THE WINE MERCHANT. An independent magazine for independent retailers
Issue 96, October 2020
Dog of the Month: Flash Wolseley Wine Loft, Stafford
Trade does its best to prepare for a Christmas like no other Tastings cancelled, customer numbers restricted, corporate gifting in doubt – but for many, the sales boom continues
ndependent wine merchants are braced for their most unusual
Christmas in decades as Covid-19
disrupts traditional trading patterns.
Normally merchants would be planning
Christmas tastings and taking orders
for corporate gifts, and in some cases
accepting party bookings. But with these things expected to be off the agenda for
many indies, businesses are pinning their
hopes on a continuation of the sales boom that has endured, in large parts of the
specialist trade, since the beginning of lockdown.
Roy Gillingham, owner of Fareham Wine
Cellar in Hampshire, says: “This year is
going to be completely different, without any shadow of a doubt.
“We are limited to how many people we
can have in our store at any one time so we are looking at more click-and-collect and have a major push towards the internet
side of things to keep as much business as we can.
“The one thing the pandemic has
increased our internet sales and brought in new customers who would normally have shopped in the supermarkets. We
shifted a lot of low-value stock we wouldn’t normally have done but Christmas is an
opportunity to move higher-value stock.
Continues page two
Real Ale, which operates three bottle shops in London, is one of hundreds of independent merchants forced to rethink the way it operates in the Covid-19 era. Read about the changes it’s made and the successes it has achieved from page 16.
Inside this month
Christmas plans in disarray for indies
event for 250 people, which will not go
From page one
prices to offer our database of customers.”
6 comings & Goings Why is Suffolk such a hotspot for
going to do, particularly with corporate
new indie openings?
13 tried & TESTED Wines on their way to greatness, and some that are already there
30 DAVID WILLIAMS Spare a thought for sommeliers
Jefferson Boss, co-owner of
StarmoreBoss in Sheffield, admits that “the next big worry is how we are going to roll Christmas out”.
Normally in November and December its
shops can see up to 30 customers at a time, something that is now impossible because
in their darkest of hours
34 whalley wine shop Tom Jones reflects on his first 10 years – and the upside of Covid
50 SOUTH AFRICA wines Five reasons why the Cape
of social distancing measures.
Boss adds: “We might do appointment
times, so you can book a 20-minute
window for wine advice as so many
customers want that personal touch.
“With the rule of six, family gatherings
will have to be smaller so people might think, ‘let’s spend a bit more and buy
continues to lead the field
54 fortified wines During lockdown, port and sherry started booming, and
suppliers to come up with promotional Jonathan Charles of The Dorset Wine
Company in Poundbury sounds an upbeat note. “I think if things stay the way
they are, people will be willing to treat
themselves – and in lieu of being able to visit their relatives will send them nice cases of wine instead,” he says.
“I’m starting to tap up our usual
corporate customers. A few of them are
still planning something but I don’t expect it to be as good as in previous years.
“Another aspect is the lack of Christmas
parties – we won’t get the trade through
our wholesale customers. We’ve cancelled our big Christmas tasting but we’ll send out a big offer in its place. It’s no real
substitute, but it’s a good excuse to at least engage with some people.”
that £40 bottle of wine’. So we’ll have to
strategise our stock accordingly. It will be interesting and we’ve got to nail it in the next couple of weeks.”
Jim McQueen, of Fountainhall Wines
never stopped. But why?
60 supplier bulletin Essential updates from key suppliers to the independent trade
“The question is, what are the public
ahead now. We are working hard with our
in Aberdeen and Stonehaven, says that
“trade could go up or down” as Christmas approaches. He adds: “Will businesses
give gifts instead of a lunch or party? Will
people buy better quality, because they are not going out? We just don’t know.
“Normally we have a customer tasting
Roy Gillingham of Fareham Wine Cellar
THE WINE MERCHANT MAGAZINE winemerchantmag.com 01323 871836 Twitter: @WineMerchantMag Editor and Publisher: Graham Holter email@example.com Assistant Editor: Claire Harries firstname.lastname@example.org Advertising: Sarah Hunnisett email@example.com Accounts: Naomi Young firstname.lastname@example.org The Wine Merchant is circulated to the owners of the UK’s 948 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 OCTOBER 2020 2
Biodynamic Catalan producer Raventós i Blanc has switched to Liberty Wines
Slimline FMV jettisons clients Independents have been left bewildered by Berry Bros & Rudd’s contraction of Fields, Morris & Verdin, its fine winefocused on-trade and indie retail arm. FMV’s agency roster has been severely
blighted by the restructuring, which has seen 25 staff reapplying for four jobs. The move has led to a scramble by
other importers for family-owned winery agencies jettisoned by FMV. But the
future arrangements of some prestigious
producers including Lopez de Heredia and California’s Ridge remains to be settled. BBR said FMV would be reshaped
around “a smaller portfolio of renowned
producers”, matching more closely its own
approach to its private-client business, and with a continued focus on Burgundy.
FMV said it would shrink its customer
base too, to include “luxury retailers,
independent and fine wine merchants, and a number of high-profile on-trade establishments”.
But the restructure has led to some
independent customers being given the
chop in an email from global sales director Nicholas Pegna in which they were told
New agents confirmed so far:
Bancroft Wines: Altugnac (Languedoc);
“we will not be accepting any new orders
Domaine de la Rocaillère, Domaine Michel
says: “Having been a customer since 2010,
Domaine du Colombier and Famille
on your account” after October 15.
Greg Andrews at DVine Cellars in London
it’s exceptionally disappointing. But it’s
also dumbfounding why you would do that. I don’t know why you would wilfully ask customers not to buy from you.
“They seem prepared to take the
business to the wreckers and not get any
value for it. Apart from physical assets, an importer has two major assets: the value
of the relationship with suppliers and the
value of the relationship with customers. In
Chignard and Alexandre Burgaud (all
Beaujolais); Domaine des Deux Roches,
Pacquet (all Burgundy); Gaston Chiquet
(Champagne); Monte del Frà, Masottina (Italy); Anthonij Rupert and Constantia Glen (both South Africa); Isabel Estate,
Domaine Thomson and Dog Point (all New Zealand); Cillar de Silos (Spain); Eymann (Germany).
Berkmann Wine Cellars: Jacquesson
(Champagne); Pulenta Estate (Argentina). Bibendum/Walker & Woodhouse:
that one email it’s killed off both – and any
Bodegas Mustiguillo (Spain); Neudorf
Verdin in 1981. It established a reputation
(Languedoc); Quinta de la Rosa (Douro);
goodwill it had has been torched.”
The company started life as Morris &
as a go-to supplier of French fine wine, particularly as a Burgundy specialist.
It was bought by BBR in 2003 and has
since added agencies from family-owned wineries from across the old and new world.
Many found new homes in the weeks
before and after BBR announced the restructuring of FMV in September.
THE WINE MERCHANT OCTOBER 2020 4
Vineyards (New Zealand); Giovanni
Rosso (Italy); Domaine Felines Jourdan Flint (England).
Liberty Wines: Mullineux & Leeu (South
Africa); Famille Perrin (Rhône); Rafael
Palacios, Raventós i Blanc and Dominio
do Bibei (all Spain); Jean-Marc Burgaud (Beaujolais); Château de Fontarèche (Languedoc).
Mentzendorff: Hambledon (England).
Thorman Hunt: La Soula (Roussillon).
The return of the returnable bottle
Health & Social Care says: “Face coverings
Borough Wines has come up with an
tasting ahead of purchases would count as
would need to be worn indoors in a shop – however a reasonable excuse to eat or
drink could apply if necessary, and wine
updated version of the old idea of
a reasonable excuse.”
returning empty bottles.
He adds: “Businesses need to undertake
a Covid-secure risk assessment and
The London company’s new Zero Waste
determine if the use of spittoons is
initiative has seen the launch of a range
acceptable and can be done so safely.”
of 25 wines under the Artisan label. The
Consider the buck passed.
wines are mainly priced between £10 and
Rupert Pritchett at Taurus Wines has got
£18 including a 50p levy, which Borough
the space to make tastings happen under
says will be donated to environmental
current guidelines, but on a scaled-down
charities for every returned bottle.
Bottles can be reused around 10 times,
“We can just about do it, but it’s hard
according to MD Muriel Chatel, who is
work, so we’re not actively promoting
hoping that eco-friendly independents
them,” he says.
across the UK will buy into the idea.
“We’ve had individual tables of family
She says: “What is great about this
groups and they are well distanced, so
project is that it is about re-inventing the bottle. It is finding a place for it in the modern world.
“If we get 40% or 50% return rate in the
first year, we will be very happy.
“We are starting from scratch. We are
going to increase the number of retailers a bit more every month and until we have a big network, we can’t expect too much.
“We are not here to write government
policy; it’s not about playing on people’s
guilt. It’s about encouraging people to do it.
“If people don’t bring the bottle back they
can recycle it the same way as a normal
bottle. If they do bring it back, it’s a bonus.” The wines are shipped in bulk to
Borough’s bottling and kegging facility in London, either in stainless steel or
bladders. The wine comes from producers
The Artisan range can also be supplied in the 10-litre Vinotap device and refillable kegs
behind it,” she says.
The labels have been produced from
bagasse, a biodegradable by-product of juice from sugar cane.
The wines are also available in a new
10-litre dispense system from Borough Wines called Vinotap. They can also be
ordered in reusable refill kegs, each with a capacity of 25kg.
Risk assessments for spittoon use
including Damien Barton-Sartorius in
Face coverings are not conducive to
across Europe and the new world. A
taste of something new?
producers and to grow the range. “It’s only
of flouting legislation, which is woolly in
Bordeaux – who played a role in the early stages of the project – as well as wineries Lebanese addition is expected soon.
Chatel is keen keep working with small
a great project if it’s done on a small scale
and you get really interesting winemakers involved and if you get great customers
swirling, sniffing, tasting and spitting. So how can merchants offer customers a Nobody wants to fall foul of the rules.
Shoppers and retailers alike are nervous places and open to a certain amount of interpretation.
Simon Goodwin at the Department of
THE WINE MERCHANT OCTOBER 2020 5
we’ve used regular spittoons and emptied them with gloves on.”
Pritchett says the business is adapting
to people’s changing shopping habits. “It’s all phone calls, online and emails, and the actual footfall has radically dropped as a result,” he reports.
“Yesterday by 2pm not a single person
had come through the door but we’d still
taken £3.5k. It is a bit chicken-and-egg – if you’ve got nothing on taste, people aren’t
going to come in, but the actual demand for people to try stuff has fallen right down.” Under the circumstances, promotions
will prove to be tricky. “We’ve signed up for Rioja month,” explains Nick Chapman at To Be Consumed in Leytonstone, “and ideally we’d open some bottles and show people the varieties, but I have no idea what the rules are.”
Beyond selling Rioja by the glass and on
tap for customers drinking in, Chapman is
not keen on uncorking wines for shoppers to try. “The legislation is changing every couple of weeks,” he says. “I struggle to
keep on top of the business as it is without having to re-write procedures and risk assessments every week.”
Innes goes back to Wine Rack roots Loki is set to open its third store next month and it’s third time lucky for owner Phil Innes, as he’s tried to secure the new unit in Knowle twice before. “Part of really, really wanting this shop
was kind of a bit of sentimentality,” admits Innes.
“I got my first job there after leaving
university; it used to be a Wine Rack. It will
be very odd for me, being back in that shop. I have tried to get the unit before and not succeeded.”
The launch of the third store was
originally earmarked for April but Innes
made the decision to delay and thankfully the landlord was supportive.
The Knowle site will offer “a tiny bit more retail” than the Edgbaston branch
More indies put faith in Suffolk
Weber & Tring’s closes Bristol store
Saltpeter Wines opened in Woodbridge,
Weber & Tring’s in Bristol is now
Edgbaston store but with a “tiny bit more
Suffolk, earlier this month.
trading exclusively online.
the UK … retail will perform really well
wines and are also offering a refill service
“It’s really different from both the other
stores; a nice double-fronted unit, which will allow us to do some proper window displays,” he says.
The model will be very similar to the
retail”. Innes describes the village near
Solihull as “one of the wealthiest areas in there so I wanted to put a larger focus on it.”
The new team at Knowle will be headed
up by manager Chris O’Neal.
So will Innes stop at three shops?
“Oh god, no. I’ve already got my eye on
another site,” he says. “I think despite Covid and all the doom and gloom, we’ve come out of it stronger.
“Turnover-wise we are about 30% up
on last year. It made us really adapt our
business and online has been performing
really well. So I’m really positive that once
we come out of this, we are going to be in a position to capitalise on it.
“Now we have a part of the business
that is like another shop and a half, but it
doesn’t actually have a physical presence.”
Partners Madeleine Bryett and David
Jimenez have opted to focus on natural from a KeyKeg system.
Bryett says: “Our aim is to deliver, reuse
and recycle – like the milkman. Where
possible, we will source organic wines for this, as for us it’s still about the quality.”
So far, they are working with suppliers
including Les Caves de Pyrene and local craft beer shop Hopsters.
Suffolk is proving to be something of a
hotspot for independent wine merchant
A message posted on Facebook explains
it is impossible to open the Christmas
Steps tasting room under current social
distancing guidelines – and without that aspect of the business, the premises has become unviable. The notice continues:
“We are still present online and will plan all our tasting and gin sessions from
another beautiful dark room … when it is all possible to do so. All our product and knowledge is available online.”
• Philippe Messy, owner of The Little Wine
Shop & Social, has bought a restaurant
has followed in quick succession.
called the Albatross, will host the temporary
in Lavenham, under 10 miles away from his
at Foundry Road and he will open a new
Will Chaytor opened his first wine shop,
in Taunton and has plans to turn it into
Keen to capitalise on the uplift in the
relocation of Messy’s wine bar until spring.
The Wine Box, in April and a second one
a cocktail bar. The restaurant, previously
drinks trade, Chaytor opened L&B Wines
The bar will then move back to the shop
original Boxford shop.
THE WINE MERCHANT OCTOBER 2020 6
restaurant and bar at the riverside location.
One leaves Bath, and one jumps in
Durrant explains: “We were looking
for a picking and packing venue and we stumbled across a beautiful farm venue
in Aylesbury. The owners have spent the
In September Wolf Wine launched Wolf
last five years re-purposing an old chicken
Saloon, just a short walk away from the
farm to incorporate a butchers, a café and
Wolf Wine Cabin at Green Park station
a farm shop. They’ve also renovated the
in central Bath.
old chicken buildings and they are now
Owner Sam Shaw says: “We are doing the
independent retail units.”
holy trinity of speciality coffee, craft beer
BeerGinVino will look to “local, regional
and low-intervention wine. There’s a bit of
and provincial producers” to fill its rustic
a gap in the market in Bath for that sort of
Even taking account of the social
distancing restrictions, Shaw says there is
capacity for 30 covers at the Saloon, which
Kevin Durrant of BeerGinVino
he decided to open partly in response to
it off.” The Chapel Row branch remains open
cocktails there is plenty of choice,” he
Chicken farm suits Aylesbury start-up
his customers at the Cabin often asking where he drinks in town. “If you want
explains, “and there are some nice pubs,
but in terms of something a bit interesting there wasn’t that much going on. We
wanted to create something for locals not
The original plan for BeerGinVino was
get left a bit high and dry.
founder Kevin Durrant admits that he
just for tourists – a lot of businesses in
to open in Thame but the premises fell
Bath rely on the tourists and the locals can
through in November last year, and co-
with another lockdown looking likely, we’ll
“If all had gone according to plan, we
“We are retailing from the Saloon but
start doing more bottle shop sales. With
the Cabin being so close I didn’t really want to rob Peter to pay Paul, but I think the way
we will structure it is to spread the offering over the two premises.
“We try not to cross over too much with
the products and we have a vast range of
stuff we can offer, and such a limited shelf space in the Cabin. It’s great to be able to showcase all these amazing wines, swap things around and keep things flowing.”
had a narrow escape.
Lee Evans at Condor Wines just happens
to be a neighbour and has been advising on the wine front.
Licence permitting, Durrant expects to
open at the Hatchery on Bradmoor Farm by the end of this month.
Although the retail part of the business
will only be operating over the weekends,
at least for the start-up period, he has plans for regular Thursday tasting sessions for customers with visiting producers and suppliers on hand.
Amathus ready for Broadway debut
would have opened just as lockdown
Amathus is planning to open a branch in
Christmas and gave it a re-think.”
a wine shop by Nicolas and Spirited Wines
began,” he says.
“But we had parked the idea over
The new concept, an online business
focusing on curating mixed boxes of
craft beers and ales, craft gins and small-
production wine, then took an unexpected turn towards bricks-and-mortar retail.
Muswell Hill, London. The Broadway site was previously run as
but in more recent times has operated as a tile retailer.
Amathus, which owns the freehold, has
applied to Haringey council for permission to sell alcohol for consumption on and off the premises from 10am
until 10pm, seven days a week.
• Bath independent Corkage closed its
The spirits and wine
shop on Walcot Street last month. Owner
specialist currently has
Marty Grant flagged up his concerns for
three stores in London – in
his business back in June when he told local
Soho, Shoreditch and the
media: “Having to social distance by two
City – as well as branches
metres at our Walcot Street site may finish
THE WINE MERCHANT OCTOBER 2020 8
in Brighton and Bath.
Top picks for the autumn
MINIMUM DROPS Most wine drinkers don’t think about the aggravation of drips from bottles until the damage has been done to a
ZAP THOSE CAPS
carpet, tablecloth or pair of trousers.
The Zap Cap bottle opener is one of the
The Waiter’s Friend Company’s
biggest sellers in the CellarDine range.
impulse display of 48 Drop-Stops is
It removes crown caps effortlessly with
a useful way of upselling at the point
a simple push-down action, and it has
of purchase, particularly for any
a built-in magnet to catch the cap for
customers wearing chinos.
easy disposal. Made from high quality stainless steel, it works on all types of crown caps on all sizes of bottles, and comes supplied in a gift box. RRP £9.99.
IT’S HIP TO BE SQUARE
MORE FLEXI FLEXIBILITY
Pulpsafe has a wide following among indies as a
Craft spirits make ideal Christmas
way of protecting wine bottles and now it can do
presents and WBC’s new 1 and 2-bottle
the same job for dumpy or square spirits bottles.
wooden gin gift boxes have been
WBC’s increasingly popular Flexi-Hex
Made from 100% recycled, biodegradable and
designed to suit dumpy or square
range turns utilitarian transit packing
compostable material, the 2-part pack not only
spirits bottles. The 2-bottle version can
into courier-safe gift packaging. This
solves the problem of sending out single bottles,
be used (obviously) to hold two bottles,
season the 1 and 2-bottle versions have
but it ticks every eco box at the same time.
but another option is to present one
been joined by a 3-bottle option. Trade
Available from stock on next-day delivery from
bottle alongside a gin glass. Prices
prices start from £2.51.
WBC. Prices from £1.20.
THE WINE MERCHANT OCTOBER 2020 10
NOT YOU AGAIN!
customers we could do without
17. William Nuttingthorpe Supplier of wine boxes and literature • 12 Bottle mailing boxes with dividers from £1.69p each • 6 Bottle mailing boxes with dividers from £0.98p each • 12 Bottle carrier boxes with dividers from £0.99p each Prices are subject to VAT • Delivery not included
01323 728338 • email@example.com • www.eastprint.co.uk
ANAGRAM TIME Can you unscramble the names of these vineyard problems? If so, you win a Hugh Johnson action figure.
© pathdoc / stockadobe.com
... Listen, I don’t think people have thought this through ... do you seriously believe the Prosecco producers will allow no deal? Or the French? Think of all those big Bordeaux châteaux and the business they do over here. It’s not in their interests to suddenly have trade barriers, is it? And what about the port crowd, and the Rioja lot … not to mention the factories churning out Pinot Grigio and Liebfraumilch and god knows what else … they rely on the Brits to drink their muck because nobody in their domestic market will touch the stuff! No no no, you mark my words, there will be a deal, and Boris is quite right to hold his nerve, because he knows damn well that the continentals will blink first … they can’t afford not to … I imagine there are legions of winemakers from the south of France already marching down the Champs-Elysées carrying flaming torches in one hand and Union Jacks in the other … and if I’m wrong, who cares? More Scotch whisky for us! And I’m told that one day we might even make wine here in blighty too. Yes, we hold all the cards. All the cards! By the way, there are some superb Côtes du Rhône bargains to be had at Majestic in Calais at the moment ...
THE WINE MERCHANT OCTOBER 2020 11
1. Piddly Wee Worm 2. Evil Solar Furl 3. Her Pally Ox 4. Yer Obstetrician 5. Ape Desires Ices Mark Matisovits
Aaron Tacinelli Jeroboams
“A genuine ability to really look after people”
aron has been at Jeroboams for just over a year and is already an assistant manager, in the midst of studying for his WSET diploma and on secondment to the marketing team. It’s been an inspiring start to his newly chosen career. “Right from the very beginning he had a real understanding of customers and showed a genuine ability to really look after people,” explains CEO Matt Tipping. “He established himself very quickly in Muswell Hill.” The secondment on which Aaron has just embarked is a new programme at Jeroboams to allow retail staff to explore alternative careers within the industry. “It also gives them more skills and a deeper understanding of our business, and that knowledge makes us stronger in our shops,” explains Matt. “Aaron has a desire to immerse himself in everything he’s doing. He asked us whether we would help him do his diploma and we were happy to. He has that natural business acumen and is able to combine it with the wine knowledge, and I think it’s quite a rare thing to find people who can do that.” Originally from Ohio, Aaron, 34, studied architectural history at Pittsburgh University. London has been his home for the last six years. He says: “Before Jeroboams, I worked in operations management for engineering and architecture firms. “During that time I was doing my WSET Levels 2 and 3 just as a personal interest. When I received my results from my level 3, I thought I’d have a go at having a career in wine. “I’d been to the Hampstead branch of Jeroboams a couple of times. When I saw them advertising the role, I looked into them and got excited because it’s a company that does a bit of everything – importing, on-trade sales, retail – so it seemed like a good place to go to learn about the industry and see where I might fit in, and how I might want to develop my career. “I’m very happy to have made the change to
wine in the last year. Working on my diploma, I think my interest is in meeting winemakers and finding wines that will excite and interest customers in the UK. “The customers at the Hampstead and Muswell Hill shops are really open and always interested in what’s new and what’s a bit different. I enjoy chatting with them about things they haven’t experienced in terms of wine, and new regions that might be up and coming, and so I’d like to translate that into a buying role at some point.”
Aaron wins a bottle of Pol Roger Brut 2012 If you’d like to nominate a Rising Star, email firstname.lastname@example.org
THE WINE MERCHANT OCTOBER 2020 12
TRIED & TESTED
DeMorgenzon Maestro White 2017
Kara-Tara Chardonnay 2019 Rüdger van Wyk is one of the Cape’s rising stars. Here, he steps away from the day job at Stark-Condé Wines
Life must be complicated enough with a blend involving
than soft and buttery, Chardonnay, half of which was
and ferment in a mixture of cement and French oak
Roussanne, Chenin Blanc, Grenache Blanc, Chardonnay
in a side project with José Condé, working with fruit
and Viognier. Pick them at differing stages of ripeness
from 35-year-old vines. This is a taut and linear, rather
and the matrix gets crazier still. The reward is a
fermented and aged in neutral oak. It’s a bracing affair,
delicious, textured wine full of spice and yellow fruit.
with almond, grapefruit and citrus notes. RRP: £19.99
Seckford Agencies (01206 231188)
Museum Wines (01258 830122) museumwines.co.uk
Domaine des Tourelles Vielles Vignes Carignan 2018
Artisan Côtes du Rhône by Vincent Rochette
Carignan vines have existed in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley
Vincent Rochette is a biodynamic winemaker in the
that’s ready to go now, with supple red and black fruit
captivatingly simple wine, full of the aromas that waft
for two centuries; the ones we’re concerned with
here are about a quarter of that age. A classy wine
flavours that will doubtless twist and turn with more ageing, and a herbal, Mediterranean lift to the finish. RRP: £17.99
Boutinot Wines (0161 908 1300)
Rhône who’s part of Borough Wines’ new Artisan range of wines in returnable bottles. This is a
around wineries at harvest time. A massive rush of blackcurrants, and some stalky autumnal edges. RRP: £15
Borough Wines (020 8858 0818)
Glenelly Glass Collection Cabernet Franc 2017
Domaine Laougué Madiran 2018
The better the world gets at making Cabernet Franc,
The vineyards are apparently well known to pilgrims
has a fynbos character all of its own, to complement
affirming Tannat-Cabernet Franc blend. It tastes just
the happier we’ll all be. This lovely South African
example takes most of its cues from the Loire but the faint whiff of smoke, cherry and blueberry richness, and a gentle savoury greenness. RRP: £14.15
Seckford Agencies (01206 231188)
on the Camino de Santiago and let’s hope they’re not
too pious to rest awhile and enjoy a glass of this faithas good as that varietal combination sounds: plush
dark fruit, beautiful poise and a sprinkle of star anise. RRP: £12.99-£14.99
Daniel Lambert Wines (01656 661010)
Haut Espoir Gentle Giant 2014
Yalumba The Caley Cabernet & Shiraz 2015
A blend of Merlot, Petit Verdot and Cabernet from
South Africa’s Coastal region, this is Museum Wines’
The Caley is intended to demonstrate just how fine
in a heavy-handed way, and there’s spice and white
from 74% Coonawarra Cabernet and 26% Barossa
biggest selling red, and it’s not hard to understand why. Blood and iron make an appearance, but not
pepper as an appealing counterpoint. Winemaking with an expert lightness of touch. RRP: £16.99
Museum Wines (01258 830122) museumwines.co.uk
Australia’s fine wines can be, and we catch this one in the early stages of its journey to greatness. Blended Shiraz, it comes from a long, mild summer which
ensured its trademark aromatics and concentration. RRP: £275
Fells (01442 870 900) fells.co.uk
THE WINE MERCHANT OCTOBER 2020 13
Butlers Wine Cellar Brighton Jilly Goolden sings the praises of an eccentric, and inspirational, independent wine merchant
utlers Wine Cellar opened in a small corner shop (with a large cellar for
stock) in the nether regions of Brighton
in 1979. Cheap rent, big storage. Back then wine
was a narrow peninsular not spanning the whole
world as it does now, so Butlers concentrated on just Bordeaux, Germany and the occasional bottle of Tokay. Forty years later and Butlers has the
largest range of wines in the whole area with more than 2,000 lines, still
squeezed into the same tightly packed corner shop (all the neighbouring shops have been turned into bijoux houses).
And Butlers’ two shops (this one in Kemp Town, a second off Marine
Parade) did more business last year, their 40th, than ever before. At the helm is larger-than-life Henry Butler, son of the founder, a passionate
wine lover, very knowledgeable and an eccentric (so, incidentally, are all the staff). He’s a legend locally with a network of fans and followers.
“We are a destination shop,” he told me. “Free parking, complimentary
dog biscuits ...” But it’s not just a local affair. Customers shop from all over the country. Unsurprisingly.
I love the diversity of wines stocked by Butlers, very much reflecting
Henry’s own personal passions (and those of his partner in business and life, Cassie). At the moment he’s on a mission to popularise Beaujolais
and Lambrusco. Portugal is a very strong suit for Butlers – my tastes very much mirror his. California features large too. “We get offered many tiny allocations which other wine shops don’t. We love them and promote
them,” he says. Then there’s South Africa; one of their suppliers, Blank Bottle, collaborates with Henry to make wines unique to Butlers. Only Tate Modern and the Ledbury can boast that.
he pandemic has turned occasional drinkers into eager
enthusiasts (don’t I know it...!) Cassie explains: “Everyone suddenly wanted cheaper wines in higher volumes so we
immediately put together mixed cases of affordable wines which we
discounted and they sold in the hundreds. Trade became busier than Christmas.”
I discovered Butlers way back when I was only just old enough to drink
and since being professionally involved in wine myself (from when I was
24) I have kept a close eye on them. I don’t live in Brighton but I regularly
run into Henry at trade tastings where I’m eager to exchange notes and to catch up with his latest discoveries and obsessions. Henry is inspirational – and his shops reflect that.
Boris permitting, Jilly runs tastings at her home in East Sussex, Jilly
Goolden’s Wine Room: www.jillygoolden.com. During lockdown she has been much in demand hosting virtual tastings and working in an advisory role with a major supermarket.
THE WINE MERCHANT OCTOBER 2020 14
Bordeaux Make a Case for Christmas Christmas celebrations for 2020 may look a little precarious, but the CIVB (Bordeaux Wine Council) is making sure that the festive season isn’t cancelled for independents and consumers, with an exciting seasonal initiative developed to help retailers boost sales in the last few weeks of the year.
In association with
hether in-store or online, The Bordeaux Case for Christmas provides a great opportunity
for wine merchants to encourage new and
existing customers to explore the diversity of modern Bordeaux and find great value wines to enjoy over the festive period.
From sparkling crémants and sumptuous
sweet wines to start the celebrations, to
dry whites to enjoy alongside a succulent turkey, fruit-forward reds to serve with a vegetarian feast and crisp rosés for
Boxing Day, Bordeaux offers something for
everyone, whatever the budget or occasion. Getting involved couldn’t be easier: in
exchange for a payment of £200 and an attractive and comprehensive seasonal
POS kit, independent wine merchants must simply either create a mixed Bordeaux case, or encourage customers to put
together their own mixed case of six
Bordeaux wines, featuring at least three
different styles to showcase the region’s diversity. The promotion should run for two weeks between November 16 and
December 24 2020. The social media team @bordeauxwinesuk will be on hand to
THE WINE MERCHANT OCTOBER 2020 15
support retailers’ involvement throughout the period.
“Christmas is always a busy time of
year in the wine trade and we want
to make sure that this year isn’t any
different, despite the looming restrictions,” says Fiona Juby, CIVB ‘s UK marketing
consultant. “Bordeaux is often thought of
as exclusive and sometimes expensive but today’s Bordeaux offers an exceptional range of styles, with something to suit
every palate, budget and occasion, whether it’s something for Christmas Day or to enjoy with leftovers. Whatever winter
looks like this year, Bordeaux will ensure that at least there will be great wine to enjoy!”
The Bordeaux Case for Christmas
initiative follows hot on the heels of
another successful Bordeaux Wine Month in September, which saw 76 merchants
sell over 20 more cases of Bordeaux wines than usual. The activity will be supported by immersive and unique food and wine virtual tasting experiences.
Register at www.cubecom.co.uk/bdxcase
Rathfinnyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s vineyards are three miles from the Channel
ALL HANDS Real Ale, which operates three bottle shops across London, is one of hundreds of indies that has had to adapt to a very different way of working in the Covid era. Claire Harries hears their story
OPERATIONS “We effectively turned our Twickenham store into a
warehouse and ran everything from there,” explains MD Zeph King. “We have a branded van but we couldn’t do all
to get next-day service. We’re so grateful to them because the wheels would have fallen off at several points if they hadn’t been operating that way.”
Neither King nor Peyton expect they will be able to
the deliveries in that so it was a matter of all hands on deck
return to on-premise drinking any time soon.
Dolan implemented a sound e-commerce platform.
distanced drinking,” says Peyton. “But we’re not in a
to make it happen – everyone jumping in their cars.”
“At the moment we have one table outside our Notting
When the business began back in 2005, founder Nick
Hill shop – the council finally let us put a table for socially
became more embedded in their local communities, but
enough and it wouldn’t be fair on our staff to start doing
Eventually focus shifted away from online as the shops the infrastructure was there to fall back on.
“While operating centrally out of Twickenham, using
Nick’s original set-up, we could be really efficient,” explains
King. “It was easy for customers to buy pre-selected cases and it was easier for us to get them out the door quicker.”
Retail manager Tim Peyton adds: “It was crazy because
my instinct is to make the website as much as an extension of the shop as possible and make it a glorious thing to
peruse, but due to the volume of orders it quickly became apparent that just wasn’t practical.”
“In terms of wine, the biggest sellers were our six-packs
we were selling for £70,” says Peyton. “It was accessibly
position to offer drinking inside – the shops aren’t big that.
“We’re taking more money than we have previously with
shops being open until 11pm, a bigger wine range and
more staff on, so we haven’t lost out. It’s made us realise that the fundamentals of our business have always been retail.”
King is confident the hybrid model is something they
will return to. “Yes, you generate more [profit] by people
being able to come in, get what they want and leave, but in that respect, you do lose something,” he says.
“We have always been about the experience and we have
always run loads of events with producers and we want people to enjoy coming into our shops and taking time.
“We’ve been glad to open up a bit more and try to re-
priced; it wasn’t bargain basement but it certainly wasn’t
introduce the important conversations you have between
“The suppliers have been amazing. It was still possible
high-end stuff so there was a massive impetus for me to get wines between £9 and £14 retail very quickly.
the sales person and the customer.”
ON DECK THE WINE MERCHANT OCTOBER 2020 17
Continued from page 17
TEAM PLAYERS “Our staff have been absolutely amazing,” says King.
“It’s been a real team effort and it has brought us closer together.”
Sixteen employees out of the 25-strong team were
initially furloughed on 100% of their salary and they have
been brought back to work gradually, with just two due to start back this month.
“Looking after our people was number one. Everybody
has been collaborative and communicative about how they feel,” King explains. “I think we’ve done quite well with our
Above: The Twickenham team Bottom left: The Notting Hill branch Bottom right: Tim Peyton processes more orders
monthly virtual meetings – we felt it was really important
the new products arrived in store, with some really
“Our meetings have been more focused and I think
of a friendly ramble – but there’s often a few orders that
to continue the communication between the people who’d been furloughed and the people who were still working.
we’ve been good at sharing information across all levels of the business. Whether you are working part-time in one of the stores or you are on the board, it’s about us all working together – it’s been really good from that perspective.”
“We’re still taking each day as it comes,” says Peyton.
“I’ll be focusing on maintaining sales and those new
customers. Our social media always feels very lively and the experience for customers on that front is really good.
“I write the Real Ale Round Up every Friday. It highlights
beautiful photographs. I also pick out four wines every week. It’s hardly the most commercial newsletter – more come in off the back of it.”
King adds: “Covid-19 has been a very difficult situation
but it’s been amazing how it’s localised people’s shopping experience.
“We’ve been fortunate that customers have rallied
around us. We’ve attracted new ones and we need to retain those and make sure people don’t go back to old habits.
“We’ve got an eye on Christmas. Traditionally it’s been
the biggest part of our year, but we’re asking what will it
mean for us this year. We’re gearing up for it but it could maybe look quite different to other Christmases.”
THE WINE MERCHANT OCTOBER 2020 18
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ROEBUCK READY TO BUILD ON DECANTER WIN
young West Sussex wine producer is looking to boost its trade profile to
match a growing reputation built on
success in international competitions. Roebuck Estates was founded by
entrepreneurs Mike Smith and John Ball, and managed by James Mead, whose
path to managing an English wine estate
included spells with Threshers, Oddbins,
Majestic, Bibendum and Corney & Barrow (Hong Kong).
Mead says the company’s ownership of
three mature vineyards in West Sussex
gives it valuable options on fruit selection and blending each year. The vineyards
When Roebuck Estates Classic Cuvée 2014 was named Best in Show in this year’s Decanter awards, it was yet more deserved recognition for the work of James Mead and his team at the West Sussex sparkling wine producer. Now the team are hoping to share their success with the independent trade by achieving new listings, not just for the Classic Cuvée but for their widely admired Blanc de Noirs
are planted with the three principal
Champagne varietals, with the “jewel in the crown” its Upperton Vineyard (pictured) close to the village of Tillington near the town of Petworth.
“We really felt that what would give
our wines greater finesse and quality was having multiple sites across West Sussex, so that we have a lot more blending
components to choose from when it comes to finalising our blends following harvest,” says Mead.
“At the end of that wonderful growing
season in 2018 we went into the blending
THE WINE MERCHANT OCTOBER 2020 20
As well as picking up its Best in Show
prize, the wine has also been awarded a Platinum Medal by Decanter.
“We wanted to ensure that our wines
had a richness and texture to them, which would elevate them over other English
sparkling wines, and Burgundian barrels
was one of the ways to do that,” says Mead. “We’re quite careful about how we use
the juice that’s spent time in oak because
it can be very overpowering if it’s used too much, so we keep it to between 2% and room and had just under 100 tank, barrel and reserve wine samples, from all three
classic varietals, from which to choose to
craft our final blends. Having that choice is amazing and allows us to create the very best wines we possibly can.”
The fruits of the 2018 vintage won’t be
seen by the outside world for some time as Roebuck’s wines spend a minimum
of three years on the lees and a further lengthy spell maturing under cork.
It has just released the 2015 vintage
Blanc de Noirs (RRP £45) – a single-
vineyard, 100% Pinot Noir wine from its
Roman Villa Vineyard – while the Classic Cuvée 2014 has won a Best in Show
accolade in this year’s Decanter World
Wine Awards, the only English sparkling
wine to do so, adding to previous success in the Hong Kong International Wine &
Spirit Competition. Each exhibits its own
personality while reflecting a house style that Mead describes as “elegance, finesse and richness”.
The 2014 Classic Cuvée (RRP £35) is
a blend of 47% Chardonnay, 38% Pinot
Noir and 15% Pinot Meunier, whole-bunch pressed with a small percentage aged in Burgundian oak.
10% in any of our wines.”
The Roman Villa vineyard from which
the Blanc de Noirs is made is planted with
a mixture of Champenoise and Burgundian clones. “The 2015 fruit from the latter in particular was very small bunches,” says
Mead, “which gave incredible complexity
and something different to the Pinot Noir we get from other sites.
“We decided to keep all the Pinot Noir
from that site and that year for a vintage,
single-vineyard wine that we felt would be quite special.
“We tried to keep the dosage as low as
possible while still using it to bring out the natural character of the fruit but without masking it.
“We feel that our Classic Cuvée is perfect
as an apéritif and is a real crowd-pleaser,
while our Blanc de Noirs almost feels more
CHRIS GOLDMAN Hennings, Sussex “Both wines are excellent quality, and certainly amongst the top flight of English sparkling wines at this level. We liked the look of both bottles. The name of the estate plus the imagery certainly appeals to our more countryside orientation. “We would expect these wines to retail at their given RRPs and reflect the level of top-flight English fizz for this money.”
SAM HOWARD HarperWells, Norwich “The Classic Cuvée would easily meet our criteria for listing based on authenticity, value for money and overall quality. “Bright citrus; toasted nose; a very youthful wine maturing nicely. Elements of brioche – a quality sparkling wine. The nose is not overpowering and the first sip is inviting and zesty. There is a sweetness that is appealing – we think this wine has broad appeal.”
gourmand. It would easily partner well with richer, heavier dishes.”
Roebuck is handling its own distribution
and has listings with Sussex indies
Hennings and South Downs Cellars, but is looking to expand its geographical trade footprint.
A Rosé de Noirs 2016 launch is imminent
and it’s planning to release some larger format bottles to extend its appeal to buyers.
THE WINE MERCHANT OCTOBER 2020 21
CUSTOMS CLEARANCE services to the BWS sector Contact Division Director Martin Jacobs T: 01303 847203
M: 07388 116954
E: email@example.com W: kbl.kukla-spedition.com
Robert Kukla Spedition UK Ltd, Unit 1, Saxon House, Upminster Trading Estate Warley Street, Upminster, Essex RM14 3PJ All business undertaken is transacted to the terms and conditions of the BIFA 2017 Registration no: 10567517 / Company VAT no: GB 263 911 501 / BIFA registration no: 3447
THE WINE MERCHANT OCTOBER 2020 22
Win an £800 meal for your team with an Aster promotion
Martinez Wines how lockdown made jonathan cocker a video star
The West Yorkshire wine shop’s lockdown video diary began as a relatively routine affair with owner Jonathan Cocker doing a simple piece to camera talking about a chosen wine. But it rapidly evolved into a daily three-minute slice of handcrafted entertainment, using props and family members to create his own slightly surreal world: Jonathan in a paddling pool with an inflatable pink flamingo between his legs, Jonathan with green hair, Jonathan as the host of a Mad Hatter’s tea party, Jonathan drinking red wine while bouncing on a trampoline. The entertainment was used as a vehicle to carry offers, competitions and other marketing messages. The mission In addition to raising visibility at a time when face-to-face interaction with customers
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 – which has won a Gold Medal and 95 points from Decanter – if you like). Email Alex Hill at Armit Wines (firstname.lastname@example.org) or contact your Armit rep to receive the digital assets you need.
was vastly diminished, the focus on humour and a comic persona had the effect of bringing viewers back for more. Incredibly, it was all happening as Jonathan was preparing to go into hospital for surgery, a fact he shared with viewers in a poignant video shot with his trousers round his ankles while sitting on the loo. The format has proved campaignable, as they say in the advertising world, with a couple of new post-surgery films appearing, one littered with bovine puns in a reference to the “cow’s valve” he now has in his chest. The impact Judicious use of editing software meant the videos had a whiff of professionalism without sacrificing some of their homemade charm. It also meant they were packaged into digestible, three-minute morsels that didn’t outstay their welcome. Viewer interactions on social media were frequently into three figures and Martinez reported a substantial boost to business as a result. The films also caught the eye of The Telegraph’s Victoria Moore, who featured Cocker in a piece on wine shop responses to lockdown.
THE WINE MERCHANT OCTOBER 2020 23
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ight ideas r b
16: Wine Vials: Tastings to take away Sam Shaw Wolf Wine, Bath
In a nutshell … Make sampling and tasting easy for customers by decanting a selection of your more esoteric wines into 250ml vessels, which Wolf Wine calls its vials.
How does this work logistically? “Every week we select a wine at a price point of £23 or over. We put it in our vials and customers can either come to collect them from the shop, or we do free delivery in Bath and Bristol. “The price per vial changes, depending on the wine, but it hovers between £9 and £14. It’s basically poured into the bottles so we are advising people to consume within a day or two. “We might look at those counter pressurised taps where they inject argon into the bottles prior to us pouring. We are in our 16th week of doing this now and we haven’t had any issues so far.” Another good idea sprung from the Covid economy … “Yes, especially during lockdown there were a lot of people who wanted to try new things but sometimes that’s a lot to spend. When you can’t speak to customers face to face, it’s hard to get that rapport. An online transaction is much harder and it’s a less intimate sales relationship. “Our wine vials are a way of showcasing some of our more
The 250ml vials are a less expensive way to experience premium wine
expensive wines and to make them more accessible. Each vial is a large glass of small-production, high-quality, special wine, so it’s nice for people to treat themselves and try something new in the comfort of their own home.”
Is it a guided tasting? “We’re not doing a live/virtual tasting with them at the moment – I’d love to be able to but we just don’t have the time or manpower. Maybe when things settle down a little bit we can make
it more interactive. There’s lots of potential to do more with it and roll it out beyond our neighbourhood.”
The wine vials are very Insta friendly. “Every year our wolf logo gets redesigned by a new artist – it’s how our branding works. I’m a big advocate for supporting artists. We’re on our fourth wolf – and one of the artists helped us out with the artwork for the labels. People really dig what we’re doing.”
Sam 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 email@example.com
THE WINE MERCHANT OCTOBER 2020 24
BITS & BOBS
Smoke is not as bad as we first thought Australian researchers have completed a range of projects aiming to reduce losses from smoke-impacted fruit and wine.
were planted with the amount of land
under vine rising by 79% to 3,500 hectares over the last five years.
Kent Online, October 1
Professor Ian Porter, who led the
research programme at La Trobe
University and Agriculture Victoria, said:
“We determined that it takes more smoke
Jason Davidson Champany Cellars West Lothian
Favourite wine on my list
When asked, I always reply, “different wines for different times!” If I had to pick one right now, I would say Newton Johnson Family Vineyards Pinot Noir. And a steak. That’s dinner sorted!
Favourite wine and food match
Our signature starter at Champany is hot smoked salmon served with a rich Hollandaise sauce. Salmon is notoriously difficult to pair with; for many years we have poured Trimbach’s Gewurztraminer Cuvée des Seigneurs Ribeaupierre. It’s not something I have often, but every time, it blows the mind. Such a great combination.
Favourite wine trip
The Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, Hermanus, South Africa. Beautiful scenery. Laidback lifestyle. Many friends to dine with. And absolutely outstanding Pinot. Wine trips don’t get any better.
Favourite wine trade person
With so many great people in the wine trade, can you pick only one? François Naudé, formerly of L’Avenir and now Le Vin de François – the Pinotage Maestro – is always a treat to listen to. His knowledge of wine is simply incredible.
Favourite wine shop
Umm, not sure. Can I have a pub instead? The Canny Man’s in Morningside, Edinburgh. A fantastic, independently owned, traditional Scottish pub. Great wine list too!
to cause smoke taint than was originally
thought and we are close to setting smoke taint thresholds.”
The research teams also tested a number
of commercially available coating products for their ability to reduce the uptake
of smoke compounds by grapes in the
vineyard. While most actually increased
the uptake of smoke taint compounds, one of the tested products showed promising results.
“Chitosan showed potential as a barrier
coating on grapes,” Tim Plozza from
Agriculture Victoria said. “It is also already
approved for use in wine processing, which means there are fewer technical barriers to its use as a barrier product.” The Shout, September 28
Loan will boost vineyard research Scientists have secured a £600,000 loan to help boost Kent’s celebrated wine industry. A team of viticulturists and scientists at
NIAB East Malling Research have secured
the cash to create a wine innovation centre with other industry experts.
It will be invested in helping growers
boost their productivity, improve
consistency and adapt to climate change.
The south east’s wine industry accounts
for more than 70% of the wine produced
in the country. In 2019, three million vines
THE WINE MERCHANT OCTOBER 2020 26
Diego Planeta was born in 1940
Tributes to Sicilian pioneer Planeta Sicilian wine has lost one of its founding fathers, said regional councillor for agriculture Edy Bandiera, following news that Diego Planeta has died aged 80. Planeta will be remembered as a key
figure in modern winemaking history
in Sicily, helping to improve quality and
significantly enhance the reputation of the island’s wines.
Massimiliano Giansanti, president
of Italian farming confederation
Confagricoltura, described Planeta’s death as “an unbridgeable loss, not only for
the world of wine, but for all those who believe in the strength and courage of entrepreneurship”.
Decanter, September 22
Fells trade ‘better than we dared hope’
THE BURNING QUESTION
How are you coping with the rule of six and the 10pm curfew?
We only have three tables that seat six – the rest are all fours. People are booking in sixes rather than fours, so all my sixes are always taken. The 10pm curfew for us … we love it! Our opening hours are 10am to 10pm anyway but you’d never get people out for 10pm, it would always be 11 o’clock and then it’s another hour to clear down. So now it’s amazing because people are leaving at 10pm and we have a new online booking system so we’re getting an extra sitting in. For us, productivity has increased.
Paul Symington has said he will be stepping back as chairman of UK agent Fells at the end of the year, while the company announced it will be returning all furlough money to the government after trading during the summer proved better than “we ever dared hope”. Symington, whose family is the majority
shareholder in Fells, has been chairman for 15 years and will retire on December 31. His place will be taken by current
managing director, Steve Moody, who
will become executive chairman of the company in addition to his role as MD. The Drinks Business, September 29
Climat change in Pouilly-Fuissé
Zoe Brodie Honky Tonk Wine Library, Plymouth
We are missing out on the turnover from the last few drinkers. In Lancashire people are being advised not to mix between households, so that’s had quite an effect on us. We had capacity for 40 covers and that has come down to 25 or 30. When people were allowed to stand at the bar we could have 80 in here. The upside is the spend per person has gone up because they are having to book a table and ordering more food. There’s about 15% more margin on food, but based on 50% of our usual turnover.
Ben Fullalove Fullaloves, Lancashire
After a 10-year application process,
The 10pm curfew feels like yet another kick in the teeth – after a whole series of Covid-related kicks in the teeth. We are already running on just 60%, as we have had to lose so many covers to make our premises fully Covid-secure – and the curfew, which effectively means that we have to call last orders at 9.15pm, means we are taking yet another hit: a further 20% reduction in revenue from our drink-in customers. We can’t do any in-house wine tasting events, but thankfully our online tastings are still very popular.
Pouilly-Fuissé has gained approval for the official recognition of 22 premier cru climats which may be added to the PDO from the 2020 vintage. The French National Institute of Origin
& Quality has made it the first appellation
within Burgundy’s Mâconnais sub-region to benefit from premier cru vineyards.
Frédéric-Marc Burrier, president of the
Pouilly-Fuissé growers association, said the result was a “dream come true” and
beckons “the beginning of a new era for
Pouilly-Fuissé, and probably for Mâconnais as well”.
The 22 new premier crus represent
a total of 194ha under vine, accounting
for roughly 24% of Pouilly-Fuissé’s total
vineyard area (800ha). The newly classified vineyards are spread over four communes of the appellation that only produce white wine from Chardonnay: Chaintré, Fuissé, Solutré-Pouilly and Vergisson.
Marc Hough Cork of the North, Manchester
It’s been like death by a thousand cuts. It hasn’t been difficult to manage logistically: we’re so used now to ringing people up and saying, ‘you’ve got a booking of seven people, you can’t come’, or ‘you‘ve got a booking of six – are you all from two households?’ So it’s just a matter of getting on the phone and contacting people. The 10pm thing has been worse, for sure, because when the government looked at it they probably thought they were just knocking off an hour. But really nobody is coming in after 9pm for a table for an hour, so that’s had a bigger impact.
Duncan Findlater, Smith & Gertrude, Edinburgh
Champagne Gosset The oldest wine house in Champagne: Äy 1584
Decanter, September 18
THE WINE MERCHANT OCTOBER 2020 27
BOOKS WITH ARCHIE MCDIARMID, LUVIANS
Archie’s lockdown library Beyond Flavour
by Nick Jackson MW (2020)
I spent the first 11 weeks of lockdown on my own in shop, six days a week, nine hours a day, taking orders, arranging deliveries and serving the occasional brave soul who ventured out. In between the morning and evening rushes as I prepared daily deliveries, I had time to catch up on that most constant of wine merchant companions, the stack of books on booze that I 100%, definitely, absolutely, totally was going to read when I got around to it. Here are my top picks from what was a hugely enjoyable assault on the Luvians library.
The Curious Bartender’s Whiskey Roadtrip by Tristan Stephenson (2019)
Written by a recently-graduated Master
Judgment of Paris
by George M Taber (2005) I read a number of great wine books that
of Wine, this takes on a daunting task:
Tristan Stephenson, cocktail guru,
had been “on the list”, so to speak, for a
trying to reimagine how the world thinks
bar consultant, whisky evangelist and ultra
number of years during lockdown, but none
about blind tasting wines. Rather than the
marathon runner is one of my favourite
of them were a more page-turning read
traditional restatement and pinpointing of
writers on spirits today.
than George M Taber’s account (he was
the tiny varietal differences between wines,
Always impeccably researched, but easy
the only reporter present) of the infamous
he instead focuses on how the wine feels in
reading and beautifully presented, his
blind tasting in 1976 when Californian
Curious Bartender’s series should be the
wines bested the finest France had to offer,
cornerstone of any modern whisky and
on their own turf. You feel that 1976 is just
one of those dates you know instinctively,
It is a novel approach, but a genuinely effective one – it led to me opening up rather too many bottles for comparison
The latest entry, a coast-to-coast tour
like 1855 or 1066.
than was probably wise for a man working
across the US taking in the best of the
alone in a shop.
distilling scene, is one part travelogue, one
of sittings. Capturing a 70s Paris I was
part history, one part snapshot of distilling
never fortunate enough to visit and a
enough to be readable and digestible
in modern America and 100% love letter to
Californian wine scene we will never see
without having to resort to too many
the whiskey with an “e” and an American
again, it tells a David and Goliath story,
generalisations and shortcuts.
fought one glass at a time.
Clocking in at just 180 pages, it is brief
THE WINE MERCHANT OCTOBER 2020 28
I devoured the 305 pages in just a couple
Marine Bezault Salut Manchester
Salt & Old Vines
by Richard WH Bray (2014) It takes a lot of cheap beer to make expensive wine. While most wine books focus on either the romance of the finished product or the technical processes involved, this is the rare example of one which focuses on the hard graft, long days and aching joints of the people involved.
“We like to put wines in there that give customers the opportunity to drink something they wouldn’t otherwise have the chance to try. The Enomatics just get busier and busier”
While cuts, sprains and dyed legs
Tell us about your Enomatics. We have four machines with eight bottles in each. We more or less split that into having 16 red and 16 white, although among the whites we will have at least one rosé and maybe a couple of orange wines. We don’t dispense free samples – we issue customers with cards, which they load up with credit and can take away with them or they can have the option of having an open tab. How do you decide what to put in? Mainly it’s down to our business manager to decide what is going in there, but we all have a say and jump in to make suggestions about what we think will work and what will be a hit with customers. We also do take-overs, so for Chinese New Year we did a Chinese wine take-over or at another time of year we might do a natural wine take-over, or we might be doing a specific event with a producer so we’d put a couple of their wines in. We like to put wines in there that give the customers the opportunity to drink something they wouldn’t otherwise have the chance to try. For example, a while ago we put in a bottle of Jura wine and it was fantastic the way that turned around. Do the take-over events have an impact on sales? Sometimes our promotions translate to bottle sales but it’s more about the opportunity for guests to try something different. We do a lot of activity on social media and it’s nice to see people coming in specifically to try those wines we’ve talked about and advertised. We always have a couple of members of staff on hand who are responsible for the Enomatics to answer any questions or queries that may arise, and so there is a lot of customer interaction and sales opportunity.
aren’t shied away from, it is also a deeply evocative story of the Roussillon and its people: that rocky, mountainous area on the edge of the Med that has captured the imaginations of artists, poets and an increasing number of world-class winemakers, told through eyes of those working vintages on its steep, sun-baked slopes.
Have you noticed a change in the way the Enomatics have performed over the years? Yes, they just get busier and busier. We have a lot of guests who come in specifically to use the Enomatics and that is really nice because then you know the concept is working. Of course there are customers who haven’t used them before but once you show them, they love that they can discover something new.
THE WINE MERCHANT OCTOBER 2020 29
Give a somm a home Hipsterish nerds with Benny hats and too many tattoos … it’s easy to pigeonhole sommeliers into a smug metropolitan subculture. But look beyond the caricature, says David Williams, and you might see a group of distressed wine professionals with a lot to offer the independent trade
he rise of the sommelier is one of the more remarkable side effects of wine’s imperial period – those
late-20th century/early 21st years when wine and wine culture conquered the drinks world.
Before the 1980s, the job itself was
mostly an exotic curiosity outside the Francophone world (which for the
purposes of my argument included the
overwhelmingly French Michelin-approved fine-dining scene in the UK and the USA). By the 2010s, however, the job had
And in the 2010s there was a hipster-
side to sommeliers that you don’t often find
fashionable on-trade-focused importers,
dexterity that all the best sommeliers
ish element to it – for a moment around
2015, at certain events hosted by the more you could get the impression that all
sommeliers, no matter their gender, had been inducted into a secret society that
came with a uniform of a pair of too-short thick cotton trousers, a brace of esoteric tattoos and the kind of woolly hat once favoured by binmen and Benny from Crossroads.
2012’s Somm, which followed four
is even more fiendishly difficult than
sommeliers I know is not a common taste
become sufficiently glamorous to inspire a successful documentary feature film,
candidates attempting to pass the Master
Sommelier exams – a test that many claim becoming a Master of Wine.
In the States especially, but also in
London and other big European cities, a kind of sub-culture had developed.
uch was the impression at trade days at The Real Wine Fair. But the world of sommellerie has
always been much more diverse than that sort of caricature allows. What unites the in music or fashion or hedonistic nights
out so much as an unquenchable thirst for
wine knowledge. There is a studious – even
(in the very best sense of the word) nerdy –
THE WINE MERCHANT OCTOBER 2020 30
in their peers in the bar world. And when
it’s combined with the charm and discreet share, it makes for a quietly charismatic whole.
From the outside, certainly, it looks like
an interesting world to get involved in.
Rewarding, too, if you’re to believe the
late master of the art, Gerard Basset. As he puts it in the conclusion to his fascinating
and at times very moving, memoir, Tasting
Victory (posthumously published earlier this year), the life of the sommelier may
be hard work at times. But the pay-off can be enormous. “My efforts to serve other
people, to choose wines that would take
their meal to another level, to make them comfortable and give them a night, or a
holiday, that they would remember for the rest of their lives, repaid me many, many
times over,” Basset writes. “I would do it all again.”
© pressmaster / stockadobe.com
A lot of sommeliers are contemplating a future that won’t necessarily put their hard-earned skills to good use
If this column appears to be taking on
a slightly elegiac tone, well we all know
why that is. Sommeliers have been among the most affected by a year in which
the livelihoods of many working in the hospitality trade have been whipped
away like a tablecloth in a very clumsy,
unsuccessful version of the old conjuror’s
trick, with glasses and plates smashing all around them.
As Ronan Sayburn MS, one of the UK’s
leading sommeliers, and head of wine at
the wine-obsessed private members’ club 67 Pall Mall says in an article published by market researchers IWSR: “A lot of
sommeliers are losing their jobs. It’s not
necessarily the senior ones, but the more
junior ones. I think the top-end restaurants will mostly be fine, but the mid-market
could suffer – those with one sommelier, rather than a team.”
Where do the unlucky ones go? A lot,
apparently, are returning home, which
for many means countries across the EU,
closely resembles their original habitat.
lockdown in a tiny London room that they
between the independent off- and on-
a decision motivated by concerns over
Brexit as much as the prospect of spending don’t even have the wages to pay for.
But there are plenty more suddenly
inactive sommeliers with a UK passport
who are contemplating a future in which they can’t put their many and varied, if
highly specialised, skills to good use. There is a sense that many British sommeliers
will find other jobs in the on-trade in which their wine knowledge will be a useful but
far from essential skill: they’ll be working as waiters or, if they’re lucky, restaurant
managers, as so many restaurants either close or, in times of drastically reduced covers, cut back on staff numbers.
y own hope is that at least some of the rest of the
sommelier community can
find positions in the sector that most
THE WINE MERCHANT OCTOBER 2020 31
It shouldn’t be too much of a stretch.
Even before Covid-19, the boundaries
trades had blurred. Not just in all those
hybrid wine-bar-shops, or those off-trade
outlets set up by trained sommeliers, such as Jamie Smith’s Tring Winery and Xavier
Rousset’s Wine Shop at Le Comptoir. Over the past couple of decades, independent wine merchants have been at least as
proactive as the best sommeliers in the role of setting trends and leading wine
drinkers towards more interesting and rewarding wines.
An independent wine merchant is
a setting where sommeliers should
feel at home, in other words. And wise independent merchants will surely
consider giving some of the talented
sommeliers currently lost in the turbulence of 2020 a safe haven to ply their trade as we wait to see what happens in 2021.
win £200 worth of wine
Therm au Rouge
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Retailing for £9.99, Therm au Rouge
Described by CellarDine as a worldwide
This newly-launched device has been
gently takes a cold bottle of red wine
first in wine preservation, ZOS removes
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five minutes. It’s become one of the
opened and resealed with the contents
for £129.99, it’s already captured the
company’s best-selling lines, with over
staying fresh for two months. There’s no
imagination of leading sommeliers.
2.2 million sold in the UK. It is now
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distributed in more than 20 countries: it
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is listed by retailers including Waitrose,
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perfectly aerated wine.
Lakeland and Harrods.
until required. ZOS retails for £49.99.
CellarDine was set up by Peter Dunne, who had a long career in retail before joining a Dutch kitch
Spotting a gap in the market for a device that could gently warm red wines to drinking temperature, he investe money in designing and patenting the Therm au Rouge sleeve, bringing it to market in 1999.
It provided the springboard for a business that now encompasses a broad range of wine accessories, which h
press coverage. “Our business was set up to create genuine innovation and provide products that are original, fu affordable,” says Dunne.
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CaddyO bottle chiller
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CaddyO has been designed to chill
A revolutionary new product designed
Rouge O2 electronic wine breather
warm bottles in minutes, keeping them
to actively chill bottles in minutes,
The Rouge O2 wine breather is
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help of a unique cooling gel. Simply
also pour effortlessly and preserve
lengthy process of aerating and
store the cylinder in the freezer for a
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minimum of four hours and place the
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cylinder inside the neoprene cover.
device retails at £19.99.
from one hour to under a minute. It
Retailing at £29.99, it fits all 75cl and
retails at £19.99.
ed £50,000 of his own
have enjoyed wide
, breathing and
d up with David
e away at our store
Here’s how to take part Win a Wake Up Wine decanter, a CaddyO bottle chiller, ChillCore 3 in 1 and a Rouge O2 wine breather worth just under £200 at retail prices. To enter the prize draw, simply answer the following question: In which American state was the Wake Up Wine decanter developed? Send your answer to email@example.com. A correct entry will be drawn at random and the winner will be sent their prizes by CellarDine. The competition is only open to independent wine merchants in the UK. One entry per business. The winner will be notified by email and announced on social media.Please contact us for further T&Cs.
Glad to be grounded Tom Jones just wants to run a lovely wine business staffed by lovely people for lovely customers. The nervous 23-year-old who set up the business has come a long way in his first 10 years, but he remains as down to earth as he was at the beginning
Anthony Reynolds, July 2020 Whalley is a village in the Ribble valley in Lancashire, near Clitheroe
THE WINE MERCHANT OCTOBER 2020 34
WHALLEY WINE SHOP
ike a lot of things scheduled for
April 2020, the 10th anniversary of Whalley Wine Shop was
something of a damp squib. But for Tom Jones and his team, there wasn’t time to dwell on that. Lockdown was underway and sales were booming.
There’s not an ounce of self-pity in
Jones’s voice as he talks about the “big
plans” for the celebration that never was. But it would have been a nice moment to reflect on how far the business has come in its first decade, and what a reputation it has established – not only in its native
Lancashire, but within the wine trade more generally.
How does Jones recall those early times?
“I had the confidence of youth,” he says. “At 23 years of age, coming out of university, you think you’re invincible.
“I was lucky in that my parents had their
the 10 years we’ve been open.
February where I met with all our
lovely people who work in it and lovely
we could look at the numbers.
“I don’t have the ability to be all bling
and style. We have a lovely little shop with people who visit us.
“We don’t have any pretences. If someone
collection, I would have to say, ‘look, we’re probably not the right place, I’m not going
to be able to help you’. If you want genuine, good wines to drink this week with friends then yes, that’s our area. We are pretty grounded.”
Whalley has been operating as a hybrid
wine shop/wine bar but is in the process of opening a dedicated wine bar next door, to
separate these two strands of the business. How has the range evolved during and since lockdown?
get the reward out of it.”
great on that. It’s been different but with
But he admits he was “certainly nervous
about coming into the industry”.
“Ten years ago, it was much more closed
than it is now,” he says. “I was walking
into tastings and I was the youngest by a country mile. I almost had to over-prove
lockdown. We’ve been asking to see
samples and a lot of suppliers have been
day and for half an hour, we get together, spread out, get our own spittoon, grab a booklet and taste the wine as a team.
How many suppliers have you been working with?
stripping that element out; I think the
we defaulted to the companies that we
had a decent palate.
At the beginning of lockdown, back in
industry is a lot more welcoming.”
really felt we could deal with quickly
Jones has been on a mission to turn “an
off-licence in a small village in the north
west of England into what I hope is one of the leading independents in the country”. The words may come across as brash,
but anyone who’s met Jones will testify that this isn’t a character trait at all.
“We don’t big ourselves up – it’s not
smoke and mirrors, it’s just genuine,” he says. “We like what we do, and we do it
well. I think we’ve done a fantastic job in
Tom Jones and wife Jen
reduced hours we’ve been able to finish the
that I knew what I was talking about and “I think we’ve done a good job of
Continues page 36
Bordeaux first-growth or second-growth
We bought loads of new wines in during
you work hard and you put the time in, you
to bring our three-year trading history so
comes in and wants to talk about their
own business, so I came from a business
background and I’d seen that, basically, if
suppliers – around 35 – and I asked them
March, our supply base narrowed because and efficiently. They were the people we jumped to straight away.
I’d tried to have a process in January/
‘I was walking into tastings and I was the youngest by a country mile. I almost had to over-prove that I knew what I was talking about’ THE WINE MERCHANT OCTOBER 2020 35
From page 35
I said to everyone, let’s see what our
business has bought from you over the last three years and if you like the numbers,
then great – let’s have a plan about how
‘Lockdown showed that there’s huge buying out there from people who will not go above 10 quid – or will not go above eight quid in some instances’
we’re going to carry on. And if you don’t
like the numbers, let’s have a chat about
why and see what we can do to turn that around.
Have you had a boom in sub-£10 wines?
Some merchants say that it’s nearly impossible to find good wines below
it was great to see the enthusiasm. It
was pre-Covid-19 so we were looking at
During lockdown when customers were switching over from supermarkets and
price was a key factor, we were looking for sub-£10 wines.
I totally disagree with that. You can find
£10 just left the building.
great wines below £10. It’s about the wine you weigh up what delivers a great wine.
I sat down with about six or eight and
activities we could do like tastings and
trips, and basically it gave us a blueprint
for the rest of the year. Obviously we can tear that up and throw it away …
The people I got a good vibe from as a
result of those meetings, those were the
people we leapt to with bigger orders at the start.
We’d only been working with North
South since last year and it’s been really good working with those guys. They
were one of the ones we went from small, intermittent orders to rapidly increasing our volume with them over lockdown.
For the first six weeks, everything under
I have always tried to keep a policy of
having a smattering of sub-£10 wines, so
we had quite a lot anyway. It’s so easy – the longer you spend in this industry, your palate gets attuned to more and more complex and usually more expensive
wines. But as a buyer, dragging your palate
back to the reality for most customers, and finding wines at £7.99 that customers will enjoy and find good fruit … you have to keep that focus as a buyer.
£10, so how do you track them down?
doing the job it needs to do and it’s how
I can say, “this quirky Tasmanian Pinot
Noir at £35 is a great wine. It’s subtle, it’s elegant, it’s light”. If I put that in front of
a farmer from Yorkshire who is having a
massive plate of roast beef, he’s not going
to find that it’s a great wine – he’s going to
want guts and power and richness. You put a £9.99 Appassimento in front of him from Sicily that’s thick and stewy, he’s going
to love it, that’s a great wine for him. It’s horses for courses.
Often I’ll get one of the guys to send a
bottle of wine home to me, usually under £10 – it could be under, it could be over,
and I blind taste it. The amount of times
I go, “ooh, that’s good, I’d pay £13.99 for
that” and it’s one of our £8.99 bottles. Now if you’d poured it and told me it was £8.99, I’d have tasted it and said, “yeah, it’s about £8.99”.
Lockdown gave the independent trade a glimpse of part of the market that it’s always been missing. Lockdown showed that there’s huge buying out there from people who will not go
above 10 quid – or will not go above eight quid in some instances. If you can find a
bottle of wine for £7.99 that you are happy
THE WINE MERCHANT OCTOBER 2020 36
recommending, you might find a whole
WHALLEY WINE SHOP
Wine advisor Dan Stevens has been part of the Whalley team from the beginning
new section of customers open up to you. It might not fit with your brand – there
are plenty of wine merchants out there
and they know their own market and you set your own stall out. But it works for us having a good range of sub-£10 wines. How much do you buy from Vindependents? We are not a big member because we don’t wholesale a vast amount, so the majority
of wine goes through our retail shelves and our throughput is slower.
I’m really pleased with the work that we
do with them. There are some very good wines that, at the suggested margin, are
excellent and work for us and the customer. They are very good at trying to keep all
the members involved and we all have the opportunity to chip in with suggestions.
Overall, I think the model is really sound
and the big appeal is that there is a slightly higher margin for members. And I really like the forum aspect.
What I’d really like to see is us focusing
on some of the other bits like packaging
other. But I think perhaps as an industry
we need to do some visible things for the customer.
How has the Covid experience changed life for you at Whalley?
and waste. Wouldn’t it be great if we all got
Hopefully the independent sector will have
on the environment? How do we improve
a justification for some changes. For
together and really put some thought into these ideas of how we lessen our impact postal packaging; shouldn’t we all be
looking at how to send out 20cl samples in lockdown? We could really push the agenda if we started acting as a group.
I’d love to see a solution that gets rid of
shrink wrap and plastic carrier bags. The wine industry does a good job
behind the scenes telling us about the
changes they are making in glass weight, carbon emissions and this, that and the
THE WINE MERCHANT OCTOBER 2020 37
attracted customers who are going to stay. Covid is not an excuse but has been
example, we’ve usually operated seven
days a week but during lockdown we were only operating five days a week, and the numbers were still stacking up.
Previously we were seven days a week,
12 hours a day, 10am to 10pm. Moving
forward we are going to be six days a week, 10am to 8pm. When we first opened it was Continues page 38
From page 37
about grabbing every sale we could. Now
to tempt you with their story about it; how
The plan is still there. The reasons for
Will web sales be an important aspect
who want to drink good wine. We are
do they get you excited about it?
we are in a slightly better position where
of the business indefinitely?
maintain those sales.
guarantee you that of 100 customers that
we can start to put the balance of our team
I think you can get trapped into thinking
Are local deliveries and web sales still a
walk into our shop today, let’s say that
and our personal lives ahead and still
big part of your business? I think it was shifting before Covid. Amazon has changed the way people shop – that
expectation of ease of delivery within 24 to 48 hours, free of charge. It has really
shifted people’s perceptions and retailers have had to adapt to that.
We had invested in an e-commerce site
before Covid happened. I still think it’s
that everyone is moving online. I can
half of them are over 55 and most of them aren’t shopping online. We can think the
doing it are all still valid. We still think we have a great local catchment for people
hoping that within 12 weeks maximum
[from late August] we will have turned a
half-derelict bank building into a new and thriving wine bar – right next door to the shop as well.
Why aren’t you sticking as a hybrid?
messages we are sending in social media
There are positives to the hybrid model
is still going to be a massive amount of
I think for new businesses starting out it is
or online are always landing, but our
emails only have a 28% open rate. There customers who want to shop in person. You’ve postponed the opening of the
new wine bar. What’s the latest there?
tricky for a small business to sell wine
online. Packaging just isn’t there, it’s very
which worked very well for us – in no way
do I want to criticise the hybrid model, and very beneficial. I think it sets a nice, busy atmosphere and it allows you to always
have wines open to taste and engage with customers.
costly to make sure the product gets there, and the margins are so tight that if the
product doesn’t arrive and you have to replace it you are losing profit.
It’s not going to go away – it perhaps
won’t reach the levels we saw during Covid, but there will be a marked increase.
It’s interesting that online sales are so big for indies now, given that the focus in recent years has been on the experience of visiting a wine shop. As an industry I think we have to work on translating the customer service we offer
in the retail shops and moving that online.
Rather than fighting amongst each other to cut margin and only attracting customers on price, we need to focus on what we
are offering – how we are telling the story about wine?
Wine isn’t a mobile phone contract or
a spanner set. You can get the spanner
you want from any shop, there’s no story
behind it. You can’t get that with a bottle of Malbec. There are thousands of stories out
there, so which of those merchants is going
Indies like Whalley have had to find ways of replicating the in-store experience in a digital way
THE WINE MERCHANT OCTOBER 2020 38
WHALLEY WINE SHOP
‘Essentially the busier the the bar got, the more it put off our retail customers. People didn’t want to come in and shop in a bar’
There are lots of benefits but when we
drilled down into the numbers and as
the business matured, we started to see a flattening-off of the retail.
Overall numbers were going up – as a
business we were still growing. That was then a combination of retail, wholesale,
on-trade and then the fourth pillar, which wasn’t doing anything at the time, which
wine and you go home.
You seem to have a great team. Is that
people perceived us to be a bar. We had
the more it put off our retail customers.
people who fit well with us. We treat them
The more successful the bar was, more
people turn up and say, “oh, I didn’t realise it was actually a shop”.
I think you should always stick to your
core business. Know what it is, know what
you want to do and look after it. Our core is that we are an independent retailer. Come in, give us money, we give you a bottle of
On-trade blurred it, but it was the cream
on the top. Essentially the busier it got,
They might be coming back from the gym in all their scruffs and they want to pick
just a question of luck? I like to think we’re good at spotting the right – we have a very low turnover.
Dan [Stevens] has been with me since
up something chilled to take home, and
day one. Matt [Monk] and Jen [Jones] both
they’re not welcome.
been with us about four years and Rachel
they see a group of nicely dressed people
sitting drinking Champagne, and they think That’s never been our intention or
attitude, but I could see that happening. During the busy times, on-trade was
joined in 2012 and Jen is now married to
me, so that worked out well! Nick [Hoyle]’s [Wallhouse] has done at least a year with us. Yeah, we have a great team.
Throughout lockdown they have all
cannibalising the retail because people
massively stepped up to the plate. I
We’re going to try and move all that drink-
website, the marketing, the procedures and
didn’t want to come in and shop in a bar. The site we are on won’t change at all.
in business and gently shift it over to the building next door.
The hope is that we can create the space
in such a familiar way for people that we
stepped back and was working more from
home and trying to focus on developing the planning, and the guys were running the shop and they did a fantastic job.
Is that how you’d like to run things
don’t create this jolt. It’s still us, just a bit
moving forward – being away from the
Will you have two separate ranges?
the business, and to really grow you have
day-to-day and being more strategic?
We still want to have some retail presence
to be working on it.
in it so we’ll perhaps cherry-pick a hundred
You end up working in the business, not on I split the business into four pillars:
wines to have on the shelf.
retail, on-trade, wholesale and online. Once
I’m not committing to what we’re doing yet
I will spend a day with each of them to
I want to bring somebody in at the start
and really let them help build it with me, so as I want to see who we recruit and what ideas they bring to the table.
But it will be a decent range with around
25 wines by the glass, plus luxury stuff
Coravined. There’ll be around 100 bottles
on the wall all available to pay corkage on
or take away as retail. Priced on-trade first with a discount for retail.
THE WINE MERCHANT OCTOBER 2020 39
we’ve recruited the bar manager, we’ll have key people looking after each element. pinpoint any issues, make plans etc.
My wife Jen is going to look after all our
wholesale and corporate and we really
want to try and grow that now. So that’s
four days of my working week and on the fifth day I’ll work in the shop – you can’t miss out on that. It’s such an important
element, to work in a shop selling wine.
THE JOB I
n the beginning was the shop and the
The association of apple-bobbing with Halloween and Bonfire Night often leads towards bulkmade mulled cider as the adult drink on such occasions. The social constraints of the Rule of Six allows for the exploration of cooler, individual, applethemed drinks this year, such as this twist on the Cognac-based classic Sidecar cocktail. It’s also a chance to check out the Mangrove-distributed Avallen Calvados, a 2019 launch that’s aiming to update the French apple brandy and support bumble bee conservation. Or the glorious Pere Magloire, from Emporia.
2.5cl Calvados 2.5cl Cointreau or triple sec 2.5cl lemon juice 0.5cl King’s Ginger liqueur Orange zest
Shake the Calvados, Cointreau, King’s Ginger and lemon juice vigorously with ice and strain into a chilled Coupe glass. Garnish with an orange twist. To vary the spice element, leave out the King’s Ginger and coat the rim of the glass in a mix of ground cinnamon and sugar before chilling.
shop had not even a kettle on the shop
floor. These were simpler times, the days
of Roll and Fritter – two, sometimes three
fritters in a buttered roll, sometimes twice, three times in a day. But then we were all pretty drunk all the time in those days. Happy, fat, drunken times.
Then came the Growler Station before
anyone wanted a Growler Station. Up went a wooden island and a sink and bits of
Growler Stationing – taps and that. Drip
trays. Then the Growler stuff went into the cupboard in the cellar with the mice and the Christmas decorations and some big weird cage Laurent-Perrier gave us one year.
And we looked upon the sink and we
saw the water, that it was good and that
it could be heated. The kettle moved from
downstairs to upstairs. Cup-a-soup became a possibility. The cups started multiplying.
The range of teas started multiplying. Some hooks appeared for the cups. Some plates for the fritter rolls. Some condiments for
the battered sausage. The microwave came upstairs. It was now possible to spend an
entire shift on the shop floor if you ignored the need to urinate or replenish any stock. And then came the great health kick.
We stopped looking east towards the chip
shop and started looking west towards the expensive wholefood shop, full of curry and salad and soup and bean burritos
and alternative grains and “healthy” pies, sometimes, and some rather nice vegan
THE WINE MERCHANT OCTOBER 2020 40
sausage rolls and those cinnamon buns
made in Barlinnie. Then we all ran out of
money. But the spell of the chippy had been broken, and we had a KITCHEN.
Most people bring in food they have
prepared but I don’t because I am quite disorganised and all my Tupperware
leaks. Now in the kitchen we have several chopping boards and several quite blunt knives, bowls, and an amazing multi-use device in the shape of a wine bottle that my dear partner got me for Christmas
which includes: a grater! An egg separator. A mesh to put a boiled egg through. The
grater is the best bit, really. Experiments
in microwaving eggs have proved at best disappointing and at worst evil.
ood discussion, preparation and
imbibement now take up 80%-90% of the working day – and yet the success
of the shop has risen somewhat since
the arrival of the kitchen. Coincidence or correlation? Customers seem to like me
walking around the shop with the knives
and slicing spring onions whilst blabbing on about why they should be buying Riesling.
Some days we have a picnic which
involves cheese from the cheese shop
up the road and anything that they have
reduced – ideally Scotch eggs and salami.
However the frequency of these have fallen because no one except Ann brings good stuff to the party.
The reduced section is central in the
Phoebe Weller of Valhalla’s Goat in Glasgow knows that, even for those of us forced to work long hours in cramped conditions with no access to bamboo steamers, mandolins and bains-marie, lunch can still be a thing of beauty
philosophy of the endless shop lunch –
specifically the “reduced” section of the
Co-op. The Co-op’s reduced section is in
the bottom of the fridge in the narrowest
aisle – almost like they don’t want people
to be seeking out the glorious treats that it
contains. Most days I am there, lying on the
ground (thanks yoga) extricating seemingly disparate orange-labelled items from the chilled depths.
Reduced items score double or triple
points. “Healthy” things score double
points, even if they are then doused in
mayonnaise. Healthy is a variable feast depending on which fad diet is making its way around the shop. Veg is king,
overlord, mistress of all, veg is the best,
hooray for veg. Fermented veg = quadruple points apart from that jar of sauerkraut
that made me think that I was exploding. We are agreed that fats are OK so fats feature highly to disguise the taste of
veg. Carbohydrates are bad (however
fermented carbohydrates in liquid form aren’t bad). I’m a bit weird about sugar
(however … see above). No cane sugar. If I
were on a desert island I would not be able
to get sugar out of a coconut, so no coconut nectar. Agave I could probably figure out so agave is fine. I would probably die if I
tried to steal the honey from the bees, so no honey.
A mini microwave miracle from a mixture of veg, crispy pig bits and radioactive salami
HIS WEEK I AM skint and I don’t know why. Perhaps it’s because last week I was feeling flush enough to spend EIGHT POUNDS on a croissant and a big lump of butter and some fancy cherry jam (sugar
from fruit juice concentrate) which then (obviously) led to a big lump of
Ossau Iraty from Cheeseland (because what’s the point of cherry jam if you don’t have some Ossau Iraty to put it on and vice versa? I mean aside from the croissant.) So the cherry jam is now done and the reduced orange labels from the Co-op are back. Whilst in the cheese shop I spied a big bit of manky-looking fennel salami end in the off-cuts so bought that too and left it in the bottom of the chocolate fridge, maturing (forgotten) until now. Also after a couple of days of laminated dough, I now am laminated dough, so this month’s theme is KALE. In the big bowl that no one has smashed or stolen goes: kale, a little bit of water, covered, ZAP! Lemon juice, black pepper, HEALTH! Too healthy, too much leaf and crinkle. So cut up little bits of Finocchiona, ZAP! And all the juice comes out and we are left with little crispy bits of pig plus fatty fennel juice which I then pour over kale: UNHEALTH! On top of this (veg is king): reduced (double points) Co-op broccoli and green things medley 79p, reduced vegan beetroot couscous salad with some falafel 40p. Plating up: kale, broccoli and green things, scary looking couscous, smashed up falafel, end bits of Ossau Iraty casually shaved over, plus a sneaky bit of cubed Golden Cross that Cheeseland gave me free, because I threatened them, over the beetroot thing then the radioactive salami bits. BOOM. Health and Unhealth in one Amazing Lunch.
It is with this history and ground rules
in place that My Amazing Lunches are
based. Where will it take us first? Read my AMAZING LUNCH 1 opposite.
THE WINE MERCHANT OCTOBER 2020 41
INTERVIEW: IAIN SMITH
THE WINE MERCHANT OCTOBER 2020 42
My customers saved my business Forty of Iain Smith’s most loyal clients stepped up in his hour of need, keeping his Exeter wine shop running while he was being treated in hospital
ain Smith always intended for his business to be a big part
of his local community, and over the last year his customers have shown him just how important and well-loved an
institution Smith’s Wines has become.
A group of 40 locals, now officially known as Team Smith, have
offered invaluable practical support during Smith’s recent ill
health and he admits that without them the Exeter wine shop would not have survived.
In September last year, Smith was diagnosed with Horner’s
Syndrome – confirming the suspicion of both his osteopath and
one of his own customers. The cause turned out to be cancerous.
“The benefit of having a wine shop a quarter of a mile from the
hospital is that so many of my customers are medics,” he says.
“I’m so lucky to do what I do where I do it. People have been so fabulous, from all the staff on Yarty ward to all my customers.”
He admits he was “really concerned about the business” and
decided to let his loyal customers “know what was going on”.
“I gave them my mobile number and said, ‘there will be times
when I won’t be in the shop. I need your support more than ever now, so please don’t go to Waitrose or Spar. Just give me a call and I’ll get some wine to you.’
“That’s when people started saying, ‘well, I work from home
– I can come and sit in your shop for a few hours’, and that was
the beginning of Team Smith. Forty of my customers, my friend
Simon [Tomlin] included, offering to do shifts in the shop to keep it running so that I didn’t have to worry.
“None of these people knew each other – it wasn’t like a pre-
existing group of friends getting together and saying, ‘let’s
THE WINE MERCHANT OCTOBER 2020 43
INTERVIEW: IAIN SMITH
help Iain out’. It was my customers saying, ‘I can help you keep the
been able to create the kitchen and make the main trading area
began. He cycled to work every day, put a closed sign on the door
lighting on the shelves so there’s this lovely glow showing off all
business going’. Such amazing, amazing generosity.”
Smith’s chemotherapy had just come to an end when lockdown
and a sign in the window offering free same-day delivery within
the Exeter area. He took and prepared orders during the day and
Tomlin would appear at 3pm to collect all the boxes and make the deliveries. “He just made it all happen,” says Smith. “He saved the business.”
As if recovering from cancer and surviving through lockdown
wasn’t enough of a challenge, Smith has also taken on new premises. It’s a former florist’s, just four doors down.
With the help of the grants awarded during the pandemic,
he was able to pay £20,000 for the lease and to cover the
dilapidations on the old building. The profits from the uplift in
trade over lockdown have gone some way to refurbishing the new premises.
“I haven’t been able to do everything yet,” Smith says, “but I’ve
“I’m so happy with the way it looks in here. I’ve put under-lit
the bottles, and above the dining table I’ve put these lamps with
steampunk-style light bulbs in them which gives a gorgeous golden glow over the table. In the evenings when people are eating it just looks so lovely in here.
“In the old shop I was responsible for the whole building which
had a two-bed flat above it. The rent was £16k a year, the business rates £7.5k and there was a £1k a year in buildings insurance so I’m actually saving £12.5k a year by being in the new shop.”
Next on the agenda is the development of the cellar into an extra
dining area, and a new website.
Smith is in remission and considers himself lucky to be where
he is now. “Having run the shop completely by myself for so many
years, it’s so nice to know that there are people I can fall back on,” he says.
THE WINE MERCHANT OCTOBER 2020 44
. T H E D R AY M A N .
Small beer is suddenly big news
notable breakout from the fragmentation of the beer
Beak Brewery Lulla, 3.5% abv: made at Burning Sky but a
market is the rebirth of small beer, aka table beer. This
softer style despite the higher strength, with a little more malt
historic style of reduced-strength ale dates back to the
Middle Ages when it was drunk by children as well as adults, as fermentation made it safer to drink than water.
Howling Hops Pocket Rocket Tiny IPA, 2.7% abv: Hazy and ginger beer-pale but full of piney, citrus American hop flavour.
The current crop of table beers tend to come in at between 2% and 3% abv, though some push the upper benchmark. For today’s drinkers table beers offer an option for midweek
Pomona Island Killian is Lying to You, 3.3% abv: Wheat beerstraw in colour with a real cereal character aroma, and a balance between malty sweetness and tangy hops. Duration You End Up Where You Were, 3% abv: Enigmatic
moderation while still feeling like a proper drink. The adventure and skills of modern brewing help the style:
branding includes a maze for a label. It deploys oat, wheat and
American hops provide powerful aromas, late hopping gives
dextrin, which all add structure, and has a killer foamy head,
freshness and the shunning of filtering and pasteurisation locks
though a little lacking in punchiness on the hop front.
in flavour. Oats and certain malted barley types add body.
Here are a few to look out for.
his is by no means an exhaustive list and other notables
Kernel Table Beer, 2.9%: A trailblazer that’s been around since 2012, it’s hazy, packed with tropical fruit flavour and with a mouthfeel that could be mistaken for something twice the strength.
that have come – and in some cases gone, as is the nature of the craft beer scene – include Gipsy Hill’s
Carver, Signature Unplugged and Thornbridge’s Carry Us All. There’s no doubt that this is a welcome trend that encourages
Newbarns Table Beer, 3% abv: A single varietal Mosaic hop
moderation without sacrificing product quality – but there is a
beer from a Scottish start-up formed by ex-Kernel brewers,
danger that, as more brewers catch on to the tricks in getting it
and brewed to a similar style. Initially made at Kernel, though
right, it begins to conform to a certain formulaic style.
shortly switching to its own plant in Leith.
But for now, there’s enough newness and energy in small and
Burning Sky Tail Crush, 3% abv: A three-way bill of American
table beer to keep moderation-seeking drinkers engaged. The
hops gives resinous floral hops while malted oats provide
real win will be when the breadth of offer matches the joyous
eclecticism of the modern brewing environment in its entirety.
Today’s table beers offer midweek moderation while still feeling like a proper drink
Brewers are thinking smaller
THE WINE MERCHANT OCTOBER 2020 45
ÂŠ fesenko / stockadobe.com
FRUIT, FORAGING & PHIL ANTHROPY
Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s the gift that keeps on giving. If anything, the Covid crisis seems to have accelerated, rather than slowed, ginâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s off-trade rise as consumers indulge in home comfort drinking. But with an average now of one gin distillery for every six people in the British Isles (or so it seems), planet gin can be a confusing place, full of duplication traps for hard-pressed buyers seeking to build a convincing and credible range. Not all gin is the same, and judicious selection can shape a range that excites and intrigues while offering distinct points of difference for adventurous customers. So what are some of the main gin types to look out for? Nigel Huddleston is your guide.
SAY IT LOUD, IT’S JUNIPER AND PROUD
DON’T FEAR THE FRUIT
Though both the rules and their enforcement are sketchy at
Discount supermarkets have cornered the market for
into the mix behind other flavours, that some traditionalists
create products with depth and integrity.
best, juniper is supposed to be the dominant flavour in gin.
Such has been the influx of interlopers pushing juniper back
have made it their mission to bring juniper sharply into the
foreground, nailing their colours to the mast of authenticity. Scottish brand Gyre & Gimble has what it calls a “double
whammy” of juniper, once in the original distillation, with a
further distillate added in creating a
final blend, which it says makes it “not so much juniper-forward as junipersmack-in-the-face”.
Northern Ireland’s Boatyard gin –
distributed by Speciality Brands – has a similar “double gin” approach. Founder Joe McGirr says: “This double contact method results in a pronounced
juniper flavour and an oily spirit that showcases a slight cloudiness when you mix with tonic.”
Hepple, distributed by Cask Liquid
Marketing, claims to be the only gin to celebrate the spirit’s key botanical by using fresh green juniper.
confected, novelty flavours – unicorns and retro confectionery
are current tropes – but some fruit gins transcend the kitsch to Pinkster was a way ahead of the curve when it produced its
first raspberry-infused pink gin in 2013 and the company’s Will Holt says it’s been using “real ones, the ones that grow
on bushes” ever since. He adds: “We have no added sugar, just
natural sweetness from the raspberries. We’re talking less than 0.1g per 70cl bottle compared to some of our pink peers with 65g. Producing gin with wet fruit isn’t easy but we’re simply not prepared to compromise on flavour.”
Dutch gin brand 1689’s Queen
Mary Edition rescues bruised
raspberries and strawberries to create a naturally pink gin that
embraces another modern trait,
the revived ancient recipe, this one dating back 300 years and unearthed in the British Library.
LOCAL GINS FOR LOCAL PEOPLE … AND TOURISTS This is the big one for dozens of gin producers, keeping
logistics simple, costs low and fostering immense amounts of goodwill.
Few major cities are without gins that generate a certain
sense of civic pride; Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Newcastle, Glasgow and Brighton all have one eponymous
gin, and some have more that express the personality of their
THE ONES FOR VINOPHILES Some gins have grown out of the burgeoning domestic wine industry, and thus have a natural synergy with independent specialists’ core product ranges.
Foxhole’s super-premium gin clocks in at just under £40 a
bottle and has a base spirit distilled from the marc left over from English wine production.
What we might call its second gin, Hyke, is produced with
surplus table grapes salvaged from the supermarket supply chain.
West Sussex-based Chilgrove is another premium gin with
a distilled-grape spirits base while Kent winemaker Chapel Down has developed the concept even further, exploring
varietal grape character with Bacchus and Pinot Noir gins.
Nolan Kane of Leeds-based Folklore sees its gin as “a
collaboration of local creatives and businesses throughout Yorkshire”, ranging from the ingredients suppliers to packaging designers and manufacturers.
Mutual local support also extends into rural gins. Tobermory
whisky claims to be the first to put its distillery name to a gin, making it with the help of Hebridean tea, grown locally by an inhabitant of Mull, where the distillery is located.
Essex start-up Oystermen gin has input on packaging from
a local artist and a poet and features the flowering sea plant
oyster leaf in its botanical bill. “The motive is to promote our
beautiful Essex coastline and its fine produce and artists,” says co-founder Godwin Baron.
THE WINE MERCHANT OCTOBER 2020 48
THE GOOD CAUSES
Rooting around in hedgerows for wild-growing
These are the gins that wear their hearts on their
ingredients provides the consumer hook for many
shrink-sleeve labels, whether that involves an ethical
stance or raising funds for good causes. Often there’s
Rupert Holloway launched Dorset’s Conker gin
a crossover with “local is best” where trimming road
in 2015 after foraging escapades on the cliffs above
miles creates sustainability stories.
Bournemouth and it’s now made with ingredients
Brighton Gin’s Kathy Caton stakes a claim to being
similarly sourced from along the county’s coast
“the UK’s first vegan-certified gin, including not just
and from the New Forest. “We are the real deal,” he
the liquid – based on organic wheat and fresh citrus
declares, “the foragers, the distillers and the bottlers,”
peels, unwaxed to ensure no animal products – but
he says of the plant-to-pack operation, whose gin is
also all of our packaging, including the bottle sealing
sold through Love Drinks.
London-based 58 Gin makes sloe gin with foraged
berries from the Kent countryside and an Apple & Hibiscus gin using wonky apples that are unwanted by fruit and veg retailers.
Ben Lomond gin features foraged rowan berries and hand-
picked blackcurrants from the Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park.
wax and the glue for the label”.
Mangrove’s Elephant gin funds a sanctuary and a
team of rangers who protect the pachyderms in Kenya and a wildlife conservation education centre in South Africa.
One Gin donates 10% of its profits to projects to supply
fresh water to some of the world’s poorest communities – and it claims to be vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free and certified kosher.
Harley House Craft Distillery
Since 2017, Harley House Distillery has produced some of the finest spirits in the land! Produced in their entirety in East Sussex, each spirit will amaze from the first to the last drop. Whether its a magical Sussex Blue, a triple award winning Pure Sussex or a rebelious Prohibition Rum, there is something that will entice everyone’s tastes!
www.HARLEYHOUSEDISTILLERY.co.uk Adam Distiller
THE WINE MERCHANT OCTOBER 2020 49
SOUTH AFRICAN WINE
FIVE REASONS TO LOVE CAPE WINES David Williams explores some of the qualities that he believes are setting South Africa apart from its peer group
PINOTAGE: TIME TO STOP APOLOGISING It wasn’t the most scientific of surveys, perhaps,
but it was at the very least instructive. Before giving a brief talk over Zoom to a group of wine-curious IT professionals
recently, I asked the attendees to name the grape varieties they most associated with the country. The clear winner? Pinotage. Of course “best known” isn’t the same as “favourite”. And
there is plenty of evidence to suggest Pinotage is more
notorious than famous. The variety has had a rough time at the
AMAZING SUB-£10 QUALITY We would all love it if the great British winedrinking public would consistently up their
average spend on wine. It would, on the whole, be better for them and us, whether we’re merchants, agents, producers or, in my case, a writer hoping not to spend all his time
recommending budget bottles. But until that utopia comes to pass (and this year’s events may well have set the timetable back), there’s always going to be a demand for high-quality wines that provide pleasure and interest at under a tenner. Enter South Africa. Is there a wine country that is more
adept at providing sub-£10 bang for buck? Certainly, there
are very few brands that do it as stylishly and consistently as
Kleine Zalze, False Bay, Percheron, Bosman Family Vineyards, Boekenhoutskloof Wolftrap, The Liberator Francophile, long list, but you get the idea.
embarrassment in the trade about admitting to liking and listing it.
Indeed, going through a few wine merchants’ South African
ranges as I prepared to write this piece, it was intriguing to see how often Pinotage is sold almost apologetically.
There’s almost always a nod and a wink, a more or less subtle
suggestion that, “no, we don’t normally like it either, but please believe us when we say this one’s different”.
Thing is, the best South African winemakers have long since
proved that any problems with Pinotage wines in the past
had more to do with winemaking and winegrowing than they did with the grape itself. The stereotypical bubblegum-in-
an-ashtray flavours are certainly not a feature of wines that
recall the variety’s Pinot Noir part-parentage. Wines such as Scions of Sinai Féniks, David & Nadia Topography Pinotage
and Beeslaar Pinotage are, rather, some of the country’s most elegant, ethereal red wines.
© ModernNomad / stockadobe.com
Swartland Winery’s Founders series … this could be a very
hands of its many sceptics over the years, and there’s a certain
THE WINE MERCHANT OCTOBER 2020 50
SOUTH AFRICAN SPECIALIST OF THE YEAR, PROUDLY IMPORTING AND DISTRIBUTING:
Get a 12+1 retro across the full range on your first order firstname.lastname@example.org / 01258 830 122 / www.museumwines.co.uk
SOUTH AFRICAN WINE
CINSAULT: A QUINTESSENTIALLY SOUTH AFRICAN RED The credit for inspiring the re-invention of
Pinotage shouldn’t all be laid at the feet of Pinot Noir. As another recent trend in South African wine has shown, Pinotage’s other parent is enjoying a much-deserved reassessment, too.
Indeed, you could argue that Cinsault, particularly old bush-
vine Cinsault, has a better claim to be South Africa’s signature
component) and “Swartland white blend” (but then, the trend
who have done so much to push South African wine forward
likes of Sadie, Mullineux, Thorne & Daughters, Blank Bottle
red grape than Pinotage.
It’s certainly a key variety for members of the new-wave set
in the past decade. Duncan Savage, Donovan Rall, Chris Alheit,
Adi Badenhorst and Blank Bottle’s Pieter Walser have all made stunning examples of Cinsault that show that red-fruited
elegance and fleet-footedness very much runs in the family.
has moved beyond there).
Whatever we’re calling them, the various blends from the
and so many more are already unquestionably among the world’s finest wines of any kind.
But it’s not just the top end, with Leaping Hound, Percheron,
GENUINE REGIONAL DIVERSITY
Waterkloof Seriously Cool and Radford Dale Thirst all
suggesting Cinsault is the Cape’s answer to the affordable vins de soif of Beaujolais.
THE WHITE BLEND WITHOUT A NAME: A 21ST-CENTURY CLASSIC Of all the great wine styles that have emerged from
the New World in the past half-century or so, could a style with its roots in a wine made by the Cape wine industry’s spiritual leader, Eben Sadie, as recently as 2002 be both the most distinctive and the one with the most staying power?
I have a feeling that the wine historians of the future might
look at things that way. As the modern South African wine
industry’s leading chronicler, Tim James, has said on many
occasions, Sadie’s 2002 Palladius set the tone for a style that is still in search of a name: in James’s definition, “mostly but by no means all from the Swartland, mostly but not all based on
Chenin and including just about anything else from Semillon to Chardonnay to Viognier (but seldom Sauvignon Blanc)”.
Can we call them Cape white blends? Well that’s not specific
enough, since it also covers the many superb Bordeaux-
esque white blends made in cooler parts of South Africa from
Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon (such as Vergelegen’s The White or Cape Point Isliedh).
Others have suggested “Mediterranean” or “Rhône white
blend” (but that underplays the significance of the Chenin
One of the pleasures of the rapid development of South African wine in the 21st century has been
the emergence of regional identities. We may not yet be at the point where retailers want to take the step of having different
sections of the shelves devoted to specific Cape regions. But we are surely ready to at least begin talking about the differences
between those regions when customers express an interest in South Africa.
As an outsider, I’m fascinated by the parallel rise of two very
different regions. Swartland is the one that gets most attention, and that’s not surprising. There’s a glamour to all those tales of adventurous, bohemian, surfer dudes packing up their camper vans to make natural wines from three rows of Hárslevelű. Plus the wines – the red, Rhône-ish blends as much as the whites – are so arrestingly, deliciously different.
The maturation of cool-climate Hemel-en-Aarde has been
no less interesting. The Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines
from Newton Johnson, Bouchard Finlayson, Hamilton Russell,
Crystallum and Ataraxia may owe an obvious debt of influence to Burgundy. But the growing quality and confidence in the region has been fascinating to watch.
Once you factor in the classicism of Constantia, Stellenbosch
and Franschhoek, the cool of Elgin, and the warm heartlands of Paarl and Robertson, to name just the most obvious, you have a wine country that can no longer be summed up in a couple of neat soundbites, and which is making wines as diverse as anywhere in the New World.
THE WINE MERCHANT OCTOBER 2020 52
Chosen from a selection of top quality grapes from premium Western Cape South African vineyards, these wines show ripe, expressive flavours and complexity with mouth-watering aromas, perfect partners for hearty food at home this season. A Unique Cape Winelands Experience
THE WINE MERCHANT OCTOBER 2020 53
THE STRANGE FORTIFIED WINE Â© Mazur Travel / stockadobe.com
BOOM THE WINE MERCHANT OCTOBER 2020 54
be up a staggering 37% from March, compared to the same period in 2019 (source: Nielsen
For years, the finest minds among producers, marketers and retailers have been trying to find ways of getting fortified wine sales moving. It turned out that all that was required was a global pandemic. Robert Mason reports
he human condition is a curious thing. We seek familiarity and comfort
in times of change. Old films and
favourite albums are rediscovered in search of snug nostalgia. And sometimes, the rehashing of thoughts, feelings and flavours leads to the discovery of hidden gems.
The nature of the global wine industry has
fundamentally and significantly changed.
“Adaptability” has become a moniker of success and it seems the old fortified guard is a lot
more adaptable (dare I say modern) than we thought.
A similar progression can be seen in the
largely seasonal port market. Joāo Vasconcelos, head of sales for Symington Family Estates,
also reports unexpected gains. “The truth is,
the category performed in the most resilient and incredible way ... so much that the last
Port Wine Institute statistics [end of July 2020] show port progressing by 3% in the UK, with
the premium categories holding their position versus 2019,” he says.
As other sectors in the alcohol industry can
no doubt attest, this has been driven by the
increase in online sales and through the support of local communities for indies.
Vasconcelos cites Nielsen stats that point
to a volume and value sales increase for port
outside the usually all-important festive season, with little evidence of consumers trading down. Colheita, premium tawnies and vintage styles have all over-performed.
Making a modern Madeira market
Focusing on the “big three” traditional
Madeira is often the most maligned of the trio.
Sherry has shaken off its Saga image, Madeira
29% in value, the resilient volcanic island has
fortified wine types, it’s becoming evident that consumer habits are evolving.
is not only for cooking and port is for life, not just for Christmas.
“We have seen a real surge in sherry sales
since lockdown ... and this is still continuing,
even after the on-trade has started to open up again,” says Alison Easton, marketing director of Gonzalez Byass UK.
The rise in this category has been significant.
Tio Pepe has been the star performer, with
en rama sales the best they have ever been since the style was created 11 years ago.
“Interestingly, the growth has been across
all styles of sherry,” Easton continues. And
the facts speak for themselves: in July, CEO
Martin Skelton reported total sherry sales to
THE WINE MERCHANT OCTOBER 2020 55
Although annual wine exports to the UK (up
to the end of August) fell 18% in volume and
seen encouraging signs of support from British consumers.
Chris Blandy, CEO of the Madeira Wine
Company & Blandy’s, says: “We have seen
3-year-old wine sales through the multiple
channel grow against the same period in 2019, and online performing substantially better
as well.” The important thing to acknowledge here is the consumer awareness of Madeira – something that is quietly brewing.
“Our colheita and vintage sales through the
high-end retailers are performing better than expected and our new releases have helped
raise interest for Madeira,” Blandy continues. “The biggest increasing trend is the use of
From page 55
Madeira wine in food pairings.
“Sommeliers are leading the way in
introducing Madeira wine to their clients,
allowing the retail channel to benefit as clients
want to then replicate their experience at home.” Which could not be more applicable than now. Living rooms have become bars and dining
rooms are the Pirelli restaurants of the nation. Are we to expect a surge on Sercial? The future of fortified
Perhaps the most interesting trend amongst all styles of fortified wine is how each category is proving its versatility.
Cocktails and long drinks are the medium of
choice for both white port and fino sherry, with the occasional Tinta Negra flashing its wares.
With the casual £100 blow-out nights currently
However, it goes without saying that
merchants should never under-estimate the power of premium. Is now the time to take
advantage of the increased collective consumer sentiment for nostalgia? Those bottles seeking a place on the drinks trolley this December
include Blandy’s bi-centenial release of the 1920 Heritage Collection Madeira, Graham’s 1940
colheita tawny and even the Alfonso vinos finitos 40-year-old oloroso.
In this modern age, traditional prestige
products are still valued. In the first part of this century we have seen a boom in beer, followed by the glut of gin. Will we now see a flurry of fortifieds?
Old becomes modern and fortified becomes
fresh. Nostalgia and tradition for some and a
new adventure for others. Dressed up or dressed down, these are wonderful wines.
© Boggy / stockadobe.com
on hold, the roaring twenties cocktail cabinet
has made a jolly resurgence. The good old days of Daisies and Fixes re-imagined with white
port, fino, manzanilla and half-oxidised halfanaerobic palo cortado. Or, simply a reserve
ruby, amontillado or Verdelho served over half a ton of ice.
“As the market for spritzes and long drinks
grows, we are seeing both port and sherry being drunk in different ways,” says Alison Easton of GBUK.
With the success over the past couple of years
of RTDs, fortified wine is ideally situated to
capitalise on this trend. GBUK has Croft Twist
as its prime offering, for years available in 75cl
glass bottles. More recently the brand has moved
Madeira shipments to the UK are down, but some styles have seen sales growth
to the more sustainable and portable canned offering, so popular with the eco-conscious
customer of today. Perhaps we will soon see similar port and madeira alternatives?
As we move ever closer to the Christmas
season, the displays could well have some new festive fortifieds to offer, in a variety of guises.
Cocktails and long drinks are the medium of choice for both white port and fino sherry THE WINE MERCHANT OCTOBER 2020 56
Sudden comfort: the appeal of fortifieds in uncertain times Andrew Hawes of Mentzendorff has watched port and sherry sales climb over the summer – and urges indies to be ready for a Christmas boom
ortifieds have been seeing some
unseasonably strong growth, according
to Andrew Hawes, MD of Mentzendorff,
whose brands include Taylor’s, Fonseca, Bodegas Hildalgo-La Gitana and Henriques & Henriques.
A glance at the company order book confirms
it. But Hawes has also been keeping an eye on
Nielsen data (admittedly fixated on the mults) as
well as Amazon activity. “On both of those fronts, fortified wine has had a pretty extraordinary time since lockdown,” he says.
“We started to see searches and sales of white
port going up. At first, I thought that was the weather and then the weather got a little bit worse and it just sort of carried on.”
White port had been making glacial progress
Taylor’s Chip Dry was a pioneer in the white port category
in the UK market until recently but has suddenly
provide a kind of nostalgic comfort in difficult
as being a lower-alcohol alternative to a gin and
economic crisis there’s something comforting
been discovered en masse by thousands of
consumers. “Maybe people are thinking about it tonic,” Hawes suggests, noting how popular the style is with a mixer.
“But at the same time, the parts of port that
after Easter tend to go quiet, like LBV … they
were just firing on all cylinders as well,” he adds. “White port in percentage terms is off the chart, but at the same time there’s strong double-digit growth for your classic LBVs and aged tawnies
which are not traditional summer drinks – and we hadn’t been promoting them.”
Perhaps it’s simply that fortified wines
“We’ve always known that in times of
about fortified wine and sales do tend to pick
up,” says Hawes. “There’s a degree of warmth and comfort around fortified wine.
“Port just hasn’t had its traditional summer
lull – it’s going already – and if this continues,
we could be on for a really big festive fortified
season,” he adds, urging indies to stock up on a wide range of styles, including gift packs.
“People are largely going to be at home and
looking for a sense of warming in dark days, physically and metaphorically.”
THE WINE MERCHANT OCTOBER 2020 58
AWIN BARRATT SIEGEL WINE AGENCIES 28 Recreation Ground Road Stamford Lincolnshire PE9 1EW 01780 755810 email@example.com www.abs.wine
C HR ISTMAS ALL WRAPPED UP This Christmas, ABS are offering a selection of carefully curated “Christmas All Wrapped Up” packs at three key price points. These will be delivered pre-packed, ready to take your customers on a celebratory journey throughout the festive season. For the person who has everything, we may have the solution - ask your Account Manager for details of our extremely limited Bling Box!
BANG F O R BU C K • NV Castello Prosecco • 2019 Klippenkop Chenin Blanc • 2018 Casas del Bosque Reserva Sauvignon Blanc • 2017 Las Carlinas Old Vine Garnacha • 2018 Cascadia Syrah
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org | E. and O.E
• NV WALT LØ
T RAD I T I O NAL T W I ST
Q U I NT ESSENT I AL L Y C H RI ST M AS
• 2012 Jacques Bruere MCC Brut Reserve
• NV Champagne Rene Jolly Blanc de Noir
• 2019 Touraine Sauvignon Blanc
• 2018 Allram Gruner Veltiner Hasel
• 2018 Philip Shaw The Architect Chardonnay
• 2018 Domaine des Malandes Chablis
• 2017 Vini Fabiano Valpolicella Ripasso
• 2015 Jordan Cobblers Hill
• 2016 Chateau Fontesteau
• NV Stanton & Killeen Classic Muscat
• 2018 Fürst Pinot Noir Tradition
• NV WALT LØ
Famille Helfrich Wines Burgundy Offer
1, rue Division Leclerc, 67290 Petersbach, France email@example.com 07789 008540 @FamilleHelfrich
1 BOTTLE «VILLAGE»* ORDERED =
1 BOTTLE «SAME VILLAGE» 1er Cru with Climat 2011/2012/2013* AT THE SAME PRICE!
Chartron & Trebuchet Meursault 2017 – 1 bottle of Meursault 1er Cru Genevrières 2013 at the same price
Chartron & Trebuchet Ladoix 2017 – 1 bottle of Ladoix 1er Cru Hautes Mourottes 2013 at the same price
Moillard-Grivot Nuits-Saint-Georges 2018 – 1 bottle of Nuits-SaintGeorges 1er Cru Aux Boudots 2012 at the same price
Moillard-Grivot Pommard 2018 – 1 bottle of Pommard 1er Cru Les
They’re all smiles to your face …
Epenots 2013 at the same price
Moillard-Grivot Pommard 2018 – 1 bottle of Pommard 1er Cru Les Rugiens 2012 at the same price
Moillard-Grivot Vosne-Romanée 2018 – 1 bottle of Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru Aux Brûlées 2012 at the same price
THE WINE MERCHANT OCTOBER 2020 60
LOUIS LATOUR AGENCIES 12-14 Denman Street London W1D 7HJ
0207 409 7276 firstname.lastname@example.org www.louislatour.co.uk
Autumn days are the perfect time to celebrate Beaujolais’ Cru wines Henry Fessy has vineyards in nine of the 10 Crus Beaujolais appellations. It has been a proponent of northern Beaujolais since its foundation in 1888. From its vineyards, it produces a selection of wines highlighting the unique characteristics of each, with consistent, simple winemaking techniques that allow the drinker to explore the
differences between each location. We stock a selected range of their wines for duty paid orders and the full range for ex-cellars orders. A few highlights: Beaujolais Villages
From old vines, grown on steep slopes in northern Beaujolais, Henry Fessy’s Beaujolais-Villages has depth of flavour and structure beyond what you may expect from this appellation.
Régnié Château des Reyssiers This vineyard was established more than 300 years ago and the wine, under the Château des Reyssiers label, represents the best selection from it. The wines are deep in colour and vivid. Brouilly
Brouilly is Henry Fessy’s historic base and the location of its cellar. The Brouilly wines showcase the appellation’s typical round and fruity style, balanced by moderate structure and savoury notes.
hatch mansfield New Bank House 1 Brockenhurst Road Ascot Berkshire SL5 9DL 01344 871800 email@example.com www.hatchmansfield.com @hatchmansfield
Don’t just take our word for it ... In 1996 the Gaja family undertook their most demanding project yet, the purchase of a historic 100ha Estate in Tuscany. It was a project propelled by Angelo Gaja’s ambition to challenge himself with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. A friend had told Angelo that ‘wine loves the breath of the sea’, sparking his curiosity to see how Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot would express themselves close to the sea. ‘The project of a blend was fascinating’ said Angelo, ‘like a photographer who for a long time worked in black and white and starts to discover colours’. The winery, one of the first in Italy to be built underground, was born of Angelo’s vision of simplicity and discretion. It comprises of ten thousand square metres, two thirds of which are covered by land. The Gaja family identified Bolgheri as the ‘birthplace of modern Italian wine, where new world meets old’ and the wines of Ca’Marcanda have a unique combination of opulence, ripeness and freshness, evoking images of long lazy lunches under the Tuscan sun.
THE WINE MERCHANT OCTOBER 2020 61
C&C wines / fine wine partners 109 Blundell Street London N7 9BN 020 3261 0927
C&C Wines and Fine Wine Partners are delighted to announce the creation of an exciting new partnership, designed to offer Indies one of the very best Australian portfolio’s from one supplier. This new arrangement will include wines from the following award-winning Australian estates, all available IBD and DPD, via C&C Wines’ low minimum order distribution network.
Boasting an incredible haul of trophies in recent years, Deep Woods’ highly sought after Reserve wines are available from 1st November.
To this day the only winery from Barossa Valley to be named “Winery of the Year” by revered Australian critic, James Halliday.
“Jack Mann” is without question Western Australia’s most iconic wine - named after one of Australia’s greatest ever winemakers.
One of the first wineries on Mornington Peninsula, now considered one of Australia’s finest producers of cool climate Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
Margaret River’s number 1 wine brand by volume, Evans & Tate is a household name to Australian wine lovers due its superb value.
A cult Coldstream winery, benefiting from some of the oldest vineyards in the Yarra Valley and one of the most forward thinking winemakers.
The winery’s sole objective has always been to produce ultra-premium wines from the very best sites in Adelaide Hills and Coonawarra.
Ed Carr is the only nonChampenois ever to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Champagne & Sparkling Wine World Championships.
One of the most respected and innovative brands in Australia, producing exceptional wines from both Eden and Barossa Valleys.
Contact C&C Wines today for more details on this new partnership and/or to receive our Autumn Off-Trade Promotions.
THE WINE MERCHANT OCTOBER 2020 62
liberty wines 020 7720 5350 firstname.lastname@example.org www.libertywines.co.uk
Site-driven wines from France
by David Gleave MW
Our new French producers are united in creating wines that express the essence of their origin. The Famille Perrin Sélections Parcellaires ‘Les Hauts de Julien’ shines the light
on this spectacular Vinsobres site, unusually co-planted with 90-year-old Grenache and
Syrah. The alluvial stone terraces at 300 metres’ altitude lend stunning perfume and
concentration to the wine. Domaine Bressy-Masson’s 20 hectares are spread over southfacing hillsides in what many experts regard as the best site in Rasteau. The limestone marl and clay soils give the wine both elegance and power.
Historic Chassagne-Montrachet domaine Jean-Noël Gagnard planted their ‘Clos
Bortier’ vineyard, lying above Saint-Aubin, in 2015. The Bourgogne Hautes-Côtes de Beaune and Crémant de Bourgogne ‘Grand Lys’ from this certified organic site bear the Gagnard hallmarks of richness and purity. Recently dubbed ‘Monsieur Côte du Py’ by Bourgogne Aujourd’hui, Jean-Marc Burgaud is the biggest owner of vines on this famous hill in Morgon. His intense, structured wine from the rare outcrop of decomposed blue rock is among Beaujolais’ finest.
The small, low-yielding Clos des Trois Sources single vineyard produces
an organic Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence Rosé of striking red fruit character. At Château Fontarèche, the 80 hectares of Corbières AOC vines, the oldest of which were planted in 1962, sit on an ancient limestone terrace with gravelly soils and large pebbles. The wines, including the fragrant, unoaked Vieilles Vignes, have lovely vibrancy and supple tannins.
richmond wine agencies
Two rocking Rioja offers Azabache Rioja Reserva 2015/16
The Links, Popham Close Hanworth Middlesex TW13 6JE
Rioja Reserva is made only in the best vintages, it is well balanced with a soft
020 8744 5550
blackberries, mulberries, vanilla, spice on the soft and well rounded palate.
seductive character typical of the Tempranillo and Graciano grapes used in
the blend. It is aged for at least three years in oak and in bottle before release. Azabache Reserva exhibits intense plummy fruits on the nose with hints of RESERVA FOR THE PRICE OF CRIANZA – PROMO RRP £11.95 Azabache Rioja Gran Reserva 2007
This excellent Gran Reserva Rioja is selected from the best vineyards from an exceptional year. The blend includes 70% Tempranillo, 20% Garnacha and 10% Graciano, which has been softened by three years in oak and three
more in bottle before release. It shows supple, velvety rich fruit flavours
with complex spice and vanilla notes from its period in oak that linger well into the finish.
GRAN RESERVA FOR THE PRICE OF RESERVA – PROMO RRP £14.95 Contact us for prices and to receive a copy of our Festive Offers
THE WINE MERCHANT OCTOBER 2020 63
walker & Wodehouse 109a Regents Park Road London NW1 8UR 0207 449 1665 email@example.com www.walkerwodehousewines.com
Meet our newest producers Fresh to the table this autumn are three champions of their respective regions, each committed to producing fantastic wines that truly express their terroir Neudorf Vineyards
Neudorf Vineyards is one of New Zealand’s most treasured producers of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Situated in Nelson, New Zealand’s sunniest region and as of yet a
small-scale player in the wine world, Neudorf has risen to become a well-known pioneer of organic winemaking, with a fantastic reputation for quality. Domaine Félines Jourdan
Domaine Félines Jourdan was founded in 1983, when Marie-Helene Jourdan and her
husband Michel switched up the Picpoul status quo, launching their own winery in a
region dominated by co-operatives. Today, the Jourdans’ daughter Claude runs things at the estate, which has risen to become one of the most famous names in Picpoul. Azienda Agricola Giovanni Rosso
A small winery nestled in the heart of Serralunga d’Alba, Azienda Agricola Giovanni Rosso focuses on one thing: Nebbiolo. Or, more specifically, growing Nebbiolo that
will create the perfect Barolo. The Rosso family have farmed vineyards in the region
for centuries, and their longstanding know-how about the complexities of Serralunga d’Alba is evident in their range.
For more information about our new producers contact your Account Manager.
buckingham schenk Unit 5, The E Centre Easthampstead Road Bracknell RG12 1NF 01753 521336 firstname.lastname@example.org www.buckingham-schenk.co.uk
Cellers Unio, a top Co-operative based in Catalunya, boast 12,000 hectares of land and a winery that can hold up to 15,000 barrels. The commitment Cellars Unio have to their land and their people has driven activity for over 70 years and is evident in all their wines. We’ve picked out two particular favourites… CLOS DALIAN GARNACHA TINTA, TERRA ALTA This Garnacha Tinta shows notes of flowers and red fruit with a balsamic twist on the nose. The palate is pleasant, fresh, and fruity with subtle tones of ripeness, a perfect wine for those autumnal days! CLOS DALIAN GARNACHA BLANCA, TERRA ALTA This Garnacha Blanca has bags of white fruits and a touch of minerality on the nose. On the palate it is creamy and fresh, yet long and silky… very pleasant indeed!
THE WINE MERCHANT OCTOBER 2020 64
mentzendorff The Woolyard 52 Bermondsey Street London SE1 3UD 020 7840 3600 email@example.com www.mentzendorff.co.uk
enotria & COE 23 Cumberland Avenue London NW10 7RX www.enotriacoe.com customerservices@enotriacoe. com
E&C is the UKâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;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 contact us for our latest indies offer. WINES
020 8961 5161
BEERS & CIDERS
CBD, SOFTS & 0% ABV
THE WINE MERCHANT OCTOBER 2020 65
BERKMANN wine cellars 10-12 Brewery Road London N7 9NH 020 7609 4711 firstname.lastname@example.org www.berkmann.co.uk @berkmannwine
Berkmann Wine Cellars is here to help you to get your shop ready for the festive season. Our Christmas promotions are now available in our new online shop for independent wine merchants! We are offering price promotions on an exciting range of wines from our portfolio, as well as value-adding free branded gift boxes and bags. We also have great deals on a dazzling selection of spirits for you.
You can view and order our Christmas promotions online. For more information
on how to access our promotion website, please contact our Head of Independent
Specialists Carl Stanton on email@example.com / 079 8079 2797, or Sales Operations on firstname.lastname@example.org / 020 7609 4711.
The Wine Merchant Magazine Essential Oil ... is not yet available. While we work on that, the only way to experience the heady, just-printed aroma of your favourite trade magazine is to get your own copy, and breathe it in while it’s fresh. If you don’t qualify for a free copy, you can subscribe for just £36 a year within the UK. Email email@example.com for details. Or you can read every issue online, as a flippable PDF – just visit winemerchantmag.com. There’s no registration, and no fee. And, sadly, no aroma. © aleutie / stockadobe.com
THE WINE MERCHANT OCTOBER 2020 66
Fells Fells House, Station Road Kings Langley WD4 8LH 01442 870 900 firstname.lastname@example.org www.fells.co.uk
WITH 170 YEARS OF UNBROKEN INDEPENDENCE, YALUMBA CONTINUES TO MAKE WINE AT ITS FOUNDER SAMUEL SMITH’S HOME ESTATE, UNDER THE DIRECTION OF THE SAME FAMILY TODAY. SAMUEL’S COLLECTION CELEBRATES YALUMBA’S HEARTLAND, ITS HERITAGE, LONGEVITY AND ESTATE WITH SEVEN WINES, SHOWCASING VARIETIES AND BLENDS ICONIC TO BOTH BAROSSA AND YALUMBA.
FROM THE HEIGHTS OF THE EDEN VALLEY WITH ITS COOL CLIMATE AND INTRICATE SLOPES TO THE WARMER BAROSSA VALLEY FLOOR, SAMUEL’S COLLECTION DEMONSTRATES CLASSIC EXAMPLES FROM THE TWO ICONIC REGIONS OF THE BAROSSA.
top selection 23 Cellini Street London SW8 2LF www.topselection.co.uk email@example.com Contact: Alastair Moss Telephone: 020 3958 0744 @topselectionwines @tswine
THE WINE MERCHANT OCTOBER 2020 67