The Wine Merchant issue 95 (September 2020)

Page 1

THE WINE MERCHANT. An independent magazine for independent retailers

Issue 95, September 2020

Dog of the Month: Islay Whitebridge Wines, Stone

North London restaurateur Brodie Meah did so well with wine sales during lockdown that he’s now branched out with a dedicated retail venture, Shop Cuvee, which is a sister business to his Top Cuvee restaurant. Full story: Comings and Goings, page 12.

Wine imports face ‘bleak’ future Merchants and suppliers warn of dire consequences if no-deal Brexit causes expected chaos for EU wine shipments


ears are growing among

independent merchants and

their suppliers about chaos in the

supply chain for EU wine imports next year. With the current Brexit transition

arrangements due to come to an end in January, there are dire warnings that

shipments from Europe will become more problematic and expensive – and in some

cases may even grind to a halt altogether. There are also unanswered questions

about the way duty clearances will be handled. From January 1, the Excise

Movement & Control System (EMCS) will be switched off for receipts from the EU.

It is due to be replaced by the Customs

Handling of Import & Export Freight

(CHIEF) system, but HMRC insiders have

privately admitted that this technology

is not currently capable of processing EU imports.

There also appears to be no solution in

sight to the question of VI-1 forms, which EU producers will need to complete for each wine they export to the UK.

Continues page two


Inside this month 12 comings & Goings

Indies braced for VI-1 form chaos From page 1

The restaurants reimagining themselves as wine merchants

add costs and delays – though a more

17 tried & TESTED The wines that made us feel blessed to be alive

18 what now for hybrids? Indies ask whether tables and chairs have a long-term future

fundamental problem may be that the

forms have never previously been required for wines produced in the EU, and the

apparatus does not exist to process them. Chris Piper, of Christopher Piper Wines

in Devon, warns that “specialised groupage shipments from our small European

growers” could become “prohibitively

28 david williams New words required for a brave


Sam Jary of Black Hand Wine in Penrith

shares those fears. He told The Wine

new winemaking era

Merchant: “If this does go ahead, it will

36 Whitebridge wines The Staffordshire merchant where communion wine is big

almost certainly put me and every other small wine merchant importing high-

quality, low-intervention European wine out of business.”


Emma Robson, of specialist Italian

42 focus on chile

importer Bat & Bottle, based in Rutland,

Why indies should forget preconceptions and give the country’s wines a fresh look

added: “As far as we have been able to

ascertain, there is no system to support issuing a VI-1 in Italy.

“With current HMRC guidance, it seems

48 supplier bulletin Essential updates from key suppliers to the independent trade

Importers warn that the system will

incredible – but it is actually possible – that we will not be able to ship any wine into the UK.”

Daniel Lambert of Daniel Lambert

Wines described the situation as “bleak”

and warned that the confusion over duty

collection – and a possible return to

paperwork – would be open to fraud.

He urged independents to think about

new year orders well in advance and to be aware of rising freight costs this autumn. “I’m beginning to think that the only

way round this for January and February

is going to be quite a bit of stockpiling and that shouldn’t really be put on the agents,

because the agents can only do so much in their warehouses,” Lambert said.

“Retailers need to think about helping

the agents, because we don’t have endless resources. Independents would be very

wise to start talking to the agents now to say: right, in January and February I’m

going to want this, this and this, rather

than putting an order in in the last week

of December and expecting it to be there.

Because I think a lot of people are going to be disappointed, otherwise.”

Not all merchants and suppliers are

as worried. Yannick Loué of Le Vignoble

urged a positive approach, adding: “Europe will have plenty of juice to sell, so supply won’t be affected.” But he acknowledged that the pound was likely to slip further against the euro.

Craig Durham, MD of Buckingham

Schenk, said he thought the current

impasse between London and Brussels

would eventually be cleared. “I do believe it will all work and be clearer eventually,” he added.

• Read our interviews with merchants and suppliers on pages 4 to 11.

THE WINE MERCHANT MAGAZINE 01323 871836 Twitter: @WineMerchantMag Editor and Publisher: Graham Holter Assistant Editor: Claire Harries Accounts: Naomi Young The Wine Merchant is circulated to the owners of the UK’s 935 specialist independent wine shops. Printed in Sussex by East Print. © Graham Holter Ltd 2020 Registered in England: No 6441762 VAT 943 8771 82

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2020 2


Wine trade braces itself for Brexit disruption We contacted a range of independent merchants, as well as some suppliers, and asked them how worried they are, on a scale of 1 to 10, about European wine imports after Brexit comes into effect. They also outlined the scale of the problem, and what indies should be doing to prepare

CHRIS PIPER Christopher Piper Wines, Ottery St Mary, Devon How would you summarise your main concerns about the situation?




The increased amount and costs of documentation will make specialised groupage shipments from our small European growers prohibitively expensive. Do we pass these extra costs onto our customers or just forget about this essential part of our business?

DEINIOL AP DAFYDD Blas ar Fwyd Llanrwst, north Wales

How would you summarise your main concerns? More out-of-stocks, supply chain problems, costs rising, but not for product.

Are independents aware of how much

Are independents aware of how much disruption they could be facing?

disruption they could be facing?

implications with our freight hauliers – and the conclusions do not make pretty


I’m not sure that they are. We have been studying this and discussing all the reading.

Independents will be more aware than What should indies be doing right now

What should indies be doing right now to prepare for what’s coming?

to prepare for what's coming?

other than pray!

ready for everything.

Writing to their MPs about their concerns. There’s not much else they can do,

Some people assume that, one way or another, the problems will be resolved because all parties have too much to lose if trade is constrained. Are they wrong to be so

Keep flexibility in mind. Have alternatives Some people assume that, one way or another, the problems will be resolved because all parties have too much to lose if trade is constrained. Are they


wrong to be so optimistic?

in reality, neither European wine growers nor UK

the pen-pushers than

There’s nothing wrong with a bit of optimism but

respective governments.

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2020 4

me. A lot of material is in flight, heading for

the fan … but we will survive.




wine importers really have any clout with their

They seem to have more confidence in

DANIEL LAMBERT Daniel Lambert Wines How worried are you about the way Brexit is going to disrupt wine imports from Europe?

Very. Talking with my MP, the WSTA and DEFRA, it seems the government has made no plans for a no-deal exit. On asking HMRC, their direct answer to us was “we are not sure how this will work yet”. With just four months to go, it’s beyond a joke just how bad this government is at everything it touches. How would you summarise your main concerns about the situation?

No plans, no direction from anyone, and nobody knows how it will work. Are independents aware of how much disruption they could be facing? Nope, not in my mind.

SAM JARY Black Hand Wine, Penrith

What should indies be doing right now to prepare for what’s coming?

Summarise your concerns about Brexit. This is not a government that appears

Think about what they need to have in stock for all of January and order it in December, but let their suppliers know well in advance. Transport are already saying there will be extra cost to move stock in Europe in November and

to be too concerned about details or the

December, so this will lead to price increases.

fate of small, independent retailers. I am extremely worried about freight delays

Some people assume that, one way or another, the problems will be

and price rises but, most of all, about

resolved. Are they wrong to be so optimistic?

the VI-1 forms or, more specifically, the

Yes. We are dealing with a PM who is out of control of the basic facts. All the

reported charge of £400 per form. If this

does go ahead, it will almost certainly put me and every other small wine merchant importing high-quality, low intervention

various minsters are out of their respective depths. There is no magic button, no deal is real and is now the most likely outcome. It’s bleak, and people need to wake up to the fact that the supply, once cut, will be very difficult to fix again.

European wine out of business. My only hope is that the threat of VI-1 forms is a

negotiating tool rather than an oversight,

but I fear that this government cares more about quantity than quality.

Are indies aware of how much I can’t speak for other

independents but I’m far more

worried about Brexit than Covid-19.

for what's coming? How do you prepare for something



I also know that the general public has

that you know will put you out


disruption they could be facing?

What should indies be doing to prepare

of business if it goes ahead

as planned? I have written to my local MP and Rishi Sunak

for clarification but neither has

yet replied – I would encourage all

never heard of VI-1 forms and only has the

concerned independent wine merchants to

favourite wine merchant.

no point, but I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t

haziest notion of what a slow-motion car

crash Brexit could be for them and for their

do the same. I am also trying not to worry about the ifs, buts and maybes as there is

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2020 5

started thinking about a Plan B, careerwise. And a Plan C.

Some people assume that, one way or another, the problems will be resolved. Are they wrong to be so optimistic? When I mention VI-1 forms to a pro-Brexit customer, I am always assured that it will

not happen and not to worry about it. I do hope they are right, but I fear, where good

wine is concerned, this government knows the cost of the everything and the value of nothing. We shall see.



UK shippers rather than ship directly

Bat & Bottle Wine Merchants

themselves; this type of independent may

Oakham, Rutland How would you summarise your main concerns? (and possibly shipping being impossible)

due to paperwork, namely Document VI-1. Despite the existing DOP system across

the event of a no-deal warns

us that our producers will have

1. Have as much wine in stock as possible on December 31.



to complete a VI-1 form, or a new

UK equivalent, which will be required to

accompany every wine on a consignment

(we usually ship a single, mixed pallet at a time) as it enters the UK.

We have now had confirmation from five

different wine producers, all of different sizes and from different regions in Italy, plus two major Consorzios, that no one

is aware of, or has ever completed a VI-1 form! This form has been used for wines

produced outside of the EU being shipped

2. If shipping after January 1, use

shippers that offer duty clearance facilities.

3. Don’t invest in duty clearance


We have sourced and purchased

the software and licences (with

European funding!) that will supposedly

cover duty clearance at the ports through

which our shippers currently enter the UK. This software will integrate with both

the allegedly obsolete CHIEF system (still running) and the new CDS system (that appears to be largely unused).

The software we have bought will

be adapted accordingly to comply with

for clearing duty, once terms have been decided.

I would NOT recommend investing in

this! After much time wasted trying to

determine the indeterminable with HMRC, we have come to the conclusion that, if it

works, this software will only be of use for clearing the duty on wine that we bring

back ourselves in a van – the obviously fun, but very tiny, part of our shipping.

Instead, it appears the duty return we

will be able to make will only be relevant

once the wine has actually arrived in a UK port.

We will apparently still be unable to

provide sufficient documentation using the software, that would be required for wine

being transported by a third-party shipper, whilst crossing country borders between Italy and the UK.

After 15 years of clearing our own duty,

we will sadly have no choice but to use

the clearance facilities provided by our shippers.

© blue67sign /

and drink, HMRC’s guidance in

to prepare for what's coming?


quality and provenance of food

maybe even the likelihood of price rises.

What should indies be doing right now

Our primary concern is delays in shipping

Europe and the UK, that protects

not be truly aware of the VI-1 threat, or

whatever system HMRC puts into place

into the EU.

As far as we have been able to ascertain,

there is no system to support issuing a VI-1 in Italy.

With current HMRC guidance, it seems

incredible – but it is actually possible – that we will not be able to ship any wine into

the UK because this system does not exist! The cost of this new additional analysis,

once there are authorised analysts, would obviously be charged to us, the importer, thereby further increasing the end price

of the wine – probably by a substantially higher amount than the duty clearance costs and any duty rises.

Are independents aware of how much disruption they could be facing? Many independents buy from larger

Bat & Bottle specialises in Italian imports, and reports that no one in Italy seems aware of VI-1s

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2020 6



© Nightman1965 /

JON KEAST Scarlet Wines



Hayle, Cornwall How would you summarise your main concerns about the situation?

Delays primarily but also the price to cover admin and hassle. Are independents aware of how much disruption they could be facing? No.

What should indies be doing right now to prepare for what’s coming?

What could you possibly do? Maybe hold more stock? Some people assume that, one way or another, the problems will be resolved. Are they wrong to be so optimistic?

Yes, no goodwill remains thanks to the Tory idiots who have brought this shitshow down upon us all.

Are independents aware of how much disruption they could be facing?

How would you summarise your main concerns? The pound is predicted to fall to 96 cents in next few months so yes, there will be

Most independents are



CLIVE STANTON Eton Vintners, Berkshire


aware of this situation.

What should indies be doing right now

price rises and we will be heading for a

to prepare for what’s coming?

directly or through the supply chain. I am

the first few months it is going to be chaos

no-deal scenario or a very shaved-down

I would buy stock before December 31

also worried that consumer will still expect


trade agreement causing shipping delays

to pay the same amount and it will be the trade that will decrease its margins.

that will last for at least six months, as for

Make sure that you have all the relevant

documentation with HMRC.

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2020 8

Some people assume that, one way or another, the problems will be resolved. Are they wrong to be so optimistic? I have been to France, Portugal and Spain

over lockdown and this summer and they are very concerned about the UK trade.

But there is the big BUT – and I heard

this from everyone I spoke to: ‘If the UK

does not want to contribute to the EU then you cannot have preferential treatment in our market’.

Either way, deal or no deal, things will

change for the worse and everyone will pay more to trade.

YANNICK LOUÉ Le Vignoble Bristol, Bath and Plymouth How worried are you about the way Brexit is going to disrupt wine imports from Europe? I think it is very easy to slip down the

Some shipping delays might be inevitable, but I do believe it will all work and will eventually be clearer

negative route. I am all for keeping positive. We don’t really know what the future will be. I would say let’s prepare as much as

believe we have seen worse than Brexit in the past.

How would you summarise your main concerns? Prices and shipping may be the biggest

problem. Europe will have plenty of juice

to sell, so supply won’t be affected. FX rates will be a disaster, but we have been there before during the financial crash.

Are independents aware of how much disruption they could be facing? Probably not as much as the big boys but we are all on the same island so we will

have to stick together. The pandemic has

shown us that the big boys suffered while indies succeeded.

What should indies be doing right now to prepare for what’s coming? I would say don’t stress too much about it. Don’t kill your cash flow either, as every problem has a solution. No one knows

what the future will be: just watch your overheads, and keep on selling.

Some people assume that, one way or another, the problems will be resolved. Are they wrong to be so optimistic? I don’t think so. I too believe in the above.

Let’s not forget that UK is a big part of the

world wine business. Unfortunately today’s media are good at drawing dark pictures rather than showing boring good news.

RRY L E WO CRAIG DURHAM Buckingham Schenk



we can, but more importantly keep going. I

How worried are you about the way Brexit is going to disrupt wine imports from Europe?

The fact the UK government still has to work out what some of the rules will be once we have left raises concerns, but the fact we are part of a European family-owned wine group with colleagues across the EU reassures me that we will naturally find a way through this. How would you summarise your main concerns about the situation?

I think some shipping delays might be inevitable if the government does not address the need for additional paperwork rapidly, but I do believe it will all work and be clearer eventually. After all, our European colleagues want to continue supplying their wines to us and we and our customers want to carry on buying their wines! Are independents aware of how much disruption they could be facing?

Most of our independent customers are aware of potential issues and we are working closely with them to try and minimise them. What should indies be doing right now to prepare for what’s coming?

Work closely with their suppliers and plan ahead so they have sufficient stock of their key lines. Some people assume that, one way or another, the problems will be resolved. Are they wrong to be so optimistic?

I absolutely agree with that. The UK has been a major importer of European wines for centuries and it is unlikely to change in the future.

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2020 9


NIK DARLINGTON Graft Wine Company How worried are you about the way Brexit is going to disrupt wine imports from Europe? My score of six out of 10 is perhaps

surprisingly low, even to myself, partly

because a disconcerting lack of information on which to base things but also I confess

because there are so many other things to worry about at the moment.

While a vehement opponent to Brexit,

for our industry at least I have also always harboured some hopes that the main European wine producing countries

wouldn’t dare cut off their noses to spite their faces and do anything to damage


trade of their wines with the UK. I am nothing if not an



optimist, but I accept that may prove to be wishful thinking.

How would you summarise your main concerns?

I can imagine price rises because of a general inflationary pressure from a

weaker currency. It might take a while for logistics costs to work their way through

Darlington (right) with fellow Graft director David Knott

the system. There might be shipping

pressure on the government to ensure as

Some people assume that, one way or

Are independents aware of how much

and asking how vulnerable each wine or

No, I don’t think so – I am one of those

point of origin, if they ship directly, or the

... so even optimists must be prepared to be

delays, which could force importers to hold more stock.

disruption they could be facing? I think they are, but given the year we’ve

had, I think a lot of people are just trying to survive the pandemic.

I think all bar the very biggest are

recognising that more now than ever

they may need to rely on stable, well-

prepared importers and agents rather than importing directly too.

What should indies be doing right now to prepare for what's coming? Lobbying their local MP to keep up the

smooth as possible a transition. Examining

another, the problems will be resolved.

producer might be to disruptions or price

optimists. Nevertheless we have become

their stock lines with supply routes in mind

Are they wrong to be so optimistic?

instability, whether that’s because of the

numb to being disappointed in recent years

supplier they get it from.


I am nothing if not an optimist, but I accept that may prove to be wishful thinking THE WINE MERCHANT september 2020 10





Beccles, Suffolk How worried are you about Brexit? The problem is, deal or no deal, wine

will be affected, and we genuinely can’t

predict the next announcement from this disastrous government.

Can you summarise your concerns? Price increases, logistics and delays. But it will affect much more than wine. I think it will be the agents and importers that will struggle in terms of pricing and logistics,

pared down. However, we might just

see a steadying of “those-that-can” still remaining loyal to their indies.

Are independents aware of how much

which will have a big knock-on for indies

disruption they could be facing?

more agency reshuffles and ranges getting

especially with the help of the WSTA and

sourcing from the UK wholesalers. It

could lead to a homogenisation of ranges,

STEFANO CUOMO Macknade, Faversham How worried are you about the way Brexit is going to disrupt wine imports from Europe?




I am sure that prices will rise and supply may not be as smooth as usual, but it will be yet another operational hiccup that we can overcome. Part of the independent, experience-based offer is delivering the best wine environment and alternatives to what the customer might have come in for. How would you summarise your main concerns about the situation? Price rises and delays – but I believe it will be an opportunity for the

independent sector to draw in new customers and understand price-to-quality ratios and build potential to source direct. Are independents aware of how much disruption they could be facing?

Mixed bag – it helps that we already import a bit in from Italy and so see what our transport agency is going through and keeping us updated with. We are also in Kent, and so at the frontline of European scuffles … What should indies be doing right now to prepare for what’s coming?

Building strong relationships with their suppliers and asking them to keep them updated with regards to what is happening and how their relationship will evolve. Supporting customers to buy up less but better. Looking at British wine! Some people assume that, one way or another, the problems will be

Not at all. I think there has been some

great social noise, webinars, and progress; The Wine Merchant, who have really done their bit. I’m not sure whether it’s turned enough heads or resulted in enough political traction.

What should indies be doing right now to prepare for what’s coming? Scrap the VI-1s by lobbying their

politicians. Bide their time commercially.

Focus on their customers, locking in a solid proposition and sticking to what they do best.

Everyone is online now, so it’s impossible

to compete digitally. We use our online store and digital channels like a shop

window, but are focused on our regular customers, and getting our range right.

We’re also building in additional UK-

based suppliers so that we’re not at all tied to a few. We are doing less with more. A bit here and there from an expanded range of partners, getting the right wines from the

right agencies. Shipping two or three wines ourselves very strategically.

I wouldn’t go stockpiling, or over-

investing in tech or new projects.

Some people assume that, one way or

resolved. Are they wrong to be so optimistic?

another, the problems will be resolved.

The focus should be on continuing to trade effectively and flexing around

Are they wrong to be so optimistic?

obstacles. Brexit will occur and disrupt; the winners will be those with a strong

Deal or no deal, wine is still going to

team and experience and understanding of their customers’ needs and loyalty. Wine merchants might need to diversify more than they have historically. The barrier of Brexit should encourage innovation and the broader pivots. People don’t buy wine just for the sake of wine, but to make themselves and others happy. In that context, there are lots of other opportunities for a talented

be affected by the self-imposed, costly

hindrances we’re currently planning on implementing on ourselves regardless.

Scrapping VI-1 forms plus no deal will be

awful, yet manageable, while the option of

keeping VI-1 forms and a “good deal” is still

merchant to deliver.

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2020 11

disastrous for the UK the wine industry.

Restaurant opens its own wine shop November will see the launch of Vintage & Vine, a wine shop and bar situated above its sister restaurant, Puro, in Clevedon, north Somerset. Owner Dom Lamy is in the midst of

signing leases before the building work

begins and then he’s looking forward to the “enjoyable part, which is us getting in all the wine”.

“The restaurant will be buying wine from

Vintage & Vine,” he explains, “so we’ll have a few set house wines by the glass and

we’ll have lots of wine upstairs that we can choose to put on the menu or not.

“It’s nice to be in the position to choose

which wines you want to stock. Having

memories behind the wines and wines that

you know just helps you serve them, but no list is ever going to stand still.”

The list of around 200 wines will be

sourced in part from UK suppliers such

Brodie Meah: now a wine merchant as well as a restaurateur

Top Cuvee moves into wine retailing Highbury restaurant Top Cuvee has opened its own wine shop and

as Alliance, and directly from English

delicatessen, Shop Cuvee, just a few

Lamy, whose background includes

of his restaurant during lockdown and

producers including Sutton Ridge and

doors away.

running pubs and restaurants in the UK

hope for the best, Brodie Meah continued


and Australia, where he did his WSET courses, says the new shop will be

completely separate to the restaurant, physically and visually.

“It’s a 1920s Chesterfield dark green,

with a modern take on it. We didn’t want

to detract from Puro – we wanted to give

people a different look, a different feel and a different venue.”

• Planet of the Grapes has reopened its wine bars and shops in London at Leadenhall Market, Bow Lane and London Wall (where it trades as Fox Fine Wines & Spirits). Its fourth branch, in Sicilian Avenue, will not be reopening, according to owner Matt Harris.

Rather than sit out the forced closure

to sell his wine online. “We’ve been super busy and sold loads,” he explains. “The

restaurant is back open, which is awesome, but we needed space for all the wine so we

doesn’t have any specific plans for tables and chairs at this stage.

A more pressing issue is pricing. He

says: “In order to combat the retail versus restaurant prices issue, we’re going to

base our pricing on the shop and charge

corkage in the restaurant. Customers are

also welcome to buy the wine in the shop,

where there will be more choice, and take it to the restaurant and pay £15 corkage.”

From pop-up to urban winery

secured a dedicated retail space.”

Chilled & Tannin is set to open in Cardiff

including Wines Under the Bonnet, and

Dominic Doherty – has become a reality.

The focus was always on natural wines

this month. The “pipe-dream” of three

Meah is pleased to say this new addition to

“Myself, Rob and Dom all come from a

sourced from small independent suppliers

friends – Alex Griem, Rob Cooper and

the business has allowed him to “do more

hospitality background,” explains Griem.

changing all the time. Orange wines are

this all works out well we’ll end up with

business” with them.

“We’ve got about 100 lines and they are

really popular – people have latched on to

it a bit as something new and interesting to try – and it’s the same with pet nat.”

Shop Cuvee has an on-licence but Meah

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2020 12

“Wine has kept us bonded. We are

going into this with the philosophy that if something that doesn’t yet exist in south Wales – and in the worst case scenario,

we’ll end up with lots of wine to drink for the next few years.”

The business will initially launch as a

Griem says: “I’m trying to get hold of

pop-up within Cooper’s own Little Man

some paper bottles to see what they’re

while the friends find their feet. Permanent

when you order the wine in and you realise

Coffee Company. Griem anticipates the

pop-up will run “at least until Christmas”

premises – and ultimately an urban winery – are longer-term goals.

Griem says: “I’ve been to London Cru and

I’ve been to a lot in San Francisco; I think

it’s an idea which has legs. There are a lot of people growing grapes in the UK now

and we think it would be great to make and blend some wines ourselves.”

Local bottling would add to the

company’s eco credentials. The business

will be plastic free, deliveries will be made

in Cooper’s electric van, which has already been dubbed the milk float, and the focus will be on low-intervention, organic and biodynamic wines.

like. I’m not interested if it’s a gimmick, but it would be great to find an alternative –

how heavy the glass bottles are, it’s insane.” Griem’s WSET diploma was put on hold

during lockdown and he was able to use

the time he would have spent studying to source wines for the shop. He’s based in

London for now, with Cooper and Doherty at the sharp end sorting out the shop.

Griem has put a list together of around

80 lines, with the help of Liberty Wines and Davy’s among others.

“We’re just trying to get a Welsh

sparkling at the moment,” he says. “We’ve got a fairly even split between red and

white and a handful of organic/biodynamic rosés. It’s a good mix of old and new world

Bradmans to open Matlock branch Bradmans Wine Cellar has secured the premises for its second store, with hopes for a spring launch next year. It’s been just over two years since John

Morris and his son, Tom, opened Bradmans Wine Cellar in Duffield in an old NatWest

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2020 13

and we’ve made sure there are some classic styles like Bordeaux and Chianti Classicos but then we’ve got things like Zibibbo in

there, a Moscatel, a Chilean blend – stuff that we can compare to something the

customer already likes, but pushes the

boundaries enough to encourage them to explore the rest of the range.

“We will be doing a wine subscription

service, too, with our picks of slightly

lesser-known varieties or styles. We’re

confident that the way we talk about our wines will persuade people to go for our ‘trust us’ box.”

There will also be a fine wine range

under the name Laid Down & Tannin.

Griem explains: “We want to provide an

easy way to buy wine to lay down without it seeming like an unattainable or difficult prospect.”

Bags of potential for eco-friendly carriers In this year’s Wine Merchant reader survey, 73% of independents said they are cutting back on plastic. Consumers are increasingly keen to do the same, in favour of alternatives that are greener and/or more durable. WBC’s Kraft paper bags are available for one or two bottles and are plain so they can be branded in store for a contemporary indie look. Alternatively, purchase 500 and WBC will print your logo for you. Prices start at 25p a unit. WBC’s hard-wearing jute bags, meanwhile, come with removable dividers and so work as a convenient way of transporting six bottles, or as a standard shopper. Priced from £3.30 a unit, they can be printed with a logo and could be sold at the till or used as a way of rewarding higher spenders.

Perfectly aerated wine, straight from the bottle

there are no drips, which is just as

Cellardine seems to have a conveyor

important in a wine bar or restaurant

belt of innovations for wine lovers and

setting as it as at home.

its latest launch, Rouge 02 By the Glass, looks like another winner. It’s designed to aerate wine as it’s being poured from the bottle to the glass, thanks

The angled pouring spout ensures

The gadget fits all neck sizes, including those pesky large-flanged models. Rouge 02 By the Glass is available

to a unique air flow system allowing

to order from the company’s website

bubbles to gently drop into the wine and

at and has an RRP of

maximise flavours and aroma.


THE WINE MERCHANT september 2020 14

German Riesling than they normally

would, in a campaign thought to have

reached over four million consumers and created four new listings per participant.

Brigitte Bordeaux owner Kat Stead made

a splash with a huge mural in the shop,

created by team member Lizzie Meakin. “In addition to the shop display, we

also had discounts on multiple German

Riesling purchases and various giveaways

of Riesling and Riesling merchandise,” she says.

“We also had two German Rieslings as

our wines of the month during July, which meant they were available by the glass all cap

Wines emerged as the off-trade winner in this year’s 31 Days of German Riesling campaign. More than 100 retailers and restaurants


took part, despite the challenges of

from Wines of Germany to boost business. collectively sold up to six times more

local restaurant, we paired three German supper which we delivered to customers’

Covid-19, taking advantage of POS material It’s estimated that participants

“And finally, in collaboration with a

Rieslings with a three-course German

Brigitte Bordeaux chalks up a big win Nottingham indie Brigitte Bordeaux


homes on Friday, July 24.”

The runner-up in the off-trade category

was Wine Poole in Warwick.

Humble Grape won the on-trade

category, with The Wine Barn picking up the prize in the online merchant section.

customers we could do without

© pathdoc /

16. Clifford Steames Yes, yes, I don’t need any explanations about the intricacies of commerce, thank you … I did run the Hungerford office of a very successful American pharmaceutical corporation for eight and a half years … I just fail to see why I’m being asked to pay you just short of £27.50 for the privilege of watching you uncork a bottle of wine which I can quite clearly see there on your shelves price-marked at £19.95. If you would rather pass me the corkscrew I can assure you I’m perfectly capable of doing the job myself … next time I’d even be prepared to bring one of my own, how’s that? Corkage, you call it? Then maybe I’ll change my mind about this bottle and try one of those blasted New Zealand wines with the twist-off lids … how much would that set me back, for the convenience of you rotating that cap through 180 degrees on my behalf? I’m afraid I’d expect rather more entertainment than that for £7.50 … no, I’m sorry, you’ve tried to explain it to me for nearly 10 minutes now and I’m sure you’re a lovely lady but I would prefer to take this up with the manager or the owner and make him aware that this is an utterly indefensible and incomprehensible policy … what’s that? You are the manager, and the owner? Yes … well … I see … ah ...

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ANAGRAM TIME Can you unscramble the names of these famous winemakers? If so, you win a drawing of a puppy.

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2020 15

1. Demon Vibrator 2. Get Murderous 3. Almond Chiller 4. Headboard Nits 5. Kid Portioner Mark Matisovits

Rising Stars

Sarah Helliwell

Stony Street House, Frome


very organisation needs a safe pair of hands and Kent Barker, owner of Stony Street House, says that Sarah Halliwell is the “bedrock” of his business. “She’s just very calm under fire,” he says. “She is the person everyone gravitates to when things are getting tough on the floor or whatever – she just comes along and smooths it all out.” Kent and Sarah’s paths originally crossed during his time at Jascots when Sarah headed up the hospitality training – so she wasn’t far from his thoughts when he was planning his new venture in Somerset. “Sarah is our head of wine and training and has been with us from the start,” says Kent. “She’s incredibly hard-working and very diligent. She’s got a great palate and food and wine matching is one of her specialties. “It’s terrible to say, but quite often people don’t take women in wine as seriously as men and she has the gravitas for that not to be a factor on the floor at all, and that is a really positive thing.” For Sarah, a career in wine, while not inevitable, was not totally surprising as she says she “grew up with wine,” with childhood holidays visiting vineyards in Burgundy and Bordeaux. She explains: “When I finished my Masters I didn’t really know what to do, so I went to work at a ski resort in France. The chalet happened to have a really amazing wine list so I took control of that.” She had a stint as a tour guide in Carcassonne, seasonal vineyard work followed, and after that she says she was hooked. “I love talking to people about wine and the education side,” she says. “Making wine less daunting and scary is the part I really enjoy.” “We try and take a relaxed approach; we don’t want people to be intimidated by what’s on offer. We have some amazing wines – we have around 400 from every price bracket including some really top-end stuff. But we’re about making people feel really comfortable.” Kent says that Sarah was jointly responsible for “reformulating the whole business to survive

during Covid-19”. He admits that emerging from the pandemic has been “turbulent,” but “Sarah is someone I really listen to very seriously – I trust her views”. And Sarah is raring to continue moving forward and regain some normality. “I can’t wait to get our tastings back up and running,” she says. “Usually we would be doing two a month. We were just about to start teaching WSET courses in March so that’s a project that we’re looking to restart – I think it will probably be in the new year now.”

Sarah wins a bottle of Pol Roger Brut 2012 If you’d like to nominate a Rising Star, email

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2020 16


Kelly Washington Sauvignon Blanc 2017

Taittinger Prélude Grands Crus NV

Kelly Washington, established in 2016 by the widely-

None of your zero dosage austerity here: we’re talking

fruit, in this case from Marlborough’s Southern Valleys.

Pinot Noir blend a rich and creamy quality. This, for

admired Tamra Kelly-Washington and possibly equally likable husband Simon, works mainly with organic

Some ageing on the lees, and a judicious spell in old French oak, adds class and depth to a familiar style. RRP: £19.95

9g of residual sugar which, coupled with five years of

lees ageing, gives this sumptious 50-50 Chardonnay/

many people, is the ultimate Champagne: zippy citrus freshness, but luscious peachy fruit too. RRP: £125 (magnum)

ABV: 12.5%

ABV: 12.5%

Hatch Mansfield (01344 871800)

Jeroboams (0207 288 8888)

La Rioja Alta Viña Arana Gran Reserva 2014

Tóth Ferenc Egri Kadarka Siller 2018

The Gran Reserva style is something of a speciality of

Is it a red? Is it a rosé? Actually it’s a bit of both: a

this case: the fruit tastes healthy, vibrant and clean,

a Kadarka and Kékfrankos combo, a light and spicy

La Rioja Alta – it has no fewer than three in its range.

Three years in American oak can be brutal, but not in

and alive with aromas of red fruit, cloves and caramel. Beautifully balanced, it rewards early drinking. RRP: £35

ABV: 14.5%

siller, a Hungarian speciality traditionally made by

co-fermenting red and white grapes. This is actually wine full of fresh, slightly tart red fruit flavours, and

bags more personality than many rosés at this price. RRP: £11.95

ABV: 13%

Best of Hungary (0780 571 7576)

Armit Wines (020 7908 0600)

Vidal Soler Chardonnay 2018

Domaine l’Orangerie de Montrabech Gewurz 2017

Perhaps some Kiwi Chardonnay can be a little on

the sterile side – at least that’s the perception that

From a family estate in the heart of the Aude region,

starts to emerge. Frankly, it verges on the decadent.

it’s a more cidery and frangipane-like affair, with an

some of us carry around with us. But give this one a

this has few of the OTT Turkish Delight and lychee

minute or two and a spicy and almost exotic quality

aromas that often repel the Gewurz sceptics. In fact

Don’t worry, the oyster shells, white fruit and nuts are all there too. RRP: £28.25

almost syrupy texture in the mouth, but perhaps what

strikes you most is its elegance and freshness. Held its

ABV: 13.5%

own very nicely against a mild prawn curry.

Hatch Mansfield (01344 871800)

RRP: £10.50

ABV: 13.5%

Famille Helfrich (07789 008540)

Vesztergombi Szekszárdi Turul 2015

Hanewald-Schwerdt Kalkriff Riesling Leistadt 2019

Hungary’s native grapes are a lot of fun, but it’s worth

This family estate in Pfalz dates back to the 1950s but

Cabernet Franc and Merlot, from a southern winery

notes and a mineral tang that conjures iron girders

checking out what the country can also achieve

with international varieties. This is a 60-40 blend of re-established in 1991. It’s soft yet firm, simple yet intriguing, and full of cherry and vanilla notes. RRP: £16.95

ABV: 13%

Best of Hungary (0780 571 7576)

this dry-as-a-brontosaurus-bone Riesling could hardly be more modern. A spritzy attack, crisp green apple and slate quarries: we sipped it ‘neath a silver birch and counted ourselves blessed to be alive. RRP: £15.99

ABV: 13%

Vindependents (020 3488 4548)

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2020 17

© Katerina /

On-premise sales have been central to indies’ success in recent times. But Covid restrictions –

Is the heyda

and the surprise retail boom – have made several merchants wonder if they really need their tables and chairs


our in 10 independents are

now licensed to sell wine for

consumption on the premises. The

STONEWINES NORTH LONDON Is the hard work worth a few

trend towards this hybrid on-trade/off-

hundred extra quid?

Covid-19 has put an almighty spanner in

owner Riaz Syed. “We’re off-trade only for

trade model has been the big story in the indie sector over the past five years. But the works.

All wine bars were forced to close during

the darkest days of lockdown, and although restrictions were lifted in July, many indies have decided to keep their drinking-in

areas mothballed. Some admit, privately or

publicly, that they might never return. With retail sales still booming for the majority

of indies, a number of merchants wonder if their enotecas are worth the hassle.

But for many operators, on-trade sales

remain a central part of the business plan. It seems likely that the proportion of

merchants selling wine on the premises will dip below 40% this year – but the hybrid model is far from dead.

“Our business isn’t currently hybrid,” says the moment.

“I think we’ll reassess what we offer in

the future. It’s a lot of work doing on and off-trade. I think we’re doing five hours less per week than before and part of

me thinks, well, in a way it’s a lot easier

doing just off-trade. So we may refocus the business.”

Syed admits that, had it not been

for Covid-19, he probably wouldn’t

have stopped to properly analyse the

contribution his tables and chairs were making.

“We all went for it, and we all seem to

have done reasonably well and been quite happy with it and then suddenly you’re

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2020 18

Riaz Syed

“I don’t want to lose that, so we’ll review

it again next year and maybe Covid will be a thing of the past. We might miss having people around that we can chat with. It

helps you build that relationship with the

customer because they’re there for a longer

e hybrid ay over?

period of time.”

because we can’t fit enough numbers in to

make it worthwhile,” says co-owner Henry Breeze.

He says that discussions are ongoing

about the future of on-premise sales.

“We’re not offering it for the next month or two, probably longer to be honest. It’s an

ongoing process and it’s been nice working fewer hours for a bit.”

Might on-premise sales disappear

SYMPOSIUM WINE EMPORIUM LEWES No more table service until Covid restrictions are eased Tables and chairs have added an extra

dimension to Symposium’s small retail

permanently? Breeze admits it’s an option, but says the bar trade has been a useful

way of raising awareness of Symposium’s retail business. “It helps bring people in

and bolsters the retail figures as well – it’s

not just about what people consume when they drink in,” he says.

area. The shop had carved a reputation as a lively evening venue before lockdown, but since then the focus has been squarely on

retail sales and deliveries, which have more

Continues page 20

than compensated for the shortfall.

“We’re holding off at the moment purely

given this opportunity to reassess what you’ve done,” he says.

“I would probably have just carried on

and worked hard over the summer and

enjoyed that extra few hundred quid that

you get. It’s not really a huge amount when you weigh it up against the work.

“When you’re able to reflect, you can see

it was good, but was it really worth it? If you employed a business analyst, which

none of us can afford to do, I’m sure they’d

LOCKETT BROS, NORTH BERWICK Fear of sending mixed messages “We’ve closed the bar at the moment,” says manager Graham Kinniburgh. “We can’t quite make that work. “We could put signage up and screens up, but it sends mixed messages. If you have folk sat in the window having a couple of glasses of wine without masks on, then of course folk walking into the shop to purchase retail might think, ‘oh, you don’t have to wear a mask in there’. “Also we’d have to remove all soft furnishings, so to be honest it would be like

say, ‘I’m not sure if that initiative works’.”

coming in and sitting on a church pew and taking holy communion, you know? It would

have tables and chairs,” he says.

sales adding some welcome – though not essential – extra revenue in normal times.

Even so, Syed is fond of the hybrid

approach. “It’s aesthetically pleasing to “Wine shops are quite intimidating

places and you’re always mindful of the fact that you’re excluding people who don’t feel comfortable coming into this environment. But if you put tables and chairs out and

maybe have a few house wines, it suddenly becomes a lot more accessible, so you broaden your customer base.

not be ideal.” For Lockett, retail trade remains the “backbone” of the business, with on-premise “We’ll probably go back to that when we can,” says Kinniburgh. “It can be very lucrative at busy times but we see it very much as an extra – an experience, if you like. We’re a very small set-up here. We only really have a handful of tables.” For the time being, the spectre of Covid looms large. “At the moment, why would you take the risk of having to close the shop for three days for a deep clean if somebody comes into the bar and then tests positive?” says Kinniburgh.

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2020 19

‘For it to work, I’d need a bubble of six people to guarantee to drink a hundred quid’s worth an From page 19

DUNCAN MURRAY WINES MARKET HARBOROUGH Making just as much money, without the longer hours “We’ve had lots of requests for the wine bar, but it was only open on three days

of the week, Wednesday to Friday,” says owner Duncan Murray.

“For it to work properly for us I’d need a

bubble of six people to guarantee to drink a hundred quid’s worth an hour, because

that’s what it was like on a Friday back in the good days.

“As it stands, having a small amount of

hour. That’s what it was like in the good days’

quite nice to go home at 6pm or 6.30pm

us through that. We were crazy busy at

different venue for it to work well enough

in the bar. So it’s been going well.”

instead, and we’re making just as much

money without it. We would have to have a for us because we’re just too small.

“You can apply for the outside seating,

but then again you’ve still got to open up the bog to allow people to come in for a

pee, and then clean that, and it’s just too much hassle.”


people in the shop, the bar would just be

Bar is part and parcel of the

fiddly. We’re too small a set-up.”

For owner Kat Stead, the business has

impossible: opening the loo, making sure everything was clean – for us it’s just too

As things stand, Murray is struggling to

see how and when the bar could return. “I think it might come back, but in a

small way, where we just get a reservation,” he suggests.

“We used to do private events in the

shop for a group from work or whatever it

might be, but now it would be small family groups.

“One of our account customers really

misses the bar; he and his wife have been good customers, so we’ve said, why don’t we get them in and have a nice evening,

socially distanced. But for normal paying customers, I just can’t see when it would happen.”

There are benefits to retrenching to the

classic retail model. “A lot of people are

right in saying they’re making more money and working less hours,” Murray says.

“Everybody who worked in the bar was

going home at 9.30pm or 10pm and it’s

identity of the business

always been based on a split between on

and off-premise sales and she can’t imagine that changing, even though retail business has come to the fore of late.

“We’ve been given permission to have

the seats out the front, and we have six

the start of lockdown and a lot of those

customers have been in the shop since, and She adds: “Before lockdown we couldn’t

have envisaged just being a shop, but I

think we’ve become more of a shop since lockdown.

“More people have been buying their

wine from us but the bar is quite a big part of what we do and the way our building is

set up. It’s got the shop at the front and two rooms behind for the bar.

“It’s part of the community as well –

people do like coming to our place and

having a glass of wine and they often buy a couple of bottles to take away. They work

well together and we like doing both – and we’re pleased that at the moment we can continue doing both.

“I like the fact that we do feel more of a

wine shop now than we did beforehand.

But we like the social aspect of it and the bar is like a social club, sometimes.”

tables outside and they’ve been really

popular, so that’s fantastic. Obviously we’ll see what happens now, with the autumn

and the winter coming. We’ve ordered an awning so that’s going up this week.

“We’ve reduced the number of tables

inside, so we’ve got the two-metre

distancing. With the tables outside we’ve still got a decent capacity.

“It’s been good for us, having the bar

reopen. Obviously there are lots of new things you’ve got to think about, like

sanitising everything, but people have been really pleased to see us back.

“We went to delivery-only through

lockdown and lots of customers discovered

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2020 20

Kat Stead

© Katerina /

NY WINES, CAMBRIDGE ‘We’d been a shop for 25 years ... we’ve been there and done that’ Since relocating to its current location in Great Shelford, just south of Cambridge, the wine bar has been central to the business, run by Noel Young. The bar reopened on July 4, but Jack Young – son of Noel – admits there was discussion about the immediate future of the company’s on-premise offer. “There definitely was a period during lockdown, and when we first reopened the wine bar, when we were having those kind of thoughts – is it worth it, because of the reduced capacity,” he says. “You don’t know how many people are going to come, and you’ve got to have extra staff on and things like that. But we’ll soon have tables and chairs out the front and an airier, roomier environment for customers to come into.” Young understands why some indies might come to the conclusion that tables and

Amaretto consumption has become so much about the Sour that bars barely seem to serve it any other way. The Godfather is a more muscular, largelyignored Scotch-based drink, somewhere in Old-Fashioned territory, that provides another option for any shopper worried that a bottle of the almond liqueur is going to sit in the drinks cabinet from one Christmas to the next. This less conventional take combines the sweetness of the amaretto with an Islay Scotch, namely Ardbeg, the peatiness of the whisky complementing the amaretto nuttiness and making for a drier delivery. To prevent the smokiness from overpowering, the amaretto level has been upped a notch but feel free to play around with the proportions – and the whisky – to taste..

chairs are more trouble than they’re worth, at least in the short term. “I completely see why some people say that’s their position and why it’s extra effort,” he says. “But for us we’d been a shop for 25 years, and we’ve sort of been there and done that.

50ml Islay Scotch whisky 20ml amaretto

“It’s as much for the staff as it is for the customers – we all enjoy the atmosphere of serving people and taking the time to speak to them rather than them being in a queue and making it transactional. You can float around and have a chat and talk about the wine and the food, and we’ve got closer to our customers as a result of that. “Everyone has to be aware that it is a transitionary period and there are going to be some changes, but we’re playing the long game and we’re enjoying it. There will be a time when things go back to normal but at the moment, we’re making it work.” .

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2020 21

Combine the ingredients in a mixing glass with ice and stir. Strain into an Old-Fashioned glass over ice.

ight ideas r b

15: Make Spotify playlists part of your identity Jack Sellen Parish Wines, Walthamstow

In a nutshell … Invite your customers to compile a Spotify playlist of their favourite tunes to share in-store.

playlists is definitely very broad: there’s old music, more contemporary sounds and music from all over the world.”

Has anyone surprised you with their musical tastes – maybe thrown in a bit of death metal halfway through? “We haven’t had anything off-message yet, but it is up to them really. I give them a brief to put something together that they’d like to listen to while enjoying a glass of wine. For some people it’s pretty chilled, and for others it veers more towards the party vibe. “Often the musical journey starts at one end and gets more lively at the other. The music in our growing

What’s the reaction from your customers? “It’s proved to be popular. Walthamstow is full of creative professionals and people are starting to ask us if they could provide a playlist, which is fantastic. We create a visual using the image they provide to share on our social media and if they go on to share their playlists on their social media and mention us, then that’s quite powerful.”

Tell us more. “Because Parish Wines is set in such a residential area, we thought this would be a really great way for us to reach members of the community. So I started by seeking out people I know who live in the area and asked them to do a one-hour playlist and send it to me with a link on Spotify, along with a picture and what they love about living here. We get to learn about our community – what ticks their boxes – plus we gather a load of great music, almost crowd-sourcing it, to put into our playlists in the shop.”

Are there complications with licensing or other considerations? “We just pay PRS as everyone does, so it doesn’t affect music licensing. My background has taught me that music is a really important part of the experience as a whole and we’ve installed Sonos speakers to allow us to play the music with a nice, clear definition. “Getting the volume right is very important: it sets the tone for how the tables behave. If it’s too quiet, people think they have to whisper, but at the same time it shouldn’t be so loud that you have to project your voice to be heard.”

Jack wins 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

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2020 22


Win an £800 meal for your team with an Aster promotion

Kill the Cat, London bringing customers into the store without visiting the store

How do you carry on the art of the hand-sell if the shop’s been forced to close or customers aren’t able to visit when it’s reopened? The answer for east London beer shop Kill the Cat – the name derives from the popular saying about curiosity – was to make it a

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. To participate, simply plan any kind of digital campaign promoting Aster Crianza (and Finca el Otero if you like).

virtual experience. Customers can fill out a form on the website to book a one-to-one video call. They get a link to click on at the time of the call, during which they get a phone-walk round the shop to choose some beers, just as they would if they were in the shop. The beers can be delivered in three to five days or held for collection.

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

The mission The business has also been conducting virtual tastings – its record for an open tasting is 74 people – but the video call set-up takes things a step further, providing a personal shopping service with a direct lead into sales. Kill the Cat’s Dan Sandy says: “We wanted a way to keep that in-Cat experience alive. The customer gets shown round the shelves by me and we pick out a selection of beers together. Within five minutes of the call we send them a cart to complete the payment and either apply postage or mark it for collection. It’s quite simple and works really well.” The impact Footfall and planned in-store purchases have taken more of a nosedive at central London locations than many other places during lockdown and its aftermath, so the video call service has managed to bring people back into the store without them being in the store. “While we also want more customers, it’s proved very useful for some of our regulars who live outside or on the fringes of London,” adds Sandy. “It’s been a great addition to our offering, and we’ll keep running it as long as folks are into it. We were a little anxious before launching as to how it would work but I have to say it’s worked better than anticipated.”

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2020 23


bottle with ever y 12-bottle case of Aster Crianza



English wine finds export success Exports of UK wine doubled from 2018 to 2019 to around 550,000 bottles, according to trade body WineGB and the Department for International Trade. Exports constituted one tenth of the total

premiumisation of existing brands

including Grant Burge, St Hallett, Hardys and Petaluma.

The Shout, September 4

5.5m bottles of UK wine sold in 2019, with Norway, the US, Canada and Australia the

Alastair Wighton Alteus Wines Crowborough Favourite wine on my list It has to be the Tokara Reserve Collection Cabernet Sauvignon. Classic Stellenbosch Cab done so beautifully – dark fruit, cassis, vanilla and spice; intense and so well balanced.

four biggest destinations.

Sparkling styles have led the way and

UK government officials highlighted

English wine as a success story that could

benefit from post-Brexit trade deals being negotiated with several countries. Decanter, September 8

Favourite wine and food match I always enjoy a slightly off-dry Alsace Riesling such as a Grand Cru Kirchberg or Wiebelsberg paired with lightly spiced Asian food. Then again there’s always a 20 year old Tawny Port paired with Comté cheese ... Favourite wine trip Burgundy, visiting Puligny Montrachet for the first time and seeing the fabled vineyards of Chassagne/Puligny/Meursault was truly special. My wife and I get back most years and a highlight is always cycling through the vineyards of the Côte de Beaune and Côte de Nuits. Favourite wine trade person It’s about the winemakers for me as they make the magic. I’ve been lucky enough to meet so many talented people so far but my stand-out has to be Albert Seltz down in Mittelbergheim in Alsace – stunning wines, so welcoming and a remarkable character. Favourite wine shop A little place in Beaune called Vinobaum. We only get down there once a year or so but always get a warm welcome, bespoke tastings and they even shared their lunch with us last time we were down there!

Wilson: Plumpton graduate

Windmill winery hopes for sales Wine writer Chris Wilson has set up Cambridge’s first urban winery. Joining Petaluma and Grant Burge stable

Accolade moves for Katnook Estate Accolade Wines has agreed a deal with Wingara Wine Group for the acquisition of Katnook Estate Coonawarra, including brand, winery, cellar door and approximately 160 hectares of premium vineyards on the famed terra rossa soils of the Coonawarra in south east South Australia. The heritage of the historic Katnook

winery stretches back to 1896. Accolade

CEO Robert Foye said the deal underpins the group’s global expansion and the

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2020 24

Called Gutter & Stars Wines, the little

winery is housed in the basement of a

Grade II listed windmill less than a mile from the centre of Cambridge.

With an oenology degree from Plumpton

College and practical winemaking

experiences in California, Germany and

the UK, Wilson said that he’d been keen

to start his own winemaking venture “for some time”.

He will be sourcing fruit from Missing

Gate Vineyard in Essex.

The wines will be very small batch

productions, with about 2,000 bottles in total produced in the first year and with

that number increasing over the following years.

The Drinks Business, September 1

Drinking ‘halves’ in lockdown period



How are you managing to source interesting new wines?

The reps are starting to come back around now. I’ve seen four in the last week. Some of the suppliers we deal with have been fabulous with sending out samples, so if I know I’m looking for something in particular I just send a couple of emails and I get samples at the right price point. I would say the pricing is quite keen at the moment as it’s quite competitive out there. I’ve been able to buy quite a bit from various companies that they’d normally be selling to the on-trade, and that’s been really useful.

The overall UK consumption of alcohol halved during lockdown, data from Nielsen has suggested, despite staggering sales rises through the supermarkets. The total volume of alcohol sold during

lockdown (the 17 weeks to July 11) fell to 1.3bn litres, down from 2bn the previous

year, data from Nielsen Scantrack and the

CGA found, despite value sales through the major retailers rising £1.9bn.

With the on-trade remaining shut, the

overall volume of alcohol bought in the

UK was far lower than last year, despite the increase in value. Sales of booze in supermarkets during the four-month period hit £7.7bn.

Nielsen’s Gemma Cooper said that

Gill Mann Jaded Palates, Ashburton and Chagford

I like to go to the portfolio tastings and that’s where I’d get my new wines. I look forward to them – that’s the best part of the job! The suppliers have been very good. I’ve just had two bottles in from North South Wines and that’s the way I’m going to have to go from now on. The reps have been furloughed, but they are starting to come out of the woodwork again. I’ve not really needed many new wines as we’ve been selling a choice of cases, but after a bit you get bored of selling the same wines.

Barry Howarth Lancaster Wine Company

around 46% of booze sold in the UK was

sold through the on-trade. Although spend

had shifted to the off-trade, it was not

All I’ve really been able to do is trawl through some of my better lists and ask for samples to be sent. Since the start of lockdown I must have listed about 40 new wines, just through doing that. A good way to continue engaging with people was not to keep going back with the same old, same old. One or two suppliers have sent samples when I’ve asked. Enotria have been absolutely brilliant, I can’t praise them highly enough. When people have gone the extra mile to help you, who are you going to be loyal to when it’s all over?

enough to make up for the shortfall. The Drinks Business, September 7

Sixteen new MWs join the ranks

The Institute of Masters of Wine has

Euan McNicoll McNicoll & Cairnie, Broughty Ferry

announced 16 new MWs. Based in nine different countries,

the new MWs are Mike Best (UK), Nick Bielak (UK), Beans Boughton (UAE),

Duane Coates (Australia), Jacqueline Cole

Blisson (Canada), Róisín Curley (Ireland), Tracey Dobbin (France), Heidi Hansen

(Norway), Christophe Heynen (Belgium),

Annette Lacey (Australia), Ido Lewinsohn

(Israel), William Lowe (UK), Geoffrey Moss

(Canada), Ray O’Connor (UK), Adam Porter (UK) and Louise Wilson (Canada).

There are now 409 MWs based in 30


I think we’ve found our suppliers have been quite forthcoming with samples, within reason. They’ve also been suggesting stuff on special offer and things like that. As they’re coming off furlough, reps are slowly coming back and I’ve got some dates in the diary for reps to come in and taste some wines with us. I had one tasting with a supplier a couple of weeks ago and it was very straightforward. We distanced carefully – it just takes common sense, really. Nick Beedle The Beckford Bottle Shop, Tisbury

Champagne Gosset The oldest wine house in Champagne: Äy 1584, August 28

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2020 25

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Phrases for the new winemaking age The lexicon of wine evolves all the time as producers find new ways to enthuse, entertain and even fool us. David Williams suggests some useful updates for anyone considering putting together a modern winemaking phrasebook


he Winemaker’s Essential

Al dente

Phrasebook is one of my favourite

This culinary term first came to my

wine books, an endearingly

unfussy and practical tome that, as the title suggests, provides the English, French,

German, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese for hundreds of different wine terms.

Before the advent of reliable mobile

internet, the Phrasebook was the place to turn if you wanted to know the German

for malolactic fermentation or the Italian

for crushing (Biologischer Säureabbau and pigiatura, in case you were wondering) ahead of a trip into wine country.

I still use my own dog-eared copy even

now, but it’s getting on a little. And it could perhaps do with a little bit of an overhaul

to add some new terms that have emerged in an industry that has changed a great

deal since the dictionary was published by Mitchell Beazley in the early 2000s.

In case anyone reading this wants to take

on the job of reviving this wonderful little book for the 2020s, here are a few of my favourite recent coinages.

attention in a viticultural context via the wine writer Margaret Rand, who was

grapes, it will generally call for another

wine term that didn’t exist 20 years ago to describe the sensual sensation: crunchy.

quoting a winemaker in Toro – the hot,


of techniques to rein in the unfashionably

article (the Urban Dictionary definition is

dry Spanish region where winemakers are

A term with a graphic etymology that I

high power and alcohol with which it has

particularly, erm, engaging), spoofulated

currently experimenting with any number become synonymous.

It refers to a particular stage of ripeness,

when the grapes are still able to provide a bit of bite, be it from acidity or slightly tough (if not green) tannin, and before

they make the transition into soft, sweet, billowing full ripeness.

I like it because I think it sums up better

than any other term an increasingly dominant approach to winemaking, especially red winemaking, where

freshness and drinkability are every bit as important as flavour per se.

See also, Crunchy: Al dente grapes may

only provide a portion of the final blend. But when the cuvée is 100% just-ripe

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2020 28

actually hadn’t twigged before writing this began to crop up in wine circles in the

mid-to-late 2000s as a pejorative term for over-manipulated, over-ripe wines.

The etymology (that I’m too coy to

describe here, but think of the related,

Boris Johnson-endorsed term, spaffing)

is important as it gets to the heart of the

term’s utility in withering critiques of the excesses of Big Wine. It’s the idea that

there’s something crassly priapic about

wines where everything is dialled up to

the amp-blowing max – something a touch pornographic about wines that have been subject to the ameliorative surgery of

Continues page 30

Š yanatamashova /

i think i'd rather be claywashed than have another glass of something so crassly priapic!

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2020 29

© wacomka /


From page 28

powdered tannins, Megapurple and all the rest.

But there’s also something tactile about

the word – as you say it you can almost feel the gloopy texture of a spoofulated wine. See also: Boardroom wines and

spreadsheet wines, which both cut to the coldly detached and formulaic decisionmaking origins of spoofulated wines.

Pink enough for you?


Let’s say you were presiding over a

producer of spoofulated wines, and wanted to change your winery’s image. How could

In a visit to Georgia, one winemaker

There was a certain resentment, too, that

you do that without actually changing too

described this as “clay washing”. But I

the colour required for modern rosé should

that had cost you so much to acquire when

the amphora as the vessel for the limited

disdain that come out so well in a sentence

much about your production, specifically getting rid of all those French barriques

your consultant winemaker was still telling you they were essential? How does a large winery get hip on the cheap, in other words?

Well one very effective way is to invest in

a few amphorae. You don’t have to buy very many. You can still carry on making the

oaky wines that, as unfashionable as they

may be with the geeks, continue to sell very well to your actual customers. You only

need to make a very small amount of clay-

fermented wine, about which you can make a load of distracting noise to get enough

of the right people to say your winery “is really doing something interesting and innovative here”.

am hoping to spread my own coinage for

those times when a concrete egg replaces hipster cuvée: concreting over. Pastellisation

A term I came across on a visit to the

be so strongly associated with a rival

southern French region – a resentment and where “pastellisation” comes shortly after “banalisation”.

Languedoc a couple of years ago and haven’t heard since.

But it deserves its place in any modern

vinous phrasebook for succinctly summing up the story of rosé wine of the past two

decades, suggesting as it does, the clinical (cynical?) process of leaching pigment

from the vast majority of pink wines to fit in with buyer and consumer demand.

That Languedoc winemaker couldn’t

hide a certain disdain for drinkers who would choose only on colour.

There’s something tactile about the word spoofy – as you say it you can almost feel the gloopy texture In need of an update

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2020 30


. T H E D R AY M A N .

Where beer is a four-letter word


ondon’s new wave of 21st century independent breweries

it’s really hard, man, when you’ve got three different people’s

are being slowly picked off by global players. Camden

water to work with and you can’t sleep in the fermentation

Town, Meantime, London Fields, Fourpure and

cellar,” he says.

Beavertown have all been sold, whole or in part.

Having been there, Brown is wary of the way multinationals

Pete Brown – not to be confused with the beer writer of the

same name – knows how that goes, having worked for two of

don the clothes of independent brewing. “The intention is to squash out people like us,” he says. “In

those since arriving in the UK five years ago. He’s now a robust

a younger market when everybody’s really excited about craft

champion of London brewing independence with his own Forest

products it’s really deceptive to sneak in and pretend that’s what

Road brewery – motto “Not putting fruit in beer since 2015.”

they are.”

Brown began home-brewing in a one-bed apartment in


Queens, New York City, in 2008, then worked for the Wynkoop

he new Forest Road will stretch its ambitions beyond the current line-up of Posh lager, Work IPA and Easy

brewpub in Denver and moved to the UK in 2015. He took a degree in biochemistry at the University of Westminster and a brewing diploma and was hired by James Garstang at Camden Town. Now, Garstang is Brown’s head brewer at Forest Road, named after the Hackney location of the house where Brown recommenced home brewing once in the

pale, adding Juno, a turbocharged, big-hopped IPA

that’s crystal clear, instead of hipsterly hazy. “I’m into haze if it’s in control but you can make fabulous

beers that are clear,” insists Brown. After that there’ll be wood-aged barley wines and porters. It’s not the rule that everything has to have a four-letter name, but

UK. Until now, he’s been using numerous contract brewers, but all that will change in early 2021 as he turns anhistoric former tea factory in Bermondsey into Forest Road’s first permanent home. “People make fun of you when you’re a contract brewer, but

it helps. “It was never intentional, but it’s worked out that way and become a visual marker. We had a beer called Pitch, but it didn’t quite fit around the can.”

Marcel and Abbi Moreno

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2020 31

Rathfinny’s vineyards are three miles from the Channel

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2020 32

Sussex by the sea Rathfinny Estate’s location is certainly spectacular. But the landscape also turns out to be ideal for viticulture, and that terroir shines through in its four current releases


athfinny Estate looks like it was

always designed for English wine production.

Nestled in the South Downs, in East

Sussex, the sunniest corner of mainland

Britain, its chalky, south-facing vineyards are three miles from the sea: a distance apparently recommended by Roman viticulturalists.

The breezes from the English Channel

help keep the vines healthy and the fruit fresh, and the estate is protected from

livelier winds by a conveniently located escarpment to the south west.

Sarah and Mark Driver

Ten years ago, Rathfinny was an arable

farm, until Mark and Sarah Driver saw

its potential as a place where they could

fulfil their dream of producing world-class sparkling wine.

Establishing a wine business on this sort

of scale takes meticulous planning and

heroic levels of patience. What if, after all that build-up, the wines had failed to live up to the fanfare?

Mark Driver chuckles at the question:

the answer had been provided well before the inaugural 2014 release began its

bottle ageing. “You could taste the quality

The award-winning winery building

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2020 33

in the base wines,” he says. “It was just spectacular.”

Critics are in agreement, with journalists

and sommeliers united in praise for

Rathfinny’s maiden releases as well as those that have followed.

The four most recently-released

Rathfinny Estate sparkling wines on the

market are Blanc de Blancs 2016, Classic

Cuvée 2016 and Blanc de Noirs 2016 – all

from a year with a memorably long Indian summer – and Rosé 2017.

Continues overleaf

Winemaker Jonathan Médard


Rathfinny Blanc de Blancs 2016 RRP £38.00

For an estate that focuses so strongly on Pinot Noir, it was quite a statement for Rathfinny to make a Blanc de Blancs one of its first launches in 2014.

Chardonnay has been thriving in Rathfinny’s vineyards and emerges clean, fresh and

elegant, with the ripeness of a warm 2016 autumn adding depth and richness.

Brand ambassador Rob Buckhaven notes the citrus element to the nose: not just lemon,

but lemon curd, and even a whiff of buttered croissant. “It’s got that fresh bakery note to it

and that’s testament to three years on its lees,” he adds. There’s also a saline twist towards the finish, perhaps a hallmark of the sea breezes that keep the vineyards disease-free in those crucial final weeks.

Like all Rathfinny sparklers, Blanc de Blancs is put through malolactic fermentation to

round off its acidity, but dosage has been pegged at just 4g. “Dosage is like a seasoning,” maintains Mark Driver. “It’s just there to enhance what we’ve already got. If you can try and keep the dosage down, it seems to increase the length of the wine and provides a certain transport mechanism for other flavours in the mouth.”

Rathfinny Classic Cuvée 2016 RRP £29.50

This is the wine that’s seen as Rathfinny’s calling card and 2016 was regarded by the team as the first year when all the stars came into alignment in its creation.

“It’s a vintage wine, and that sets us apart from other houses,” says Mark Driver. “I feel

it’s great to reflect what has happened throughout the year.

“The other thing that makes our Classic Cuvée different is that it’s predominantly a

Pinot Noir – it’s 57% of the blend, along with 22% Chardonnay and 21% Pinot Meunier. “It’s been aged for 36 months on the lees in the bottle. To me it’s already drinking so

well. It’s got lovely expressions of red fruits, as you would expect, but also lovely red orchard apples and toasty notes, as well and all those lovely autolytic characters.”

He adds: “I love Champagne that is predominantly Pinot Noir: things like Bollinger and

Pol Roger are the classic examples. To me this really smacks of it. It’s already quite well developed but it’s also got great ageing potential as well.”

The Classic Cuvée is another successful food wine, its deep earthy tones providing an

interesting match for umami flavours.

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2020 34

Rathfinny Blanc de Noirs 2016 RRP £38.00

According to Rob Buckhaven, this is “the wine that Mark always wanted to make”: a homage to the rich Bollinger style, but with a distinct Sussex accent.

Made predominantly from Pinot Noir, “the red fruit practically jumps out of the glass”.

“This was a wine I was so tempted to release with a zero dosage,” says Mark Driver,

“because when you taste this after it’s been disgorged it has this incredible, really ripe

fruit and lovely controlled acidity. You add just that little bit of sugar, in this case it’s only 3g, and it just helps round it off and enhances that fruit character.”

Pinot Noir accounts for around 45% of the vineyard area and is clearly at home in this

Champagne-like terroir. (It’s also the grape of choice for the resident badgers.)

The wine is a Driver family favourite with lamb and venison but can handle itself well

with spicy food and Asian dishes. It’s also earned a reputation as an ideal wine to go

with afternoon tea – a theory that has been put to the test successfully by the Ritz and Dorchester hotels.

Rathfinny Rosé 2017 RRP £36.00

Despite challenging conditions across Europe for winemakers, Rathfinny was delighted with the quality of its 2017 wines. “There was a horrible spring frost, which really devastated the vineyards from Rioja all the way to England,” says Mark Driver.

“Luckily, because of our slope and our vicinity to the sea, we were able to survive three

nights of what was the worst frost event for something like 26 years and we sustained damage to less than 1% of our vines.

“The summer was nothing to write home about, but the autumn was spectacular. We

had temperatures in the late 30s. We weren’t picking until right at the end of October, so I feel you’ve got some of the most developed fruit flavours we were able to achieve.”

Rathfinny will typically age rosé wines for two years in the bottle. “We feel rosé should

be young and fresh; it should be fun,” says Driver. “You should be smelling those lovely summer fruits, raspberries and strawberries, those redcurrants and cranberries.”

Another wine that works well with afternoon tea (it’s served at the Savoy), the rosé is

a good match for many Thai and Indian dishes, as well as another Driver family favourite, rhubarb crumble.

• Feature sponsored by Rathfinny Estate. The wines are distributed by Gonzalez Byass UK. For more information visit or call 01323 870022.

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2020 35


Set in Stone Staffordshire turned out to be the ideal location for Francis Peel, who arrived at Whitebridge Wines via Chichester and Oxford. The business operates from a large warehouse on an old industrial estate, and counts surgeons and parish priests among its core customers, as Graham Holter discovers

Anthony Reynolds, July 2020 Harry Baines and Nick Tebbitts, two of the Whitebridge team

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2020 36



ike so many people in the wine trade, Francis Peel joined its

ranks “when I graduated from

university and realised I didn’t want to get a proper job”.

He recalls: “I used to drive up to London

and buy a couple of cases of wine from the cash and carry under London Bridge, and

Wigmore Wines, who were in that neck of the woods, and sell it to our local pub and my old college at university.”

Peel graduated from Oxford with

a degree in theology. “My father was

a parson and it was something I was

interested in, but more as an academic subject,” he says.

“After three years of studying it I decided

I definitely didn’t want to go into the

church – though it has always been an

Francis Peel runs the business with fellow director Kathy Howcroft

interest. One of the big things we do is

By Peel’s own admission, it’s nothing

one of the things that isn’t going so well at

to work with – roughly the equivalent of

communion wine. We supply about 3,000

churches with communion wine – which is the moment.”

How did Peel come to settle in Stone,

a small market town south of Stoke-onTrent?

“I was born in Blackpool; my father was

a school chaplain up there,” he says. “He

retired to the south coast near Chichester, so I spent a formative 10 years of my life there, then we moved to Oxford.

“When I originally set up, I had a

business partner and he came from Stokeon-Trent. After the Oxford company had

particularly special to look at. But inside

cases thinking, “gosh, will I ever sell it?”

10 squash courts. At any one time there’s

Italy and increasingly from Spain; we do

there’s a useful 7,000 square feet of space likely to be something like 750 lines on display.

“It’s quite TARDIS-like,” says Peel. “We’ve

laid it all out with the wine bottles laid

down; they are standing up around the

sides. We have a lot of surgeons, and they like to take their wine quite seriously –

they like to wander around and stroke the bottles.”

How much wine is directly shipped and

been going for three or four years, we saw

how much comes from UK agents?

year later bought the other half.

growers that we ship from.

this company, Whitebridge Wines, was

struggling and we bought half of it and a

“Then I moved up to run that and left my

brothers to run the Oxford business, which was called Value Wines. Whitebridge became bigger so we concentrated

everything up in Staffordshire where there aren’t so many wine merchants.”

The premises is situated on an old

industrial estate on the edge of the town.

I remember shipping a very tentative 25

IProbably more comes from the UK agents. I love Champagne and we have two small

and we’ve carried on selling their wines

ever since. We ship from Burgundy, from a lot of Cava from Castillo de Perelada.

I’d just shipped three pallets over when lockdown hit – it was supposed to be

for my daughter’s wedding, but that got postponed.

In the UK we deal with North South

Wines, Boutinot, Milestone, Seckford and

they provide me with the stuff we are not

shipping, and for the rest I would rather go out and source it myself.

Are you worried about what will happen after January with Brexit? Continues page 38

‘I used to drive up to London and buy a couple of cases from the cash and carry under London Bridge and sell it to our local pub and my old college’ THE WINE MERCHANT september 2020 37


From page 37

We have to try and make people listen. My local MP at work is Sir Bill Cash and my

home MP is Owen Pattison and the two of

them don’t respond to my entreaties to try

‘Selling something that I can find and pass on to my customers for under £10 is much more interesting to me than selling first growths’

and get some sense into the whole thing.

I think it’s going to be very, very difficult.

The pound was 1.17 at the beginning of

the year and it’s now 1.10, and that’s only

Probably about 70% wholesale. It’s

else. We have felt that we’ve done

What’s your plan?

communion wine.

pretty full on, going out to addresses that

going to get worse if we don’t get a deal. What we’ve done each time we’ve come

close to the cliff edge is ship a whole load

always difficult to know what you’d

count as wholesale. Probably about 15% How has your trade been over the past

something good and helped people out. We’ve got two vans and they’ve been

we’ve never been to before.

of stock in. It’s not ideal and January 1

few months?

In our recent reader survey, you said

to have to do that unless something is

I’d be down by 10% I’d have snapped their

I may be being slightly optimistic. It

general public. We’ve been sending out a


is not when you want to be sitting on a

I would say down by about 10%. When

you are hopeful of retaining about 75%

resolved. I always had this belief that the

arm off.

depends what you mean by retain – if you

whole load of stock, but I think we’re going government knew what it was doing but

the older I get and the more we go down this route, you think, well, actually they haven’t got a clue what they are doing. How much of your business would

typically be retail versus wholesale?

lockdown started, if someone had told me

We’ve had a very good response from the

newsletter every week with special cases on it. We’ve sold over 500 cases like that.

It’s something we should have been doing

ages ago – it’s focused our minds. We were too busy with the trade and everything

of your new customers.

mean retain them in the same way, possibly They might not be buying on a weekly

basis: they may buy once a month or once every six months or they might just come to us for weddings and parties.

I think, of the people who have come to

us, there seems to have been a genuine

feeling of wanting to change their buying patterns. Had lockdown gone on for only two or three weeks, then I don’t think

people would have changed their buying patterns.

Have you seen an increase in sales of wines under £10? I think often people didn’t realise that

we do supply wine at a fiver a bottle. I’ve

always been quite keen on going to my big suppliers in the UK and asking if they’ve

got something with a bit of tartrate crystal in it or whatever … it might be that we can sell it to people.

We had a wonderful one once from

Boutinot – a Pinotage that had Chenin

Wines are available for surgeons to fondle

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2020 38

Blanc on the back label and so we managed


Francis Peel with wife Patti

to buy a couple of pallets of that. If people

was a very exciting moment. It was very

very wrong. But we are blessed to have

back – it was a real bargain”.

Bonhams took it on but Christie’s wouldn’t

bottlenecks so we can easily have 20 or 30

are having a dinner party, they love to say, “I’ve got this, it’s got Chenin Blanc on the I find it much more interesting to find

something that I can sell at that price. We

do a lot of Loire wines at about £9 a bottle.

You can’t re-invent Mouton-Rothschild, can you?

I once had an exciting moment when

sadly one of my customers died and

his children asked me to look through his cellar. There was loads of absolute

rubbish like some Cinzano magnums and

difficult getting someone to buy it because of provenance. I knew it was genuine. touch it!

I’m not really in the fine wine market. For

the first time in years I have just bought en primeur claret because I think it was

How many people work for you?

beginning of this and he said you need to

my customers for under £10 is much more You seem to be enjoying making the

It’s quite fun, and people seem to enjoy it.

of Mouton ’45, just sitting there – that

the social distancing.

interesting to me than selling first growths.

something that I can find and pass on to

pulled out something and started to

scrape of the dust and found two bottles

people in at a time without compromising

We bubbled. I’ve got a friend who runs

Facebook videos for customers.

I got down to the very bottom rung,

some changes and removed some of the

looking like good value for once. Selling

things and then I found a little lock-up bit underneath the stairs.

such an enormous space and we’ve made

It’s the thespian in me I suppose – I’ve

always enjoyed the sound of my own voice! It was tricky when we couldn’t let

people into the warehouse – that felt

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2020 39

a nursing home up in Yorkshire and I remember talking to him right at the

split your team into two. So my wife [Patti] and I work three days a week and I have

three others working the other three days.

I’m happily sitting here at home working in the office, but not in the office.

Continues page 40


From page 39

Are customers being as diligent with their Covid precautions? Most of our customers are pretty good. The ones who are most at risk are generally the least careful – when they wear their masks they tend to wear them around their chin.

The only other people who seem to be a bit careless are the surgeons!

In terms of what you like to drink – what wines excite you at the moment? I’ve always been a Francophile at heart

and I love Champagne. I have a lot of time for Spain and Italy. I’m quite keen on

Chilean wine. Not too keen on American – when Rees-Mogg told us from the House of Commons that we don’t need to be

drinking European wine because there’s

plenty of Californians … they don’t really

float my boat. Too expensive and too fullon, really.

they were big into Fairtrade, if they could

Is it big business for you?

have red and white because the Roman

off because they have withdrawn the

make a communion wine. It has to have

We’re selling about 40,000 bottles a year.

Catholics prefer white – it’s all down to


100g of residual sugar and you have to

transubstantiation – a long story there.

I tried to get the South Africans to do it

initially, but they weren’t interested. There was a cooperative in Chile that agreed to do it for us, but the minimum order was 10,000 six-bottle cases.

If you ship 10,000 six-bottle cases of

Chablis and you can’t get it to market,

it’s fine, you just reduce the price. But if

you have something with 100g RS and a

crucifix on the front, it’s not so easy to sell

That was increasing but that has dropped This is exactly what happened with

swine flu, we lost it for nine months, but this is going to be worse.

I can’t see when it will come back

properly. It all has to come out of a single chalice – the Methodists have little shot glasses and I think that’s the only way. I

keep writing letters to the archbishop, who doesn’t respond.

How do you begin to wholesale to the

if it doesn’t work out.

Church community?

receivership in 2008 and luckily Stellar

churches direct.

It worked really well until unfortunately

the cooperative in Chile went into

agreed to take it over and actually, they are a much better producer. So the quality of

communion wine has got markedly better.

The Church has absolutely no centralised buying whatsoever. We just go to the If you make a commitment to be

Fairtrade, then you buy Fairtrade wherever you can. Most churches are Fairtrade and

What about spirits? We do a range of spirits. I prefer proper

spirits – whiskies and Armagnacs, Cognacs and things that have been aged properly. We haven’t gone down the gin route. To

me most of it is flavoured vodka. Danny Cameron [at Dyfi Distillery, in Wales] makes proper gin.

We do have a wall of vintage Armagnacs

but it’s very difficult to get hold of vintage

Cognac. The reason we’ve done Armagnac

is that it’s anniversary vintages and it’s my pension fund. We’ve always worked with Frapin on Cognac.

Tell us about the communion wine. I was fed up with the quality of communion wine. I was the server in our church and if the vicar doesn’t finish it the server has to

glug it down – it all has to be finished – and there was some pretty ropey stuff.

Back in 2007 I asked Ehrmanns, because

The floor area is equivalent to about 10 squash courts

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2020 40


we are the only Fairtrade communion wine.

We’ve been doing it for over 10 years

so we’ve built up a good relationship with Stellar. We’re just going to have to suck it

and see, and hope that the Bishops Council come to a satisfactory conclusion that

allows people to go back to church and

‘They have withdrawn the chalice. The Methodists have little shot glasses and I think that’s the only way. I keep writing letters to the archbishop’

take communion.

Is there any ritual involved in making

communion wine?

All that you want is that it will be sweet

Do you have it on your shelf as Yes. People come in to buy their case of

what they call Father Ted, because they like it.

The red is made from super-ripe Ruby

Cabernet and the white is made from

Muscat and Chenin Blanc. We’re selling it at £7 a bottle and if you like a sweet wine, it is pretty drinkable.

I’ve put it on at a blind tasting dinner

and surprised people by telling them it’s a communion wine.

communion wine? No, all the ritual happens in the church.

because of the longevity thing. Initially it was 15% because it was lightly fortified.

Once you go over 15% you are paying the

extra duty. The South African authorities said that if it was fortified it had to be up

to 16% – so we had to reduce the alcohol

a bit more free time and this is something that the whole Covid-19 thing has done.

I’m now working three days a week from

home – I enjoy that, I find I get more done. It’s been an interesting lesson to learn.

I might do a little bit less over the years.

Since the children grew up and left home, we’ve been able to travel more.

How are you handling trade accounts

level to about 12.5% and I was worried

and credit terms?

need it to last for a couple of months. I was

you can, but you certainly keep a closer eye

because in a small church, if you are

We have a lot of our trade accounts paid

worried that dropping the alcohol content

on it.

opening a bottle of communion wine you would affect the longevity.

It’s the sugar that’s the antioxidant so

we keep opening bottles and assessing

them over a few weeks. The winemaker

from Stellar came over a couple of years ago and I asked him to taste and guess

when a bottle was opened. He said, “two

for by credit card – you try and help where It’s going to be a challenge but I’m quite

impressed how the on-trade are coping at the moment. Even the small restaurants

are now beginning to come back and they all seem to be relatively positive.

How are you discovering new stuff – are

weeks ago”, but I’d opened it five months

you able to keep an eye on trends?

Is it possible to plan ahead just now?

down. The UK suppliers are pretty good


We’ve found quite a lot of new wines at

Where might the business be in five

at sending samples if you say you’re

years? The trade is gradually coming back at the

moment, but I am worried about wedding venues; they are really up against it.

We will concentrate more on the public.

I’ve got a very good team and my landlord’s son has just joined us on the sales side. He was at Majestic in London, and Avery’s.

My children have all got their own jobs

and none of them will come and take over. I’m certainly not retiring just yet. When

you’ve done this job for 35 years, you want

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2020 41

tastings before things started to shut

interested in particular things. Despite

lockdown we’ve brought in quite a few new wines.

I think tastings are possible if you limit

the numbers and even give them time slots and maybe go round the room in a certain direction. I can’t see why that can’t be managed.

You can manage for six months – that’s

not a problem, but if next spring if we can’t go out and taste, that’s going to have an impact.

What a Chilean range can do


a standardised FMCG. They are a solid listing that meets many

Pictured: Los Lingues in Colchagua (Casa Silva)

a customer’s weekday needs. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

In other words: consumers are unlikely to get bored of a

wine category which has diversified enormously in the past five years. Argentinian Malbec has never had such a broad

David Williams makes some suggestions for independent wine merchants who are looking to add some extra spice to their Chilean selection

range of winemaking styles and price points, from the almost Syrah-like herb-etched fine wine wildness of PerSe to the

consistent entry-level excellence of Trapiche’s Melodias; and from the highland depth and power of Colomé up in Salta’s Calchaquí Valley, to the silky polish of Patagonia’s Bodega Noemia.

THE LADDER CAN WORK Another criticism of Chile’s big wineries concerns a

sometimes-formulaic approach to branding. It’s the idea that every range must satisfy a place on the marketing

department’s grid: six varietal wines (the usual international suspects, please) at £7 plus six reservas at £11 made with

exactly six months’ oak treatment from the same six varieties plus three super-premium (£19.99) wines with 12 months’ oak made from the winemaker’s choice of variety (must contain at least one Cabernet and one Chardonnay) etc.

It’s true that this approach lacks a bit (OK, a lot) of creativity,

START FROM A POSITION OF STRENGTH Chile has been dogged by allegations of competence for years. This supposed criticism has always seemed a little baffling to

me. I mean, really, when did making consistently popular, wellpriced, well-made varietal wines become problematic? And

why do so many Chilean winemakers still seem so sheepish

about what is still arguably their country’s biggest strength? No matter: I’ve never been all that sure how much the

public shares the trade and specialist press’s slightly sneering

attitude to Chile’s ability to pump out attractively fruity wines

just above the entry point without resorting to excess sugar or

manipulation. As far as I can gather, people still like them. They still trust them. And so, even if you think they’re terminally

unhip, it seems silly – counterproductive – to do without them. Which is not to say, of course, that all Chilean varietal

ranges are equal. Chilean producers may have mastered the

art of consistency-verging-on-(in a good way)-predictability, but they’re not automatons. The best in the around £6 to £7

region – which, for me, include Santa Carolina’s Las Condes;

but it seems slightly odd to single out Chile for criticism here. Do Rioja winemakers get it in the neck for making a jovén, a crianza, a reserva and a gran reserva, accompanied by a

similarly sliding pricing scale? Or Burgundian negociants for working their way up the pricing gears from AC Bourgogne, via villages to premiers and grands crus? In both cases it’s

just seen as “tradition”, a magic word that makes everything in European wine marketing OK.

The thing about those rigidly formed ladders is that,

when the brand knows what it’s doing and the wine quality isn’t compromised, they work. They are a helpful guide for

consumers just beginning to take the first big step into wine appreciation, and understanding what spending a bit more

cash brings – more flavour, usually, and more texture, but also, in the best examples, more elegance and flair. Chile has got

rather good at this level, too, with reserve tier wines from the

likes of Errazuriz, DeMartino and Tabalí among the best-value wines of any origin currently available in the UK market.

Montgras Aura; and Santa Rita 120 – feel like wine, rather than

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2020 43

Continues page 44


From page 43



That isn’t a sentence I would have imagined writing 20, 15 or

That Chile is much more heterogeneous than it’s ever been

featured very young vines.

a much wider range of winemaking approach, too, a stylistic

even 10 years ago. At each of those points, the great Chilean

vineyard diversification project was either just beginning or

Now that many of the new vines have matured, however, a

wine industry that was once overwhelmingly concentrated in the Central Valley is able tell the story of the country’s

extraordinary geography, of that famously long, thin strip that transforms from the Antarctic to the world’s driest desert

along its 3,000 miles, with seemingly every variation of climate and terrain in between.

That means a country that once struggled with

differentiation and regional identity now makes a superb place to take a crash course in the effects of terroir.

You can do this with a grape variety, as Viña Ventisquero did

in a recent tasting of its range of Pinot Noirs, showing marked differences between Casablanca, Leyda and, most astonishing and promising of all, right up in the Atacama Desert.

But, although none of Chile’s regions is as yet exclusively

tied to a single variety, you could also tell the country’s story through varieties that seem to thrive in specific places, be it

Maule Carignan, Itata País, Maipo Cabernet, Aconcagua Costa

Pinot and Chardonnay, San Antonio Riesling, Leyda Sauvignon … the list is long and getting longer.

isn’t simply down to the thousands of hectares of new

vineyards, or the greater varietal diversity found there. There’s experimentation that is hugely exciting, even if it is still very

small in scale, and has made only a sporadic impression on the UK market so far.

Some of the most exciting recent projects are led by wineries

that have explicitly looked back to the country’s surprisingly rich vinous history (well, it’s surprising to those of us who

had only known the country’s wines through its mass-market arrival on the export scene from the 1990s onwards).

Among my favourites is J Bouchon’s remarkable work with

100-year-old País vines for its Salvaje label. Produced from plants that have grown wild from seed in forests near the

Bouchon family vineyards in the Maule Valley, and fermented

and aged in clay tinajas, the red and (blanc de noirs) white are, as the name suggests, brilliantly, deliciously wild.

DeMartino and Mauricio Gonzalez are ploughing a similar

(and equally delicious) furrow with old Muscat and País

vines in the Itata Valley, while Santa Carolina’s investigation of old pre-phylloxera vines and bygone methods has found remarkable expression in its Luis Perreira Cabernet. And

Bodegas RE’s collection of old vines and amphora- and floraged wines is among the most excitingly eclectic in South America.

These are just a few examples of a new wave of Chilean wines, each as far from the country’s traditional

strengths as it’s possible to get. Are the two in conflict? I

don’t see why they should be. That Chile is these days able

to appeal to the novice and the nerd has to be a good thing.

Or, to adapt that popular meme about boyfriends: why not

get yourself a wine country that can do both?

Continues page 46

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2020 44


Chile’s ‘perfect blank canvas’ Johnny Bingham of JNV believes the sky’s the limit for ambitious Chilean wine producers

“I think it’s the only country where you can produce

cool-climate whites and full bodied but balanced and well

acidified reds within a 90-mile distance of each other, with no compromise. They’re all very good and grown for a reason.”

The learning process is continuing, Bingham says, with the

most progressive growers still taking pains to truly understand


here’s no doubt that, for some consumers, Chile has a reputation for reliable but unremarkable wines. The kind of stuff that can be picked up in most

supermarkets, safe in the knowledge that it won’t cause offence.

What frustrates importers like Johnny Bingham of Casa Silva

importer Jackson Nugent Vintners is that some independent merchants share this “blind ignorance” about what Chile is now offering.

“I can’t understand it,” he says. “You talk to these really funky

people who have funky wines all over their shelves. Interesting

wines from Portugal, Spain, Italy, France, even Argentina … and they say they can’t really do Chile at £14 or £15.

“Some of them are so well-educated in terms of their

knowledge of wine, and engaging and easy to get on with, and you would have thought that their customers will listen to what they recommend.”

Bingham acknowledges that Chile is perhaps a victim of

their terroir and the varieties that best suit it. “The sky is the limit, it really is.”

So how much do consumers need to spend to tap into all this

creative energy? “The fun starts at £12,” Bingham says. “You

can really get some edge, a myriad of flavours and textures and complexity – maybe even something you won’t like, but which is going to be knockout for that region.

“You’re going to get that really strong expression, because

you can reduce the plot size, you can go smaller scale in the

winemaking – that’s where you’re going to get the really strong identity coming through.

“Every pound you spend more than that, it’s just

exponential: £15 wines are just astonishing. You go up to £20,

£25 and you’re getting more finesse, more precision, pure fruit and amazing complexity.”

One independent merchant who has definitely “seen the

light” with Chile is Duncan Murray, of Duncan Murray Wines in Market Harborough. But that isn’t exactly a new development. “It began, I suppose, in my Oddbins days,” he says.

“You had the cheap Sauvignons and Merlots but actually the

its own “big-scale marketing” and UK-bottled supermarket-

other end, like Errazuriz and the posh ones which were £20,

“perfect blank canvas” that Chilean winemakers can work

that are £30 or more, are flying. If you put together a mixed

friendly brands.

What excites him – and other Chile afficionados – is the

from, and the results this is producing.

“Every single winemaker, producer and grower has got this

perfect scenario,” he says.

“There’s an amazing selection of terroirs. As soon as people

begin to look at these smaller areas, the range and diversity is off the scale. I’m not just talking about these expensive clones and plots – just the general production.

were just out of this world.

“Some of the stuff we get from Johnny Bingham, things

case and you bang in one of these bottles, one of these £36

Carmeneres, I’d say 99% of the time people come back and say, shit, that was good. They are fruitier than Bordeaux, but they are on a par … and just exciting.

“We had a tasting with him outside the shop last Friday and

we were using the drain as a spittoon. It created a nice buzz on the street.”

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2020 46

Chile’s most important grape

Chile crushed 2.5m tonnes of

varieties, in terms of volume, are

grapes in 2018, according to figures

Cabernet Sauvignon (302m

from the International Organisation

litres produced in 2018, according

of Vine & Wine. Seventy per cent of

to Statista), Sauvignon Blanc

that total went into wine production.

(147m litres), Merlot (132m litres),

Neighbouring Argentina crushed

Chardonnay (101m litres) and

2.7m tonnes, 94% of which was

Carmenere (77.5m litres).

accounted for by wine producers.

Chile’s winemakers are enthusiastically exploring highaltitude vineyard sites. In the semi-arid Elqui region, vineyards are planted at heights of more than 2km in areas that enjoy 320 days of sunshine per year – but can also experience 20cm of snow.

Viña Errazuriz MAX VIII

Created in celebration of Errazuriz's 150th Anniversary, Max VIII highlights the very best that Chile's Aconcagua Valley can offer. Crafted from grapes from each of the eight ‘Max' vineyards, it's a perfect example of Chile's more elegant styles. For further details please contact sole UK agent: Hatch Mansfield · · 01344 871800 ·

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2020 47


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THE WINE MERCHANT september 2020 48

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

0207 409 7276

Cognac Frapin celebrates 750 years 2020 marks the 750th anniversary of the Frapin family’s activities in Cognac, an almost unimaginable milestone for a family who are steeped in the history of the region. Still family owned, the company is today headed by the 21st generation.

Frapin is a true artisan vineyard-to-bottle Cognac producer which

handles every stage of the production process by hand. Every step, from

vine growing, winemaking, distillation, ageing and blending, plays a vital role in this process of producing fine and distinctive Cognacs. Frapin Millésime 1992 26 Years Old XO

Just 3,000 bottles of this Cognac were released from the vineyards

surrounding Château Fontpinot and aged exclusively in the Marie Frapin dry (attic) cellars. This connoisseurs’ Cognac has bold aromas of prune

and liquorice; the palate is initially fine and floral developing to a fuller rounder more fruity style in the glass.

Frapin Château Fontpinot XO 750th Anniversary Edition In homage to ancestors who have overseen the family vineyards for more

than seven centuries, Frapin has released an anniversary edition of its emblematic

Château Fontpinot XO. Fontpinot is an incredibly fine and elegant Cognac, delicious neat or over ice, and the perfect complement to dessert or a cheeseboard.

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THE WINE MERCHANT september 2020 49


richmond wine agencies

Beaujolais Villages Nouveau 2020 ‘Vignes de 1940’ Sans Sulfite Jean-Michel Dupré

The Links, Popham Close Hanworth Middlesex TW13 6JE

Jean-Michel Dupré is the fifth generation winemaker, now assisted by daughter

020 8744 5550



Cindy, on the outskirts of Beaujeu, the market town that gives its name to the region. His Beaujolais has always been made with minimal intervention to preserve the natural vibrant fruit

This year he is making a Natural

Beaujolais Villages Nouveau for

Richmond Wine Agencies without

the addition of sulphites or chemical

processes; a young wine is the perfect wine to enjoy the ripe and flattering juicy fruit character.

It is being made from an old vine parcel of organically farmed vines planted in

1940 in a plot of Beaujolais Villages that commands a beautiful view across to the church towers of Régnié and the hill of Brouilly.

This Natural Beaujolais Villages 2020 wine will be suitable for vegans and

vegetarians. Please contact us for price.

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

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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

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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

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

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2020 50

liberty wines 020 7720 5350


Spain’s local heroes

by David Gleave MW

With the largest area under vine in the world, Spain offers a wealth of spectacular sites and

intriguing grape varieties. Take, for example, these exciting new additions to our portfolio, whose hard work in the vineyard produces some of the country’s most distinctive wines.

Rafael Palacios has brought Godello to the world’s attention since moving to the

variety’s homeland of Valdeorras in 2004. Rafa works 32 vineyard parcels on steep granitic slopes with fragile old terraces in the remote Val do Bibei subzone. These factors combine to give wines of exceptional intensity. Javier Dominguez of Dominio do Bibei undertakes similarly ‘heroic viticulture’ in the untouched Jurassic landscape of neighbouring Ribeira Sacra. His wines, made from native varieties like Treixadura, Albariño, Godello, Doña Blanca, Mencía, Mouratón, Brancellao and Sousón, are at the same time remarkably individual and highly precise. Brancellao and Sousón also pair up in our expressive new Ribeiro Tinto from Alter.

At Raventós i Blanc, Pepe Raventós, the 21st generation of one of Spain’s

most influential winemaking families, has sidestepped the Cava DO to focus on his distinct marine fossil-rich site in the Conca del Riu Anoia area of Penedès. Pepe’s minerally, biodynamically-certified, traditional method sparkling wines are made from the indigenous Xarel·lo, Macabeo and Parellada. New from Bodegas LAN is the organically-certified ‘Xtrème Ecológico’ Rioja Crianza, sourced from a small Tempranillo plot within Rioja Alta’s famed Viña Lanciano vineyard.

C&C wines

We are thrilled to welcome two fantastic new producers to our portfolio: Villa Trasqua – Chianti Classico

109 Blundell Street London N7 9BN 020 3261 0927


An organic estate within the commune of Castellina in Chianti, winemaking is now overseen by Franco Bernabei who has produced wines for some of

Tuscany’s most recognised wineries: Fontodi, Fattoria di Felsina, Castello Banfi and Fattoria di Selvapiana. Wines available include:

· Chianti Classico DOCG 2018 – RSP £18.99 (organic)

· Fanatico Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2017 – RSP £23.99

· Nerento Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2012 – RSP £32.99 · Chianti Classico DOCG 2015 1.5 litre – RSP £39.99 Bodegas Monteabellon – Ribera del Duero

Founded by Isaac Fernandez, nephew of the legendary Vega Sicilia ex-

winemaker, Marino Garcia, with whom he spent several vintages learning his craft. Bodegas Monteabellon is a 52ha property in Nava de Roa, the heart of Ribera del Duero. Wines available include: · Verdejo Rueda 2019 – RSP £11.99

· Tempranillo 5 Meses en Barrica 2019 – RSP £14.99

· Tempranillo 14 Meses en Barrica 2017 – RSP £21.99 · Finca Matambres 2015 – RSP £34.99

Please contact C&C Wines to receive samples and launch offer promotions.

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2020 51


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


Fortune and Luck from the East Chateau Changyu Moser XV Purple Air Comes from the East 2016 Chateau Changyu Moser XV lies just west of Beijing in the province of Ningxia, in

China’s most renowned wine-growing region. The winery has its roots in the Changyu company, founded in 1892 when Chinese diplomat Zhang Bishi imported more than 500,000 vines from the US and Europe, paving the way for Chinese wine production. In 2013, 15th-generation Austrian winemaker

Lenz Moser became involved with this historic winery, and launched Chateau Changyu Moser XV. Since then, the estate has gone full steam ahead into the international market.

Purple Air Comes from the East is their 100% estate grown

Cabernet Sauvignon and is the winery’s ultra-premium offering,

with only 6,300 bottles made. With a fresh nose of floral aromas, notes of cedar and a luscious and generous palate, this wine has

intensity and complexity without being overbearing. Moser believes this wine will pave the way for a new breed of Ningxia wines. The unique purple label was designed by a Chinese Calligrapher, with

each character representing the name of the wine, which means “bringing fortune and luck from the East”.

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

@BuckSchenk @buckinghamschenk

THE WINE MERCHANT september 2020 52

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

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

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


THE WINE MERCHANT september 2020 53