THE WINE MERCHANT. An independent magazine for independent retailers
Issue 97, November 2020
Dog of the Month: Poppy The Jolly Vintner, Tiverton
Web sales set for festive boom as indies focus on e-commerce Many merchants are already reaping the rewards of investing in their websites at the time of the first lockdown
he independent trade is gearing up for what could well be its
busiest-ever online sales period.
After a year in which e-commerce has
boomed for many merchants, indies have
already reported an upturn in web activity as the Christmas season approaches. Many independents are reaping
the rewards of putting extra time and investment into their websites.
Carl Evans, manager at Saxtys Wines
Secret Bottle Shop in Hereford, says:
“The website is sort of the jewel in the
crown before Christmas to make it easier for customers to see what we’re offering
and give more exposure to the extra things we do, such as Zoom tastings.
“We assumed there would be a second
lockdown, or at least further restrictions,
which would mean that people wouldn’t so easily be able to come into the stores. It’s
been a big project but it’s something we’re
very excited about.”
York Wines has “already done quite a lot
of Christmas gifts for people, particularly
from abroad,” says co-owner Alex Edwards. “When people who have friends and family in the York area are thinking of gifting, we come up in their online searches, so they order from us. We do have some really
great customer reviews on our website.”
Continues page two
“During the first lockdown we decided
to close the retail space and focus online, which took off dramatically.
“Our online presence was already quite
strong and now we’re focusing on letting
people know that we are delivering all over the UK for Christmas.
“I think people are worried that they’re
not going to get their Christmas shopping done in time, especially if the lockdown continues beyond the first few days of
December. So our message is ‘fear not, we will get you your gifts’.”
Theatre of Wine in London has made a
“significant capital investment” in its new e-commerce platform. “Before, we got by pretty well through handling things over
email and phone, but this is really designed to make it a better experience for our
customers,” explains director Jason Millar.
Lucy Chenoweth (left) and her team are celebrating because The Old Garage Bottle Shop & Deli is opening its second branch, this time on Cornwall's north coast. Read the full story in our Comings & Goings section on page eight.
Inside this month
Indies expecting online sales boom From page one
6 comings & Goings New faces at Vino Vero, a bottle shop in Battle, and natural wine
Edwards says the impact of Covid has
helped the York Wines team “take the
is coming to St Helens
opportunity to build better relationships
16 LIFE AFTER BREXIT A succinct guide to how things will change for EU wine imports
with customers old and new”.
She adds: “It has forced us to be more
communicative about the new wines and
vintages we are getting in and engage more
28 the great escape
Chix Chandaria explores European vineyards in a vintage VW camper van
36 what's the damage? Three English winemakers take stock of a frost-ravaged vintage
40 ellis wharton wines The Cornish merchant's timely
April 2020 we did £114,000, so it was a fairly big increase of traffic on there.”
The independents who spoke to The
Wine Merchant were also upbeat about their retail and local delivery activity.
Evans at Saxtys predicts there’ll be a
higher spend per customer this Christmas. “People haven’t had their big holiday or
their meals out and weekends away,” he
says, “so they’ll be more willing to spend on their table wine and gifting to make
sure they enjoy Christmas regardless of the situation."
"Also, people are getting more confident
about ordering wine online. They see
that the packaging is robust and last time we kept our next-working-day delivery
schedule throughout – and that’s another
positive for us when people can’t so easily get supermarket delivery slots.”
Frank Dudley, retail director at The
Vineking in Surrey, says that the company’s
website was given a much-needed overhaul earlier this year.
relocation to a warehouse
“I think probably like a lot of other indies
56 spirits New launches galore, and news of how you can earn your own cask of bespoke malt whisky
we looked at our e-commerce and thought, ‘that’s the thing we should have put some money into over the last 10 years, and haven’t,’” he says.
“So in the space of a week we uploaded
64 supplier bulletin Essential updates from key suppliers to the indie trade
Jason Millar of Theatre of Wine
See you in 2021 This is the final edition of The Wine Merchant for 2020. Our next issue will
a couple of hundred extra products, added
appear on January 15.
about £4,000 through our website – in
and thanks for all your support this year.
mixed cases of wine and changed our
buying patterns. In April 2019 we did
Good luck to all our readers and
advertisers for the festive sales period –
THE WINE MERCHANT MAGAZINE
winemerchantmag.com 01323 871836 Twitter: @WineMerchantMag Editor and Publisher: Graham Holter firstname.lastname@example.org Assistant Editor: Claire Harries email@example.com Advertising: Sarah Hunnisett firstname.lastname@example.org Accounts: Naomi Young email@example.com The Wine Merchant is circulated to the owners of the UK’s 947 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 november 2020 2
NEWS Kisses – of the air variety or otherwise –
were off limits. “People were chatting but
they were doing it at a safe distance,” says
Hutchinson. “It’s a huge room, and we had all the doors and windows open.
“There was a one-way system in place,
and there was gel on every table. One
member of my team has done a lot of food safety and hygiene and said that it’s much better to wash hands than wear gloves,
unless you are going to have a new pair of gloves after touching each bottle.”
Tasters were essentially left to their
own devices. “We had a few winemakers The Vindependents event attracted 50 attendees, split into two sessions
Wine tasting in the time of Covid The autumn trade tasting calendar was effectively a write-off, thanks to Covid, but the Vindependents event managed to go ahead. Could it perhaps provide a template for similar-sized tastings in the new year? Taking place in the group’s familiar venue
of Cecil Sharp House in Camden – a spacious and airy building that’s home to the English Folk Dance & Song Society – the tasting
was divided into morning and afternoon sessions, each with a limit of 30 people.
“We had 50 people across the day, which
is great,” says Vindependents boss Jess Hutchinson.
Attendees travelled from as far away as
any tastings to go to had set in.”
The venue required a Covid risk
assessment. “There was a questionnaire
for people to fill in first,” she explains. “We
asked everyone to take their temperatures before they came. They are all sensible
people, so we trusted them. Nobody has any interest in going to a tasting and bringing Covid with them.
“No one was allowed to come in unless
they had pre-registered. We took contact details for track and trace.
“They were given two glasses – one
for red, one for white – and an individual spittoon. That worked really well. What we didn’t want was people spitting into
spittoons from a distance – it would just be a Covid-fest.”
I’d rather have customers in the room than winemakers.
“It’s great to have the winemakers there
but we hadn’t done a tasting since January and I wanted people to try the new wines and new vintages of current wines.” The day went well enough for
Hutchinson to start thinking about the next Vindependents tasting in January.
“We had a lot of thanks from members
for organising it, and not just so they could taste the wines – a big part of
Vindependents is people meeting up and seeing how each other are doing and
getting ideas. It was just nice for people to get together and in a safe place.
“It went better than we’d hoped, and I
was really, really pleased. We had great
feedback. We got lots of new business from it, the wines showed well – and nobody came away with Covid.”
A cardboard shortage threatens to create problems for wine merchants this Christmas, with some suppliers of wine boxes warning of extended lead times, particularly for printed outer cartons. “Demand for cardboard has exploded again,” says WBC boss Andrew Wilson. “This is partly down to material but also production slots on machines. We have huge stocks in the warehouse and in production and are not expecting to run out of anything for longer than a few days, worst case.”
first and we had about 25 people say
they wanted to come, and some people
from further away said they would like to come but they didn’t want to travel,” says
Hutchinson. “But actually in the end some of those people did come. I don’t know
safely, or if the boredom of not having had
over, but we were limited on numbers, and
WHERE'S THE CHRISTMAS CARD?
Scotland and Cornwall. “I put out feelers
whether they felt it had been organised
wanting to come over, and offering to come
© Pigliacampi / stockadobe.com
THE WINE MERCHANT november 2020 4
Museum Wines in Dorset has had its website hacked, with the criminal activity targeting its PayPal account. The scammers have managed to
redirect funds from genuine sales to their own PayPal accounts on three separate occasions. They have also thwarted
Museum’s attempts to disable PayPal on the website.
“That means they could go into anyone’s
website who don’t even use PayPal and add it,” says manager Daniel Grigg. “It’s
quite alarming that PayPal has been alerted to this fraudulent activity and they have
essentially said they don’t care and it’s not their problem. But they could find those transactions and reverse the funds back out.
“PayPal take a 3.5% fee for each
transaction and they’ve been informed
Indie enthusiasm for online tasting
“For now we have enabled a higher
grade log-in tracker so if someone forces
access again we might be able to get the IP address of the originating computer.”
Just under 200 independent merchants
The customers affected also flagged up
the issue with PayPal. But Grigg says: “They
signed up for the recent Independent
fact that it’s gone to someone else’s PayPal
that had to be cancelled this autumn.
that he will never use PayPal again.”
Merchant magazine and showcased a
closed the cases within an hour, saying
‘well, you authorised the payment – the rather than the intended one is not our
Grigg is hopeful that PayPal will be more
range of wines from nine suppliers to the
pro-active regarding the third fraudulent
transaction. It was from a regular customer
In addition to Condor, these were
who he knows quite well – and because
Alpine Wines, Daniel Lambert Wines,
it was a pre-order for stock that won’t
Delibo Wines, Milestone Wines, Raymond
be available until the end of November,
Reynolds, Southern Wine Roads, The
her complaint to PayPal will fit into the
Antipodean Sommelier and Top Selection.
prescribed problem of ‘I did not receive my
Guests were invited to select samples
that these particular ones are fraudulent, so if they are keeping that 3.5% they are profiteering from something they have
using up to 24 “credits”: each wine was
been told is illegal. They are just turning a
amazing 55% of those requested samples.
Across the group of nine importers we’ve
It’s possible the hackers will keep
“But so many retailers use those sites
because it’s affordable,” he adds. “Our
developers have said they have heard of
this happening before, but we don’t know if it’s an individual person doing it or
whether it’s a virus they have let loose.
“My aim was to offer a selection of wines
nearly 200 registered for IVTT and an
is only accepting credit card payments or
site built from scratch”.
merchant in one delivery.
enthusiastically towards the initiative:
from the website for a second time and
can be more vulnerable than “a bespoke
Services, which sent out samples to each
“Wine merchants reacted very
now he’s removed the payment system
He acknowledges that sites built with
were then aggregated by Sensible Wine
his sales go through PayPal each year, but
systems like WordPress and Squarespace
three, based on its value. The requests
of the key regions,” says Condor boss Lee
Grigg estimates that around £35,000 of
“monitoring things really closely”.
given a credit value of between one and
exclusive to indies which represented most
re-installing PayPal, so Grigg says he is
alternative to the many trade events
Wines in partnership with The Wine
problem.’ One of the customers told me
“We’re saying that we’re not releasing
Virtual Trade Tasting – an online
The project was put together by Condor
© madedee / stockadobe.com
Hacked? You’ve got to pay, pal
sent out well over 1,000 sample bottles.” Hackers have diverted funds three times
her order until PayPal refund that money to her, and she pays us direct. The other
orders were sent out before we realised there was an issue so we’ll just have to
take it on the chin,” Grigg says. “I’m just
disappointed to find there is no protection if you get hacked or scammed.”
PayPal declined to comment.
THE WINE MERCHANT november 2020 5
He adds: “During the registration process
we had many positive comments, and
IVTT has been very successful in terms of
engaging with many indies at a time when social gatherings and travel were difficult. “But the true success will be measured
through new listings and we are now going through the process of contacting the indies who requested samples.
“We have a meeting of the nine importers
to review the initiative, but we are already planning to re-run IVTT in the spring.”
New faces at Vino Vero in Essex Sam and Charlotte Brown, who started Vino Vero seven years ago, recently decided to move on and embrace a more “nomadic” existence. As they explained on their Facebook
post: “We are moving to Europe … working and living where the wind (or indeed the wine) takes us. Once we’ve rested and
recharged, we’re going to learn how to
make the product we’ve spent seven years selling. Wineries don’t know what they’re in for.”
The good news for the people of Leigh
on Sea is that the business has been bought by Jaime and Holly Fernandez who were
already running their own wine company, Copa Wine – a pop-up wine tasting
company with a focus on biodynamic, organic and natural products.
“We extended that to an online platform
and we were looking to open a bricks-andmortar shop,” says Jaime. “I knew Sam and Charlie really well – I’d been shopping
in Vino Vero for about five years and we became good friends.”
Vino Vero will retain its name, but the
new owners will put their own identity on
the business by developing a “new look and feel” with some new branding at the start of next year.
WSET course sparks new career Shekleton Wines opened during the first week of November in Stamford, Lincolnshire. Charlotte Shek had a career in finance
before she was lured into the wine trade by WSET. “I bought my husband and my
dad a WSET course about four years ago,”
she explains, “and then I got the bug. That
More indies put faith in Suffolk
Weber & Tring’s closes Bristol store
Holly and Jaime were running a tasting company called Copa Wine
Level 1 course became Level 2, then 3 and
currently I’m halfway through Level 4 – it’s something that’s grown from there.”
Shek is working with Dreyfus Ashby, New
Generation and Hallgarten and has sourced direct from some English vineyards
including Simpsons and Gusbourne. The
range will be organised by flavour profile rather than by country
Shek says the shop is her opportunity to
share her passion for wine and, once Covid is no longer an issue, she hopes to run instore tastings and events.
Battle gets a bottle shop at long last This month Sarah and Paul Truman opened their shop, Sarah’s Cellar, in Battle, East Sussex.
THE WINE MERCHANT november 2020 6
Sarah’s love of wine started 20 years
ago when she did a stint at The Wine
Corporation before becoming a maths teacher.
“I’ve wanted to do this for a really
long time,” she says. “I’ve never stopped
enjoying wine and Paul and I have travelled around the vineyards of Europe and gone
to the cellars and tasted the wine – I’d say
that was my travel hobby and Europe is my particular passion.”
Battle High Street is full of independents
and foodie places including a “wonderful butchers and fishmongers, and Battle
Abbey Brewery has just opened a little
shop … there’s a great vibe,” Sarah says.
Any renovations to the quaint Grade II
listed building will have to wait until early next year as the couple concentrate on
fulfilling orders by delivery and click and collect.
Oxford Wine Co opens fifth store
Richard Davis of Davis Bell McCraith says
while they already had a shop in the same locality, they have “always dreamed of having the best shop in a top street”.
This month heralds the launch of
The new shop will be managed by “a
The Oxford Wine Company’s Little
proper retail manager,” Sebastien Squire,
Clarendon Street branch. Including the
and there has been a certain amount of
OWC’s concession at Millets Farm, this
TLC to get the premises up to scratch. The
is now shop number five for the iconic
desired result was “rich and warm, rather
merchant. Emily Silva, head of marketing and retail,
says the business had been looking for a new site for almost two years before
sealing the deal on the previous Oddbins
than shiny and brand new” – and the Elly Owen (left) and Lucy Chenoweth
Chenoweth will be joined on the
premises in Jericho.
north coast in Nansledan by sommelier
– really vibrant, full of independent
including Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen and Paul
“We’re so pleased to have it,” she says.
“Jericho is such a great neighbourhood
businesses and it’s just up the road from our Wine Café.
“As the crow flies it’s only a 10-minute
walk from the Turl Street shop, but because of Oxford’s mad one-way system it’s a
different section of town and taps into the wealthy north Oxford area.”
The large area on the first floor will
become a dedicated events space with the capacity – Covid restrictions aside – for around 50 guests.
Elly Owen, who has worked in some of the county’s most famous restaurants Ainsworth’s No6.
Nansledan is a picture-perfect town, an
extension of Newquay that is part of the
Duchy of Cornwall. The Old Garage will be trading alongside similarly home-grown independent shops and businesses.
Chenoweth says: “The branding, logo,
signage and interior will be in a style in
result of a lot of sanding down and oiling, deliver on that front.
“We didn’t want to spend a fortune and
the lighting was the biggest expense,”
says Davis. “It felt dark and dingy before, but it’s a remarkable transition without structurally changing anything.”
The bespoke artwork on the wall was
commissioned by Pol Roger to mark the
move to the new premises. The illustration features the Clifton suspension bridge in the background and the picnic party has DBM carrier bags.
keeping with the Roseland store and our online presence.”
Until the second lockdown is over, the
business will operate pretty much the
same as it did during the summer. The
Roseland shop will be closed to the public
but Chenoweth and Owen will be travelling all over the county making deliveries,
kitting out the new store and running
Bespoke Pol Roger artwork at the Clifton store
• Manchester’s Hangingditch is the latest
that would be boring, right?”
The outside space was perhaps larger than
“It’s not quite the first year of trading
The former Oddbins in Jericho
mahogany shelves and shop floor, both the
we’d planned for,” Chenoweth admits, “but
Cornish merchant DBM relocates to heads northwards new site in Bristol
Covid casualty. Ben Stephenson opened the business as a hybrid bar and shop in 2008. the more intimate shop space – great for temperate weather but, as Stephenson admits, “it didn’t always work out so well in Manchester”. The arrival of Covid-19 sounded the death knell for Hangingditch,
Lucy Chenoweth of The Old Garage
Another Oddbins site has been
the small site making it impossible to open
Bottle Shop & Deli in south Cornwall is
successfully re-opened in a different
in a safe way. Stephenson will continue to
set to open her second site in December.
guise, this time in Clifton, Bristol.
trade at Blossom Street Social in Ancoats.
THE WINE MERCHANT november 2020 8
Natural focus for St Helens startup So Far So Good, a wine shop and deli, is set to open in St Helens next year. The new venture is a collaboration
between Rory Pike and Scott Anderson, who already own and run a property
business, and Chris Hayes and Anthony Georgiou of Vigour Kitchen.
Pike explains: “Scott and I had taken on
the premises [formerly a farm shop on
Ormskirk Road] but because of the way the year has unfolded we had to monetise the space in a different way. So we thought of
what we’d enjoy and want to do and would also be able to pass the test of lockdown.
“We are both very interested in natural
wine and we’ve noticed that, certainly
outside the big cities, there isn’t much of an
NOT YOU AGAIN!
awareness of it. So the idea is that we can
take the taste of the city into these smaller areas such as St Helens.”
Until the planning goes through and the
premises becomes a working reality, So Far
Fitzpatrick buys Old Chapel stake Louisa Fitzpatrick, formerly head of
So Good has been operating as a pop-up –
wine at St Austell Brewery, has bought a
contemplating her next career move
Vigour,” says Pike.
something we could do together,” she says.
and that’s where the relationship with local restaurant Vigour Kitchen has come into “We’ll be doing lockdown boxes to
Jamie [Tonkin] a call and see if there was
“We pretty much sold out of our first
batch of wines. Natural wine is so different to the standard wines that people are used to and even people who didn’t drink wine
“It’s good for us because we feel that we
are enabling people to have that experience – especially when everything at the
moment feels a bit mopey,” adds Pike.
Fitzpatrick says she had been
for about 18 months. “I thought I’d give
accompany the meats and cheeses from
before are enjoying the natural wines.
50% stake Old Chapel Cellars, Truro.
“I wasn’t really looking for a partner,”
says Tonkin, “but we’ve been friends for a
long time and Louisa's very highly regarded – if it had been anyone else making the
suggestion, it wouldn’t have been a yes. We have a 50/50 split – there wouldn’t be any point in doing it any other way.”
The business is reporting strong trade in
its wholesale accounts.
customers we could do without
© alphaspirit / stockadobe.com
18. Roderick Sallow ... Hello! I say! Hello! Can you here me? Your. Door. Is. Locked! I can see somebody in there. Will you let me in? Please can you unlock the door? Ah, thank you. Yes, apologies, I can see you close at seven, but it is only 14 minutes past … I was passing earlier this afternoon and saw you had a special offer on some Champagne and I rather liked the look of it … I don’t suppose there’s any open to try before I buy, as it were? Oh … well, never mind … it was over there, in the window, priced at £14 a bottle … no, not that one … next to it … no, the other one … in front of the one you just knocked over … yes, that one … well that says £16, it must have gone up … not a Champagne? Then what is it? Cremated, did you say? So like a Champagne but not a Champagne? Might as well have a Champagne then! What do you have for £14 a bottle? Really? You always used to be able to buy Champers for that kind of money … oh, blast it, look at the time … I’m so sorry, but I am in rather a hurry, so please just find me your best wine for £14 with bubbles in it and then I must be on my way … my wife gets terribly cross if I’m late home …
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 • firstname.lastname@example.org • www.eastprint.co.uk
ANAGRAM TIME Can you unscramble the names of these spirits categories? If so, you win a week-long tour of European bottling lines.
THE WINE MERCHANT november 2020 9
1. Sad Vocal 2. Ban Shite 3. Knobby UK Recount 4. Tingles Mawkishly 5. Dr Long Emu Mark Matisovits
t’s been really difficult to choose just one,” admits Christine, “as we have so many
Martinez Wines West Yorkshire Christine Austin finds herself spoilt for choice in her native county, but settles on an energetic and engaging indie who became a social media star during lockdown
really good wine merchants in Yorkshire –
they are all so friendly.”
But, we insisted, and Martinez comes up trumps for
a number of reasons. Christine explains: “What impresses me most about them is the way Jonathan [Cocker] engages with everybody – with his customers and the wider community.”
A perfect example of this would be the “slightly deranged” social
media campaigns that have garnered quite a following over the last few
months. “He’s been out delivering and people are hanging out of windows shouting ‘hi, we’ve seen your video,’ which is astonishing in Yorkshire because people don’t usually do that,” she says.
“He puts so much energy into everything – he is out there telling people
about the wines in all sorts of ways. He was really on the ball right at the
start of lockdown too. Mid-March, when we were all wondering what was going to happen, he sent out a funny email saying they had adopted a ‘knock and run’ approach to deliveries.
“I’ve been to many of his Extravaganza tastings over the years. It’s a
huge annual tasting he organises every spring, held at the Winter Garden in Ilkley and it’s always sold out.”
bviously that particular tasting couldn’t go ahead this year, but Jonathan and his team have worked hard to keep the Cellar
Wine Bar in Ilkley and the Bingley Wine Bar open and Covid
“They are down to two thirds of their usual capacity, but they have kept
going,” says Christine. “He’s got really serious wines on Coravin. He’s got 2010 Clerc Milon – you can buy a bottle for £107.99 or you can buy a
class for £21.95. It’s not extortionate – he’s encouraging people to trade up.
“There’s easy stuff there too – you can have a glass of sparkling rosé
from Torres for £7.25 – there’s stuff from South Africa … something for
everyone. It’s getting people interested in wine, and they can learn about it along the way.
“Martinez Wines really is a community hub, and the dinners and
Sunday lunches he runs all have a wine theme, like Rioja and paella, to encourage customers to try different wines in an informal setting.”
Christine Austin is the wine writer for The Yorkshire Post and a panel chair for the International Wine Competition Jonathan wins a bottle of 10X Pinot Noir, Ten Minutes By Tractor 2019, courtesy of Bancroft Wines
THE WINE MERCHANT november 2020 10
TOP OF THE GLASS Keep track of whose glass is whose without
leaving a trace of damage on the surface.
CellarDine has developed an aerator
These handy glass markers (left) from
called Rouge 02 that simply slots
Vacu Vin are little silicone shapes that
into the neck of the bottle ensuring a
attach themselves to any smooth surface
perfectly aerated pour each and every
with a suction cup. Choose from a pack of
time. Its airflow system allows bubbles
eight designed to look like wine seals or a
to gently drop into the wine as it pours
pack of 12 fun party critters.
into the glass – and the carefully
RRP from £6.99
designed pouring spout means a clean and drip-free serve. Fits all neck sizes. RRP £14.99
SIFT OUT THE SULPHITES Some drinkers report particular sensitivities to sulphites and Üllo (pronounced “oo-low”) claims that by pouring wine through its purifying system, sulphites will be successfully
CAN PACKAGING: NO LONGER PULP FICTION
removed without affecting the taste
Meet the newest edition to the Pulpsafe family from WBC. Pulpsafe Beer is made from
or aroma. Filter by the glass or blitz
the same moulded pulp as its wine packaging counterpart. An eco-friendly way to safely
an entire bottle. One disposable filter
transport up to 24 cans at a time, it is 100% recyclable, biodegradable and compostable. The
is designed to purify one 75cl bottle.
universal fit can be used for both the top and base and will accommodate cans of any height
There’s also a built in aerator.
as well as working with 33cl and 50cl bottles. Prices start from £1.69
THE WINE MERCHANT november 2020 12
© Horváth Botond / stockadobe.com
Hungary gains momentum With 60 indigenous varieties and a growing tally of awards, the country is making big progress in the specialist wine trade
t’s a measure of the importance of wine in Hungarian culture that it makes an appearance in the country’s anthem, in which thanks is given to the nation thus: “In the grape fields of Tokaj, you dripped sweet nectar.” Tokaj is Hungary’s most famous wine region but the country is forging a powerful reputation for the diversity of the wine it makes across 22 wine districts within six wine regions and 60 indigenous grape varieties. In all, 223 varieties grow on Hungarian soil covering an area of 65,000ha, with a split of around 70:30 in favour of white, versus black, grapes. The bar has been raised in recent years by investment in vineyards, winemaking expertise and technology, and Hungary’s wines have been resonating with many independent wine merchants for delivering excellent quality at affordable price points. The Eger wine district – which, like Tokaj, rests on the same line of altitude as Burgundy – has been especially successful in international wine competitions but others are making their mark too. “Our regions reflect the country’s wine culture, being characterised by diversity, originality and uniqueness,” says Enikő Magyar, agricultural attaché at the Hungarian Embassy in London. “Whether it’s Tokaji Aszú or Furmint from one of the world’s oldest, most historically-celebrated wine districts, the traditional reds from Eger, Szekszárd or
Villány, or new varietals from emerging wine areas, Hungarian wines are finding their ways on to international wine markets and are up for being rediscovered.” Magyar says competition successes are a good marker of the advances being made by the country’s producers. “They are a professional recognition of excellence and proof that Hungary is a trustful source for a variety of outstanding wines – a country where new styles make their appearance along with centuries-long tradition. “From the momentum that Hungary has started to build in these competitions, we can ensure a permanent presence, market expansion opportunities and further success for Hungarian wines in the UK.”
ungary has a viticultural heritage dating back over 1,000 years, and is now marrying that tradition to modern winemaking skills. It has both cool and warm-climate regions, a great mix of boutique and larger wine producers, and a wide range of styles from easy-drinking whites through big and bold reds, vibrant rosés and traditionalmethod sparkling wines, to its famous naturally sweet wines. The popular UK trends for organic and biodynamic wines are also being catered for by Hungary as more of its winemakers look to cultivate their grapes organically as well as based on biodynamic principles,
THE WINE MERCHANT november 2020 13
and some even go further. Magyar adds: “Considerable sums have been invested in the last two decades in developing infrastructure, production, storage and logistics facilities; in stateof-the-art technology, in research and development, in vocational training, and in creating a welcoming environment and defining moments for wine tourists.” The country has also been benefiting from investment in marketing and promotion to help the wines come alive for retailers and consumers in key markets, including the UK. “Wine promotion projects have been launched and are running with funding from the Hungarian government and the EU,” adds Magyar, “with the opportunity provided for wineries to be present at international wine fairs – and we try to draw attention to the country and our wine regions through various media campaigns. “The Embassy in London has been committed to taking an active part in this process. Wine is a great door-opener through which we can build bridges, and get to know each other’s culture, traditions and countries.” Published in association with the Agricultural Section of the Embassy of Hungary in London. For more information on Hungary and its wines, visit the website at www. winesofhungary.hu or contact any of the established UK based importers.
StarmoreBoss, Sheffield A YouTube natural with a thirst for knowledge
annah arrived at StarmoreBoss with her WSET Level 2 and time working at both Corks Out and Mitchells Wines under her belt. “She had some really good experience, but at the end of the day it’s about the personality and the individual,” says co-owner Jefferson Boss. “Hannah was a customer of the shop for a while and used to say if ever a position became available, she’d be really interested. At the time it was just me and Barry with a bit of occasional, part-time help.” So the partners took a leap and invited Hannah to be their first full-time member of staff. “She’s been phenomenal,” says Jeff. “She’s very meticulous and when you have a team member like that, when you don’t need to check up on their work, it gives you the ability to carry on and do your own job. “She can run the store, do all the online stuff and keep track of systems. As well as being very personable, she has that thirst for knowledge and has that excitement about the products we sell.” Like a number of merchants, the business turned to online tastings during lockdown and beyond and Hannah has taken ownership of the whole project. Jeff says: “Hannah developed the platform and everything. It’s like a live studio broadcast that goes out on YouTube – to have that skill set and to do it so professionally is super-impressive. I was rubbish at it! Hannah makes it all look really natural and she puts people at ease.” “I think it just comes down to me being good at talking,” Hannah laughs. “I am a bit of a geek – I like knowing everything about wine. I’ve just started my Level 3 with Laura at the Yorkshire Wine School. My wine career really started in 2015 after I finished university,” she explains. “I had done a photography degree but had kind of fallen out of love with it, and then I started working in the wine industry and it just clicked. It’s such a big industry and there’s a lot to learn. You get to meet some really nice people and drink some nice stuff. “Barry and Jeff are both so knowledgeable. Jeff could tell you the history of rum off the top of his
head, which is pretty impressive, and Barry is really good at knowing exactly which vintage has done well and what’s not so great. It’s fascinating to listen to them. People always say that they are two of the nicest people in the wine industry and I would agree with that.” Two years into her role at StarmoreBoss and Hannah is running the tastings, she has buying responsibilities (two of the wines she has sourced and purchased are in the store’s top 20 wines), and according to Jeff, she is continuing to flourish. “It’s been really good to see that progression,” he says. “I would imagine at some point she’ll be picked up by one of the wine companies as an ambassador or something like that. Her future potential is huge.”
Hannah wins a bottle of Glenfarclas 15 Year Old. If you’d like to nominate a Rising Star, email email@example.com
THE WINE MERCHANT november 2020 14
TRIED & TESTED
Walt Lø Riesling
Boina Branco 2019
Stoptober is over (did it actually get going this year?)
Even the winemakers aren’t exactly sure what grapes
taste much like wine. This one can be considered a
kinds of weird and wonderful stuff. It’s a jolt to the
and Dry January is on the way. De-alcoholised wines are notoriously problematic, mainly because they rarely
quite pleasant alternative to Shloer, with apple juice and peach flavours and not too much sweetness – even a hint
of petrol, according to some, with keener noses than ours. RRP: £8.99
Awin Barratt Siegel (01306 631155 )
have gone into this slightly bonkers Douro white: the
90-year-old vineyard that they discovered is full of all
system, fizzing with citrus tartness and a lovely sour
grapefruit edge. The texture is vaguely chalky, there’s a touch of salinity on the finish, and frankly we love it. RRP: £17.95
Swig (0208 995 7060)
Flora & Fauna Rosé Vin de France 2019
Font de Joubert Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2017
Finding wines under a tenner that won’t disappoint
If indies are going to help rehabilitate Châteauneuf
Liam Steevenson MW, is worth exploring. This crisp
It wears its alcohol level lightly, thanks to its gently
after years of supermarket atrocities, here’s a wine,
is one of the essential skills of the modern wine
from the Charrier family, that will help the cause.
merchant and the Flora & Fauna range, created by
stinging acidity, while on the palate it’s all dark, dusky
Grenache/Carignan blend has a beeswaxy aroma,
fruits, with a touch of tar and a hint of candy. Fab.
gentle strawberry notes and a nice minty lift. RRP: £7.95
Vindependents (020 3488 4548)
Global Wine Solutions (0117 915 4555) globalwinesolutions.com
Oedoria Crémant de Bourgogne NV
Moss Wood Amy’s Blend 2018
An exuberant crémant that wants to get the party
Sauvignon 76%, Merlot 8%, Malbec 8%, Petit Verdot
This Margaret River Bordeaux blend (Cabernet
started, this is 100% Chardonnay, with a good solid
8%) is taut and juicy, and still really a baby. That said,
structure. The first flavour you notice is unmistakably
the tannins are agreeable and the red fruit, black
citrus – perhaps even sherbet lemons – but there’s a
fruit, liquorice and oak flavours have melded pretty
deeper undercurrent of almonds and marzipan. Treat
successfully. So why take up valuable space in a wine
it seriously or just enjoy it – it’s great value either way. RRP: £19.99-£20.99
rack when you could unleash its charms right now?
Daniel Lambert Wines (01656 661010)
Laytons Wine Merchants (01656 661010)
Laurel Glen Counterpoint Cabernet Sauvignon 2016
Ventopuro Single Vineyard Chardonnay 2018
From the Sonoma Mountain appellation, a cool, minty,
Ventopuro is part of Matetic, whose sustainable
rosewater and suggestions of something exotically
alive, with zippy acidity and a nice steely bite, but also
chocolatey Cabernet that glides across the palate
all too easily. There’s a little bit of smoke, a hint of
Middle Eastern, and then a cymbal clap of minerality on the finish. A cultured and compelling wine. RRP: £56
Top Selection (0845 410 3255) topselection.co.uk
winemaking credentials are appreciated by many an indie. This Casablanca Chardonnay tastes positively
lots of ripe tropical fruit flavours and a touch of orange on the palate.
Vintrigue Wines (01207 521234) vintriguewines.com
THE WINE MERCHANT november 2020 15
Are we facing chaos in the freight system from January 1? The possibility is certainly there for “a chaotic few weeks”, says Chris Porter.
© Kalyakan / stockadobe.com
That’s why importers are being
encouraged to make sure they are up to speed with the changes – and that the wineries they deal with are, too.
Porter adds: “Many importers are
stockpiling, but considering the impact of coronavirus, it’s difficult to gauge what is
regular ‘Q4 peak season’ and what is ‘safety
stock’ shipped to cover possible post-Brexit disruption.”
Is the Dover-Calais route likely to be a pinch point? It seems likely. “Whilst the latest Border Operating Model released by the
government represented a positive step
forward in terms of process detail, precise requirements relating to roll on, roll off
ferry ports, particularly the Calais-Dover routing, remain unclear,” Porter says.
One major concern is ensuring that all
relevant documentation is submitted in a
timely way. Another is the fact that Goods
Vehicle Movement System (GVMS, for nontransit shipments) will only be available from July 1, Porter says.
The shipping news VI-1s may be on hold, but there’s still a lot to take on board for a
in the European Union after January 1. Chris Porter o
Does that mean we can expect Rotterdam and then pick up a short-sea
from Antwerp, Zeebrugge, Moerdijk
What’s happening with the Excise
be scanned into the port system, closing
containers are craned on,” Porter explains.
by the EU. Suppliers will continue
to see wine shipments routed through other ports? Kukla expects to bring in more shipments and Rotterdam – “those ports where the
service into Tilbury or Purfleet.”
Movement Control System (EMCS)?
ship pulls up alongside the quay and the
Porter explains: “EMCS will be retained
and that gives the haulage, freight-
individual ARC number that follows the
“These are unaccompanied shipments
forwarding and broker communities a little bit more breathing space to handle the
customs formalities. For example, a typical routing from Italy into the UK, certainly
to the home counties area, would go into
to raise the eAD [which creates an
movement throughout its journey] with their Movement Guarantee, but it will
be consigned to the last EU exit port as
opposed to a UK tax warehouse [bond] – or REDS declarant, in the case of duty-paid
THE WINE MERCHANT november 2020 16
He adds: “As the container or trailer
arrives safely into the EU port, the ARC will the eAD and discharging the EU wine
supplier’s Movement Guarantee liability. The UK will retain EMCS for movements
between domestic ports, tax warehouses and bonds.”
How will duty be collected? The existing CHIEF (Customs Handling of Import & Export Freight) system
currently only handles New World wines.
What other paperwork is required? Along with the eAD, and commercial
invoice, an EX1 will be needed. Porter
says: “We are working with customers
and their producers to assist with the EX1 requirement. At the point of loading, we
will capture all three documents which will be saved to an ‘electronic envelope’ that
can be made available to all parties in the chain.”
A VI-1 (the controversial form which
describes the wine and includes lab
analysis) is not currently required, but the government plans to make this a requirement from July 1, 2021. What’s an EX1 form?
Porter explains: “The EX1 – otherwise
known as the EAD (not to be confused
with the eAD) – is a standard EU export
document that generates the Movement
s: life after Brexit ny wine merchant planning to do business with wine exporters
of Kukla Beverage Logistics explains the new process
The next generation system, the Customs
“There’s just not enough agents, brokers,
Declaration Service (CDS), won’t be ready
clearance and data entry clerks to support
upgraded and will be fit for purpose for
three years ago to bring our customs
until at least September.
“We’ve been told that CHIEF has been
Brexit,” says Porter.
Are there sufficient customs brokers and intermediaries? That looks highly unlikely. “On a
headline level, there are some 55 million
declarations pre-Brexit and there will be a
conservative 255 million declarations postBrexit,” says Porter.
“We at Kukla took the strategic decision
clearance activity in-house. Having
achieved Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) certification and secured all
necessary customs approvals, we opened
our customs clearance division in June and are scaling up our staffing to support the
year-end transition. In context of what we
need to do for our customers, we are Brexit ready.”
THE WINE MERCHANT november 2020 17
Reference Number. The MRN is another essential part of the arrival formalities
into EU ports, without which access will
be denied. Once safely arrived into the EU port, the EX1 is automatically closed.”
Is everyone in the supply chain aware of the challenges ahead? Put simply, no. There is a slightly
misguided view that negotiations between the UK and the EU will conclude with a free-trade agreement and that this will
simplify things. The reality is, irrespective of deal or no deal, the UK will leave the
EU customs territory and from January
1, export and import declarations will be mandatory.
“There will be some pain,” Porter
warns. “The key challenge is to encourage wineries and their customers in the
UK to engage and to understand the new export formalities. From there, a collaborative approach with UK forwarders and stakeholders to ensure compliance.”
Rathfinny’s vineyards are three miles from the Channel
The tasting packs fit neatly through letterboxes, with samples staying fresh for “at least a year”
BAG S O F Tring Winery sends out its wine samples in Capri-Sun style pouches, and they’re a big hit with their online tasting community
ring Winery was just hitting its stride as a wine shop and bar when lockdown hit. The team have put their considerable talents to the test and launched a virtual wine tasting programme complete with creative packaging and a YouTube channel. Co-owner Jamie Smith explains: “We only opened in the middle of February and our idea was that we’d be a winery, a wine shop, a tasting room. Then lockdown happened and we were like, ‘what do we do?’ We took big bottles of wine and poured them into little bottles and hand-delivered them in the local area and talked through the wines with people.” Customers loved the idea and started recommending it to friends all over the UK, and that’s when Smith and business partner Alex Taylor decided they needed to rethink. It took them six months to research and refine the packaging and the result is sample-sized bag-in-boxes that neatly fit through a letterbox. Smith admits that this has required a “massive investment,” but they are now the proud owners of a machine that allows them to repackage the wine from a bottle into foil bags, “a bit like a Capri-Sun”. A blast of nitrogen to get rid of the oxygen before sealing it up and putting inside a cardboard sleeve, and it’s good to go. “We’ve been told the wine will be kept fresh for at least a year, but we’re doing some trials to see for ourselves,” says Smith. “It’s lightweight, it’s better environmentally than shipping bottles backwards and forwards, but it has been a labour of love. We’ve still got a couple of tweaks to do with the machine – we know when we sent them out [for the pre-launch tasting] there were a couple of leakages from the pouches, so we need to have a play around with the gas pressure.” September saw the soft launch of the virtual tastings,
which comprised a very relaxed studio-style presentation by Smith and Taylor of the wines to an audience of 110 people who were invited to post questions and comments on the live feed. The broadcast ahad some help from Kiwi winemaker Hermann Seifried, who shot some footage on his estate with his iPhone especially for the event. “The wineries and makers are really excited to get on board,” says Smith. “We’re doing something a little bit different and they want to support us. Hamish Clarke over at Saint Clair sat down with me for an hour and a half to talk about his wines. Wines of New Zealand have some amazing content on their website and they let us use some of it. “What’s in the glass has to be good – that’s hugely important – but if we can tell the story at a tasting and give people a sense of place; a look at the vineyard, a glimpse in the cellar …” There are a variety of options that people can sign up for. The Discoverer is designed to “help people build their confidence so that when they go to a wine shop they are not frozen in the aisle,” Smith explains. “They can make an informed decision. “The Adventurer level is a bit more of a deep-dive. Either way, we never want it to seem like a wine lecture. We want people to get involved and ask questions. “I hope it’s a bit of excitement, not at all snobby, and I hope it helps them discover something new. “It’s a really good value wine tasting – if you opt for a couples’ pack for six months, it works out at £16 per person per month. Five wine samples is the magic number right now because you can keep it to around an hour to an hour and a half. Less than that it doesn’t feel like a night out – or a night in – and any more than that, people just want you to stop talking!”
POTENTIAL THE WINE MERCHANT november 2020 19
Sales director Alastair Moss (left) with Akos Forczek Photo: Hoda Davaine
B WHY ALL TOP SELECTION WINES ARE THE SAME
eing named Fine Wine Merchant
of the Year was a pleasing way for
Top Selection to celebrate its 20th
anniversary. The accolade, presented in the Sommelier Wine Awards, was a gratifying
recognition for Akos Forczek and his team, and the way they have tried to shape their business over the past two decades.
Of course, Top Selection won the same
prize in 2019, and 2018 as well. Clearly,
this is a business that’s getting a lot right,
In its 20-year history, Top Selection has put together an eclectic portfolio, full of quirky as well as classic wines. But there’s nothing random about the line-up. Look closer and the wines share some common themes: balance, freshness, and remarkable value for money, whatever the price point. No wonder Akos Forczek’s team are winning so many accolades
and not only when there’s a milestone anniversary to acknowledge.
“Yesterday, we had an independent
merchant here doing a tasting with us,”
says Forczek, speaking from Top Selection’s smart offices a short walk from the Thames.
“I lined up about 30 wines and asked
him, ‘why do you like working with Top Selection?’ and he said: ‘The reason
is because your wines live up to your company’s name. All the wines I try,
irrespective of the price point, the quality is always there’.
THE WINE MERCHANT november 2020 20
“He also said that when he tries one of
a Romanian Ice Wine. These are the things
The Top Selection range spans the
Baltà in Spain it was just Parés Baltà in
our wines at £25 a bottle, he could sell it for £35 – the wines over-deliver.”
continents and includes quirky as well
as classic styles. But the common thread, according to Forczek, is freshness and elegance.
“We buy as a team,” he explains. “For us
it’s about the ease of drinking: freshness, good length in the mouth, not being
overwhelming or having too much of
“When I originally started with Parés
Penedès, then they went to Priorat, and
then to Ribera del Duero, so now we have wines from all three wine regions from them, and they are equally excellent.”
op Selection has built up a loyal
following in the independent trade and is keen to expand its business
anything; well-integrated oak.
with the sector.
keep repeating it like a parrot to everyone:
– and we are not looking to be in every
“My friend told me one day that there
are three things that matter in wine and I balance, balance and balance.
“Honestly, I can’t put it better than that.
op Selection works with more than 80
producers in 24 countries. “We try not to work with competing people from
the same wine region,” Forczek says. “That comes from my personality; I believe in something and I go for it.
“You go to some people and they might
have eight Riojas. I can’t work like that – if I have something that I believe in, then I
focus on that, and that’s what we work on.” The roster grows organically but is
essentially “very stable”.
“I think as a company we evolve with
our winemakers. Whether we are very
good judges of character or we are just lucky, I don’t know, but the people we work with tend to adapt their wine as the years go along.
“They do interesting things:
like Kracher [the Austrian
producer] went into a joint venture to make wine in
Transylvania, so now we have
“We are not looking to have short-term
ad-hoc partnerships with our retailers shop,” Forczek says.
“In other words, we have preferred
partnerships with retailers in different
areas – we don’t want relationships with
six or seven retailers in a small area. We’d rather work with a handful we can fully
support and not create competition with each other in the same region.”
The company believes it has every tool
at its disposal to help its independent partners, from samples to help with
tastings to video and social media content. Indies are already seeing their online
sales boom and Forczek is convinced the trend is here to stay.
“Consumer behaviour is
fundamentally changing,” he says.
“They say something like 20% of
shopping happens online and I think
this will massively increase and it is
SOME PORTFOLIO HIGHLIGHTS Alves de Sousa Domingos Alves de Sousa inherited his family’s quintas in 1987. After studying viticulture in Bordeaux and his native Portugal, acquiring additional properties and constructing a modern cellar at Quinta da Gaivosa, he released his first vintage in 1991. Egon Müller Müller produces Germany’s most acclaimed Rieslings. The combination of the fantastic Scharzhofberger terroir, the greatest Grand Cru in Germany, and Egon’s genius as a winemaker, result in wines of incredible minerality, fruit, acidity and perfect balance. Duckhorn Vineyards Co-founded by Dan and Margaret Duckhorn in 1976, Duckhorn has spent 40 years establishing itself as one of North America’s premier producers of Napa Valley wines. Istvàn Szepsy In 1631, Szepsy Laczko Mate was the first man to ever write down how to make Tokaji Aszú. Eighteen generations later, now under István Szepsy’s direction, the same standards remain. Kracher Located in the Seewinkel, an area in the Burgenland region of Austria, the Kracher Winery benefits from a microclimate perfect for the generation of botrytis.
here to stay.
“People are happy to receive food
and wine at home and we need to
be prepared for that. That’s why
having indies is paramount in getting
our wines out there to the consumer.
They are our ambassadors.”
THE WINE MERCHANT november 2020 21
ight ideas r b
17: pop-up cheese market Abi & Chris Connolly Connolly’s, Birmingham
In a nutshell … “Our thoughts are turning to lockdown and general misery, but we can console ourselves with cheese and wine. All being well we’re going to run our cheese market every Saturday up until Christmas.” Yum, yum – tell us more … “Our bar, Arch 13, has a very strong wine and cheese focus and we are quite proud of our cheeses – they are exceptionally good. “Like any other hospitality venue at the moment, our bar has struggled during Covid so we have just tried to come up with something a little bit creative. “We have about 15 cheeses for sale at the market at any one time and our team are really well versed in which cheeses go well with which wines – so we can make recommendations rather than sticking to the usual suspects, which can often be a bit of a myth. Things like port don’t necessarily always go well with cheese.”
Give us a top cheese and wine match. “Well, at the moment it’s Rioja month and so we have Riojas on taste every weekend anyway. Mature Cheddar and mature Red Leicester work really well with a red Rioja.
The cheese market has around 15 types to choose from every Saturday
“Birmingham doesn’t have many local cheeses but we try to focus on the UK. The odd French one gets in there sometimes. We have UK alternatives to classic European cheeses, so instead of a Pecorino we’ve got a Spenwood – a hard cheese from Berkshire – and we have British Brie and Camembert styles.” Does it involve a lot of prepping? “For us it is quite easy because we already stock the cheese and the staff are already trained. “Victoria takes everything over from
Arch 13 to the Solihull store to set up and there is equipment there, as before the March lockdown we had just geared up to start doing cheeseboards for the newly refurbished upstairs area. “I would suggest to anyone wanting to do it from scratch to get the cheese in pre-cut and pre-wrapped and have them ready for people to buy.” That sounds too Gouda be true! “Well, we did it for the first time a couple of weeks ago – and it exceeded expectations.”
Chris and Abi win a WBC gift box containing a some premium drinks and a box of chocolates. Tell us about a bright idea that’s worked for your business and you too could win a gift box. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
THE WINE MERCHANT november 2020 22
SIXTY YEARS IN THE MAKING The latest Glenfarclas single malt dates back to 1959. It’s a magnificent conclusion to a story that almost started with a disaster at the Highland distillery
amily-owned distillery Glenfarclas has released a 60-year-old single malt.
Dating back to 1959, only 105 bottles
of this whisky are being released to the
market. The whisky is bottled in a handblown Glencairn Crystal decanter, set
within a hand-crafted presentation box designed by Royal Warrant Holder NEJ Stevenson.
For John Grant, fifth generation and
current chairman, this is a once-in-a-
lifetime whisky; he was a young boy in
1959, in his last year at the local primary
school, when his father put this whisky into a Sherry Hogshead cask in which to mature over the next 60 years.
The year 1959 did not start well for
Glenfarclas. At 2am on January 1 the
The presentation box is made from English oak and lined with suede
The single malt
stillman on duty had rather overindulged
Tasting note by George S Grant, sixth
was almost catastrophic. When the valve
• Cask: 1820 sherry hogshead
escaped everywhere. Fire hoses stopped
• Colour: A rich, dark golden whisky
in Hogmanay celebrations and forgot to
generation and sales director
was opened, the heat and volume of liquid
• Strength: 40.9% abv
open a valve on the wash still; the result broke the spirit safe and boiling alcohol
the alcohol igniting, but most of the wash had to be replaced.
The insurance company suggested that
the distillery might cease operations over Hogmanay in the future. Ever since, it has
been closed over Christmas and New Year.
• Number of bottles: 105
• Nose: Christmas cake steeped in
Scottish business Glencairn Crystal, the
ultimate manufacturer of bespoke crystal and glass.The Glenfarclas 60 Year Old
decanter is produced from the highest
quality 30% lead crystal, renowned for its ultra-clarity to allow the full colour and
richness of the whisky to shine through.
Glenfarclas, spice, orange and dark
This presentation box has been hand-
the palate; Christmas pudding drenched
whisky inside. It was produced by royal
• Taste: Christmas flavours continue on in brandy butter and set alight. A silky-
smooth dram with rich, dark spice in the mouth
• Finish: A wonderful complex dram that
oozes flavours of marzipan and Christmas sherry. A traditional, old-style Glenfarclas.
For this historical project, it was only
fitting to work with fellow family-owned
THE WINE MERCHANT november 2020 23
crafted from English oak and lined with
suede to create a keepsake worthy of the warrant holder NEJ Stevenson.
Find out more
Visit www.polroger.co.uk or www.glenfarclas.com Twitter: @Pol_Roger
BITS & BOBS
Fake Sassicaia ring raided near Milan Italian police have broken up a ring producing counterfeit Sassicaia wine, a variety considered among the finest in the world that sells for hundreds of
are set to get the chance to try Prosecco DOC rosé wines in the coming months. Decanter, November 3
euros a bottle. Officials from the Guardia di Finanza said
the sophisticated counterfeit operation bottled inferior wine from Sicily in a
Geoff Utting La Zouch Cellars Leicestershire
Favourite wine on my list
Louis Latour Chassagne-Montrachet Premier Cru Caillerets. An absolutely super wine. Light, delicate, lots of fruit, no oak; a pleasure to share with friends and not acquaintances.
Favourite wine and food match
I would have scallops followed by poached salmon with fresh English asparagus and new potatoes, with a bottle of Alsatian Gewürztraminer Grand Cru. To finish: fresh English raspberries and ice cream with Muscat Beaumes de Venise – probably not the ideal wine, but I just love it.
warehouse near Milan, with meticulously
reproduced labelling and cases that came from Bulgaria.
“The bottles and the packaging were
perfectly identical to the originals,” Dario Sopranzetti, a colonel in the financial
police, said. “Even the weight of the tissue paper was the same.”
Two men, a father and son, have been put
under house arrest and 11 others placed
under investigation following an operation launched last year, when a fake case of the wine fell off a truck and was found on the roadside.
Reuters, October 14
Favourite drinks shop
Gordon & MacPhail’s shop in Elgin; I think this place is just amazing. They have everything. I would suggest everyone should go to this shop.
One of Britain’s biggest direct winesellers is being put up for sale after seeing a surge in sales to locked-down Virgin Wines has drafted in advisers to
Favourite wine trip
Favourite wine trade person
Virgin Wines looks into sell-off options
British consumers. help it explore strategic options for the
A trip to the Champagne region visiting the House of Gosset. It was a very informative visit and we had the opportunity to taste a range of wines from Gosset and also tried two wines from their library stock.
Many years ago I had the pleasure of meeting Ian Murray, a Scotsman working for First Drinks. Ian was responsible for looking after my account. Sadly, Ian’s life was taken somewhat quickly but we had many happy hours chatting away over a glass of single malt whisky.
Virgin Wines was started in 2000
The company, which licenses the Virgin
brand from Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Packaging was “meticulously reproduced”
Prosecco rosé is now an actual thing
empire, last changed hands seven years ago, in a £16m management buyout.
It had previously been owned by Direct
Wines, having been established in 2000. Sky News, October 30
• Tributes have been paid to Taras Ochota,
Sparkling rosé wines made under
the much-loved and highly respected
the Prosecco DOC banner have been
winemaker of the Adelaide Hills region, who
approved for export.
has died. He was best known for the Ochota
Prosecco rosé has made its debut in the
UK on November 2, with Aldi selling bottles of the new DOC sparkling online for £6.49.
Fans around the world, from the US to Asia,
THE WINE MERCHANT november 2020 24
Barrels winery that he co-founded with wife Amber – an idea that had first come to the couple during a surfing road trip in 2000. Decanter, October 14
Tragedy of Norwich wine merchant
THE BURNING QUESTION
What drinks do you think will be most popular with your customers this Christmas?
There’s never a bad time of year for Champagne but the bubbles are synonymous with celebration. I’d love to see an increase in sales across the sparkling range – we see many opt for excellent English fizz as their go-to celebratory tipple. We also tend to notice an increase in sales of sweet and fortified wines as the weather turns colder. My best pairing suggestion for the day itself will be a generous glass of Pedro Ximénez sherry with Christmas pudding and quality vanilla ice cream.
A wine merchant who brought a slice of French culture to Norwich in the form of a wine bar and deli has died aged 49. In October 2015 Damien Cabanis, who
was born in Brittany, opened Les Garrigues, a French wine bar and deli in St John
Maddermarket. In 2018, Les Garrigues
merged with Louis Deli and after raising more than £14,000 in a crowdfunding campaign relocated to Upper St Giles.
He died on Sunday, October 25. The cause of death was given as hanging.
Eastern Daily Press, October 29
• Treasury Wine Estates has launched a new trade portal for its luxury e-commerce platform The Winery Collection.It opens up
Jake Bennett-Day Vino Gusto @ The One Bull, Suffolk
There will be those who are budget-minded and those with excess money. We mostly operate as a wine bar but now we’re going to swing back to being a shop and our hamper things have already started rolling in. We love having our big cheese selection and at Christmas we switch to some classics and ramp it up with a bit more of an English focus – it’s a good time of year to do that.
access to the Australian wine group’s luxury
Kirsty Tinkler Weino BIB, London
and fine wine portfolio including names such as Penfolds, Wynns, Beringer and Maison de
Gin crackers are proving very popular – it’s a miniature gin in a cracker and it really has captured the imagination. A lot of people are going for gin, vodka or whisky miniatures to try different things out rather than spending on a big bottle. I think they want to increase their chances of not being too disappointed! The lead-up to Christmas has been a little bit slower than last year. In Scotland we’re not in lockdown yet, but I think it will happen and people are getting out now and securing their Christmas purchases.
The Drinks Business, November 6
The wine cafe deemed ‘too fancy’
An Edinburgh wine cafe ordered to close by a council for serving food it
Alan Irvine The Scottish Gantry, Glasgow
considered “too fancy for a cafe” has won a court order to remain open following the allegations. One20 Wine Cafe in Dundas Street,
which is also an off-licence and art gallery,
was forced to close after City of Edinburgh Council alleged it was trading in breach of Covid-19 regulations – which they emphatically denied.
Owners Ronnie and Kyle Reid claimed
the council’s main argument for closing the premises was that the food was too
upmarket for the venue to be considered a cafe.
Premium whisky will be a big push for us, and Italian wine is a big category for us. We are beside some supermarkets so in order to have a marked point of difference we do tend to go for the slightly more obscure – in our area, anyway. Greco di Tufo does quite well, Falanghina and Aglianico do very well for us and Amarones do very well too, from the classic level to the top tiers. Bordeaux and Rioja are popular too. The premium is always there, no matter what – it’s just tapping into it. But you can see people looking at core value so the promotional lines are also very strong at the moment. Glenn McGarry, McGarry’s Fine Wines, Belfast
Champagne Gosset The oldest wine house in Champagne: Äy 1584
The Scotsman, October 26
THE WINE MERCHANT november 2020 25
As one of the most acclaimed wine regions in the world, the more you know about Rioja, the more interesting it becomes – and the more you want to know. But in a dynamic region that is developing fast even as it stays true to its traditions, how do you stay up to date with all the latest developments? It all comes down to education, which is why Rioja Wine UK has come up with a variety of ingenious ways to keep wine merchants and other members of the trade abreast of what’s going on in Spain’s top wine region right now.
n the run-up to Christmas, a key part of Rioja’s educational efforts will be focused on an innovative series of tutored Rioja
tastings, each covering a different aspect of the region’s varied production. Inspired by the Rioja Wine Academy – the free online educational platform launched by the Consejo Regulador DOCa Rioja earlier this year – the Rioja Wine Academy Bootcamp will feature four sessions, which,
Christmas term at t
as Rioja Wine UK puts it, are designed to get “members of the trade in peak Rioja fitness,
with a tasting sheet and tasting brochure to
ready for the (albeit slightly unusual this year)
follow along in the exercise, plus some extra
writer with a Spanish specialism, and the
Christmas trading period, bringing the Rioja
POS to sport around town.
author of respected annual guide to the Rioja’s
region to life and getting the trade excited about Spain’s flagship wine region.”
The Bootcamp kicked off in October with
On November 19, another leading wine
best wines, Tim Atkin MW, took recruits
a session hosted by one of the UK’s leading
through an introductory session, This is
Spanish wine experts, the journalist Sarah
Rioja, with special emphasis on its unique
world-renowned wine expert and is designed
Jane Evans MW, who talked her recruits
geographical and climatic features as well
to help wine merchants fine-tune their Rioja
through the region’s classic (and highly
as its portfolio of grape varieties which lend
knowledge and take their passion, knowledge
Christmas-friendly) aged styles.
themselves to both blending and increasingly
Each free online session will be hosted by a
and enthusiasm directly to the consumer. Bootcamp recruits will receive a training kit
Entitled Age is Not Just a Number, Evans’ session went behind the scenes of Reserva and
ahead of the online session which will include
Gran Reserva wines, and the reasons for their
all the essential gear – six Rioja wine samples
THE WINE MERCHANT november 2020 26
for the production of high-quality single varietal wines. On November 26, Evans takes up the baton again to talk recruits through some of the
Rioja Wine Academy: take your Rioja knowhow to the next level The Bootcamps are just one part of a major educational drive on the part of Rioja Wine UK and the Consejo Regulador DOCa Rioja this year. No less enticing for those who want to expand their knowledge of the region is the Rioja Wine Academy – a free online educational platform for Rioja lovers, both trade and consumer, featuring a range of courses which can be completed online, at the student’s own speed. The Rioja Wine Academy is currently offering four courses: Rioja Wine Diploma: for those who want to learn more about the world of Rioja, its distinguishing features and what makes the wines what they are. Fully online course, free of charge and with unlimited places. Diploma in Rioja Wine for Trade & Distribution: provides a full education in Rioja wine but is geared towards anyone working in sales and marketing, complete with a market launch plan. Fully online course, free of charge and with unlimited places.
the Rioja Academy most exciting developments in Rioja in the past couple of years, in a session entitled Not Your Average Rioja. Evans will be looking at the superb wines now being sold under the new Viñedo Singular category and will also guide recruits through lesser-spotted gems such as singlevarietal Garnacha. Finally, on December 1, Atkin returns for a session entitled There’s a Rioja for That, which will show just how much variety there is on offer today and how well the wines of the region lend themselves to food pairing.
Upcoming Bootcamp sessions November 26 Not your Average Rioja, Sarah Jane Evans MW December 1 There’s a Rioja for That, Tim Atkin MW Register via www.riojatasting.com #riojawine #riojabootcamp @RiojaWines @RiojaWine @RiojaWine
THE WINE MERCHANT november 2020 27
Diploma in Rioja Wine Tourism: all you need to know about how to make the most of a key part of modern Rioja’s offer, wine tourism, this course will teach you about, among other things, “implementation of experiences, activities, customer service, situation management, wine and tasting services”. Fully online course, free of charge and with unlimited places. Rioja Wine Certified Educator: you’ll need at least two years’ proven experience in the educational and training fields if you want to sign up for a course that promises to enable participants to “expand their knowledge and the rigour of their training discourse when it comes to conveying and explaining what Rioja is and what makes the region a benchmark in terms of high-quality wines”. Rioja Wine UK www.riojawine.com Find online courses from the Rioja Wine Academy at: www.riojawineacademy.com #riojawine #riojawineacademy
The great escape Missing visits to European vineyards? Aching to discover new wines and catch up with winemaking friends? Then maybe jump aboard a refurbished VW camper van and see where you end up. Chix Chandaria of The Wine Parlour in south London and partner Norman Comfort did just that â€“ and it was probably the best 10 weeks they could possibly have spent. Photography: Francesca Romana Gaglione
‘I hadn’t done a lot of planning, to be honest …’
his year, the vineyards of mainland Europe have
felt a long way away. But not for Chix Chandaria of The Wine Parlour in south London.
For 10 weeks, she and partner Norman Comfort left the
trials of lockdown Britain behind them, mothballed one of their two shops, and set out on a 5,000-mile journey,
visiting wine producers in France, Italy, Switzerland and Germany.
Their conveyance was a 55-year-old VW camper van,
recently refurbished and fitted with a 2-litre Subaru
engine. The couple used it as their accommodation for all but two nights of their adventure, staying at half-empty
campsites where social distancing was straightforward. “It was amazing to take the van and travel through
Europe and meet our winemakers we work with,” says Chix.
“We went down one side of France, all the way through
wine regions, starting in Champagne. There’s a young
girl who used to work for us who now works for a lovely
artisan Champagne house, so we met her there. Then we
went to Jura, Burgundy, Beaujolais, Savoie and the Rhône. “The idea was to go to Spain, but the Covid cases there
went up almost as soon as we started our travels, so we
turned left into Italy. We went to Piedmont and Abruzzo. We met with a Barolo producer who we don’t import
from, but we do sell his wine, and we met with someone in Abruzzo who we’ve been working with for 10 years, importing his wine.
“Then it was Switzerland and into the Mosel where we
met Rudolph Trossen, a fantastic biodynamic Riesling producer, whose wines we’ve been selling.”
The couple found a warm welcome everywhere, even
when they were cold calling.
“We made some new discoveries for sure,” says Chix.
“We were being quite cowboy. We were stopping
at various places we didn’t really know. A lot of them
weren’t represented in the UK; some were all right and
some were really great. I hadn’t done a lot of planning, to
be honest, but it was quite easy to knock on doors and get in to do a tasting.
“Quite a few friends came and met us along the way and
we introduced them to different wines.”
What was her personal highlight? “I’m a Nebbiolo
fanatic, so Barolo and Barbaresco are absolutely my thing. “In Barolo itself there’s a really cool wine bar run by
quite a young guy. We’ve been there before. We sent home a box of wine from there for ourselves. The van would get too hot and it’s too bumpy. The idea is potentially to get a trailer for next year so we can carry more wine.”
There weren’t many low points, although Chianti was
something of a wash-out. “Sadly, because I’m a big fan of Chianti, that was our worst bit because it just rained for 48 hours and we were in the middle of nowhere,” says Chix. “But that was as bad as it got.”
he Brixton shop was kept running smoothly by its usual team, with Chix staying in touch via
WhatsApp and keeping on top of accounts and
orders on her laptop.
The plan is to embark on another European tour in
2021, probably taking in Spain. “I think travel is always rejuvenating, and visiting people we work with just
reminded us that there is stuff that needs to be sold,” says Chix. “And it was really a great time to be away.
“I got into wine because I’m passionate about the
product. Visiting the wineries so you can sell the story
and the product, having met and drunk with the people who make it, makes so much difference.”
THE WINE MERCHANT november 2020 30
Norman (second left) and Chix (seated, third left) visiting Tenuta i Fauri in Abruzzo
The VW spent 18 months being repaired and refurbished, and will also be used for Wine Parlour events
Zooming in on Tannat Nowhere is this beguiling variety more at home than in south west France, where it produces wines that aren’t simply tannic and alcoholic, but full of fruit, freshness and balance
ne of France’s most adventurous and quality-focused co-operatives, Plaimont is a familiar feature on the UK’s independent scene. Founded in the late 1970s, the organisation now works with over 800 growers who between them cover more than 5,000ha of vineyard in the Saint Mont, Madiran, Pacherenc de Vic-Bilh and Côtes de Gascogne appellations, and it has been hugely influential in shaping the modern-day vinous reputation of the entire Gascony region. There’s a long history of wine production going back at least as far as Roman times in this bucolic corner of south west France – although wild vines (vitis silvestris) flourished here in the foothills of the Pyrenees long before, and the region is now known to be the birthplace of a number of grape varieties, including Merlot and Cabernet Franc.
Today, perhaps the outstanding red varietal performer for both Plaimont and the region is another local: Tannat. As Plaimont MD and winemaker Olivier Bourdet-Pees says, the reputation of Tannat has no doubt been boosted by its presence in some heavyweight red wines produced in contemporary Uruguay and Argentina. But there is something truly special about the Tannat that’s produced in its original home. “It’s the main grape here in the foothills of the Pyrenees. It’s powerful, but in our region we can make different kinds of wines,” Bourdet-Pees says. “If you want roundness and easy drinking, maybe this isn’t the place. But what you do get here – the signature of Tannat in the foothills – is freshness and tension. It’s one of the best regions in France for keeping this balance close.”
THE WINE MERCHANT november 2020 32
Tasting Tannat Those characteristics came through beautifully in a fascinating tasting of eight Tannat wines exploring the various terroirs of Madiran and Saint Mont, which was hosted (via Zoom) by Bourdet-Pees and his colleague Céline Dabadie, and attended by some of the UK’s leading independent merchants and wholesalers. The event kicked off with the second
Feature sponsored by Plaimont Plaimont works with a number of regional wholesalers and is offering these wines to the UK trade for the first time. For more information, visit www.plaimont.com
important in keeping potential alcohol in check.
The terroir of Tannat Another Tannat talent on display at the tasting was the variety’s ability to express terroir – and showcasing that ability is the raison d’être of Vignobles Marie Maria, a new range of Tannats sourced from vineyards grown on three of Madiran’s main soil types. As Bourdet-Pees says, the range is very much a collaboration that involves “a lot of work between Plaimont and the specific growers”. The range takes in Grèvière, from a terroir of gravelly-clay found in the warm south of Madiran; Veine, from a terroir of large pebbles unique to Madiran’s highest altitudes, and which, says BourdetPees, is “traditionally considered the top terroir” of the appellation; and Argilo, from the clay-limestone vineyards found on the appellation’s steepest slopes. The differences in character are immediately apparent, from the supple black fruit and liquorice of the Grèvière, through the powerfully structured Veine with what Bourdet-Pees calls its “huge skeleton”, to the density, power and polished tannins of Argilo. “I think Tannat transmits terroir very well,” says James Davis MW of Adnams. Oxford Wine’s Emily Silva agrees: “You can definitely feel clear differences between all the three wines.” Terroir expression was palpable, too, in the final trio of the tasting, three vintages of a single great Saint Mont estate. “Château de Sabazan is the terroir of Bas-Armagnac: a fawny sandy soil, a very famous and wonderful terroir that makes rounder softer wines,” Olivier says. As well as demonstrating the softer, more red-fruited style of Tannat produced in Saint Mont’s terroir, the de Sabazan trio also highlight the variety’s remarkable longevity.
THE WINE MERCHANT november 2020 33
© M Carossio
vintage of a typically market-attuned Plaimont project, Chez Louisat Madiran 2018 – a wine that shows how Tannat’s attributes are ideally suited to making wines in a natural way, with as few additions as possible. “Something Tannat can do easily is make wines really close to the grape with nothing added,” Bourdet-Pees says. “Because of the tannins, we can avoid sulphur. A lot of wines made without SO2 are dangerous in their evolution, but, thanks to the tannin, that isn’t true here.” Fermented and aged in stainless steel at 10°C, Chez Louisat is a fresh, fruit-forward style of Tannat that, as Bourdet-Pees says, has an attractively “wild” quality. A deliciously “open expression of fruit” is also the hallmark of the second Madiran on show: Maestria 2018. The bestselling Madiran in the French on-trade, it’s sourced from the earliestproducing Tannat (plus a smaller proportion of Cabernet Sauvignon) vines in the Gers, with 20% of the blend matured for 12 months in two-year-old barrels. As with all the wines in the tasting, the Maestria shows how it’s possible to make Tannat in a highly drinkable style where the element for which the variety is most famous – strong tannin – is harmoniously integrated. For the Maestria cuvée that means playing with a small amount of microoxygentation. But for Plaimont the key to an appealing tannic texture lies in the vineyard as much as the winery. Among other things, that means being careful with yields. According to Bourdet-Pees, Tannat is a naturally productive grape that can easily reach yields in excess of 100hl/ha in Madiran and Saint Mont (and as much as 400hl/ha in Uruguay). Green harvesting is therefore essential, to have yields of no more than 50 to 60hl/ha (and much lower for highestquality cuvees) – a technique which is also
Argilo vigneron Georges Lascabannes
From the youthful vigour of the 2018, through the mellow “undergrowth” scents of 2008, to the sensuous, rounded 1998, the Château de Sabazan wines delighted the tasters – and provided yet more delicious proof that Tannat grown in the foothills of the Pyrenees is one of France’s greatest combinations of variety and terroir.
OUR TASTERS Steve Crosland, Tanners James Davis, Adnams Nick Hillman, Wineservice Mark Hull, Wine Net Michael McGarry, Sovereign Wines Andrew Sidebottom, Merchant Vintners Emily Silva, Oxford Wine Company Simon Wallace, Gusto Wines
In praise of the co-op In recent decades, Europe’s wine co-operatives have been dismissed as backward as buyers fixate on individual growers. But, says David Williams, there is plenty to admire in the way these collectives emerged out of times of crisis, and the wines they produce are by no means as unfashionable as some people assume
crisis is a moment of
opportunity. This bit of
boilerplate wisdom can come
across as a little glib at times. It’s especially unwelcome if it’s coming from someone
who is patently not experiencing a crisis in the same way that you are.
“An opportunity for what, and for whom?”
you might well ask, as the visibly well-fed politician continues his lecture on how
many great entrepreneurs emerged from a childhood of extreme poverty and hunger. Still, if we look back at previous crises,
we may find that there is something worth retrieving at the core of a cliché that is too often deployed in bad faith. Humanity’s capacity for adaptability is at its most remarkably tenacious in the wake of
traumatic events, and this might make us
wonder what will emerge when (please not if) we emerge from this current moment. It’s a question that applies to the wine
industry as much as it does to wider
on what, to me, seem rather dispiriting
switch to online in many various and, quite
to rebuild their vineyards in the wake
society. Most predictions about the
post-Covid future of wine seem to focus
changes: as I wrote in these pages a couple
ertainly, most of the successful co-operatives operating today emerged in a time of crisis.
Think of the Cave de Ribeauvillé, formed
of months back, 2020 has accelerated the
in 1896 as the growers of Alsace looked
However you look at it, on this reading,
and military invasion. Or the Produttori
possibly, irrevocable ways.
the wine industry from now on will be a
whole lot less sociable and convivial than it was before the pandemic.
Looking back at how the wine world has
responded to previous crises in history, however, I wonder if some rather more
positive outcomes – outcomes that bring
people together rather than sealing them ever tighter in atomised bubbles –might not be possible.
Specifically, I’m wondering if the
2020s might not herald the renaissance of a particular type of production that
embodies collaboration – the European co-operative.
THE WINE MERCHANT november 2020 34
of the twin catastrophes of phylloxera
del Barbaresco, which has a backstory
straight from an Italian neo-realist film,
with the local priest bringing the village’s growers together with a vision of highquality Nebbiolo after years in which
their livelihood was ravaged by economic depression and war.
And the foundational crisis needn’t be
world historical: Gascony’s Plaimont was
formed as a wine-producing collective as a
response to the collapse in Armagnac sales in the early 1970s.
It’s easy to see why co-operatives emerge
at such moments. The advantages of co-
operative membership are all heightened
© Prawny / stockadobe.com
Regional pride and social solidarity could come in useful after a calamitous 2020
in times of need: the shared resources, from winemaking to promotion; the
economies of scale; the sheer reach that
an organisation of several hundred people, representing several thousand hectares
and millions of hectolitres, has, in terms of both lobbying and marketing, versus
working with your own couple of hectares, alone.
Still, for much of the past few decades,
the tendency has been to talk up the
individual grower and talk down the whole idea of the co-op.
How many times have you read a profile
of an exciting European grower who used
to sell to the local co-op but has now boldly struck out alone, after tiring of the politics
and the infighting? And how often have you spoken to a French, Spanish, German or
Italian wine entrepreneur who says how much would be possible if the truculent
growers at the local co-operative weren’t
holding the region back, the commitment
to buying up their growers’ harvest come
what may always meaning quality takes a back seat to quantity?
f course, we’ve all had
experiences of badly run co-
operatives: the buying (or press)
trip lowlight with its filthy, prison-like
1930s facilities, unironic 1980s labels and rancid wines. But if they are bad in what
seems like a distinctively co-op-y way, are they really so common? Are there more
bad co-ops as a proportion of the total than there are bad private wineries, big and small?
I’m not so sure there are. And, purely
in wine terms, Europe’s many well-run co-operatives are invariably a force for good, at their best acting as regional
ambassadors, helping to shape regional styles and best practice, and making
excellent mass-market and, in some cases, seriously fine, wines.
THE WINE MERCHANT november 2020 35
Among the best you can most certainly
count Produttori del Barberesco, Cave de
Ribeauvillé and Plaimont. To that list you could add Le Cave de Tain in the Rhône,
Cantina Terlano in the Alto-Adige, Cantine
Settesoli in Sicily, Cavit in Trentino, Chablis’ La Chablisienne, the Wachau’s Domäne Wachau and (although its members
officially became shareholders when it became a limited company in the early
2000s) Bodegas Borsao in Campo de Borja,
while Champagne’s powerful co-operatives
are responsible for brands such as Jacquart and Nicolas Feuillatte.
There’s a commercial savvy behind
the success of each of the above. But it’s underpinned by something stronger: a
combination of regional pride and a social solidarity that will be more in need than ever as Europe’s producers attempt to
work their way back from – and find the opportunities created by – a disastrous 2020.
WHATâ€™S THE DAMAGE?
ÂŠ fotomomentfoto / stockadobe.com
English wine producers take stock of a 2020 vintage ravaged by May frosts
Sauvignon Blanc is looking good for Lyme Bay. Could Gamay and Cabernet Franc be next?
Lyme Bay Winery, Devon: Grand cru fruit from Essex
was very consistent,” he says.
director James Lambert, was not just brutal
we’ve had this year for Pinot Noir from
yme Bay Winery may be based in
Devon, but it sources its fruit from 16 growers across the south of England.
This year’s frost, according to managing
as far as the 2020 vintage was concerned. It has also exposed which vineyards are
most likely to have a long-term future, and those which are going to struggle.
“There were some sites that suffered
from really late frosts in May,” he says. “For
us the Oxfordshire site was the worst – and the secondary shoots never really got to ripeness. The marginal sites really were affected.”
Lambert is increasingly excited about the
grapes coming out of parts of Essex, and
this year’s harvest has only reinforced that feeling.
“There’s an area just around the Crouch
Valley where we noticed the fruit was riper than elsewhere, and on top of that the fruit
“This year we had some Pinot Noir come
in from the Crouch Valley at 106 Oechsle, which is a record for the UK. The lowest the same area is 93 Oechsle. These are
extremely commercial levels of ripeness.
“Once you get to that level, you’ve got the
physiological ripeness, which allows you
to really go to town on extracting without
worrying about astringency – it becomes a virtuous circle.”
Lyme Bay is working on long-term
partnerships with its growers in the
Crouch Valley, where the river runs from west to east with south-facing vineyards
on the northern banks. Chardonnay is also thriving in the vicinity. “There are more and more vineyards popping up, and in
the next 10 years that particular area will become a like a grand cru for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay,” Lambert predicts.
THE WINE MERCHANT november 2020 37
Lyme Bay is not just pinning its hopes
on Burgundian varieties. It’s been a good year for Bacchus, and Lambert says the best results come from blending riper
and under-ripe fruit together. The variety is sometimes called England’s answer to
Sauvignon Blanc, but Lyme Bay is actually
investing in Sauvignon too, again in Essex. “We’ve got some Sauvignon Blanc in
barrel,” Lambert says. “It’s 97 Oechsle
and we’ll be planting three acres of that next year. It blew me away. This is ripe Sauvignon Blanc – it’s incredible.”
Lambert sees no reason why English
Riesling couldn’t be viable, and is also
exploring more ambitious red varieties.
“I think Shiraz might be quite interesting,
and people are talking about Cabernet
Franc and Gamay,” he says. “It’s only going to take one or two trailblazers in the right areas to try something and hit the market and people will follow.”
Charles Simpson with wife Ruth. Frost damage looks like being a one-in-three-years event, he says
Simpsons Wine Estate, Kent: A year for £100 still wines
impsons did its due diligence on its
three vineyard plots, the first of which was planted in 2014. “We were pretty
confident that we had relatively frost-free sites,” says Charles Simpson.
“What we hadn’t understood was how
warm we are in east Kent, and we have got very warm springs. We are surrounded by the sea on three sides, so we are getting
premature bud break and our exposure is much earlier than we had predicted. “In a normal year, we’d get a frost
incident maybe a maximum of three times, so you’re trying to fight frost for two or
three nights a year. But this year we had six, and three of them were in late April
and three of them were in May. It was the May frosts that were a big surprise.
“We lost between 45% and 50% of our
The silver lining in this particular cloud
is that the vines focused their energies on
the surviving buds, producing concentrated
factor in extreme weather.
all of your inputs, which never change
fruit that Simpson says will be “fabulous”
for the still wines that make up 40% of the “We are really excited about the quality
of the liquid in the winery,” he says, “even
though, frustratingly, there is not as much as we would have wanted. But that’s life. It’s what makes it so exciting.
“We’ve got some liquid that would
certainly look like high-end red Burgundy. We won’t do a cru classé every year but certainly this is a year where we would
launch a super-premium Chardonnay and a super-premium Pinot Noir.”
These wines, he says, may well end up
being the first still wines from England commanding a £100 price tag.
That would take some of the sting out of
the cashflow issues that the 2020 vintage might create, although Simpson says the business model is already geared up to
THE WINE MERCHANT november 2020 38
“This year our cost of production will
double. It’s a fixed-cost business. You take in the vineyard, really, and rather than
dividing it by what should have been 250 tonnes, you’re dividing it by 125 tonnes. “Consumers may remark that English
wine is expensive, but we have to build
into the cost of our wines the fact that you can have catastrophic frost. We thought it
was going to be one or two out of 10 years, whereas we were hit really hard in ’17 and
here we are in ’20, so that seems like every third year.”
The business is investing in paraffin
candles to use as bougies, having found
that frost fans aren’t particularly effective.
“We have no choice,” says Simpson. “They
are expensive, but if you’ve lost 100 tonnes, the relative cost of the bougies is almost nothing.”
Peter Hall is happy to accept his first frost damage in 44 years. “I’ve been bloody lucky.” Picture: Genevieve Stevenson
Breaky Bottom, Sussex: Rejoicing in a frost-bitten vintage
eter Hall is not used to frost. Since his first vines went in at Breaky Bottom in the mid 1970s, he’s barely seen
any in the growing season. This May, that situation changed, quite violently.
The downland vineyard is only a couple
of miles from the East Sussex coast and is normally protected by the sea.
“There was no warning at all,” says Hall.
“This was a beast from the Arctic, a very particular frost and it was very random,
hitting places that never get hit – while the places that usually get frost got none.”
To put that into context: Mount Harry
vineyard, just a few miles north, is not
significantly bigger than Breaky Bottom
but harvested 14 tonnes, while Hall settled for two and a quarter.
“This frost took away at least 80% of
my crop. We really were hit, and we had virtually bugger all,” says Hall.
“On the first day of picking we had two
tonnes in two separate presses. On the Sunday I thought we might get a third
press, but we got half a press, so we’ve got 1,750 litres quietly fermenting away.”
It must have been heart-breaking to see
so much damage. “It was,” Hall concedes. “But on the other hand, to have 44 years
of no problem and suddenly have a mega problem … I accept it. I’ve been bloody
lucky. And I rather like the challenge of
having a very small one-off crop which has never been made in its particular way, so we’ll see what happens.”
Breaky Bottom’s conundrum this year
is how to make the best of fruit picked at often quite varied stages of ripeness.
Hall remains upbeat. “We’ve had to taste
and see … but anyway, it’s worked out fine now. We need hardly any chaptalisation and we are going to have some really
interesting wine as never before seen at
Breaky Bottom, because of this balance of
THE WINE MERCHANT november 2020 39
marginally ripe grapes with good acidity
and very ripe grapes, which probably gave too much softness in the end.
“Who knows – in three, four, five years
from now, on the lees, it might make quite extraordinary individual wines.”
Breaky Bottom specialises in sparkling
wines, most of which derive much of their character from the Seyval grapes that account for 60% of planting.
Hall doesn’t have capacity to store
reserve wines and, in any case, prefers to make wines that reflect the vintage.
“I’m happy that way,” he says. “In fact,
by doing that, I’m not muddling a classic
Breaky Bottom taste, I’m rejoicing in the fact that each vintage is a one-off.
“This is a single-vineyard wine. Each
bottle is numbered, with the total number of bottles given on the label, and it means that every wine is going to be different – wonderfully.”
Spaced out Itâ€™s been an eventful year for all indies, and for Charles Wharton in particular. Having bought out his business partner and relocated to a retail park warehouse, heâ€™d been open for just one day when lockdown hit. But, as Nigel Huddleston discovers, the larger premises have been a blessing, for lots of reasons
Anthony Reynolds, July 2020 The 4,500 sq ft warehouse is at Indian Queens, between Bodmin and Truro
THE WINE MERCHANT november 2020 40
ELLIS WHARTON WINES
n the face of it, the January move to new premises by Cornish independent Ellis Wharton
Wines doesn’t look like great timing.
“We spent two months getting the shop
and warehouse sorted, had the shop open for a day and shut it down in March,”
says owner Charles Wharton. On top of
that, co-founder David Ellis had retired in December, and Wharton had bought him out to become 100% owner.
“I’ve not had a day off since New Year’s
doing about £25m and when I left it was
or two trade customers had managed
the top-end of the wine list and the nicer
starting up the account again.
doing about £95m,” Wharton says. “But it was just beginning to lose interest in
customers, so it was a good time for me to move on and do something else.”
The company is a member of the
Independent Wine Buyers Consortium and employs six people (temporarily reduced to three during lockdown).
How did lockdown affect you in the
to drink through their cellars during
lockdown, so with them it was bit like We’ve had a good summer, a lucky
summer, but we’ve worked hard for it. You think you’re just about there and they go: 10pm curfew. We did see the orders drop off again but, touch wood, we’re going to be OK.
This all came just after the move. What
day,” he observes matter-of-factly.
ramped-up web orders and built-in social
We carried on doing home deliveries
disappeared, like it did for lots of other
The last address in Par [half an hour
people, and it just carried on from there.
was so small. We were spending a day
As it happened, the move to a bigger,
more modern site, with room to process distancing in the shop, proved to be advantageous.
“It’s probably helped,” says Wharton.
“Where we were, the shop was very small, wasn’t very visible and there wasn’t a
lot to show off. When we moved, we got
comments along the lines of it being a bit
of a statement – and I suppose it probably was.
“Having retail, internet and trade – three
parts of the business – is a good thing at the moment.”
Ellis Wharton’s spanking new 4,500 sq
ft unit is at Indian Queens off a junction of the busy A30, roughly midway between
Bodmin and Truro. One of Cornwall’s bestloved bakeries and a mountain bike shop
are in neighbouring units and the business park is still being developed with the
and the internet but 90% of the business You could feel trade sales going about a
week before. People were taking their foot off the pedal and not ordering any more,
just in case, and then the last three or four
He was the wine buyer for the wholesale
operation of local brewer St Austell when he and restaurateur Ellis decided to go
into business together in 2006. Their first customer was the chef Nathan Outlaw. “When I started at St Austell it was
Continues page 42
ringing up to say, “can we collect?”, so we
quietly opened the doors and got on with it.
We rarely get more than one or two
people in the shop at any one time anyway. The doors have been open through the
summer, and the back doors of the loading
bay, so there’s been a good flow of air going through. I like to think we’re relatively safe. How did things build back up?
make it work”. You just do, don’t you? One
warehouses. It was just getting crazy.
of June. We had more and more people
1,500 sq ft shop at the front, as Wharton looks to balance the business more
a week moving stock between the two
We reopened the shop towards the end
We hit the ground running when the on-
a 3,000 sq ft warehouse to the rear and a
an overflow warehouse because the site
days before lockdown it was nothing at all.
promise of more footfall to come.
Ellis Wharton has divided its unit into
away] had a very small shop and we had
trade opened on July 4. It was a case of
“we’ve got to get wine to everyone, let’s
Wharton started out with Ellis in 2006
‘We’ve had a good summer, a lucky summer, but we’ve worked hard for it. You think you’re just about there and they go: 10pm curfew’ THE WINE MERCHANT november 2020 41
From page 41
We were looking for the best part of
12 months and then this came up. It was a little bit further to commute every
morning. We’re an hour, at most, from all our trade customers now. The location’s
great. Apparently, 40,000 cars go past that junction every day in the summer and
20,000 in the winter, so for the shop it made sense.
Part of the reason was to spread the risk
on the business by expanding the retail
side. From doing the small amount of retail business that we were doing over in Par
to potentially what we could do here just seemed like a very sensible decision.
How important is wholesale to you? We’re probably 85% trade, 15% retail. I’d like retail to be a third of the business to
spread the risk. Since we’ve been here, I’ve started buying different products for the
shop, just having a slightly different range for trade and for retail. It also allows me to buy small parcels of things, whereas
the trade needs consistency through the
year with the same lines. With the shop we can have some fun with parcels and put
something new on the floor every month and make it a bit more interesting.
Taking lockdown into account, has the move helped retail? We’ve certainly got more customers
coming through the door now and we got more profile from the lockdown by going into home deliveries. We’ve not really
started shouting about ourselves on social media just yet. It’s just been a bit of time on Facebook and Instagram saying we were doing home deliveries.
A lot of people have gone back to the
supermarkets. We’ve retained some of the nicer and bigger customers, which has
been great. People are finding us through
Google or word of mouth, coming in saying, “wow, this is great, we didn’t know you
were here, I’m going to tell all my friends”. That’s the best bit of advertising we can have.
The level of spend per transaction is
up as well. I think we can triple our retail turnover here in next year or two.
‘David and I always took the attitude that, if the business were to go wrong, let’s be left with a warehouse full of stuff we’d want to drink’ Have costs gone up? The previous place was an old prefab unit
with lots of potholes and puddles outside. It was relatively cheap but when it rained
customers were having to work out how to park so they didn’t step out into a pothole and get wet feet.
This is all nice and new with fresh
tarmac outside. It’s all super-insulated,
high-efficient, low-energy consumption.
Proportionally it might be marginally more expensive per square foot, but not a great deal more – and there’s a saving in not
having a person moving stock between warehouses one day a week. The extra
business we’ve picked up will hopefully pay for the rest of it.
Has your retail customer profile changed?
It’s great for distribution: 10 minutes to the
We’ve retained all our really nice
the square footage that we had before.
We’ve picked up a lot from Indian Queens
north coast, 25 minutes to the south coast. The rent is more but we’ve got double
THE WINE MERCHANT november 2020 42
customers who used to come and see us from Fowey and the surrounding areas.
ELLIS WHARTON WINES
and the north coast of Cornwall, and more
with. We’ve kept that philosophy all the
Hotel [a Newquay eco-hotel] opened up
Newquay. It was the only thing they could
being offered in Cornwall at the time, so
holidaymakers. We had a lovely couple in early July who’d rented an apartment in
get. Their Waitrose delivery had arrived, but the wine hadn’t. They Googled and
found us and spent £550. That was unusual
way through. There’s nothing in there I’ve bought purely on price or to fill a hole on Which suppliers have been most supportive?
they wanted a fully organic wine list that stretched the boundaries of what was
we worked very closely with them, playing with natural wines and figuring out what worked by the glass, by trial and error
– if only all my customers were like that –
When we started out, I wanted to do
Tell us about your wines. What’s your
grower-led and with a little of personality.
About 10 boxes of samples turned up a
European-led, probably because of my
but the opportunities are there to tap into. shopping list like when you’re buying? I do all of the buying and all of the selling, so if we’re left with lots of stock we can’t sell it’s my fault. I want to work with
smaller, family-owned wineries. We’ve got a few entry-point wines but most of what we sell is between £10 and £20 a bottle.
David and I always took the attitude that, if the business is going to go wrong, let’s
be left with a warehouse full of stuff we’d want to drink rather than wash the car
something a bit different to what I was
doing at St Austell, something that was
more than anything.
Do you have go-to countries for the
I was put in touch with Doug Wregg at
Half the list is probably French – and
week later, something like 100 different
palate more than anything else. Personally,
Les Caves de Pyrene and he was brilliant. bottles of wine, and we worked our way
through them. We’ve been with Les Caves
de Pyrene ever since and it’s still probably one of our biggest suppliers in terms of numbers of products.
There’s always been an emphasis on
organic and biodynamic. When the Scarlet
THE WINE MERCHANT november 2020 43
maybe up to 80%. We’re very much
if someone said to me you can only have one country to drink, it would be Italy. I
love the food, I love the culture and I love the wines.
But we’re probably seeing the biggest Continues page 44
From page 43
movement in Spain at the moment and there’s some great stuff coming out of
there – and some great labels. That’s still
an area where the French have got so much to learn. There are great wines coming out of France but the labels still need working
on. Spain has brilliant labels and the wines
It supplies a few parties … when we’re
expensive, but I want to cover both things.
“we don’t want to play by the rules, we’ll do
of money on wine. Some people will spend
and that sort of thing. We don’t go really
to go with it. Some of the declassified wines are really interesting; producers saying, what we want”.
Do you ship direct for the company outside the IWBC? There are certain bits we buy direct and
we’d like to do more of that. We ship some Loire, some Chablis, bits from Italy and
Spain. But then we’ve got proper Brexit
Some people don’t want to spend a lot
£30 or £40 on a bottle of Cornish gin but
get frightened by spending £10 on a bottle of wine.
I don’t want to get too exclusive. People
know we supply top-end restaurants,
so there can be a perception that we are
There are one or two bottles over £100
but we’re not quite Berry Bros with DRC
silly. I’d love to sell some of those, but the
reality of life is that people don’t buy them too often.
With all this space to play with, was hybrid a part of the original plan?
looming at the end of the year with extra levies when it leaves one side of the
Channel and arrives at the other. That’s where the benefit of the buying group
comes in. Rather than ship two pallets in,
we can bring in a trailer-load to the central warehouse and keep the costs down.
For our own buying, it may be a case
of rather than doing one or two pallets, shipping four to spread the cost, and
having the bigger warehouse will help.
Cornwall’s a big place. Does that give you a certain exclusivity of catchment area? There’s a Majestic in Totnes and one in Falmouth and Wadebridge Wines and BinTwo up the road, and a few other independents around.
You get the feeling that the supermarkets
are limiting their range recently and
reducing choice so people come and see us instead. If you’re spending £6-£8 in a
supermarket, and spend that with us you’ll get a nicer wine. We’ve got a few wines at
£6 online, just to drive a little bit of traffic.
“Cornwall potentially could have its busiest winter for a long time”, Wharton predicts
THE WINE MERCHANT november 2020 44
ELLIS WHARTON WINES
We had ideas of doing winemaker dinners in the middle of the shop, putting a big
table down the middle. We spoke to half a dozen of the chefs we supply who said they were up for it, one or two of whom
‘You get the feeling that the supermarkets are limiting their range, so people come and see us instead’
have Michelin stars. We said we didn’t
want anything too poncey and it had to
be centred on the wines. Licensing were brilliant and said yes but the planning
as an ongoing thing.
here, so the idea is businesses like us can
happy for us to do what we want, so one
officer said we couldn’t.
The landlord has been brilliant and is
of the things we’ve got to do for the winter is apply for a slight change of use to do the
provide footfall for the showrooms and the
But at the moment we’d probably get
showrooms can provide footfall for us as
slapped and we’ve got enough on our plate
And is the passing tourist trade doing
How is the retail park you’re on
the window and outside and do plates of
The landlord has a couple of car
Cornwall is busy at the moment [early
flagship dealerships on the other side of
the road. He just wants nice businesses in
high levels of capacity, and think they will
and we’d like to put a couple of tables in
cheese or charcuterie with a glass of wine
October]. A lot of the hotels are still full
dealerships and the plan was to have his
and caterers are saying they’re running at be all the way through until Christmas. If
we can do click and collect and delivery for holidaymakers instead of them having to
bring wine with them, we’re here. Cornwall potentially could have its busiest winter for a long time, if not ever, because of staycationing.
There were stories during lockdown and soon after of locals being hostile to visitors. Was that an accurate portrayal? It was happening. There were signs up in villages telling people where to go. Quite frankly the main industry in Cornwall is
tourism and we need tourists. Being rude
to them is not the way to do it. My message
would be “come later, we’d love to have you here and we’ll look after you really well”. But some people are a little bit more … assertive.
We’ve got lots of space, fresh air and
© pbnash1964 / stockadobe.com
We’ve got two Wine Emotion machines
THE WINE MERCHANT november 2020 45
you can sit on a beach with lots of space around you. You can do it with all the
social distancing you need. We lost a lot of turnover for three months and we’ve
pulled a little bit of it back. The longer we
can keep going we can pull a little bit more back. I’m keeping everything crossed.
ecently I was welcomed by
not as good. Also the DPD guy just loved
the Glaswegians into the inner
kicking the boxes of YCs for some reason
sanctum of dear Green-ness. I
and they all went stale. Almost as if they
have finally made it, having spent the last
were paying the DPD guy to kick the boxes,
20 years living and working in Glasgow
in swooped Pipers with their unsmashable
and mostly paying my council tax, mostly,
bags and specific meat flavours. “Here’s
most of that time ;). I was approached
by a high-socked Turner prize-winning
artist in a North Face cloak and handed a bell that doesn’t ring and a dead fish and bird, presumably from that bit of
the canal where the boys hang out and slap my helmeted head as I cycle by.
Gifts delivered, the International Artist,
in between demanding our filthiest and
most undrinkable wine and two bottles of Peroni Red, I was awarded (me! A lowly
three boxes of samples,” they said.
2. PURGATORIO These are odd times, and even at Valhalla’s Goat in Glasgow, the best intentions of Phoebe Weller and her team do not always guarantee that lunch is crisp-free
country girl from a grassy, idyllic and
certainly not post-industrial green hill in Fife) the honour of “pretty much being a Glaswegian now”. Oh Joy! Oh Rapture!
Part of the Initiation ritual is to become
obsessed, as most of the west of Scotland is, with a certain short c word. It’s to the point, sometimes a little spicy, saucy,
acetous and although frowned on in some more elegant situations is, I’ve found, a uniting cry between the classes.
I am, of course, talking about crisps. I’m busy and my more elaborate
lunches have – for the moment! – briefly paused. It’s been a case of, “no, I’ll leave it for another 10 minutes”, over hours
these days. Then I pass the great Stack
of Crisps where once there was a great Stack of Wine but we’ve cleared space
for distancing and impromptu Strip-the-
Willow. Or my ever-more infrequent yoga demonstrations. The deep-fried mist
descends and three minutes later I find
myself with my face mask askew hiding in
the corner with the Portuguese Treasures, Cheese & Onion dust all over my face. Or
I think I will just have a couple to take
the edge off and then I’m staring into the empty greasy foiled void. It seems OK, after a day of asking EVERY PERSON THAT COMES IN TO THE SHOP TO
for more in equal measure.
chocolates went out of date so we have
been having fun microwaving foosty salted caramels onto shortbread rounds and
indulging in Ann’s suspiciously limited
blondies. I’m not saying that she is giving us the scraps and eating most of them at
home, but that is exactly what I am saying. The pub downstairs is in a state of stop-
start New Normal but gives us their halfeaten traybakes made by
Hamish’s mum when they
have to close. On Sundays,
the bakery up the road
gives us their eyewateringly
expensive excess of macarons
after work. Especially that litre bottle with the eyes
although I believe that has
HAVING TO MAKE SURE NO
for the French guy who was
now stopped because we
on it. It seems OK – staying
failed to keep a special beer
late because I’M ACTUALLY
our “in”. I mean the supply of
ONE IS TAKING THEIR MASKS OFF
said beer is seasonal and so
AND LICKING THE BOTTLES, and
therefore not skipping downstairs
and doing orders on shift – to open a
maybe we should have just
bought a case for him “just in case”,
pack of Salt & Vinegar and leave them
but we’re not mind readers and we’re so
OF DELICIOUS CRISPS WITHOUT EVEN
the other with low times in between full of
a safe 10 metres from the office BUT
STILL MANAGE TO EAT 523 CALORIES NOTICING.
they fell out with Henderson’s, I heard
disgusting and yet stimulating the desire
tea and forage locally for a cake. All our
some bottle(s) of Vinho Verde
lingers behind the mask for several days,
Beef dust, although the scent of these
Glaswegian “Afternoon Treat”.
months, Delivery Pickup Time – we make
packet of Rosemary & Thyme and
dust/rust. Or, new favourite! Longhorn
the shop the slightly less
Around 3pm – which was, for a couple of
SANITISE THEIR HANDS, to have a
those are great. Or Kirkby Malham Chorizo
Jalapeno & Dill dust all over my face, God
e have also instigated in
e were for a long time a
Yorkshire Crisp shop, enjoying
their balance of limpid oiliness
and the lure of Henderson’s Relish. But
from no one, and they started just doing Worcester Sauce which were definitely
THE WINE MERCHANT november 2020 46
full of sugar and fat these days we just
lurch from one excitable Instagram post to self-hatred and calls of future denial.
One exciting side-effect of the crisp and
Treat indulgence is that I have become
fantastically fat and yet malnourished but it is a small price to pay to truly belong to a place and a time. With my handful
of multivitamins and vitamin D capsules I have never been happier. 2020, what a year!
Bitter Pops chicago bottle shop’s pet project is an instagram hit
As the singer Peter
Win an £800 meal for your team with an Aster promotion
Shelley – 70s country crooner, not the one in
Armit Wines is helping indies promote its famous Ribera del Duero wine Aster with digital activity. There’s an £800 prize for the most imaginative campaign, to be spent at a Spanish restaurant.
Buzzcocks – said: Love Me Love My Dog. Or as the Chicago-based beer shop Bitter Pops has recognised, love someone’s dog and you’re halfway to getting them to love you. Naturally, the shop has a regularlyfuelled Instagram feed, professional and enthusiastic but with nothing too out of the ordinary about its content: new products, promotions, pre-orders. But it
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).
also has a sister account called Bitter Pups where it showcases snaps of customers’ dogs. It actively encourages them to bring their pooches to the shop with incitements of free dog treats. The benefits
Email Alex Hill at Armit Wines (email@example.com) or contact your Armit rep to receive the digital assets you need.
It’s a very simple idea but taps into several layers of social media wisdom. First, it helps to build direct relationships with customers without having to expose them to the embarrassment of having their own picture taken and shared: whoever heard of a camera-shy dog? Second, as numerous studies and digital media consultants attest, faces are better than pictures of “stuff” for getting customer engagement and reach, increasing the likelihood of posts being shared down the line. “I went to this shop and they were nice to my dog” is just as strong, if not stronger, an endorsement as “they were nice to me”. Third, the internet just loves cute pet content. Sneaking the odd Pups post across to the main account breaks up the monotony of its marketing message and drives traffic between the two. The impact The Bitter Pups feed is just one element of a coherent all-round social media set-up for the business which has combined Instagram, Facebook and Twitter followers totalling over 10,000. Marketing messages and all-round feel are consistent across the board with a balance between fun, engagement and the serious message of outright sales pitches. Instagram stories are used to publicise customer service elements such as grab ’n‘ go, delivery and, through the pandemic, kerbside pick-up, through easy-to-understand pictograms that suit the limited view-time of the format.
THE WINE MERCHANT november 2020 47
SP E C IA L OFFER *FREE*
bottle with ever y 12-bottle case of Aster Crianza
Meet a new name in the independent wine market – one with a track record spanning four decades
Lanchester Wines, Vintrigue believes it can
and the beers produced by its Full Circle
intrigue Wines is a new name, but the business behind it has been around for 40 years.
As the new indie specialist division of
offer a blend of precision and scale with an offer aimed squarely at the independent trade.
Lanchester Wines, an independent
family-owned business, is best known for its work in the multiple and wholesale trade. “But that doesn’t tell the whole
story,” says national account controller
Feature sponsored by Vintrigue Wines. For more information, visit www.vintriguewines.com or call 01207 521234
Vintrigue, he explains, showcases not
only “all of our fantastic agencies” but also some of Lanchester Wines’ gift products Brew Co.
“We’re a dedicated and specialist team,”
Machin adds. “We focus on the producers and ranges which are perfect for indies –
premium by nature with a boutique feel.”
Director of sales Mark Roberts says the
wine range has been created partly as a
result of conversations with some leading
Commitment to sustainability Lanchester Wines is a carbon neutral
business, and says that this “is just the beginning” of its quest to be sustainable.
Following an £8.5m investment, the company’s buildings are powered by wind and solar energy. There are four wind turbines on site, a 41kW bank of solar panels –
and a pioneering heat pump system, drawing water from disused mines to heat its warehouses.
independent retailers and will constantly evolve as trade and trends develop.
“We began developing Vintrigue four
years ago and since then we’ve deliberately started to source more premium agency
wines, securing exclusives with exceptional agencies and recruited highly experienced people within the business,” he explains. Wine buying is a team effort, with
director of purchasing Lesley Cook making the final call.
“The range is adapting and growing,”
adds Roberts. “I think the line-up is very well balanced – whether it’s our high-
altitude Argentine Malbec, High Side; or whether it’s the Ventopuro range from
Chile’s Matetic; or Tombacco, our Italian
agency who produce stunning wines … the list is a long one.
“It’s very specialist, and very focused.
Because we’re family-owned, we can be
very flexible and quick to adapt. I would
say the Vintrigue wine range is curated by trade feedback.”
intrigue is based in the north
east of England but works with customers across the UK and
Ireland. It promises a pragmatic approach
Top: Joe Shirley of Napa Cellars and Jo Nash of McPherson Wines, Central Victoria Bottom: Mark Roberts and Steve Machin
to minimum orders. “At times like this, you’ve got to have a healthy dose of
common sense, and we’re applying that
here,” says Roberts. “We want to help the sector.
“One of Vintrigue’s biggest strengths is
it don’t just have wine on offer – we know independent stores offer more than just
wine, so we’ve mirrored this and integrated craft beers and gifting into the Vintrigue portfolio.”
Full Circle Brew Co Full Circle is a 30hl craft brewery, tap room and canning line in Newcastle, wholly owned by Lanchester Wine Cellars and headed up by Ben Cleary. There are three beers in the core range: Hoop
American Pale Ale; Looper IPA; and Repeater Session IPA, with seasonal beers available throughout the year.
Vintrigue Gifting Through its sister business, Spicers of Hythe, Vintrigue has access to a range of gifts, hampers and white-labelled products. The most popular is Bottle ‘n’ Bar – 5cl spirits encapsulated in single-origin chocolate.
Plan B! Wines give merchants a different flavour of Western Australia. It’s a place where crazy ideas can take hold, and nothing is taken too seriously … as long as the wine tastes great. Thankfully, on Terry Chellappah’s watch, that’s never likely to be a problem
Free range wines
erry Chellappah does not mince his words. “I think as an industry here in Western Australia we’re sometimes guilty of churning out very safe, predictable, well-made, clean but boring wines, for a long time,” he declares.
Chellappah founded Plan B! Wines in 2003 partly to prove that things didn’t have to be this way.
“The most important part of our business – apart from being deadly serious about what’s in the bottle and
what’s in the glass – is that we are trying to have fun,” says Chellappah, speaking to a group of UK independents via a Wine Merchant Zoom tasting. There’s an interesting collection of guitars on the wall behind him; we
implore him to take one down and give us a performance, but he resists. It’s a morning for wine, not music.
“Everything is very light-hearted about the way we bring the brand to the market,” he says. “We’re trying
to do it with a sense of humour and something that’s going to be memorable for the gatekeepers and the consumers – it’s really important that we engage with them. “The wines offer good drinking and really good bang for buck for the consumer.”
Feature sponsored by Vintrigue Wines, the specialist indie division of Lanchester Wines, which imports Plan B! into the UK. Find out more at www.vintriguewines.com or www.planbwines.com
THE WINE MERCHANT november 2020 50
Plan B! DR Riesling 2018
Plan B! Modern Red 2017
“There’s nowhere to hide when you’re making
For most – perhaps all – of our Zoom tasters,
Riesling,” says Chellappah. “We’re trying to grow
sampling a blend of Shiraz and Pinot Noir was a
the most pristine, brightest, cleanest fruit we
possibly can, get it into the winery as quickly as
“It’s a little bit out-of-the-box and fun to do,
we can, and press it while it is as cool as can be
so it fits Plan B! perfectly,” Chellappah says. “We
and as gently as possible.
call it Modern Red but I think it’s a really old-
“It’s only the third vintage of DR dry Riesling
fashioned wine style.
we’ve made. The reason it took us so long to
“Going back to the ‘60s and ‘70s in Australia,
make a dry Riesling was that we were struggling
we used to make medium-bodied, light, bright,
to keep up with production of off-dry, it was
aromatic red wines. As the years have gone
going so well.”
by, we’ve started to make bigger, oakier, more
The fruit comes from three vineyards in the
extracted, fuller wines because everyone wanted
Great Southern region. “It’s technically dry, but
the wine does have a touch of residual sugar and
we retain that because we do want a little bit of weight, texture and aromatics and a bit more flavour,” Chellappah explains.
“We want the wine to have really bright, zingy acidity but we
don’t want it to be so tight and so linear that it isn’t fun in the glass. “On the nose there’s citrus blossom, orange blossom … it really
is quite aromatically lifted. I love the texture in this wine. This is delicious with seafood. It’s a great wine for sitting in the sun.”
bold, ‘in-your-face’ wines.
“Our reds are more restrained, more elegant, more savoury and
medium bodied. The Great Southern is a prime Shiraz region: we
recognise that we’re not going to make great Pinot Noir where we are, but the two go really well together.
“It’s got some of the aromatics and some of the silkiness from
Pinot, but it’s got the structure of the Shiraz. This sees very
little new oak – it’s mainly in older oak. Pinot brings the cherry, strawberry-like flavour. The Shiraz gives it body and spice.”
Plan B! OD Riesling 2019
Plan B! Tempranillo/Viognier 2017
This off-dry Riesling represents Plan B’s
“I travel a lot, we drink quite widely and I still
signature style. “It’s an absolute crowd pleaser,”
have not seen or tasted or heard of another blend
like this,” says Chellappah.
Made with free-run juice from Great Southern
The fruit comes from 20-year-old vines grown
vineyards, it has a residual sugar level of 27g/L
at 220m altitude in the Geographe region of
but the natural acidity of the fruit balances it
beautifully – and at an alcohol level of just 11.5%.
“The first vintage we made of this blend was
“We pick this Riesling a little earlier so there’s
2007, which is still drinking really well. Just
bright acidity,” Chellappah says. “The acidity is
before bottling, when we were looking at the
really important. The key to this wine is the play
barrels, we thought the tannins were a little
between natural fruit sweetness, natural acidity
bit rustic and I said jokingly, ‘it needs a bit of
and the pH.
Viognier to silken off the palate’. There were a
“You want the acidity to cut in and give line and
length and structure on the palate. Getting that
balance right is the key. It’s a lovely drink on its own and it works with so many different food styles. We like it with spicy, Asian or Indian food. Also with Gorgonzola or good blue cheese, to work with the saltiness. That’s a killer pairing.”
couple of barrels and we grabbed a bit and were just amazed.”
All it takes is a 2% component of Viognier – a variety that tends
to be rather rich and unctuous in Western Australia – to have the desired effect. “It lifts colour and gives the wine an aromatic lift
too, as well as texture and silkiness to the palate,” says Chellappah.
THE WINE MERCHANT november 2020 51
t was mid-afternoon, sometime in September last year, and I was on a tour of the vineyards of Extramadura in
deepest south western Spain. It was more than 40°C in
the inadequate shade of a spindly young olive tree, and I was
talking, somewhat distractedly, to a local winemaker about the harvest. Dazzled by the heat and light, the words swimming slightly in the drops of sweat that blotted the pages of my
David Williams makes the case for bold, chunky, heartwearming reds that might be something to cling to as a difficult year turns colder
notebook, something I’d written down in dehydrated autopilot didn’t seem quite right.
I asked the winemaker to go over the details again. But no,
I hadn’t made a mistake. She really had told me that here, in
Illustration: Fiona Blair
this intensely hot, dry place – almost a caricature of the phrase “dusty Spanish plain” – the variety she was most excited about – the one she felt had most potential and which could create truly “elegant” wines – was Pinot Noir. And she really had
TAKING RESTRAINT TOO FAR
harvested all of the young vineyards of the variety some weeks
The irony in all this is that the ideology I’m talking about –
growing season to the folly and inexperience of one misguided
emerged in opposition to the then prevailing wine worldview
ago, when the fruit was “ready”, in the last week of July.
I suppose I could have attributed this radically curtailed
winemaker in one unfashionable and remote Mediterranean region. I could have just tried to forget all about her attempt
to import the ideas and grape varieties of a much cooler (and
infinitely more fashionable) northern region to a place where they were always going to flop listlessly, like a polar bear in high summer in the Madrid zoo.
But something about this sorry situation stuck with me.
The more I thought about it, the more I came to think that the rather forlorn, unbalanced wines she’d made from
Pinot (a kind of pale liquid jam made from acid and green strawberries) were representative of a much wider trend
– or even malaise. They were, you could argue, the sad but
inevitable consequence (albeit a particularly extreme one) of the dominance of a specific winemaking ideology, and
evidence, perhaps, that the ideas behind it had got out of hand.
which could be called something like “radical restraint” or
“the new balance” – began as an underdog idea, one that had
that saw ripeness and exaggerated flavour and alcohol as the ultimate criteria of quality in red wine.
Many wine lovers went through the process of rejecting
what became known as Parkerised wines in the course of
the 2000s. And winemakers all over the world soon picked
up on this almost moralistic turn against what the American wine writer Jon Bonné neatly called Big Flavour. At the kind of winery where, in the 2000s, the winemaker would have
bragged about extended hang-time and endless macerations, radically low yields, and the high percentage of new oak, by
the mid-2010s, all the talk was of dialling down, freshness and drinkability.
But at what cost? I was as critical as anyone of the more
grotesque, outsize, almost sticky “gobs of fruit” (cf Parker) that represented the worst of the Big Flavour era – your
COMFORT WINES THE WINE MERCHANT november 2020 52
Sine Qua Nons, Mollydookers, and 2005 Château Pavies. I
resented the kind of internationalised style they represented:
a de-contextualised, homogenised, business class and five-star mega-hotel idea of luxury.
The counter-movement calling for better balance was, in my
view, essential, informing some of the finest wines of the past
couple of decades, and inspiring a necessary dialling-down of
excess in many more ordinary wines too. Over-extraction had
become a curse, the one-glass wine had become too prevalent and it was good that winemakers had begun to remember that an inherent drinkability is key to all good wine.
The problem is that somewhere along the line the original
message got over-simplified, and then became a kind of
one-size-fits-all formula, a recipe made up of slogans. Pick
early to keep acidity up and alcohol down! Freshness is more
even for winemakers who haven’t given in and adapted their
practice wholesale to the whims of fashion. There’s a prevailing prejudice among the wine cognoscenti against wines with
higher ABVs – even when the combination of place, variety and vintage meant the wines required a high ABV if they were to reach a natural balance.
It’s remarkable how widespread this prejudice has become.
And it doesn’t seem to have much to do with concerns about health, since not all high ABV wines are considered beyond
the pale. When going through the lists entered each year for the World’s Best Wine Lists competition, I regularly come
across collections from fashionable restaurants where no red
wine exceeds 14%, but which feature dozens of sherries with minimum ABVs of 15%.
a pigmented white wine than an unfortified Port.
and where the grape varieties are adapted to creating them
search harder for evidence of alcoholic heat – a bias constantly
important than depth or even flavour! You can’t have terroir
and power! When in doubt, your red wine should be more like
That crude recipe was all very well, up to a point. In the kind
of places where refreshing, lighter styles are easy to come by without totally sacrificing flavour and balance, you could even say it’s common sense.
Recently, however (I’d say the past five years
or so), its influence has become hegemonic and
here’s no doubt this irrational obsession with high
alcohol as a kind of symbol of all that was wrong in
red wine in the 2000s also affects judgment in blind
tastings: there’s a reluctance (and I know because I’ve done it myself) to give red wines of 15% a chance, and a tendency to
in search of confirmation. It’s why I’ve taken to hiding the ABV when I taste: alcohol can stick out and burn at
pretty much any abv; it’s how it balances with the rest of the wine’s components that counts.
pernicious, cropping up in places where it has no
And this is the heart of the matter. In our rush to
business, and leading winemakers into all kinds
scale back on the excesses of a previous generation
It’s like a mirror image of the progress made by
the over-simplified version of Michel Rolland’s Parker-
of winemakers, are we missing out on some of
wine’s biggest pleasures? I wouldn’t want 15% ABV
Bordeaux every vintage, perhaps. But then neither do I
approved recipe for ripeness in the 1990s and 2000s. But
want 12% Priorat or Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Some of the most
or warm-vintage Right Bank Bordeaux, now winemakers
is true of the best of the reds made along the Douro river in
whereas back then you had growers in cool-climate regions
attempting to pimp up their wines to taste like Bolgheri, Napa in warmer climate regions are trying to make Irancy in the Mediterranean, Beaujolais in the Barossa.
That might mean planting cool-climate varieties in totally
unsuitable places. Or it might mean trying to make the local, adapted grape varieties do a job they’re patently not suited
to do. Either way, it leads to wines that are pallid and joyless, where the supposed gains in lowering alcohol and retaining acidity cannot compensate for what’s lost in the absence of
phenolic ripeness: flavour or anything resembling complexity.
ANTI -ALCOHOL PREJUDICE
But the zeitgeisty obsession with elegance is problematic
arrestingly beautiful Barolo, Brunello and Etna reds regularly
skirt 14.5% to 15% with no loss of aromatic delicacy. The same both Spain and Portugal, in Napa, in Roussillon, in Stellenbosch and even, in great warm vintages such as 2010, Bordeaux. And, really, why would we obsess, tutting and mealy-
mouthed, over the soaring alcohol of the likes of Barossa
Shiraz, Puglia Primitivo, Amarone or Madiran, styles that, at
their best, and for all their shared scale, are as different from each other as some of the more by-numbers examples of the fashionably light modern style are alike? These are – or can be – wines of terroir every bit as much as the most nimble,
feathery Burgundy. We should enjoy their multi-faceted, solarpowered beauty on its own terms, and accept that bigness can have its own beauty.
THE WINE MERCHANT november 2020 54
. T H E D R AY M A N .
Music to their beers
ollaboration beers are a popular trend – and one London
recipes and branding. It turned out that every band is up for
brewery has made a career out of hook-ups with well-
making a beer.”
known music acts.
In addition to the collaborations, Signature has its own core
The first was a beer with indie rock band The Rifles. Since then
range of music-inspired beers: Studio lager, Roadie session IPA,
Signature Brew has gone on to make beers with the likes of Ed
Backstage West Coast IPA and Nightliner coffee porter. Seasonals
Harcourt, Frank Turner, Alt-J, Mogwai, Enter Shikari, Idles and
and specials have support slots, and will soon include beer aged
Sports Team. Its most recent collaboration is a smoked lager
in wine barrels in which Signature has recently invested.
called In the Dark with DRS & Dynamite MC, a rapper who
“For the first few years we only released collaboration
appeared on New Forms, the album that won the Mercury prize
beers, but it wasn’t a viable business model, as it turned out,”
for Roni Size & Reprazent in 1997. Dynamite may also be known
says McGregor, “so we’ve had to behave more and more like a
to some in the wine trade by his real name, Dominic Smith,
conventional brewery and make our own range. But we’ve
under which he works as a sommelier at the Clove Club.
always continued to do collaborations as a way of bringing beer
“He probably holds the record for the most visits to the brewery,” says Signature co-founder Sam McGregor. “He knows about the winemaking process so he was interested in getting as involved as he could.” Signature was founded by McGregor and his cousin Tom Bott. McGregor’s CV includes being in bands, working as a tour manager and for a marketing agency whose clients included Underworld and Simple Minds. Bott is the production brains, having previously worked at the Stoke-on-Trent brewer Titanic. “I’d go to all these gigs and see bands with incredible riders with Champagne and fancy spirits on them, but with warm cases of horrible beers,” says McGregor.
to a new audience.”
nd it’s very much a hands-on process for the bands who chip in with recipe ideas and spend time in the brewery.
“Lots of beers have been created with ideas we wouldn’t have
come up with unless we’d been working with the band. The more invested in the project they are, the better.” One collaborator was rapper Rodney P of the hip-hop group
London Posse, who had supported LA hip-hop superstars NWA when they first toured the UK. “He was telling me about nights out with Easy E and Dr Dre – and then he’s there in the brewery
“The idea was to make beers with bands and work on the
with a shovel, digging grain out of a mash tun.”
Signature Brew has made beer with a range of artists including Ed Harcourt, Idles, Mogwai and London Posse
THE WINE MERCHANT november 2020 55
Wholly Smoke is back, but as a malt If the name Wholly Smoke rings a vague bell, that’s because it was the name of a blended Scotch whisky sold at Oddbins, once upon a time. It was created Laurie Webster, who
these days heads up the Las Bodegas wine business but has recently partnered with colleague Alistair Coulthurst in a side project called Wholly Spirits Co.
They have reclaimed the Wholly Smoke
name and reimagined the whisky as a blended malt.
“Bringing Wholly Smoke back to life after
Matured in French oak barrels for three years
an absence of some 15 years has been a
little dream come true,” says Webster, who
reports that the reaction from indies so far has been “fantastic”.
He adds: “I’ve always felt that one
of the great things about whisky is its
apparent timelessness; it has a sense of
forever about it. Brands come and go but
whisky remains strangely and reassuringly original, and there is a magic and alchemy in it that I don’t find in any other drink to the same extent – with the possible exception of sherry.”
Wholly Smoke has “a distinct whiff of
Islay smokiness coupled with underlying creamy Speyside notes on the nose”. Its RRP is £45.
Compass Box lets loose a Monster Acclaimed whisky blender Compass Box is celebrating 20 years in the business
Banquet, and Hedonism Felicitas – nothing to do with the posh Mayfair wine shop. There are 8,328 bottles of the latest
Monster, retailing at around the £75 mark. Founder John Glaser says it’s the first
Compass Box creation to feature smoky
whiskies matured in French oak but adds that “we have been experimenting with French oak since the early days”.
Compass Box was founded by Glaser, a
one-time aspirant winemaker and former Johnnie Walker marketing director, in the kitchen of his London home in 2000.
Organic vodka from Bristol
by creating a special version of its Peat
Bristol-based master of gin packaging
minimalism Psychopomp has put
A cask-strength version of Peat Monster
out the first organic vodka from its
was matured in three French oak barrels
Circumstance Distillery sister project.
fermentation and beer yeasts at the
for three years before being blended with
Retailing at £45
anniversary: the already sold-out Rogues’
Circumstantial Organic Vodka is made
malt whiskies from Talisker, Miltonduff and
from British wheat, with long open
previous limited editions created for the
Peat Monster Arcana joins two
THE WINE MERCHANT november 2020 56
distillery, which has recently achieved Soil
“Everything we make is an
plank of its business philosophy.
expression of the raw material
“We want to develop our
we are working with,” says head
business with integrity, building
distiller Mark Scott.
long-term relationships with
“We look to develop and
people we work with and sell to,”
capture complexity at every
“For me, that’s what underpins
Psychopomp’s Liam Hart and
an organic business.”
Danny Walker, who co-founded
Among Circumstance’s previous
Circumstance to focus on
projects is Monker’s Garkel, billed
organic grain spirits in 2018, say
as the world’s first gin created by
sustainability is an important
Hospitality Gin raises money for workers facing Covid catastrophe Well worthy of attention is a not-forprofit gin that’s been launched to raise money to support workers in the hospitality industry who have been affected by the pandemic. Hospitality Gin was dreamt up in May
by Tom Lord, a bar manager and industry consultant from Sheffield.
Two weeks later he ordered the first
bottles from North Yorkshire’s Copper King distillery and set up a crowdfunder to sell the initial run.
The gin is now on its third batch and
is available wholesale from Master of
Malt and Hammonds of Knutsford, with
all profits going to The Drinks Trust and Hospitality Action.
“I’d been advising as many people as
possible on the best next steps for their
personal situations, but at the end of the
day, I’m not an employment lawyer,” says Lord.
“I’d been looking for ways to help the
people that needed it most when the idea
Sherry isn’t just for drinking on its own at Christmas, it’s for putting in cocktails too. The most famous deployment is amontillado in a Bloody Mary, but this recipe points towards the sweet end of the Jerez spectrum with Pedro Ximenez to give a festively fruit twist to a classic Manhattan, using dry rather than the usual sweet vermouth for balance. Some Manhattan recipes allow for bourbon but that means more sweetness, so rye whiskey’s characteristic spiciness is a better bet for a festive feel.
for Hospitality Gin hit me.
“Most important was managing a quick
turnaround time to get the money to those who needed it as quickly as possible.”
5cl rye whiskey 1.5cl PX sherry 1.5cl dry vermouth Two dashes of bitters Twist of orange peel
Fill half a shaker with ice and add all the liquid ingredients. Stir, don’t shake. Strain into a cocktail or coupe glass. Garnish with the orange peel.
The gin is now on its third batch
THE WINE MERCHANT november 2020 57
Alternative festive favourites ome spirits are just made for Christmas.
that provide points of difference, end up opting
shift upwards of 40% of their annual
week. The once-a-year drink to beat them all is
leading spirits specialists, here are few signposts fill the void.
Brands like Diageo’s Baileys and BrownForman’s Chambord raspberry liqueur
sales in the six weeks leading up to Christmas Warninks advocaat, for which that figure can rise to over 70%.
There is a whole clutch of other brands that
sell something like a third or more of their
annual volumes over the same period. Many
are liqueurs – including Cointreau, Tia Maria,
Disaronno, Glayva and Drambuie – though some of the bigger names in whisky are also in that category.
Apart from their seasonal appeal, part of
the reason is, of course, that the supermarkets promote the backside off them, and it’s this, rather than any shortcomings in the actual
products, that makes them a turn-off for the many in the independent trade.
As Jefferson Boss at StarmoreBoss in Sheffield
puts it: “I don’t want to look like we are ripping
off the customer when they compare a big-brand price to the same product in our store – and if
there’s a large difference, then they question all the other items that we stock.”
The StarmoreBoss product list includes
Borghetti coffee liqueur, Briottet crème de framboise, Bruadar malt whisky liqueur,
Lazzaroni amaretto, and Martinique rhum
agricole producer JM Shrubb’s orange liqueur, all of which are quality, premium upgrades of seasonal big-name favourites.
ut brands like Warninks and Baileys are
so synonymous with, or even define, the
categories they occupy that it’s sometimes hard to look beyond them, which means
that indies can, through lack of alternative ideas
out of a lucrative thread of seasonal sales.
So, with the help of some of the off-trade’s
to some of the more niche products that could
ichael Huband at Amathus
recommends Van Wees advocaat as a Warninks doppelganger and English Whisky Co’s Norfolk Nog as an
alternative to Baileys.
“Both are the opposite of the mass-produced
brands that are a bit passé with our customers,”
he says. “They really stack up in in-store tastings we’ve carried out.”
Norfolk Nog also gets the thumbs-up from
Tomoka Spirits Boutique in St Albans, where Jass Patel says: “It is absolutely wonderful. As soon as we sample it with a customer they are sold.” Zwarte Kip is another Dutch advocaat
alternative with a vibrant, egg yolk-yellow colour, while Welsh Whisky Co’s Merlyn,
independent Irish operation Coole Swan,
English whisky maker Cotswolds and Scotch
producer Edradour all produce decadent and moreish cream liqueur options.
Both Michael and Jass also rate English
Whisky’s Norfolk PX, a 20% abv liqueur aged in Pedro Ximenez sherry casks – a potential
sideways sub for whisky liqueur brands like Glayva and Drambuie.
Château du Breuil Pomeau de Normandie is
another Amathus suggestion in the same area, a 17% abv liqueur made from Calvados cut with apple juice and married in oak casks.
Whisky liqueurs are a category with a greater
abundance of recognisable stand-ins for the likes of Drambuie and Glayva, but there are a couple of stand-outs.
THE WINE MERCHANT november 2020 58
Nigel Huddleston takes a look at some Christmas drinks that could give indies a point of difference – and which are unlikely to be the focus of crazy supermarket discounting
North London distiller Sacred’s English
Also worth seeking out is the start-up
Whisky Liqueur blends whisky with Spanish
amaretto brand Adriatico which produces a
Saliza amaretto gets the vote of Nick Bell, spirits
sweet orange peel, Indonesian cubeb and
Vietnamese star anise for a fragrant, zingy and Hip Swedish whisky distiller Mackmyra
makes a more conventional honey-sweetened whisky liqueur that’s a shoo-in for traditional after-dinner savouring.
Michael Huband at Amathus recommends
the JM Shrubb orange liqueur, also stocked by
StarmoreBoss, to perform the Cointreau/triple sec upsell role in Christmas ranges.
Chambord is another liqueur that overtrades
in the Christmas aisles. Jass at Tomoka suggests
milky white Blanco version in addition to its
more traditional Roasted Almonds style, while buyer for Harvey Nichols.
Both Mr Black cold brew coffee liqueur and
Patron tequila’s luscious XO Café are Tia Maria subs that justify their higher price tags for
post-pud sipping or premiumised White/Black Russians and Espresso Martinis. Mr Black has
even produced its own Festive Espresso Martini
Kit this year in partnership with leading cocktail and coffee syrup brand Monin.
Mulberry liqueurs from the local producer
“They are great alternatives to liqueurs you
created its Christmas Spirit for the first time this
several fruity alternatives including the English cassis White Heron, and Lychee and Spiced
Copper in the Clouds. “We literally cannot keep up with demand around Christmas,” he says. would add to fizz or cocktails.”
espite the English-sounding name, St
George is a Californian distiller that makes a raspberry liqueur with a raspberry
brandy base cut with additional fresh juice
to lower the abv to 20% while giving extra depth of fruit.
Disaronno has the multiple sector pretty much
stitched up as far as amaretto is concerned but there are a number of smaller stunt brands chipping away in the independent arena.
Tomoka goes for Van Wees’ Heaven On Earth
Christmas liqueur, made with distilled cherries, rum, almonds, chocolate and honey.
“It has such a nice wintery warmth to it, with
the cherries and almonds, that people order in advance to make sure we can get it for them,” says Jass Patel.
THE WINE MERCHANT november 2020 59
he premium end of the spirits market
is home to plenty of other examples of playful novelty that could enhance a
spirits range over the coming months.
Dorset’s milk vodka producer Black Cow has
year. It contains citrus, cloves, cinnamon, figs,
currants, raisins and vanilla, all steeped in the
vodka, and is designed to be a cocktail base or mixed with fizz.
Bathtub gin and Rumbullion rum producer
Ableforth’s makes a Winter Mulled Cup, a sort of festive take on Pimm’s made from Cognac,
port, citrus peel and root ginger, again great with fizz or as a twisted base for mulled wine.
And Sacred has what may be the best of a
clutch of festive gins in the form of its Christmas Pudding brand, made from actual puddings that
have been steamed for eight hours. The authentic taste makes the producer confident enough to suggest serving it from the freezer as a shot alternative to Christmas Day pudding itself.
The inside label features founder Ian Hart’s
great aunt’s Victorian pudding recipe that’s used as the gin’s starting point.
A MALT WHISKY WITH YOUR NAME ON THE LABEL Borders Distillery is rewarding its loyal independent customers by letting them earn their own free cask of single malt while making purchases from its spirits range. For more details on how to join the Borders Distillery Enterprise Spirit scheme, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
ndependents are being given an exciting opportunity to create their own single
malt whisky brand in a scheme launched
by Hawick-based Borders Distillery.
The distillery is inviting retailers to sign
up to earn their very own cask of Scotch
whisky at no cost other than committing to
sell a specific quantity of its premium spirit brands over a period of five years.
Stores that sign up to the Enterprise
Spirit scheme will receive 10 points for each six-bottle case of the company’s
William Kerr’s Gin, Puffing Billy Steam Vodka and Lower East Side Blended Malt Scotch they buy (all £32.99 rrp). There’ll
THE WINE MERCHANT november 2020 60
also be 10 points for purchases of 12-bottle
and 300 bottles, depending on the wood
tankers of neutral grain spirit moving
and release from the bond.
about 12 feet, from the pot stills to the
and abv that the store chooses to bottle at.
Excise and duty will be payable on bottling Members can choose to mature their
whisky for longer than five years, for which a nominal warehousing fee of £20 a year will be charged.
Apart from that, there are no additional
costs involved – and member retailers will get a package of other benefits, including
online staff training and tasting sessions to help sell the Borders brands, and priority access to allocations of future releases.
These will include Borders’ own single
malt, whose release is some time off yet as the company intends to mature it beyond the three-year minimum required by law.
Borders produced its first spirit in 2018.
The distillery is housed in a former power plant dating back to 1903, on the banks of the River Teviot in the centre of Hawick,
a town with a rich industrial heritage as a
centre for tweed and cashmere production. “The spirit is developing brilliantly,” says
Borders’ head of marketing Rod Gillies.
“But we’re keeping our powder dry and
making sure when we do launch it will be fantastic and be a great single malt.
“But we are doing other things in the
cases of Clan Fraser Reserve Blended Scotch (rrp £19.99).
Retailers will be able to choose from a
selection of cask types: first-fill or refill
bourbon, rum, red wine, Douro wine or rye whiskey. Their personal cask will be filled with new-make spirit and matured for a
minimum of five years. These options will
create unique single-cask bottlings for each participating retailer.
The cask can be unlocked for bottling
once the retailer has chalked up a total of 1,000 points worth of accredited orders. The distillery will provide packaging
options upon bottling along with advice on labelling. Each cask will yield between 250
whisky space and will be producing
limited-edition expressions and releases
that will be Scotch whisky, hopefully from
next year. Members of the scheme will have
access to the first allocations of those as well.” The Enterprise Spirit scheme is a move
that Borders hopes will foster long-term
relationships with the independent retail trade which it sees as the natural sales
environment for its premium spirits, each
made with processes and personalities that set them apart in their markets.
Lower East Side is blended malt whisky
competing in the same sort of premium
mixing arena as contemporary Scotches, bourbons and Irish whiskeys.
Kerr’s gin is, unusually, made with
malted barley spirit. “Rather than having
THE WINE MERCHANT november 2020 61
around the country, we redistill our own
spirit to make Kerr’s Gin. Our spirit moves Carterhead,” says Gillies.
“The barley gives it a rounded, full
texture in the mouth. It makes a great,
balanced gin and tonic but it’s also one that cocktail bars love playing with because it can hold its own with lots of flavour nuances.
“Puffing Billy Steam Vodka is made to a
genuinely unique process. Now retailers
and drinkers may have heard that kind of
claim many times before, but it is the only vodka in the world made this way.
“We don’t filter it as a liquid; we steam
it through charcoal inside the still itself,
which the vodka’s named after. The result is a vodka with a real velvety, smooth
mouthfeel that carries the barley character into the final product. It’s a vodka that actually tastes of something.”
ubtle differences from the norm in
process and ingredients are what sets Borders apart from the crowd, says
“We have an eye for tradition but a real
willingness to do things in inventive ways, from how we make our spirits through to our commercial initiatives, including the Enterprise Spirit scheme.”
And that scheme gives retailers an
opportunity to sell a single malt that can’t be bought anywhere else.
“From the name, the wood, the abv and
the labelling, there a lot of tailoring that
will go into the process to ensure that each store’s single malt will be different from
the others that are out there,” Gillies says. “And even after VAT and duty, the cost
to the shop per bottle of that single malt will be very low, so if they’re retailing
between 250 and 300 bottles there’s a
fantastic margin opportunity. It’s long-term commitment but one that has a potentially significant pay-off in the future.”
LAND GUATEMALAN MILK CHOCOLATE 60g bar £5.50
PUMP STREET CHOCOLATE MADAGASCAR – AMBANJA 70g bar £6.25
54% Guatemalan milk chocolate unites
Made from cocoa hailing from the most
the characteristics of dark and milk
famous of bean terroirs: the Sambirano River
chocolate in one bar. Perfect for people
Valley. High notes of citrus mellowing into
who don’t like decisions.
LICK THE SPOON SEA SALT PRALINE CHOCOLATE 50g bar £3.75 Deliciously smooth hazelnut praline
with a hint of sea salt. 45% cocoa milk chocolate made from beans grown in the Mekong Delta of Vietnam. email@example.com
Bars that can stay open FOREVER CACAO 80% CACAO SIGNATURE BAR 40g bar £4.00 Deep, dark chocolate with notes of caramel and tobacco, handmade in Wales. firstname.lastname@example.org
COCO CHOCOLATIER HAGGIS SPICE DARK CHOCOLATE 80g bar £5.00
OCELOT CHOCOLATE SEA SALT 70g bar £5.00
LUCOCOA CHOCOLATE NATURAL BLONDE 50g bar £5.00
Smooth, dark chocolate with a salty-
White chocolate with creamy, caramel flavours.
and pepper – but, thankfully, not
sweet kick of hand-harvested sea salt
No refined sugar or artificial sweetners – not
sheep intestines. This is a smooth dark
from the Isle of Skye.
naughty, just nice.
chocolate vegan sweet treat.
THE WINE MERCHANT november 2020 62
Flavoured with cloves, allspice, nutmeg
AWIN BARRATT SIEGEL WINE AGENCIES 28 Recreation Ground Road Stamford Lincolnshire PE9 1EW 01780 755810 email@example.com www.abs.wine
C HR ISTMAS ALL WRAPPED UP This Christmas, ABS are offering a selection of carefully curated “Christmas All Wrapped Up” packs at three key price points. These will be delivered pre-packed, ready to take your customers on a celebratory journey throughout the festive season. For the person who has everything, we may have the solution - ask your Account Manager for details of our extremely limited Bling Box! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org | E. and O.E
T RAD I T I O NAL T W I ST
1, rue Division Leclerc, 67290 Petersbach, France email@example.com 07789 008540 @FamilleHelfrich
They’re all smiles to your face …
• NV Castello Prosecco • 2019 Klippenkop Chenin Blanc • 2018 Casas del Bosque Reserva Sauvignon Blanc • 2017 Las Carlinas Old Vine Garnacha • 2018 Cascadia Syrah • NV WALT LØ
• 2012 Jacques Bruere MCC Brut Reserve
• NV Champagne Rene Jolly Blanc de Noir
• 2019 Touraine Sauvignon Blanc
• 2018 Allram Gruner Veltiner Hasel
• 2018 Philip Shaw The Architect Chardonnay
• 2018 Domaine des Malandes Chablis
• 2017 Vini Fabiano Valpolicella Ripasso
• 2015 Jordan Cobblers Hill
• 2016 Chateau Fontesteau
• NV Stanton & Killeen Classic Muscat
• NV WALT LØ
Famille Helfrich Wines
BANG F O R BU C K
• 2018 Fürst Pinot Noir Tradition
Dedicated on-trade and indies division With a brand NEW wine list being launched in January including NEW châteaux & domaines to offer, and three regional tastings being planned for this year, it’s almost like Brexit doesn’t appear in our vocabulary! Chris Davies On-trade sales director
THE WINE MERCHANT november 2020 64
LOUIS LATOUR AGENCIES
Banfi is a 40-year-old wine estate that helped to transform the wine scene in Montalcino.
12-14 Denman Street London W1D 7HJ
an in-depth look at Banfi, visit Joanna Simon’s website: joannasimon.com.
0207 409 7276 firstname.lastname@example.org www.louislatour.co.uk
Banfi Vini – Estate wine from Tuscany and Piedmont It has vineyards in Tuscany and Piedmont and through its industry-first research and
development projects it has optimised its viticultural and winemaking techniques. For Some Montalcino highlights: San Angelo Pinot Grigio
A single-site Pinot Grigio from the commune of San Angelo, located to the
south of town of Montalcino. Banfi was the first to plant Pinot Grigio in this part of Tuscany and the result is a subtle but full-flavoured white. Summus
A generous and well balanced blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet and Syrah from Banfi’s Montalcino vineyards. The current UK vintage, 2015, was named Best Tuscan Red and Best Tuscan Red Blend at the 2019 IWC. Florus Moscadello
This historic DOCG is a late-harvest wine, where the grapes are dried
before vinification. It has a balancing fresh acidity and notes of apricot,
honey and almonds, and is delicious served with pastries or blue cheese.
hatch mansfield Prélude Grands Cru NV
New Bank House 1 Brockenhurst Road Ascot Berkshire SL5 9DL
With the depth and complexity Prélude of a great Vintage Champagne
Grands Crus NV
Seductive and supremely elegant
The perfect gift
email@example.com www.hatchmansfield.com @hatchmansfield “Bursting with life and energy, lovely lean structure and verticality of fruit. Long, long, long finish. Incredible aftertaste ...”
#TaittingerTime For more information contact your Hatch Mansfield Account Handler
THE WINE MERCHANT november 2020 65
C&C wines 109 Blundell Street London N7 9BN 020 3261 0927 firstname.lastname@example.org www.carsoncarnevalewines.com
New releases of multi award-winning Deep Woods Estate wines We are excited to have received an allocation of the new vintages of Margaret River’s
Deep Woods Estate Reserve wines. Deep Woods Reserve Chardonnay is considered one
of Margaret River’s flagship Chardonnays and most sought-after wines, and the Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the most critically acclaimed wines from the region.
Deep Woods Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2018
One of Australia’s most awarded Cabernets: the 2018 has already received three gold
medals. The nose features trademark violets and graphite in abundance, with complex
notes of dried bay, cedar and dark cassis. Beautifully ripe and superfine tannins are the
hallmark of this wine every year. Black plums, black cherry and cocoa are matched by an
intense, tightly wound and savoury finish. Medium-bodied, the wine shows great balance of natural acidity, a fine dense structure and amazing flavour persistence. Deep Woods Reserve Chardonnay 2019
2019 was a tricky but very rewarding vintage in Margaret River, resulting in wines with incredible perfume, elegance and personality. The complex and alluring nose shows
flinty reduction, freshly baked brioche and chipped shell characters, which open into
kaffir lime, white stone fruits and lifted floral notes. The palate shows restrained power
and great balance. Suggestive of juicy ripe citrus and grilled almonds, its amazing natural acidity carries the wine long and provides a crystalline clarity to the fruit. Please contact us for pricing and further information.
fine wine partners Thomas Hardy House 2 Heath Road Weybridge KT13 8TB 07552 291045 email@example.com www.finewinepartners.co.uk
Established in 1836, Houghton is Australia's third oldest winery. It is also the most awarded winery in Western Australia. A fine wine of elegance, fruit flavour and power balanced by firm fine-grained tannins, Jack Mann is the finest Cabernet produced by Houghton. Accordingly, it is named after legendary Houghton winemaker Jack Mann, who presided over the winemaking for 51
consecutive vintages. Jack’s unrelenting search for flavour and character and his desire to make wine to exacting standards was legendary within the industry.
Jack Mann Cabernet evokes a sense and scent of
place, with crushed-blackcurrant and herb-garden aromas, beautiful concentration, and perfectlyripe tannins and tremendous drive. Jack Mann
Cabernet Sauvignon is a single-vineyard wine from the Justin Vineyard in the Frankland River region
of Western Australia. This region is characterised by cool winters, warm summer days and cool
summer nights. The Cabernet grapes for this wine were hand-picked from a small patch
of 45-year-old vines. The particular clone of Cabernet Sauvignon is an original Houghton clone selected by Jack Mann.
Please contact Fine Wine Partners for further details on all of the Houghton wines.
THE WINE MERCHANT november 2020 66
liberty wines 020 7720 5350 firstname.lastname@example.org www.libertywines.co.uk
Syrah in the Swartland
by David Gleave MW
The wild and beautiful Swartland landscape, lying 60 kilometres north of Cape Town,
“bares the souls of grape vines,” according to Chris and Andrea Mullineux, “and in those varieties that can take the ruggedness, true personality of site is revealed.”
Chris and Andrea established Mullineux in 2007, attracted by the potential of the
region’s old vineyards and ancient soils, which have evolved over millions of years into three main types: shale/schist, granite, and gravel/iron-based. Versatile Syrah is the perfect foil for the distinctive characteristics of each soil type
and Mullineux’s flagship ‘Single Terroir’ wines, sourced from the best, sustainably-farmed parcels and vinified as naturally as possible, are their ultimate expressions.
The ‘Schist’ Syrah hails from the stony shale and schist soils of Mullineux’s
Roundstone Farm on the southwestern slopes of Kasteelberg Mountain. It is the most structured wine of the trio, with dark fruits, good acid backbone and lovely tannic grip. The ‘Iron’ Syrah, from the rolling hills west of Malmesbury, is the most rich and full-bodied, brooding and
savoury with velvety tannins. From the decomposed granite of the Paardeberg Mountain, the violet-perfumed ‘Granite’ Syrah is the most aromatic and elegant, with wonderful freshness and a silky texture. With an innate sense of balance and a strong sense of place, these wines are among the most exciting coming out of South Africa.
richmond wine agencies The Links, Popham Close Hanworth Middlesex TW13 6JE 020 8744 5550 email@example.com
RWA Festive offers are live – contact us for your copy!
- Pre pack gift boxes: 2, 3, 6 and 12 bottles available - Azabache Gran Reserva Rioja for the price of Reserva - Azabache Reserva Rioja for the price of Crianza - De Wetshof ‘Bon Vallon’ Chardonnay – buy 5 cases, get 1 free - Great selection of Bordeaux - Loads of Sherry from our partner Mira la Mar Plus lots of other wines on offer! You can also win a Coravin Model Three Wine Lovers Pack (worth £229), courtesy of our friends from Finca Sophenia, Argentina.
THE WINE MERCHANT november 2020 67
walker & Wodehouse 109a Regents Park Road London NW1 8UR 0207 449 1665 firstname.lastname@example.org www.walkerwodehousewines.com
Welcome to the family! From the heart of the Mediterranean to Norfolk, we are delighted to welcome three new producers to the Walker & Wodehouse portfolio. Bodega Mustiguillo
The real star at this Valencian winery is Bobal, grown on ancient vines that span Finca Terrerazo, a century-old estate acquired in 1972. At 800m above sea level, conditions are perfect for Bobal to shine. This distinctive terroir gained its DOP in 2010, making it the first Vino de Pago single-estate wine DO in the Mediterranean. Quinta de la Rosa
Quinta de la Rosa represents the best of Douro winemaking: determination, pride,
tradition, and skill. The Bergqvist family have been involved in the port trade since
1815, but it wasn’t until the 1990s that they expanded into the production of still red wines, quickly rising to become a pioneer of this burgeoning Douro category. Flint Vineyard
A small, family-run business, Flint Vineyard’s values are grounded in sustainability and provenance. Since its establishment in 2016, Flint has developed a stellar
reputation as one of England’s rising stars. Based in England’s sunniest and driest region, Norfolk, sensitivity to the environment is a key tenet of Flint’s approach. 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 email@example.com www.buckingham-schenk.co.uk
In the area of Montepulciano in Tuscany, lies the beautiful Lunadoro estate which is a little corner of paradise in the Val d’Orcia natural park which bursts with wildlife. The Lunadoro estate has 12 hectares of beautiful vineyards dedicated to Rosso di Montepulciano and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. LUNADORO ROSSO DI MONTEPULCIANO
Aged in French oak for at least 12 months, this blend of Sangiovese, Merlot, Canaiolo and Mammolo has typical characteristics of floral and violet notes and light spicy notes of cloves. The grapes are handpicked to ensure only the best fruit is used. This care and attention is apparent in the flavour and the lovely fresh finish which makes this wine a must-try.
LUNADORO VINO NOBILE DI MONTEPULCIANO
The same blend as the Rosso di Montepulciano is used for this wine, but the ageing process take place over a much longer period which is apparent on the nose. Complex aromas of mature fruits and plum jam balanced with sweet tannins and a long finish makes the Vino Nobile an excellent wine to try with or without food.
THE WINE MERCHANT november 2020 68
mentzendorff The Woolyard 52 Bermondsey Street London SE1 3UD 020 7840 3600 firstname.lastname@example.org www.mentzendorff.co.uk
enotria & COE 23 Cumberland Avenue London NW10 7RX www.enotriacoe.com customerservices@enotriacoe. com 020 8961 5161
THE WINE MERCHANT november 2020 69
BERKMANN wine cellars 10-12 Brewery Road London N7 9NH 020 7609 4711 email@example.com 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 firstname.lastname@example.org / 079 8079 2797, or Sales Operations on email@example.com / 020 7609 4711.
The Wine Merchant Magazine Essential Oil ... is not yet available. While we work on that, the only way to experience the heady, just-printed aroma of your favourite trade magazine is to get your own copy, and breathe it in while it’s fresh. If you don’t qualify for a free copy, you can subscribe for just £36 a year within the UK. Email firstname.lastname@example.org 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 november 2020 70
Fells Fells House, Station Road Kings Langley WD4 8LH 01442 870 900 email@example.com www.fells.co.uk @FellsWine je_fells
top selection 23 Cellini Street London SW8 2LF www.topselection.co.uk firstname.lastname@example.org Contact: Alastair Moss Telephone: 020 3958 0744 @topselectionwines @tswine
Top Selection are proud of our long partnership with Yves Cuilleron. For details of the range, prices and availability of these outstanding RhĂ´ne wines, please contact Alastair Moss.
THE WINE MERCHANT november 2020 71
November 2020 online edition of The Wine Merchant magazine, a trade publication for specialist independent wine retailers in the UK
Published on Nov 23, 2020
November 2020 online edition of The Wine Merchant magazine, a trade publication for specialist independent wine retailers in the UK