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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

I

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.


EDITORIAL

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

gifting?”

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 graham@winemerchantmag.com Assistant Editor: Claire Harries claire@winemerchantmag.com Advertising: Sarah Hunnisett sarah@winemerchantmag.com Accounts: Naomi Young winemerchantinvoices@gmail.com 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



NEWS

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.

basis.

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

cap

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

openings.

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

apple-crate shelving.

thing.”

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

for business.

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.



PRODUCTS

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

DOUBLE DUMPY

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.

from £4.05.

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 • sales@eastprint.co.uk • 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


Rising Stars

Aaron Tacinelli Jeroboams

“A genuine ability to really look after people”

A

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 claire@winemerchantmag.com

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

RRP: £20.85

ABV: 12%

ABV: 14%

Seckford Agencies (01206 231188)

Museum Wines (01258 830122) museumwines.co.uk

seckfordagencies.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

ABV: 14%

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

ABV: 13.5%

Borough Wines (020 8858 0818)

boutinot.com

boroughwines.co.uk

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

ABV: 14%

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

ABV: 14%

Daniel Lambert Wines (01656 661010)

seckfordagencies.co.uk

www.daniellambert.wine

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

ABV: 14%

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

ABV: 14%

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

B

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.

T

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

W

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


Rathfinny’s vineyards are three miles from the Channel


INTERVIEW

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.”

ADAPTING

“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

Continues overleaf

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


INTERVIEW

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.”

THE FUTURE

“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

A

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

Sponsored feature

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

www.roebuckestates.co.uk


CUSTOMS CLEARANCE services to the BWS sector Contact Division Director Martin Jacobs T: 01303 847203

M: 07388 116954

E: m.jacobs@kukla-spedition.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


DIGITAL MASTERCLASS

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 (ahill@armitwines.co.uk) 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 claire@winemerchantmag.com

THE WINE MERCHANT OCTOBER 2020 24



BITS & BOBS

Favourite Things

Magpie

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

the mouth.

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

spirits library.

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.

twang.

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


ENOMATIC

Stories

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


JUST WILLIAMS

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

T

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

S

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.

M

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

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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

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henware supplier.

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have enjoyed wide

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d up with David

e away at our store

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MERCHANT PROFILE

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

L

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


MERCHANT PROFILE

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


MERCHANT PROFILE

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

was online.

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

bigger.

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.


EATING ON

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.

F

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

1. KALE

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

T

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

I

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

beautiful.

“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


INTERVIEW

. T H E D R AY M A N .

Small beer is suddenly big news

A

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

sweetness.

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.

T

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

backbone.

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


Š fesenko / stockadobe.com


FRUIT, FORAGING & PHIL ANTHROPY

It’s the gift that keeps on giving. If anything, the Covid crisis seems to have accelerated, rather than slowed, gin’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.


GIN

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.

location.

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 FORAGERS

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

producers.

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

Joe Designer

01323 491998

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 0rders@museumwines.co.uk / 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-

Donovan Rall

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


FORTIFIED WINE

THE STRANGE FORTIFIED WINE © Mazur Travel / stockadobe.com

BOOM THE WINE MERCHANT OCTOBER 2020 54


CATEGORY FOCUS

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

T

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.

ScanTrack).

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


FORTIFIED WINE

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



FORTIFIED WINE

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

F

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

times.

“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



SUPPLIER BULLETIN

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

@ABSWines

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

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• 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 cdavies@lgcf.fr 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

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They’re all smiles to your face …

Epenots 2013 at the same price

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THE WINE MERCHANT OCTOBER 2020 60


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

0207 409 7276 enquiries@louislatour.co.uk 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 info@hatch.co.uk 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


SUPPLIER BULLETIN

C&C wines / fine wine partners 109 Blundell Street London N7 9BN 020 3261 0927

help@carsoncarnevalewines.com www.carsoncarnevalewines.com

@CandC_Wines

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

@liberty_wines

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.

info@richmondwineagencies.com

@richmondwineag1

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


SUPPLIER BULLETIN

walker & Wodehouse 109a Regents Park Road London NW1 8UR 0207 449 1665 orders@walkerwodehousewines.com www.walkerwodehousewines.com

@WalkerWodehouse

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 info@buckingham-schenk.co.uk www.buckingham-schenk.co.uk

@BuckSchenk @buckinghamschenk

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 info@mentzendorff.co.uk www.mentzendorff.co.uk

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

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

020 8961 5161

@EnotriaCoe

SPIRITS

BEERS & CIDERS

CBD, SOFTS & 0% ABV

THE WINE MERCHANT OCTOBER 2020 65


SUPPLIER BULLETIN

BERKMANN wine cellars 10-12 Brewery Road London N7 9NH 020 7609 4711 info@berkmann.co.uk 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 carl.stanton@berkmann.co.uk / 079 8079 2797, or Sales Operations on salesops@berkmann.co.uk / 020 7609 4711.

@berkmann_wine

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 claire@winemerchantmag.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 info@fells.co.uk 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.

@FellsWine je_fells

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 info@topselection.co.uk Contact: Alastair Moss Telephone: 020 3958 0744 @topselectionwines @tswine

THE WINE MERCHANT OCTOBER 2020 67



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