The Wine Merchant issue 90

Page 1

THE WINE MERCHANT. An independent magazine for independent retailers

Issue 90, April 2020

Dogs of the Month: Cassey and Vinnie Aimee’s Wine House, Bristol

Delivering an indie miracle Merchants will need to sustain a sales increase of about 50% to compensate for loss of wholesale and drink-in trade


© auremar /

ndependent wine shops are working flat out to fill the gaps left by the

collapse in wholesale business and

drink-in sales.

Although many merchants are reporting

a boom in orders for collection or delivery, and an influx of new customers, the

independent trade as a whole would need

to achieve a retail sales increase of around 50% to compensate for the loss of other revenue streams.

The Wine Merchant’s 2020 reader

survey shows that a record 40% of stores now offer wine for consumption on the premises, up from 37% in 2019.

On average, this channel accounts

for 12.5% of turnover, with wholesaling

standing at just under 16% and events at just under 4%.

Retail sales are typically just under 60%

of turnover, averaged out across the entire independent trade, and online sales 5%. Phil Innes, owner of Loki Wines in

Many merchants are experiencing a boom in delivered orders

Birmingham, says: “We have seen a huge

being compounded by the inflexibility of

just builds up, which is no bloody help

in and event sales that we have worked so

Company says the business has been

no understanding of the situation we all

uplift in delivery sales, but it doesn’t go

anywhere near to replacing the drinkinghard to develop.

“It’s a complete nightmare, but at least

we have that outlet to sell wine and keep us ticking over, even at low margins.”

Some merchants – especially those who

rely on drink-in sales for the majority of their turnover – say their problems are

their landlords.

Ted Sandbach of The Oxford Wine

“inundated” with delivery orders and is continuing to operate from two of the group’s sites.

But he adds that the Oxford University

colleges which are landlords for three of

the company’s premises will only agree to defer rent – “so in other words the debt

at all”. He adds: “The Oxford colleges are

behaving appallingly and arrogantly with

find ourselves in. Some plead poverty – can you believe it?

“We have no help at all from the shops

with rateable value above £51,000, which rules out two of the premises, so they

Continues page 5


Inside this month 6 comings & Goings Patience is a virtue for merchants in Birmingham,

Nutty gorgeousness from Gérard Bertrand, and a comfort blanket for the lockdown life

they assumed would be overpriced and aloof. The ones whose ads in the local magazine said something about free

delivery, but whose services somehow always seemed less convenient than a

22 david williams Wine lovers, wine geeks. Can’t we all just be friends?

subscription to Naked.

It took a pandemic to introduce many

wine drinkers to

their neighbourhood

26 reader survey Part two of this year’s coverage reveals that relationships with suppliers are better than ever

32 ann et vin No regrets in Newark as the hybrid approach is abandoned

42 focus on rioja Those DO changes in full – and what they mean for Spain’s most

Supplier Bulletin, page 53

really like their local wine shops. The

times on the way to Waitrose. The ones

12 tried & tested

The Spirits World, page 48;


t turns out that the British public

ones they’ve driven past so many

Lancashire and Chester

famous wine region

Capitalise on new customers now, because time poverty will return outside Sainsbury’s – or waiting five weeks for a delivery slot.

Any merchant who’s enjoying this

sudden influx of unfamiliar or half-

forgotten faces knows that they have to make hay while they can. The question

is, how many of these grateful, lovestruck newcomers will stick around once life starts getting back to normal?

One of the few benefits of the current

lockdown is that many people have more time on their hands

than ever before. They

wine merchant, but

can plan discretionary

it seems that all

spending. To a

parties are getting on famously. “Amazing wines!” gushes the

furloughed employee gazing at a cloudless

sky, wine can seem like

social media feedback. “Really impressed to

a very judicious purchase indeed.

my last!”

rhythms will be restored and there’s a risk

have my box delivered on the day of order!” “My first order with you but definitely not The resulting sales boom has in

many cases gone beyond a 60% rise in

takings, which will typically be enough to

compensate for lost wholesale and drink-in business. Just as in all recent economic

downturns, when people stop eating out, they turn to decent wine merchants for treats to enjoy at home. In the current

crisis, they’ve been joined by those who don’t fancy joining the masked queues

But eventually, for most of us, time

poverty will return. Life’s normal hectic

that people will snap back into old buying habits.

But by that time, the idea of having

decent wine delivered to your door, from a friendly local merchant, will be ingrained in a lot of households. Now might be the

time keep the momentum going by gently

persuading eager new converts to sign up for a regular case. And maybe, for some traders, to invest in a nice new van.

THE WINE MERCHANT MAGAZINE 01323 871836 Twitter: @WineMerchantMag Editor and Publisher: Graham Holter Assistant Editor: Claire Harries Sales and Business Development: Georgina Humphrey Accounts: Naomi Young The Wine Merchant is circulated to the owners of the UK’s 920 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 april 2020 2

We’d very much like to thank our amazing customers for their ongoing support, over the years of course, but especially at this deeply trying time for us all. We are working hard to keep the glass more than half full and to maintain momentum for all our Independent Customers. We have endeavoured to make stock as accessible as possible in terms of minimum order volumes, offers and our online deals are added to on an almost daily basis. Please pick up the phone and let us know if you have any questions. It’s really inspiring to witness the effort and invention of so many merchants to keep our mutual customers supplied and engaged under near impossible circumstances.


Stores pin hopes on deliveries From page one

expect us to pay with no trade and no government help.

“OK – we get free rates for a year, and a

big Boris bonus and when these promised payments come through. It will be a help, but as yet there’s no indication of how

we pay wages short term, especially with those furloughed.

“My situation is simple – I am paying

everything, but only half the rent to my landlords and we can argue about the other half later. I rent out two small

premises and have let off both tenants for three months.”

Matt Harris of Planet of the Grapes in

London faces similar problems. Writing for

The Wine Merchant’s website on April 6, he said: “All four of our bars have been shut

for nearly three weeks now, so we have lost £150,000 of turnover.

“But – on the positive side – we have

picked up lots of retail orders and most

Reward your community heroes


very community in the land is facing extraordinary challenges because of the coronavirus pandemic. And in each of those communities there are people who are working tirelessly to keep

vulnerable people safe, reassured and connected. The Wine Merchant has teamed up with Hatch Mansfield to offer a small thank-you to these COVID-19 Heroes. We’ll be sending two cases of premium quality wines to 20 independents across the UK, to be presented to anyone in their communities whose efforts deserve a little reward. The cases contain six bottles of Vidal Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand and six of Errazuriz Wild Ferment Pinot Noir from Chile. It’s up to each merchant to decide how to allocate the wines. You might want to offer 12 bottles individually, or to split into six pairs. Your local COVID-19 Heroes can be anyone you think deserves a thankyou for the amazing work they are doing in this current crisis. They could be frontline NHS workers or maybe someone who is running errands for people in your community – or even getting creative making PPE. Hatch will also send out 12 gift cards that you can use with the wines to say a personal thank-you. The 20 cases will be shared out as fairly as possible, so that we cover as much of the UK as we can. If you’d like to nominate yourself as one of our partners in this project, email

of those are from people we never sold

before April 30 and we’ll announce our 20 participating merchants in the

and shareholders we do have are being

mind as your COVID-19 Heroes. We know that there will be deserving

to before. So going forwards we will have a bigger database and the customers amazing and very supportive.

“The help with rates has been brilliant,

as has the furlough scheme – we have not let anyone go and are supporting every

first week of May. You don’t need to tell us anything at this stage about who you’ve got in candidates everywhere. Once the wine has been received, you’re welcome to use social media or any other platform to generate some local publicity – do copy us in as we’d love to give you a mention. And do send us any pictures and stories which

member of staff, full time and part time.

we will share in a future edition. But equally, if you prefer to present the

April 1 onwards.

a key role at the heart of their communities. We hope our COVID-19 Heroes

We paid their full wages for March and the whole company has taken a pay cut from

“But landlords seem to think that having

staff paid and rates reduced means we can

wines in a more low-key way, that’s absolutely fine too. These are testing times for all of us, and independent traders are playing project helps to consolidate that position – and recognises some of the people whose dedication and kindness can sometimes go under the radar.

afford to pay them the full rent. We are not trading!”

• Coronavirus sales boom – page 17.

• Reader survey coverage starts on page 26.

THE WINE MERCHANT april 2020 4

“Our Man with the Facts” • Dry ice is employed by some winemakers during the cold soaking process. As well as keeping the fruit at the required cool temperature, the frozen CO2 also keeps oxygen at bay, and can gently split grape skins to allow the juice to flow and pigment to be gently released.

....... • One tried-and-tested method of cleaning a decanter is to sprinkle some coarse salt crystals inside it followed by some crushed ice. By swirling the contents vigorously, persistent wine stains can be removed.

....... • For a short time, Karl Marx was the owner of a vineyard. He inherited the 1-hectare estate from his father in 1838, later selling his share to his mother. The land now forms part of the Maximin Gruenhaus estate in Trier, in the Mosel region. It’s believed that Marx’s concern for impoverished vineyard workers helped develop his communist ideas.

....... • The UK has more than 50,000 bottle banks, each capable of holding 3,000 bottles, yet official figures show that five out of every six glass bottles are thrown away. The average UK household uses 500 glass bottles and jars every year.

THE WINE MERCHANT april 2020 5

Custard and wine combine in Brum Wholesaler Wine Freedom is all set to expand its offering to include a wine bar and shop in Digbeth, Birmingham. Co-owner Sam Olive explains: “Currently

we are trade focused, supplying a lot of Michelin-starred restaurants around

the Midlands and the next stage of our development will be to become more business-to-consumer.”

Olive and his business partner, Taylor

Meanwell, have over 15 years’ experience in the hospitality and retail sectors, with

Bibendum, Avery’s and Majestic featuring in Olive’s CV alone.

“We’ve been a slightly nomadic wine

wholesaler for the last four years,” he says.

“We’ve found this lovely 2,500sq ft unit and

one of the great things about it is that while we never would have found something

that size and layout in the city, it is only a

Patience is the name of the game

here – and Olive is pretty Zen-like when

Chester market, explains the two shops

downturn in trade but I’m sure we’ll come

different concept to Vinological and has a

discussing the current situation. “Most of

our customers are going to have a massive

out of it,” he says. “For now we just want to keep communication open.

“We’re biding our time; the wine bar and

shop launch will hopefully take place in

June or July. In the next few months we’ll be getting our e-commerce operation off the ground.

“It’s a work in progress – we are doing

some crowd-funding as and when this

coronavirus subsides. We are working with

a local architect to create a nice big, flexible space for friends, family and businesses to come together and have a good time and learn a little bit about wine.”

Former Corks Out crypt to reopen

10-minute walk from the city centre.”

One of Chester’s oldest buildings,

with their original Crittall windows, high

re-open this summer as Vin Santo under

The site is part of the Bird’s Custard

Factory estate. Its units and work-spaces, ceilings and exposed steels, are straight

Parkinson, owner of Vinological in

formerly inhabited by Corks Out, has been given a new lease of life and will the ownership of Simon Parkinson.

out of central casting for “stylish urban hang-out”.

will complement each other but will be

run completely separately. “Vin Santo is a different target audience,” he says.

The ancient Watergate Street shop

underwent extensive renovations in

2017 and Parkinson, who has been in negotiations to secure the site since

early January, has been able to purchase all the fixtures and fittings as well as

the Enomatics. “The refurbishment was fantastic so we are not making a huge

number of changes; for all intents and

purposes it is a ready-to-go store,” he says. Vinological will continue under the

management of Will Honeywell and

Parkinson will welcome Tom Scargill as the manager at Vin Santo. “Tom and I worked

together in Corks Out, Chester many years

ago,” he says, “so it’s a bit of a homecoming in a way and we hope that will be a draw

for the customers. We want all our former regulars to know that we’re back and we

can deliver exactly what they loved the first time around.

“We are looking at doing something a

little bit different to the regular wine bar/

“The main driver for us is wine education

and this will be at the heart of everything we’ll be doing,” Olive says. “We’ll be

creating experiences where you’ve got education and tasting stories coming together, from straightforward wine

tastings to big wine parties. We’re putting

a kitchen in there too so we can start doing some great things with food and wine.

“Hopefully we will be a WSET course

provider – a lot of that will be trade focused during the start of the week. We’re putting

in a nice big bar with retail around the edge and we can fit in a good 120 or so standing. Although there is room for 80+ covers,

we’ll see what the kitchen can cope with.”

The new Vin Santo premises occupies a 13th century cellar

THE WINE MERCHANT april 2020 6

Adeline Mangevine Hasty despatches from the frontline of wine retailing shop model in terms of the food we’ll be

serving, but I’m keeping that under wraps for now.”

Whalley can wait for new wine bar Tom Jones at The Whalley Wine Shop has been looking to separate out the retail and on-trade aspects of the business, so when the site next door became available, he jumped at the chance to take it on as a wine bar. “It’s a challenging time for all of us,” he

says, “but you have to look past this and plan for what the next step is.”

Originally the idea was to open in the

old Barclays bank site this summer, but for


e’ve just had the best two

weeks of business outside of Christmas, for all the

wrong reasons. Our shelves look like

something out of Russia in the 1970s –

apart from the super premium reds and whites, of course. Stockpiling always

covers the essentials, never the treats.

Gav’s gone into self-isolation because

his girlfriend has terrible asthma and I’m exhausted from making up everything as

I go along. And from him asking what the plan is for the future. How the hell do I

know? I don’t even know if I’ll still be in

business in a few months’ time. Or indeed if some of my suppliers will still be going. We stopped the drink-in offering

obvious reasons things are on hold for now.

before the government announcement, as

has ground to a halt, we’re still heading in

a handful of occupied tables due to Dry

Jones says: “It’s still bubbling away in the

background, and though the everyday stuff the right direction.

“We’re lucky that we can carry on with

the delivery side of things. It gives us the luxury of being able to plan how we’re going to grow.”

Jones anticipates that he will need a bar

manager and an assistant manager as well as a number of part-time bar staff.

“I want to give quite a bit of freedom to

Gav got uncomfortable at how crowded it was suddenly getting. We went from

January, and then Lent, to the last chance saloon. Lucrative though it was, I just

“Some of our key lines will be in there

and we’ll want some of the suppliers we work closely with to have a presence. So

although there’ll be some overlap, I hope there’ll be some unique products too.”

Jones estimates that construction will

take about two months. “So as it won’t be the summer, like every good house move, we’ll be in by Christmas,” he says

slapped together a version of my longplanned-but-never-quite-happened

online shop, including some mixed cases. Needless to say, unlike loo roll, people

are not repeat stockpiling wine. But the orders are steady. We deliver in time

for the weekend and – unlike Deliveroo or Uber Eats – we get to keep all our

margin. I am, in fact, rather moved by

Lent, lockdown and the last chance saloon – and some love from our customers

many people are understanding when

Something about staff and customer safety …

As I write this, we are now doing

customers calling up saying they wanted

kinds of wines we are serving.

by phone and email and have hastily

#stayathome hashtag-loving friends.

sounding story to my virtue-signalling,

and have the chance to put their own

stamp on things, including decisions on the

So now I am taking bespoke orders

how many people have come out of

I am telling a better, more responsible-

delivery only. Again, I am sounding

person who can come in early at the start

he has said in a long, long time.

couldn’t manage it on my own. Though

whoever we recruit as the bar manager,”

he explains. “Hopefully I will find the right

about taking precautions, not something

responsible in how I tell it, but I needed a bloody big nudge to get here: several to support me but didn’t want to shop in crowded spaces, where all sorts of

people were handling the bottles. I tried to restrict the number of customers

coming in at any one time, and then tried to keep them from touching the wares.

But for all those voicing concerns, there

were plenty of others who just acted like

social distancing and hygiene didn’t apply to them. Then Mr M started nagging me

THE WINE MERCHANT april 2020 7

the woodwork in support of their local independent wine merchant. And how you don’t have their favourite wine in

stock because you are limiting how much you buy. If only running an independent wine shop could always be like this.

Without, of course, the deadly virus.

WBC ready to serve WBC is a company seeing a spike in demand for its products during the current lockdown and is keen to stress

Boxes for a delivery boom

it’s definitely open for business to help

With local and national deliveries suddenly such big news for independent wine

indies cope with their own busy period.

merchants, it’s no surprise to see Eastprint ratcheting up production of its boxes.

“We’re here to support you in

The East Sussex-based supplier, which works with a host of indies across the UK,

whatever way we can,” the company

offers a range of options including its 12-bottle carrier box (ideal for local drop-offs

says. “All lines of protective packaging

or customer collection) as well as the sturdier 12-bottle mail box for distance selling.

including beer boxes, mail-safe transits,

For quotations and more information visit

budget options and eco-friendly Pulpsafe are in stock and available for next-day delivery.” There is no minimum order. Find out more at

Puzzles help pass the time during lockdown Jigsaws are one of the surprise hits of 2020 thanks to the coronavirus lockdown and Bamboozled Games – run by Rebecca Gibb MW – can help wine merchants tap into the boom with its range of drinks-themed puzzles. The range includes 500-piece jigsaws depicting the vineyards of Bordeaux and Champagne, and the distilleries of Speyside. The 500-piece puzzles have a suggested selling price of £18.99 and can be ordered from

THE WINE MERCHANT april 2020 8


BACK TO BASICS Cult Napa Valley winery Abreu Vineyards has built its reputation on the simplest form of winemaking. Brad Grimes prefers to work using gut feel rather than let science cloud his vision


rad Grimes is one of the most selfdeprecating winemakers on the

planet. The way he describes his

methods makes it sound like anyone could do it. “I feel like I’m cheating,” he admits.

Grimes has worked at Abreu Vineyards

in Napa Valley for exactly 20 years,

recruited by owner David Abreu to take charge of the small production of wines

made with Bordeaux varieties grown on four properties.

“We have single-vineyard plots, and very

small production in these very special

pieces of land,” Grimes explains, on a visit to London. “Much more like Burgundy.

“We started out with one wine, just a

Brad Grimes: cowboy instincts

few hundred cases every year, and now

we have four pieces of land, so we make

four wines. The goal is never to get beyond what we’re doing right now, which is 100

Cappella and Madrona Ranch. All are red

that’s representative of those pieces of

and gut feel guide the winemaking,

a loyal following wherever they are sold.

process is the same but really every wine

barrels a year.”

The tradition at Abreu is to let intuition

although Robert Parker once described the team as “obsessive perfectionists”.

“It’s really very easy,” Grimes shrugs,

sipping an Americano. “I walk through the

vineyard and I taste the fruit and then I get to pick what I like, which is a huge luxury

for me. I don’t have to pick an entire block; I can just pick little pieces and wait for

the rest of the block to ripen. There’s no science involved.

“I don’t know science. I was a horrible

student in school. I don’t know chemistry, so I don’t have that relationship with the wines at all. I do a little bit of analysis on

the juice, but on the finished wines almost nothing. I’m spoiled. I’m super spoiled.”

The Abreu range includes Rothwell Hyde

Estate Red, Thorevilos, Howell Mountain,

wines that typically spend two years in

used French oak, and which have garnered Has the style of the wines changed over

the years?

“I don’t know what style is,” Grimes

insists. “I think there are people who make a certain style of wine; wines that are very shaped and look a certain way for this

mythical, magical customer that they’re

thinking about or, previous to that, it was

important for a wine to be made a certain way for a critic.”


rimes’ approach is rather more

elemental. “You put your grapes

in a barrel and they ferment and

make wine,” he says. “I don’t know anything beyond that. It’s not like we are sculpting

or shaping the wine to look a certain way. I want a wine that’s structurally sound,

THE WINE MERCHANT april 2020 9

property in those vintages.

“The wines will just evolve naturally. The

will never be made again. The fermentation is so singular.

“We’re not doing things any differently

from the way the cowboy winemakers

were doing it in the 1970s. Put it this way:

I’d be shocked if some of the more modern

winemaking techniques – reverse osmosis, adding tannins, adding various gums, and all those things – were right.”

Find out more Visit or Twitter: @Pol_Roger


Targeting our customers without any warning Paola Tich of Vindinista in Acton, west London, believes suppliers are being short-sighted in bypassing independents as they look to replace lost on-trade sales by selling direct to consumers


hank you to the Vindinista team

margins, but it is more important right

for continuing to distribute these

now to keep the cash flowing. Or how

essential and delicious supplies.”

about exploring how to sell special themed

Just one of the many comments on our

mixed cases via your wine merchant

social media channels after we pivoted

client network instead of doing direct?

from being a wine shop and early evening

Doesn’t it make sense to harness their

bar to a delivery service, or pay-and-pick-

strong customer relationships and creative

up if customers want to swing by on their

thinking – such as organising online

daily exercise outdoors. Operating for four

customer tastings?

days only and with minimal staff so that we

On the flip side, I’ve been hugely

can ourselves work safely, it’s been a little

appreciative of those suppliers who

overwhelming. It took us until Saturday

to clear the backlog – and we are already getting orders in for later this week.

But, it turns out, we are not the only

wine businesses temporarily changing

have offered additional discounts, lower Paola Tich: “I am not a Polyanna”

our models. A number of suppliers who’ve

trade customers. Or do direct-to-consumer

– at very sharp prices, which compete

like myself to offer a more exciting, diverse

never really done direct to consumer are now offering mixed cases to the public

directly with their trade clients. Now, I am fully aware that they are in a very tough spot with the collapse of their on-trade

business, and I suspect much of this has been a knee-jerk reaction without even

thinking of the longer-term consequences. But finding out that this is happening via

Twitter or Instagram and not in a personal phone call or email – the bedrock of

account management – is disappointing.

Working with suppliers who also have

an online shop has always been a tricky

one to navigate. The shrewd ones work it

so prices are not too dissimilar to their off-

under a different name. Working with them allows bricks-and-mortar wine retailers range than if we imported everything

ourselves. It seems that now, everyone is going direct to the end customer.

The lack of proactive personal contact

from some of my core suppliers – rather

than generic emails to all customers – has surprised me. If most of their on-trade business has suddenly disappeared,

doesn’t that free up more time for some

smart thinking, to see how we can work better together during this crisis – like

promotions on certain lines where you

are over-stocked that we can also pass on at discount? We all want to maintain our

THE WINE MERCHANT april 2020 10

delivery minimums and longer payment times. We too find it frustrating that our customers are focusing their spend on

cheaper wines, but that’s to be expected in

times of uncertainty when these customers are worried about money – not to mention their health and that of their loved ones.

I’m sure there will be some re-balancing

when people want to cheer themselves up and still can’t go out to eat or drink.

Anyone who knows me will appreciate

that I am not a Pollyanna. The entire wine

trade has had the rug ripped from beneath it, and that’s before you take into account

people who are too ill to do their job. But at some point this will be history and I hope all my suppliers will still be in business.

I hope I will be, too. On that assumption,

surely it’s now the time to forge stronger relationships with off-trade customers, rather than rupture those connections through short-term panic thinking.

Social distancing, but our community has come together

night. Staff now are self-isolating and from behind closed doors, via phone and email. I am operating a pick-up and delivery service, which is going well.

Wednesdays are scheduled pick-up days,

with delivery to the boot, in our car park,

respecting social distancing. On Thursdays

Anthony Borges of The Wine Centre

I deliver to the homes of the more

in Great Horkesley in Essex is one

vulnerable members of our community,

of hundreds of independents to find

as well as to those self-isolating. I leave

that deliveries and pick-ups are

the order on the doorstep and ring the

providing a vital income stream Anthony Borges: sales up despite shutdown


n Saturday, March 21 we were busy in the shop, not unlike a pre-Christmas shopping day.

Excellent news, you might think, except it became impossible to practice social

distancing and frankly, too many of our

customers were not respecting the rules

at all, in spite of the notices we had placed


bell, or text, or telephone – whatever the arrangement – and they usually emerge

just in time for me to wish them well as I

around the shop.

We ended up providing everyone with

gloves, but at the end of the day I felt it was uncomfortably irresponsible to remain

open. I felt it wasn’t fair on our staff or our

customers. Finally, after much deliberation and talks with our staff, we closed Monday

drive off to the next one.

Everyone seems grateful for the service,

and sales are up. Though the coronavirus is unquestionably a terrible thing, it has

brought about a positivity and a coming together within our community which cheers me.

customers we could do without

© /

11. Richie Binkworth … Can I come in? Can I come in? Can. I. Come. In? In the shop? Is the shop open? Collections only? How do I arrange a collection? Online? Can’t I just shout an order through the door and pick it up now? Please? Yeah? Oh thanks mate, you’re a lifesaver. Total legend. Just really after some beers and a box of vino. Do you sell Cobra? No? Red Stripe? No … OK. 1664? What beers do you have? Burning Guy, did you say? All right, we’ll take 12 of those. Make it 24. Gotta think about the wine … we don’t like anything sweet, like Chardonnay or rosé. Do you do Barefoot? No? What about Echo Beach? No? Blossom Falls? No? OK. What wines do you have? Yeah, I can see there’s quite a few, you’re right. Just the red ones then. Have you got any that are like, smooth and fruity and don’t give you gut rot? For about a fiver? We can probably stretch to six if it’s really good kit. Sorry, I think my mouth made contact with your letter box there. Have you got any sanitiser? Or a wipe? Cheers mate. Total legend. Sorry, didn’t mean to cough all over you there …

Supplier of wine boxes and literature • 12 Bottle mailing boxes with dividers from £1.69p each • 6 Bottle mailing boxes with dividers from £0.98p each • 12 Bottle carrier boxes with dividers from £0.99p each Prices are subject to VAT • Delivery not included

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ANAGRAM TIME Can you unscramble the names of the following wine critics? If so, you win a 24-hour invisibility cloak. 1. Hotly Slim 2. Bacon Feet Kit 3. Annoy Others 4. Dads v William I 5. Acton Man Van Mark Matisovits

THE WINE MERCHANT april 2020 11

Rising Stars


Calmel & Joseph Le Domaine Le Penchant 2019 This Languedoc négociant is as sure-footed as the

Will Honeywell Vinological, Chester

boldest Pyrenean mountain goat – there are no duds in


ust two years above the legal drinking age and Will Honeywell has recently taken on the role as general manager at Vinological, allowing owner Simon Parkinson to expand the business and launch Vin Santo, which opens shortly in the iconic Chester building previously owned by Corks Out. Simon explains that Will has been integral to the success and growth of Vinological. “He’s been part of the team ever since the early pop-ups in the market when we were just operating on Friday nights,” says Simon. “I first met Will when I was working at Whitmore & White, he was just 18 and he came to me originally with an interest in coffee. I very quickly realised that he had an incredible palate and although at the time he had a very limited knowledge and experience of wine, he was able to identify and describe the flavours very well. So I encouraged him to do his WSET and he started to take a more active role in the wine side of things.” After Will and Simon moved on from Whitmore & White, they stayed in touch and naturally Will was one of the first people Simon thought of when he started to plan for Vinological. His instincts have proved to be spot on. He says: “It goes to show that you should give youth a chance. Young people are the future of our industry and you never know when somebody great is going to walk through the door. With Will it was just raw talent and I’ve been able to harness that. I do wonder how many wine shop managers in the UK are 20 years old. That level of responsibility in one so young can be very daunting, but he’s taking it all in his stride.” Will’s grandfather was a professional coffee taster, which he says is why he had that initial interest before wine caught his attention. “I wasn’t particularly aware that I had a good palate,” he admits, “but our family has always been enthusiastic about food and drink so I’ve always been given the chance to try lots of different things. I’d just finished my A-levels and was deciding whether to go travelling before furthering my education, then Simon gave me my first job and I loved it. We work really well together and it makes a big difference when you work with someone who you get on with and they put that trust in you.” Will doesn’t feel hindered by his youth in the industry at large, especially once Simon has made it clear to suppliers and colleagues that it is Will who also makes buying decisions and puts together the wine list for the shop. He says: “More suppliers are understanding that and respect that I am making a lot of decisions so they spend more time with me and I have been able to go to a lot of tastings. I’m taking it as it comes – it’s not too daunting. I’m looking forward to taking on full responsibility for Vinological and putting my own spin on a few things.”

Will wins a bottle of Abreu Rothwell Hyde To nominate a rising star in your business, email

its range. Its organic Roussanne is predictably lovely, with pure white fruit notes entwining with a spicy

undercurrent and creating the sort of wine that comes into its own in our suddenly less-polluted air. RRP: £13.99

ABV: 13%

Daniel Lambert Wines (01656 661010)

Ghost Pines Zinfandel 2016 We all need a comfort blanket thrown around us now and again, in these uncertain times, and there was

an evening in mid March when this mellow Zin was

exactly what was required. Rich strawberry flavours, creamy vanilla notes and a seam of mocha prove a

soothing combination, asking no awkward questions

of the imbiber and evoking memories of happier days. RRP: £18

ABV: 14.5%

E&J Gallo (01895 813444)

Heirloom Vineyards Adelaide Hills Pinot Noir 2018 The winemaking approach is defiantly Burgundian: basket pressing, open fermentation and French barriques are all key components, and add to

the balance and spice of an exceptional Aussie

Pinot. The fuller fruit and silky texture add an extra dimension that Burgundy finds tricky at this price. RRP: £18.99

ABV: 13.5%

Liberty Wines (020 7720 5350)

Bodegas Señorio de Arana Viña del Oja Rioja Tinto 2018 Yes, Rioja producers are becoming far more judicious in their use of oak, and there’s a moment in every

month when a Gran Reserva is exactly what’s called for. But the unoaked Joven style is a delight too, in

the right hands, and this juicy, fruity, cherry-tinged bubblegummy ball of fun proves the point. RRP: £8.99

ABV: 13%

Daniel Lambert Wines (01656 661010)

THE WINE MERCHANT april 2020 12

Gérard Bertrand Domaine de l’Aigle Chardonnay 2018 This Limoux estate has oceanic and continental

influences, which collide to create conditions not

unlike those of Burgundy. Three quarters of the juice is fermented in oak, and the reminder in stainless


steel, so the buttery, nutty gorgeousness is set off by pure peachy fruit. Another Bertrand masterclass. RRP: £23.99

ABV: 14%

Hallgarten & Novum Wines (01582 722538)

Granbazan Etiqueta Ambar 2018 The sea is just 1km from this 40-year-old estate in Val do Salnés, Rías Baixas, which may or may not explain

the hint of salinity that seasons its exquisite Albariño, with its full-bodied fruit and creamy, rounded edges. Add a citrus zip to the mix and you have a superb summer wine, lockdown or no lockdown. RRP: £18.99

ABV: 13.5%

Boutinot (0161 908 1300)

Portal da Calcada Cuvee Prestige Espumante de Vinho Verde You wouldn’t expect the biting acidity of northern European fizz from a Portuguese wine but there’s a decent jolt of electricity in this 70% Loureiro,

30% Arinto blend. The flavour’s rounded out with




a modest degree of residual sugar, and the finish is


clean, fresh and moreish. RRP: £12.49


ABV: 12%

North South Wines (020 3871 9210)

Domaine des Tourelles Old Vine Carignan 2018 Fruit from the 50-year-old Carignan block that makes this Bekaa Valley wine usually gets lost

inside the red blend, but it was vinified in its own

right in 2018 and the results are impressive. Lots of red fruit, datey richness, bright acidity and a hint of

iron – and no oak influence, thanks to concrete vats. RRP: £18

ABV: 14%

Boutinot (0161 908 1300)








The best of times the worst of time

Rob Hoult of Hoults Wine Merchants in Huddersfield reflects on a bitterswee retailing front line as the coronavirus crisis began to change the way all wine


hey say that a week is a long time in politics. But crikey, it’s a hell of a long time if you’re a wine

merchant, too.

Obviously it was a week of momentous

changes for all of us. Normally March

seems to race along at an alarming speed and we’re working out our first VAT bill

of the year before we know it. This year it

seems to be dragging and there’s still over a week left as I write this.

A week ago, I thought it was the

beginning of the end. I cautiously put in

orders for stock knowing that at any point we could lose our wholesale business. I didn’t want to be sat on piles of unsold

wine for weeks and I have to think about

my suppliers too. Saturday had been quiet, and Monday was following suit. Malaise was in the air.

Tuesday saw us try and work out some

changes to the business going forward but the constant flow of customers curtailed this. By the end of the day, we’d had our

second busiest retail day of the year, and it

Val Kilmer in Top Gun, except with much

Saturday … well Saturday required every

In fact, I just felt glum.

was a bloody Tuesday.

Each day got busier. Friday was daft, but

ounce of my retail skill as we doubled Friday’s sales and I tried

less sand, slightly fewer volley balls and

only marginally less latent homoeroticism. Yes, we’d put money

in the bank, but it’s only

to keep customers happy

there to pay bills and cash

whilst working around the

is not the same as cash

massive holes in our range

flow. When I think of how

caused by my cagey buying,

tough it must be for my

and the sudden fact that

wholesale customers;

we were selling the most

when I think of how

in-demand grocery item in

difficult it is for my fellow

the land.

independent retailers

By 4pm, when it started

to quieten down, we’d

had our best-ever retail

week outside of Christmas

trading. We’d also had to shut our wine

bar and effectively lost all of our wholesale trade. As such I didn’t feel as jubilant as

a week’s trading like that would suggest.

Normally a week of selling like that would leave me pumped up like Tom Cruise and

‘I didn’t feel jubilant … normally a week of selling like that would leave me pumped up like Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer in Top Gun. In fact, I just felt glum’ THE WINE MERCHANT april 2020 14

who don’t, through sheer luck, sell wine; and when

I think about all the other

businesses that are suffering from this then it would be easy to think the worst.


here are, however, positives.

Firstly, and from a purely retail

perspective, it started in March

and not November. Secondly, we are all in

this together: every person, every business and every country. So chin up – we’ll be fine.

Thirdly, one of the true joys of retail is

the customers themselves. I have literally talked myself hoarse over the last week.

I have chatted to people from every walk of life, from binmen to ICU nurses, from

CEOs to retired folk at risk the most. They



s, es

Marine Bezault

et week on the e merchants operate

have all been upbeat and happy to chat and the sense of camaraderie has been wonderful. It’s reminded me of the old days when we had a corner shop and

everyone knew everyone and, even more importantly, wanted to know everyone’s

business. A shop acting as a central point of a community was what made it work then,

Salut Manchester

“We like to put wines in there that give customers the opportunity to drink something they wouldn’t otherwise have the chance to try. The Enomatics just get busier and busier”

Tell us about your Enomatics. We have four machines with eight bottles in each. We more or less split that into having 16 red and 16 white, although among the whites we will have at least one rosé and maybe a couple of orange wines. We don’t dispense free samples, we issue customers with cards, which they load up with credit and can take away with them or they can have the option of having an open tab. How do you decide what to put in? Mainly it’s down to our business manager to decide what is going in there, but we all have a say and jump in to make suggestions about what we think will work and what will be a hit with customers. We also do take-overs, so for Chinese New Year we did a Chinese wine take-over or at another time of year we might do a natural wine take-over, or we might be doing a specific event with a producer so we’d put a couple of their wines in. We like to put wines in there that give the customers the opportunity to drink something they wouldn’t otherwise have the chance to try. For example a couple of weeks ago we put in a bottle of Jura wine and it was fantastic the way that turned around. Do the take-over events have an impact on overall bottle sales? Sometimes our promotions translate to bottle sales but it’s more about the opportunity for guests to try something different. We do a lot of activity on social media and it’s nice to see people coming in specifically to try those wines we’ve talked about and advertised. We always have a couple of members of staff on hand who are responsible for the Enomatics to answer any questions or queries that may arise and so there is a lot of customer interaction and sales opportunity.

and it’s what makes it work now.

I wrote this Saturday night [March 21].

We closed on Sunday to just get some

rest. On Monday we opened as normal,

but then I decided to close the shop from

Tuesday morning and just do deliveries or customers could collect from the car park. Obviously, as is the nature of this

situation, that all changed again after

Monday’s announcement [which originally implied that drinks retailers should close,

a decision overturned the next day] and we are now only doing home delivery. I’m sure we could look to bend the rules a little and

stay open somehow, but I’m conscious that

Have you noticed a change in the way the Enomatics have performed over the years? Yes, they just get busier and busier. We have a lot of guests who come in specifically to use the Enomatics and that is really nice because then you know the concept is working. Of course there are customers who haven’t used them before but once you show them, they love it that they can discover something new.

we need to make sure that we stay on the right side of all this.

We will get through it and we will

be stronger. We’re going to need to be,

because that is some tax bill that is going

to be coming our way. Every cloud, and all that.

• This article was originally published at

THE WINE MERCHANT april 2020 15



France formalises natural wine rules A formal charter for natural wine has launched in France under the name Vin Méthode Nature. It will be subject to a three-year trial period. Grapes must come from certified organic

vines, be hand-picked and vinified using

Leticia Vaughan The Tipsy Merchant Budleigh Salterton Favourite wine on my list We recently treated ourselves to the Ataraxia Chardonnay. It’s from a small boutique winery, 6km from the Atlantic Ocean, in an area known as the Heaven and Earth Valley. It’s a barrel-fermented Chardonnay, grown in an unusually cool climate for South Africa. A beautifully complex wine, which deserves time. Favourite wine and food match A bottle of Breaky Bottom Cuvée Peter Christiansen with fresh lobster. From April to September, it’s lobster season in Budleigh Salterton. So a simple lunch, ideally sitting on the pebbles, of lobster, salad and one of the finest English sparkling wines. Favourite wine trip Alsace. The landscape, architecture, storks, flambé tart and grand cru Riesling! We are planning a road trip down through Champagne, Burgundy, the Rhône, Provence, and then back through Rioja, so really looking forward to that one.

indigenous yeast. Methods which are

12.5% of the order value to the outlet in question.

The donation can also be split between

two charities: The Drinks Trust and Hospitality Action.

The Drinks Business, April 2

banned during the winemaking process include thermovinification, reverse

osmosis, flash pasteurisation and crossflow filtration.

An addition of up to 30 mg/L of sulphur

dioxide is permitted, but no additions are allowed before or during fermentation. It’s thought that over 100 French

producers will sign up to the programme over the next few months, and similar

systems are expected across Europe with

Spain, Italy and Switzerland likely to follow suit soon.

The Drinks Business, February 21

The Marqués had been ill with COVID-19

Carlos Falcó: drip irrigation pioneer

Berkmann sales help charity coffers

The wine world has lost one of its most

Berkmann Wine Cellars is giving a

Falcó – better known as the Marqués de

proportion of revenues from its direct to

Griñón – died in Madrid at the age of 83.

consumer wine orders to two charities supporting the hospitality industry during the UK’s coronavirus lockdown. The online platform, called Help 4

Favourite wine trade person David Emmins of Myliko Wines, Emmanuel Byilingiro of Vintage Roots and Nick Sarsfield of Fells have all offered a huge amount of support over the last couple of years and have become great friends.

Hospitality, gives consumers access to

Favourite wine shop To be honest I don’t get out much, but do follow a few on social media. I love the design and general style of Bedales and look forward to seeing more wine bars and merchants like this coming to Devon.

to slow the spread of coronavirus.

an exclusive range of wine. The initiative enables Berkmann to sell wine direct to consumers during a time of restricted

supply, while also supporting hospitality

businesses that have been forced to close Any hospitality outlet that joins the

scheme will be given a voucher code to

share with its mailing list. When placing an

order using this code the customer receives a 5% discount, and Berkmann will donate

THE WINE MERCHANT april 2020 16

famous names to coronavirus. Carlos

Falcó inherited his Marqués de

Griñón title in 1955 on the death of his

grandfather. After graduating in agronomy in Belgium he went on to study oenology and viticulture at UC Davis in California

and took over running the family’s wine business in the mid 1960s.

Falcó’s Californian education had a big

impact on his thinking, and he introduced concepts such as night-picking and non-

indigenous grape varieties to the Dominio de Valdepusa estate in La Mancha, owned by the family since 1292.

He was also, he claimed, the first person

to introduce drip irrigation in vineyards. Imbibe, March 24

Fine wine company charged too much



Have you seen a sales boom since the coronavirus lockdown?

We’ve had to close down the bars but we’re doing deliveries with our suppliers – Liberty at the moment and potentially Swig. It’s been a bit more popular than everyone anticipated and this week we also launched some virtual tastings. It’s a bit hard to quantify, because the retail side has picked up but obviously the other side has dramatically dropped … it’s probably something like a 75% drop for us overall. A lot of people who might normally buy from supermarkets are coming to us.

The High Court of Justice has closed down fine wine investment company Dow & Jones after it was found to have misled and overcharged customers. The company was established in 2015

and had a trading address in London. It sold fine wine as an investment

opportunity, but at double the usual retail

price, meaning customers were never likely to make a profit.

In addition to overcharging its clients,

the company also told investors that

further purchases were required to ensure their wine portfolios could be sold quicker and for a higher price.

The Drinks Business, March 19

We’re doing national website sales, and calland-collect in the car park. We’re also taking telephone orders but not allowing anyone into the shop. There was a lot of panic buying to start with and since then Easter has been good and the weather has really helped. A 60% sales increase sounds about right – in the first two weeks it was even more than that. We’re very thankful to be trading. So many people in business are really going to struggle.

Horse sense for Norfolk merchant

Eddie Wilson The Wine Press, Stourbridge

We’re crazily busy – we’re run ragged. We’ve been offering free delivery for yonks but nobody was interested until now! We’ve lost all our wholesale contracts but people are buying wine like there’s no tomorrow. I was worried when Sainsbury’s got their shelves stocked again that we’d lose some of our new customers but if anything we’ve picked up more. I think people have slowly realised how nice it is to have good quality wine delivered. If we hang on to 50% of our new customers, we’ll be happy.

A wine delivery scheme has opened in Norfolk to serve customers in need of their favourite tipple during the coronavirus outbreak. Matthew Harowven runs Tap & Tipple, a

wine delivery service which operates out of

horse box which has wine taps – similar to beer taps – installed.

He said: “With a lot of people trying not

to go out and into shops I thought it’d be a good idea to launch this service where people can just drive up and order and

have the wine in reusable bottles put into their boots.”

Harrowven delivers wine to his

customers in a similar way to a milkman – dropping it off in reusable bottles and picking the empty bottles up.

He said: “A couple of our customers are

asking us if we can drop off other items so I’m talking to other businesses and farm

shops to see if that’s something we can do.”

Kiki Evans Unwined, London

Jane Taylor Dronfield Wine World, Derbyshire

We are very very busy, behind closed doors. We’re doing a clickand-collect system, and obviously internet sales. We carry a lot of stock anyway so we’re well equipped. Fortunately we got in some of our shipments from Italy, Spain and Belgium before the lockdown because we could see what was coming our way. We’ve lost all our hotel and restaurant trade so the retail side has taken on more significance for us. But we’ve got a lot of ground to make up. Helga Sandham Sandhams Wine Merchants, Caistor, Lincolnshire

Champagne Gosset The oldest wine house in Champagne: Äy 1584

Eastern Daily Press, March 21

THE WINE MERCHANT april 2020 17

ight ideas r b 10: byo tie-up with a local eaterie

. T H E D R AY M A N .

Sadie Wilkins, Vineyards, Sherborne

A new golden era


olden ale has always posed more questions than it provides answers for. Its heyday was at the end of the 20th century when real ale brewers created lighter beers using pale malts and fresh hops at unchallenging levels. The aim was to create a stepping stone between ale and lager in an attempt to win over the growing number of fans of the latter. Exmoor Gold and Hop Back Summer Lightning were among the first. The most common question at the time among ale anoraks was “is there any such thing as golden ale?”. A consensus of sorts was eventually reached that there was, though often one that was frequently – and grudgingly – thought of as a tributary of bitter or pale ale than a category in its own right. Given the origin story, it’s still the more traditional cask-oriented regional brewers rather than the craft upstarts of the 2010s who sell bottled beers overtly labelled and marketed as golden ales. Summer Lightning and Exmoor Gold are still going strong. Hook Norton Hooky Gold, Oakham JHB, Salopian Oracle and Harviestoun Bitter & Twisted are notable examples that follow the template. Others capture golden ale’s spirit of lager crossover: Saltaire Blonde is a pale and refreshing ale made with Bohemian Saaz hops, a trademark variety of the finest Czech lagers. Indeed, “is golden ale the same as blonde ale?” is another common FAQ asked of the style, to which the answer varies between “yes”, “no”, “sometimes” and “it depends”. The US trend to more approachable beers has seen golden ales become a bit of a thing there in the past couple of years, with the country’s Brewers Association citing it as one of the fastest-growing beer styles. In the UK, they’ve flown back under the radar a bit having enjoyed a renewed flutter of popularity five years or so ago, though last year’s Cask Beer Report notes that there’s always a spike in sales in the spring. It might be a good time to hop on board.

In a nutshell … Partner up with a like-minded local pub or restaurant to supply wine on a designated night to drink with their food on a corkage-free basis..

Tell us more.

“Customers come and buy their wine from us and enjoy it, corkage free, with their meal at The Cross Keys every Tuesday. “We don’t actually wholesale to The Cross Keys, but Mo who runs it is a really nice guy and he shares our philosophy that sometimes the high street can be a lonely place for an independent, and so it’s good to work together and support each other. “The first few months of the year can be quite soul destroying for pubs, but for him if it means that by removing the corkage they are helping another local business and they are getting more bums on seats, it’s a positive, collaborative, community-based idea.”

Sounds like a win-win.

“From a customer point of view they are paying less and supporting two businesses. Let’s face it, for an £8 bottle of wine off our shelves they’d be looking at around £25 on a restaurant list for the same. Plus they get to choose from our 450-strong range of wines, which includes quirky grape varieties and regions not usually available at your local pub. “From our point of view, we get to wine pair, which we’re passionate about. We know each week what the menu is ahead of time so we can say to customers, ‘this is what is on offer at The Cross Keys tonight and this is what we would recommend with these dishes’. The customers enjoy the positivity that our collaboration promotes; it strengthens the sense of community.”

What else have you got up your sleeves?

“We want to collaborate with other local businesses in order to raise the profile of Sherborne and make it more of a destination. Shopping the indie way is a personal experience and working with fellow local businesses only strengthens that. We live and enjoy the same community so let’s work together and show our customers that we want to make an effort to join forces and make the town vibrant. We’ve done pop-up foodie events, a charity event in our shop with our local barber and our own gin is a huge collaboration. Working together means we can offer more.” Sadie wins a WBC gift box containing a bottle of Hattingley Valley sparkling wine, a box of chocolate truffles from Willies Cocoa and a half bottle of gin liqueur from Foxdenton. Tell us about a bright idea that’s worked for your business and you too could win a gift box. Email claire@ or call 01323 871836.

THE WINE MERCHANT april 2020 18


Alex Schulz, Turkey Flat Vineyards Turkey Flat Vineyards in the Barossa Valley features some of the oldest Shiraz vines on the planet, and has been in the same family since the 1860s. But Alex Schulz, son of owner Christie Schulz, is more interested in the estate’s future than its past.

Our first vines were sourced from the

pick our fruit earlier to try and get

vintages in the northern and southern

original Busby collection. It was lucky

more brightness and purity. As a family

little bit of time in Jerez. Then I got my

vines are still there today. The really old

and winery. We’ve achieved a lot and won

I grew up in the Barossa. I worked

California, Sonoma and Napa and then a

are the most suited for the region. The

hemispheres after I finished school:

degree in hotel management. I worked in various guises in hospitality around the

world, then gravitated back to fine wine retail in Melbourne. Then the window opened to come home in 2014.

they picked Shiraz and Grenache, which Shiraz parcel is about five acres. They

were planted in 1847, which makes them

some of the oldest producing Shiraz vines in the world.

we disagree about everything! But we have a pretty free rein in the vineyard

lots of wine show medals and had killer review scores and stuff like that.

The Barossa is considered the most old-school, staid, traditional wine

This site is a great barometer of quality producing region in Australia, but that

My parents built up the business. The

of vintage for the Shiraz. In poorer years

is changing. As a whole the Australian

growers, we’d sell our fruit onwards, but

complex, structured parcel that comes in.

winery and developing new regions and

grape-growing side of it has been in my family for 150 years. We were always

in ’90 we started making our own wine.

it’s not the best parcel but in the brighter years it’s by far the most profound,

We’re looking at drought-proofing

wine industry has been great in terms

of leading the way in technology in the styles.

The Butchers Block is a reference to

our vineyards, and getting organic

my ancestors who were butchers. Our

certification. We’re treating our

of community in the Barossa. It’s

sits. In the 1800s the butcher’s business

independent retail and on-premise sales

generational changes in older traditional

cellar door is an old repurposed butcher’s shop in which the old butcher’s block still was the main source of income followed by apricots, peaches and oranges, and

then grape growing came to the fore in the 1950s and 60s.

traditional export markets a little

bit differently in order to focus on

by concentrating on the premium end of the market.

We’ve made a conscious decision to

There’s always been a great sense very nurturing, not only for young and upcoming producers. There are lots of

companies, which is great – a lot of my

peers speak together all the time about

our experiences in the business. We share a lot; Barossa is great for that.

Butchers Block Shiraz 2017 RRP: £18.50

Butchers Block Red Blend 2017 RRP: £14.50

Turkey Flat Vineyards Grenache 2017 RRP: £23

I like to say this is not what Barossa Shiraz should be, but what it can be. It can be brighter; it can be more northern Rhôneesque in terms of aromatics. The fruit doesn’t need masses of new oak. It has a prettiness; a floral, lifted, herbal character. Building layers into Grenache and Shiraz is what we are all about.

The style is quite similar in this SGM to the Shiraz: early picked, early drinking and no new oak. Brightness, purity of fruit and drinkability as a young wine is the MO here. The use of wholebunch and carbonic maceration is something we really tweaked. The carbonic element in this wine is really alive.

We had a big style shift in 2014. Previously we’d let the grapes get a lot riper, use a bit of new oak, and release after two years in that big muscular Châteauneufdu-Pape style. This is a shift to the other side. So we are looking for Pinot-esque aromatics; we are handling the fruit much like a Pinot winemaker would do.

Turkey Flat wines are imported by Mentzendorff. Call 020 7840 3600 or visit

THE WINE MERCHANT april 2020 19


LOIRE What makes Loire Valley wines such a good fit for independents? The sheer breadth of styles is one of the major attractions, and so is the fact that so much excellent wine exists almost on the doorstep of British merchants. Direct importing is feasible as well as cost effective. This year, The Wine Merchant once again teamed up with Loire Valley Wines to send a group of indies to Wine Paris, where winemakers from the region were – as always – attending in numbers. Three of the merchants who visited the show give their feedback on what they discovered.

‘Some of the best Chenins in the world’

Ageworthy Cab Franc

Victor Chapman

Benjamin Hearn

Chapmans Wine Merchants, Eastbourne

The Winemakers Club, London

“I’m really trying to build up a wine portfolio that is exclusive to me, so buying direct, as much as cash flow will allow, is what I’m trying to achieve. “It’s very difficult to beat the Loire for well-balanced whites with minerality. Consistently there are a lot of good quality producers to choose from. The Chenin Blanc, the Muscadets, the Vouvrays and the Gamays were all showing really well. I genuinely think some of the best Chenin Blancs in the world come from that region – what the soils can offer up is hard to beat. “There is still some value to be found in the region. I mean, it’s creeping up like everything else, but you have some bigger estates and bigger volumes, which seems to allow the prices to settle.”

“We work with organic and biodynamic wines and the Loire is a good region for those. We already work with a couple of Loire producers and the area performs well for us. “The standard of wines from the Loire is very high and Chenin Blanc in particular is very popular with our customers. We have quite a knowledgeable customer base and Loire wines sell very well for us. “Wine Paris was a great platform to meet new producers. I tasted some great Cabernet Franc that had been aged for quite a while. That was something a bit different for me, as usually it’s drunk young.”

‘Niche products as well as some classics’ Philippe Polleux Vinarius, London

Mixed pallet on way

“What stands out in the Loire is the diversity of grapes and wine appellations. I was pleased to see that most of the winemakers were making wines of high quality. “I really enjoy what winemakers are doing with acidity, which keeps a great tension in the wine. The Loire is a more northerly appellation, and I like the fact that the wines are fresher and not as fat and full-bodied as many wines from the south. “It is a perfect region in which to find a niche products that customers could not find in supermarkets. There is a lot for them to discover, but also classic appellations and varieties, which will always be an important feature in a wine selection, like a Muscadet for instance or Sauvignon Blanc. I made some valuable contacts.”

‘Fruity, lighter reds do well in summer’ Matt Thomas

John Toogood Weald Wine Cellars, Hawkhurst “I really enjoyed the show. I met a lot of Loire producers and ordered a mixed pallet of white, red and rosé wines. “In the past I’ve bought bits and pieces of bin-ends from the Loire and the odd pallet here and there. We used to do a fair bit in the Loire and I know the area quite well. “We’ll be taking delivery soon and it will be interesting to see the reaction from customers.”

Vinoramica, London “We’re going to the Loire to visit four of the 12 producers I had appointments with, the idea being that we can direct import from them. “It’s always been an area we’ve been really into – my wife and I got married in Chinon. The fruity, lighter reds for summer particularly do really well for us and that’s where the central Loire Valley has been good. “Whites perform pretty well across the board for us so it felt like a very natural move to start importing from some Loire producers. These will be the first wines we import ourselves so it’s quite handy to do so from an area that’s quite versatile. “Cabernet Franc and Chenin Blanc, along with Sauvignon Blanc, are grapes that have wide appeal and certainly work well for us. We will often have open a lighter, fruitier red, which will most probably be a Cabernet Franc from the Loire. There is a trend for the lower abv lighter reds – serving them slightly chilled is popular. “After our visit I wondered if I’ve given the Loire quite enough credit for its ageworthy wines. A number age incredibly well: just look at Savennières, Vouvray, Chinon, St Nicolas de Bourgueil, and certain Muscadets ... we actually have some 2004 and 2007 Savennières, which are both tasting fantastic.”

THE WINE MERCHANT april 2020 21

In partnership with


Wine lover or wine geek? Can you be both? For some, wine appreciation is all about romance and sensuality. For others, it’s effectively a science. Both camps have a point, and it makes sense for us in the trade to accommodate them


erious wine enthusiasts, I’ve

increasingly come to think, tend to divide into two groups.

The first group I’m going to call the

wine lovers. These are people who enjoy

wine, and learning about wine, in a totally natural, unselfconscious way, and not just because it offers them a way of imbibing alcohol while still being able to stake a

claim on some kind of moral and aesthetic high ground.

The true wine lover doesn’t approach

the object of her affections purely as posh booze, in other words. She loves wine

because she loves the connections it makes. That means connections to places: she

will drink a wine and be transported to

the region where it was made. That may

be because it takes her back to somewhere she knows well: a sniff of a Languedoc red

with its reminders of dusty tracks through lavender-scented scrub and that meal of

barbecued lamb. Or it may just bring a set of sensual clues or suggestions of what

a country or region she’s never been to

the wine lover has no grasp of the hows


blend; the amount of time in new oak or

might be like: what kind of place is Georgia

to make this kind of crunchy, dark Saperavi But it also means connections to people.

She will love the idea of getting to know a

wine producer, whether that means visiting them at their cellar door, meeting them

at a tasting, reading about them in a book or following them online. And she will be

loyal to these producers once she’s come to know them and their wines.

She will also see wine as a way of

bringing people closer together. For the

wine lover, wine is always a drink to share (even in dark Zoom-bar days when your

friend is sipping their glass in the glitching frazzle-dazzle of your laptop screen), a

drink that breaks down the inhibitions,

opening up discussion, but also, when it’s

good, anchoring it, demanding to be talked about.

That talk is unlikely to stray too much

into the technical, however. It’s not that

The wine geek requires as much data as possible, and believes that what makes a wine great is a set of wholly observable, measurable factors THE WINE MERCHANT april 2020 22

and whys of wine production. But the percentage of grape varieties in the

concrete; the residual sugar and even the alcohol will be more of a background, a

foundation, than the essence of the thing.

When it comes to wine knowledge, a wine

lover will be keenest to reach that position where she knows instinctively what the wines of a given place are likely to taste

like. She’s very much less concerned with

ranking producers, giving scores or passing judgements.


hich brings us to the other group of wine lovers, the wine geeks, whose first

identifying characteristic is that she is

likely to view the wine lovers’ approach as more than a little wishy-washy.

Dangerously wishy-washy, in fact, when

the conversation turns to biodynamics,

terroir, food matching and other concepts

that don’t fit neatly into a strictly scientific

worldview. The wine geek, you see, is much more concerned with the technical side

of wine. She has a yearning to understand that requires as much data as possible, a

belief that what makes a wine great is a set of wholly observable, measurable factors,

© Eléonore H /

David Williams is wine critic for The Observer

“Ah, this wine brings back vivid memories of long ago, of a simpler and more carefree time. February.”

if only we could get access to them: the

on her own solid analysis of a wine – or the

weather; the genetic details of the vines;

winemaker’s cat. It’s a view of wine that

precise micro-biological content of the soil; the day-by-day details of growing season yeast types; vessel types; fermentation temperatures and maceration times …

The need to classify and categorise will

more often than not carry over into the

geek’s approach to appreciation: a wine will be ranked, with a numerical rating

based on tastings that will be as formulaic as possible. Marks and descriptive terms

will represent objective criteria: intensity and duration of flavour; weight of

mouthfeel; presence of tannins and acidity; presence or absence of faults …

The geek will then use this information

to make judgements and lists, endless lists. She prides herself on ensuring that her

buying and interest in producers is based

careful perusal of scores from trustworthy critics, not on some fluffy story about the sees it as a kind of global competition

– seeing past regional differences and matters of taste to an all-powerful objectivity.

Geek v wine lover isn’t just a way of

describing groups of wine enthusiasts. It

can help to explain much of what happens within the wine business, too. Certainly, it has informed recent developments in the natural wine scene in France. Most natural winemakers can see the need for the sort of protection afforded by

the newly unveiled Vin Méthode Nature

designation and its official set of practices

(from natural yeast and organic viticulture to a 30mg limit for added sulphur), as a

THE WINE MERCHANT april 2020 23

way of seeing off charlatans and corporate imitators and of allowing them to market their wines clearly.

But at the same time many are

reluctant to be do something so deeply,

unremittingly geeky, stripping away the romance, and asking them to put on an

approved winemaking uniform that feels

like it goes against the anarchic spirit that makes the natural wine scene so exciting.

Terminal fence-sitter that I am, I’d argue

that this story shows as well as any how the wine world can only really thrive if

it makes space for both geeks and wine lovers. And that, no matter which way

we ourselves lean temperamentally, we’d all be better off if we could combine, as much as possible, the romance, poetry,

and dreaminess of the wine lover and the rigour, focus and scepticism of the geek.


Third time in Tejo Why is Tejo our favourite Portuguese region? The welcome is always warm, the wines are always wonderful – and they’re superb value


here is no shortage of wine regions to visit. Most of us will only see a fraction of them in a lifetime. So why would we return to Tejo for a third time?

Set in the heart of Portugal, a short drive from Lisbon, Tejo is a place that even

seasoned trade professionals admit to knowing little about. But its wines seem almost tailor-made for the UK market.

The region is home to more than 80 wineries, many of which have been family owned

for generations.

Tejo’s native red grapes include the bold Touriga Nacional, Portugal’s most famous

variety, as well as Trincadeira, Castelão and Aragonês. The aromatic Fernão Pires and the lively Arinto, as well as Alvarinho and Verdelho, produce some of Portugal’s most refreshing and characterful white wines.

The region’s indigenous grapes thrive in Tejo’s moderate climate and complex

soils, retaining fresh natural acidity while producing balanced wines with bright fruit characteristics.

The region’s promotional body, Vinhos do Tejo, has made a big effort in the UK market,

where its value for money is appreciated by a small but growing band of independents.

In February, a group of independents joined us on our third trip to Tejo, and feedback

was as positive as ever.

THE WINE MERCHANT april 2020 24

Geraint Davies

Alex Johnson

ND John, Swansea

James Nicholson Wine, Crossgar, Northern Ireland

“I was amazed,” says Davies, who admits that Tejo “is not an area I’d really come

“I had a fantastic time exploring the

across at all”.

region with the group and was taken

He was struck by the diversity of

aback by the hospitality of everyone

producers and styles, from “tiny little

that we encountered,” says Johnson.


regionality and terroir was expressed by

producers to larger co-ops” working with

“I really enjoyed the wines too – how

international varieties as well as the local

different each producer was, how

thought the wines in a lot of places were

quality offered across the board. As a

He adds: “It was an eye-opener and I

really good. Definitely the way to go is with the indigenous grape varieties. Fernão

Pires and Arinto. I’ve got loads of samples coming from a number of places we visited.”

“For us being on the coast, some of

those whites, being fresh and with loads of acidity, they’re perfect seafood wines.

“Don’t get me wrong, the Chardonnay

each and by the excellent price versus

result, I’m thoroughly convinced of the

potential of Tejo wines in our market and

will be liaising with our head buyer Averil [Johnston]as well as our owner James

Nicholson with a follow-up report and a list of the producers I’d like to request samples from for the rest of the team to try.”

was really good, almost like borderline

for three of the wines out of their portfolio of six from Quinta da Alorna. There were

two others we tried, and they said we could also get them through Alliance in the next month or two.

“The group thought we might get a pallet

of some things between us and there were

certainly producers there that I would like to work with.

“The way Portuguese wines are going to

become more available is through people like us hand-selling them and tasting.” April Marks Regency Wines, Exeter

“I started taking some Tejo wines from

Burgundy, but all the samples I’ve asked for are either entry-level or the next level up.”

Alliance about 18 months ago,” says

Andrew Johnson

they’ve been going down really well.

Marks. “They are quirky and fun – nothing complex; a pouring-wine price point, and

WoodWinters, Scotland and London

“I’d never been to Tejo so I was

interested in seeing what else was out

“I didn’t know the region at all – I went

there and finding out what the area was all

because we are looking for something


from Portugal, and I didn’t have any preconceptions,” says Johnson. “As for personal highlights: the Touriga

Nacional did very well and on the whites

Our intrepid buyers, hard at work

and some of the Verdhelos came up pretty

Barry Starmore

was very good – so I have a couple of

“I didn’t know anything about Tejo


StarmoreBoss, Sheffield

wineries ear-marked to go back to and see

before and thought it was a lovely

quite interesting whereas if you go to

it for the world.

wines had a lot of character for the price.

a stewed fruit element and could be

“Genuinely I thought the value for money

if they can do our entry-level house wines.

“At the entry level, the wines are actually

somewhere like La Mancha you get wine

area,” says Starmore. “I thought it was a fascinating trip. I wouldn’t have missed “There was a real diversity to what

but it’s pretty boring and dull. In Tejo the

we discovered. Some of the wines had

because other areas where you used to get

acidity harnessed with fruit was excellent,

“There is definitely a future for Tejo

a lot of value are slowly eroding through quite ambitious pricing.”

quite tannic. The whites were lovely; the particularly with the Arinto.

“I have an order pending with Alliance

THE WINE MERCHANT april 2020 25

“We got to see some very, very different

producers with a real diversity in styles. At Barbosa, they have a lot of salt in the

soil and it was amazing how that salinity came through in the wines. They were beautifully balanced.

“I loved tasting Fernão Pires – that

was the star for me, 100%. I’d only ever

had that in a blend before it really shone through.

“I completely see that Fernão Pires

has a place in the UK market. It is unlike

anything else. I would describe it as almost Marlborough Sauvignon meets Rias Baixas Albarino.

“Another bonus of the trip is that I

learned how to say all those tricky grape

names. By the end of day one, I was expert on being able to pronounce the wines!”


What we demand from supplier Yes, it’s that time of year when merchants spell out everything that’s wrong with the importers and agency businesses they work with. But it’s worth reflecting that, despite the niggles, three quarters of independents are pleased with the service they receive – a new high for the reader survey


atisfaction with suppliers is at

an all-time high. Seventy-five per

cent of respondents in this year’s

Wine Merchant reader survey say they are content with the service they receive, up from 72% last time.

The proportion who “agree strongly”

with the statement “I am generally happy with the support I get from suppliers” is

unchanged at 15%. But the figure for those who “agree to some degree” has climbed from 57% to 60%.

The survey encourages merchants to

offer constructive feedback about their

suppliers, and few punches are pulled –

we’ve included a representative selection on these pages, to give a flavour of the themes that emerge.

It may come across as an annual exercise

in putting the boot in, but it should be

“Support from suppliers is generally

excellent relationships with suppliers,” says

when it comes to vintages – we say it every

stressed that respondents have plenty of positives to report. “We generally have

one merchant in the north of England. “All are helpful and supportive,” adds another in the south. “We get excellent support

with promotional events and tastings,”

reports an independent in Manchester. But, perhaps paradoxically,

dissatisfaction with suppliers is also at

the highest level since the survey began. Two per cent “agree strongly” with the

statement “I am generally unhappy with the support I get from suppliers”, while 11% “agree to some degree”. Clearly

some areas of conflict remain – and our

respondents were happy to explain what they are.


Unhappy Happy Unhappy

50% 70%


40% 60%

20% 40%


10% 30% 2014








Number of responses: 183. Totals combine “very” and “slightly” options. 0

“Many sales reps are rarely pro-

active. Given how much change we have

undergone, and how much our business

has developed, I am amazed at how poor the interest has been in terms of ideas, products etc.”

Stefan Botfield of The Woburn Wine

Cellar picks up the theme. “Suppliers need to act more like business partners,” he

says. “We need a supply base that is able

to work with the trade to help effect long-

term goals, not just chase a sale. The trade seems very transactional currently.”

At The Vinorium in Kent, owner Stuart

McCloskey predicts that “we will not be few UK suppliers, as we prefer to work

with producers directly. One of the main

reasons we have taken this route is simply down to suppliers’ general ineffectiveness to communicate openly and honestly, to

honour allocations, and to ship and deliver wines on time.”

Chris Bailey, of Mr & Mrs Fine

30% 50%

0 20%

year. The info from most is shocking.

He explains: “Granted, we work with very

70% 60% 80%

Wines in Cambridgeshire. “Particularly

working with one UK supplier by 2021”.

Are you generally happy or unhappy with the support you get from suppliers? 80%

disappointing,” says Noel Young of NY








THE WINE MERCHANT april 2020 26

Wine in Southwell, does not mince his

words: “We’re tired of suppliers whoring

themselves out across all and sundry and not giving a monkey’s about how this impacts on indies,” he says.

rs © auremar /

Survey partner 2020

Don’t forget our friends in the north

Andy Langshaw Harrogate Wines “I’m always happy to see a supplier when they have a winemaker with them, and instead of paying for a visit Nine per cent of respondents had no fixed view on their satisfaction levels with suppliers

to London to attend a trade tasting I would be happier to see my suppliers once or twice a year and bringing

“We have moved away from a number

“We are now looking at more niche,

of suppliers as a result of this. It would

smaller suppliers where your business

seem the big guys are simply employing

is important to them and they can bring

numbers guys who are just pumping out

you interesting wines – albeit with the

volumes without considering the business needs of their customers. When you

complain, there is a shrug of shoulders and nothing in the way of apology.

compromise that you need to commit higher volumes on ordering.”

Continues page 28

“More portfolio tastings in the north (Yorkshire) would be a positive. The forgotten about as potential venues. Personally I would love a tasting on the coast in Scarborough or Whitby.”

Chris Hill Latitude Wines, Leeds “That great big area outside of London


Reduce suppliers Increase suppliers

40% 50%


30% 40%

Reduce suppliers Increase suppliers


20% 30%

and the M25 deserves more than one rep. If you want to generate sales as a supplier to indies, then expecting your reps to cover every city from Edinburgh to Exeter is just selfdefeating. They cannot offer a good level of customer service if they have to travel for hours between them.”








Number of responses: 183. Totals combine “definitely” and “probably” options 10%

William Armitage The French Wine People, Matlock

likes of Leeds and Sheffield are often

Are you likely to increase or reduce the number of suppliers you deal with this year?

10% 20%

samples to try in our shop.”







THE WINE 2020MERCHANT april 2020 Lorem ipsum 27


© luckybusiness /

Effective promos need give and take The survey found that merchants are generally appreciative of the time and effort that suppliers put into tasting events and promotional activity, though there is no shortage of suggestions for how things could work more smoothly.

Winemaker events are hard to beat, according to Luvians

Tom Jones of The Whalley Wine Shop in Clitheroe says that most suppliers “are

good with giving up their personal time for

suppliers – they will give you support if

improvement is transferring some of

stock) to build up sales for their products.

tastings, events and training”.

But he adds: “The one area that needs

the excellent ideas and product/brand

campaigns that the marketing teams come up with into actionable and workable

campaigns that fit in a retail environment.

“Often generic campaigns are supported

with generic materials that are wasted.

Rather than sending out 50 generic packs, it would be better to work more closely

with a smaller amount of shops that are keen to participate, and create bespoke campaigns for those shops.”

George Unwin of Baythorne Wines in

Halstead adds: “In the past couple of years, I have noticed that promotions and sales

incentives that are offered by suppliers are

you buy from them, but you sometimes

need the support (eg tasting nights, sample “I have had a few suppliers who have

said that they will do tastings if I buy a

certain amount from them – but I need a tasting or samples to decide what I want to buy.

“I appreciate that a lot of time and

money can be wasted by suppliers, but

it does need to be some give and take on both sides.”

Archie McDiarmid of Luvians in St

Andrews believes “suppliers could make

want me to sell more of, rather than the

wine if I take an amount of another wine.

The sales reps are often quite open about the fact that they are being pressured to

sell certain wines by their superiors, which makes me think that their focus is not

always on supporting me on the wines that I want to sell.”

Sam Jackson of Chester Beer & Wine

adds: “It can sometimes be a Catch-22 with

tastings or casual drop-in events in shops. “Winemaker dinners and events, with

costs shared by supplier and merchant,

are really powerful,” he says. “Customers

want experiences and stories to tell. They are more successful in driving orders and loyalty for future sales than any other events we run.”

Julie Mills of Vinomondo in Conwy

says: “It would be great if suppliers could

use their marketing teams to help generate

ideas for events and assist with posters etc. Trips are urgently required.”

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)







I would like to serve food for consumption on the premises







I would like to run a wine education programme







I would like to organise trips for my customers







wines I request support on because I want “I’m often only offered support on one

their time can often be wasted at portfolio

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

rather focused towards the wines that they to sell.

better use of winemakers”, arguing that

Number of responses: 182

THE WINE MERCHANT april 2020 28

An appointment is usually necessary ... but feel free to drop in for a chat. As ever, the advice for reps can be complex and contradictory

Phil Innes Loki Wines, Birmingham

Ben Franks Novel Wines, Bath

Cat Brandwood Toscanaccio, Winchester

“Since the financial crisis suppliers have been cutting back on reps and giving them larger and larger areas. This to me is a false economy, as the ones who seem not to have cut back, and retained good staff, tend to be the ones that get more business.”

“It would do the industry good if suppliers focused on relationshipbuilding rather than sales check-ins. One of our suppliers does this really well, regularly popping in for a chat and even occasionally buying a glass of wine. Others just ring when they want to sell something – even if they pretend that’s not why they're calling.”

Matt Smith Quaff Wines, Brighton and Hove

“There are too many sub-standard reps out there, where we wonder what they do for their salary.”

“I really want to get it out there that ‘I was just in the area so thought I’d drop in’ isn’t OK. “Every single supplier has been told (nicely!) that I am busy and if you want to see me then book an appointment – and yet the same reps, time after time, just don’t get it. “I found myself breaking up with a supplier last year because of his refusal to understand the importance of doing so. Someone once gestured at my shop and said, ‘you don’t look very busy’, as if serving customers is all I do! Moron.”

Alex Roberts & Wayne Blomfield Park Vintners, Wimbledon Park

“Stop ‘just being in the area and thought I’d pop in’ – actually arrange a meeting with us. We’re their customers, after all!”

Howard Jones Momentum Wines, Oswestry

Matt Ellis The Smiling Grape, St Neots

“More interaction would be welcome. We typically see a rep from most suppliers only once or twice a year.”

“It would be good if some suppliers get more involved with their customers – keep them informed of new products, and visit our shops to get an idea of what we do. “I have one supplier who has never visited my shop, and seems to show very little interest in doing so.”

“What’s a rep? We’ve been in the business for 15 years and, bar a couple of exceptions, we never see any. That might, however, be a good thing!”

Carlos Blanco Blanco & Gomez, London

Rupert Pritchett Taurus Wines, Surrey Hills

“Account managers need to understand the business of every independent and not treat us like we are all the same.”

“As always, a supplier is only as good as their account manager.”

49% 16% Percentage of merchants planning to attend more supplier tastings this year than they did in 2019 Based on 183 responses

Andy McMaster Argyll Vintners, Dunoon

Percentage of merchants planning to attend fewer supplier tastings this year than they did in 2019 Based on 183 responses

THE WINE MERCHANT april 2020 29

11% Percentage of merchants who expect to diversify into new areas beyond drinks this year Based on 180 responses


Hybrids are here to stay For the first time, the proportion of indies offering wine to enjoy on the premises has broken through the 40% barrier. For some, on-site wine bars are essential. For others, they are fool’s gold


our in 10 independent wine

business but we are not reliant on it,” says Chris Bailey of Mr & Mrs Fine Wine in

merchants now sell wine for

consumption on the premises – up


from around two in 10 just five years ago.

“It represents the jam on the bread and

Our 2020 reader survey shows how

butter. Higher margin makes it interesting,

important the hybrid wine shop/wine bar

but you have additional staff and longer

model has become to indies, though it also

hours as a result. It is also dependent on

demonstrates that a similar proportion

you being relevant to the local community,

of traders still prefer to stick to the

who can be very fickle.”

Liam Plowman of Wild + Lees in

traditional retail format.

“If we want to be a wine merchant then

Dulwich adds: “Drinking on the premises

we need to have wine bars to be so,” says

helps to create a good vibe and a bond with

Jonathan Cocker of Martinez Wines in West Yorkshire. “Retail on its own these

days does not seem to work outside of the cities.”

customers. But it’s important that it doesn’t Penny Champion: wine bar is essential

Penny Champion of Champion Wines

in Chislehurst adds: “The wine bar has

would still be here.”

just 30% of our business as a whole, if we

essential element of their cash flow.

been a part of the business since we

opened in 2011. Even though the sales are

didn’t have our wine bar I don’t believe we

34% Percentage of merchants who have been offering on-premise sales for at least a year

Some merchants regard their wine bar

business as a useful add-on rather than an “It makes up an important piece of the

take over and deter people from coming in to buy a bottle to take home.”

Many indies seem unlikely to be

persuaded of the merits of the hybrid

model. “On-premise is fool’s gold,” declares Ben Robson of the Bat & Bottle in

Rutland. “The extra staffing requirements make it problematic at best.”

Michael Jelley of Grape Minds



Percentage of merchants who have been offering on-premise sales for less than a year

Percentage of merchants who say they have no plans to offer onpremise sales

THE WINE MERCHANT april 2020 30

in Oxford adds: “I don’t think it’s an

achievable compromise to combine

on- and off-trade. One way or another

you lose focus, or your margins become unmanageable.

“I always feel in hybrids that, to mask the

(entirely legitimate) difference in price for on- and off-sales, either the on side is too

cheap and the bar struggles, or the prices

of the off-sales are inflated to support the bar, and the shop suffers.”

Number of responses: 184

3% Percentage of merchants who say they will definitely start offering on-premise sales this year

13% Percentage of merchants who say they are thinking about introducing on-premise sales

Indies planning direct action Independent merchants were planning to do much more direct importing in 2020 before the coronavirus crisis disrupted trade. Almost 44% of respondents in the reader survey said they expected to source more wine straight from producers than was the case last year. In the 2019 survey that figure stood at just under 39%. Overall, 18.1% of wines in the independent trade are sourced direct, the survey found, bringing the figure back to 2018 levels and up from 16.4% in the 2019 poll. It seems clear that the COVID-19 pandemic will change the plans of almost every wine merchant in the country, but it’s interesting to note that direct sourcing was creeping onto the agendas of so many merchants. Speaking more than a month before coronavirus took hold in the UK, Angela Stratford of Old Butchers Wine Cellar in Cookham, Berkshire, said: “We will be buying more wines directly from growers because we love to find unique small producers that are making superior wines. It adds interest and value to our range.” Marc Hough of Cork of the North in Manchester (pictured) added: “As our business is growing, with more new sites planned, we are changing our method of buying wine from DPD to IBD. It makes financial sense to import more wines directly to take full advantage of our new arrangements.” Another growing business, The Good Wine Shop in south west London, saw things the same way. “We will buy a little more direct,” said owner Mark Wrigglesworth. “Increased size of business gives greater opportunities for buying direct and increasing margins.” But many indies are happy to steer clear of direct imports and to rely on their UK suppliers to manage logistics on their behalf. “We will significantly reduce imports,” said Archie McDiarmid of Luvians in St Andrews. “We want nothing to do with Brexit-related red tape if we can avoid it.” “I lost money on direct imports after the referendum due to exchange rate fluctuations,” said Gemma Welden of The Jolly Vintner in Tiverton. “Given trade agreements are likely to be in discussion for many months or years to come, I would prefer for my suppliers to take that risk and handle that uncertainty on my behalf – even if it costs me a touch more.” Will Bentley of Bentley's of Ludlow is of a similar mindset. “We will continue to source all our wines from UK suppliers,” he said. “We are in the business of selling wines, not wine logistics. In a year when we leave the EU, we want to leave the paperwork to the experts and are willing to give them their margin for their work.”

THE WINE MERCHANT april 2020 31


A Newark state of mind Ann Hayes’s hybrid experiment ended when she realised she was making almost no profit on £80,000 turnover from bar sales. Nigel Huddleston meets a wine merchant whose mojo is definitely back


nn Hayes is swimming against the tide. While the wine

retailing world has been front

crawling towards hybridism as the

optimum operating model, she’s gone the other way, slowing down the on-trade

element of her Ann et Vin business in the

Nottinghamshire market town of Newark, to refocus on retailing.

Having opened in 2004, Hayes

incorporated a bar/café/restaurant side

in 2007 and ran it like that for nine years

before deciding to return to the shop at its

core, resulting in a better quality of life and, she says, increased profitability.

The drink-in side of things hasn’t been

abandoned entirely. There’s still a small seating area and a patio-garden with

wine by the glass and bottle-for-corkage sales but it’s very much geared towards weekend, daytime drinking rather than

competing with bars and restaurants for night-time trade.

The shop is situated in an old garage

THE WINE MERCHANT april 2020 32

in the centre of the town, with its own

covered forecourt that serves as parking

and is still used to stage events including

portfolio tastings, wedding receptions and fashion shows.

“It had been empty for a couple of years,”

says Hayes, recalling how things started.

“I had a bit of a lightbulb moment. I came in with some friends who were thinking

of opening a restaurant, just to help them have a look, and thought ‘wow, this is it’.” Hayes first came into professional

contact with wine working for Booker

before joining the Hull-based chain House of Townend in the 1980s. From there, she

had a spell with Bottoms Up that straddled the chain’s Peter Dominic and Thresher

eras before deciding to go it alone when

venture capitalism started to take its toll

on the multiple specialist off-trade of the 2000s.

How did you come to open your own business? I ran the Newark shop for Bottoms Up and

‘The venture capitalists ripped Bottoms Up to bits. Customers were coming in for a case of Chablis and I had to say, sorry, I haven’t got any’ for the bar – which were done separately

Cheshire. Kate Goodman at Reserve Wines

Was it the model that was wrong or was

middle and a food court. It’s perfect – but

from the shop – and there was about £50

profit on £80,000 turnover. I’d had enough.

is doing really well with Altrincham in an

amazing old market hall with tables in the it’s not here.

I was a training manager, opening new

it just not right for you or for here?

this blanket thing where they were going

in the evenings except on Friday and

We still do food on a Saturday, but it’s a

we never did food properly in the evening

dream on a Saturday: the place is full,

shops, all that sort of stuff. I loved it. The

Being in a city probably makes a massive

to turn all the Bottoms Ups into clearance

Saturday. And then everybody else is

venture capitalists ripped it to bits and did shops. I’d got this amazing turnover across the road and they just gave me all the junk

to sell. I had customers coming in for a case of Chablis and I had to say, “sorry, I haven’t got any”. It was just awful.

I started mentioning it to some of the

customers and a couple of them said “don’t

whinge, do something about it”. It was then I started hatching a plan. A couple of them offered me investment, which was quite

flattering and gave me the confidence to do it.

What have you kept from the hybrid

difference. Here, there’s no other trade


looking for that same trade as well. While

and pitta and so on. It’s like living the

it was quite buzzy and we had a nice

regular trade, but staff costs, wastage, and perhaps not charging enough corkage …

once you start doing it at a certain price it’s really difficult to lift it up.

It’s also a small town. It was once very

prosperous and in the rural areas there is a little bit of money around, but it’s

not London or Cambridge or Oxford or

very small menu – paté and toast, hummus shoppers are shopping, and there’s a nice buzz. But not being open at night enables

me to do tastings and parties, where I can make real money.

What’s the core of the business now? It’s about 30% wholesale. It’s obviously

Continues page 34

You were quite early to the hybrid model when you did it in 2007. Yes, there were only maybe half a dozen

more in the country. Everybody’s doing it now.

Why did you decide to call time on it when you did? About 18 months before I’d had a new hip,

because I had bad arthritis. I had six weeks off, sitting at home in the garden, watching the tennis, relaxing, thinking: why I am I

working like a dog? I was effectively trying to run two businesses. If anyone went off

sick or anything happened, muggins had to step in. I also got my six-monthly accounts

“We still do food on a Saturday, but it’s a very small menu”

THE WINE MERCHANT april 2020 33


From page 33

lower margin but is good turnover. I never chase business; but if they come to me, I’ll look after them really well. Once you look after people and they are locked-in they

tend to stay. I have customers who’ve been with me for five, six, seven years now and, touch wood, had no bad debt.

Retail and events make up the rest. I’ll

go out and look after people at weddings which is great business and any big local events that are going on … last year we

had an amazing beer festival on May bank holiday on the riverside which was really

well attended. I did the gin bar which was fantastic business.

I do fun tasting events for people. We do

blind tasting evenings with four whites and four reds. We give them the wines to taste

and they have to swirl it around and work

out which is which. It doesn’t matter if they get it right but it helps them look for a bit

more when they’re tasting wine. Then we do a wine quiz. We always end up with a couple of new customers.

I do Ann et Vin TV on Facebook, talking

about what we’re tasting today or about

‘My purpose is not to sell expensive Burgundies and clarets. It’s to introduce people to nice wines. There are millions of amazing wines out there that most people have never tasted’ cigarettes department in a depot. It was

What’s striking is the energy that’s gone

Don Cortez. I went back to college for

not necessarily the wine thing; I’ve always

just starting to get a little bit interesting

into making the shop look good.

a year to do a year of accounting and

had pride in my shop or my department; it

then, despite things like Hirondelle and

I always think I’m a good shopkeeper. It’s

bookkeeping and had an idea to join the

should look nice. My purpose is not to sell

police force but I couldn’t get in because of

my eyesight. I still think I would have made a good copper – a fierce sense of justice, and six foot tall.

After they built the Humber Bridge, John

Townend expanded on to the south side of the river and I applied for a job managing

wine tastings.

I’ve gone back to being a shop with a

little bar. I still get people in every day for a drink but it’s less hassle to do it. I shied

away from e-commerce because it’s fiercely competitive, with stock implications and high costs.

How did you first get into wine? It found me, really. I worked for Booker

in sunny Scunthorpe from around 1976-

1982 and ended up running the booze and

have never tasted.

What’s the secret of getting the look

information, which is why I like hand-

five years with them and did all my WSET What was it that sparked your interest?

we’d done Spain, Germany and France and

as well. That’s my marketing: Facebook and

amazing wines out there that most people


of Siglo in the hessian bags. I did four or

within two weeks; 12 suppliers, maybe

more, 100 people. You can sell afterwards

nice wines. There are just millions of


Tasting. There was one moment, tasting my

We advertised our summer portfolio

down. It’s to introduce people to different

a shop in Brigg and got it. We sold a lot


tasting in January and it was sold out

expensive Burgundies and clarets to lay

first Aussie wines with Brown Brothers.

They were really different, because I guess all that. And when I first tasted my first

Puligny-Montrachet it was as if I’d found my spiritual home. If people say “what’s

your favourite wine?” I say that. I’d love to go and live there.

I say to people at tastings, wine is

fascinating and magical, that there’s this

plant, and in March there’s nothing there,

and then it turns into these gorgeous green leaves and fruit, and those magicians pick them, put them in presses and it comes

out looking and tasting like this … and yet

some people whinge because they’ve got to pay £6.50.

THE WINE MERCHANT april 2020 34

I think there’s a knack. We used to

say retail is detail: tidy, interesting,

written tickets. You’ve got to make time. It was a big job at first but I see customers reading my labels and they love them.

My style is a bit of humour but no wine-

speak. People don’t understand it, do they? I have a few knowledgeable customers

but a lot who aren’t, particularly. People

ask me if I’m a wine expert and I say I’m not but I know a bit more than a lot of

people. I’ve got a good commercial palate I think. I hardly ever have any bin ends; I’ve

probably only had to sell off 25 wines since I’ve been here.

The property is very unusual. It was an old, proper garage and the lift

is out there still in the floor. Then it was Continues page 36


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

The shop occupies a unit that once operated as a garage. Its forecourt area is ideal for a range of events

THE WINE MERCHANT april 2020 35


From page 34

car sales, then a place called the Potting Shed, full of chimney pots. Then it went into vintage car sales. I have a rolling

lease now. When I was shutting the café I

originally decided I was going, completely

packing it in, so I gave notice to everybody – the landlord, staff, everybody. I then

thought, “ooh, I need a job”, so I talked to the landlord about splitting it into two

shops with maybe somebody looking after the café – and then I thought I’d really like to give it another go as a shop. I rang the

landlord and said what I’d like to do, but

I needed a big chunk off the rent – and he gave me it.

I signed up for another three years. It

was a bit scary because I didn’t know what

would happen, but the business has grown every year.

Spain remains a specialism, but Italian wines have become increasingly important

What’s the hardest thing about being a wine merchant? Trying to get past the British public’s price fixation. I think it’s magical that this plant produces these beautiful grapes that you can turn into wine, but that costs money, doesn’t it? I don’t really try to compete

with the supermarkets anymore. Waitrose

prices sensibly. My customers are Waitrose customers. I often have people go to

Waitrose [just around the corner] and then come to me for their wine.

The biggest challenge when I opened

was buying. It’s not until you’re your own boss that you realise how amazing it is to

have a head office to do all your buying and admin, and all you’ve got to do is move it around and sell it. It was terrifying. Have you got the hang of it now?

I think so. Boutinot were brilliant from the start and I still spend a lot of money with them. They’ve got amazing entry-level

wines and amazing top-level wines. I guess if you sell a lot of entry-level it allows you

‘I think I’ve got my wine mojo back because actually it was a bit bashed into the ground. I’m enjoying finding new things. I’m not killing myself anymore. I really was exhausted’ THE WINE MERCHANT april 2020 36


to have the other bits. I’ve got rid of a few

suppliers but Boutinot’s still there and the number one.

Alliance is brilliant and Hatch is a nice

company; they look after us very well. Fells are similar in having some nice family-

owned wineries, and not insisting on silly minimum spends. I only buy from people I like. Fortunately there are lots of nice people in the wine trade.

When I opened, Spain was my specialism

really and it’s still quite good. I’ve got a

lot more Italian wine than I thought I ever

would. It’s incredible; just one big vineyard. I’m not sure I could live there though. I’d still go for Burgundy.

And what’s the best thing about being a wine merchant? Tasting amazing wines. I love Burgundy and I’m a Chardonnay girl. It’s elegant,

generally beautifully made and they don’t seem to be too fazed by the “we’ve got

to do it cheap” ethos. I’ve introduced a

lot of people to white Burgundy because of my enthusiasm for it in a subtle way.

Sometimes they don’t even realise they’re having a Chardonnay. I do a lot of wine at £10-£20 but people do come in and buy

The outdoor space has worked well as the setting for a jazz festival

Puligny-Montrachet for £40 or £45.

just bought Chrissy – who works for me

late nights unless through choice. I think

biodynamic thing taken hold in Newark?

about wine in a relaxed, gentle way. It

enjoying going to tastings and finding new

Has the whole natural/organic/

I get biodynamic and organic but I don’t

get natural. It doesn’t always work does it? It’s horrible, some of it. I’m not an expert. I work on the basis, when I’m buying, of

whether I can sell a wine to my customers. If I taste something and it doesn’t taste

very nice I can’t. I do get asked for natural wines and I have to go “I don’t have many of those”.

Do you have any particular heroes in the

part-time – the DVD of the TV series Jancis did in the 1990s because it taught people wasn’t pretentious. She’s really natural

and has this lovely manner. Chrissy has a good wine memory but just needed a bit

more background. She goes out on the van

actually a bit bashed into the ground. I’m things. I’m not killing myself anymore; I really was exhausted.

What would you still like to change if

– the most glamorous van driver you’ve


beginning, but I’m not sure that’s true

then sell it in a few years. It would be

ever seen in your life. I guess in retailing,

Make a bit more money! I guess my plan


nice to have turned it into something that

Majestic was who I looked up to in the

Having done the evolution from bar and

wine world?

back to shop again, are you happy now?

Jancis Robinson is amazing. She was there

I’m happy that I get time off, and only

at the beginning and she’s still there. I

I’ve got my wine mojo back because it was

work five days a week, and I don’t work

THE WINE MERCHANT april 2020 37

now is to keep nice steady growth and someone would want to buy.

But you’d have to find someone called Ann. Or Dan. Dan et Vin would work.


Italian white wines: savouring subtle differences Italy’s white wines exist in the shadow of the country’s more celebrated reds, but there’s plenty to appreciate and enjoy with wines from the mountainous north all the way down to Campania and Sicily. As always, WSET educator David Martin is your guide


he white wines of Italy are

sometimes seen as a challenging subject. While the difference

between Alsace Riesling and Bordeaux Blanc is immediately apparent, the

difference between Gavi and Frascati is rather more subtle. This article aims to

provide a useful overview of Italy’s most important whites, travelling through the country from north to south. North Italy

The vineyards of Alto Adige in the foothills

of the Alps have a large diurnal range, ideal for producing aromatic whites such as

Gewurztraminer, high-quality Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio. Pinot Grigio from this

region has much more intensity and length than entry-level examples found on flatter

sites in Italy. Trentino has a similar climate to Alto Adige but is slightly warmer, with a more southerly latitude and vineyards at lower altitudes.

Friuli Venezia Giulia in the north east

corner of Italy is a rugged landscape which produces some of Italy’s richest Pinot

Grigio from the warm maritime climate close to the Adriatic. The local grape

Friulano gives high acid, fresh whites

with flavours of pear, apple and herbs. In

Collio and Colli Orientali on the Slovenian

Italian whites at a glance:

Ribolla Gialla grapes. This region has

Chardonnay. However, many of the most

border, the hilly topography offers more

Italy produces a huge range of styles

a growing tradition for orange wines –

famous wines are dry and relatively

concentrated wines from Friulano and

whites that are fermented and sometimes aged on the skins, developing a deeper

colour and flavours of tea, herbs and dried fruit.

South east of Friuli is the Veneto region.

This is where most Pinot Grigio and other

inexpensive Italian whites under IGT labels are produced. The premium white of the Veneto is Soave, which has two distinct

parts. The Soave Classico DOC vineyards of the foothills are on limestone and volcanic soils. Naturally cool and free draining,

this allows the native Garganega grape to

ripen slowly whilst retaining high acidity. Soave DOC vineyards are on the sandy,

– from aromatic Muscat, to rich oaked

neutral, with citrus and stone fruits, gentle floral character and sometimes a little nutty complexity.

• The best grapes usually come from

low fertility hillside slopes, with cooling

influences from altitude and sea breezes. • Winemaking vessels are usually

stainless steel or large old oak vats which preserve fresh, primary fruit flavours.

• Higher quality whites use lees ageing to

add texture and complexity.

• Most wines are crisp and refreshing –

so do not undergo malolactic fermentation. Central Italy

alluvial soils of the plain, which are more

In between Florence and Siena, we find

The most important white of Piemonte

fruit driven with a slightly bitter finish.

fertile and create lighter wines ready for immediate drinking.

is Gavi. The hills around the town of Gavi

provide altitude and coastal breezes from

the Ligurian Sea. These cooling influences, along with the natural characteristics of

the Cortese grape, give Gavi its naturally high acidity and floral character.

THE WINE MERCHANT april 2020 38

Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOCG. The wines of this hillside town are citrus In Umbria, Orvieto DOC is a blend of

Grechetto and Trebbiano di Toscana.

Grechetto has a nutty, lemon peel character and, though Trebbiano has a reputation for neutrality, the best examples add

refreshing acidity to the blend. South of

© isaac74 /

The medieval castle at Soave

Rome is Frascati in the region of Lazio.

above sea level, sits Fiano d’Avellino

quality wines, mainly produced from the

offering some interesting orange blossom

arguably all southern Italy. Greco is a high


Here Malvasia and Trebbiano combine in a fresh, unoaked style, with the former and gentle floral character. East of the

Apennines, Verdicchio grows well and is the most important grape of the Marche wine region. The most famous DOC in

this region is Verdicchio dei Castelli di

Jesi – some of the best examples have the

concentration to develop in bottle for many years.

Southern Italy Inland from Naples, at around 400 metres

DOCG and Greco di Tufo DOCG – the most famous white wines from Campania and

acid variety with a lean texture, somewhat akin in structure to Riesling; whilst Fiano is a little softer with full body and stone fruit flavours. Heat resistant grapes

like Vermentino are grown throughout

Southern Italy and are also very popular in Sardinia. Sicily is a source of large

volumes of inexpensive international

varieties such as Chardonnay, as well as

the local Catarratto. Etna Bianco DOC has

gained an international reputation for high

THE WINE MERCHANT april 2020 39

Carricante variety to give high acid wines with flavours of stone fruits and herbal

The whites of Italy are a fascinating, and

arguably under-explored, part of the wine world. It’s well worth taking the time to understand the category’s complexities

in more depth. Look out for our article on Portugal in next month’s issue.

To find out more about our qualifications, alongside a great range of free resources and learning tools, visit the website at


A beautiful accident The similarities between Hamilton Russell Vineyards’ terroir and that of Burgundy are striking. But the neighbouring vineyards are also a perfect spot for Pinotage, as a group of UK independents discovered


nthony and Olive Hamilton Russell have no objections to comparisons between their wines and Burgundy. As Anthony points out, there are sound geographical reasons why similarities might exist. The stony, shale soil in his corner of Hemel-en-Aarde has the clay content you’d find in the Côtes de Nuits. The average maximum summer temperature, moderated by the south Atlantic just 1,500 metres away, is almost identical to Burgundy’s, at 25˚C. Most significantly of all, Hamilton Russell focuses on two grape varieties: Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir. “A lot of people think of this as budget Burgundy,” he says. “It’s not us trying to copy Burgundy – it’s just a beautiful accident of nature. We just lucked into it. We planted the noble grapes in the early days. We have a monopole, basically.” The Hamilton Russells were in London recently for a flurry of events, including a dinner hosted with The Spectator and a lunch in the company of a group of independent merchants. He says there is “a surprising amount of awareness for Hamilton Russell Vineyards wines in the UK”, though they have been available here for almost as long as they have been in production, and a loyal following has emerged among consumers, restaurateurs and independent merchants.


he organic estate is flanked to the west by Southern Right, which joined the family in 1994 and specialises in Pinotage and Sauvignon Blanc. To the east, Ashbourne was established in 1996. “Here we’ve allowed ourselves the latitude to do some other things as well,” says Hamilton Russell. Pinotage is a variety that Hamilton Russell has a strong affinity with, and the Ashbourne and Southern Right examples shown at The Wine Merchant’s lunch at


Anthony and Olive Hamilton Russell on their organically-farmed estate in Hemel-en-Aarde

High Timber in London justify his faith in the grape. “The Southern Right is our attempt to redefine Pinotage by putting it in clay in a cool area,” he explains. “The 2018 is a more muscular vintage and it’s hugely successful. Grilled meat, where you’ve actually got burn and tannin on the food and a reasonably full-flavoured sauce, is just perfect with Pinotage.” The Ashbourne Pinotage/Cinsault 2018 was also a hit. “We blended in 20% Cinsault just to brighten and freshen the Pinotage,” Hamilton Russell explains. “Our

THE WINE MERCHANT april 2020 40

model, mentally, was a good cru-style Beaujolais. We’re not chasing trends; we just personally love that style.” He’s confident that the new breed of South African winemakers – and a new generation of wine drinkers with few preconceptions about the variety – will help rehabilitate Pinotage. “We sweated it out for 25 years to help a grape that I believe South Africa should hang its hat on more,” he says. “South Africa hasn’t imposed Pinotage on anyone, but the market is slowly getting there and finding it for themselves.”

'THE BEST SOUTH AFRICAN PINOT NOIRS THAT I'VE TRIED' Four independents give their verdicts on the wines

Daniel Grigg, Museum Wines, Blandford Forum, Dorset

“The fact that production hasn’t really increased in almost 40 years, and they’ve resisted the temptation of special releases at inflated prices, is telling of their authenticity and commitment to not adulterate or devalue the brand. “Their Pinot Noir was one of the South African wines that had a key influence of my perception of South African wines changing way back when I still worked for Majestic. I was doggedly determined to discover the haunting, ethereal qualities of the grape extolled by Miles in Sideways, and this was one that absolutely captured that and my attention. “However, the real standout wine that is destined for a place on my shelves was the Ashbourne Pinotage. An absolute belter of a wine that is more than a match for higher priced, more famous names. Of all the wines this is what I would buy and, most importantly, drink myself. I’ll also be setting myself a challenge to prove Anthony wrong in saying it might not fly off the shelves!”

Adam Clarke, The Secret Cellar, Tunbridge Wells

“I believe they are trying to make world-class Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and I think they achieve that successfully for both wines – £30ish for their Chardonnay is an absolute steal for a wine of that quality. “No doubt there is a nod towards Burgundy in both the Chardonnay and Pinot, and when I sell to customers I'd put both wines nearer to Burgundy in style. Both wines are mineral-driven in my opinion, giving them an elegant edge. The Pinot Noir is certainly not like any other Pinot I've tasted from Hemel-en-Aarde region. “My favourites were Ashbourne Pinotage and Hamilton Russell Chardonnay. What a wine the Pinotage is – only made in tiny quantities but if you ever see it on the shelf of a wine merchant, buy it! Such a refined and elegant wine, and one which will completely change your perception of Pinotage. “Hamilton Russell Chardonnay stands out as one of the best Chardonnays from South Africa and beyond. A rich and bold style that shows delightful freshness, citrus, peach, slight smokiness, oyster shell and most importantly, balance – with, of course, that nod towards Burgundy on the finish.”

THE WINES WE POURED Hamilton Russell Vineyards Pinot Noir 1984 and 2017 Hamilton Russell Vineyards Chardonnay 2018 Ashbourne Pinotage 2016

Federico Forte, Pall Mall Fine Wine, London

Ashbourne Pinotage/Cinsault 2018

“I’m not an expert on South Africa but I honestly think their Pinot Noirs are the best that I’ve tried so far from the country. I tried older vintages a couple of years ago and they were all excellent. “Chardonnay-wise they are on the top end with a lot of other producers from South Africa, but their style is quite unique and very French – that’s a plus for a lot of customers. “My favourite without any doubt was the 1984 Pinot Noir. I know it's an easy choice, but I think it was a great example of how serious and professional the winemaking is, even if it was 30 years ago. That’s not only a tribute to the wine quality itself but to the consistency of Hamilton Russell Vineyards as producers – and also a sign of its business vision, that still continues with the same values today.”

Dee Nel, Mews of Mayfair, London

“I knew about Hamilton Russell wines, but had no idea about the other ranges. It was great to meet Anthony and see how passionate they are about each wine, which is also reflected in the philosophy to focus on a specific red and white and do it well, rather than making 12 different wines. “The Chardonnay to me was more South African in the new mineral, elegant style that we see coming from that region. There is an element of Burgundy in that style, but that is due to the wonderful balance they get between the fruit and the minerality – an almost Chablis-style. So yes, I can see why they say Burgundy, but I think it’s become a classic feature of the Chardonnay from that area of South Africa. “The Southern Right Sauvignon Blanc 2019 was a highlight for me. I am not a Sauvignon Blanc drinker at all, but it had a beautiful rich nose with a fresh, crisp palate. The fruit was wonderfully balanced, and it just made me want to have more.”

THE WINE MERCHANT april 2020 41

Southern Right Sauvignon Blanc 2019 Southern Right Pinotage 2018

The lunch took place at High Timber restaurant in London in partnership with Mentzendorff, which is the agent for Hamilton Russell Vineyards, Southern Right and Ashbourne wines in the UK.


Terroir-specific wines, a modernised approach to white production and a new sparkling wine designation have given Spain’s oldest DO a new lease of life, reports David Williams


hat makes a wine region

thrive from one generation to the next? Despite what some

marketing consultants may claim, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. What works

in, say, Mendoza may be entirely wrong for Alsace. The conditions – social, historic,

geographic, structural, political, economic, aesthetic – are simply too diverse for

meaningful comparisons to stand up.

Still, we can say with a fair degree of

certainty what a successful wine region shouldn’t do if it wants its success to

endure beyond the current generation.

Complacency, entitlement, divisiveness

and an unwillingness to plan for the future have been the common recipe for crises in regions as diverse as Beaujolais, Jerez and Germany at various points in the recent past.

None of the above flaws can be said to

apply to Rioja. Even if it would be wrong

to cast this diverse region – which, with its

Rioja recognises th

600 registered (500 active) producers and

The 2020 plan

as homogenous, or play down the many

Consejo Regulador published a strategic

65,000+ha of vineyard is one of the largest

That 15-year figure hasn’t been plucked

differences of opinion that exist there, the

plan that explicitly set out the region’s

premium producing regions in Europe –

past 15 years have shown once again how good Rioja’s various stakeholders are at compromising and putting their region first. Just as it has done throughout its

history, the oldest DO in Spain (established in 1925) has found ways of avoiding

complacency and responding as a collective to evolving markets and consumer tastes.

out of the air at random. In 2005, Rioja’s stall for the period until 2020. The plan for Spain’s most successful wine region was to “obtain and sell quality wines

that are market-oriented and constantly adapting to that market, creating an

overall trademark with its own identity that generates added value and profits

and contributes to the development of the

THE WINE MERCHANT april 2020 42

region as a result of the co-operation and

collaboration of public and private agents that interact in the sector”.

Beyond the bland ambition and vague

corporate speak, however, the plan

provided the philosophical basis for

a period of quiet, behind-the-scenes, carefully managed, but nonetheless

genuine, change – a series of shifts in

emphasis and regulation that are, as the

report’s timeframe promised, now bearing fruit.

You can see the effects across Rioja’s

© DOCa Rioja

(Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and

Verdejo), was taken up enthusiastically by growers, with a total of 1,450ha planted,

meaning white varieties have grown from 5% to 8% of the total vineyard. Since

2016, the generic body has also put some

marketing muscle behind Rioja’s new wave of white winemaking. Sure enough, in the

UK, growth of white wines has doubled in five years to December 2019 (Nielsen).

Rioja’s insistence on market adaptability

also comes through in its work with

those two 21st-century success-story

categories, rosé and sparkling wine. In 2019, the Consejo approved a change

in the law regarding the colour of rosé,

to try to help producers involved with a category that currently takes up 5% of

Rioja’s total production to compete with

pale, Provence-inspired rivals. The lower

limit for colour density has been switched to 0.10uA/cm from0.20 uA/cm, allowing

for much paler rosés (although fans of the

darker, more traditionally Spanish rosados

will be pleased to hear that the upper limit of 1.8uA/cm remains unchanged).

Rioja’s sparkling wine changes are

he need for change contemporary offer. Take the region’s white wines. For all the cult success of ultra-

traditional, long-oak-aged classics from

the likes of Lopéz de Heredia and Marqués de Murrieta, by 2005 Rioja’s white wines

had a reputation for being tired, stale and

out of step with contemporary fashions for bright, fresh, fruit-driven styles.

The Consejo’s decision to permit the

planting of six white grape varieties,

including three natives (Matruana Blanca, Tempranillo Blanco and Monastel) and, more controversially, three newcomers

rather more radical. Whereas once quality

sparkling Rioja producers would have had

to work within the Cava DO (although 95% of Cava is from Penedès in Catalonia, Rioja is one of seven regions around Spain also included in the DO), they now have the

choice to bottle their wines with Rioja’s

White varieties have grown from 5% to 8% of the total Rioja vineyard, and growth of white wines from the region doubled in the five years to December 2019

own sparkling wine category – Espumoso de Calidad de Rioja.

Arranged into three age categories

– Crianza (aged for a minimum of 15

months); Reserva (24 months); and Gran Añada (36 months) – and three levels

of dosage (Brut Nature, Extra Brut and Brut), Rioja’s white and rosé sparkling wines can be made from any of Rioja’s

permitted grape varieties, with rosés using Continues page 44

THE WINE MERCHANT april 2020 43


From page 43

a minimum of 25% red grapes. Although

some of the region’s most famous sparkling names have so far continued to market wines in the more recognised Cava DO,

the Rioja DO says there are 16 “projects”

Like Champagne, Rioja has traditionally been a place where the art of élevage – the blending of grapes from a variety of sources and careful ageing – has taken precedence

working in the new category, with the first

of the younger wines trickling into Spanish

© DOCa Rioja

markets in 2019.

The new Rioja terroirism As significant as the changes to white, rosé and sparkling wines are, the most eye-

catching and widely discussed changes to

Rioja regulation are those that have caused the most debate internally.

The debate will be familiar to lovers

of Champagne, a region with which,

structurally speaking, Rioja has much

in common. Like Champagne, Rioja has

traditionally been a place where the art

of élevage – the blending of grapes from a variety of sources and the skill of careful ageing – has taken precedence, at least

Alfaro, in Rioja Oriental

when it comes to the marketing and

presentation of the wines, to the source

material (no matter how good that source material may often be).

Also like Champagne, that emphasis

reflects and reinforces the practices of

the dominant players in the region: since Continues page 46


• Rioja accounts for almost half of the value of Spanish wine imports, with 45.7% share

© DOCa Rioja

• In 2019, Rioja grew share of the volume of Spanish imports to the UK to 36.7% from 36.1% • Rioja has 3.9% of the total UK still wine market by value, a growth of 1.3% in the past year. It has 3.3% by volume

Landscape at Alavesa

THE WINE MERCHANT april 2020 44

© DOCa Rioja


RIOJAS TO RECKON WITH Abel Mendoza Tempranillo Blanco 2018 (Alliance) – Great, fresh but persistent example of a rising-star native white variety. Navajas Rioja Crianza Blanco 2016 (Walker & Wodehouse) – Whether red or white, is there a better-value producer of trad Rioja than Navajas right now? Gomez Cruzado Pancrudo Rioja 2017 (Boutinot) – Sumptuous yet elegant and proving Rioja is very much a part of Spain’s old-vine Garnacha trend. Bodegas LAN Viña Lanciano Rioja Reserva 2012 (Liberty) – Super-polished, super-fine Rioja Alta single-vineyard (if not yet Viñedo Singular rated) red. La Rioja Alta Viña Ardanza Selección Especial Rioja Reserva 2010 (Armit) – A particularly great year for this fine old Haro producer’s flagship Reserva.

Nájera in Rioja Alta

Bodegas Senorio de Arana Viña de Oja Gran Reserva Rioja 2010 (Daniel Lambert Wines) – Classy, classically styled Rioja from a fine old family firm. Bodegas Roda Cirsion 2016 (Mentzendorff) – Immaculate, stylish, deep, dark Tempranillo from a bodega that transcends its modernist tag. Familia Torres Altos Ibericos Rioja Reserva 2013 (Fells) – The Catalan-based firm’s Rioja operation goes from strength to strength with this slick but savoury red. Bodegas Taron Rioja Rosado 2018 (Ellis of Richmond) – Traditional Rioja rosé method (50/50 red/white) but with a lovely modern fruity freshness. Rámon Bilbao Lalomba Rosado 2018 (Enotria&Coe) – Rioja’s best rosé is superbly elegant, clean-lined, mineral and alluringly pretty in pale pink. CVNE Monopole Rioja Blanco 2018 (Hatch Mansfield) – Whether it’s mellow Gran Reserva red or distinctive unoaked white, CVNE remains remarkably consistent. Aldonia Rioja 2016 (Top Selection) – A fragrant, supple, spicy Garnacha from a specialist in the variety with a collection of high-altitude old vines. Phinca Hapa Rioja Tinto 2016 (Moreno) – A super-lively, vibrant, subtly spicy natural red from a small biodynamic domaine. Montecillo Rioja Crianza 2017 (Las Bodegas) – Stylish with beautifully balanced oak and fruit: exemplary Crianza from a rejuvenated old bodega.

From page 33

the region first came to international

prominence as a fine-wine centre in the

late 19th century, the big names in Rioja, at all levels of the market, have largely taken

their fruit from long-term partner growers, supplemented to a greater or lesser extent with the fruit from their own vineyards.


rguably the biggest story of the past 20 years in both regions, however – and certainly, in

Rioja, once the somewhat artificial debate around “modernist” and “traditionalist”

winemaking had died down – has been the

rise of the grower-producer making wines with a real sense of place. The problem, for the Rioja Consejo, has been how to

accommodate these terroiristes with the traditional blending producers.

It took years of not always good-natured

debate and behind-the-scenes diplomacy, during which, as in Champagne, many of

the bigger houses lobbied hard to protect the image of Rioja as an intra-regional

blended wine, while an association of more than 150 producers argued the DO was

“oblivious to soil differentiation and levels of quality. But in 2017 the Rioja DO finally announced its plans for a Burgundy-like, terroir-based re-jig of the Rioja system.

Subject to checks and a range of quality-based criteria, Rioja producers can now bottle their wines as Vino do Zona, Vino de Muncipio or Viñedo Singular THE WINE MERCHANT april 2020 46

Or, perhaps, Germany is a better point of

comparison, since the terroir system, much like the VDP’s ranking of vineyards, has

been conceived to sit alongside a quality

ranking based purely on production [the amount of sugar in Germany, the time in oak and bottle before release in Rioja].

Indeed, as the general director of Rioja’s

Consejo Regulador, José Luis Lapuente, was at pains to point out when I spoke to him last year, “The main priority is the aged

wine categories – what we’re trying to do is support our blending wines with this additional information.”

Subject to checks and a range of quality-

based criteria (from yields to vine age), Rioja producers can now bottle their

wines as a Vino de Zona (with the sub-

region, Rioja Alavesa, Rioja Alta or Rioja

Oriental, on the front label; previously this

was only allowed on the back label), Vino

evaluation” of quality (the wine must

Singular (single, unique vineyard).

prove they have ownership or a minimum

de Municipio (effectively a village wine

from one of 145 municipalities) or Viñedo


t is the last of those categories that

has caused the most excitement, with the DO announcing a list of the first

84 classified vineyards from 50 producers last summer, featuring 43 sites in Rioja

Alavesa, 31 in Rioja Alta and 10 in Rioja Oriental. Each vineyard has to satisfy

stringent conditions to qualify: the rules

state that the vineyard must be a minimum of 35 years old, be hand-harvested with yields at least 20% lower than the DO

standard and have, in the words of the DO, a “natural delimitation”.

The quality of the fruit and wine from

the vineyard also has to pass a “double

Between the Sierra Yerga and Sierra la Hez mountain ranges sits the historic town of Quel. It’s here that Gabriel Pérez Cuevas has realised his lifetime’s dream to create the finest of modern wineries in this high-altitude corner of Rioja – now proudly renamed Rioja Oriental – home to his family for generations. With more than thirty separate vineyard parcels located in and around Quel, Queirón is one of a relatively small number of Rioja wineries that has vineyard sites specific enough for the new classification system, giving focus to regionality rather than time spent in barrel.

Queirón Mi Lugar ‘Vino de Quel’ Rioja 2017

– a ‘Vino de Pueblo’ (village wine), from family-owned vineyards within Quel.

Queirón Reserva Vinedos Familiares 2011 – the result of 24 months in new French and American oak, and a further 36 months in bottle, an expression of the fantastic quality from this new winery.

Both wines now available in the UK.

THE WINE MERCHANT april 2020 47

exceed 93 points in a panel tasting), and

the producers using the vineyard have to 10-year lease on the fruit as well as

provide a dossier making the case for the distinctiveness of the site.

The first half-dozen wines to emerge

from the newly classified sites, all of them

from the 2017 vintage, were announced at the end of last year, and include Marqués de Riscal’s Las Tapias, Bodegas Palacios Cosme Palacios White and a red and

white from terroiriste prime-mover Juan Carlos Sancha’s 100-year-old Cerro La

Isa. In a context in which producers from

across Spain are creating increasingly fine, vineyard-specific wines, the hope is that

they will help Rioja to remain relevant and thrive for generations to come.



Do me a flavour Juniper doesn’t have to be the dominant taste in today’s gins, which can be based on anything from Pinot Noir to parma violets. Nigel Huddleston takes a look at a category that can be hard to pin down


t’s a tricky one, fruit gin, or flavoured gin, or whatever you want to call it. There you go – just deciding what to name the sector is fraught with problems. A lot of gins that operate outside the “fruit” description contain the peel of lemon, oranges, limes and grapefruit. And what do traditional botanicals angelica root, cassia bark, cinnamon, anise and coriander do if not contribute flavour? That’s before we get on to juniper, whose cones are referred to as berries but are

technically a spice, and which history, convention and a sense of doing things properly dictates should provide the backbone to gin which the other botanicals support. Things have become complicated by the propensity of producers to assign a particular dominant flavour description to each product in their range, sending gin-ness to the back of the class. Take Halewood’s ubiquitous Whitley Neill, for example, whose Gooseberry gin has just

joined a line-up of 10 other flavours and the original. There’s a danger of market saturation, but there’s also risk for the trade in getting all sniffy about such products on the grounds that they’re “not proper gin”. The balancing act hasn’t been helped by the popularity of gins claiming to contain unicorn tears or retro-confectionery such as parma violets. Whitley Neill is guilty of the latter, but novelties can sometimes hide the good stuff. Some of its flavours

us whiskey

fruit spirits


a dram from dylan

bardsley thinks big

great news from jamaica

Motorhead, Metallica and The Rolling Stones have all fancied their chances as whisky entrepreneurs. Now, Bob Dylan’s US whiskey brand Heaven’s Door is getting a UK release through drinks distribution company When We Are Giants. The range comprises Tennessee Bourbon, Straight Rye and Double Barrel.

Two fruit spirits with ultra-premium price tags have been produced by Kent-based fruit farm Bardsley Estate. Nectvs Apricot and Nectvs Plum are both made from pressed and distilled fruit from the estate cut with pure juice from the same crop to reduce the abv to 34% and enliven the flavour. Both editions have a retail price of £90 for the 50cl bottle size.

THE WINE MERCHANT april 2020 48

Acclaimed Jamaican rum producer Hampden Estate has released limited quantities of its Great House Distillery Edition in the UK for the first time. The product is a blend of two of the distiller’s most distinctive single estate pot-still spirits, bottled at 59% abv and with an rrp of £90. Distribution is through Speciality Brands.

are lovely gins, its Blood Orange a good example that merely amplifies an authentic gin flavour component. It’s easy, too, to get lost in the idea of gin purity and forget that lots of people love the accessibility and always-somethingnew-ness of flavours. Sticking “rhubarb” or “pink grapefruit” on the label cuts to the chase with that “demystifying” business that a lot of drinks experts often claim to be striving for. Master of Malt buyer Guy Hodcroft says: “If you go into a pub where I live people are still super-excited to have 10 gins on the back bar. “Gin growth is slowing but I don’t think it’s going to fall off a cliff overnight because there are so many consumers who in the last 18 months have only just got into gin and are discovering different varieties. They’ll be a very long tail there.” Gin liqueurs, typically between 20% and 30% abv, are also going great guns. “Our liqueur sales were up 31% last year and a lot of that is driven by gin liqueurs with the names of childhood sweets that we all loved, or mythical animals,” Hodcroft notes.


ut for those seeking to weigh commerciality against credibility there are enough, for want of a better phrase, “more serious” options out there: fruit gins that eschew sugar sweetness in favour of pure fruit flavour that enhances the host gin rather than masks it. Copper Rivet co-founder Stephen Russell describes the company’s Dockyard Kent Strawberry, made with hand-picked fruit, as “the most natural unmucked-about gin of its kind”.

Chapel Down’s Pinot Noir gin, available through Bibendum, is made by distilling grape skins and blending with wheat spirit, before introducing traditional gin botanicals, the process delivering a seductive savoury flavour. Sure, it’s pink, but it’s pink for a good reason. Brewdog’s spirits operation is one to watch and head distiller Steven Kersley has created a Cloudy Lemon gin, inspired by limoncello and delivering a fresh, zesty lemon flavour, helped by his team peeling all the lemons by hand. Brewdog Distilling managing director David Gates says: “We were quite nervous about doing a flavoured gin and whether there was anything authentic we could bring to the party. “We kept the fruit steeping in the gin for 15 days to extract all the flavours, put it through a very mild filter to take any solids out, and bottled it. “It’s not sweetened at all. This is a 40% abv gin with a juniper backbone with a load of lemon zest coming through.” Keepr’s, the spirits offshoot of British Honey, has a big juniper gin flavoured with Elderberry, Mulberry & Honey. Master distiller Jamie Baggott says: “Elderflower has become very popular but its berry counterpart has been left behind. Elderberries have a jammy tartness that’s somewhere between a damson and a blackberry. “The mulberry’s perfumed aroma is not only the perfect foil for the richer elderberry but complements the botanicals in a traditional London dry gin. “l love using British ingredients. We have a habit of falling in love with fruit from other countries and forgetting what we have on our doorstep.”



cocktail companion

found in the lost gardens

A cocktail bitters from the Carpano vermouth stable is being given a UK release by Hi-Spirits, which already handles other brands from producer Fratelli Branca, including its famous Fernet-Branca herbal liqueur. Carpano Botanic Bitter is pep-up for classic cocktails such as the Negroni and Boulevardier that have recently enjoyed a new lease of life.

Cornwall’s Trevethan Distillery has teamed up with the county’s Lost Gardens of Heligan to make a rum. Lost Gardens is a sugar cane molasses rum, aged in Cornish oak that’s been soaked in honey and PX sherry. The rum is finished by the addition of juice from Heligan pineapples, for which the site is well known.

THE WINE MERCHANT april 2020 49

It’s World Whisky Day on May 16 and this half-forgotten, preProhibition twist on a classic cocktail allows for an injection of wine into the celebrations. The original concept calls for claret but a full-bodied and fruity Shiraz or Malbec will serve just as well. The egg is optional and gives an opaque appearance and gloopy texture.

50cl bourbon or rye US whiskey 25cl lemon juice 20cl sugar syrup 15cl red wine 1 egg white

Put all the whiskey, lemon juice, sugar syrup and egg white in a shaker filled with ice. Put more ice in a Rocks glass or tumbler. Strain the contents of the shaker into the glass. Slowly pour the wine over the back of a spoon and on the top of the drink so it floats on top.


Pixels versus


As a new decade gets underway, technology has the potential to transform how consumers interact with wine. So for merchants, will these be the roaring, or boring, twenties?


ach passing decade hails a new era and a new Golden Age. We now embark upon the 21st

century equivalent of the Roaring 20s. Will we match the explosion of artistic, social

and cultural movements of its predecessor which gave rise to the Jazz Age?

Technology bloomed. From its first steps

came the deployment of mains electricity, leading to telephones, wireless radio,

the dawn of the motoring industry and

the blossoming of moving pictures. The

1920s saw a huge dynamic shift, certainly in technology but also in terms of class,

fashions and trends and, significantly, in the world of marketing.

In reviewing the legacy of a century past,

it brings me to thinking how the role of the wine merchant has changed and adapted over the years and, crucially, its destiny

in the coming century. In the 1980s, the “death of vinyl” was widely proclaimed, with the introduction of the cassette

tape and later the paradigm shift of the

outdated medium, akin to the box brownie camera.

However, vinyl has endured and, if

anything, is in a healthier state than it was at the end of the last millennium. It has fought off the threats posed by

digital media, bluetooth tech and mobile

phones. With everything, there are always advantages and disadvantages.

The LP’s appeal harks back to the

human tendency to nostalgia and a need

to connect physically to the world around

us. So much of our environment is tangible; even the act of imbibing is sensually tactile.

Without going down an altogether different path littered with innuendo, I will merely

state the obvious that our palates feel the

wine just as much as our hands caress the stemware and the bottle’s label is viewed with longing eyes.


e all can relate to the

customers’ obsession with examining wine bottles.

supposed vastly superior-in-every-way

We’re doing it when buying ourselves.

be portable (more likely cumbersome), is

decisions when considering a wine, long

compact disc. Vinyl, the long play record,

is clunky, cannot be widely considered to easily scratched, easily warped and is an

Consciously or unconsciously, the weight, feel, design, label and closure affect our before we get to taste the liquid inside.

THE WINE MERCHANT april 2020 50

Virtual reality is being a anything from Hollywo and could be adopted b

applied to ood to healthcare, y wine merchants


The question is, how does this

translate in the 21st century? An online omnipresence is becoming increasingly necessary; it is the Digital Age, after all. Coupled with an arbitrary high

street presence, thoughts veer towards e-commerce, SEO and virtual shop windows.

Whether selling via a bonded

warehouse, storage locker or retail

unit, the composition of each website

can vary immensely. The approach can be traditional or modern. Those in the traditional camp opt for simple, easy-

to-maintain sites with sparse frontages,

information limited to producer, vintage, region and price.

Alternatively, the modern approach

is to bombard the senses with visual

displays and promotions, highlighting

“what’s hot”, thus leading browsers in a

certain direction. The hybrid retailer in a

digital forum arguably has the best of both worlds, upholding tradition by matters of

design whilst subtly drawing in consumers via detail, navigational ease and minimal key offers. Ultimately it is down to the

personality of the retailer to decide what format is best and how to avoid going

the right application, be adopted for use by wine merchants. The idea of an immersive 4D digital space where customers can

wander around the space, drift into the

Bordeaux section and “pick-up” a bottle of

Pomerol, examine the label and zoom in to

read further information is all too possible,

like something from a Philip K Dick fantasy. Or will we see something more mundane

and utilitarian? Live chats have become a useful way for consumers to get specific product information, or for vendors to

push a sale over the line. In many ways

this replicates the role of a shop assistant, where personality and education are

paramount. In theory, the live chat is a

neat little concept when selling online. But practically, which independent merchant has the time to or can afford to employ a dedicated staff member to basically troubleshoot?

Inevitably, in a society driven by

provenance and fuelled by a curious

thirst for knowledge, the key to delivering customer satisfaction and increasing

saleability is to invest in the multi-blended skillsets of people.

overboard or getting carried away by the many types of ways to search wines and when to stop with the detail. How many regular wine buyers need to, want to or

are even interested to know that a Chablis Grand Cru was inoculated with the T. Fiona Blair

delbrueckii yeast strain?


resently, technology is limited to this passive 2D sphere. Will we start to see virtual shops in the

not too distant future? The use of virtual reality is being applied to anything from

Hollywood to healthcare and could, with

THE WINE MERCHANT april 2020 51

Robert Mason is business development manager for Soho Wine Supply, the London independent wine merchant


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

0207 409 7276

hatch mansfield New Bank House 1 Brockenhurst Road Ascot Berkshire SL5 9DL

How we can help during the coronavirus crisis Flexibility: Please speak to your account manager and we will do everything we can. Stock Deals: We will have a weekly updated list of wines with good stocks that we can offer at discounted prices to enable to increase your margins at this time. We are also offering a wide selection of pick and mix wines to allow you to keep a broad range in stock without committing to whole cases of each. Stock Levels: We are fortunate to have good stocks across our range at LCB. Many of our suppliers are still able to ship wine and we have shipments on the way. Engage & Entertain: We are in the process of ramping up our offering to you and hope to launch a series of online sessions. Please keep an eye out for a weekly newsletter for more information and on our social media channels. Visit our website to join the list. Amplifying your messages: We want to work closely with you. If you have messages you’d like us to deliver via our social media platforms please contact emma.alsos@ Our Team: Are ready to help. Your account manager can answer any questions you may have and are available to carry out remote tastings and training sessions. Safe Working: We are now working remotely and following all the relevant guidance from government. Our wines and Cognacs are delivered on our behalf by London City Bond who have a policy in place to protect their staff and customers. If you’d like more information please contact us. Social Media: Find us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook at @louislatouruk.

M.CHAPOUTIER Joins Hatch ... We’re incredibly excited to welcome M.CHAPOUTIER to the Hatch Mansfield portfolio. For the last two hundred years in the Rhône Valley and further afield, the Chapoutier family have been producing some of the greatest, world-renowned wines. All their own vineyards are cultivated according to organic or biodynamic principles in order to respect the terroir. Domaine Bila-Haut Occultum Lapidem Blanc

AOP Côtes-du-Roussillon ‘Hidden stone’ is a blend from the area around Latour de France, bursting with stone fruit and floral characters on the well-balanced palate.

01344 871800

Château des Ferrages Roumery Rosé

AOP Côtes de Provence A classic, elegant Provence rosé with aromatic notes of strawberry, grapefruit, citrus and peach - a perfect summer sipper! @hatchmansfield

M.Chapoutier Prestige Les Meysonniers Rouge AOP Crozes-Hermitage 100% organic Syrah from sun-drenched vineyards, full of black fruit, floral notes and fleshy tannins on the round, ample palate.

Stock Available 1st April 2020 Please contact Hatch Mansfield for further information

THE WINE MERCHANT april 2020 53


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


OPEN FOR BUSINESS, FULL OF IDEAS! In these extraordinary times we are striving to operate as normal. Let us know what you need from us! We’re an open door ready for your suggestions. To support the immediate but unpredictable sales to end consumers, we would like to offer the following: •

10% Discount for upfront payment

Reduced minimum delivery of 3 dozen

15% discount off a curated selection

New Isolation Case Instagram Live Tastings led by Elliot Awin @elliotawin, with guest winemakers and personalities from the world of entertainment, get your customers involved. For more information please contact your Account Manager or email us at

Famille Helfrich Wines

Over 3,000ha of our own properties in France

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

They’re all smiles to your face …

THE WINE MERCHANT april 2020 54

liberty wines

by David Gleave MW

What is it that makes wine so special? For us, it’s the genuine stories of people and places behind the wines in our glasses that brings them to life and makes them endlessly

020 7720 5350

A tale of two Sardinians


fascinating. Take, for example, the individuality and excitement offered by our two new producers from Sardinia …

Antichi Poderi Jerzu is a fine co-operative based in the small village of

Jerzu within the historical Ogliastra region on the east coast. Maintaining

many of its age-old traditions, this remote, untouched village holds the world record ratio of centenarians to population. In 1950, the village

doctor, Josto Miglior, convinced 45 grape growers to join forces to make

better wine. Today, the co-op unites 430 and involves almost all the families

in the village. Their intensely-flavoured Vermentino and Cannonau (the local name for Grenache and found nowhere else in Italy) are sourced from 650 hectares of prime hillside vineyards and vinified to express the unique character of specific plots.

Antonella Corda, granddaughter of famed viticulturalist Antonio

Argiolas, inherited two of his prized vineyards around the village of Serdiana, just north of Cagliari, and founded her winery in 2010. Blending a

proud century-old family winemaking tradition with ambition and innovation, Antonella

follows a sustainable approach and farms her vineyards organically. Her Vermentino, from Antonio’s favourite ‘Mitza Manna’ vineyard, has a signature freshness and floral bouquet.

hallgarten wines Dallow Road Luton LU1 1UR 01582 722 538


THE WINE MERCHANT april 2020 55


richmond wine agencies The Links, Popham Close Hanworth Middlesex TW13 6JE 020 8744 5550


COVID-19 and RWA planning from Friday 27th March As you will understand, in these very challenging and worrying times, our staff and customers remain our key consideration. Thus, we have decided to close the business for two days per week, being Tuesdays and Fridays. Staff numbers working on site have also been reduced to ensure everyone is as safe as possible. As always, we are indebted to our loyal and lovely customers that have supported us and continue to do so.

Operating our own bond with a fleet of vans, and over 1,000 wines, with plenty of stock, we can help if you are experiencing any supply issues.

Do get in touch with to discuss your needs. We wish you all the best of health in the coming weeks and look forward to being of service. Keep well and best wishes. Mark & Julia – RWA

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

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 april 2020 56

mentzendorff The Woolyard 52 Bermondsey Street London SE1 3UD 020 7840 3600

This month, we wanted to take the opportunity to address our customers and send a message of support to all UK Independent Wine Merchants. We have all now taken measures to protect our people and our businesses, the like of which none of us have seen in our working lives. COVID-19, unlike the economic crises we have experienced in the past, is unprecedented not only in its nature but also in the speed of its arrival. Let us hope that it will eventually pass as quickly as it arrived. However, for the moment it is clear that these new ways of working will be with us for some to time and here at Mentzendorff we wish to reassure you we remain fully operational; that we have secured sufficient stocks of the wines that we believe you will most require in the days and weeks ahead; and that most importantly you can be certain of our continued support. Please speak to us, we are here for you and happy to discuss the individual challenges faced by your businesses. Our sales team will continue to keep in touch even if they are no longer able to visit you in person. Best wishes

Andrew Hawes Managing Director For further information, please contact your account manager.

enotria & COE 23 Cumberland Avenue London NW10 7RX 020 8961 5161

E&C is the UK’s leading drinks supplier, and we have delivery hubs around the country. We own and operate our own fully integrated, state-of-the-art supply chain and systems, enabling us to deliver on target and support your business. We recognise that during this tough time, there is a lot of pressure on your business. As people are limiting their travel, your community is increasingly turning to you as their local wine and spirits supplier. E&C is ready to supply you with an alternative range of wines, spirits, beers, ciders and softs to meet this new demand. Please call 020 8961 5161 for our latest indies offer. Or email customerservices@


THE WINE MERCHANT april 2020 57


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


In these challenging times, we wanted to extend our thanks to all the fantastic independent merchants that have gone out of their way to adapt to the new circumstances we now find ourselves in; whether that be offering delivery services or opening earlier to allow older or more vulnerable to shop. The camaraderie has been fantastic to see. We’re still business as usual and we hope to provide you with a much needed respite. We will be offering customers the chance to win a trip to New Zealand in partnership with New Zealand Wine. Win a trip to New Zealand! New Zealand Wine Growers are offering the independent trade across the UK, the chance to win a spectacular trip to attend the international event Pinot Noir NZ 2021! This three-day event, held in Christchurch every four years, shines a spotlight on the diversity of New Zealand Pinot Noir. We’re thrilled to announce that we’ve partnered up with three sensational producers, Craggy Range, Prophet’s Rock and Spy Valley, in order to expand the journey and invite you to visit their wineries! How to enter the competition: Order at least one case (6 x 75cl) of each product within the promotion; creatively showcase the products and regions by actively marketing and promoting them either online and/or in-store; and run the promotion for at least three months, focusing on each producer. Please contact your account manager for more information.

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

@BuckSchenk @buckinghamschenk

THE WINE MERCHANT april 2020 58

A few new wines for spring have arrived at FM&V, both the quirky and the classic –


to keep current deliveries interesting, and our thirst for innovation sated.

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

• We have two new vintages from Scions of Sinai – South Africa’s Young Winemaker of the Year, Bernhard Bredell. The 2019 Señor Tallos is a fascinatingly-made skin-contact

Chenin/Grenache Blanc; his 2019 Nomadis is a lower abv refreshing Cinsault/Pinotage.

• We welcome you to try our new rosé from Crete’s Domaine Lyrarakis – made from the Liatiko grape in the Kedros vineyard, set at 900m altitude. Liatiko in Greek means ‘July’ – referring to its early picking dates. Oak-aged, it is mineral in style with a refreshing salty quality and stone fruit profile.

• Other brilliant new cuvées include Il Vispo Sangiovese, from La Magia, an old-vine Pais from De Martino and two new wines from classic Barossa producer, Hewitson. We’ve also recently taken on a Californian Riesling from Bedrock Wine Co’s old-vine nut, Morgan Twain Peterson MW.

We are still open for deliveries as usual – and have recently relaxed our minimum order quantities. Our revised telephone order desk

hours are 10am-4pm. All next day delivery requests must be made

by 12pm. Our support remains firmly with you – let us know where we can help.

maisons marques et domaines 9a Compass House Smugglers Way London SW18 1DB 0208 812 3380

In these unpredictable times, we all appreciate a great glass of wine even more than usual. MMD are looking ahead to a number of new releases and additions to our

portfolio, which continues to deliver world class wines from our renowned producers. Even though many of our events have been postponed, there are plenty of exciting

projects in the pipeline at MMD that we are looking forward to.

We are launching two new wineries this year: Paternoster, where

the Tommasi family produce exceptional Aglianico and Falanghina in Basilicata, and Merry Edwards from California’s Russian River Valley, who are part of Champagne Louis Roederer’s expanding American portfolio.

As well as new wineries, we also have new releases from some

of our world renowned wineries, including Marqués de Murrieta Castillo Ygay 2010 (awarded 99 Points by James Suckling), the

Domaines Ott* 2019 vintage from Provence and Bandol and the Pio Cesare Barolo 2016 vintage, to mention a few.

If you would like to find out more about these releases, or if

there is anything that we can do to support your business during

these uncertain times, please contact your sales manager or Kate Lofthouse:

THE WINE MERCHANT april 2020 59

Best wishes from The MMD Team