The Wine Merchant issue 92

Page 1

THE WINE MERCHANT. An independent magazine for independent retailers

Issue 92, June 2020

Dog of the Month: Bagel The Wine Merchant magazine

How can you persuade people to place orders for unusual, unfamiliar and often bizarre wines when they can’t come into your shop to taste them? Sunny Hodge of Diogenes the Dog in south London thought he’d found the answer with his “phone sommelier” service, allowing customers to chat about wines rather than simply take a chance with an online order. Read about how the experiment went on pages 24 to 26. Photo by Daniel Ogulewicz

Scrap these useless VI-1 forms Paperwork demanding costly lab tests on EU wine imports could deter small producers from exporting to the UK


he government is being urged to

scrap plans to impose costly VI-1 import documentation on all EU

wines arriving in the UK from next year. The Wine & Spirit Trade Association

says European producers will face €300

to €400 of extra costs for every wine they export to the UK.

It argues that the forms have little

meaning or relevance and are essentially “a

Simon Stannard described the VI-1 system

hit independents disproportionately hard,

undertake a suite of tests that accompany

barrier to trade”.

The requirement to use VI-1 forms will

especially as specialist merchants typically over-index in European wines.

Speaking at a webinar for independent

merchants, organised in partnership with The Wine Merchant, WSTA policy director

as “quite burdensome”.

He explained: “An exporter is required to

that shipment. We think those tests will cost around €300 or €400 a go, and we

think there would be upwards of about a

Continues page five


Inside this month 8 comings & Goings You wait years for stories from Banbury, then two come along at once

10 couriers Incomplete deliveries and smashed bottles. So what’s going on?

14 tried & TESTED A couple of bargain buys from the Loire and the Languedoc

32 DAVID WILLIAMS Zoom’s great, but the wine trade needs real human contact

34 ORGANIC & NATURAL The opportunity for independents with lowintervention wines

44 bottles of worcester Richard Everton celebrates five years of the hybrid wine business he’d always dreamt of The Spirits World, page 57; Supplier Bulletin, page 60

Online sales will be a fact of life for indies long after lockdown


o state the bleeding obvious: these are confusing times. What other word can you use when official figures show the economy shrinking by 20% in a month while some wine merchants saw sales leap by 60%, 70% or even 80%? Indies have experienced this boom at a time when it’s been difficult, and sometimes impossible, to do much of the stuff that has brought them success in recent years. The tastings, winemaker events and cocktail nights. The casual, unhurried chats with customers. All the things that make winemongering feel like part of the leisure economy rather than merely a strand of the retail industry. For many independent wine merchants, business has suddenly become rather transactional and impersonal. But just look at those numbers for April and May. Maybe some of us could get used to this new way of working. Indeed it’s noticeable that several indies have recently revamped their websites – Cheers in Swansea and Vindinista in London have both done excellent jobs – to make the online buying experience more efficient and enjoyable. Nobody really wants to see e-commerce replace the treasury of bricks-and-mortar wine shops that this country currently supports. But if lockdown has fastforwarded the consumer trend towards

online wine purchases, indies should certainly be claiming their slice of the action. Until now, many merchants have given online sales a swerve on the basis that they can’t do as polished a job as the big boys, and will always be outgunned on price. Both of those points remain valid. But perhaps that’s not the whole story. For many independents, websites can be unashamedly parochial affairs, with the simple aim of reminding long-standing and recently-acquired customers that their friendly local indie is the most interesting and convenient place to source their alcohol – either digitally or face-to-face. Some merchants will be more comfortable with this web-based approach than others. A little technical and marketing assistance from suppliers could go a long way. Not every indie website will be a work of creative genius, but it would seem reckless to risk hosting a site that greets the user with Christmas opening hours from 2018, or makes it hard to understand how ordering might be possible. Transactional? Impersonal? Maybe. But if this is how some people want to get their wine kicks, that’s a market ready to be tapped. It doesn’t mean we can’t do the touchy-feely experiential stuff too – eventually.

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



VI-1 forms could cost up to €400

whom part of their USP is to get interesting stock from small producers, there’s a

genuine risk that the supply might run out

From page one

because they simply won’t want to spend

quarter of a million movements of these

should be genuinely concerned about.”

€400 and go through the necessary hoopjumping.

“It’s a real issue and one that people

The Wine Merchant’s reader survey this

documents for goods coming from the EU to the UK.

year found that France, Italy and Spain are

“So it’s a huge burden on the exporters,

but of course that burden simply passes on to the importer and any costs pass on to the consumer.”

He added: “These are not particularly

independents’ most important countries Simon Stannard: forms are a barrier to trade

useful forms. I think any wine producer

traceability, but it does cost, and it does

“Knowing the three types of acidity in

introduction of these rules, many small

from outside the EU will argue that these are a technical barrier to trade.

a wine, two types of alcoholic content,

the sulphite level, and having a lab test to confirm those details is not particularly helpful. It doesn’t particularly help

add bureaucracy.

“We’re quite worried that with the

producers in mainland Europe will simply no longer want to send their goods to the UK.

“For those independent merchants for

of origin.

The same survey found that just over

18% of wine in the independent trade is

imported direct from producers, with 44% of respondents expecting that figure to increase in the coming year.

The WSTA is hoping to recruit more

independent members as it ramps up

efforts to fight the trade’s corner over

issues such as documentation, labelling

and tariffs that will come into effect from January.

Labelling regs will add to burden “Another piece of impending misery is the labelling changes,” said Simon Stannard, “which is mainly to do with having a ‘responsible business’ put on the back label. “At the moment, for wines coming

from the EU it’s OK to have a responsible

business that’s based in one of the EU 28

countries. From January 1, the requirement will be to carry a UK importer address. “The current withdrawal agreement

Organic wine looks set for a red-tape tangle

allows goods that were placed on the

got this in hand if at all possible.”

with and recognised by the UK certification

the fact is that after that time, anything that

accreditation systems in the UK and EU are

registering and recognising EU businesses.

market before the end of this year to

continue to be sold until exhaustion, but

is placed on the market will have to meet

the new rules. It’s important to be engaging with your suppliers, making sure they’ve

Importers of organic wine could be in

for an admin nightmare next year as the aligned.

“The UK will have to register with the EU;

EU businesses will have to be registered


bodies,” said Stannard.

“The Soil Association will need to be

It’s all going to take time; it’s all going to

potentially disrupt the movement of goods to and from the EU.”

Tariffs on EU wine seem inevitable The government says it wants a Canada-style trade deal with the EU, but negotiating time is running out, meaning a no-deal scenario – with tariffs imposed on EU wines – is increasingly likely. According to WSTA policy director

Simon Stannard, the draft comprehensive free trade

He added: “There’s lots of talk about

frictionless trade … but anyone that trades in wine and spirits will be aware there’s

no such thing as frictionless trade with the EU, because most goods are moved under excise suspense, so people are used to filling out forms.

“But we want to avoid too much

additional friction being added into that process.

“Clearly, we want to see an

agreement with the EU that

doesn’t introduce any new

agreement includes

tariffs. As things stand,

some “positive

failure to secure a deal

language”, including an

with the EU will see

aspiration to introduce

tariffs put in place on

an electronic Customs

EU wine. Let’s try to

system to speed up

movement of goods.

But he warned: “What’s

really tricky is that the clock is

remove other tariffs

that are bothersome at

the moment, particularly

the 25% tariff on US whiskey and

ticking – there hasn’t been very much

bourbon that the EU introduced as a result

is politics, some of that is posturing, but

(pictured) added: “If there is no deal then

positive mood music coming out of both

negotiating sides. Of course some of that

the simple fact is that UK negotiators have until the end of June to decide whether or

not they’re going to ask for an extension to the transition period ending at the end of this year.”

David Richardson said that “the archaic

system called CHIEF – Customs Handling of Import & Export Freight – is going to be in use for some time”.

The government has also published

its new global tariff for wine imports. “It depends on the volume of the container

and the strength of the product that you’re importing,” Richardson explained, “but it’s basically £10 per hectolitre for bulk wine, around £12 per hectolitre for cased wine

and £26 per hectolitre for sparkling wine.” Stannard said the WSTA wants to see

“minimal disruption to historical trade

flows to goods coming in from the EU and from outside”.

of US tariffs on steel and aluminium.” WSTA chief executive Miles Beale

the tariffs that are normally applied by the

EU on non-EU wines will be applied by the UK on non-UK wines, so that’s basically

everything, and it means the same tariffs

you currently pay on the US, Australia, New Zealand etc will be visited upon EU wines. “The only way that will be avoided is if

the EU and the UK do a comprehensive free trade deal. We think that is increasingly unlikely.

“We need to dial up the lobbying.

Independents are absolutely part of their local communities and as such in a very good place to lobby their local MP.”

The WSTA has produced a template

letter (available at which independents are being encouraged to adapt to communicate with their Parliamentary representatives.

“We need MPs to understand what’s at

stake here,” said Beale.


“Our Man with the Facts”

• Jura may be regarded by some as one of France’s trendier wine regions, but its vineyard area has plummeted over the past 200 years, from around 20,000 hectares to nearer 2,000. Soil erosion is a big problem on some of the region’s steep slopes, so vignerons often allow grass to grow to bind the earth in place.

....... • Ahmed Pochee, the colourful founder of Oddbins, survived a light aircraft crash in the African jungle in 1975. He and his family spent seven days without supplies before finding their way to a farming settlement. They were treated in hospital in Nairobi before being flown home to London.

....... • Pinotage is a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault, created in South Africa in 1925 by Abraham Perold. It has sometimes been formally referred to as Perold’s Hermitage x Pinot, and the alternative name Herminoir is occasionally seen on labels.

....... • Brown Bastard was a name given to a sweet wine from Spain or Portugal in Shakespearean times. It’s referred to in the play King Henry IV Part I.


© Vitalez /


Call to allow goods to go back into duty suspense There’s an automatic assumption that businesses that have not paid their quarterly VAT are taking up the government offer of deferring payment until the end of the year. But for excise and Customs duty, it’s

necessary to make monthly phone calls to request a payment extension.

“We’ve asked the government to make

the time-to-pay arrangements clearer and

simpler,” says David Richardson, regulatory

Government would eventually get its money if wine returned temporarily to bond

and commercial affairs director of the WSTA.

“We’ve also asked the government for



supply chain as the retail scene opens up.

Obtaining a Temporary Event Notice can

WSTA chief executive Miles Beale is

be a useful way of selling to the public

keen to manage expectations about

from a safer space than a cramped shop.

the prospect of any duty reductions on

the same way you can get it for VAT.”

But in some cases, local authorities

alcohol, which might have taken the

don’t have the available staff to process

sting out of the new tariffs on EU wine



the ability to take goods back into duty

suspense. We think for some businesses there would be cash flow advantages of

taking goods back into duty suspense, and eventually government would get the tax back as those goods flow back into the

“We’ve also asked the government to

consider bad-debt relief for excise duty in

Beale realistic TENs in short supply, but they’re about chances of cuts after Covid an indie lifeline

“We’ve had feedback that there are a

number of police forces that say they just

excise duty,” he said. “It is absolutely and


tariffs? Our view is that it will be difficult

won’t consider looking at Temporary Event

Notices at all,” said David Richardson of the “We’ve suggested that businesses should

be prepared to push back quite hard on that.

“If it’s a way for your business to perhaps

open up a different space and be able to

sell goods to, for example, click-and-collect David Richardson

“We have consistently argued for lower

customers, then really the police and local

authorities ought to be facilitating that if it helps keep a business trading.”


comparatively very high in the UK.

“Will we see one to offset new import

to lobby for tax cuts the other side of the coronavirus.

“Taxation is the only way for the

government to recoup their current

spending and it will take a long time. [Duty cuts] might be possible in the short term

if the government is still in the business of wanting to support an industry through a hard time.”



Cash can be spent on wine bargains as well as taxes The WSTA believes that any business taking advantage of a bounce back loan will not be obliged to put any of the money towards unpaid taxes. But wine importers might want to

consider using the cash to invest in

tariff-free European wines at a time when demand is not matching supply and there are bargains available.

“HMRC and government have nothing to

do with the arrangements for those loans,” said Simon Stannard. “They are loans between businesses and the banks.

“We’ve had very positive feedback from

WSTA members that have applied for the

bounce back loan and in some instances the money has arrived on the same day it was applied for.”

He added: “Talking to European

colleagues, they are more reliant on

on-trade than we are in the UK. There is

Winemakers in the EU have extra product to sell due to the on-trade shutdown

It is currently offering indies 50% off

definitely wine out there that they need to

normal membership fees. “We really need

to be paying any tariff on it.

want us to lobby on,” said Miles Beale.

sell. If you can get your wine from Europe

before the end of the year, you’re not going

“The prospect of a loan is something that

could help you exploit that little bit of extra capacity – and take some wine off their hands at a decent rate.”


Half price membership deal for independents The WSTA is hoping that independent merchants will join its ranks in order to strengthen its campaigning voice.

a group of independent members with a

similar set of requests for things that they “There are a number of reasons that

independent businesses have the same sort of agenda as other members of the WSTA. “The wine market is absolutely global

and it’s vital that the new business environment is shaped so that the

industry prospers. The independent

wine merchants are in a good position to prosper.

“It’s extremely important that you

understand what’s coming [with post

Brexit arrangements] and you get a chance to tell us how you’d like it to be shaped. “We don’t have a huge number of

independent wine merchants in the


WSTA, which makes it hard for us to do things exclusively for the independent merchants.”

Addressing merchants attending the

recent webinar, he said: “You are all

independent, you have your own views and different ways of doing things. The economy is changing very rapidly and

there are some real opportunities for you – but also some big risks.”

Before the discount, membership fees

start at £500 for the smallest businesses – “which is not a lot”, Beale insists.

“You would spend more than that on a

lawyer obtaining advice on some of the issues that we could advice you on. If I could pick one, it would be labelling.”

For a full recording of the one-hour WSTA

webinar, email Lucy Panton: lucy@wsta.

Pub becomes a wine merchant Lockdown has seen a pub in Bury St Edmunds morph into a wine merchant. The One Bull is one of five pubs owned by the Gusto Pronto group and its proactive decision to open a wine shop, Vino Gusto, within the temporarily empty space is paying off. Group beverage manager Jake Bennett-

Day is now based at The One Bull full-time, running Vino Gusto.

“We didn’t want it to feel like a pub that was trying to flog off their stock”

He says: “We’ve always toyed with the

idea of a retail element but being given the luxury of time is something we’ve enjoyed over the last few weeks.

“We were really conscious that when we

put the shop together we didn’t want it to feel like a pub that was trying to flog off

their stock, so we’ve put a lot of thought

Drive-through success for Slurp As well as being an online wine

into the positioning of shelves also to make

merchant, Slurp operates a bricks-and-

and so we turned to them completely

the retail staff safe during the lockdown

just to give our portfolio a bit of diversity.”

form of a drive-through.

Huntingdon before joining Gusto Pronto.

warehouse anyway because we’d been

sure we comply with social distancing.

mortar shop in Banbury. Managing

in order to fill the shop initially. We’ve

and together they found a way to offer

“Historically we have always used Liberty

director Hugh Taylor wanted to keep

recently added a few lines from Hallgarten

a contact-free wine sales service in the

John Hoskins MW at The Old Bridge in

the shop into a picking area for the

the retail element once the on-trade is

online perspective,” Taylor explains.

Bennett-Day previously worked with

Although the business expects to retain

allowed to reopen, he says it’s unlikely that

“During the last 10 weeks we’ve turned

absolutely rushed off our feet from the

“We closed the shop to the general public

the model would be replicated elsewhere

but we did allow front-line workers to

in a location that calls for a wine shop,” he

back up and running, when one staff

in the group.

“The other sites are more rural and not

says. “Here we are in the town centre and the town has been crying out for a wine shop for a long time.

“I always wanted to be the person to put

something together. It’s been fantastic –

the initial response has been amazing. It’s lovely to do something positive while we can’t do what we do best.”

come in and shop with us. We were just trying to work out how to get the shop

member, who is American, suggested a drive-through.”

Customers simply park up and a member

of staff wearing PPE hands them a wine

list. Once the order is boxed and placed in their car boot, they pay by card through their window and drive away, not once leaving the confines of their vehicle.


Taylor says: “Everybody feels

comfortable because they are not having to

leave their cars. It’s very simple and a lot of people have asked if we can always do this. I think if there’s still an appetite for it once we re-open, we will continue doing it.

“There is an area immediately outside

the shop which takes three or four cars

and opposite that there is a car park, which takes about 30 cars. Not being a high street store, we don’t usually get passing trade, but people who have shopped with us

in the past tend to buy in slightly bigger volumes because they are in their car.”

Slurp usually has around 700 wines to

choose from but has distilled the drive-

through list down to 70 wines and included some beers and spirits too.

“Our average bottle price is normally

about £12,” says Taylor, “and we learnt

very early on that during lockdown people are drinking a bit more, and the quantity perhaps was a bit more important than quality.

“Our entry level is about £6.50 and there

was a lot of interest in that and in our

mixed cases, and people who didn’t know us and hadn’t shopped before were going for those.”

Thinking ahead to re-opening, Taylor

knows that, in order to retain an enjoyable

pubs and restaurants are going to find it

in at any one time.

are supplying them as well – so diversifying

shopping experience, the way forward for

Slurp will be to limit the amount of people “We do have a big shop, so I’m not too

concerned about the social distancing,”

he says, “but we will limit the amount of

people coming in so customers can still get the wine advice they would normally get. We don’t want to discourage them from browsing and asking us questions.

“We’d rather do that than have a busy

shop with a one-way system or people

having to be shepherded round the shop.”

Wine shop will be born in a barn

incredibly tough and that’s ultimately going

we supply companies such as Selfridges,

at the moment can only be a good thing.

independent bottlers. So this bar is the

to lead back to small wine merchants that

“It’s been a real eye-opener for me trying

to find an appropriate space and it’s been a long search. I wanted somewhere with

ample parking but would be equally nice

organic and sourced from Graft and Carte Blanche.

He allows himself a slight sigh when

recounting his five hour-long licensing New whisky bar and shop in Brighton

The Wolf of Trafalgar Street

a shop in the early 90s. It focuses on the

owner Seb Woolf explains.

Your Wolf Loose, a bar and shop predominantly focused on whisky but The new venture is led by spirits

80s,” he says, “and for a while we did have

importer and distributor Woolf Sung, as

and wedding venues – but since I joined, I

in fine wine and Champagne to include

White believes the time is right to add

another string to the company’s bow as

coronavirus lays waste to sections of the on-trade.

“Unfortunately, coming out of this,

Brighton for the whisky scene. I’m going to

structural changes to his premises.

with wine and craft beer in the mix.

have wanted a retail outlet.”

“I really want to be an institution in

negotiating council red tape and making

North Oxfordshire Wine, six years ago

wholesale side of things – pubs, restaurants

can walk out with,” Woolf says.

Woolf has had his work cut out

Brighton will soon be home to Cut

when he was 24 years old. “It started in the

“You will be able to pick drams from, say,

other restaurants and bars in Brighton.”

showcase local chefs and the ingredients White took over his family business,

expressions” direct from the casks.

and hopefully we can place those bottles in

but we will have to play it by ear.”

that they grow on the farm,” says White.

Whisky lovers will be able to access

and it will run under the name of the bar,

“we are still aiming to open in September

“We’ll be doing pop-up kitchens to really


set up another independent bottling line

bit up in the air at the moment,” he says,

be a dedicated event space.

to take the spirits we source direct to the

five bottles and you’ll get a pack that you

White is aiming for a list of between 350

Mike White intends to open Underdog

converted barn, and the ground floor will

next step as we thought it would be nice

and 400 wines which will primarily be

by-the-glass selection.”

Wines at the end of the summer. “It’s all a

will take up the mezzanine floor in an old

We also supply bulk spirits to other

sample bottles containing “unique

merchant in Banbury.

door to a farm shop,” Underdog Wines

Master of Malt and The Whisky Exchange.

for people to come and sit in and enjoy a

Plans are underway for a new wine

Located “just outside of Banbury, next

“We are an independent bottler too and

“My company evolved from dealing just

spirits because more and more customers wanted them,” he says.

“We now have a number of our own

brands, which we distribute across the UK and Europe, including The Artful Dodger Whisky.


panel meeting on Skype. Even the extensive building issues he’s encountered don’t appear to have fazed him, although he admits that between dealing with the

planning and licensing and having to put steels in to support the floors, he’s “not

thought so much about the wine side at the moment,” he says. “I might reach back out

to my contacts in France; I might find some younger Bordeaux that hit the mark – I’m a big fan of white Bordeaux.”

Locals who remember the original

Trafalgar Street shop, which for 36 years

traded as Trafalgar Wines, won’t recognise the premises when it reopens.

“I’ve ripped everything out and started

again,” says Woolf.

“There will be a big window where the

back door used to be and the access to the rear garden will be from the basement

which is being refurbished and will be part of the bar and shop.”

What a smashing service


ho’s got a good story about

couriers? All right, most wine merchants can tell a few

juicy ones. But Daniel Grigg’s takes some beating.

Over the course of seven orders, from the

end of March until the beginning of May,

FedEx managed to lose or destroy £1,057

worth of wine that Museum Wines, based in Dorset, had attempted to send to its customers:

Order one: six bottles delivered, 12 vanished.

Order two: six bottles ordered, all vanished.

Order three: 12 bottles ordered, all smashed and disposed of.

Order four: 12 bottles ordered, all vanished.

Order five: 12 bottles ordered, all vanished.

Order six: four bottles ordered, all vanished.

Order seven: 12 bottles delivered, 12 bottles smashed and disposed of.

FedEx has not responded to our request

for a comment, but Grigg’s legal adviser,

now on the case, hopes to have more luck.

“Given how busy we were, the last thing

we needed was trying to figure out where people’s orders had gone,” says Grigg.

“And there’s no incentive for FedEx to do anything about it.

“Their terms of carriage state that

breakages of fragile goods are not covered for claims. I understand and accept this.

“They are now trying to extend this to

Lockdown has resulted in a boom in local and national deliveries for wine merchants, and now more than ever indies are relying on couriers to help them get orders to customers on time and in perfect condition. But the familiar problems with lost consignments and broken bottles have not gone away.

lost goods of which, all of sudden, there

are lots. Boxes of 12 bottles getting to the

sortation hub never to be seen again. They

state we cannot claim due to the ’nature of the goods’.

“There have been three instances of

goods damaged in transit being ‘disposed of’ without informing us or seeking

Report by Graham Holter

consent to do so. This isn’t a shipment

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2020 10

of one bottle being broken – this is them


claiming all 12 were smashed then

Jean-Claude Schmitt of The French Wine

disposed of on three occasions.

People in Matlock is trying to move away

one address were smashed and disposed of.


“Most recently apparently two boxes,

both containing 12 bottles, being sent to “I have seen boxes fall or be dropped

from a height of several feet and you might lose three or four at the most, not all 12. Physics alone suggests the bottles that

make contact with the ground will cushion the others.

“What was sent via FedEx was also

packed in two layers of reinforced

cardboard, rather than original packaging, so it would take some serious effort or negligence to smash all of them.

“Even senior customer service agents

have admitted to me that they find it

unlikely and are not sure why the entire shipment was disposed of.

“My argument is it is our property, not

theirs, and they have no right to dispose of it without consulting us or providing

photographic evidence of the damage –

neither of which they have done or are able to do.

“They also seem unable to confirm what

the policy in their terms of carriage states regarding goods damaged in transit.”


ndependent merchants have been

relying on couriers more than ever

from plastic in his transit packaging, but is finding it’s the best insurance against “The ultimate responsibility lies with

courier companies – it’s on them to change the culture,” he says.

“We have to use these packaging

materials otherwise wine will be smashed.

The drivers are tracked – and reprimanded if stationary too long. I have witnessed

parcels thrown from the back of the van

ever increasing volume.

“None of them have a clear policy or

advice on what to pack your bottles in to

survive their network. As far as I am aware, none of them will insure drinks being sent through their network.

“We have carried out extensive testing

with many of the couriers and it is very hitand-miss on breakages.”

“Wine via courier is a lottery,” he says.

should take to minimise damage.

that the problems with couriers have been the same for the past 25 years.

“APC are probably the best of a bad lot.

They are a sort of collection of different

depots and if you’ve got a well-run depot it

works well. If you’ve got a poorly run depot then they are as bad as anyone else.”

WBC boss Andrew Wilson shares those

concerns. But he adds: “I think the couriers are waking up to the fact that the wine

delivery market is growing exponentially, and they want to be more of a part of it. “Up until now, it has been very hard

he Wine Merchant contacted the

Institute of Couriers for comment.

We asked for its assessment of the

scale of the problem with wine breakages, and advice on what steps merchants We also enquired what measures

couriers themselves are putting in place.

We asked what evidence IOC members

are expected to provide when a breakage

occurs, and why some sortation hubs seem more problematic than others. Finally, we asked if the organisation would be

prepared to attend an industry forum in which couriers and merchants can air concerns and suggestions.

We did not receive direct answers to

any of these questions. Chairman Carl

Lomas said: “The IOC will offer assistance to follow up if a merchant does not get

response to a consignment note request for

problems that have long existed with wine

their goods.

deliveries, it’s one that seems to have been

“With record numbers of first-time

missed, judging by many of the comments

delivery success during Covid, the sector

that appeared on The Wine Merchant’s

data is at odds with The Wine Merchant

Twitter feed earlier this month.

magazine claims for failed delivery. The

In fairness, some merchants praise the

first step is to collect the wine merchants’

attentive service they have been receiving

data to understand the issues for both

from couriers, though others have reports

merchants and couriers.

of breakages and missing wines. Some

“The second step, a code of values for

contributors to the thread believe there is a avoided with the right choice of packaging.

them say they do not – but they do, and in


parcels collected from us.”

an opportunity to put right some of the

Often – but not always – problems can be

carrying drinks. In the small print most of

Liberty Wines boss David Gleave says

to the front, when making room for the

before thanks to lockdown. If it was

problem with theft in some areas.

to find out what a courier’s policy is on

robust packaging for wine, would be a Daniel Grigg: “It is our property, not theirs”

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2020 11

worthy review, but we need to understand

the numbers first across a broad spectrum of couriers.”


The risks and rewards of reopening my shop Cat Brandwood of Toscanaccio in Winchester would be happier to stick with deliveries for a while longer to minimise the risk of spreading infection. But she suspects she’ll be opening her doors on June 15 and aiming for some sort of normality

© Daaridna /


hen lockdown was

announced on March 23 I

had already decided that I

was going to close my doors to customers

and operate a delivery service only for the

time being. My other staff had clearly been uncomfortable working during their last shifts and I was increasingly concerned about bringing home the virus.

Here we are 11 weeks later; I’ve spent

the equivalent of a week’s working hours driving around in a souped-up Fiat 500

that is wholly unsuited to being a delivery

vehicle, I’ve developed a habit of talking to myself in my empty shop and yet I’m still

not keen on the idea of throwing open the doors again and regaining my sanity.

As someone who, it turns out, really

thrives on human interaction, why am I not keen to bring back the soul of my shop – interaction with my customers?

The advice we’ve been given essentially

amounts to the following: Do a risk

assessment, practise social distancing,

everyone wash their hands, clean more frequently.

This is exactly what was being practised

in the shop pre-lockdown and it wasn’t

good enough then. I don’t feel reassured that I’ll be doing the right thing by

throwing open the doors on June 15, but

Interaction with customers, 2020-style

I suspect that for the business to thrive I

that there will be random spot checks

employees I don’t have to have a written

public (customers/staff) have also been


As a business with fewer than five

risk assessment, but it has been reported

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2020 12

by HSE so it seems that it would be

prudent to have this written down. The

encouraged to report conditions that they

think are unsafe.

risk to business continuity as my being ill

is an outbreak that can be traced back to

been successful, especially in those first

would shut the place.

How much responsibility do I have? Will

Delivery to my customers has largely

I find myself under investigation if there

few weeks of panic, and I’d be much

my store? That is certainly what would

happier if this were to continue. I also

happen if the business was the source of a

know that as other businesses open up

salmonella outbreak.

around me – businesses that haven’t been


as lucky as I am to maintain a revenue

almonella isn’t very easy to catch

stream during this period – that I need to

from talking to your customers,

be open too.

though. The government has

Even when I open again, I fear that a

made it clear that there are options for

little bit of soul has been lost that will take

enforcement including fines and jail

time to recover. Friday evenings were often

sentences of up to two years for businesses not protecting staff and customers. Just how far should I be going in

Cat Brandwood

ensuring everyone is protected? One

independent business on my street will be

supplying disposable gloves and facemasks at the door and requiring that they be worn in store.


spent with customers clutching a well-

earned glass of wine whilst I talked them through some wines for their weekend.

My risk assessment currently labels the

risk of opening as very high. As the only full-time member of staff, there is a real

It was a bustling place that was full of

life, jollity, and the odd secret spilled. But mostly it was full of people: something I

probably won’t see again for a long time.

customers we could do without

© GordonGrand /

13. Rosalind Bettesworth ... The one thing I would say that has been so positive about all this Corona-19 business is the way it’s brought the community together at last … so lovely to see all these marvellous little shops so busy and keeping us oldies fed and watered … I’ve lived here for 47 years and this street has been dying a death … all these charity shops and takeaways. Jolly good luck to you – welcome to the neighbourhood! When did you open? 2007, did you say? Really? Good lord. Never seen this place before. You must have been hiding! Look at all those wonderful colourful bottles. Do you have any Dubonnet? It’s my absolute favourite. Do be careful on that ladder … all this trouble just for me. What wonderful service. Yes, yes, that’s the one I used to enjoy. No more drinkies for me though, sadly – doctor’s orders! Apart from a small glass of Harvey’s before dinner. I’ve got some more coming today with my Morrisons delivery, which is actually due any time. It was lovely to meet you. Welcome to the neighbourhood!

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ANAGRAM TIME Can you unscramble the names of the following cocktails? If so, you win world peace for a week.

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2020 13

1. Bathe Chosen Ex 2. Congenital Laddies 3. A Boy, My Lord 4. Platonic Moos 5. Pianist's Remorse Mark Matisovits

Community Champions


Meinklang Weißer Mulatschak 2018

Lucy Chenoweth

The Old Garage Bottle Shop & Deli, Truro


ucy Chenoweth opened her wine shop last September with the intention that it would become a community stalwart with plenty of tastings and events. Fast-forward to the time of Covid and she’s reaching out to her community in a different way. Her impeccably designed premises are now arguably the most stylish of packaging hubs in the history of distribution and and Lucy is out and about delivering vegetable boxes, hampers and checking in with elderly customers. “I took on the veg because we’re in real retirement area and a lot of older customers were saying they couldn’t get delivery slots from the supermarket so I just thought I’d look after them,” Lucy explains. “Then I got an influx of people just wanting veg boxes so I took it on the chin as I thought I would find a way to get them to buy wine from me another time. About 90% of them who bought again then started to add wine and other deli items to their order. Not in massive quantities or anything, but every sale counts at the moment. My beautiful shop just looks like a greengrocer’s; the veg deliveries come in every day at 6am and there’s wine boxed up all over the floor.” Lucy admits that The Old Garage wasn’t set up for e-commerce. But within a week of lockdown she added a new delivery tab to her website where customers could find a list of 180 wines along with all the cheeses and meats. She’s now making around 40 deliveries a week to regular customers as well as fulfilling nationwide orders. “It’s trying to keep that really personal service while managing to say yes to as many things as possible. I’ve settled into it now and it doesn’t bother me getting up so early and getting home so late – people do seem to be so thankful and I do think we will keep a large majority of them as customers.” Collaborating closely with Lucy is fellow merchant Jamie Tonkin from Old Chapel Cellars. “Jamie is a legend,” she says. “We’ve been delivering for each other and helping each other out. We’ve met in random lay-bys and field gateways when I’ve bought wine from him and he’s taken my deliveries for me.” It appears Lucy has inadvertently created a mutual support group. “I’ve got about five local ladies, some of whom are literally stuck indoors, that I speak to every week just to check in and they are always really keen to chat, but now some of them now are texting me to check that I’ve actually had a day off,” she says.

Lucy wins a bottle of Pol Roger Brut 2012 If your store is a community champion, email

This family-run biodynamic estate in Burgenland is proud of the manure created by its herd of Angus

steers. Thankfully, you can’t taste it in this invigorating Gewürztraminer/Pinos Gris/Welschriesling blend, with its pithy, zesty Seville orange notes. So fresh,

joyous and quaffable, you could drink it by the pint. RRP: £12.95

ABV: 11.5%

Vintage Roots (0800 980 4992)

De Angeles Malbec Sin Roble 2017 “Unfettered” is the word that springs to mind to

describe this mesmerising Malbec. There’s no oak

involved: the juice is allowed to consider its options in bottle for 36 months, emerging with juicy ripe plum characters and a slight hint of iron, expressing the

unique Luján terroir exactly as the maker intended. RRP: £32.50

ABV: 14.5%

Las Bodegas (01435 874772)

Rogers & Rufus Rosé 2019 This Barossa Grenache is billed as a savoury rosé, and it certainly has the credentials to stand its

ground with a variety of dishes, especially of the fishy or spicy variety. But the soft summer fruit

flavours are also there in the mix, giving the wine a

playful sort of character. It slips down all too easily, with a more serious steely note to the finish. RRP: £14.95

ABV: 12%

Richmond Wine Agencies (020 8744 5550)

Domaine du Cléray Chardonnay 2019 Generous without being fat, simple without being bland, fruity without losing its mineral zip, this is

what Chardonnay tastes like from Muscadet country, and it’s a delight. A summery blend of orchard fruits and melon, crafted by the man who justifiably calls himself The Pleasure Maker, Pierre-Jean Sauvion. RRP: £10

ABV: 12.5%

Famille Helfrich (07789 008540)

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2020 14

Le Seigneur du Raveil Vacqueyras 2016 It would be a real shame if the contents of the bottle

weren’t as classy as the packaging, but thankfully that’s

not an issue here. A well-built blend of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre and Cinsault, it pulls off that Rhône trick


of being both rich and deep as well as light and fresh, with satisfying cassis and blueberry characters. RRP: £18.99

ABV: 15%

Vindependents (020 3488 4548)

Fincher & Co Sauvignon Blanc 2018 This Awatere project is intended to produce a more

European, food-friendly style than most Marlborough Sauvignons, with minimal residual sugar and tighter, less tropical flavours. But it retains the pungency we

associate with the region, with the palate dominated by crisp lime and elderflower notes. RRP: £11.95

ABV: 12.5%

Vineyard Productions (0117 915 4555)

Folding Hill Estate Pinot Noir 2016 Sometimes with Pinot Noir you’re happy to settle for “faultless” if “ethereal and life-affirming” are

unavailable – or, more likely, beyond budget. This is a masterly addition to the Kiwi Pinot canon, with just




enough ripe red fruit, just enough acidity, just enough


tannin and more than enough charm. RRP: £24.99


ABV: 14%

Vindependents (020 3488 4548)

Jean-Claude Mas Cuvée Secréte Merlot Cabernet 2019 Most merchants are eager to sniff out wines around £10 that overperform at that price point, and this

sulphite-free blend from the south of France is pretty sharp value with its bright, pure redcurrant and

cherry flavours and hints of wild herbs. An easygoing and unpretentious wine for the budget conscious. RRP: £10.50

ABV: 14%

Vintage Roots (0800 980 4992)








Indies urged to aim h

Liberty Wines boss David Gleave believes that independents have a good chance of hanging on to some of their b new customers, but warns that the multiples are likely to provide stiffer competition in the post-Covid era


ost independent wine

merchants have seen revenue soar during the Covid crisis,

and Liberty Wines has numbers that seem to prove it. Sales to indies have risen 65%, according to boss David Gleave.

Gleave founded the business a quarter of

a century ago and has seen enough peaks and troughs over that time to recognise a false dawn when he sees one. He’s

confident that there’s an opportunity for

independents to capitalise on their recent gains – but warns that competition could

be stiffer than ever in the post-coronavirus

era. And that’s before we even factor Brexit into the equation.

“I think there’s a good chance of hanging

on to some of [the new business],” he says. Many consumers who never engaged

with indies before, and who perhaps doubted their own ability to make

informed buying decisions, have now overcome those hurdles.

But Gleave adds: “If people have been

going to the indies to buy wines at £6 to £8 a bottle, I suspect they will probably drift away.

“If it’s moved people to buying online, it

will certainly have worked in favour of the

indies because, especially for wines at over £10 a bottle, that’s where a story can be told.”

Gleave warns that supermarkets are

casting a jealous eye over exactly this territory.

“Some of the multiples are doing a bloody

good job and are putting a focus on the £10 to £20 wines, because they realise their

own label will only get them so far and they

David Gleave is ready for the “worst-case scenario” with Brexit negotiations

need brands,” he says.

necessarily have sold before.

dinner party table, but they will buy

could be that customers have a bit more

“They have realised that not everyone

wants a bottle of Tesco Finest on their

something else for £15. Tesco in particular have been very clever about that.

“Majestic have revitalised and there’s a

lot of competition to come from Morrisons, M&S, Tesco, Waitrose and the Co-op.

“Indies can do it if they get their heads

out of the trough, as it were, and look up

and say, ‘this is the avenue for us’. The good indies are selling … I think the technical term is ‘shitloads’ of good wine. And

they are selling wines that they wouldn’t

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2020 16

“We’ve been giving them the stories that

their customers respond to as well. But it

time because they are working from home. They are not going out to restaurants,

there’s a bit more spare cash, so maybe

there’s some low-hanging fruit there than the indies have been able to pluck.”

The months ahead “will be about

adapting, and who is best at adapting and

reading what their customers want will be the ones who survive and thrive”.

Online sales have become more

important to independents – normally for


Delivering the goods for customers during lockdown


the indie trade as a whole, these only make

anywhere will just forget about the UK

to compete on a national level? Perhaps

will make it even smaller.

up 5% of the mix.

Does Gleave think that it’s worth trying

indies should simply focus their online efforts on their local market?

“I think that’s one aspect of it,” says

Gleave. “Don’t try to go up against some of the national players, but if they carve out

something that’s different for themselves … I mean someone like Noel Young, he

sells around the country, and Fine Wines of Mayfield: they’ve done a brilliant job

during lockdown. They haven’t done it by

having the best website, but people expect a very good service when they are buying online.

“You have to keep up the same level of

service online as you have when people come through the door.”


ooking further ahead to 2021 and the UK’s new relationship with

the EU, Gleave is preparing for a

no-deal scenario that will add costs and bureaucracy for all involved.

“We’ve got to assume that the worst-case

scenario will happen now,” he says.

He believes that, despite claims that

countries like Italy don’t have enough labs to carry out the tests required for VI-1

forms, there will be capacity to fulfil the new requirements.

Whether all European producers will

choose to do so is another matter.

“The big producers who are already

selling a lot of wine here will be able to

afford those costs, I suspect,” Gleave says.

“Small producers who can sell their wine

market. We are a small island, the economy is going to get smaller and a no-deal Brexit “There is no reason why people would

go out of their way to sell here unless it’s at the right price. They are not going to

fall over themselves and cut their margins. As we’ve seen with Covid, there are many countries in the world that are better run than this country.”

Is Gleave confident that Liberty will hold

on to all of its agency partners?

“If we can do the job for them and carry

on selling what we’re selling, and if they carry on making money, then we’ll hold

on to them,” he says. “If we can’t, then they will give up on the UK.”

For someone like Gleave, who has spent

a career building a wine business as

successful and respected as Liberty, it must be an exasperating prospect.

“I’m probably past exasperation,” he

admits. “I feel sorry for the younger

generation. The full impact of this will be felt over the next decade.

“I’ve been very lucky for the time I’ve

been in the business but my children’s

generation … I feel their world has become a bit smaller. The UK wine trade will also become a bit smaller.

“We are selling less wine, but it is more

diverse than it’s ever been. And the wine

world is getting more diverse than ever and it would be a pity if we can’t reflect that. “The wine business has changed

dramatically in the last 40 years, and very much for the better. It would be a pity if it has to go into reverse gear.”

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2020 17

Liberty Wines has been helping a number of independents by delivering wines from its portfolio direct to consumers. “What we’ve tried to do is talk to each customer and see what their requirements are, and if we can help them by using some of our infrastructure then we do,” Gleave explains. “We’re doing it for a number of offtrade clients. They place orders with us and they may not have the delivery infrastructure or, more importantly, time. “If they need to get a case to a customer by the next day, we can do it. We do this during the course of a normal year anyway, but there’s been more call for it over the last couple of months. “I suppose it’s about 25 to 30 different customers that we’re doing some sort of bespoke thing for because they’ve asked us to. “Sometimes it will be a mixed-case offer we are doing for some customers and they would put that on their website. Some people have been advertising tutored tastings so we can send out a number of half bottles or a mixed case to various addresses and things like that. “Or some people get an order in to the shop and they don’t have enough stock – it will be for a full case, and they ring us and say, ‘can you send it?’ They know we can get it delivered the next day, so they will push what they get from us.”



Last ‘normal’ year for drinks industry Strong off-trade sales and a fastgrowing e-commerce market have not been enough to keep drinks producers ticking over during lockdown, according to new figures.

cafes as soon as possible; but the date

in the roadmap is from July 4, subject to advice at the time.”

The Guardian, June 9

As a whole, drinks producers worldwide

will suffer “double-digit” declines in sales

this year, according to research from IWSR

Gilbert Viader Viader Vintners Cardiff Favourite wine on my list

A couple of years ago we imported the whole production (just 1,300 bottles) of a wine from the Azores – Rola Pipa made from Arinto. It’s the 2016 vintage and turning into something quite special.

Favourite wine and food match

This same wine pairs very well with scallops. The sweet delicate flavour works well with the intense and complex aromas of the wine and the addition of bacon would pick out those salty notes provided by the Atlantic winds.

Favourite wine trip

Many years ago, PLB took me to the Douro and Delaforce. It was a truly memorable trip. Portuguese wines have now the second most listings on our portfolio, after French, obviously!

Favourite wine trade person

Because of that particular trip, it has to be Richard Volpi. He was also very attentive to our needs when we first started. We’re in our 20th year, and his approach helped us become what we are.

Favourite wine shop

Mumbles Fine Wines in Swansea. They have an incredible selection of wines, but also spirits, and their budget range is as wide as it gets. Their staff are also very knowledgeable and friendly.

Drinks Market Analysis.

Chief executive Mark Meek said the

pandemic is the worst crisis the sector has

faced in living memory. Beer and sparkling wine sales will take four years to return to normal, while some categories may never recover.

“In many ways, 2019 was perhaps the

last ‘normal’ year for the drinks industry,” he said.

The Drinks Business, May 27

June 22 reopening idea is shelved

July 4 is still the expected date for pubs

Beer gardens in England will not be allowed to open before the end of the month, Downing Street has said, quashing suggestions that ministers were considering allowing pubs to serve beer outside from June 22. A group of ministers nicknamed the

“Save Summer Six” was reportedly

Mouton release price down 31% Following Cheval Blanc’s lead, Pauillac first growth Château Mouton Rothschild

weighing up plans to open beer gardens,

has released its 2019 vintage at 31%

restaurants and cafes resume business

2019 has been released at €282 per bottle

suggestions that the government was

The news caused the Liv-ex website to

amid concern that the hospitality sector is

less than its 2018 release price.


ex-negociant – a 30.8% drop on the €408

facing up to 3.5m job losses unless pubs, But Downing Street played down

preparing to accelerate its phased

blueprint for restarting the economy.

Boris Johnson’s official spokesman said

the government’s roadmap “sets out our ambition to reopen open pubs, bars and

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2020 18

As reported by Liv-ex, Mouton Rothschild

release price of the 2018 vintage.

temporarily crash, with volumes of the

vintage being offered to the market down by 20%, making the wine all the more desirable and in demand.

The Drinks Business, June 9

Winery mitigates impact of Covid-19



How have you adapted your shop during the Covid crisis?

We just bought lots of hand sanitiser and that’s on a table by the door and at the till as well. We’re not wearing any masks, though quite a few of our customers are wearing them. We only have two members of staff on and it’s one in, one out for customers because we’re quite a small shop. We’re taking contactless payments but when it goes beyond the limit we just wipe down the card machine afterwards. We’re not using the Perspex or glass screens, but we have got tape signage on the floor.

Kent-based Gusbourne has secured a £10.5m asset-based loan. The winery, which first planted vines at

its base in Appledore in 2004, said revenue in the first three months of this year had been “ahead of expectations”.

However, it said distribution channels

have been impacted by Covid-19. A

trading update said the winery had been

able to engage in a number of “new sales initiatives” to mitigate the impact of

coronavirus, with increased volumes of online sales reported.

The £10.5m loan will be used to

refinance existing debts and provide

additional liquidity. Gusbourne will also

use the money to repay some of its loans

from non-executive director Paul Bentham

Beata Ramsay Theatre of Wine, London

I don’t have people coming into the shop at the moment as we have been running a clickand-collect and a delivery service. But I am starting to work towards re-opening. I’ve just bought a big bottle of hand sanitiser. I think the guidance is so unclear. Some people are going shopping at the moment and wearing masks and some aren’t. I think the route I will take is making sure handles are wiped down and hand sanitiser is available for everyone. I think a screen at the counter is a bit overkill.

Tom Flint Bottle & Jug Department, Worthing

and shareholder Lord Ashcroft. The Drinks Business, June 2

We have hand gel by the door and on the counter. We’ve got a really funny-looking cheap plastic screen. I can’t see through it but as long as it keeps the customers safe! The back of the shop has been turned into a packing area for internet sales and so we have less retail space and we are having a maximum of two people in the shop at any one time. We also have masks, which were quite expensive but we had them printed with our logo on and one with John Cleese on, as well as a Guinness one.

Deliveroo delivers from 80 Majestics Majestic Wine has announced the expansion of its delivery partnership

with Deliveroo to cover 80 UK sites across the UK, as well as expanding the

Matt Ellis The Smiling Grape, St Neots

range on offer. Majestic has unveiled a specially curated

range of more than 50 wines, Champagnes and spirits available to order on the

Deliveroo app. Delivery can take place in as little as under 30 minutes.

The range is available from 80 Majestic

locations across the UK, including

Nottingham, Reading, Bristol, Birmingham, Cardiff, Glasgow and six new sites across London.

The retailer said items are priced the

same on Deliveroo as they are in Majestic stores.

We’ve got gloves and masks and the shop is clearly marked with tape to indicate the two-metre markers for the customers. The masks were crazily overpriced but we got a box of pretty basic disposable ones. We had trouble getting a protective shield for the counter and we are just about to have some clear acrylic blinds fitted that pull down from the ceiling and attach to the counter. I thought it was worth the bit of extra investment as it’s about future-proofing; when we don’t need them we can retract them, but who knows if there’ll be a second wave or another pandemic?

Carol Edwards, The Wine Reserve, Chobham

Champagne Gosset The oldest wine house in Champagne: Äy 1584

Retail Sector, May 20

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2020 19

ight ideas r b

12: Start an Art Club

. T H E D R AY M A N .

Duncan Sime and Ola Dabrowska Kwas, Huddersfield

Time to grow up


reat independent drinks retailers occasionally describe their stores as sweet shops

for adults. Of course, they’re talking metaphorically, that they’re like sweet

shops because the variety and vibrancy of the stuff they sell brings out the same joy and excitement in adults that confectionery emporia do in kids. Often though, it seems that craft brewers take the description literally, sailing close to the wind with comicbook label designs that, in trying to appeal to young adults, actually end up infantilising the category. A food and drink packaging designer told me recently that they thought too many start-up breweries get their mate who’s handy with a laptop to do their first design. They then show it to friends and families who don’t want to hurt their feelings, so they tell them how great it looks. The “designer” gets the ongoing gig and the brewer’s product range comes to reflect the mate’s fetish for Manga/ Raymond Briggs/60s sci-fi/Marvel comics/Hanna Barbera/Oliver Postgate (delete as appropriate). And the more of these that appear, the more temptation there is for brewers to make their labels as flash, wacky and gaudy as possible because of the need to stand out from all the noise on the craft beer shelf. The trend hasn’t escaped the Portman Group and the sort of people who complain to it, with cartoony beers from Lost & Grounded and Fourpure falling foul of the packaging code on potential appeal to under-18s. So maybe it’s time craft beer grew up a little bit. It can do so without becoming conformist and boring like all those big brown bottles in the supermarket ale aisle. Thornbridge has classy-looking cans with clear product differentiation but a grown-up feel; Saltaire makes its beer styles shout out from simple solidcoloured backgrounds. In packaging, sometimes less really is more.

In a nutshell … This art club originally started as an on-premise activity and has become a way to stay engaged with customers during lockdown.

Tell us more.

“It was mainly Ola’s idea as she has studied art,” says Duncan. “She got together some

spare art supplies that we had around the house and encouraged people to come and join her in the shop every Wednesday and enjoy a glass of wine while painting and creating.”

How have you made this work during lockdown?

“There are a few social media groups knocking about based on recreating famous artworks at home. So we adapted that idea and asked customers to recreate their

favourite album covers. Our contribution was an interpretation of a Beastie Boys album

cover. That’s me, Ola and our eight-year-old in the back garden – we’re quite proud of that one! It’s been a great thing to do on social media, especially Instagram. But it’s quite a

commitment to do it every week, so we’ve just decided to do it once a month and make it a bit more interactive by involving prizes.”

Ooh, prizes. What’s up for grabs?

“We’re working with Dabbawalla, a local business that makes amazing curry and Thalis. First prize will be a meal for two made and delivered by Dabbawalla, plus a bottle of

wine from Kwas. Second prize will be a £20 voucher to spend in our web shop. It’s about helping each other out at the moment and if we can have a bit of fun with the art side of things, and we can help another business in the process and customers can get to win

something, that’s ideal. I’d rather pay for a bit of investment into a prize than pay for a Facebook promotion.”

What are you asking customers to do to be in with a chance of winning? “We’re asking them to design their ideal wine label, using any medium they like. There will be extra points for inventive wine names too – we’re looking for good puns. They

have seven days to get creating and send their entries in via our social media channels. Hopefully people will rise to the challenge and engage with us.”

The winners … Top: The Carnal Drinker by Vanessa Majella Stolz, runner up. Middle

left: Forget the Blueprint by Lisa Ockelford, joint winner. Middle right: the Kwas design. Bottom: Chat-Eau Claire, by Claire Cole, joint winner.

Duncan and Ola win a WBC gift box containing a some premium drinks and a box of chocolates. Tell us about a bright idea that’s worked for your business and you too could win a gift box. Email or call 01323 871836.

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2020 20

Bags of profit from impulse purchases Sixty per cent of UK shoppers shop on impulse. According to smallbusiness., “British consumers spend about £21.7bn on impulse purchases each year”. Offering a collection of low-cost, high-return, minimal-footprint impulse purchases, online or in stores, ensures your business is getting a piece of the Harvest at Rathfinny Estate, Sussex

pie. Gift bags for bottles have to be one of the simplest and most cost-effective impulse gifts drinks retailers can offer.

Get set for English Wine Week

WBC has released a set of new designs for 2020 exclusive to independent trade and based on this season’s colour trends and patterns. Made from 200gsm paper with strong woven handles and matching gift tags, trade prices start from 85p a unit. With an average retail price of around £2.99, bottle bags are a great way to increase average order value throughout the year. WBC’s range of gift bags for bottles, along with wine boxes and protective packaging, is available for next-day delivery.


nglish Wine Week is going ahead from June 20 to 28 – but in a new format. Wines of Great Britain has devised a plan designed to work for retailers

operating under the obvious lockdown restrictions.

Promotional ideas and material are easily available to download to use online or in-


Independents will be encouraged to create virtual events or tastings to promote English

and Welsh wines.

Winemakers will be available to work with the indies on their virtual events using

Zoom or Instagram Live. Wine GB will also assist in providing offers for customers and showcasing English wines during the week-long promotion.

Many wine producers will be running virtual tours and tastings themselves and will be

keen to partner up with local retailers for special deals and offers.

Julia Trustram Eve, marketing manager of WineGB, says: “We’ve seen a huge amount of

resourcefulness and creativity amongst both our members and the wine trade over the

last few months, and we are keen to harness this to further support our industry during English Wine Week.

“Our #EnglishWineNights across social media have been a huge success and we want to

build on this increased awareness and goodwill for English wine producers by shining a light on them during English Wine Week.”

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2020 22


‘A STONKING VINTAGE’ James Simpson MW of Pol Roger Portfolio hails three vintage Champagnes from one of the best years the region has seen in recent times


he 2012 vintage was one of the best seen in Champagne. “A stonkingly good vintage,” in fact, in the words of James Simpson MW. “When we launched it, we sort of put out there that it was one of the top 12 Pol vintages,” he adds. “But tasting it more and more, it’s absolutely one of the top 12 of the last 100 years.” Happily for Pol fans, there are three 2012 vintage wines to choose from, all currently available: Brut, Rosé and Blanc de Blancs. It seems a good way to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Pol Roger Portfolio, which handles all UK distribution. Vintage Champagne has traditionally been a specialism for Pol Roger. “Pol only sold vintage Champagne in the UK up until 1955,” Simpson says. “Non-vintage was introduced here in the mid-50s. Churchill only ever drank vintage Pol Roger.” The long, hot summer of 2012 gave the grapes the ideal growing season, although the frosts and occasional hail in the spring had initially caused concerns. “The great thing about a Pol vintage is that they give it a stack of time in the cellars pre-disgorgement anyway and, because our winemaking is so good, we have got clean lees and therefore we can sit and look at it on the lees for seven to nine years,” Simpson explains. “Because Pol is such a reductive winemaking style, actually it’s only when you’ve disgorged it that it really starts maturing, so it’s starting to show really, really well – because it’s got that fruit, that acidity, that backbone and all the stuff we like on Pol vintages. “Pol vintages just last an improbable amount of time.”

The Rosé contains a 15% component of Pinot Noir wine, added before bottle fermentation


he Brut is a 60/40 Pinot Noir/ Chardonnay blend, made with fruit sourced from 20 grand and premier cru vineyards in the Montagne de Reims and Cote des Blancs. The Rosé is a blend of 50% Pinot Noir juice and 35% Chardonnay, to which a 15% component of Pinot Noir wine is added prior to the second fermentation. “It’s fun and it seems to be taking off a bit this year,” says Simpson. “Perhaps it was the glorious spring and the early summer. It’s proper grown-up wine.” He adds: “If you had a run of 12s, you’d probably drink your Rosé first, the Brut second and then the Blanc de Blancs. “Blanc de Blancs is a great bargain in the Pol Roger range. It’s expensive but it’s as good as a prestige cuvée – it just hasn’t got the bells and whistles and the fancy boxes. But it is made with fabulous grand cru grapes, in tiny quantities as well.”


impson believes that more superb Pol Roger vintages could be just around the corner. “Global warming means that we are picking much earlier than we used to be,” he says. “If you go back 50 years, picking

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2020 23

was end of September, early October, which is why there would be problems with rain and frost. “Now we are regularly picking end of August, early September, and therefore the grapes will tend to avoid the rains. “Historically an August vintage wasn’t thought to be a good thing: 1976 was that terrifically hot year and they picked a bit late and didn’t really understand how to cope with those very ripe grapes. “Pol have spent a fortune in the winery over the past 20 years. It’s state-of-the-art and they can parcel up and individually ferment. The average quality is better than ever, and they are more precise than they ever were. “I think 2019 is going to be the next super-duper five-star vintage.”

Find out more Visit or Twitter: @Pol_Roger


Keeping it



© zakiroff /

Sunny Hodge, of Diogenes the Dog in south London, launched a ‘phone sommelier’ service to keep his customers investigating wines like Texan Malbec and Polish stickies. The scheme wasn’t an unqualified success, but it has helped the business maintain a bond with customers that might otherwise have started to fray



n recent years, independents have

done well because of their one-to-one relationships with customers. Those

relationships become harder to build, and to sustain, in lockdown conditions. But Sunny Hodge had a brainwave.

The owner of Diogenes the Dog – a wine

bar and shop in Elephant & Castle, south London – decided to launch a “phone

sommelier” service to give customers the personal attention that they had become accustomed to.

“Nobody really knows our wines,” Hodge

admits, “and buying online you miss a trick because you don’t really know what you’re ordering.”

A glance at the current list (it changes

weekly) bears this out. Malbec from Texas; Moravian Müller-Thurgau/Neuberger; Welsh Pinot Noir; botrycised Polaris

from Poland … these are just a few of

and interactions with people.

turn over something.”

an online shop the team would essentially


“We didn’t have an online shop at the

time and I felt that if we went straight to

just be sitting there reading a docket and putting it in a bag and waiting for the

delivery man, and that’s not what we’re all about.

“So the phone sommelier thing was an

idea for people to call in and discuss their

preferences, tell us what they were cooking and we would pair and put together some wines for them.

“It was a two-bottle minimum order

and at first it was a one-mile radius, but

then people were calling up from all over

London. I’ve got a motorbike so I ended up delivering in Greenwich and Camden and

all sorts of places – because we needed to

the highlights that have recently been advertised online.

But the eclectic nature of the range is

what gives the business its USP. “People

are into it and like the idea that it changes every week,” says Hodge. “It’s all about

learning, and the hard thing for people I

think is that if they fall in love with a wine, it might not be there in a week or two. But it forces people to learn about different aspects of wine.

“We launched the phone sommelier

service as a reaction to what was

happening. It was scary to think we might

phone sommelier service was “incredibly “You could be on the phone with

someone for half an hour and it’s very

difficult sometimes when you don’t have that person in front of you,” he says.

“Then we might have to walk over

the order of two bottles of wine – and, including the phone conversation and

delivery, that’s an hour and a half of your time. So as cool as it was to help the

business when we needed it – and as much a novelty as it is – it is still inefficient.

“It worked initially because as much as

an hour and a half of labour to sell two

bottles of wine is inefficient, it’s still more efficient than nothing – and in those first two weeks we had nothing coming in. So it was super valuable and it let people

know we were still operating.” Although

The phone sommelier was an idea for people to call in and discuss their preferences, and we would put together some wines for them

lose what we had worked so hard to

achieve before, which were those dialogues

But, by Hodge’s own admission, the

the phone sommelier retains a following,

the website has taken precedence. “Lots of people like the speed and facelessness of ordering online,” Hodge concludes.


he premises have remained open throughout the Covid crisis,

quickly switching to a grocery and

off-licence model to keep the tills ringing. Social distancing is possible, thanks to

the size of the floorspace and a “steady

trickle” rather than a surge of customers. “As much as we are a wine shop, we

Continues page 26

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2020 25

© Daniel Ogulewicz


There is ample space to allow social distancing

From page 25

are a bar and we had fresh bread on a

daily basis, and cheeses and meats that

were from small artisanal suppliers,” says Hodge, “and I knew that when bars and

restaurants were shut, the trickle-down effect is massive.

“The decision not to close and to operate

predominantly as a grocer … initially it

didn’t work, I think, because people were

shocked and didn’t really know what was happening. The first two weeks we were

A week after off-licences were deemed as essential, things got a bit easier. The real catalyst was consistently getting good, fresh bread

swimming against the tide and cash flow was a massive issue.

“A week after when off-licences were

date with how the business is moving even

started working again.”

reductions on rent and Hodge has resisted

getting good, fresh bread. Then things

Hodge has only furloughed one member

of the team, a part-timer who is studying to be a barrister. “I think it’s been a godsend for her because she’s been juggling her

legal studies with work. She comes in once a week for training, and she keeps up to

we did before, but our margins are much,

much lower – that’s why the profits aren’t there.” Sales in a typical week now stand

at around the levels normally expected at Christmas.


ooking ahead, Hodge plans to reopen as a wine bar on July 4. “I’m ready to go,” he says.

“My floor plan is now in place for a bar.

Essentially I have everything in place, but I don’t have any chairs.

“I have six tables on the road – it’s still

better than nothing. As soon as I’m allowed

deemed as essential, things got a bit easier and then the real catalyst was consistently

are actually turning over more now than

though she’s not here.”

The landlord has not offered any

the temptation to take out a bounce back loan to help with cash flow.

“I don’t like borrowing money,” he says. “I

would rather make it work or not make it work without relying on loans.

“Our cash flow was fixed in week two. We

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2020 26

to have the tables out there I will.”

The past few months have been a

learning experience for Hodge and his

team. “As much as it’s been a graft, it’s been quite fun being able to tweak the business so quickly and adapt,” he says.

“I see this whole thing as a forest fire.

Nobody likes them, and when they happen, they are really, really damaging. But they encourage new growth and allow other things to sprout up in place of the old trees.”

Š Afshar Tetyana /


CRIANZA BONANZA Armit Wines is helping indies promote its famous Ribera del Duero wine Aster with digital activity. We’ll be offering ideas and suggestions over the coming months, and there’s an £800 prize for the most imaginative campaign, to be spent at a Spanish restaurant


ster is one of the most forwardlooking estates in Ribera del

Duero, as anyone who’s visited

its state-of-the-art facilities in Burgos will know. The wines don’t taste this good by accident: La Rioja Alta, which founded

the estate in 1989, has invested heavily in technology as well as people.

Aster has developed a devoted following

in the independent trade and this summer importer Armit Wines is encouraging

merchants to promote the flagship Crianza in any form of digital marketing.

The campaign can involve any mixture

of web, newsletter, social media or video

activity. For the next five months The Wine Merchant is teaming up with Aster to

run a series of articles offering ideas and inspiration for how to get involved.

The independent merchant judged to

have created the

most imaginative

and successful campaign will win £800 to

spend at a Spanish

restaurant at the end

of the year

for a well-

earned postlockdown


About Aster According to Tim Atkin MW, the province

of Burgos – where Aster’s home of Anguix

is found – is “where most of the best wines come from” in Ribera del Duero.

It’s an extreme environment of short,

hot summers, low rainfall and bitterly cold winters. Tempranillo – known locally as

Tinta del Pais – ripens rapidly, producing

more concentrated and robust wines than are typically found in Rioja, but with a

• 90 points, The Wine Advocate: “The

classical textbook 2014 Crianza has very

good integration of the oak and juicy fruit, which is ripe without excess.”

• 90 points and silver medal, Decanter

World Wine Awards: “Complex aromas of

red plums, strawberries and elegant sweet spices. Cedary on the palate with a fine-

grained texture and rich concentration.” Aster Finca el Otero

moderating, high-altitude freshness.

Another 100% Tinta del Pais, made only in

del Duero generally. Wines are made in a

the oldest 20% plantings in Ribera – on

Aster’s average yield is 4,000kg per

hectare – around 20% lower than in Ribera purpose-built winery constructed in 2002, with all maturation taking place on site. Aster Crianza

100% Tinta del Pais, blended from four

high-altitude vineyards on silt-loam soils. The grapes are harvested manually in

the early morning, destemmed and lightly crushed, and then fermented in stainless

steel. Then 70% of the juice is transferred

to French oak barriques for two months of malolactic fermentation.

Maturation takes place for 22 more

months in barrique.

• 92 points, James Suckling: “Attractive

aromas of dark berries, sandalwood and

blanched almonds follow through to a full body with chewy, yet round tannins and a flavourful finish. Delicious wine.”

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2020 28

exceptional vintages. The fruit comes from 70-year-old vines in a single vineyard – in particularly barren soils.

The best barrels are selected and the

juice transferred to new French barriques and matured for 16 months.

• 96 points, Tim Atkin: “This is the best

vintage yet ... fine, deeply coloured and

very polished, with scented French oak and textured tannins.”

• 95 points, James Suckling: “Super

aromas of blackberry and black chocolate follow through to a full body, deep and tannic yet polished and beautiful. A muscular and intense wine.

• 17.5/20, Jancis Robinson: “Savoury,

rigorous but delightfully ripe Tempranillo

nose without any aggressive alcohol or oak. Really nice cross between creamy cocoa and dry, soaked rope tightened up with slightly inkiness and real persistence.”


The winery was built in 2002

*FREE* bottle with every 12-bottle case of Aster Crianza

How to get involved Simply plan any kind of digital campaign promoting Aster Crianza (and Finca el Otero if you like).

Head winemaker Julio Saenz

Email Alex Hill at Armit Wines (ahill@armitwines. or contact your Armit rep to receive the digital assets you need: logos, images and technical information.

The estate in Anguix, Burgos province

• The minimum order for free delivery is £250 inc VAT. An order of two cases of Crianza (with two free bottles) therefore qualifies.

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2020 29


Life through a Zoom lens Indies are slaking the nation’s thirst for social interaction and entertainment as well as for alcohol with online tasting events

Vinomondo / ‘It’s about reminding people we are here’

Usually Julie Mills at Vinomondo in Conwy would be holding at least three gin tastings a month in her shop, so her decision to base her first virtual tasting around gin was an easy one. Mills collaborated with Phure Liquor to

create gin tasting kits with matching tonics for £30 each.

“It was brilliant – so much fun,” she says.

Vinomondo now has several virtual

“It was the first time we’d done an online

tastings in the pipeline. The next is a “full-

“Because it was Zoom, we wanted to

local business and accompanied by wines

tasting and I wanted to make sure it all worked.

cap it at 20 families so we could fit all

their faces on the screen. So within those

families we probably had about 60 people participating.

“Zoom kept giving us more free time so

in the end it lasted for about two and a half hours.”

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2020 30

on wine and cheese tasting”, with cheese

supplied and delivered in cool boxes by a including fizz, a still wine a dessert wine

and a fortified wine at a total price of £85. “We’re not making a huge profit,”

explains Mills. “It’s more about reminding our customers that we are here – and

although they can’t be in the shop, they can still feel the Vinomondo vibe.”

© G. Lombardo /

Worth Brothers / Wines without labels are a hit

Tapping into the public’s love of a game show, Tim Worth at Worth Brothers in Derby has successfully devised a vinous version of Call My Bluff. For £40 customers receive intriguingly

label-less bottles (one each of red, white, rosé and a mini bottle of sparkling) complete with a set of clues.

“We could do a more formal wine

tasting,” Worth explains, “but I think people are just after a bit of social interaction and

Worth is also considering the viability of

continuing with virtual tastings once things return to normal as his shop is “quite out of the way and can be expensive on taxis”.

“Now we’re allowed to have gatherings

of up to six people, I’m thinking of doing

some more traditional tastings with some

top-end wines so people can share the cost and invite their friends over,” he says.

Tiny’s Tipple / Themed tutorials for 30 customers Rachel Heaton started working at Tiny’s

it might be that the customer who is the

Tipple, Manchester, just a few weeks

that’s why I decided to make it a bit more

would ordinarily be doing little events and

instigator of the event is more into wine

before lockdown began.

fun and irreverent.”

things but obviously that’s not possible

than their friends who are joining in, so

“I was told that at this time of year we

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2020 31

right now, so I thought the online tastings would be a good way of involving the

customers and making sure they know we’re still here,” she says.

Heaton has hosted a number of Instagram

Live tastings including an introduction to

natural wine, a Burgundy night, a German

beer night and a Belgian beer tasting, each attracting around 30 participants.

The business didn’t charge anything extra

for the tutorial, so customers were just paying for the drinks.

Heaton says: “It’s easy for other people

just to drop in and have a nosy.

“At the beginning of lockdown, I was

running a tasting every week. But as things are easing up people aren’t interested in doing them as regularly as they are not

quite so desperate for human contact as they were.”


‘It’s nice ... but I really just miss seeing people’ The wine trade has found digital ways of adapting to lockdown. Some have been pretty successful. But in the longer term, the “generous rectangle” of a screen is no substitute for real human contact


ven for an author with a

reputation for writing about the more grotesquely surreal and

alienating features of modern life years before they have actually come to pass

in the real world, JG Ballard’s short story The Intensive Care Unit is disturbingly prescient.

Written in 1977, it depicts a society

where everyone lives alone in splendid, luxuriously comfortable isolation, and

where all social contact (including school, work, and time spent with families)

is experienced through “the generous rectangle of the TV screen”.

What makes the story all the more

uncanny is the way Ballard builds the sense of unease even as the characters describe their collusion with the situation – they

don’t want social interaction, they willingly comply with their isolation. Contact with

other humans feels to them archaic, dirty, something to be looked back on in horror

and disgust in much the same way that we

look back on medieval hygiene.

– barking and grunting you through your

of us have long had the creeping feeling

killjoy here, the patronising digital

Reading the story at any time would have

been an uncomfortable experience. Most

that we are spending too much of our lives online, willingly (blindly) reducing human contact for something mediated by more or less sinister organisations and their algorithms.

But reading the story (on real paper

pages, imagine that!) during a rare break

from the flickering screen during a global pandemic was something else altogether. This is a time when, for many of us, the

virtual world’s victory over real life has seemed to be almost complete, a time

when the screen has annexed more and more parts of our existence.

Screens haven’t just replaced the

newspaper and the cinema during

Covid-19. They’ve filled in for the dinner party, the pub, even the gym (up to

and including providing the annoying

motivating instructors – hello Gregg, hi Joe

This is a time when, for many of us, the virtual world’s victory over real life has seemed to be almost complete THE WINE MERCHANT june 2020 32


I don’t want to be the condescending

refusenik going on about his “amazing

concentration app” that blackmails you

out of looking at social media by growing a virtual tree or sending links to articles about 11 ways to digitally detox in a pandemic.

Online, after all, has provided a lifeline

for those of us lucky enough to have

stable broadband connections. And just as I’ve had to accept that my teenage

son’s ballooning online gaming habit is actually a perfectly reasonable way for

him to maintain his social relationships

when he’s basically not allowed to leave

the house, so I’m never going to decry the

compensations offered by online sales (and those via phone and email) to retailers.

The internet has made a kind of facsimile

of normal life possible for wine journalists, too, with Zoom tastings and winemaker webinars providing some sort of

replacement for the content we’d normally find at tastings and on travels to vineyard areas.

It’s also allowed The Wine Merchant to

hold the judging of our eighth annual Top 100 competition, a logistically complex

© ninanaina /

David Williams is wine critic for The Observer

Screens haven’t just replaced the newspaper and cinema. They’ve filled in for the dinner party, the pub and even the gym

but (by all accounts) satisfying alternative

crisis. The bank suggests this kind of

will carry on being essential.

ready for blind tasting) via courier to taste

the closure of restaurants and cellar door

don’t make a permanent virtue out of what

to real-life judging where the 36 judges

received their wines (bagged up and coded at home or in their shops rather than,

as has always hitherto been the case, in

a clubbable gathering in a room in west London.

The solution was successful enough

– in terms of the quality of judging and

results – for us to at least ask the question of whether we might want to make it

permanent. And many Wine Merchant readers will be asking the same thing

about the emergency restructuring they’ve

radical change in distribution – one driven by the average 44% loss in revenue from operations – could be permanent.

Similarly, Liv-ex recently published a

report, Selling Wine in a Post-Covid-19

World: A Guide for Merchants, which is

largely concerned with how businesses and consumers are “finding ways to do online what they once did offline and engage people from a (social) distance”, with

particular emphasis on how to “accelerate” e-commerce strategy.

In the USA, for example, a recent report


(phone and e-commerce) have so far leapt

membership or the Symington Family Port

carried out in their businesses this year.

As, indeed, is the whole wine industry.

by Silicon Valley Bank’s wine division

suggested that direct-to-consumer sales

from 3% to 25% of the average California winery’s business during the Covid-19

f course, while the virus remains a clear and present danger,

this kind of advice, and other

imaginative initiatives such as St James’s wine club 67 Pall Mall’s £10 virtual

shippers’ “world’s first digital launch of

Vintage Port” for its 2018 single quintas,

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2020 33

What I’m concerned about, once the

virus is contained or defeated, is that we we all hope is a temporary necessity. As

one of the Top 100 judges said to me in one of the dozens of Zoom calls that we held

during the event: “It’s nice, it’s all good, but I really just miss seeing people.”

She was talking about her lockdown

business as much as our competition.

But it’s something we feel at The Wine

Merchant, too. If, come this time next year, we have to repeat our socially distanced

judging experiment, we will. But we would really rather not.

Like our Top 100 judge, we miss people.

As the wine industry attempts to work out what comes next, let’s not forgot that this

is a trade built on the social – and that not

everything is better for being experienced through the “generous rectangle” of a computer or mobile screen.


Organic growth Organic, biodynamic, natural and vegan wines were all expected to see a sales increase this year


rganic wine is big business, and

likely to get bigger. Almost eight

out of 10 independent merchants

believe their organic sales will increase this year.

Sure, that figure was recorded in a reader

survey that took place before Covid-19 started stalking Britain’s high streets.

Buying habits have been disrupted in ways that we can’t fully make sense of just yet.

But it seems unlikely that the category will

be among the coronavirus casualties.

– a category that isn’t represented in all

45% of respondents described demand for


The momentum has been building for

some time. In our 2019 reader survey,

organic (and biodynamic) wines as “very” or “fairly strong”.

We refined the question in 2020, and

angled it towards expected sales increases rather than existing demand. Vegan,

organic and organic wines are all tipped for an uplift this year. Even natural wine

merchants, and tends to divide opinion – is expected to do better this year than in According to a Soil Association report

published earlier this year, organic produce as a whole will be worth £2.5bn at retail value by the end of 2020, with wine

described as the “big winner”. Every week, it’s been calculated, more than £1m is spent on organic wine.

How do you expect sales of the following categories to perform this year?


Big increase


Big increase


Big increase


Big increase

Number of responses: 178

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2020 34

Indies try to be cleaner and greener Consumers are asking more questions about the environmental credentials of the wines they buy – and merchants are being just as demanding of their suppliers. This year’s reader survey found that

independent merchants are making an

effort to reduce plastic use and to look for greener solutions for their packaging –

perhaps no big surprise given how popular opinion about such issues has changed in recent years.

Interestingly, the bad press and negative

social media attention surrounding

Survey partner 2020

is buying eco-packaging, which inevitably

biodegradable bags since we sell our own

there are many who simply will not get the

something to carry their wines in – since

costs more, and then finding a way to pass it onto our customers. Some will get it but economics.”

Nichola Roe of Wine Therapy in Cowes

is using recycled packaging material

branded wine carriers. The plan would be to offer boxes if customers needed

that might reduce the amount we have to dispose of – but it’s increasingly obvious

that wine is often an impulse purchase and

in the orders she sends out. “We also

people still don’t walk around with bags

ask customers before offering a bag,”

‘just in case’. Hopefully we’ll wave goodbye

she says. “We’d like to stop handing out

to the plastic carrier bag this year!”

What are your thoughts on the following environmental issues?

heavy bottles has not filtered through

to the independent trade, with only 7%

Agree strongly

Agree to some degree

Neither agree or disagree

Disagree to some degree

Disagree strongly

I feel we have a good grasp of the environmental impact of the products we sell






Our customers are concerned about the environmental impact of their purchasing decisions






We are delisting unnecessarily heavy bottles






“We have always used paper bags and no

We are actively seeking out wines with strong ecocredentials






foot or by electric car where possible.”

We have cut back on plastics in the past 12 months






including bottles for our refill wines.

We are seeking out greener packaging solutions






We are trying to reduce the carbon footprint of the business






We’re open to the idea of UK-bottled wines






of respondents saying they are delisting products that are unnecessarily bulky. And although UK-bottled wines are

often perceived as the preserve of cheaper supermarket wines, the majority of

merchants say they are open-minded about listing them.

Liam Plowman of Wild + Lees in

south London says his business has had

green issues on its agenda for some time.

plastic,” he says. “We are selling more wine as bottle refills. We do local deliveries on

Paola Tich of Vindinista in Acton adds:

“We reuse as much packaging as we can,

“We tried recycled bags but they broke,

so we are sticking to recyclable kraft bags, gift boxes and tissue paper. Increasing numbers of people are asking for no packaging, which is a good thing.

“We also get a waste report each month

from First Mile over how green we’ve been. The challenge independent retailers face

Number of responses: 173

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2020 35


We would

We recycle all

like to be environmentally

our cardboard and we have

responsible. To do this, we like to

favoured glass over plastic (with water,

present our customers with the choice

for example), and we have reduced the number

and let them decide. Our key driver remains

of plastic bags we hand out to around one-third of what it was a few years ago. But we still seem to accrue too much non-recyclable material. And truthfully

selling the best possible wine we can for the price we charge. Thus far, estate-bottled wines

I like heavy bottles. They support the quality message.

have proven themselves superior to UK or

We stock many eco-friendly wines and even include the

Amsterdam bottled wines.

credentials in shelf-talkers, but the quality of the wine is of paramount importance to me.

Michael Jelley Grape Minds Oxford

Anthony Borges The Wine Centre Great Horkesley

We started offering wine on tap last year and it has been a huge success with the local community. The eco aspect has caught people’s

imagination and they save money as w I think there can be more done within the industry to assess the environmental impact of the products we sell. It’s not always the case that purchasing products made closer to home

as doing a little bit to cut their carbon footprint.

Jonathan Charles The Dorset Wine Company Dorchester

correlates to a lower carbon footprint. Wines made in a sustainable and environmentally considered way, as well as being good for the world, also have a good story that we can sell. We’ve seen in the last two years suppliers getting on board with providing information regarding fining and filtering and have been able to pass this onto our customers.

Jefferson Boss StarmoreBoss Sheffield

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2020 36


Low We

Suppliers need to make sure their websites contain all environmental and dietary are losing sales due to me not knowing

We must lead the

if their wine is vegan etc.

buyers, not be led by them.

Peter Wood

The consumer likes the idea that the

St Andrews Wine

winemaker cuts their fingers screwing the


cap on their Sauvignon Blanc but it’s just a lie now. The industry needs to be honest and, if wine is shipped in tank, move to that being the selling point. Is New Zealand the best place to buy from When we opened,

due to carbon offset? I don’t know, but I want to –

the first decision we made

and I want my customers to know, too.

was to ensure that our own-branded

Andrew Lundy

carrier bags were completely compostable.


We use potato starch carriers, which are home


compostable – unlike most ‘bio-degradable’ bags, which merely break down into smaller bits of plastic faster. We also have a green-energy supplier and a real focus on stocking local products where we can. Our house Argentinian Malbec is bottled in the EU, which avoids shipping in bottles from the Southern Hemisphere.

Simon Griffiths


Phoenix Wines



We are open to the idea of UK-bottled wine. With the exception of plastic closures we are 100% recyclable. “Château

bottled” is still a stronger message than “bulk bottled in Avonmouth”.

w sulphur is probably more important than bulk shipping too. moved to paper carriers about two years ago. People still ask if they are strong enough for wine!

David Perry

I am not aware that we actually list any, but if the product stood up on price and quality and then fulfilled our own criteria as an independent we would have no problem listing. Our local winery, Flint Vineyard, now with FMV, will in all likelihood continue to increase in sales, and this would be our preferred method of reducing our carbon footprint and food miles.

Sam Howard HarperWells Norwich

Shaftesbury Wines

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2020 37

© leezarius /

information for all their wines. They



NATURAL Do organic and natural wines need certificates and badges to impress eco-conscious consumers? By David Williams

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2020 38

Jean Loron have been making wines in Beaujolais & Southern Burgundy since 1711, and are now run by the 8th and 9th generation of the family. They own a number of estates in the region, and have always been at the forefront of organic, natural and low intervention winemaking. The current winemaker Jean-Pierre Rodet trained with Jules Chauvet, the spearhead of the natural wine movement in France. To celebrate the family’s passion for sustainable and environmentally friendly wines, they created the Rift range, wines with a real sense of place and made without added sulphites

Rift 69 Beaujolais Villages made from partially de-stemmed grapes, and given 9 months maturing over fine lees Offer price: £39.00/6 dpd

Rift 71 Macon Villages exhibiting elegance and restraint, with really pronounced white flower aromas Offer price: £47.00/6

Offer prices available as part of a mixed 10 dozen order

Please contact us for more information or to place an order Tel: 0207 237 0576 E mail:

© Richard Semik§§ /



he 2010s were boom time for the

extended family of organic wines – biodynamic and natural included.

Some of the statistics have the look of a

gold rush if not quite a tulip mania.

At the beginning of the decade, the sector

accounted for something in the region of

349 million bottles per year. By 2017, the figure had more or less doubled, to 676

million bottles. Based on these and other production figures, the OIV predicts that

organic wine will eclipse the 1 billion mark sometime in 2022.

Drill down into the country-by-country

figures, and you get some equally

striking growth. In the three European

powerhouses of Italy, France and Spain, which between them account for some

79% of the world’s organic production, output has risen by 70%, with Spain’s

organic wine trade alone growing at a quite remarkable 522% in a decade.

It seems unlikely, then, that the growth

of organics in European Union – which

The EU accounts for 90% of the world’s organic vineyard

accounts for some 90% of the world’s

strategy features a pledge to up organic

fair share of bandwagon jumpers whose

organic production as one of the principal

other forms of agriculture in meeting that

who developed the market – often in the

organic vineyard – is about to slow.

Indeed, the EU Commission has identified drivers in its Green Deal, the ambitious environmental strategy unveiled last

year, and given further detail with the publication of the From Farm to Fork strategy document in May.

Among other things (including reducing

chemical pesticide use by 50% and

fertiliser use by 20%), the Farm to Fork

farming to 25% of the EU total by 2030. If the wine industry is hoping to join

target, it will require stronger growth than has been seen even in the past decade:

currently the total is around 9.5% (it was around 3% in 2008).

Certified and bona fide As with any rapidly growing market, the

rise in organic has inevitably attracted its

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2020 40

interest is not perhaps quite as pure or

socially responsible as the early adopters

face of ridicule and prejudice – in the first place.

As Douglas Wregg of Les Caves de Pyrene

says of the natural wine market: “I’ve seen more and more online retailers springing up from nowhere saying ‘natural wines’

Continues page 42

Adobe Reserva Rosé, Rapel Valley 2019 [Organic] – Pale almost Provencal-pink rosé, from one of Chile’s most exciting producers and pioneers in organic and biodynamic winemaking. Gentle strawberry and red cherry aromas with a silky yet refreshing finish. Castel del Lupo Pinot Grigio ‘Della Ginestra’ 2018 – The chalky south-facing Ginestra vineyard in Oltrepo Pavese was certified organic in 2020. Domaine Sainte Barbe Viré-Clessé ‘Chazelles’ 2017 – Single vineyard Viré-Clessé with generous ripe fruit held in check by a fine mineral backbone, meticulous winemaking and a perfect expression of what makes the Mâconnais such an exciting wine region. Château Gairoird Rosé, Côtes de Provence 2019 [Organic] – Provence Rosé from an organic 45 hectare domaine just outside Cuers. Grenache, Cinsault, Rolle, Syrah and Tibouren on typical Provence terroir.

Domaine Mas Barrau Cabernet Franc, Pays du Gard 2019 [Organic] – Organic.Vegan.Vegetarian. Domaine Mas Barrau in the Gard has been farmed organically for over 10 years. Guillaume Létang selects this lush, ripe Cabernet Franc with a lick of red-liquorice tannin. Classic Style Organic Zweigelt 2019 – Sepp Moser have always been organic, with Niki Moser pioneering biodynamic practices across his estate back in 2007. His ‘Classic’ range offers true character, charm, honesty and vitality… testament to his sympathetic approach to cultivation and wine making.

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2020 41

© DOCa Rioja

Important producers like Emiliana and Waterkloof are the cornerstones of our sustainable, organic and biodynamic portfolio – though Boutinot is equally proud to offer delicious organic wines from Cave de Turckheim, Castel del Lupo, Bodegas Menade, Chateau Gairoird, Bodegas Sierra Norte, Sepp Moser and Yangarra to name a few…


From page 40

and I think: really? I’ve never heard of

these wines and producers, and you would think we would have come across them.”

“The market and interest has now grown

substantially,” says Neil Palmer of Vintage Roots. “Everyone wants to be a part of it.” Wregg and Palmer, who between

them represent the two most significant specialist importers of sustainably

‘There are far too many merchants and retailers that will happily spin the ‘organic’ story to suit a marketing pitch and help make a sale’

produced wine in the UK, have very

confusion and can be misleading.”

understanding about what does or does

regulations – which are in any case highly

different views on the best way to deal with those wishing to exploit gaps in consumer not constitute organic or natural wine. On the one hand, Palmer is a strong

advocate of regulation and certification.

“In our minds it is still important – and a

requirement for Vintage Roots listings – to have certification,” he says.

“We have been doing this long enough

now to know that there are far too many merchants, retailers, supermarkets that

will happily spin the ‘organic’ story to suit

the marketing pitch and help make a sale.” For Palmer, it’s not so much that

everyone is unscrupulous, more than the

Wregg, however, takes a looser, decidedly

more romantic, view, arguing that organic

variable depending on the country of origin – often run counter to the principles they were supposedly designed to enforce.

“Organic is proscriptive, but it doesn’t

tell you what you should be doing, it tells you that you can’t use these chemicals,”

Wregg says. “It’s not a quality-driven thing, it’s just someone’s ticked a few boxes, and

just because you’ve ticked those boxes, that doesn’t mean you’re complying with the

spirit of the thing – it’s for consumers and bureaucrats.”

every year, only when they really need to’


you can’t have the status just when it suits.

which was announced in the spring.

consumer needs guidance and protection. “A common one is, ‘well they don’t spray – well, fair enough. But you are then not

organic. It’s a bit like being half pregnant:

For the consumer, what other guarantee or reassurance is there? It’s the word of the

seller – who is all too often the third person down the selling chain – who doesn’t quite know the whole truth.”

What’s more, terms that sidestep the

official categories only help sow doubt in consumers, Palmer says, providing more fertile territory for the unscrupulous.

“Low intervention, free range, natural,

IPM, sustainably grown and many other

words are used these days, which does add

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2020 42

iven his views on organic

regulation, it was no surprise

that Wregg was a vocal opponent

of the new INAO-approved category for

French natural wines, Vin Méthode Nature, “I’m inherently suspicious of clubs,”

Wregg says. “I mean, they [the natural

producers who lobbied for the category] are good guys, and it will start out with

the best of intentions, but at some point

someone will quibble over, I don’t know,

a gram of sulphur. Someone will get their nose put out by something …”

More than that, however, Wregg believes

this kind of regulation is a blind alley.

Rather than “obsessing” over labels, he argues, we need to educate consumers

so that they can better understand when

label is largely irrelevant,” says Wregg.

a wine has been produced in a genuinely

“Think about when you’re buying eggs

ecologically sensitive way.

direct from a farmer or a fisherman giving

“We choose a wine because it tastes good

you something straight off the boat. These

and natural, but it tastes like that because

don’t have labels – the eggs are warm from

it’s made by a sensitive farmer, they’re

the hen; the fish is salty from the sea. Does

working by hand, working proactively and

that de-legitimise them?”

sustainably,” Wregg says.

So what should we do? “Stop obsessing

In common with many organic,

about labels, and start obsessing about

biodynamic and natural producers who

taste, investigate it, find out what happens

have shunned official recognition, Wregg

in the wine.”

believes it’s too easy to use the certification

It’s an undeniably attractive proposition,

as cover. An excessive use of natural,

organic-approved treatments – and a

tendency towards expansive monocultures – can be every bit as environmentally

damaging as large-scale conventional viticulture. Far better to develop a

relationship of trust with a retailer who is

sufficiently close to his producers to know

Neil Palmer of Vintage Roots

exactly what they are up to in the vineyard and winery, whether they’re certified or not.

“What you put on the front and back

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2020 43

and one that describes the approach

encouraged by many independent retailers. But with tens of millions of bottles of newly organic wine about to come on stream,

and with so many casual wine drinkers attracted by the magic green word, the

eco-bureaucrats are unlikely to be putting down their pens anytime soon.

© tish11 /


THE WINE MERCHANT june 2020 44


Well worth a try Bottles of Worcester has just celebrated its fifth birthday, but owner Richard Everton’s wine trade career stretches back far beyond that. Like his father Don Everton, he captained the local rugby side, and has taken almost as many knocks in his business life as he did in his sporting days. Graham Holter reports


ichard Everton’s career in the wine trade has been full of

highs and lows, so you get the

impression he’s taking the Covid crisis in his stride.

“We are busy, but in a different way,” he

says. “The wine bar obviously had to shut

and the wholesale side finished overnight.

It was a case of adapting and trying to turn defeat into a victory, as my dad would say. Giving up is not in my DNA.”

The Bottles business, which has just

celebrated its fifth birthday, operates primarily as a wine bar.

“We’ve had to develop the model a little

bit to hook into all our contacts and get

the home delivery stuff working,” he says. “We’ve tried a few different things and

fortunately they’ve all worked. I’ve had to

buy a second van to cope with everything. “I’ve utilised the situation to get rid of

a load of bin ends and refurbished. I’ve

reassessed the whole of my purchasing

and joined the Vindependents as well. I’ve really changed the pattern of buying and

as a consequence I’ve been shipping more

wine in the last two or three months than I have in the last few years.”

Everton was born into the wine trade.

His family business, Evertons, started in

“We had a major flood in 2007, which

chance to study accountancy at UCL, in

months and just as we were re-opening

Ombersley in 1918. He briefly considered a career in the army, and turned down a

order to work in Bordeaux, Burgundy and South Africa, where he could also indulge one of his other passions: rugby.

“Looking back, it was a great decision,”

he says. “I had a great life doing it. You

don’t realise how much you’re learning when you’re working in it that way. I

worked in the vineyards and the blending rooms.”

The Evertons business had 21 wine

shops and delis in the 70s and 80s, which it started to offload when the supermarkets muscled in on its territory. When Richard returned from South Africa, he helped

transform the company into an importer and wholesaler, with its own bond.

A series of unfortunate events followed.

wiped out our property [Browns on the

Quay in Worcester]. That closed us for 12 that one, our hotel and restaurant in

Ombersley had some structural issues which got worse.

“The building almost fell down. We were

supposed to shut just for two weeks but it took over a year and we had to make everyone redundant.

“Barclays pulled the rug on us with no

warning, no reason; we had never once defaulted on anything. Overnight they

withdrew our overdraft and that was the

night before the loan repayments went out, so of course the payments bounced and they called in the loan immediately.

“The banks targeted people who had

Continues page 46

‘We’ve tried a few things and fortunately they’ve all worked. I’ve had to buy a second van to cope with everything’ THE WINE MERCHANT june 2020 45


From page 45

substantial assets and guarantees in

place and we ticked all the boxes for their

shenanigans. There is no other word for it.” Even for a positive character like

‘I initially got rejected but they allowed me to appeal. By the time I finished they were almost in tears and voted to give me 100% of the £140k grant’

Everton, all this took its toll. “It made me

ill. I lost my home; my wife at the time left me. Everything that could go wrong, went

wrong. My dad always used to say, ‘don’t let

work: over the five years I created eight

lager and we do premium spirits but wine

up. I’ve got the contacts and the know-

other people who stepped in, I got up and

machine, Sherries and Ports.

the bastards get you down’, and I thought, ‘sod it – I’m not going to sit back and give

how’. The only thing I didn’t have was the money.”

The next chapter in the adventure saw

jobs for people and kitted out the building from scratch. With the help of one or two

running, and my dream of an idea came to fruition.

I used Wine Emotion machines; we

the opening of Bottles of Worcester.

have two of them. I was hoping it would

I’d always had this idea in my head of a

the place to go. So instead of turning over

How did Bottles come about?

hybrid wine shop and bar. When I was

working in Bordeaux back in the 80s there was a restaurant/bistro where you’d go

and choose your wine from the racks and I used to love it. In South Africa I saw a

development of that using some early wine dispense systems, so I pieced bits together of these things I’d seen.

I kept looking at this building with a huge

glass frontage and I went for a European funded business development grant,

specifically for buildings that had been

be very laid back, but Friday and Saturday nights were absolutely manic – it became a small amount we were turning over

probably three times that amount simply

because of the busy venue. We introduced some live music and a DJ.

We get a lot of people in the 25 to 45 age

bracket, but we get a lot of people in their

60s and 70s drinking in until 3am having a good time drinking bottles of Bollinger. It’s incredible and it’s nothing like I envisaged it but it’s great fun.

How would you describe the interior?

closed, to help regenerate city centres.

I have retained a slight factory feel with an

the time I finished they were almost in

itself. It’s open during the day and quiet

I initially got rejected but they allowed

me to appeal and give a presentation. By

tears and they all voted to give me 100% of the grant. It was £140k.

open ceiling and open air conditioning. The shop is sealed off within the bar

nights and we lock it at 10pm on a Friday and Saturday, but if people want to go in

sales are 75% of our turnover. We have

35 to 40 by the glass including the wine The food area is not anywhere like as

busy as we feel it could be. It’s busy on a

Saturday afternoon when people want to

come in and have sharing boards. It’s busy if we have an event on and we do a lot of private events for people in the week.

Is there scope for more retail growth? Our retail trade had started to grow before the shutdown anyway and I think that

was because we had changed the styles of wine quite a bit, and we did a lot of

online tastings before lockdown. We were utilising Deliveroo quite a lot.

The wholesale side we do under the

name Worcester Wine. It’s a different

company – so Bottles is a customer of

Worcester Wine. It was building nicely

until everything shut. There will be a big focus on the wholesale side when we

reopen, especially with the new wines from the Vindependents.

How has home delivery been working out for you during lockdown?

and choose a bottle we unlock it and they

There seemed to be a week when

to be used

In a normal working month what

the Sunday Times Wine Club had their

proves that

It’s heavily weighted towards the bar and

It was very

useful and


go in.

to create

percentage of your turnover would be

these things

heavily weighted to wine. We do draught

jobs, and it


THE WINE MERCHANT june 2020 46

supermarkets couldn’t cope with home

deliveries and Majestic had their issues,

problems and we stepped in and picked up a few private customers that were dealing with Berry Bros.

They were people I realised I knew but


A man with two vans: Richard Everton’s business includes the Worcester Wine wholesale company

weren’t coming to Bottles and that made

shopping locally they are getting a better

What kind of suppliers do you use?

though I thought our social media was very

following weren’t necessarily the people

closely with Bollinger and they are our

me scratch my head and realise we needed to move very quickly with the times. Even good and we had built up a mailing list

with the wine machine cards, I don’t think

we were disciplined enough using it and it made me quickly change that.

Independents are working harder to understand the different types of customer they’re dealing with now. There seems to be a trend for people

wanting to deal locally and that has come out of this catastrophe.

It has made people more aware of other

people’s feelings and livelihoods and by


I’ve always had a close relationship

who would be interested in the better

pouring Champagnes. I always worked

Our mailing list and social media

wines and were probably buying a lot of wines in the supermarkets.

One of my things with Bottles is that I

wanted to make wine drinking and wine

tasting more acceptable and take away the

pomposity and stuffiness that is sometimes

with Mentzendorff. I’ve always worked with Chapoutier and I’ve done a fair bit of business with Caves de Pyrene because I wanted access to the biodynamic and natural wines.

What are the wines you enjoy at home?

associated with the wine trade.

I love Champagne. I was lucky enough to

did that with the bar but also now with

concerned. I love Rhône, I love Gigondas.

I wanted to sell wine not just to my

“good” customers but to the masses. We

our home deliveries, so we’ve put together some £35 bundles.

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2020 47

be a member of the Champagne Academy. I’ve never looked back as far as that’s

Continues page 48


From page 47

On the budget end of things I love Côtes du Rhône. I like wines from South Africa and

that’s probably because of the time I spent there. I’m a massive Chardonnay fan and I get on my soapbox at tastings.

I tasted some good wines recently from

Uruguay – some Tannat and Viognier. We

don’t sell a lot of Eastern European wines. What I’d love to see come back is German wine.

The Eastern European wines I feel are

difficult probably because they don’t

necessarily suit me, and it’s hard to sell

something that you’re not turned on by.

Going back years and years, Spain and

Italy wouldn’t have been our strong areas but I have to say I’m loving the wines

The glass-fronted premises had been empty for some time before Everton took the plunge

coming out of Spain – great value. The

prices are a bit more realistic with Albariño now.

I don’t want to be classed as a pompous

wine merchant; I want people to be able

to drink what they like. I’m very much an advocate of people being able to drink

what makes them happy. And that’s why I

want winemakers to make wines that they

are comfortable making and not try to copy what they think they should be making.

I think I’ve got a good commercial palate.

I can taste a wine and know what will sell and what won’t sell. I’ve learnt by tasting

with my dad and tasting with winemakers, so not by the book, and I think that’s why I

have a wine list that’s slightly more eclectic than other people’s.

How do you stay interested and open to new ideas and not stuck in your ways? I believe as an independent you have to

constantly keep moving, keep looking for ideas. My dad used to say, ‘if you’ve done

10 things and eight don’t work, you haven’t

got eight failures, you’ve got two successes’. If you’re going to be entrepreneurial

Everton learnt “by tasting with my dad and with winemakers, not by the book”

‘I like to employ people who challenge me and ask questions and who are very much geared into the entrepreneurial side of being independent. Creative people’ THE WINE MERCHANT june 2020 48


you have to have that philosophy. If you’re

When you have a challenge, like the one

petrified of making a mistake or something

we are facing at the moment, people’s

everyone else is doing.

at writing for the website and for podcasts

not working or taking off, then you’re not

going to get much further than doing what

I do travel a lot and I keep my eyes open.

I like to employ people who challenge

me and ask questions and who are very

much geared into the entrepreneurial side of being independent. Creative people.

Sometimes it’s good to sit back and listen to what other people have to say.

As I’ve got older, I’ve become less

strengths and weaknesses become very

clear. You can tell who will be best suited and who will be there driving the more commercial side of things.

I have a freelance accountant who works

with me on the wholesale side and he even does some of the deliveries and looks after that side when things are normal.

Will you reopen as a wine bar on July 4?

opinionated. In all fairness I’d say I’m

I struggle to see how Bottles would lend

hardships. There’s no shortcut for graft and

events, we might introduce them on Friday

probably a better businessperson, and

person, for having suffered some of the

some people are born with a work ethic and some aren’t.

Tell us about your team. The right-hand person is Hannah Webb. She’s actually from a music background

– she plays the saxophone and she’s in a

band and she’s a music teacher by trade.

She’s about to be promoted onto the board. She ticks all of the boxes that I need

around me. A visionary; someone who isn’t scared to pick up the phone. I get

very frustrated with this world that’s all

email. What’s wrong with picking up the

phone? Hannah is an all-rounder. She’s got

hospitality running through her and she’s a grafter. She’s done her WSET 2 and will be doing her Level 3.

Joe Gosling is more of the wine man.

He also does some tastings under “The

Bearded Wine Guy”. He does some of our

itself to a social distancing operation.

When we will be able to do tastings and and Saturday nights when we normally

brand that we are trying to create, and they know what works. Going forward they will have slightly different roles.

people on all sides of the equation need mutual help.

It’s not the time to be cutting yourself off

and I don’t think that it’s worth getting so

despondent about something that we don’t know the answers to at the moment.

We don’t know when we’re going to

come out of this lockdown – if there’s a

second spike it will all go tits up. I don’t think it’s a time to be predicting, it’s

a time to be watching, preparing and opportunistic.

Once things go back to normal, what’s

bringing them to market and unearthing

hanging in there and keeping your name in front of people.

Have you taken advantage of a bounce back loan to help with cash flow? I’m not a big spender and, especially with what happened before, I tend to keep things back for a rainy day.

But I couldn’t say no to an interest-free

loan and I’ve used it for stock as much as anything. A lot of really good stock:

allocation stock and wines that people had reserves on that have suddenly come back on the market.

Are you worried about a no-deal Brexit?

table at the moment and we might end up

for quite a long time and they know the

negotiations and I really believe that

be that profitable, but I think it’s about

the regulations. They wouldn’t necessarily

known local chef. And then we’ve got some part-time staff who have all been with us

water to go under the bridge with these

your plan for the next five years?

I think we could make those work under

I don’t know. I’m not certain that the

Then there’s Ellie – her dad is a well-

of it. I honestly believe that there is some

would be really busy as a bar.

tastings now and the more I can get him leading those, the better.

said 30% but now it will be a big chunk

French, Germans and Italians can afford

to cut us off. I think that anything is on the coming away with a good deal. There is a better chance than ever now.

How much wine do you import yourself? Before the Vindependents I would have

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2020 49

I want to carry on importing boutique

wines and finding some nice wines and one or two new wines.

I think one thing we have realised

through this lockdown is there is a thirst for socialising. Even though you can do

Zoom and Houseparty, people will always want to go out and socialise.

I have an idea, which is an extension of

my Bottles idea, that I think my efforts will be going into. It will be done under the

Bottles branding and it’s a little bit out of

town. Specific sites would work for it, and that’s all I can say really.

It’s something I discussed about three

or four years ago, but the time didn’t seem right for it. But I think this appetite for

local produce and local suppliers will open up new avenues.

I’ve been lucky to be born into what I

think is a great trade and I’ve had a great lifestyle. I’ve had some downs and some

ups, and I will probably continue to have downs and ups. But as long as the ups

outweigh the downs, when I come to weigh

it all up I feel that I’ll have had a reasonable life.


North-south divide


he Rhône valley is divided into

northern and southern regions. The vineyards of the northern

appellations tend to be planted on slopes

Below is a brief description of the region’s appellations from north to south. Côte-Rôtie

above the river. The southern Rhône is over

Stylistically, these wines are known for

vineyards a considerable distance from the

of Hermitage and, latterly, Cornas – the

15 times larger than the northern Rhône

in terms of the area under vine, with many river. Vineyards here are predominantly

planted with red grape varieties – white

wine accounts for just 7% of the region’s production. Wine labelled as Côtes du Rhône makes up almost half the total

outstanding. Hermitage

Hermitage is most famous for its

other top appellations. A small percentage

production. On the left bank of the river as

softer and less full-bodied than the wines of Viognier may be co-fermented in the

blend, which adds aromatic complexity. Condrieu

A white wine-only AOC where Viognier

This region has a moderate continental

stylistically from fresh and elegant to rich

climate with cold winters and warm

but usually the wines are very good to

their pronounced aromas and are typically


Northern Rhône

quality depending on the individual site

is the only permitted variety. Depending on the producer, the wines can vary

powerful Syrah wines, but one third of

this appellation is devoted to white wine it flows south, the appellation is a southfacing slope which catches the sun and

protects the vines from cold winds. This

results in wines with pronounced flavour

intensity, high tannins (for red wines) and good ageing potential. Crozes-Hermitage

with oxidative notes.

This is the largest of the northern

vigour and leads to lower yields and

This is a 30-mile long appellation that

sector, there is a difference between the

and southerly vineyards is over 40 miles.

region. Because of this, there is a range of

summers. The cold Mistral wind, which blows from the north, decreases vine

production, but more concentrated wines. The distance between the most northerly

Saint Joseph

runs from Condrieu to Cornas – almost the entire length of the northern Rhône wine

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2020 50

appellations. Split between a cool northern sector and a more temperate southern

relatively steep slopes to the north of Tain and the flatter vineyards to the south. In general, the soils are deeper and more

fertile than in neighbouring Hermitage

• Côtes du Rhône AOC: Expect medium

Châteauneuf du Pape

have medium acidity and tannins (or

permitted varieties, today red wine is

and the resulting wines have lower

intensity red plum and blackberry fruit

This is the most famous AOC of the


low tannin if they are made by carbonic

principally made from Grenache, with


Cornas enjoys a natural south and eastfacing amphitheatre with some steep

slopes. The appellation enjoys a warm

Mediterranean climate and good protection from cold winds, producing powerful,

robust wines that must be 100% Syrah. Southern Rhône

The southern Rhône has a warm,

Mediterranean climate with mild winters and very warm, dry summers. The

AOC regulations require that red wines are Grenache-dominant blends with

Mourvèdre and Syrah. Other varieties – for example Carignan and Cinsault – are also permitted.

There is a hierarchy to the appellation

system, which helps consumers navigate the expected style and quality.

and no oak flavours. The wines tend to

maceration), generally good quality and inexpensive.

• Côtes du Rhône Villages AOC: Yields are slightly lower than basic Côtes du Rhône. The style can range from soft

and fruity to something more robust and serious.

• Côtes du Rhône Villages AOC +

named village: Currently numbering 20 villages, eg Côtes du Rhône Villages AOC Sablet. Expect more intensity in these wines.

• Individual appellations for the top

villages of the southern Rhône, known as crus. For example, Châteauneuf-du-Pape

southern Rhône. Though there are 13

Mourvèdre and Syrah playing supporting

roles, and white wine from Grenache Blanc, Clairette, Bourboulenc and Roussanne. In general, growers believe that wines from

grapes grown on sandy soils are finer and lighter in style than the more structured

wines from those grown on soil with large pebbles known as galets roulés.

This article covers the key AOCs of the

Rhône, but there is much more to discover – take some time to explore and taste the region’s wines in more depth.

AOC, Gigondas AOC and Cairanne AOC.

To find out more about WSET qualifications

good to outstanding quality.


These AOCs are known for powerful and

intense wines, usually ranging from very

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2020 51

(both off and online), alongside a great range of free resources and learning tools,

© Hans-Martin Goede /

In the final instalment of our Wine Workout series, WSET educator David Martin examines one of the most accessible yet complex regions in Europe: the Rhône valley


So, how many gift boxes will we need for Christma

Lockdown has meant a boom in sales of transit packaging and gift packs, and a decline in wooden boxes and bott But in recent weeks, as have restrictions eased, the dynamics have changed again, reports Andrew Wilson of W


realise that the last few weeks of

But the more premium wooden boxes

turmoil have pushed us all to our

declined significantly, as did bottle gift bags

limits. I also realise that there have

which are very much a personally ”handed

been some positives and I wanted to look

over” gift rather than something sent via a

in more detail at some of that from a WBC

courier. In terms of transit packaging the

point of view to try and start to gauge what

main growth was in 6 and 12-bottle sizes. Overall percentages for March were

we can expect between now and the key

as follows: transit packaging up 88%;

trading period in the run-up to Christmas. We start to gear up production of key

wooden boxes down 34%; bottle bags

products like wooden boxes and wicker

down 46%; card gift cartons with postal

baskets now, so we are trying to calculate

outers up 94%.

how much to make. I know that Christmas

April saw what can only be described

seems like a long time away but if some of the patterns we have seen in the last 12

weeks become more “the norm” then it will have a big impact on our stock holdings.

I have put together some figures for our

“wine related” product ranges, because they are the most relevant. But as a

comparison, our retail furniture side has

been down by 80%-97%, and our printed bag side is about 90% down.

Looking on the bright side, these have

picked up in the last couple of weeks – but

are still well below levels we would expect.

I am sure that you have been overwhelmed by statistics in the last few weeks but

hopefully the stats below are of interest.


ooking at March to start with, the uncertainty around the virus and

a possible lockdown, and a general

sense of panic, impacted on most areas in

as a transit packaging frenzy and we the early part of the month.

We did start to pick up on increased

demand for transit packaging, along with card gift cartons with bubble bags and

transit outers. Basically, anything to do with e-commerce and home deliveries started to pick up.

‘I feel we are still in a honeymoon period, with a very dark cloud on the horizon. It is very difficult to predict what this means for drinks retailing’ THE WINE MERCHANT june 2020 52

struggled to keep up with demand for the whole month.

As soon as we had products back in

stock, they sold out again – so apologies

for any of you caught out by that. But the beauty of making the majority of these products locally in the UK meant that

we could ramp up production relatively quickly.

It was a great time

to launch our new

Pulpsafe product as

well, and we also saw massive growth in

beer-related transit packaging with a lot of new brewery

customers who were


tle bags. WBC

moving into e-commerce and courier deliveries for the first time.

Wooden boxes picked up a bit with a lot

of the online gifting companies placing

regular orders. Bottle bags continued to

decline, but card gift cartons with transit

Transit packaging orders were up 253% in April

outers carried on growing rapidly.

Overall percentages for April were

as follows: transit packaging up 253%;

wooden boxes down 8%; bottle bags down 69%; card gift cartons with postal outers up 97%.

May was a repeat of April to start

with. As the month progressed the

demand for transit packaging, whilst still extraordinary, started to soften – but

wooden boxes and card gift cartons saw higher levels of growth.

It would seem that some of the emphasis

had switched from home consumption of

alcohol to online gifting for all those people and events that had to be remote rather

face-to-face. Bottle bags did pick up, but

this coincided with the launch of our new 2020 range.

Percentages for May were as follows:

transit packaging up 158%; wooden boxes up 152%; bottle bags down 33%; card gift cartons with postal outers up 178%.


t is early days in June so difficult to

read too much into the figures and,

whilst transit packaging looks like a

huge increase, this was down to a couple

demand for e-commerce solutions and


normal trading patterns – or, possibly as

of large orders. I would say that underlying demand will again soften slightly this

Wooden boxes seem to be doing well

again and bottle bags are creeping back

to normal. Card gift cartons with transit

outers are now the biggest growth area, but I would imagine that with rules on

social interaction loosening, online gifting will decline somewhat to be replaced by gifts being handed over in person.

Percentages for June (to date) are:

Transit packaging up 536%; wooden boxes up 77%; bottle bags down 16%; card gift cartons with postal outers up 264%.


hat’s the easy bit – telling you


what has happened! I imagine that many of you in retail have similar

What is of concern to us now is: what

does all of this mean for the next six months through to Christmas? Will

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2020 53

home deliveries carry on? Do you think there will be a gradual return to more

the recession bites, a drop in like-for-like sales?

I feel that we are still in a honeymoon

period, with a very dark cloud on the

horizon – but it is proving very difficult to predict what this means for drinks retailing.

We want to ensure that we have

sufficient stock to cope with demand. But if we averaged sales over the last three

months, we would be looking at stocking

a huge amount more than last Christmas, which seems counter-intuitive based on economic conditions we are going to be faced with.

Any feedback from you would be

gratefully received in terms of what you

feel will happen with your business and

the drinks retail market over the coming months.


Let’s get spirits booming Emporia Brands boss James Rackham is on a mission to help wine merchants capitalise on a market that has oft


logistics – it’s difficult to order, minimum

mporia Brands is a premium

order quantities are too high, and you have

spirits business with its roots

to open up another account … and most

firmly in the wine trade.

wine suppliers are really not interested

Owner James Rackham describes himself

in spirits. There are a few exceptions,

as “a wine merchant by birth”: his father,

like Las Bodegas, with whom we have a

Arthur Rackham, ran a successful wine

partnership deal.

business with an estate of shops in the

“So we have decided to really make it our

home counties.

mission to be the go-to friend of indie wine

James took the reins in the 80s,

merchants. It’s in my DNA to work with

eventually merging it with Wine Rack –


which he rescued from administration

“The opportunity with lockdown is that

– before selling up to pursue his long-

indies are in a strong position – they’ve

standing passion for craft spirits.

acquired new customers; they’ve become

“My life was working with growers,

a destination for people who want decent

running wine shops, wine clubs, and

achieving a few accolades along the way,”

he says. “I know what it is to be and work as an independent wine merchant.”

Emporia Brands has become one of the

on-trade’s most admired spirits suppliers,

James Rackham: a wine merchant by birth

“I really like to work with indies,” says

with an eclectic range of products that

Rackham. “The feedback we get from indies

Lauvia Armagnac as well as its own brands

neglects indies.

include prestigious imports like Chairman’s Reserve Rum, Père Magloire Calvados and

including Mayfield Gin, Hoxton Gin and the soon-to-be-launched Tennessee whiskey, Daddy Rack.

is that they’re really keen on spirits, and I recognise that our industry sometimes “There isn’t much that’s being done to

make it easier for indies to really get on

board with spirits. That can be because of

wine and personal service.

“There’s been 33% growth in online

retailing nationally so that’s booming

and many indies have got good online platforms.

“We’ve got a strong marketing

department and they’ve put together a whole toolkit dedicated to indie wine

merchants. We’re going to really work

with every one of our customers to help

and support them with this free service, supporting our brands.”

Free digital assets to help indies grow spirits sales Emporia Brands has launched a Holiday at Home section on its website that provides virtual experiences to support its range of premium spirits. It’s a useful way for independents to engage with their customers and it can be accessed at The site includes a range of digital marketing assets to help indies increase sales

and reach new customers, including social media content, fact sheets, blog content, banners and graphics, high resolution video and images and a selection of innovative mixology guides. “Sharing our brands’ content with our stockists gives them free access to new and updated online content that’s designed to engage with the brands’ target demographic,”

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2020 54

says Emporia’s Jefferson Thomas. “Since lockdown I have supported a number of independent retailers in setting up their online stores and providing them with digital marketing support. “I am more than happy to discuss further how I can assist independent retailers in digital marketing.” Email

in indies en eluded them


Now is the time to focus on your digital marketing


or as long as the internet has existed, online sales have been an underdeveloped market for independents. Then Covid-19 came along, and lockdown. It’s hard to quantify exactly how big the surge has been in e-commerce, but it’s safe to say that web business has accounted for substantially more than the 5% recorded in The Wine Merchant’s January reader survey as an average for the sector as a whole. But, says Jefferson Thomas, now is not the time to be complacent, because the online drinks market is only going to get more competitive. The Emporia Brands marketing manager says: “Most consumers are relying on search engines or sites such as Amazon to find new products. Businesses that don’t develop even the most basic digital marketing strategy will slowly start to lose customers and market share.” Thomas encourages merchants to think about a digital marketing strategy. These can be complicated and detailed things, but there’s no harm in starting with the basics. “Businesses can develop complex strategies that can help grow and track their customers,” he says, “but there’s some easy strategies you can implement to begin with. “A simple place to start would be to

Thomas: “Customers want authenticity”

set up a free Facebook page for your business, which you can then use to digitally communicate and market to your customers. “You can grow this page through posting content and engaging with your target demographic whilst measuring how effective your content is. Another key strategy is making sure you have a secure and current website, as this is your digital shop front. You can utilise this to sell online, market your brand and communicate to your customers. This also acts as a central hub to drive traffic to and develop mailing lists. “Customers are looking for authentic brands and experiences, and your digital content – images, video, blog articles and other media – is what helps convey this.”

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2020 55

hat’s all well and good, but what about merchants who don’t have the budget to invest in their digital marketing to the extent they’d perhaps like? “There are a number of free tools available to help businesses develop and track their digital marketing strategies,” says Thomas. “I would suggest investing time into three fundamentals: website, content and SEO. “Launching a website is now a relatively cheap thing to do and there are a number of free SEO guides and Google tools to help drive new traffic to it. “Creating content can be costly and timeconsuming but at Emporia we encourage our stockists to download our brands’ online toolkits. The toolkits contain image and video content, blogs and other media assets that independent retailers can use on their websites and social media channels to help engagement and growth.” Thomas adds: “It’s an exciting time for digital marketing. I see a huge amount of growth in the near future, ranging from an increase in voice-controlled devices and automation to augmented reality and AI. “The unbelievably quick adoption of devices such as Amazon’s Alexa will dramatically change the way customers purchase in the near future when shopping lists are connected to new smart devices like fridges. “It’s really important for companies to start focusing and adopting new digital strategies as quickly as possible – especially in the current circumstances.”

Merchants say thank you to more of their Covid-19 heroes


ine merchants all over the country are continuing to work with their communities to say thank you to local heroes. Independents who signed up to receive two free cases of

wine from Hatch Mansfield for this very purpose are able to express their appreciation with a gift of a bottle of Vidal Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand or Errazuriz Wild Ferment Chilean Pinot Noir. Bacchus N4 in London is encouraging its customers to make their nominations on Twitter and the most popular nominees are hospital staff at the Whittington. The Somerset Wine Company announced its Covid Heroes this month and they include all sorts of wonderful people – from two women who set up “Mask Force”, galvanising local people to make facemasks, to an obstetrician who returned early from her research work in Africa to deliver local babies in order to free up more frontline NHS workers. The Whalley Wine Shop is recognising two local heroes each week. So far the local customers have nominated those who have gone that extra mile working in positions as diverse as community nursing, mental health and the prison service, as well as individuals who have been helping others within the community. Vineyards of Sherborne has been able to highlight the work carried out by several local heroes, including the couple behind Sherborne Viral Kindness – a service of volunteers set up to meet all sorts of needs including dog walking, a community kitchen and free online yoga. Check out our Twitter feed for updates on some of the worthy recipients – and please keep your pictures coming too.

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2020 56


The liqueur is intended as a chilled digestif

A flavour of Italy in the Cotswolds Cotswolds Distillery has announced the release of the first expression from its new range of amaro whisky liqueurs. The line-up is inspired by Amaro, the

Italian herbal liqueur which is typically enjoyed as an after-dinner digestif.

The first expression, Cotswolds Amaro

coming through from the fruity whiskies.

The suggested serve is well-chilled or on

the rocks.

The RRP is £34.95 for a 50cl bottle.

Anniversary gin’s Indian inspiration There are now 441 distilleries across

No 1, uses the flagship Cotswolds Single

the UK, but 10 years ago PGB (pre-gin

spice have been added. The resulting

owned by family-run artisan spirit

second expression will be launched this

company is launching two new products.

traditionally produced by macerating

edition mango, ginger and lime flavoured

Malt as its base to which a blend of

boom), 6 o’Clock gin was one of just

liqueur is described as lighter with

company Bramley & Gage.


Romy’s Edition Gin is a collaboration with

botanicals including vanilla, citrus and

pronounced herbal and floral notes. The Amaro (Italian for “bitter”) is

herbs, roots, flowers, bark and citrus

elements in either spirit or wine (or both) before being sweetened with caramel or sugar.

Cotswolds Amaro Liqueur has been

bottled at 40% which ensures the spices and sweetness complement the flavour

Tequila hasn’t quite earned its own national day in the UK but in the US it falls on July 24. What Britain does have at that time, of course, is fields and hedgerows full of blackberries, blueberries and strawberries, which can be used to make a fruity syrup to create a seasonally-customised Margarita.

23 spirit distilleries based in the UK,

To celebrate its 10th anniversary the

British Indian chef Romy Gill. The limitedgin is inspired by Gill’s memories of

summers in India. The recipe’s herbs and spices are distilled before being infused

with the juice of the native Indian mango. In addition, three new flavours will

be launched next month: Exotic Orange, Damson & Ginger, and Light.

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2020 57

For the syrup: 50cl water 300g sugar 150g each of strawberries, blueberries and blackberries For each cocktail: 50cl tequila 25cl fresh lime juice 25cl of the syrup Ice; Salt

Slice the fruit and heat in a pan with the sugar and water. Simmer for five minutes or until the sugar has dissolved and the fruit has broken down. Cool and strain to remove surplus fruit. Dip the rim of a cocktail glass in cold water and then in the salt. Shake off any excess and add ice. Put the tequila, syrup and juice in a cocktail shaker and shake well. Pour into the glass and serve with a fresh berry garnish.


Non vintage, non issue Blending wines from different years isn’t a problem for winemakers in Champagne, or for Port producers. So why should non vintage be such a taboo for still wines?


gathering of suspect bottles. Hushed furtive murmurs on

street corners. Illicit figures lurk

in the shadows. Cowering wines hide in the cellar for fear of being locked in the attic as the “dirty little secret”.

These are non vintage still wines.

Yes, these wines exist. Quality wines

at that. There are many people that

have invested time, money and care into

producing outstanding non-vintage wines. There is a place for them and there is an

audience for them too. As wine consumers become more educated, their willingness to experiment grows – not only shopping better but seeking excitement. Maybe it

is time, now more than ever, to embrace quality in all its forms.

As an industry and as consumers, we

are perfectly happy to buy and celebrate

non vintage sparkling, sweet and fortified wines. There is no salaciousness. No

feelings of shame. Yet the red, white and pink elephant (hic!), in the centre of the

room, is not given a chance to shine. Not one bit. Why?

Whenever NV still wine has reared its

head out of the darkness and tried to speak,

it has been met by a sea of disgusted faces and grumblings of derision. We have all

been guilty of expressing disappointment and prejudice against NV still wines at

one time or another, “cheap and nasty”

being the general consensus. Stigmas of EU blends come to mind.

The whole point of a non-vintage wine

is consistency. To create a wine with

a steady reliability; to be uniform and

immutable. Each bottle should taste the same, regardless of when or where it is consumed.

A non vintage Champagne is a prime

example and is an emblem of the house

style. Maybe now, in times of such global

change, we ought to see NV still wines as a “house” expression of style? How about a Château Latour NV or a DRC NV?

Although these examples are extreme

and highly improbable, the core ideas

might not sound so wild, especially when taking into consideration the numerous variables that winemakers face. We all

Flooding in Sonoma County in 2019. “Climate

consequence, their wine laws – to suit

climate conditions. The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted us all, and vignerons have

been hit hard. Many wine regions are facing a huge surplus of juice. They must scrabble across markets to make ends meet, or help to top up the already full wine lake.

At a recent webinar held by the Institute

know climate change leaves many wine

of Masters of Wine, winemakers in the

less familiar vine varieties – and, as a

Some wines are having to be held back due

harvests in the lap of the gods. So much so that regions are having to adapt to

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2020 58

Southern Hemisphere expressed concern at the release of vintages for core brands.

© Natalia / © GibsonOutdoorPhoto /


catastrophes such as Covid-19. After all,

en-primeur was created after the Second

World War to help boost sales and revive

the economy. Creating an entire division of

wine sales from nothing, purely as a means to preserve healthy cash flow.


f the proverbial horns of the bull were to be yanked slightly, non-vintage

still wines could prove to be welcome

relief and a stabilising catalyst, on a global scale. The USP is undeniable. Then, in this

ideal world, vintages should only be based on conditions being “just right”, as is the

case with Port and Champagne. Restoring

the word “vintage” to its rightful noble title. Are vintages, by their very nature, at risk

of becoming dilute and less special in the

absence of non-vintage wines? After all, a

vintage wine has the same potential to be just as dreadful as a non-vintage wine. There is nothing to be ashamed of

anymore. The world of wine needs a

radical approach: maybe we need to be

thinking more laterally? Perhaps it is time to reconsider non-vintage still wines and

give them a chance. There is good wine out there, with or without a vintage year. The key is to have an open mind, be bold and

embrace, not waste, all the vine has to offer. change leaves many wine harvests in the lap of the gods”

past their peak, thus risking a drop in

quality and denting the brand image. The alternative consequence is to flood the marke: not ideal for the inevitable and

imminent global recession. Maybe one

So a NV blend makes perfect sense. It is

an insurance policy against poor growing

seasons, unpredictable weather events and

RRP: £21.99

The Cinquanta is one serious wine. Time, money and effort have been put in to create something special: thick glass, embossed lettering, cork closure, not to mention 50+ year old vines, spontaneous ferment and 12 months in French oak. Full, punchy, intense Primitivo/ Negroamaro when first opened. Six hours decanting gives the wine an incredible elegance, complexity, finesse and focus. Worth spending up. 97/100

Vachnadziani Rkatsiteli, Kakheti RRP: £9.49

Put aside any thoughts of qvevri and deliberately oxidised “natural” wine. This Rkatsiteli from Georgia is a pure, quietly complex and elegant modern example. Hints of Upper-Loire stony and steely minerality blended with bright, refreshing lemon zest. At just 12.5% abv it is the perfect summer sipping wine. Superb value. 91/100

Feudi di San Gregorio Trigaio, Campania This 100% Aglianico defies its stereotype by being super smooth and accessible. A full-bodied wine with plenty of fresh red fruit and just a touch of earth. It shows best when slightly chilled, bringing a vein of pure minerality and a steely edge. A fun, cool vino rosso that is a good gateway to the variety and the region. 89/100

backlog of youthful wines to be released

order to level the surplus?

San Marzano Cinquanta, Puglia

RRP: £11.25

to the effects of lockdown. This creates a

answer is to blend multiple vintages in


Robert Mason’s industry experience includes working in the independent wine trade in London. He now works as a consultant. Visit

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2020 59

• All wines supplied by Hallgarten & Novum


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

DISCOVER RIESLING With the ABS Masters of Riesling, 15th June - 31st July

We are delighted to be working with a selection of our Masters of Riesling, Villa Wolf, Louis Guntrum, Gunderloch, Schnaitmann and Dr Loosen to curate 3 very special case offers for the 31 Days of Riesling. Talk to your Account Manager for further details of how you can get involved. Offers will run 15th June - 31st July.




SAVE 15% WHEN BUYING ANY 1 OF THE 3 CASE OPTIONS BELOW. BUY 2 OF THE CASE OPTIONS BELOW TO AUTOMATICALLY BE ENTERED INTO A PRIZE DRAW Win an all-expenses paid place on the 2021 Masters of Riesling trip visiting all our German growers







E & OE apply | For more information please contact your Account Manager or email us at orders@abswine

Free case of Crémant for our loyal independent friends

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

Famille Helfrich is exactly that – a family owned business, and the family are doing all they can to protect its family, namely its workforce.

This crisis is affecting us all, whether you’re a producer, supplier, retailer or consumer.

I’m so impressed with the can-do entrepreneurial spirit shown in the indies sector, and I wanted in a small way to show our appreciation.

We have launched our Sparkling Relief initiative in

which we are offering a free case of Crémant with every mixed pallet order during the crisis.

This can be delivered with the order or sent direct to a

relative, friend or customer to put a little fizz into their life at this awful time. For more details and to see a few of our winemakers talk about the eight different Crémants on

offer, head to our new YouTube: Famille Helfrich Wines & Spirits.

Finally, thanks as always for the continued support and

They’re all smiles to your faceloyalty … of our friends in the independent sector. We wish

you all good health and hope that you continue to provide the excellent services you do so well.

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2020 60

Chris Davies

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

Promised Land from Wakefield Wines Wakefield Wines is a family owned and operated estate with extensive vineyard holdings in the Clare Valley. The family have been in business since 1969 and previously owned pubs in Sydney where they developed their love for wine. Increasingly Wakefield are

known for their top-tier wines – but they are rightly proud of their whole range, and put

0207 409 7276

the utmost care and attention into every wine they make.

exceptionally quaffable. The name harks

Wakefield Promised Land are quintessential Australian wines for

everyday drinking. They are deftly balanced and back to the first plots planted by the

family, and the seahorse motif to the

fossilised seahorses found on the estate. Promised Land Chardonnay, Shiraz

Cabernet and Cabernet Merlot are all

available to order from UK stocks with a

potential standard retail price of around £12 a bottle.

Promised Land wines are currently on

promotion. For more information get in

touch with us at

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

We would like to applaud those who took part in The Wine Merchant & Hatch Mansfield initiative to say ‘Thank you for being a local COVID19 hero’ and for sharing their heartwarming stories. Every community in the UK is facing extraordinary challenges because of the coronavirus pandemic and there are many, many people working tirelessly to keep vulnerable people

safe, reassured and connected. We hope the initiative helped recognise some of the kind and generous people who can sometimes go under the radar. Thank you from the entire Hatch Mansfield Team.

Patrick McGrath MW

Hatch Mansfield are donating £10 to The Drinks Trust on every order placed in their May/June Independent activity to assist those impacted by COVID19.

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2020 61


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

Our new summer offers booklet is now available including the chance to win a Coravin! Email to receive your copy and more details.

020 8744 5550


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 june 2020 62

liberty wines 020 7720 5350


The communes of Chianti Classico

by David Gleave MW

Giovanni Manetti, president of Consorzio Chianti Classico and owner of the respected Fontodi estate, recently explained to us the Consorzio’s project of defining “communes” within the denomination through detailed mapping of the region.

Giovanni said: “People increasingly ask me to tell them about the soils,

aspect and elevation of the vineyards. They want to know where the wine comes from.”

The diversity of Chianti Classico is striking. To the east of Greve in Chianti,

found in the north east of the appellation, is the small ridge of Monti del

Chianti, a zone at high altitude (over 500 metres) with Macigno Toscano – a

sandstone soil. These elements give graceful wines with light structure, such as the Filetta di Lamole Chianti Classico. South of Greve, Panzano sits at

an altitude of about 400 metres with Scaglia Toscana soil, a mix of Alberese

(limestone) and Galestro (clay-schist). Fontodi Chianti Classico is a fine example of this territory, deriving richness and power from the Galestro and vibrant acidity from the Alberese.

Barberino and Tavarnelle to the west overlook the Val d’Elsa. Their

predominantly Alberese soils combine with a climate moderated by sea-breezes and altitude. Wines from here are elegant and fragrant, like Isole e Olena Chianti Classico.

Moving south to Castelnuovo Berardenga, which is closer to Montalcino than Florence,

Alberese and small patches of sandy marine deposits combine with a warmer continental climate to give powerful wines with fine tannins, such as the Fèlsina Chianti Classico.

C&C wines 109 Blundell Street London N7 9BN 020 3261 0927 @CarsonWines

Introducing Jorge Navascues’ independent project from DO Cariñena Having achieved global acclaim as winemaker for Viñedos del Contino (Rioja) and Viña Zorzal (Navarra), we are thrilled to have been given the opportunity to import and distribute Jorge’s full portfolio from Cariñena, where he and his family are from.

Cariñena is special for many reasons: the quality of its soils, severity of its climate and

high-altitude location. In addition, Garnacha is believed to have originated in the Ebro valley, whilst science has shown that the Cariñena (Carignan) variety is also native to the region. Both express themselves beautifully through Jorge’s

wines, along with Macabeo, which Jorge believes to be the white variety with the highest potential for winemaking in the north east of Spain. Six wines will be available exclusively via C&C Wines:

Cutio Macabeo 2018; Cutio Garnacha 2018; La Vadina 2017; La Nevera 2017; Mas de Mancuso Macabeo 2016; Mas de Mancuso Garnacha 2016. RRPs: £13.99 - £36.99.

Please contact us to receive our list of summer promotion wines.

About C&C Wines: We’re a family-owned, independent importer of award winning wines that showcase authenticity, provenance and value – all available to specialist retailers, regional wholesalers and London’s on-trade. Current MOQ to independent specialists is £100 ex-VAT from our DP warehouse in King’s Cross, with more competitive pricing available for customers ordering 12 dozen mixed cases from our bond DPD or IBD.

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


Walker & Wodehouse: Open for business and going strong At Walker & Wodehouse, we are constantly adapting our offering to make sure we’re

providing our customers with the support they need to face industry challenges. With the independent sector flourishing, our sales continue to accelerate, and we’re lucky to have a flexible approach and channel strategy that allow us to provide customers with innovative solutions and opportunities during these challenging times. We are

staying ahead of the curve as the industry conversation grows online, and continue to engage with vigour on all digital platforms.

We have been working closely with our fantastic portfolio of suppliers§ to bring our customers three weekly producer-focused promotions, featuring world-renowned producers such as Bibi Graetz, Craggy Range, and Robert Mondavi. These are

supported by an innovative video tasting series, hosted on IGTV. Going forward, we

are running a special deal on “everyday wines” under £10, a key category to generate income for our customers. Our focus continues to be on delivering great wines and service, while remaining as flexible as possible in the current situation.

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

@BuckSchenk @buckinghamschenk

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

Hambledon Vineyard Joins the Mentzendorff Portfolio Located on the South Downs of Hampshire, the Hambledon Estate spans 200 acres of vineyards of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Meunier vines, planted on part of the 65 million year old Newhaven Chalk formation. Today, the House produces three sparkling blends, the Classic Cuvée, a delicate wine with great acidity, the Classic Cuvée Rosé, a crisp, dry wine with crunchy red fruit flavours and the Premiere Cuvée, a creamier wine with great precision and a delicate, elegant mousse.

Hambledon Classic Cuvée

Hambledon Classic Cuvée Rosé

Hambledon Premiere Cuvée

Hambledon Vineyard wines are now available from Mentzendorff. Please contact your Mentzendorff Account Manager for further details.

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@


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