over the years I also

Sauvignon; Constantia Glen 5.

fold over the years. Whilst I have picked

out Klein Constantia as an example, I could many other vineyards.

Babylonstoren has gone a few steps

further and has amazing gardens, a tasting room, multiple eating options and a

well-respected hotel and spa. Constantia Glen has an amazingly popular casual restaurant that not only promotes its wines but brings in the punters.

W

ine labels and bottle designs are some of the most

interesting I have seen.

The Geometric Gin bottle (left) is a great example, but it is just one of the great designs I have noticed.

In terms of gift packaging, I would say

that South Africa is not as developed

as the UK market but what they have is well considered, and on trend in terms of simplicity, natural materials and sustainability.

helpful there in terms of outside eating, but

Sering – Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon blend;

similar customer experiences at their

Work of Time; Alheit Vineyards Cartology

I know from a number of our UK vineyard

Keermont Terrase white blend; Catherine

properties. They see the potential in having

white blend; Klein Constantia Cuvée Annabel

of this, and this has the added excitement

Cabernet Sauvignon; Eikendal Cabernet

Chapel Down would be a good example

Constance; Cederberg Five Generations

think that WBC’s range of products has

reflected some of the changes in retailing

from pure wine merchants to more mixed offerings to include food and events.

Anyway, I am looking forward to the

South African wine tasting event being

held in our showroom later this year, in

partnership with The Wine Merchant. Do

remember that we have a great space that we are happy for merchants to make use

of for meetings and tastings if the location

suits – and on top of that we have good free parking which is a rarity in London these days. If you are interested in using the space, then let me know.

THE WINE MERCHANT march 2020 51

Andrew Wilson of WBC


MAKE A DATE

ED

Taste Champagne Biodyvin Trade Tasting Trade Showcase

Bordeaux Grands Crus 2016–2019

SIVCBD, otherwise known as Biodyvin,

This annual event, hosted by 10 leading

Champagne Guide and International

was created in 1995, by just five French

Bordeaux Grands Crus châteaux, will

Wine & Spirit Communicator of the

producers.

include a vertical tasting of four recent

CE LL

Hosted by Tyson Stelzer, author of the

Year, Taste Champagne claims to be the

CA N

largest tasting of Champagne in the world.

It’s a showcase of diversity from the

smallest growers to the largest houses and cooperatives all under one roof, with 292

cuvées from 56 producers set to be on taste at this year’s London show.

Register at www.tastechampagne.events.

Wednesday, March 25

Royal Horticultural Halls Lindley Hall Elverton Street London SW1P 2QW

Walker & Wodehouse Off the Shelf

A quarter of a century later, Biodyvin’s

vintages from a portfolio of Right and

membership has grown to 160

Left Bank estates.

Together, their vineyards add up to an

and also to taste the 2019 En Primeurs

winegrowers throughout France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Switzerland and Spain.

area of around 3,700ha of biodynamically farmed land.

Only properties that are farmed entirely

according to the guiding principles of

biodynamics, or those that have committed to full conversion after three years, are

accepted and receive Biodyvin approval. Producers represented at the London

tasting include Domaine Zind Humbrecht, imported by Gonzalez Byass, and

Champagne Fleury, imported by FMV. Monday, April 6

It provides a unique opportunity to

compare wines from 2016, 2017 and 2018 release.

Exhibiting will be Châteaux Branaire-

Ducru, Canon, Canon La Gaffelière, Gazin, Guiraud, Léoville Poyferré, Montrose,

Pontet-Canet, Rauzan-Ségla and Smith Haut Lafitte.

Bordeaux is enjoying a purple patch

among many specialist merchants so this tasting is likely to be eagerly anticipated.

Register at www.spearcommunications.

co.uk/29Apr20.

Wednesday, April 29

OXO II Tower

Church House

Bargehouse Street

Dean’s Yard

London SE1 9PH

London SW1P 3NZ

Walker & Wodehouse invites merchants to browse a selection of handpicked wines it predicts will “jump off the shelf”. The tasting features an array of wines

from sparkling to rosé, alongside some Walker & Wodehouse exclusives, with producers on hand to discuss their

creations. “Immerse yourself in the journey from vine to glass,” the company says.

Register to attend by visiting the website

at offtheshelf-walkerandwodehouse. eventbrite.co.uk.

Monday, April 6 The Siding 6 O’Meara Street London SE1 1TE

Bordeaux comes to London on April 29

THE WINE MERCHANT MARCH 2020 52


© Gehkah / stockadobe.com

Vineyards at Schloss Hoflößnitz, Radebeul

Wines of Germany: The Big G The largest tasting of German wines in the UK will be back at Somerset House next month. The Big G is designed to celebrate the

“best and the brightest” in German wine available in the UK.

UK importers including ABS, Graft,

Liberty, Lea & Sandeman, Indigo Wine,

Justerini & Brooks, Delibo and Amathus

are gathering to showcase the best of their German portfolios.

There will be masterclasses and panel

discussions on the day, among them

Riesling, a Love Affair – an in-depth look at the variety, which will yield insights from across the trade on how to make Riesling work for you.

A seminar looking at environmentally

THE WINE MERCHANT MARCH 2020 53

conscious winemaking practices in

Germany will delve into biodynamics,

organics and all the things to be considered on the greener side of production.

To register visit www.winesofgermany.

co.uk.

Wednesday, April 29 Embankment Galleries Somerset House Strand London WC2R 1LA


MAKE A DATE

The Big Fortified Tasting The first outing for the Big Fortified Tasting was back in 2009, and over time it has grown and developed to be not only the major show for Sherry in the UK but the place to discover up and coming trends. Show organiser Alex Bridgeman says:

“Gin has been riding the wave of popularity for some time. At some stage people are

going to move on to the next big thing and this year we are backing vermouth. We’ve got 16 different vermouths at the show

from something like 12 different producers, and what’s really nice is that we’ve got five or six from England.

“It’s fabulous that for the first time we

are seeing English fortified wines at the

BFT. It’s a real labour of love. Bolney for

example is making its vermouth solely from wine and botanicals it sources from its own vineyard – I would say if you are interested in vermouth, that’s one really good reason to come along.”

The show is helpfully timed to fit in

with Christmas ordering. “There will

be producers at the show specifically

exhibiting fortified wine-related Christmas

Jancis Robinson (top) was one of the attendees to praise last year’s BFT

products,” explains Bridgeman. “They know they have to get their orders into their suppliers by the middle of May.

“Also, many producers who are coming

are looking at the anniversary market for

this year, so things like 1970 Port, but they are also looking ahead and one or two of them are thinking about 1971. Do they

have any vintage 1971 Sherries that have been kept in barrel, or perhaps a solera that was started in 1971?”

Bridgeman is enthusiastic about the

category and its increasing popularity and cultural influence. “When I speak to the

producers, they are seeing strong sales of

premium Port, which would be things like

tawny with indication of age, late bottled vintage and vintage, and they are seeing a steady decline of the lower end,” he reports.

“There are people now who are basing

their business around fortified wines and the food that goes with them.

“There are places in London where they

have got the most wonderful Port lists.

Davy’s has done so much to expand its Port list – you can have a glass of Taylors ’97

and they will get through it quickly enough for it to be fresh.”

THE WINE MERCHANT MARCH 2020 54

There will be three masterclasses on

the day. The first is being presented by

David Guimaraens, followed by Johnny

Symington whose masterclass ties in to

the 200th anniversary of Graham’s Port.

The third masterclass will be presented by the IVBAM and will focus on the wines of Madeira.

Register at www.thebft.co.uk.

Thursday, April 23 Church House London SW1P 3NZ


THE WINE MERCHANT MARCH 2020 55


The Wine Merchant Top 100

Now in its eighth year

Chaired by David Williams

Winners shown at LWF

Classic styles welcome

Esoteric styles encouraged

Meticulous judging process

Entry deadline March 20

25 independents involved

10 Trophy winners

Highly commended wines

Supplement for winners

Endorsed by indies

Entries are now open for the only competition that is focused entirely on wines sold in the independent trade. It's also the only competition where all the judges are independent merchants themselves. If you distribute or retail wines that can stand out in this dynamic market, visit www.winemerchanttop100.com for an entry form or email claire@winemerchantmag.com.


SUPPLIER BULLETIN

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

0207 409 7276 enquiries@louislatour.co.uk www.louislatour.co.uk

Introducing Smith & Sheth and Pyramid Valley New to our range and available to order from UK stocks. Call 020 7409 7276 for information. Smith & Sheth Smith & Sheth is a contemporary négociant inspired by the original French négociants and British merchants who worked, using their connections, to create expert wines. Founders Steve Smith MW and Brian Sheth are united by a love of fine wine and have built on more than 35 years of experience developing relationships in the New Zealand wine industry. Their wines originate from parcels of their own land and from growers with a focus on Hawke’s Bay and its varied patchwork of appellations. Pyramid Valley Pyramid Valley is one of the great names of New Zealand wine and we are very pleased to be able to bring the wines to the UK. Founded in 2000, Pyramid Valley is located in North Canterbury on vineyards established in the early part of this century. In 2017 the founders decided to sell to Steve Smith MW and Brian Sheth and today, staying true to the estate’s founding principles, Steve and Brian are working to fulfil the true potential of the sites. In 2018 they purchased a second vineyard in Lowburn, Central Otago. Pyramid Valley’s vineyards are farmed biodynamically and are Demeter certified.

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

One to ‘Try’ .... Kleine Zalze

Vineyard Selection Chenin Blanc “South Africa, by contrast, wheels on the heavyweight scrum down, front-row types, with full bodies, reinforced by oak. The signature white grape is chenin blanc and the barrel-fermented Kleine Zalze Chenin Blanc Vineyard Selection 2018, made from old bush vines in one of Stellenbosch’s most long-established vineyards has rich, honeyed, lightly tropical fruit flavours and a dry, long finish. A real food wine - particularly with lighter pork dishes, smoked haddock fish pie or anything with aioli.” Terry Kirby | The Independent (Web) | 2nd November 2019

Please contact Hatch Mansfield for further information

THE WINE MERCHANT MARCH 2020 57


SUPPLIER BULLETIN

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

@ABSWines

PACIFIC NORTH WEST SELECTION With the success of the recent introductions of twill Cellars and Division Wine Co. from Oregon and a growing trade interest in the Pacific Northwest, we have decided to introduce two wineries from Washington State into our Portfolio. Cascadia, offering a competitively priced entry level Syrah and Kevin White Winery. A relative newcomer to the Washington Wine State wine scene, winemaker Kevin White has already garnered multiple accolades and Spectator points for his Rhône style wines.

WASHINGTON STATE 2018 Cascadia Syrah - Yakima Valley This dark concentrated Syrah possesses flavours of dark berry, clove and white pepper, coating the palate with a plush round mouthfeel and leading to a silky-smooth finish. 2018 Kevin White “Blue Label” - Yakima Valley This wine jumps out as a lively blend of Bing cherry, plum and blueberry aromas with floral and spice elements throughout. On the palate, these flavours are wrapped around a medium body with soft tannins leading towards a lovely finish.

OREGON 2015 twill Cellars Oregon Syrah Immediate aromas of blackberries, black olives, sweet violets, bitter chocolate, and espresso are noted. With air, ground coffee, pepper spice, citrus and hints of iron present in the background. On the palate, this wine is savoury, bright, and from the get-go, delicious. 2017 Division Pinot Noir “Un” Willamette Valley We used the terms “power” and “grace” to describe this wine as it’s truly that. The aromatics are electric and airy at the same time, with deep spicy earthy tones and strawberry and an almost iron notes. The palate is full, but not heavy, with a serious amount of ethereal length for a base level Pinot. It’s dominated by wild and brambly strawberry flavours and dark mineral layers.

Famille Helfrich Wines

Over 3,000ha of our own properties in France

1, rue Division Leclerc, 67290 Petersbach, France cdavies@lgcf.fr 07789 008540 @FamilleHelfrich

They’re all smiles to your face …

THE WINE MERCHANT MARCH 2020 58


liberty wines

Don’t overlook Dolcetto!

by David Gleave MW

020 7720 5350

Once the mainstay of dining tables across Piemonte, Dolcetto has been disappearing

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

is still championed by GD Vajra and Massolino.

from vineyards over recent decades in favour of the more lucrative Nebbiolo. Though

@liberty_wines

many of the Langhe’s great names no longer produce a Dolcetto, this wonderful variety Upholding local tradition, Vajra dedicate prime hillside sites to Dolcetto,

where it can express its full potential. Their vibrant and fruity Dolcetto

d’Alba comes from vines averaging 25 years, while their rich and textured

‘Coste e Fossati’ Dolcetto d’Alba has been selected from two of the estate’s finest Barolo crus, Coste di Vergne and Fossati, since Aldo was crazy enough

to plant them to Dolcetto in 1979. That Vajra maintain these old Dolcetto vineyards rather than replant them with Nebbiolo for Barolo is testimony to their passion for and commitment to the variety. New to our list this spring, Massolino’s Dolcetto d’Alba is, as you might expect, a bit fuller than Vajra’s, with lovely supple tannins and nice depth on the mid-palate.

In the right hands, Dolcetto gives wines with an elegance, brightness of

fruit and suppleness that makes them eminently drinkable – the perfect foil to the region’s antipasti and pasta dishes. Just as higher prices in the Côte

d’Or have seen renewed interest in Beaujolais, so the charms of the 2018 vintage in the Langhe provide a timely reminder of the value and appeal of this often-overlooked part of Piemonte’s winemaking heritage.

hallgarten wines

“Minerality isn’t a taste of texture, it’s a feeling.” Jamie Goode

Dallow Road Luton LU1 1UR 01582 722 538 sales@hnwines.co.uk www.hnwines.co.uk

@hnwines

Minerality is a word often used in wine, but what is Minerality? Is it crushed rocks, sea salt or chalk notes? Is it something only present in specific terroir? Does Minerality even exist in wine? HERDADE DO ROCIM, ‘FRESH FROM AMPHORA - NAT’COOL’, ALENTEJO 2018 - (1L) “This blend of Moreto, Tinta Grossa and Trincadeira has been made totally naturally, using the Talha and with no additions or must corrections. RRP: £20.49

THE WINE MERCHANT MARCH 2020 59

“Wine is 80% water, so surely the soil can impact the flavour of the wine.” - Steve Daniel MATIAS RICCITELLI, BLANCO DE LA CASA, VALLE DE UCO 2019 “This is a textured and full-flavoured blend of Sauvignon and Semillon, with complex aromas of green apple, hay and herbaceous notes underpinned by remarkable minerality.” RRP: £24.99


SUPPLIER BULLETIN

richmond wine agencies The Links, Popham Close Hanworth Middlesex TW13 6JE 020 8744 5550 info@richmondwineagencies.com

@richmondwineag1

New arrival from Mendoza! Argentina is a land of high plains and soaring mountains. At 6,962m, Mt Aconcagua is the highest point in the southern and western hemispheres and it is in the shadow of this peak that much of Argentina’s Malbec is grown.

The warm days and cool nights allow grapes to ripen slowly bringing freshness and purity of fruit to the resulting wines. Probably the best-known region to benefit from this high-altitude phenomenon is Mendoza, where this juicy and velvety Malbec, Punto Alto, originates from. In transition to organic certification and shipped in eco-friendly flexitank, this is a low carbon footprint wine befitting our “Treading Lightly” logo.

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

Established in 1836, Houghton is Australia's third oldest winery. It is also the most awarded winery in Western Australia. A fine wine of elegance, fruit flavour and power balanced by firm fine-grained tannins, Jack Mann is the finest Cabernet produced by Houghton. Accordingly, it is named after legendary Houghton winemaker Jack Mann, who presided over the winemaking for 51

consecutive vintages. Jack’s unrelenting search for flavour and character and his desire to make wine to exacting standards was legendary within the industry.

Jack Mann Cabernet evokes a sense and scent of

place, with crushed-blackcurrant and herb-garden aromas, beautiful concentration, and perfectlyripe tannins and tremendous drive. Jack Mann

Cabernet Sauvignon is a single-vineyard wine from the Justin Vineyard in the Frankland River region

of Western Australia. This region is characterised by cool winters, warm summer days and cool

summer nights. The Cabernet grapes for this wine were hand-picked from a small patch

of 45-year-old vines. The particular clone of Cabernet Sauvignon is an original Houghton clone selected by Jack Mann.

Please contact Fine Wine Partners for further details on all of the Houghton wines.

THE WINE MERCHANT MARCH 2020 60


mentzendorff The Woolyard 52 Bermondsey Street London SE1 3UD 020 7840 3600 info@mentzendorff.co.uk www.mentzendorff.co.uk

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

The Gil family have been producers in Jumilla

for over 100 years but took a major step forward

when Miguel Gil, great-grandson of the company’s founder, built a new bodega in time for the 2003 vintage. Putting sustainability at the heart of its business, the winery is entirely self-sufficient,

020 8961 5161

Sustainability reigns in Jumilla

producing zero waste and disconnected from the electrical grid.

@EnotriaCoe

Situated on the slopes of the Peñarrubia mountain, the highest part of Jumilla with

poor stony soils noted for its richly flavoured, concentrated Monastrell, Bodegas

Juan Gil owns over 500 hectares of vineyards and has access to further fruit from 30 to 50-year-old vines. The bodega produces powerful yet approachable and modern

wines, mainly based on Monastrell, which is grown in 85% of the vineyard, along with Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot and Petit Verdot.

One of the biggest issues wineries face is water waste. Despite high temperatures

and low rainfall, dry-farmed bush vines mean that the whole winery is non-irrigated. With the ethos that “the land is where everything begins,” the Gil family believe in

a gentle style of winemaking, with as little influence on the winemaking process as possible, and this is shown in their commitment to organic farming.

Enotria&Coe are extremely proud to represent this outstanding producer in the UK.

THE WINE MERCHANT MARCH 2020 61


SUPPLIER BULLETIN

walker & Wodehouse 109a Regents Park Road London NW1 8UR 0207 449 1665

This spring, Walker & Wodehouse invites you to come and browse a selection of handpicked wines that will jump Off the Shelf. With an array of wines from sparkling to rosé, alongside some Walker & Wodehouse exclusives, take the chance to meet our producers and immerse yourself in the journey from vine to glass. Monday 6 April 11am – 4pm The Siding, 6 O’Meara Street London SE1 1TE

orders@walkerwodehousewines.com www.walkerwodehousewines.com

@WalkerWodehouse

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

@BuckSchenk @buckinghamschenk

RSVP: offtheshelf-walkerandwodehouse.eventbrite.co.uk

Hauller, Alsace Established in the very heart of Alsace in the village of Dambach-la-Ville, the

Hauller House was founded in 1775, a time that is considered the golden age of winemaking and for wines of Alsace.

Today the Hauller legacy is preserved by winemakers and cellar masters

and over the years the knowledge and passion remains unabated. The

diversity of the seven Alsatian grape varieties and the concentration of its terroirs are reflected in all the Hauller wines. Organic Riesling

This organic Riesling is a new addition to our portfolio. Fruity and floral

notes usually associated with Riesling are present, with a touch of citrus

fruit, a pleasant minerality and balanced acidity. Great wine on its own, but

will come to life with fish and shellfish dishes or a traditional tarte au citron. Organic Pinot Blanc

Another organic addition to our Alsace range, this Pinot Blanc shows fresh

and fruity notes of green apples, peach and white flowers. Elegant wine on the palate with floral notes and a great length.

THE WINE MERCHANT MARCH 2020 62


Old Barn Farm Harts Lane, Ardleigh Colchester CO7 7QQ 01206 231686 julie@seckfordagencies.co.uk @seckfordagency Seckford Agencies Ltd

Low and no-alcohol wines to consider in March The Doctors / Vine Whisperer, 9.5%, Marlborough, New Zealand Innovative ranges pioneered by Dr John Forrest following 10 years of research to produce wines made ‘naturally’ in the vineyard. Lower alcohol is achieved on 2017 Rosé (Pinot Noir) and 2018 Vine Whisperer Sauvignon Blanc.

© rh2010 / stockadobe.com

seckford agencies

Pikes Hills and Valleys Riesling, 11%, Clare Valley, Australia Made from premium fruit sourced from both growers and estate vineyards, with immediate enjoyment in mind. Great with any foods with a hint of spice.

River Retreat Moscato, 6%, Murray Darling, Australia The wetlands of the region are integral to maintaining the health of the unique yet fragile ecosystems of south eastern inland Australia. Trentham Estate’s River Retreat range is based on an initiative raising awareness of this habitat.

Jam Jar Moscato, 10%, South Africa This charming, easy-drinking white offers juicy flavours of peach, litchi and orange blossom in a sweet and sassy style! A lively jolt of acidity keeps it fresh, fruity and fun. Fancy enough for a special-occasion toast, yet sweet-natured enough to enjoy every day. Darling Cellars 0% De-alcoholised Wines, South Africa Arriving late March for sampling and pre-order. 2019 Sauvignon Blanc, 2019 Rosé and 2018 Shiraz.

top selection 23 Cellini Street London SW8 2FQ 0845 410 3255 info@topselection.co.uk www.topselection.co.uk

Top Selection adds Villa Saletta and iconic Duckhorn wines from California to its portfolio Tuscan estate Villa Saletta has appointed Top Selection as exclusive UK distributor for its range of award-winning IGT Toscana and DOCG Chianti wines.

The historic 1,760-acre estate was purchased by UK financier Guy Hands and his wife

Julia in 2000, with a vision to restore a rich winemaking tradition that could be traced back to 980AD. Following considerable investment in the renovation of old vines and

new plots, Villa Saletta has 22 hectares, planted with Sangiovese and varieties including Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot.

Under the stewardship of head winemaker David Landini,

the winery has earned a reputation for high quality, terroirdriven wines of archetypical Tuscan style.

Top Selection will initially import five wines, including

the range-topping Super Tuscan 980AD, IWSC Gold Medal winning Chiave di Saletta and a DOCG Chianti.

Top Selection is also now distributing the eponymous

Duckhorn wines and brands including Decoy, Goldeneye, Migration, Canvasback and Kosta Browne. The range

includes wines from Napa, Sonoma and Central Coast California as well as Washington

State. Top Selection has been working with the producer’s Calera wines for many years.

THE WINE MERCHANT MARCH 2020 63


Profile for The Wine Merchant magazine

The Wine Merchant issue 89  

March 2020 edition of The Wine Merchant, a specialist trade magazine for independent wine retailers in the UK

The Wine Merchant issue 89  

March 2020 edition of The Wine Merchant, a specialist trade magazine for independent wine retailers in the UK

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