THE WINE MERCHANT. An independent magazine for independent retailers
Issue 104, July 2021
Dogs of the Month: Hilda & Daisy Seven Cellars, Brighton
Tasting organisers work hard to tempt back nervous indies Trade calendar is gradually being populated with events, but some merchants remain keener than others to go along
rade tastings are slowly returning to the calendar – though the
approach from organisers and
merchants alike remains cautious.
Despite the vaccine roll-out, Covid looks
likely to remain a worry for the foreseeable future. A wider problem for event planners is that for some merchants, the past 18
months have become habit forming, and
travelling to tastings is no longer the ritual, or the necessity, it once was.
Yet many independents have missed
trade tastings and are eager to get back
scheduled to take place on July 13 and as
The Wine Merchant went to press, Arnaud Maltoff of organiser Sopexa UK was
working hard to make the event a success. “We have had to make adjustments as
lockdown restrictions initially should have been lifted further by July 13,” he says. “We are going ahead with the usual
tasting set-up with the wines on the tables
and the producer or representative behind the table.
“We will have a one-way system and we
have pre-booked everyone to make sure we don’t have too many people arriving at the same time.”
He has increased the number of
masterclasses running throughout the day in order to meet demand while staying Covid compliant.
“No-shows will be more problematic
Continues page 2
into the swing of things.
Wines from Spain recently held a tasting
at One Great George Street in London
after being forced into cancelling previous events due to Covid.
Charlotte Dean of Wined Up Here in
Norbiton, south west London, says it was
“wonderful to have attended my first trade tasting of 2021”.
She adds: “It was brilliantly organised
with the attendees sitting at a table and the wines being brought to us in sets of four, lending itself to a very quiet calm,
measured and focused tasting – brilliant for someone as scatterbrained as me.
“It was a little like a WSET exam room,
but hey – I came away with a very clear set of buying decisions.”
The Washington State tasting was
OenoGroup has opened Oeno House, a wine boutique at London’s Royal Exchange. It includes a private tasting room to accommodate up to 12 people and an outdoor terrace. Justin Knock MW has left Philglas & Swiggot to become the company’s director of wine. See pages 60-61.
Inside this month
Trade tastings slowly trickle back From page one
4 the shipping news Chaos continues but consumers are returning to indies for wine
numbers,” Maltoff explains. “We want to
make sure people are coming but we want
to make sure we are not over-booking. It is
16 comings & GOINGs Meet the North Yorkshire indie
about constant communication.
“We will do everything we can to make
people feel comfortable and safe, like
planning a chain of shops
giving individual spittoons. There is
12 tried and tested A wine as memorable as the
extra cleaning and extra staff to make all those things happen. We are being extra cautious.”
birth of your first child
Hatch Mansfield is organising a portfolio
32 just wiilliams Bridging the gap between fine wine, and wine that’s just fine
tasting on September 7 but has not yet released details of the venue.
Trade events manager Rachel Hollinrake
says: “At a tasting you have to manage it for
34 noble grape Richard Ballantyne MW is right at home in his south Wales store
the people who are cautious and the people who are slightly more laid back about
things. You have to look after everybody because you are responsible.”
42 focus on gin The boom continues though consumers are being choosy
50 south american wines Producers are increasingly planting the right vines in the right places – and the effect is palpable
because it is a real balancing act of
She adds: “We’re really waiting to see if
we have to do a seated tasting, but we are
working within the guidelines to deliver. We did an en primeur tasting at Vagabond last year which was all in Enomatics and taken to tables, and that was successfully done.” Riaz Syed at Stonewines, in Whetstone,
north London, is one of the many
merchants who will be forming an orderly queue as tastings return.
“What I’ve really missed is bumping into
people and sharing notes,” he says. “Face-
to-face contact is what I think this industry is all about, it’s what we thrive on. I want to interact with other people in my job.
Customers are all well and good, but I want to see other professionals.”
Syed admits that as a London merchant
he only has to factor in minimal travel and accepts it might be a different story for those based in other regions.
Mike Boyne at BinTwo in Cornwall is a
case in point. But while he’s happy not to
face the expense of a lengthy train journey, that’s not the reason for his preference to keep things virtual.
“I don’t know if I’ll be bothering with big
trade tastings again,” he says. “Being forced not to do them over the last 18 months,
I’ve found I prefer to work with suppliers
who know we are requesting samples with real intent to buy.
“We taste in batches of 20 to 30 wines
at a time, with none of that palate fatigue
from big tastings. I get more time with the wines and I find I’m making better buying choices. I can’t think what would be the
draw to make me go to a big tasting now.”
Syed adds: “There are big advantages to
a Zoom tasting. You can take the time to
appreciate the wines and you get a fuller
story because the winemaker has time to
talk to all of you in one go. I think there is a time and a place for both.”
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 960 specialist independent wine shops. Printed in Sussex by East Print. © Graham Holter Ltd 2021 Registered in England: No 6441762 VAT 943 8771 82
THE WINE MERCHANT july 2021 2
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Delays get worse for wine shippers Delays in deep-sea wine shipments don’t appear to be getting any less troublesome. Indeed there are many in the industry who would argue the situation is only getting worse, with no end in sight to the logjam. Australian specialist The Vinorium,
based in Kent, reports that its wines are
now taking around four months to arrive.
“We ship a container every three to four
weeks and our average bottle is around £35, so a container can be anywhere between a quarter and half a million
[Australian] dollars on average,” says
owner Stuart McCloskey. “The problem is
that we are now waiting 16 weeks door to door and it’s getting worse.”
As reported in the May edition of The
Wine Merchant, supply chain problems
have been created by a number of factors, including staffing issues in ports, a
global container shortage and customs complications in the UK.
Some importers in the UK believe these
problems have been exacerbated by the
incompetence of some shippers and the agents who book space on their vessels.
“We have a container of Standish wines
leaving, which we chased today,” says
McCloskey. “We’ve waited three weeks for the agent to make contact with our
producers, so we’ve lost space on the vessel. “When it gets to the UK there is on
average another four-week delay.
“We had nine pallets out of a 20-pallet
container, and we had to wait three weeks because five sample bottles didn’t have a VI-1 form, so they held up the entire
shipment for three solid weeks. No one is doing the due diligence and the checks.
Then it was delivered to the wrong bond.” News of a trade deal between the UK
and Australia was hailed as good news for
Cape Town is one of many ports where Covid has created staffing and container shortages
Australian wine shippers, but McCloskey
says the headline figure of 10p off a bottle will be dwarfed by rising costs.
“Our shipping has gone up about 18p
per bottle per container of high-value stuff, so to gain 10p on the trade deal we are
still having to deal with an 8p loss plus six weeks of financing stock that we haven’t got,” he says.
“It’s nice to have a deal, but the biggest
problem is the shipping and that is a real hangover from the pandemic. Also, the
lorry drivers in the UK are not around.”
He adds: “We’re seeing a massive backlog
from Brexit because everyone is opening up their shops and restaurants, so UK
merchants are piling in, wanting to ship
more from the EU, and no one is clearing their backlog, so nothing is moving. You can’t get a container so it’s a bit of a nightmare.”
McCloskey also reports that a Californian
consignment ordered last year is not
now expected until August. “I had a really long chat with our freight forwarder this morning – and it’s clear that things are getting worse,” he says.
Doran Family Vineyards, the specialist
South African wine producer owned by
THE WINE MERCHANT july 2021 4
London-based Edwin Doran, is another
wine business experiencing frustrating and costly delays.
Covid-related problems created a
shortage in Cape Town in particular of
stevedores and then shipping containers.
“There have been significant difficulties
with London Gateway, the recipient port,” he says. “The ships take about 17 days to
get from South Africa to London Gateway and because of various difficulties, and
because they have laid people off, they are not able to unload the containers. Ships
are not coming into London Gateway with containers from South Africa.”
Doran says the agents who book space
on vessels leaving Cape Town on his behalf are facing delays and cancellations from shippers.
“The shipping companies are combining
their loads and filling their ships and they don’t give a tuppenny-damn about the
shipping agents,” he says. “All they want is ships that are full, so you end up getting consignments transferred. One of our
consignments ended up being transferred four times.”
• Vindependents expects to halve post-Brexit shipping costs – page 9.
It’s not just wine importers who are complaining about the added costs and aggravation of importing wine from the EU. It seems that many consumers are fed up too, and switching their business to independents. A number of indies say they are hearing
stories from their customers about
problems they face buying wine, either
direct from producers in countries such as France, Spain or Italy, or through websites based on the continent.
Andy Langshaw at Harrogate Wines in
North Yorkshire says these conversations are raising questions about how much wine was coming into the UK this way
prior to Brexit – and how much duty and VAT was potentially not being paid.
“We know when people go travelling,
they can bring back a boot-full and not pay VAT, as it’s their own personal stuff,” he
says. “But it was when people were able to get it shipped into the country that I thought it was a bit dodgy.
“I buy a lot of vinyl records and every
now and then I get a VAT bill and a
handling charge from the Royal Mail, so
any product coming in should have been
a cut and pass it on.
“I never explored it any further because
Cabernets and Merlots from Spain aren’t my bag, but the winery owner did email and started to ask me a few questions about paperwork.
“So potentially it’s something that has
been going on a little bit more than I was aware of.”
Some indies call it “the Decantalo effect”,
referring to the decantalo.com website
which offers bargain prices on wines from EU countries. But the company insists all its wines have duty and VAT included.
Sam Howard of HarperWells in Norwich
says he regularly sees intriguingly low wine prices from various sources on
social media posts. But he doubts his core customers are tempted.
“Where I think we will pick up the
business is the high-spend customer who would come in, ask our advice – typically for vintage gifts – only to then go online,” he says.
“I have several examples of this from
sporadic customers who would try to haggle us down to these ex-cellar prices. Hopefully, if the effort is not worth the discount, we will see a more level playing field.”
Chris Piper of Christopher Piper Wines
in Ottery St Mary, Devon, says that some
of the business that might once have been
lost to consumer imports is now returning. “We have seen some serious high-end
buying through our website, some of
which has been re-directed from Europe, especially France and Spain, because buyers have told us that,” he says.
“We have just shipped 600 bottles of
high-quality cava for a customer who
is getting married at the beginning of
July. They have a house near Barcelona
and have vehicles that could have easily
brought this in to the UK from Santander. However, when they looked at the
paperwork and the cost, they decided to buy through us instead.”
Jamie Tonkin of Old Chapel Cellars in
Truro says the increase in such business has been small.
“As we do quite a bit of direct importing,
we would occasionally be challenged by
some customers on the retail price of some of the wines that we brought in,” he says.
“It was obvious that the sources that they
were getting the information from were
websites that seemed to be able to offer a
price that was unbelievably low, normally
in euros – and almost as if it didn’t include things such as excise duty or VAT.”
getting taxed, you would have thought.”
Langshaw says he was recently asked
if he sold Juan Gil Silver Label, the Jumilla wine, which the customer said he had
previously been buying direct from the winery to save money.
“I had one guy who said he’s been buying
from a source in Spain for the last five
years or so, and he would ship him 60
bottles at a time of international Cabernets and Merlots,” he adds.
“He said ‘my mate won’t do it anymore
because of the paperwork’. But his mate
told him if he found a wine shop, he would ship it to me and I would presumably take
Wedding organisers may now find EU suppliers too much bother to work with
THE WINE MERCHANT july 2021 5
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Indies suddenly look better value
Yorkshire indie plans retail chain Reuben & Grey opened its doors in Knaresborough at the beginning of June and, according to co-owner Craig Buchan, it is just the beginning of a brand which is set to grow exponentially over the next few years. Plans are already in motion for a bakery
and wine bar, a coffee shop and a distillery. Buchan says: “We plan to open a chain
of delicatessens and wine shops. We want to grow this nationally, looking at market
towns, and want to expand quite rapidly. As we finish one project, we will be looking at starting the next.”
Buchan has a background in banking
and financial services and describes his
business partner Luke Morland as “leading the charge on all things alcoholic”.
They have around 300 lines already
and are working with suppliers including Enotria and Les Caves de Pyrene but are supporting local producers too.
“We like the fact that we are a Yorkshire
company,” explains Buchan, “so we are
featuring a lot of Yorkshire gins and we are supporting Yorkshire rum, including the
recently launched AB Gold. We do whiskies as well, including Filey Bay and the beers
Craig Buchan (left) with business partner Luke Morland at Reuben & Grey
Sunny’s second site has new look
are all Yorkshire.”
Aspen & Meursault is set to open in
vehicle in the form of a Piaggio van. “We
Sunny Hodge, who owns Diogenes the
van, based on the Vespa moped,” he says.
locations. “There will be classics on the
Buchan admits he is feeling most “giddy”
about the imminent arrival of their delivery knew that delivery would be a number one thing, so we’ve chosen a three-wheeled
• Hedonism Wines has a new string to its bow in the form of a pub. Situated in Mayfair in the old Hatchett’s site, The White Horse will give punters access to the full range of the retailer’s 6,000-plus wines. There will be a 100-bin list focusing on “delicious, yet affordable bottles”.
Battersea next month. The new wine bar and shop is the latest project by Dog in Elephant & Castle. The wine list will differ between the two
list,” says Hodge, “but they will be lowintervention versions or twists.
“For example we have a Prosecco Col
Fondo. Not many people will have seen it
before. Essentially it’s a pet nat Prosecco, unfiltered and unfined, so it’s cloudy and we’ve been able to get it in at a similar price. It’s showing customers that you
THE WINE MERCHANT july 2021 6
don’t have to go too far away from your comfort zone to find something that is
good, reasonable and in some way ethically thought of or farmed.
“I don’t want to call it a natural wine
bar because people have preconceptions
and will think they are just getting funky farmyard stuff.
“The idea is that we will have lots of
different examples of low-intervention
wines and help people understand those farming methods.”
It’s not just the name and the wines that
will mark the two businesses apart. Hodge says the interior will also have a different look from Diogenes.
“It’ll be a little more classic, an English
country house/dining room feel with polished wood,” he says.
Bacchus Closing the cellar door one last time Alan Wright has run The Clifton Cellars from the same shop in Bristol for 30 years. When his lease came to an end last December he decided he didn’t want to commit for another lengthy period and agreed with the landlord to have a licence to occupy to take him through to the end of June. Clifton Cellars is well-known and loved in
the area for the tastings held in the belowstairs shop, and Wright admits that is the
part of the business he will miss the most. “I thoroughly enjoyed doing the wine
tastings and talks in the cellar,” he says.
“It was so nice to see all the lovely people coming in and getting excited about the wine.
“People have been very kind and I will
miss all that. I won’t fool myself that I
was the main attraction. I think the main attraction was the cellar itself, to enjoy wine in a proper old wine cellar.”
Wright will continue to trade online
and his diary is already full with
private tastings booked by customers
who evidently don’t mind a cellar-less merchant.
Alan Wright will continue to trade online
A gin too bad to be true
A practical joke that was just a little too good resulted in Sheldon’s Wine Cellars in Shipston on Stour announcing on Twitter that its newly launched Badger gin had been an instant sell-out. In fact there never had been a Badger gin, just a description of one that, despite its stomach-churning list of botanicals, had customers clamouring to buy it. Inspired, or rather worn down, by yet another hyperbolic press release from a gin company, Sheldon’s Amanda Rowley thought she’d have a go at writing her own and included an elaborate sales pitch in the weekly newsletter. “Those of you who have ‘done the cellar tour’ will know that in 1842 Sheldon’s was originally an apothecary – owned and run by Richard Badger,” she wrote. “As part of the medical licence, gin was made in one of the cellars under the shop. A few months ago, whilst clearing out an anteroom of the main cellar to create more storage space, Shane uncovered the original still. It was filthy and covered in over a century’s worth of debris, but amazingly has proven to be in full working order! “Unbeknown to all but a necessary few, during lockdown we have resurrected the still and have been distilling our own Sheldon’s gin, with only a few minor tweaks to the original 1842 recipe. We are now proud and delighted to unveil our special house gin which we have called Badger in memory of the founder of the business. “We have made one hogshead barrel that has just been bottled and we are offering just 42 pint bottles of Badger on a first come, first served basis. The cost of each first edition bottle will be £127.99.” Rowley almost went out of her way to ensure that customers would spot the parody, but even references to “water from the crystal-clear River Stour” and juniper “from Esther’s well-tended bush” didn’t give the game away. The newsletter went on: “For the other botanicals we carefully selected, hand roasted and crushed a traditional mix of ingredients. These included
THE WINE MERCHANT july 2021 7
natural lanolin from the locks of wool collected from the barbed wire fence around the field at the back of Shane and Trish’s house; daffodil bulb oils from the lifted bulbs from the tubs in the shop car park; Tulinurea from Jo’s favourite pet; Leylandii sap from the tree roots climbing down the cellar wall; oak wood shavings from the aged cases of Bordeaux wines (left bank, Cru Classé châteaux over 20 years old only).” The final ingredient came from the bottom of a spittoon. “Condensed crachoir ullage, once reduced to a syrup, makes a unique addition, which gives the gin an attractive cloudy appearance and distinct tangy flavour,” wrote Rowley. Next April we are expecting news of Sheldon’s freshly planted Bonsai vineyards and the launch of its intriguingly scented Badger musk candles.
Next big thing: prison wine
A US inmate has been making a killing on wine he brews behind bars. He claims to earn up to $30 per gallon of his home brew and he has even shared his winemaking skills on TikTok with his 20,000 followers. There are just three ingredients and apparently they are all readily available in most upscale penitentiaries: Mountain Dew, orange juice and gummy bears. Would you like to know the method? Of course you would. Start by washing your hands. Then carefully mix all three ingredients together in a plastic bag – or a toilet basin – and ferment for a week.
From California to Caledonia
second site in September last year, has
been embarking on a “back to bare brick” refurbishment. The venue has inside
seating for about 50 people, and there
Redwood Wines has opened in
are eight barrel tables outside on the high
Dunkeld, the Perth & Kinross town
often described as the gateway to the
There are plans for a 50-cover wine
garden to the rear in 2022.
Owner Morgwn Preston-Jones, who,
The Whalley Wine Bar will initially serve
despite his name, hails from America’s
24 wines by the glass along with a rotating
west coast, says: “I probably have the most
six-bottle Coravin selection of super-
Welsh name I could get – especially for a
boy from California.”
The wine list includes more than 300
He and his wife Roseanna have made
wines ranging from £15 to £50 but also
their home in the town and hope their new business will attract locals and tourists alike.
“We’re going to open with a fantastic
offering,” says Preston-Jones. “I’ve been a
chef for most of my life so I’m going to be
doing whatever I can to explore the bounty of Scotland.
“Once our licensing goes through we’ll
be doing small-plate foods to pair with
the wines that we have. We’ll be making charcuterie from scratch and I’ll be
working with all the seasonality that’s on
includes a dedicated “wine vault” in the old Roseanna and Morgwn Preston-Jones
and his uncle and cousins work at Silver Oak and Twomey.
“The Wine Treasury stocks all of them
and so I hope to have all three of them on
and then pray that California wines will sell in Scotland,” he says.
bank’s safe room.
Jones says: “The aim is not to just open
another bar that happens to serve wine, but rather a genuine and dedicated wine bar, created by wine lovers, for wine lovers.”
Second branch for The Twisted Cork
After a successful first year of trading in Tiptree, Christine Longden is set to open
a second branch of The Twisted Cork
a little tricky. Preston-Jones says they have
neighbouring village of Kelvedon. There
The couple took on the property in
Longden has secured premises in the
March but have found the licensing process
will be a “micro-bar” so customers will be
inherited the alcohol licence but it only
allows them to retail from a space that’s just half a metre square.
“Opening a wine shop with that little
space to display is going to be a challenge from the off,” he admits.
“Eventually we hope to stock around 120
lines, but to start we are just going to be
The original Whalley store
Whalley banks on new wine bar
playing around with what we can do with
The Whalley Wine Shop near Clitheroe
Justerini & Brooks, Thorman Hunt,
connections. His stepmother Suzanne
longer operate as a hybrid.
the very limited retail space.
has opened its long-awaited wine bar
“I’m working with suppliers including
in the former bank adjacent to its retail
Preston-Jones has plenty of wine
focus squarely on take-home trade, and no
Wanderlust and The Wine Treasury.”
Groth is CEO of Groth Wines in Oakville
The move means the original store will Owner Tom Jones, who acquired the
THE WINE MERCHANT july 2021 8
able to buy wine, beer and spirits to drink in with the option of a “grazing platter”
alongside the retail offering. She says: “It’s
the perfect size for what we wanted. It’s on
the high street, right by the train station, so people will want to come to us for a drink and not have to worry about taxis.”
There will be room to accommodate
around 30 people in the seating and bar area.
Longden, although keeping the interior
design details under wraps at the moment, is aiming for “bright with a modern twist.” • The Twisted Cork’s first year – pages 26 and 27.
© Siwakorn / stockadobe.com
Viader Vintners says au revoir After 20 years of trading in Cardiff Gilbert Viader has decided to close his Viader Vintners business. “Brexit was the catalyst,” he says. “Brexit,
the pandemic and my age; it’s time to call it a day.”
As an importer, Viader says he didn’t
want to change the way he worked and he
had a feeling that his day-to-day life would
be made harder by the added bureaucracy.
He says: “From what we’ve been hearing,
it’s a nightmare to get the fluidity and continuity of stock.”
So even before Covid, Viader and his wife
Claire had decided that, come January this year, they would wind down the business. But they could not have known their final year of trading would be so different.
“We switched our model quite a bit,”
Current arrangements have been “a bit of a nightmare” since Brexit
Vindies take control of Euro logistics in move expected to halve shipping costs
independents expects to speed up imports
“In addition, the delays at ports whilst all the
to the UK, and make big cost savings, with
various papers are sorted and pallets are moved
the launch of a groupage business owned
between lorries are huge.
says Viader. “About 90% of our trade
by its members.
warehouse. We used to do a little bit of
which all Vindependents’ European shipments will
was to restaurants. We had a few private customers who would come to the
The company, SAS Groupage Europe, has opened a bonded warehouse in south west France through
business online as well but it was more of a
website and be a bit more proactive with
should go down from around £350 to nearer £265,
shop window for us.
“I had to put a bit more effort into the
Vindependents director Jess Hutchinson says the cost of shipping a single pallet from Bordeaux
“Shipments are taking up to six weeks to arrive at EHD and then often arriving without the correct papers, meaning EHD can’t book on the stock.” Hutchinson says the new business “will give us a lot more control over our shipments”. She adds: “They will arrive quicker, be booked on at EHD quicker and cost less too.” In a note to Vindependents members – all
a newsletter and running offers. We were
while from Rioja members can expect savings of
independent wine merchants – she says: “The
carrying quite a lot of stock and it worked
£150 a pallet.
upshot of all of this is that we should be able to
deliveries and using couriers, just selling
lorry a week to EHD’s bond in the UK, with just
and you will be able to either move RRPs down or
what we had.”
one Export Accompanying Document covering the
make more margin.”
had a vineyard in Monmouthshire.
getting wine into the UK in a timely and cost-
realised you can’t just potter around – you
direct from the producer to EHD using Wineflow or
able to send wine shipments to Europe through the
either do it or you don’t,” he says.
another UK shipper.
warehouse as well.”
in our caravan but four years tending vines
£130 regardless of the size of the shipment,
works with 121 wine producers spread across 62
with no running water and no electricity
meaning costs are astronomical.
pretty well for us. We were doing local
To begin with, the business expects to send one
The couple have also called time on their
“We had the idea that in our retirement
effective way since Brexit”.
foray into viticulture. Since 2017, they have we could potter about in a vineyard, but we “We had some fantastic weekends there
was hard work.”
Hutchinson says it has been “a bit of a nightmare
She adds: “Currently we are sending each order
“Each order has customs paperwork costs of
THE WINE MERCHANT july 2021 9
halve the financial impact of Brexit on our shipping
She adds: “Phase two of the Groupage Europe project, once our own shipping is working seamlessly, will be to offer this service to members. “Members will be able to use the warehouse for shipping their own pallets and eventually will be
Vindependents, which has 47 members, currently
Top 100 supplement free with your July edition The waiting is over – and the winners of this year’s Wine Merchant Top 100 competition are unveiled in our annual supplement, free with this month’s edition of the magazine. For the first time, we’ve also included two sheets of stickers which we encourage readers to apply to any winning wines that they have on their shelves. It was a record year for entries, which means that winners had to really stand out from the crowd to impress our 40-plus independent judges. Congratulations to all of our winning and highly commended wines and we hope your success is reflected in extra sales in the independent trade.
NOT YOU AGAIN!
customers we could do without
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25. Hilary Edmunds … then there’s my sister, who has various allergies, and finds that any red wine plays havoc with her asthma … I haven’t got that particular affliction but I do get this infernal hay fever and I’ve noticed it’s worse if I drink Sauvignon Blanc … or caffeine … or sparkling water … I did start getting a taste for Prosecco but I found that the bubbles kept repeating on me and I was up until the small hours with heartburn … I had to give up spirits of any kind because of the awful migraines and subsequent night terrors … I see you have some lovely beers but I’d better refrain, they give me terrible bloating, I find, and IBS … of course being from the West Country, cider would be my natural tipple but there’s something about the yeasts they use that tends to inflame what rugby players would call my jock rash … the itching drives one slightly potty and it seems so indecent to scratch … advocaat’s out of the question because the eggs in it make my hives visibly pop into life … let me briefly show you this strange rash on my thighs, do you think it could have been caused by Dubonnet?
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Congratulations to the five Wine
Merchant reader survey respondents
whose names were drawn at random
AM ANAand TIaMCoravin, GRwho E courtesy of each win
partner HatchChampagne Mansfield. Can you unscramble theour names of these houses? If so, you win a voucher for porch repairs. Peter Fawcett, Field & Fawcett, York
1. Pro Ogler Anthony Borges, The Wine Centre, 2. Ate Condom, Then? Great Horkesley, Essex 3. Cheshire Dick Sale Zoran Ristanovic, City Wine Collection, 4. Tiring Teat 5. Rapper ID London Daniel Grigg, Museum Wines, Dorset Riaz Syed, Stonewines, London
THE WINE MERCHANT july 2021 10
THE DAY THE WINE BEGAN TO FLOW AGAIN Customer tastings are back on the agenda for east London indie Silver Lining – as they are, increasingly, for merchants across the country after months of restrictions
the tasting and took customers through
a flight of four wines. Jamie Bacchus Nat
regarding focus, styles and countries for
Wine Club to run a tasting exploring wines
grapes from UK vineyards, were showcased
as homage to our skin contact obsession.”
ilver Lining in Hackney is one of
many independents welcoming back
customers for in-store tasting events.
Owner Sarah Maddox invited Dalston
from Renegade urban winery, and she says the sell-out event will be the first of many collaborations with the group.
“We have done tastings with suppliers
and producers before,” Maddox explains, “but it was great to work with someone
who was just as excited and driven about wine and making it accessible to a wider audience.
“I was already a fan of DWC and so I was
excited to work with Hannah [Crosbie] on hosting her first in-real-life tasting
[following lockdown] at Silver Lining. It is also great working with other passionate
women in a very male dominated industry.” Winemaker Warwick Smith from
Renegade, which is just down the road in Bethnal Green, also joined the team for
Fizz, Shilpa Pinot Noir Rosé and Rahul
Qveri Skin Contact Bacchus, all made with alongside Courtney, a 100% Nero di Troia harvested and shipped from Puglia.
“Warwick also brought down a wine that
had only just been bottled that day,” says
Maddox. “That felt very special and was a joy to be able to share with our guests.”
ince opening as a wine retailer during the first lockdown in 2020, Silver
Lining has focused on orange wines
but Maddox says that will not limit the
range of tastings she will have on offer.
“We are championing orange and skin-
contact wines every day, so doing tasting events that show off a range of different
wines helps to highlight differences and gives context to our orange wines,” she says.
THE WINE MERCHANT july 2021 11
“We have a few plans up our sleeves
our upcoming events and I would love to
host a tasting focusing on Georgian wines
Maddox says that she has been attending
“small scale” trade tastings and reports
that “it’s lovely to be back, seeing friends in the industry”.
As far as her own tastings are concerned,
she says: “We have all the Covid-19
provisions in place to protect our staff and guests.
“At the tasting it was all about creating
a great experience for our guests in a
safe environment. It was a very relaxed
atmosphere with people remaining seated, being given a small flight and drinking the wine rather than spitting it out.
“We wanted people to feel informed but
also to have fun. Being able to welcome people back for a tasting made us so happy.”
TRIED & TESTED
Domäne Wachau Ried Achleiten Smaragd Grüner Veltliner 2019
Casalforte Corvina 2018
Grüners are popping up everywhere these days
Amarone and ripasso wines which explains the
and very pleasant most of them are too, but here’s a
reminder that the variety has extra gears that some of
the newcomers didn’t even know existed. A wine that is definitely crafted, not just made, with a classy, polished mouth feel and herbal and exotic depths. RRP: £145 for 6 ABV: 14%
Fine & Rare / Farthinghoe Fine Wine
Corvina is of course a variety we associate with
lusciousness on display here. The fruit comes from hills to the east of Verona and creates a sumptious, full-
bodied wine with juicy black cherry depth. Glides down all too easily, exuding a gentle vanilla and spice note as it says goodbye. RRP: £8.90
Moreno Wines (020 7289 9952)
frw.co.uk / farthinghoefinewine.com
Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona Rosso di Montalcino 2018
Domaine Foivos Robola of Kefalonia 2020
This acclaimed estate, run these days by former pro
Robola is a native grape of Greece, grown in this case
unpromising vintages. Here it delivers a vibrant wine
terrain in the stony and fresh flavour profile, with a
cyclist Paolo Bianchini, makes wines with a Sangiovese Grosso clone that is said to perform well even in
with spice and red fruit flavours, with a generous rounded softness that its fans clearly adore. RRP: £20.50
Mentzendorff (020 7840 3600)
on Kefalonia, off the west coast of the mainland on the
slopes of Mount Ainos. You can sense the breezy, rocky faint whiff of the herbaciousness that so often comes with Greek wines, and a citrus twist. RRP: £14.25
Hallgarten & Novum Wines (01582 722538)
Bodegones del Sur Albariño Vineyard Select 2020
Mañoso Crianza 2017
The grapes come from two vineyards on Uruguay’s
is either a compliment or damning with faint praise,
Atlantic coast and spend nine months in French
oak prior to bottling. It’s an intriguing iteration of
Albariño, with a rich lime-cordial kind of flavour, as
well as green apples and maybe a hint of almonds too. Another strong candidate for the summer mixed case. RRP: £12.49
Condor Wines (Vinos Latinos in London)
The label describes the contents as “textbook”, which depending on how you look at it. We enjoyed the
rubber floor-tile aroma and toasty notes, and flavours of liquorice and red currants. Nothing controversial,
nothing to dislike, but not boring either – a wine that understands the need for simple pleasures. RRP: £10.80
Moreno Wines (020 7289 9952)
condorwines.co.uk / vinoslatinos.co.uk
La Gitana En Rama Manzanilla 2021
Jean Loron Domaine de Cornillas Beaujolais 2019
Anyone who’s been lucky enough to visit a cellar in
A single-estate wine from St-Vérand in the south of the
of their first child. The yeasty complexity, the wildness
way, it’s a wine full of soft edges but with a steely core
Sanlúcar and taste fresh Manzanilla straight from the
barrel will remember the event as clearly as the birth and the briney, lemony tang of the experience are all
captured in the bottle and frankly it’s all rather exciting. RRP: £18
Mentzendorff (020 7840 3600) mentzendorff.co.uk
region, this is an easy-going entry into the wonderful
world of Gamay. Resembling flat cherry cola, in a good lurking just beneath the surface, and plenty of ripe fruit flavours that hint at more southerly latitudes. RRP: £12.50
Hayward Bros (020 7237 0576) haywardbros.co.uk
THE WINE MERCHANT july 2021 12
WINE MONTH Calling all UK Wine Merchants! Get involved with Bordeaux Wine Month this September BOOST YOUR SALES Last year, participating retailers sold an average of 99 extra bottles of Bordeaux wine during the promotion BRING YOUR BORDEAUX RANGE TO LIFE You’ll receive a visibility pack full of attractive merchandising materials GET REWARDED You will also receive a payment of £200 and the chance to win a £1000 and a trip to Bordeaux
To sign up visit: www.cubecom.co.uk/bwm or for more info email: email@example.com Terms & conditions apply
100 YEARS OF CLOS DES MOUCHES Joseph Drouhin celebrates a century of involvement in a special part of the Côte de Beaune where both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir thrive, side by side
t’s 100 years since Maurice Drouhin made his first purchase at Clos des
Mouches, at the southern end of the
Beaune appellation. He went on to buy 41 parcels, meaning that to this day, Joseph
Drouhin is the majority landowner in this revered Premier Cru vineyard.
It’s a place where both Chardonnay and
Pinot Noir thrive. “That’s rare in Burgundy because it’s normally one or the other,”
says winemaker Véronique Boss-Drouhin. After phylloxera forced wholesale
replanting along the Côte d’Or and
elsewhere, Drouhin’s Clos des Mouches
wines were made with Pinot. But Maurice
understood the vineyard’s history of white wine production, and his experimentation
with a small Chardonnay plot led to listings at Maxim’s in Paris – and popular acclaim. “What really makes Clos des Mouches
special is the unusual variety of the terroir within the climat, because one vineyard is usually one terroir,” says Véronique.
“Out of our 14 hectares, seven are
Chardonnay and seven are Pinot Noir. It’s
like a patchwork, alternating, and we pick
each parcel when the grapes are ripe – we don’t pick them all at the same time.
“If we are not happy with one of the
elements, we can declassify it and we will
still make some Clos des Mouches. It really allows you to put in the bottle what you
really feel is the best. This also allows us
to be very consistent year in, year out with the quality of Clos des Mouches.
“It’s interesting because when you have
the six Clos de Mouches from the same
vintage, one will be very elegant but maybe a bit light in texture, the other will be the opposite and you wish it had a bit more finesse. Then you combine them.”
What exactly is Véronique aiming for in
her Clos des Mouches wines? “We know that the wines can be very elegant and
Véronique Boss-Drouhin. “If we are not happy with one of the elements, we will declassify it”
complex and that is our goal,” she says.
two months ago. It is halfway between
things in her stride.
“This morning I was tasting a 2019 white
for the first time since it had been bottled a Corton-Charlemagne and Puligny-
Montrachet. The first brings the texture and the second brings the delicacy and
elegance. So it’s a wine that has a good core but at the same time is very elegant.
“For the reds, Clos is at the border
between Beaune and Pommard and the wines of Pommard, by nature, are a bit
more structured. But the Clos is not like
that at all. It is more refined, and silkier.” Joseph Drouhin has been farming
Climate change adds to the challenges of
the Drouhin team, but Véronique is taking “Yes, we see the alcohol content getting
higher and the acids being a bit of a
concern,” she says. “But even though we
had the warm weather, when you try the wines of 2019, the alcohol is not low, at
14%-plus, and yet the acidity is very good, and the wine is amazing. We have found that keeping the grapes under leaves is working very well for us.”
organically since 1990, moving to
Find out more
aversion to chemical sprays.
Visit www.polroger.co.uk or or www.drouhin.com call 01432 262800
biodynamic practices a few years later.
Neighbouring vignerons share the family’s “We are lucky because the neighbours
are moving towards organic farming and
when they realise how precious a vineyard
like ours is, they are much more concerned and respectful towards the environment,”
THE WINE MERCHANT july 2021 15
Thank you for the recognition from The Wine Merchant Top 100 Domaine Marchand-Grillot Gevrey-Chambertin “En Jouise”, Burgundy 2017 (£39.99)
Domaine Marchand-Grillot Gevrey-Chambertin “En Songe", Burgundy 2018 (£39.99) Trefethen Signature Merlot, Oak Knoll District, California 2018 (£44.99)
Domaine Jean Fery Meursault “Les Dressoles" Organic wine, Burgundy 2018 (£39.99)
Trefethen Signature Chardonnay, Oak Knoll District, California 2019 (£32.99) Trefethen Signature Cabernet Sauvignon, Oak Knoll District, California 2018 (£35.99) Domaine La Creuze Noire Saint Véran “La Cote”, Burgundy 2018 (£19.99) Domaine Lamy-Pillot Chassagne-Montrachet “Pot Bois”, Burgundy 2018 (£37.99) Domaine Lamy-Pillot Chassagne-Montrachet “Champs de Moregeot”, Burgundy 2017 (£23.99) Domaine Lucien Muzard Santenay Vieilles Vignes, Burgundy 2019 (£19.99) Domaine Lucien Muzard Santenay 1er Cru “Les Gravières”, Burgundy 2019 (£23.99) Oedoria Moulin à Vent, Beaujolais 2019 (£17.99) Bodega Enate Crianza, Somontano, Aragón 2017 (£14.49) Weingut R&A Pfaffl the.dot Austrian Cherry Zweigelt, Niederösterreich, Austria 2020 (£11.99) Delivering Off-Trade Excellence
t @DanielLambert29 c daniellambertwines ? daniellambert.wine
CELEBRATE ALBARIÑO DAY 1ST AUGUST WITH D.O RÍAS BAIXAS Last few places left!! We have just a few places left for our Albariño Day promotions. If you would like to take part we Wefollowing have just a few places left for our Albariño Day promotions. are offering the support: o o o o o o
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THE WINE MERCHANT july 2021 16
Life Outside Wine I’ve been beekeeping for about 15 years. I always wanted to be a farmer and I went to farming college before I got into the wine trade. I still kept my wellies dirty though and I used to have a small holding with pigs, cows and chickens. Now I’ve got four beehives in my garden. They don’t need a lot of space, maybe a couple of square yards per hive. It’s a pastime rather than a job. You do it for six months of the year. You should be looking at them every seven to eight days to monitor their growth and intercept any desires that the colony have to swarm. If you lose a swarm, you lose your workforce. It’s like losing all your sales team. Hopefully you should get about 50 jars of honey a hive but it varies. It’s a ridiculous amount of bee miles to produce a small amount of honey. One bee would
An occasional series looking at the pastimes of independent wine merchants. This month: Beekeeping with John Carlisle of Auriol Wines, Hartley Wintney, Hampshire
have to fly the equivalent of more than three times around the globe to make a pound of honey. The average honeybee will only make one-twelfth of a teaspoon of honey in its own lifetime. You are only supposed to take the surplus honey and you need to make sure they have a good store to get them through the winter.
I was literally pulling my hair out at the weekend. I had a go at re-queening where you change over the matriarch. I was trying to replace her with a more docile one that’s a bit easier to handle so I imported some queens from Europe, where they have got particularly good strains of domesticated bees, and had a go at trying to introduce it to the hive. It took me about four or five days and in the end I watched it fly over the garden fence as it decided it had had enough.
THE WINE MERCHANT july 2021 17
As they fly in you can see these amazing different shades of pollen on their legs. About halfway down their hind set of legs they have pollen baskets and you can get an idea from the colour of the pollen which flowers they have been visiting. I get stung all the time. If you keep bees you’re going to get stung through the suit. Generally beekeepers tend to get used to it or not react to it. Bizarrely, if I am stung by a wasp, I react quite nastily, so there are different chemicals in the different stings. Honey is a very useful culinary product. We sell our Hook honey in the shop and I use in in salad dressings and baking. I recently used some of the wax to make bee wraps [the eco-alternative to cling film or foil]. My first go was a little rustic, but if I make some decent ones, I’ll sell those in the shop too.
Sam Gauntley Gauntleys of Nottingham
‘Dad encouraged me to do what I was passionate about’
he death of John Gauntley last year left some very big shoes to fill, but managing director Victoria Rogers is certain that his son Sam is making his mark. “Sam has his dad’s enthusiasm and passion for the wine and understanding of the business,” says Victoria. “Whatever job I give him he attacks with the same dedication, focus and perfectionism. He is great at dealing with our trade customers and private customers alike. He is a godsend to me. John was always proud of Sam but I know he would be particularly proud to see how he has developed. “The first time I saw him taste was at a tasting with Olivier Humbrecht. Afterwards he told me that he loved the Clos Hauserer – he didn’t go for the showy or the obvious, he went for a dry minerally Riesling, which was also my favourite. He gradually started to attend buying trips with me and John and he has a fantastic palate.” Sam says that the wine bug really kicked in when he started going on trips with his father to meet the winemakers. “I was always being fed a little bit of wine from the dinner table and remember Dad really wanting me to get into it,” he laughs. But, he says there was never any pressure for him to join the family business. “He left it very much up to me, he encouraged me to think outside the box and, most importantly, to do what I was passionate about. He was a romantic and he instilled that in me.” True to his roots, Sam blends his love of sport and travel with work. For the winter months he is a ski instructor in Zermatt while remaining in touch with the business. “I get the jitters if I’m doing the exact same thing for too long. I like to keep things varied and exciting, and travel and meeting people is the way I do it,” he explains. “I’ve done my WSET to level 3 to get a good foundation but the rest of it is learning on the road,” he adds. “You can learn what all the crus of Beaujolais look like on a wine map and taste all the wines in a classroom but it doesn’t really stick until you’ve visited them all. Experiential learning is far more fun and personal. “I think the ski instructing will become a bit more sporadic as time goes on. The business will always be one of my first loves and I will continue working with Victoria, travelling and exploring. “I would like us to explore more of eastern Europe. We don’t cover as much of Italy as we would like and I’d really
like to go and see what is happening there with the smaller domaines. I would love, in time, to go and find some smaller artisan winemakers in the new world; I know Dad had always had a thought we might do something like that. The world is our oyster on that one.”
Sam wins a bottle of Glenfarclas 15 year old If you’d like to nominate a Rising Star, email firstname.lastname@example.org
THE WINE MERCHANT july 2021 18
ight ideas r b
24: Reach out with refills Duncan Murray Duncan Murray Wines, Market Harborough
In a nutshell … Businesses specialising in refill household and food stuffs are popping up all over the UK. Make friends with one in your neighbourhood to open your own concession. The rewards are plentiful.
Tell us more. “Eco-Village is run by Beth and Beth. They contacted me in January last year and we met up at the site, which had previously been a plumbing supply place, and they told me their plans. For them it’s all about taking cans or bottles or jars to be refilled. I’d already had a chat with Moreno Wines and I thought their refillable bottles were perfect. First and foremost they are fantastic wines.”
Describe the range for us. “We have limited space so everything has to really earn its place on our shelves and we are experimenting month by month to see what works. “We offer the Sea Change wines – there are lots of bright ideas behind that range. For example, there is less glass per bottle and the labels are partly made out of grape waste. David Attenborough is a big fan of Sea Change and it’s ticked lots of boxes for Eco-Village. “We also stock a locally produced gin and vodka, a few ciders and beers but the thing that works the best is the refill bottles. Customers can either buy a half-litre or a litre bottle and fill it up or they can bring
labels that we use in the shop which come off our EPoS system. All the information is on those labels such as the name of the product and they show the alcohol percentage plus a bit of blurb about it and what food it goes with. But if a customer needs more help, my shop is just a fiveminute gentle stroll around the corner.”
Sea Change wines use less glass per bottle
a wellington boot as long as it’s marked on the side how much is going in. If you’re Cinderella, bring a glass slipper.”
Let’s talk about the money. “You pay a commission of around 5% or 10% depending on what it is. Anything bar-related is a bit more, so for example we are doing a wine bar with them soon and because there is more margin, the commission to the Eco-Village will be 20%. “What’s really nice is that it’s manned or womanned by other people who have stalls there. We use exactly the same price
It sounds like indie nirvana! “The Eco-Village set up is fantastic. There is so much going on and it’s so nice to be part of it. Personally, I shop there all the time. It’s not just household stuff – they’ve just started selling refill Greek olive oil, which is amazing, and you can get toothpaste pills in a pot. “I did an event there a couple of Saturdays ago and there’s a real community feel and a great vibe. People were sitting outside the café and enjoying their lunch and I was going over and offering them a free taste of wine and that worked really well. “The website is brilliant too. They used a professional photographer and they put together all the copy about each of the concession holders.” We noticed the Bearded Persian selling Kombucha and the Bearded Beekeepers with their honey and there you are with your marvellous moustaches. Do you need to have face furniture to fit in? “The ladies don’t have any. But I might suggest they grow some!”
Duncan wins a WBC gift box containing some premium drinks and a box of chocolates. Tell us about a bright idea that’s worked for you and you too could win a prize. Email email@example.com
THE WINE MERCHANT july 2021 20
. T H E D R AY M A N .
Indies were already shunning Brewdog
ost good independents won’t need any persuading
on some of the claims made for its stunts including sending beer
to boycott Brewdog, because most of them have
to the Kremlin to protest against Russia’s record on LBGT rights.
probably long moved on from championing their
And, as time has gone on, Brewdog’s playfulness has
products anyway. Blanket supermarket listings are a good
increasingly tipped over into arrogance and it has appeared to
enough reason not to sell its brands without having to consider
behave more like the bigger companies that it claims to despise.
the trail of controversies Brewdog has left over several years. The latest of these came last month as a group of 61 exemployees put their names (along with another 45 who chose to
In 2017, it threatened to sue a bar in Leeds that planned to use the name Draft Punk over alleged trademark infringement of its own Punk IPA brand.
withhold their names out of fear) to an open letter that accuses © ink drop / stockadobe.com
the company culture of fostering the “harassing, assaulting, belittling, insulting or gaslighting” of staff. “Toxic attitudes towards junior staff trickled down throughout the business from day one, until they were simply an intrinsic part of the company,” the letter alleges, and that “being treated like a human being was sadly not always a given for those working at Brewdog”. It’s quite incendiary stuff that got a lot of coverage of the real and social media kind. Brewdog boss James Watt, to whom much of the flak was directed, apologised the next day and promised to bring a change in approach. But perhaps the most troubling aspect of the whole affair was that it came as little surprise to many in the trade. It’s five years since the company appeared in the fly-on-thewall TV documentary Who’s The Boss?, where Watt and his team set about recruiting a sales manager for its London bars through a bizarre process that involved bewildering the candidates and being rude to a recruitment consultant, all in the name of demonstrating how “we blow shit up”, as it said in the company charter. At one point Watt boasted to camera: “I’ve sacked
As time has gone on, Brewdog’s playfulness has increasingly tipped over into arrogance and it has appeared to behave more like the bigger companies it claims to despise
someone on their first day before.” Brewdog arrived in 2007, at the start of the craft beer revolution and, at first, all the mischief and mayhem was widely seen as a welcome breath of fresh air, something to shake up a
In the same year it sold a 22% stake to a private equity company after years of banging on about the virtue of independence.
beige, conservative industry. But the frequency and contrived nature of Brewdog’s PR
But it’s long been obvious that Brewdog is on a mission to
stunts quickly became tiresome, whether it was a Viagra beer
achieve, as the writers of the open letter put it, “growth, at all
for the wedding of Prince William, beers packed in taxidermy
roadkill, or a pink “beer for girls”, which appeared to miss the
With literally hundreds of skilful and inventive brewers
point it claimed to be making about raising awareness of gender
blowing shit up across the country without putting growth
inequality in the industry.
before their integrity and common decency, who needs them? Of
Its ex-employees now even allege that it doesn’t follow through
course, independents already know the answer to that.
THE WINE MERCHANT july 2021 22
We are committed to wine of integrity and authenticity. We import wines for people that care, made by people that care. We are “The Dirty Dozen” ASTRUM WINE CELLARS CARTE BLANCHE CLARK FOYSTER WINES FORTYFIVE10
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Register at www.dirtydozentasting.com
THE WINE MERCHANT july 2021 23
BITS & BOBS
London’s fine wine private members’ club, 67 Pall Mall, is launching a streaming service dedicated to fine wine. 67PallMall.tv will initially offer six hours
of original content a day in 4K quality,
including live streamed professional wine
tasting and additional on-demand content
Abbey Fine Wines, Melrose Favourite wine on my list
I am a huge fan of Amarone and Guerrieri Rizzardi, with whom we have enjoyed great times, are up with the very best. Their 2011 Calcarole is a classic.
available to wine enthusiasts across world. Red Bee’s OTT Platform enables the
award-winning fine wine club to expand its reach and provide a unique access to knowledge from world-renowned wine experts.
Advanced Television, June 24
My favourite food wine at present is the the wonderful Waterford Estate Old Vine Chenin from South Africa. Wonderful intensity and terrific with great Scottish seafood. With the reds, local leg of Border lamb goes down a treat with Zuccardi Concreto – Malbec fermented in concrete amphorae.
I have had little time to go to other wine shops as, living in a rural area, they are few and far between. Villeneuve Wines in Peebles is another independent not too far away that we keep in touch with.
permitted on labels: Castellina,
Castelnuovo Berardenga, Gaiole, Greve,
Lamole, Montefioralle, Panzano, Radda,
San Casciano, San Donato in Poggio and Vagliagli.
The assembly of 500 Chianti Classico
producers voted 90% in favour of the proposal earlier this week.
“There was a great spirit of cohesion
and collaboration,” said Giovanni
Manetti, president of the Chianti Classico consortium.
Decanter, June 18
with the World Trade Organisation after China imposed up to 218% tariffs on its wine last year. China says the tariffs were increased
because of trading malpractice, which Australia denies.
I’ve been fortunate enough over 38 years to visit most of the important wine regions of the world. I once took 26 members of our wine club on a three-week tour to Chile and Argentina. That was special.
Favourite wine shop
following names will soon be officially
Australia will file a formal complaint
Favourite wine trip
Favourite wine trade person
Additional Geographical Units, the
Aussies fight back against China tariffs
Favourite wine and food match
I love to spend time in the company of South African vintner Martin Meinart who has been a regular visitor to Abbey Fine Wines over the years. His 96 Winery Road Restaurant in Stellenbosch is my favourite place to dine.
TV station launched by 67 Pall Mall
Australia says it remains open to
engaging directly with China to resolve the 90% of producers backed the changes
Chianti Classico can name 11 villages Chianti Classico is on the brink of a new milestone. A relentless campaign to hone the region’s unique identity has led to a proposed subdivision into 11 villages. Now formally designated as Unità
Geografiche Aggiuntive (UGA), or
THE WINE MERCHANT july 2021 24
China is the top market for Australian
wine exports and wineries say they have been badly hit by the hikes.
The decision to take the dispute to
the WTO was made after extensive
consultation with winemakers, the
Australian government said in a statement. “The government will continue
to vigorously defend the interests
of Australian winemakers using the
established system in the WTO to resolve
our differences,” said Dan Tehan, minister for trade, tourism and investment.
BBC News, June 20
South Downs on the up for vintners
THE BURNING QUESTION
Is rosé booming this summer in your store?
Climate change could help turn part of
The new vintages are in and flying out the door. We have one from Provence, an Italian, and a German Pinot Noir, which is a blanc de noir and we sell it as a rosé. Every day when there is a bit of sunshine and even into the evenings, people are carving through it. My heart sinks if they ask for a tube of ice to put in it. For me, there are two rules. It has to be from Provence, and the most recent vintage. French and fresh!
southern England into a wine-growers’ paradise, a report has found. The South Downs National Park,
which stretches 87 miles (140km) from
Hampshire to East Sussex, currently has 51
vineyards and 11 wineries, but consultancy
Vinescapes found that only 0.4% of
agricultural land was used for viticulture. The report said that up to 34% of the
land could be suitable for winemaking and further investment could tap into
hundreds of jobs and millions of pounds of investment.
The report authors found there had
already been a 90% increase in vineyard
coverage in the national park since 2016,
with about five new vineyards planted each
Cameron McKeown Oak N4, Finsbury Park, London
I’d say that our rosé sales have gone up by about 20% in the last couple of months. We have done well with the old-style darker rosés, ones that are more gastronomic wines. We have a natural, unfiltered rosé too. People are keen to try these different styles, particularly the rosés that are very bright in colour with sour cherry or guava notes. Of course we have the classic Provence rosés too.
Severine Sloboda Made From Grapes, Glasgow
Sky News, June 22
I did a rosé blind tasting on Zoom recently. We had a Piquepoul Noir, a Pinot Noir from Italy and an Aix-en-Provence Château Paradis, which is really bone dry and was the clear favourite. The Tavel from Château d’Aqueira had fantastic feedback from people who don’t usually go for the darker rosé styles. I think a lot of people are afraid that they might be sweet, so I have tried to educate them that the colour has nothing to do with the sweetness level.
New premium tiers for aged cava New rules for cava highlighting the region the wine was made in and introducing premium tiers of aged
wines will come into force in January. Cava de Guarda will describe cavas that
have been aged for more than nine months, while wines aged for more than 18 months will be known as Cava de Guarda Superior.
The grapes for this top tier must come from vines that are at least 10 years old, grown organically and have maximum yields of 10,000kg/ha.
This category will include Cavas Reserva
(aged for a minimum of 18 months, up
from 15 months), Gran Reserva (minimum
30 months) and Cavas de Paraje Calificado, which come from a special plot and have been aged for at least 36 months.
Kasia Konys-Pieszko H Champagne winner H Dunnell’s, Jersey
Rosé is always massive for us in the summer. The sun only needs to peek out briefly before the rush starts. And it is usually pale and dry all the way – preferably from Provence, but the Languedoc ‘will do’. We do try to champion other styles and countries. We keep selling out of an Austrian Zweigelt rosé, which is lovely and fruity, and a dark but dry Agioritiko rosé from Greece has more fans than anticipated. But if I had to pick one, it would be Clos Cibonne Tibouren Rosé from Graft.
Paola Tich Vindinista, Acton, London
Champagne Gosset The oldest wine house in Champagne: Äy 1584
The Drinks Business, June 16
THE WINE MERCHANT july 2021 25
‘I wish I’d done it sooner!’ Twelve months into her career change as a wine merchant, Christine Longden of The Twisted Cork in Tiptree has nothing but praise for a trade she has found to be welcoming and supportive – and nothing like as snobby as she may have feared
t’s been a year since Christine Longden opened The Twisted Cork in Tiptree. A
book-keeper with little wine knowledge
to speak of; a complete newbie to the trade … how has she fared?
“The business plan was quite loose
when we started,” she admits. “Partly
because we were new to the industry but
also because of the pandemic. We weren’t sure if trade would be mainly online or if
people would actually like to visit the shop. “We did a lot of online stuff in the
beginning, which we are still building on,
but a lot of our online customers started to visit the store.”
Longden was fully prepared for the long
hours that come with running a successful shop.
“My husband [Lee] and I have had our
own businesses for years and so we knew that you don’t just shut the door and go
home and have a cup of tea. It’s as hard as I thought it was going to be.
“Christmas was tough as I hadn’t realised
just how quickly it could get quite so busy, but I got a bit of help in,” she says. She admits that one of the
preconceptions she had of the industry
was that it might be a little bit snobby, and she worried that she might not meet the expectations of her customers. But she
has never felt the need to bluff her way through.
“I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter if you
admit you don’t know something,” she says. “If a customer asks me something I don’t
know the answer to I can always say that
I’ll find out for them. I’ve never felt under
pressure to give them the impression that I know a lot more than I do.
“My customers love to come in and talk
about the different products, some of them more in-depth because I do have a few
customers who are very interested in the more serious side of wine. But most of
them just love having a local store where
they can shop for wines that aren’t in the supermarket.”
he support and general camaraderie
Longden has experienced from fellow indies has also put paid to any ideas
that the industry might prove tricky to navigate for newcomers.
“Everyone has been very welcoming and
friendly,” says Longden. “I’ve had online
contact with other wine shops, locally and
The shop is small but Longden says if she
were to have her time again she wouldn’t
choose differently. “To be honest, it’s been
perfect,” she says. “We’ve utilised the space really well. It looks busy and friendly rather than crowded and messy.”
Under the current circumstances
as far away as Cornwall, and they have
Longden, while connecting with other
works on her own in the shop, will she be
all been helpful with sharing tips and
recommending suppliers, which has been
THE WINE MERCHANT july 2021 26
merchants in the virtual world, is yet
to meet them in real life. Given that she
embracing the tastings and the social side of the trade when it all opens up again?
“We would hope definitely to take part
in those things and would factor in other
staff to make that part of the job,” she says. “For me that comes with helping us grow.
It’s worth taking some time out or planning work around it to become part of that.
“I feel like there’s a whole other world
in the wine industry that I don’t know yet because it’s all been shut down.”
ootfall is boosted by neighbouring coffee and re-fill shops but when
both those businesses were unable to
open during one lockdown, Longden was
relieved to find the customers kept coming. “I love the fact that the experience of
being on my own in the shop every day
has been good for me as I’ve learned every aspect of the business from the beginning. “I wish I’d done it sooner,” she says.
“I love it so much and I feel that I’ve
THE WINE MERCHANT july 2021 27
learned so much that it doesn’t really feel like work. It’s me going to the shop and
having friends as well as customers come in. I’ve made some really good friends; I know their families, their dogs and children.”
• Read about the upcoming second branch of The Twisted Cork in Comings & Goings on page 8.
have gone back in the drawer, the
gulf stream has finally switched the
mess of meaty underdone flesh, outdoor urination and gentlemen in shorts that
Glasgow being the throbbing European
heart of Covid, the long touted café culture has finally taken off, and our next-door
9. HEAT Phoebe Weller of Valhalla’s Goat in Glasgow notices that the Amazing Lunches being served
neighbours, The Very Illuminated Italian
at the Very Illuminated Italian
the shop, and the occupier is blessed with
closer all the time
Restaurant, are taking full advantage.
There is one good table, just to the right of my favourite kind of Amazing Lunch, the Full Day Amazing Lunch, beginning with
Restaurant next door last all day, and seem to be getting
fishbowls of Scotland’s other radioactive
me the occasional cup of coffee as a bribe,
working I think you’ll find, I haven’t got
Take that, Umberto! I will take the “ciao
orange national drink, the Aperol Spritz (or perhaps it is Irn Bru, I’m bloody
time to go floating about asking people
whether it’s IB or AS, sheesh!) then some kind of food (whatever) then many many
come! All it takes is the phrase “this is
trade up from the £8 Romanian one to the
welcome) and Glasgow is a joyful stinking
for the £24 rosé, the time has finally
magic lush water, buy this one” for them to
switch that makes the warm air (science!
I find to be exactly the wrong length
t is pure roasting and people are mad
but I’m way ahead of him, hahaha, I have stopped drinking coffee during the day.
bella” in the morning, though, thank you very much.
bottles of wine as the sun sets down the Great Western Road.
The Good Table is a stone’s dribble from
both the bins and the artery of carbon
monoxide that is the main route to Loch Lomond (I hear it’s bonny, I’m bloody working I think you’ll find, I haven’t
time to go stravaiging along the grossly
commercialised and rather mean banks, sheesh!) which I might find not that
relaxing, but that’s just me, each to their own.
I say just to the right of the shop, but
some days it creeps over. Some days, to be honest, they’re taking the piss, so much
piss that I’m surprised that the customers
don’t complain that there is a wine shop in their soup. Umberto has taken to offering
THE WINE MERCHANT july 2021 28
one with the glass stopper.
We were recently sent a guide as to how
to sell Expensive White Wine. Here is my guide: have customer who is willing to
spend money on Expensive White Wine. Learn everything about it but just say to the customer “buy this one”.
The master of this sales technique is of
course, our Craig, who knows a shit-tonne about wine but usually says none of it,
opting instead for, “buy this, it’s an absolute belter/weapon”. This is what people need to hear.
What people – and by people I mean me
– don’t need, Craig, is people hiding their
mayonnaise in some far flung corner of the fridge, because MAYONNAISE DOES NOT NEED TO BE REFRIGERATED, no matter how hot it gets.
© idea_studio / stockadobe.com
t is hot! No, really! My thermals
THE WINE MERCHANT july 2021 29
Why we’re never bored of Bordea Ahead of the return of Bordeaux Wine Month this September, we explore some of the most interesting examples of modern Bordeaux available from UK independent wine merchants. With crisp whites, refreshing rosés, young, fruit-forward reds and exceptional value sparkling options, today’s Bordeaux has a wine for every palate, budget and occasion, making Bordeaux Wine Month the perfect opportunity to attract new customers and boost sales.
Monfaucon Estate Pétillant 2016
Bonhoste Crémant de Bordeaux Rosé
Château des Mille Anges 2016
RRP £25, Feel Good Grapes
RRP £15.85, Pierre Hourlier Wines
RRP £13, Goedhuis & Co
Château du Monfaucon is an organic estate 10 minutes south of St-Émilion, where English winemaker Dawn Jones-Cooper makes characterful sparkling wines and single-varietal whites from her vineyard on the banks of the Dordogne. Naturally light in alcohol, the wines are not made with typicity in mind, with Jones-Cooper preferring to let each vintage reflect what nature provides, “free from the restraints of making white wines that taste just like all the others”. This traditional-method fizz is aged for two years on the lees and unfiltered. Tight and electric, its nose is full of ripe apples and pears and that orchard theme continues onto the palate, turning enjoyably sour on the finish with a citrus tang.
Located in St-Émilion, Château de Bonhoste has vineyards in Entre-deux-Mers as well as Bergerac. Plenty of rosés have flavours that in some way resemble soft red fruits, but here’s one that is positively brimming with crushed, ripe raspberries and strawberries, both on the palate and on the nose (though there is also a beguiling aroma that’s akin to a freshly-snapped pea pod). 70% Cabernet Franc, 30% Merlot, it’s a serious wine that doesn’t take itself too seriously, ideal as a summer aperitif or an accompaniment to an al fresco lunch.
From Cadillac in the Côtes de Bordeaux, this is a wine that “could be shaking up the hierarchy of the Grand Crus”, according to its owners. You can see why Heather van Ekris, who bought the gravelly vineyards and former convent in 1994, is so pleased with this supple 60% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Cabernet Franc blend. The first whiff conjures up images of a French charcuterie, but on closer inspection there are also hints of roses, geranium and dark chocolate, and cassis and black cherries on the palate. A fresh, modern style of Bordeaux red that really began to sing after being open for a few hours.
If you’d like to sign up to Bordeaux Wine Month, registration is open until July 30. Get involved and help boost your sales of Bordeaux wine, receive £200 payment and an extensive POS pack, and be in with a chance of winning a trip to Bordeaux or £1,000 to put towards new Bordeaux stock. Visit www.cubecom.co.uk/bwm for more information. Find out about forthcoming activities by following Bordeaux Wines on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter @ bordeauxwinesuk or by signing up to the Bordeaux Wines quarterly newsletter: www.bordeaux.com/gb/Newsletter/Trade-Newsletter
THE WINE MERCHANT july 2021 30
aux Château George 7 Bordeaux Blanc 2020 RRP £19.95, Davy’s This 3-hectare Fronsac estate was established by Englishwoman Sally Evans in 2017 with the aim of making fruitforward wines with freshness and a touch of minerality. There’s a commitment to sustainability and eco-friendly practices here, which extends to packaging choices as well as viticulture. This blend of Sauvignon Blanc (70%) and Sémillon (30%) has appealing hints of beeswax and blossom on the nose. On the palate, green flavours dominate, with lees and oak ageing adding some extra depth without overpowering the natural charms of the fruit.
Château Tour de Mirambeau Rosé 2020
Sponsored feature Social media: @BordeauxWinesUK
Château Tour Saint Bonnet MÉdoc Cru Bourgeois 2015
Château Lucas, Grand de Lucas ‘Prestige’ 2011, Lussac-St-Émilion
RRP £18.46, Cockburns of Leith
RRP £21, Friarwood Fine Wines
Many have gone to great lengths to imitate the Bordeaux style, and usually fall short. Yet the genuine article often has an airy simplicity that somehow makes the task look easy. This is unselfconscious, unpretentious Bordeaux, from an old family estate, aiming for understated elegance rather than over-extraction and bombast. Dominated by Merlot, with a 30% Cabernet Sauvignon component and a soupcon of Petit Verdot, it announces itself with that unmistakable cigar box aroma, and perhaps a hint of lavender. On the palate, there’s warm berry fruit, a slight crunch, and a subtle earthiness, making it a versatile dinner companion.
The Vauthier family have been making wine in the heart of Lussac-St-Émilion for generations, quietly adapting and improving winemaking practices as well as honouring old traditions. This Prestige cuvée comes from a 6-hectare parcel of the 20-hectare property, and is a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc. It’s another example of a Bordeaux red that’s sublimely comfortable in its own skin, reflecting the character of the vintage and the expertise of Frederic Vauthier with its elegant plum and red fruit flavours.
Château Gravas 2016 Sauternes half bottle 37.5cl
Le G de Château Guiraud Blanc Sec 2019
RRP £12, Cambridge Wine Merchants
RRP £19.99, Fraziers Wine Merchants
Sometimes it’s worth pausing for a few seconds and reminding yourself what a gift to civilisation Sauternes is. It can be tempting to think of it as a decadent indulgence, but at prices like this, and with such naturally modest alcohol levels, there’s little to stop it becoming a midweek treat. Château Gravas is a family business working with 60-year-old vines for their Sauternes output. Clean, fresh and laced with delicate flavours of honey, spice and preserved lemons, this Sémillon-dominated wine went down beautifully with some good Roquefort cheese.
Bordeaux Blanc is a category that doesn’t make as much noise as its new world rivals but has a flavour profile that arguably deserves a much wider fanbase among white wine lovers. This example, an organic blend of Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc, is aged in former Sauternes barrels, which may explain some of the ethereal but ripe fruity notes that twist and turn in the glass. Yes, the word “smooth” is verboten in professional tasting notes, but it’s hard to avoid here, and the hint of salinity on the finish is just as enjoyable.
RRP £12.50, Tanners The Despagne family bases its winemaking business around five châteaux in Entre-deux-Mers, with Château Tour de Mirambeau regarded as the flagship. This rosé is made with 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, and has a peachy kind of flavour in addition to the succulent strawberries you’d probably expect – even a hint of bakewell tart. In an age of identikit rosés, here’s one that feels like it’s been made with love, rather than designed by spreadsheet.
THE WINE MERCHANT july 2021 31
Bridging the gap between fine wine and wines that are just fine
The launch of a 125-year-old port was something special. It was organised by a company that invented pink port and sells canned premixes. Perhaps that shows us that the wine trade doesn’t always have to be as polarised as it can appear, says David Williams
ack in May, I was lucky enough to join a Zoom tasting with Adrian
Bridge and David Guimaraens, the
managing director and chief winemaker at port shipper The Fladgate Partnership.
Without wishing to offend either of these
highly accomplished men, both in their
ways leaders in their fields, and both very diverting speakers, they weren’t the main event. The wine, in this case, was very
much the star. And given that the wine in question was 125 years old, how could it have been otherwise?
There was no disappointment when,
after Bridge and Guimaraens’ preamble,
we finally got to pour out our precious test tube-full of Taylor’s 1896 Single Harvest port. No sense – as sometimes there can be with very old wines – of anti-climax,
or a failure to live up to expectations; no suggestion that the wine was weighed
down by its age and historical baggage. This was a straightforwardly magical
experience of an almost unbelievably
complex wine. A wine that nobody involved in its production could have imagined
would still be consumed the century after
ports – and which has a portfolio with
of us tasting it a century and a quarter later years longer than the life span of a 21st-
Bridge again in a rather different context.
the illusion thereof). The next you’re trying
next. But, equally, a wine that is so suave,
so bright, so darkly fascinating, that those might feel that this was in fact the whole
point – that it was made to be aged for 45 century human.
A couple of weeks later, I came across
There he was describing to a reporter
for Harpers the various bureaucratic and legalistic hoops he and his company had had to jump through in order to bring
about another new Taylor’s launch: premixed cans of Taylor’s Chip Dry & Tonic. Not for the first time I marvelled at
Taylor’s ability to, ahem, bridge the gap
between the high and the … well, not low exactly, but certainly mass market. This after all is the company that launched,
after a similar bureaucratic odyssey, the
unashamedly commercial new category of pink port, while simultaneously making some of the world’s most acclaimed,
limited-release vintage and aged tawny
THE WINE MERCHANT july 2021 32
retail prices that run from £2.50 to £4,000. his kind of balancing act is far
harder to pull off than it looks. One minute you’re talking to
an audience that is fixated on luxury, a
concept that relies on scarcity (or at least
to convince an audience of bargain-hunters that, despite the otherworldly prices of its swanky stablemates, this particular
product is indeed intended for the likes of them.
Taylor’s is one of a very select group of
companies that don’t provoke suspicion in one or the other camp. There’s a
seamlessness to what they do, a branding consistency that offers the consumers an
easy route to trade up, and down, through the company’s different offerings. You never get that jarring feeling that you
might feel when, say, you discover that
Lambrini is now part of the same company as the magnificent Tasmanian sparkling
Sales of dry styles have held up – and even grown
Adrian Bridge with the 1896 Single Harvest port
wines of House of Arras.
It’s a skill that always makes me think
We sometimes underestimate the skill of those working to make good wine in a more commercial environment
of something Phil Laffer, the long-serving
sometimes underestimate the skill of those
made his name as the importer and chief
of: “Anyone can make a few barrels of ‘fine
capable of doing both are a breed rare
and German and Austrian Rieslings, that’s
former Jacob’s Creek head winemaker,
once told me, something along the lines
wine’; how many people can make millions of bottles of very good wine, year in, year out?”
’ve never been able to follow Laffer all the way on his implication: the fine-
margin differences between the very
finest wines are the product of different
levels of skill and intuition. Not just anyone can make a really fine wine.
But I do think he was right that we
working to make good wine in a more
commercial environment – and that those enough to deserve some special form of recognition.
It’s a point that was made nicely in
a recent piece on the Austrian winery
Schloss Gobelsburg on worldoffinewine.
com by the merchant-turned-writer, Terry Theise.
“As a merchant I was proudest of any
really high-achieving ‘normal’ wines that the ‘normal’ wine customer could easily
afford, and that would over-deliver,” Thiese says. And, coming from someone who
THE WINE MERCHANT july 2021 33
American advocate of some of the finest
(and most expensive) grower Champagnes no idle claim.
As a drinker, too, those wines are every
bit as important in our lives as those
rare instances when we get to taste truly
“fine” wine. For all but the most dedicated hedonist, a life of unrelenting peak
experience would be unbearable. Just as
sometimes you want to sit quietly by the
river rather than ride a raft over its rapids, so sometimes a well-made £10 Zweigelt
is far more effective than a thimble full of 1896 Colheita.
ichard Ballantyne is one of a small number of Masters of
Wine involved in running an
independent wine shop in the UK. His
happens to be in Cowbridge, a rural Welsh town a short drive from Cardiff, which he has called home for most of his life.
“I have lived here since 1975, since I
was a wee kid,” he says. “I have had a few sojourns to other places but have always come back here. The population is only
4,000 and we are surrounded by greenery.” The family wine business, Ballantyne’s,
had a branch in the town, as well as in
Pontcanna, until 2011. That was where
Ballantyne cut his teeth before a period working for Matthew Clark, Armit and Vinexus.
Noble Grape opened in 2017.
What sort of place is Cowbridge? In the old days we had some beautiful
shops and people would come down from the valleys, or from Cardiff, to do their shopping. It’s kind of still like that but there’s not the same buzz in the town anymore.
Alan Irvine, Milngavie, May 2021
Land of my fathers Four years ago, Richard Ballantyne returned to his south Wales roots to set up Noble Grape. Cowbridge may not be the biggest town in the area but it’s a place where independents thrive – and where the Ballantyne family have a tradition of selling quality wine to the locals
In terms of real estate, it is the best
place to buy a house. It’s one of the best
postcodes in Wales. Cowbridge is an old
market town. We have some lovely shops. There was a very important cattle
market here which has gone now. It is
pretty much a farming community but we are only 10 miles from Cardiff so we have lots of commuters now.
There are 300,000 people in Cardiff,
which is a great place, so lots of people
work there and they will live here to get
away from the big city. There are several million-pound houses here.
Was it the right decision to open a wine shop here? It was definitely the right decision. I live
THE WINE MERCHANT july 2021 34
90 seconds from work now. I still drive in
MERCHANT PROFILE: NOBLE GRAPE
because I have deliveries to do, so I load
up the car at the end of the night. My main motivation to start here was because I got sick to death of the travel. Before, I was doing 40,000 miles a year wasting my
life on the M5 and M6. I thought, “is there something better I can do with my life?” I
have absolutely no regrets and it’s great to be my own boss again.
We have also been very lucky with a few
‘We try to make it as easy as possible and hopefully most of the time they will come back. I don’t really consider it a sale unless they come back’ won’t be able to afford the wines and it
Villa Maria and they say, “I love Villa Maria,”
things. Covid has been incredibly good for
will be unwelcoming or intimidating.
beginning of July last year. It has kind of
in the positive. It doesn’t have to be more
to Waitrose round the corner?
vague as “recommend me a good red wine”
Waitrose will put it on offer for two
buy it, and off they pop.
the independent sector. Not just the boost
What are people feeding back to you?
expensive. People have got the confidence
I charge £9.75 for a Villa Maria Sauvignon
and we will find something for them.
months of the year and sell it for £7.99. At
that we had between the end of March and
How have you held on to the new customers, and who are they? From mid-March last year we saw the shop business go up about 50% straight away,
and the internet, which was a small part of the business, went up about fivefold. The
internet was and still is a minority part of
the business, but it went through the roof. I don’t think I’ve retained a lot of those
customers because they would buy Villa
Maria or Louis Jadot from me and now they can get it at the supermarket again and
they won’t bother coming back to me. But
I am hearing all those things come back to come in here and say something as
We try to make it as easy as possible and
hopefully most of the time they will come
back. I don’t really consider it a sale unless they come back.
I am not really scared of harder brands.
So I do stock Villa; I’ve got Errazuriz. I’ve
got the attitude that I’ll sell at market price rather than going for a target GP and that has seemed to work for me. People see a
How does your pricing on this compare
Blanc, which is pretty competitive.
this point I probably won’t compete but then I do my own offers using a theme, which might be putting New Zealands
and Australians together at 20% off. This
makes me look super-competitive and we will sell stacks in that period.
Continues page 36
we have managed to retain a lot of people
that we consider as being Noble Grape type customers.
Quite a few of them are local and they
will buy Priorat or Chianti Classico and they will get it from me now because
they have tasted the difference and found what a good wine tastes like, and don’t
necessarily have to pay a lot more for it. I haven’t analysed the figures, but I would
say we have retained about 75% of these customers.
There is this caricature view that the people who don’t buy from wine shops have this fear of being exposed: they won’t have enough knowledge, or they
Noble Grape is happy to stock branded wines like Villa Maria and Errazuriz
THE WINE MERCHANT july 2021 35
From page 35
Are you getting support on that from suppliers? I have a good all-year-round price on
things like Villa. My rep looks after me
very well and gives me all the support he
can and it’s all in the yearly price. Nothing
beyond that. Anything else I do in terms of price matching, it’s down to me.
I don’t put the pressure on Hatch, it’s
almost as if they come to me before I go to
them and say, “Hey Richard. I’ll give you the best price on this. No promises but I’ll do
The new-look Twickenham branch
what I can for you.” This seems to work. Hatch in particular are a very
independent-friendly company considering their size. I have found them very helpful in getting to the price where I need to be.
I also have a bit of history with Gaia and
they feature quite well within my range;
not brilliantly within my sales, as they are bloody expensive wines, let’s be honest.
But I’ve done OK on them. I also take some Cune, the whole Villa family and Zuccardi.
‘I want to give customers the chance to experience something from each corner of the world. We have Georgian wines, Japanese wines … and Canadian wine’
We work quite well with them.
When did your relationship with Italian wine start? My dad was a wine importer long before I joined in. He started in the wine business in 1978. He was bringing in mostly fine Bordeaux and Burgundy and was a traditional 1980s wine merchant. Around the late 80s he started
discovering Italian wines but the stuff
he was into isn’t really the stuff I am into
now. Most people’s path into Italian wines
‘I leapfrogged the diploma straight on to the MW and for the first year I was completely out of my depth’
in those days was via super Tuscans. I
Clark, which was fun. I was their wine
wines. In 2016 things started going wrong
dominated my path; it’s the thing that gets
spirits and softs and looked after the
my Italian roots. I also did my RP [research
first went to Barolo in 1994 and I fell in love with it then. Ever since then it has me out of bed in the morning.
When we closed the business in 2011,
I spent a year and a bit with Matthew
development specialist for London. I didn’t get too bogged down in all the beers, higher-end restaurants.
I joined Armit in 2012 and ever since
then I’ve got switched back into Italian
THE WINE MERCHANT july 2021 36
for Armit and I joined Vinexus Wines who are now a major supplier to me. So that’s paper] for my MW on single-vineyard
Barolo – what else? So I’ve always made that my speciality.
What prompted you to do your Master of Wine? I had always admired MWs. Nick Belfrage and Mark Savage are the guys who really know their way around a bottle of wine. In 2007 I happened to be reading the
exam papers for the MW practical exam
and I saw the wines they had put in there and the questions that were asked of the candidates. Either it was my arrogance
or hubris but I thought, “yeah, I could do that!” So I set out to prove that I could.
I leapfrogged the diploma straight on
to the MW and for the first year I was
completely out of my depth. I started from ground zero in getting my theory up to
scratch. I was doing two hours of study
every day before I started work and the
first time I took the exam I passed theory
but failed the tasting, which I thought was going to be the other way around. So in
2009 I came out with the bare minimum you needed.
The following year I passed the tasting as
well but then it started going a bit wrong
because I was in the dissertation/RP phase
gather all that data and triangulate it.
do you rationalise that?
desirable and we looked at four things:
me in wine. I drink rather a lot of it, I must
There are certain characteristics about
the vineyard which make it particularly
soil type, elevation, aspect and vine age. We were looking for trends in the data
and found that the common perception
was straight-south was the most desirable aspect for the vineyards. However, what came out of my data was it was actually
south west that was the most desirable. Turin University was carrying out a
separate study at the same time which
proved the same thing. We were crunching
In terms of it being important to Noble
Grape, it’s not my best seller and it’s not the category that I have the most of. I
probably have more Montepulciano at the
moment. But I think it’s enough for people to know that they are talking to an expert, and I try not to bamboozle them.
Are the reps coming into your shop terrified of you, being an MW?
actually the elevation. Anything above
build a relationship with them and what
aspect was not the most critical factor
I don’t reenforce it, no, and the reps that
450m is not so good in Barolo, and this
it should be is that they are the expert on
in the valuation of the wine, it was
is not specifically down to the elevation. It is more down to the fact that those
particularly high bits of Barolo are the notvery-good sandy bits.
You have obviously got both a romantic and a scientific, objective side to your love of wine which most of the great
Barolo and single vineyards but I had
but for you this stuff is important. How
I still wanted to do something on
a wine region, and it also really motivates
big numbers of data and we found the
for six years! They told me to go away and make my dissertation better.
Barolo is important to me personally, as
winemakers have. Your customers are not going to ask about Barolo elevation
I have, I play softball with them. I have to
their wines and I will ask for their advice. It was only yesterday I was asking my
rep from Liberty, “Simon, tell me about this wine, I quite fancy this,” and he said “Yes. It’s pretty good, a pretty typical Barbera. Do you want me to send you a sample?” And I said, “no, don’t worry. Send me a
case and if it’s good I’ll buy more.” So, I
like to build relationships with suppliers Continues page 38
© elitravo / stockadobe.com
to look again at the angle I was going to
take on it. Originally I wanted to create a
classification on the vineyards based on the ex-cellar values of the wine and come up
with an 1855, if you like, of the Barolo Crus. That really clicked for me and four years later, in 2016, I passed.
Has this been published? It has been published but you have to
request it through the IMW. Dissertations are not particularly enjoyable reads
because they are academic documents, but they are interesting.
It was my intention to draw up a
document listing the great vineyards based on the ex-cellar value of the wines, to
Ballantyne’s MW dissertation analysed the vineyards of Barolo
THE WINE MERCHANT july 2021 37
From page 37
and it’s they who are the experts on their
wines, hopefully. I speak to most of my key suppliers every week.
There are lots of different preferences about how often indies like to see their reps. It’s difficult to get it right for everyone. It’s impossible. In the last 12 months I’ve seen almost nobody and that’s pretty
normal. We will call suppliers regularly, and that’s great.
There’s one guy who has been here four
times. Apart from him I’ve seen one other rep in all this time. He’s Richard Kelley from Dreyfus Ashby. He’s actually the
owner of the company and loves filling his boot with bottles and asking if he can pop in.
He’s always on the phone and I know
what’s coming up in his range. He’s a key supplier and there is great compatibility between us. He’s a specialist in lots of
than anything the wine that we stock here
There could be a campaign for real
If it is a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc,
Let’s start it! It would be great to get
has to have what I call this authenticity of
rosé to get away from this salmon-pink
make it taste like a Marlborough Sauvignon
people back into what they are buying
Blanc, let’s not have a pretend one. Let’s
rosé for. It started off that people couldn’t
not have one that’s trying to be a superduper Bordeaux or something like that,
because I’m pretty sure that’s not what my customers want.
It’s the same with the Argentinian
Malbec or it could be the southern Italian Primitivo, it could be anything. So that’s really what I’m looking for.
I’m probably not like a lot of people you
will interview who will be into organic and biodynamic. It’s great if they are, but it’s
not my path. I’ve succumbed a little bit in
the fact that I’ve just bought some Gravner,
Everything is geared up to Italy at
the moment but there is one overriding
strategy that I have for buying wine. I don’t really mind where it comes from but more
If someone wants a really good rosé, I
would prefer to point them in the direction of Sancerre or a Chinon, full of that lovely
juiciness and crisp palate, rather than that
flat, literal thing that you get from a Côte de Provence.
Do you do any direct importing? How has that been affected since Brexit?
things were going to take.
Rosé is also absolutely massive
moment is the thing!
What’s your issue with rosé?
honest with you.
head out of Italy.
Let’s get more flavour into our rosés.
nowadays. Trying to stop rosé sales at the
are most excited about? a stuck record but I can’t seem to get my
as being a flavoursome white, if you like.
I do a fair bit, mostly Italy. I don’t think I
I am sort of bored with the whole Côte
It’s really boring and I’m probably a bit like
so they went in the middle. Let’s treat rosé
who is probably the daddy of all natural
areas. He’s Mr Loire and Mr South Africa.
What are the wine-producing areas you
decide whether they wanted white or red,
de Provence thing and I’ve sold so much
Whispering Angel I’m sick of the stuff, to be I’d be more inclined to offer some more
interesting rosé. It’s all about the palest and driest rosé at the moment and you get a little bit tired of that. So I’m more
inclined to go the other way around and say, “why don’t you try a Cerasuolo, this lovely deep rosé from the Abruzzo?”.
‘If I was shipping a pallet out of Italy before, it would be roughly £240. Now I’ve got to add another £140 on to that’
placed my first ex-cellar orders until about February. We saw straight away how long I used to have pallets outside the shop
and hand-walk them in but I’ve opened up an account now with EHD so I am getting most of my direct imports into there.
In the old days, which was only last
year, I would place an order with one of my Italian suppliers and I would have
the order within two weeks. Now we are looking at anywhere between 10 and 12
weeks to actually get the order to the shop. So that’s the main hassle, those lead
times, but also it’s getting more expensive.
We have the EX1 and customs clearance to
pay for. If I was shipping a pallet out of Italy before, it would be roughly £240. Now I’ve got to add another £140 on to that.
To mitigate that I have been doubling up
on my quantities. I’m not sure how long I’ll
be able to do that as it’s doubling my stock, but for the time being that’s worked out for me.
So far I have not increased any prices on
my direct imports. The increases coming
THE WINE MERCHANT july 2021 38
through from UK suppliers have been
Last year Ballantyne spent time seeking out “empire building” wines which sold surprisingly quickly
minimal. I haven’t suffered the full brunt of it yet.
Presumably some of your wines won’t necessarily fly off your shelves but they’re there because of your love of Italy. Covid hit and that gave us a huge rush of
cash flow. That also gave me huge amount of confidence because you’re always
nervous when you are starting a business and you have sleepless nights.
Then we stopped paying business rates,
saving £800 a month. We also got the grant because I was a business rates payer. So I
thought, we have got to spend this money wisely, in the right way. It’s got to be cash
generating wine like Whispering Angel, or
they’ve got to be empire building wines. So I started investigating going direct to some
really good Italian wineries.
I have run out of space a little bit, but I am
thought: if it takes me a year to sell them, I
empire, just enough to make a living would
I paid for them up front, so the wine is
in the cellar, not cash in the bank, and I
can still afford it. Do you know what? They sold, and some of them are on to fourth shipments already.
It has reshaped the business into where
I really wanted to be and that is selling
beautiful, handcrafted, fantastic wines from globally recognised producers. The most
important of those is Quintarelli. Prior to Covid, I would never have been able to
afford to shop and pay for Quintarelli in
advance. It just gave me that confidence to ship those in.
Do you think you’ll ever go for a second shop? I don’t think a second shop is on the cards.
THE WINE MERCHANT july 2021 39
happy with this.
I don’t want to build a massive retail
be great. Where I plan to go for the next couple of years is definitely the trade,
absolutely. We are not going to carpet
bomb. We are going to pick and choose good places.
I intend to keep on growing the internet.
I predict that at some point this year the
internet will become more important than cash sales. Internet is about a third of my sales at the moment but it’s a quarter of my GP.
The internet is pure organic growth and
at the moment it’s a little bit of bunce on top of the shop. But come the end of the
year, the shop will be the bunce – and the internet the core.
Portugal in pole position The June is for Indies promotion may have drawn to a close, but it will continue to inspire any merchant who throws their weight behind this vibrant category. Published in association with Wines of Portugal
erchants across the UK have been showcasing their Portuguese ranges this summer under the banner June is for Indies. Backed by Wines of Portugal, it’s been the perfect opportunity for retailers to run events, promotions and online activities, all designed to encourage consumers to explore the depth and breadth that Portuguese wines can offer. A webinar hosted by Portuguese aficionado Sarah Ahmed helped participating merchants get revved up for the month ahead. Her advice, and contributions from four leading importers remain relevant for any indie looking to maximise Portuguese wine sales.
Sarah Ahmed: self-confessed “Portugeek”
Ahmed believes that Portugal is not just a “green light” country for travel, but for wine too. “Portugal has done its time being a red or amber country,” she says. There are a number of reasons for this, including “the region-wide uptick in quality and consistency” as well as the points of difference that Portuguese wine can offer. “I am seeing a lot more confidence in the Portuguese category from consumers and the trade,” Ahmed reports. In 2020, UK imports of Portuguese wines rose 16% to £77m, faster than in the country’s other two main markets, France and the USA. “With this fair wind of confidence, Portugal is well placed to build on this platform of popularity, with the quality and consistency we have been talking about. “The indies are ideally positioned to highlight Portugal’s key strength – a unique and highly diverse kaleidoscope of aromas, flavours and textures.” POINTS OF DIFFERENCE Portugal boasts more than 250 native grapes – many not found anywhere else – creating almost endless blending possibilities. “They are the real jewels in the crown,” says Ahmed. Liberty Wines director David Gleave MW agrees. “Portuguese wine is at a very exciting stage now, probably where Italy was two decades ago,” he says. “It’s learning about its native varieties and there are some great winemakers there.
THE WINE MERCHANT july 2021 40
“Today we are seeing freshness and delicacy in the whites. In the reds we are seeing clear expressions of the fruit. “Customers might say they can’t sell [a particular wine] because it’s not well known – but that was the same for the Italian wines that are now selling very well. It’s about explaining and educating and getting people to taste the wines. “They are perfectly suited to the independents because they are in the position to talk to their customers. This will allow the indies to make strong links for their customers rather than steer them towards the well-trodden path.” QUALITY CREDENTIALS Ahmed is honest enough to accept that Portuguese wines found on sale in the UK a decade ago were too often “just entrylevel wines to nowhere … they did not inspire consumers to go on a journey with Portugal”. These days, even in the supermarkets, “Portugal is trading at a much, much stronger level,” according to Nick Oakley of Oakley Wine Agencies. “The Douro, mostly red but also whites, is big. The Dão is doing quite well and sells wherever we put it. And Tejo is the banker for fruit-driven, Aussie style, easy drinking wines.” For Oakley, “Vinho Verde is the big one”. He explains: “No one has heard particularly about Italian white varieties such as Falanghina and Pecorino, but they still sell very well. But put these up against Vinho Verde and I know which
© PUNTOSTUDIOFOTO Lda / stockadobe.com
Portugal is an increasingly popular holiday destination for Brits
one I would choose every day of the week. Vinho Verde’s single varietals are so fresh, so vital. “Single estate, single grape variety … that’s the way we can market the product to being different from the cheap fizz.” Raymond Reynolds, whose eponymous business has long been specialising in Portuguese wines, adds: “What keeps me excited is just the general quality of the change. “When I started out, you had a vision of what the potential might be and you kept your fingers crossed! What we have seen is the rising quality and consistency at all levels. It has not stopped, and I feel that we are now just at the beginning. “Portugal has just announced itself as different from the rest of the world, and is willing to invest.”
higher percentage than any other country. But modern winemaking doesn’t simply rely on tradition. “Fermentation and ageing of wines are throwing up lots of different techniques,” says Ahmed. “Wine producers are taking the best of the old methods and making them even better than they were. “Portugal now has a more open-minded and collaborative wine scene with fresh takes on varieties and techniques including warm-climate Pinot Noir.” Raymond Reynolds adds: “There is a lot of experimentation. It sounds like growers are just throwing mud at walls, but I don’t think so. I think it is a lot more studied, with objectives in mind. A lot of growers are tasting each other’s wines. The variety coming out of the country gives a better impression of quality generally.”
INNOVATION Portugal has one of the world’s richest winemaking cultures. Indeed vineyards account for 35% of its agricultural area, a
THE HOLIDAY EFFECT “Portugal’s relatively new popularity as a hot new holiday destination has been the biggest building block,” Ahmed suggests.
THE WINE MERCHANT july 2021 41
“The Belcanto took centre stage as the restaurant in the penultimate challenge of MasterChef 2019, introducing an audience of millions to the history and culture of Portugal. The cultural complex The World of Wine in Porto, which opened last July, is one of the largest tourist attractions in Europe. “This sudden upsurge in tourism means that people are returning home and seeking out the Portuguese wines they have discovered on holiday.” Bar Douro in London is one of many Portuguese specialists capitalising on increasing consumer familiarity. But owner Max Graham also wants to help his customers make new discoveries. “In our wine club we try to have wines that share the regional story but also the wines that are on the cutting edge of the wine scene,” he says. “People are always asking for Vinho Verde when they come back from Portugal so this gives us a good opportunity to explore the premium Vinho Verdes, including the fresh reds.”
A POSITIVE SPIRIT
Nigel Huddleston speaks to three independents who might take issue with the idea that gin’s best days are behind it
t appears that gin is not mother’s ruin
archives in Smeaton Road.
after all. The Oxford Artisan Distillery
Among Vinomondo’s local bestsellers
used the online content analysis service
is Four Feathers, made with another
Buzzsumo to look at the kinds of reaction
ancient, traditional dry gin recipe in the
garnered on social media platforms by
UK’s second smallest city, St Asaph. Of
content about different types of spirit.
those from further afield, Scotland’s Isle of
Not the most scientific analysis, it has
Raasay is a favourite.
to be said, but it turns out that vodka is
“People have moved away from big-
the saddest and angriest spirit, while gin evokes the most positivity, with 96% of
Julie Mills of Vinomondo
reactions falling into the categories of “amazement, laughter and love”.
This love for gin is reflected in an
ongoing boom in retail sales. Gin has
“Our gin menu for the beer garden has 45
certainly had plenty of nay-sayers in the
and they’re all Welsh, and we get through
some other next big thing, but the evidence
because we know they’re good. We
past couple of years, those who think
everything’s moved on to rum, tequila or suggests there’s a fair amount of wishful thinking in that perspective.
Wine & Spirit Trade Association figures
for 2020 put off-trade gin sales 22% ahead of where they were in 2019, with sales
totalling 75 million bottles and passing the £1bn mark for the first time.
Of course, there’s a fair bit of on-trade
lockdown-offset in that, but take-home
sales more than doubled in the previous
five years. In 2015, just 29 million bottles were bought, with a value of £375m. “It’s still our bestselling spirit by
a country mile,” says Julie Mills at
Vinomondo in Conwy. “We predominantly sell Welsh gins; we’ve got about 50.
them at a vast rate of knots.
“We want to be patriotic but it’s also
share a distribution network with other
independents including Stori in Bala and Gwin Llyn Wines in Pwllheli, which is
handy and means we don’t have to use a
big wholesaler. It’s a good way of keeping the range local.”
ocal gin has become an exciting
subset in the independent trade,
with many cities having their own
eponymous brand – including Liverpool, Manchester, Brighton and Glasgow – or
ones that reflect their sense of place, such
as Smeaton’s, made to “the Bristol Method” unearthed in an old recipe from the city
THE WINE MERCHANT july 2021 43
brand gins and we never get asked for
them,” says Mills. “They want something
local, different and not mass-produced, and that fits well for us.
“There’s a real hardcore of new drinkers
who’ve discovered gin in recent years, and
the old school who’ve just always drunk it.” The fragmentation of gin as it’s grown
has brought a flood of fruit-flavoured gins to the market over the past two or three
years. Mills has witnessed this trend and
says the pineapple flavour of Vinomondo’s
own Jackdaw gin – so-called because of the nickname given to locals born within the town walls – is its most popular.
“Our sales are fruit driven, but it’s not
the sweet flavours, not the ones made with syrups, but the ones distilled with the fruit in the whole process that people like,” she adds.
But Jass Patel at Tomoka Spirits Boutique
in St Albans has observed a drift back to traditional gin styles.
“We’re still selling a lot of gin,” he says. “It
seems to be shifting back to juniper.
“That whole pink gin and flavours
up alongside the likes of Salcombe, Four
trend came in to keep people interested
and to give gin distilleries a bit more depth
Pillars or Chilgrove.
of range, but you can’t get people off the
“We did get up to about 400 at one
classic dry taste.
point,” says owner Edward Wilson. “You
“They keep coming back to it and when
find yourself adding things because you
we get new expressions of that style we’re
feel you have to have the new flavour from
selling a little bit more.
Tarquin’s or Chase or another of the more
“Tarquin’s always sells and is a good
brand to have. Rock Rose and Cotswolds
“But we’ve cut that back a bit to make it
are doing very well and the Malfy range
a more focused range. We’ve still got about
sells really well for us. It’s slightly different,
200 but we’ve made sure that everything is
a little bit fresher and has a couple of
different flavours with a bit of interest.
“We do a quite a bit with our local
“There are two or three distilleries in
distiller Dr Eamers’ which does a nice
Hertfordshire and if you mention local gins
range of Black Country gins. It’s good
people are very interested.”
quality spirit and it only produces in 100-bottle batches.
“But mainly people want to see the new
flavour from Chase or another brand that
he Wine Press in Stourbridge
has a drinks range that combines
Wilson also notes the importance in gin
well-known premium brands with
of having the right look.
more artisanal products, partly a reflection
“The packaging has to be good,” he says.
of the importance of wholesale to the
“I’d say a good third of sales are presents,
business, with brands such as Whitley
so a gin has to look the part.”
Neill, Hendrick’s and Plymouth rubbing
VARIATIONS ON A THEME
New and unusual variations on the gin template just keep on coming. The 2021 iteration of Swedish brand Hernö’s annual sipping gin has been aged in barriques that have previously held the country’s Brännland ice cider and, before that, Sauternes wine. Happy hunting as only 1,450 bottles have been made. Family gin distiller Hayman’s has added Exotic Citrus to its range (RRP £28). It is infused with kumquat, pomelo, Persian lime and mandarin, all hand-peeled and sun-dried. South African gin brand Cape Fynbos takes its name from the 7,000plus species of fine-leaved plants that are found in the Western Cape. It has just added a Citrus Edition to the range, which is handled in the UK by Delibo Wine Agencies. Rose petals, raspberries, bergamot and bitter orange form the backbone of the new Red Door Highland Gin With Summer Botanicals (RRP £29.99) from the Benromach distillery in Scotland. Yorkshire’s Otterbeck distillery has teamed up with local strawberry farm Annabel’s Deliciously British to make a Strawberry & Pink Peppercorn version of its Cotton gin brand (RRP £37.95). Annabel’s
supplies strawberries to Harrods, The Ritz and The Savoy, among others. Irish brand Boatyard has released a batch of the sweeter Old Tom style of gin (RRP £36.75), made with organic wheat and rested in first-fill PX sherry casks. A small quantity of PX is then added to produce “notes of fig, candied fruits and toffee”. Supplies via Speciality Brands. Cambridge Distillery is the only one where the master distiller, William Lowe, is an MW. It’s got a reputation for being a bit Heston in its approach, previous creations including gins made from red wood ants and Piedmont truffles. Lowe’s latest offering is Three Seasons (RRP £90), made with lemon verbena (representing spring), roses (summer) and blackcurrant leaf (autumn), and is designed to make the ultimate martini. And finally … to parents of teenage offspring, CBA gin sounds like it got its name from the slang for “can’t be arsed” but it’s actually shorthand for Creative Bar Associates, the on-trade company of founders Peter Barney and Chris Stewart who had to close their bar as the pandemic struck. They’ve turned their hands to making Marrakech Gin (RRP £37), infused with Moroccan spices, and the orange citrus California Gin (RRP £38).
THE WINE MERCHANT july 2021 44
Flower power is the key to South African craft gin Winemaker Oliver Kirsten uses the Cape’s distinctive fynbos plants as botanicals for a gin that offers a true flavour of this special region
Kirsten, left, with co-founder Johan du Toit
ike many natives of the Western Cape, winemaker Oliver Kirsten has a natural affinity to fynbos – a family of thousands of fine-leaved plants, most of which are endemic to the Western Cape. “We’ve been in the wine business since 2004,” he says. “Fynbos is something that creeps up on and eventually you realise you have fallen in love with this tremendous diversity of flowers that you find in the mountains. “Many of these plants have been used medicinally and recreationally as well, especially by the San peoples. We always thought this was going to have a wonderful application in something like gin. “So we started experimenting and after an enormous amount of test distillations in 40-litre stills we ended up with a complex recipe that we liked. We knew that we were looking for something subtle, herbaceous but not overpowering.”
Extensive fractional distillation produces a smooth base of the finest quality and purity. This pure spirit is then infused with premium juniper berries and elements from 33 indigenous botanicals, sustainably hand harvested for their bark, roots, berries, flowers, stems, peels or leaves. “It’s a twofold process,” explains Kirsten. “We macerate the same botanicals that we’re going to be using for the vapour part extraction for six to eight hours and then we suspend the botanicals in the exit funnel of the still, so basically the vapours need to go through that sieve, and this has a big influence on the nose of the gin.” Cape Fynbos gin launched in South Africa in 2018. In its domestic market, it’s regarded as one of a handful of truly craft gins, and although it’s now exported to countries around the world, Kirsten says orders are still measured in bottles rather than cases. And all bottles continue to be labelled by hand in Paarl.
Two styles, endless serving possibilities The classic style makes for a distinctive and refreshing G&T, best served with “a large amount of ice, maybe sparkling water with tonic,” Kirsten says. He also likes to experiment with local herbs, elderflower cordial and lime ice cubes. Fourteen months ago, a Citrus variant joined the Cape Fynbos line-up. “It’s exactly the same base distillation,” says Kirsten. “Afterwards we take peels of lemon, orange, mandarin, lime and grapefruit and leave these peels in the gin for a number of days at 62% before final dilution down to 43%.” With 15g/l of residual sugar, Citrus can be enjoyed undiluted as a sipping gin.
Feature sponsored by UK importer Delibo Wines For more information visit delibo.co.uk, telephone 01993 886644. Email firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit the Cape Fynbos Gin website: capefynbosgin.com
the barolo brothers When Ezio and Massimo Negretti took on the family wine business in 2003, they set about making some major changes. Today, the wines they produce are complex and elegant – and kind to the environment
ou might think that very little changes – or needs to change – in Barolo country. But Ezio and Massimo Negretti don’t see things that way, despite being fourth-generation custodians of a proud family wine business. Until the brothers took over in 2003, the wines made on the family farm in La Morra were bottled under other people’s labels. Today, the wines bear the family name and are loved as much for their elegance and complexity as they are for their sustainable production methods. Both brothers attended the local wine school in Alba, with Massimo (pictured on the right) going on to study oenology at university and Ezio (left) obtaining a degree in business economics. It proved a potent mix of skill sets, giving them the confidence to set about major changes. “Massimo also had some viticulture experience outside of Italy, in France and in Portugal,” explains Ezio. “We put all our effort into our vineyards and farming organically. We don’t use any chemicals in the vineyard or the winery. We have minimal sulphites in our wines. “We decided to really focus on quality. “We are in La Morra, which probably gives the more elegant expressions of Barolo. We are trying to take the best from our vineyards and bring it to the glass. Our focus is to preserve the complexity of our soil. “We were certificated ‘Green Experience’ in 2017 even though we had been working in that way since 2003. Green Experience is more or less the same as a biological certification, but it is specific for Piedmont producers. The wineries that are part of that system don’t use herbicides and they farm organically.” Ezio says the changes that he and Massimo introduced were apparent in the finished wines right from the outset. “I think from the beginning you could tell the difference between our parents’ idea of winemaking and ours,” he says.
“We started with around 7ha from our grandparents and each year we have increased our vineyards. Now we have 13.5ha, most of which is planted with Nebbiolo with which we make our Barolo. “We are in a very conservative and traditional area. But I think we have kept
the best of the traditions and blended it with the more modern methods. “It is not easy to work with your brother! All the decisions we make about wine are reached together through discussion. “We have different tastes, but it is good for us to have some creative tension.”
NEGRETTI WINES AVAILABLE FROM MARCATO DIRECT Langhe Chardonnay “Dadà” Grapes from two vineyards are vinified separately, with 60% going into stainless steel and 40% into French oak. Floral and crisp.
Langhe Nebbiolo “Minot” Smooth on the palate with hints of violet, fresh chamomile and menthol. di Novacella surrounded by vineyards Elegant and graceful on the palate, with subtle vanillaAbbazia on the finish.
Barbera d’Alba Superiore A vivid nose of ripe plum, cassis, coffee and mahogany, exploding on the Schiopetto, Abbazia di Novacella and Sandro de Bruno on shelf palate with warm cherry flavours and toasty notes.
Barolo Made with a blend of fruit from two vineyards, combining in a wine with freshness and structure. Red and black fruit flavours, with spicy notes.
Bricco Ambrogio Barolo Concentrated and complex, with aromas of raspberry, bitter orange peel and black peppercorns. Warm and powerful, with a long mineral finish.
Feature sponsored by Marcato Direct marcatodirect.co.uk call 07900 115372
THE WINE MERCHANT july 2021 46
arcato Direct is a name that will be familiar to anyone who has
visited SITT in recent years. It’s
a one-stop shop for Italian wines, focused squarely on independent retailers.
Rebecca Skeels founded the company
after living in Italy and falling in love with
wines that she’d never encountered in the UK.
“I met [Verona winemaker] Enrico
Creating a one-stop shop for Italian wines After falling in love with Italian wine, Rebecca Skeels decided to make it easier for independents in the UK to access classic and quirky wines from across the country in a single shipment – and is now fulfilling orders from UK stock to meet growing demand
Marcato at a wine tasting and he was
producing these wonderful traditional-
the company’s wines are successful as
method wines using the Durella grape,” she
wholesale lines for her indie customers.
(The company does not sell direct to the
“I remember saying to him, naively, ‘why
on-trade, or multiples, or consumers.)
don’t you sell your wines in the UK?’ I have
“Of course we have Prosecco and Pinot
a sales background but not wine, so we
Grigio, but we wouldn’t try and compete
started this little adventure, came across to
with the masses on that front,” she says.
the UK and visited some wine merchants.
Skeels is clearly still as in love with
“We quickly realised that selling from
Italian wine as she was when she started
just one producer wasn’t going to be an
out. “Italy was my first experience of real
option, so we started to put together a
wine,” she says.
group of winemakers, the majority of
“It fascinated me to see how it was made
which we are still working with today.
and the care and attention to detail of what
Enrico knew the quality of those wineries
goes in it. When I tasted the end product
before we approached them.”
it was a world away from anything I had
Marcato Direct tends to specialise in
tasted in the UK.
“small to medium producers who are
family run, with a history and a story,” Skeels explains.
“The wine has to be the best example of
its origin that it can be. It has to represent the land that it comes from. The families
have lived and breathed this land, growing up on it, and they know what works.”
Wines can be shipped in mixed pallets
from a range of producers across Italy. Indies can select from a range that
currently encompasses Veneto, Lombardy, Trentino, Piedmont, Tuscany, Emilia-
Romagna, Marche, Abruzzo, Campania, Sardinia and Sicily.
The company prides itself on being a
direct link between retailer and vineyard. Shipping direct is still possible, but for
Skeels offers all wine from UK stock
added flexibility most customers are now serviced from UK stock.
The carefully curated range includes
classic DOC and DOCG names that
consumers seek out, but there are plenty of
“Each region has got its little pocket
of producers that work with their own
particular variety or varieties, and that’s
their livelihood. The wine is also produced
to pair exactly with the food in that region. “Italy will always be our home and the
Italian portfolio will expand. The wines are accessible to the majority of palates.”
quirks on the list too, including an organic, bottle-fermented, undisgorged Lambrusco in a crown-cap bottle.
keels is open about the fact that Marcato Direct is not aiming
to compete at entry-level price
points, although she says a number of
THE WINE MERCHANT july 2021 47
Published in association with Marcato Direct marcatodirect.co.uk 07900 115372
Pulltex wine decanter and glass cleaning brushes To give wine decanters a thorough clean, a soft flexible brush is essential. These Pulltex brushes, sold as a pair, are made from an absorbent material that reaches the bottom of decanters and wine glasses to remove all impurities and water traces. Wineware.co.uk, £16
Wineware card wine bottle neck tags Keep an organised cellar with these card neck tags, which will allow you to easily identify your wines without disturbing the sediment. This pack of 100 reversible tags is perfect for cellars and storage areas where damp isn’t an issue. Wineware.co.uk, £13.25
Wine gift bottle cartons
Grapefruit is the key to the lesser-spotted Paloma, a tequila cocktail with a refreshing sharpness that tends to take a back seat to the margarita. This twist slightly sweetens things for a summery feel, timed to coincide with July’s Great Unlocking and National Tequila Day, an American thing that gains traction in the UK through social media. Easy on the pineapple so as not to scare off the grapefruit edge.
When all else fails and you’re fresh out of ideas or time and budget – all hail the bottle-of-wine-in-a-gift-box trick. Gift cartons and bags remain a classic year-round impulse purchase for customers at the till. Investment in stock and retail space is minimal and they offer excellent margins throughout the year. wbc.co.uk from 80p per unit excluding VAT
5cl tequila 2.5cl pink grapefruit juice 2.5cl pineapple juice 1.5cl freshly squeezed lime juice Pink grapefruit soda water
Put the tequila and the three juices into a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a collins, sling or highball glass. Top with the grapefruit soda. Garnish with a wedge of pink grapefruit and/or a slice of fresh pineapple.
THE WINE MERCHANT july 2021 49
Vineyards at Lago Ranco, in Chile’s deep south
Los Lingues, where Carmenère thrives
THE WINE MERCHANT july 2021 50
Harvest at Lago Ranco
Mario Pablo Silva
From one extreme to another Casa Silva has a family tradition of seeking out some of Chile’s most improbable landscapes and turning them into premium wineland. It’s a never-ending quest that has taken the company almost literally to the ends of the earth.
ohnny Bingham has developed a loyal indie following for Casa Silva wines. Like him, his customers have become fascinated by the Chilean producer’s ongoing mission to explore new terroirs – and to achieve increasingly improbable things with existing ones. “They don’t stop pushing,” says the Jackson Nugent Vintners sales director. “These wines don’t happen by accident. Over the course of 30 or 40 years, they’ve gone smaller and smaller, identifying very special expressions through different parts of the vineyards. We’re now down to single-block wines. It’s never-ending, and for me it’s a joy.” Casa Silva has established vineyards in four regions of its native Colchagua valley and in the deep south, in Patagonia, where Lago Ranco is yielding exciting results. Managing director Mario Pablo Silva founded the modern-day business in 1997, building on the groundbreaking work of his parents and grandparents. “They were always looking for different areas and different aspects and we decided to do the same,” he says. At a time when Chile was already attracting criticism for a rather formulaic and “safe” approach to its wines, Silva and his team knew the natural diversity of the country’s landscape was capable of delivering something far more special. They bought land in Los Lingues, in the foothills of the Andes, now the source of some of Casa Silva’s best Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenère. “We created a different style of Carmenère,” says Silva. “We harvest one month before other
producers, and produce a silkier, more elegant style of wine but with sweet fruit.” As one of the few Chilean producers to really get to grips with Carmenère, Casa Silva has seen sales of its premium bottlings increase in export markets and the variety now accounts for 25% of its plantings. After a persistent lobbying campaign, Casa Silva’s efforts earned Los Lingues recognition as a DO. Consumers began to see that Colchagua was not simply home to one uniform style, but capable of nuanced wines with marked subregional differences.
he company also branched out into Lolol, where the hot days and cold nights turned out to suit Syrah and Viognier perfectly, and Paredones, near the Pacific coast, which lends itself to high-quality cool-climate wines. Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay thrive here, as do Pinot Noir and Syrah. “We knew the Colchagua valley and we understood clearly that the quality of the grapes was absolutely different [in different vineyards] and the weather and the soil of each place was totally different,” Silva explains. “We were convinced that planting different grapes in each corner of Colchagua was the key to the future success of the valley.” Naturally, some thought Silva was slightly unhinged. Yields were very low, by Chilean standards, in the newly-planted areas, but he was delighted by the quality he was achieving. Jancis Robinson was one of the first to voice enthusiasm for the Paredones
THE WINE MERCHANT july 2021 51
project. “She suggested that the most famous Sauvignon Blancs of the new and old world had better watch out, because Chile, with Casa Silva, was coming,” recalls Bingham. “It was not just the dramatic flavour profile – these wines were gamechangers. “At a time when people were describing Chilean wines as safe, we were making waves with these crazy wines.” It’s an adjective that Silva is happy to identify with. “We’re a risk-taking family doing crazy things, looking for extremes, places where it is not easy to produce wines,” he says. “We were proving that producing wines with identity of terroir and high quality was possible. I think we were pioneers in that sense.” Matters reach an extreme at the Silvas’ latest project in Lago Ranco in Futrono, nearly 1,000km south of Santiago, where “nobody had even produced a single bottle of wine” before Casa Silva’s arrival. “It’s expanded Chilean wine’s frontiers,” Silva says. Volumes are, unsurprisingly, low but the quality of Sauvignon Blanc and sparkling wines has been outstanding. The quest continues. “We are always, always open to looking at new places,” Silva adds. “Perhaps, in the future, not very big places. But if it’s where we can make a specific wine with different characteristics, we will do that. It’s what our family have been doing since they arrived in Chile.” Published in association with Jackson Nugent Vintners. Call 07740 733199 or email email@example.com. Casa Silva’s website is at casasilva.cl.
SOUTH AMERICAN WINE
The right vines in the right places Across South America, vignerons are demonstrating a better understanding of their terroir. It’s led to a general improvement in quality levels for wines made from international favourites as well as more esoteric grapes. By David Williams
he success of South American wine in the modern, mass-exporting
era has been built on a familiar
set of grape varieties. Argentine Malbec,
Chilean Carmenère and Uruguayan Tannat are generally joined by the usual French classic suspects (Cabernet Sauvignon,
Merlot, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc plus a smattering of Pinot Noir and Syrah)
in most merchants’ selections from the continent.
More recently, much of the dramatic
upward shift in the quality of South American wine has been driven by
improvements in working with those very
same grape varieties. For many producers,
the focus has been on better, more sensitive winemaking from better-sited vineyards
planted to familiar grape varieties, rather than on expanding their varietal palettes too widely.
To generalise and simplify wildly, the
continent’s quality-focused producers have come to understand that the climate, soil and topography that work for one grape
to start with a variety and find the right
difference, those off-the-beaten-track
cases led to the emergence of entire new
in the hands of exciting smaller, or more
site for its needs.
This terroir-focused work has in some
wine regions, of which the establishment of coastal Chile – from Aconcagua Costa to Colchagua Costa via San Antonio and
Leyda – for the production of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc is
perhaps the most dramatic example.
But it’s also enriched the wines and
winemaking practice of the continent’s
new, at least in commercial volumes, to the continent. Others, intriguingly, are
re-appraised and reinvented leftovers from the days before South America’s big vinous players took on their modern, export-
focused form. Here The Wine Merchant
País / Criolla Chica
was very little discussion or awareness of
Mendoza. With pioneering work by Catena
these varieties, with some of our favourite examples of each.
(see page 56) and others showing just how
Until very recently, if you asked a Chilean
are now seeing a terroiriste flourish that is
temperature in the room would drop: let’s
dramatic an effect those different terroirs can have on the character of Malbec, we
establishing the region as a kind of Andean Burgundy.
varieties has been, however, it isn’t the
conditions, today the standard practice is
Some of these varieties are relatively
the enormous sub-regional differences in
turn of the last century, for example, there
planting it with whatever set of varieties are currently fashionable, regardless of
profiles four of the most promising of
Exciting and important as this
Rather than finding a piece of land and just
“alternative” are also flourishing, and often
established winemaking heartlands. At the
variety may be entirely wrong for another.
And that’s changed their approach entirely.
varieties that Australians would call
transformation of what we might call mainstream South American grape
whole picture. Indeed, for independent merchants looking to build a point of
THE WINE MERCHANT july 2021 52
winemaker about País or an Argentinian winemaker about Criolla Chica the
move on now, we have better things to talk about, you’ll only ever find that stuff in
(face contorted in disgust at the very idea) domestic wines.
For anyone who has experienced that
disdain first hand, the emergence of
critically adored wines made from varieties that had been for so long regarded as
the mass-produced lowest of the low is a
salutary reminder of how quickly fashions
Los Lingues, an area of Colchagua pioneered by Casa Silva
and tastes can change.
Marcelo Pelleriti, who has a superbly vivid
South America. In Chile, for example, it
in California as Mission, and in the Canary
focused on old bush vines down south,
peaking in the 1950s with 35,000ha, or
País and Criolla Chico are synonyms for
a grape variety that is known further north Islands as Listán Prieto, and which, having arrived with the conquistadors, are the
oldest vinifera varieties in the Americas. The impetus for the variety’s revival
has come from a handful of adventurous
producers on both sides of the Andes, who saw the potential for making something very different – paler, red-fruited,
example in his Vallisto stable.
In Chile, the País action has been largely
in Itata, Bío-Bío and Maule, and from a
growing band of producers that includes
DeMartino, Torres, Bouchon Family Wines, Garage Wine Co and Rogue Vine, some
of them working solo, and some finding success with blends with Cinsault. Sémillon
exuberant, Beaujolais-esque reds with
Given the reverence winemakers in
sometimes wild bush vines.
Bordeaux, Sémillon was never going to
plenty of acidity and light, grippy tannins – from the often very old, neglected, In Argentina, the Criolla Chica
renacimiento has been led by two highaltitude old-vine projects: Sebastián Zuccardi’s Cara Sur in San Juan and
Argentina and Chile have historically
had (and, in many cases still do have) for
endure quite the same public shaming as País/Criolla did.
All the same, its recent history has
followed a very similar arc in southern
THE WINE MERCHANT july 2021 53
was for much of the 20th century the
most widely planted white grape variety,
around a third of the total vineyard, before plummeting to around 950ha today.
In Argentina, the Sémillon bug struck a
little later, and to a slightly less extreme effect. Still, in the 1970s it was the
country’s second most abundant white
grape variety, with some 5,500ha planted,
before it fell back to something like 750ha today.
As with País/Criolla, it was the age
of often-neglected Sémillon vines
that attracted the more experimental
winemakers in both countries in the 2010s. And just as País/Criolla provided red wines that were at the opposite end of the taste and texture spectrum to the prevailing
SOUTH AMERICAN WINE
Increasingly, producers have seen the potential for Cabernet Franc to do something pretty special on its own
rich, dark norm in Argentina and Chile, so Sémillon was able to do something
similar in a white context.
The best Argentine and Chilean
Sémillons are all about textural depth,
herbal notes and savoury flavour, all while
In Argentina, meanwhile, Bodegas
keeping their vibrancy and acid balance,
Trapiche has made the variety one of the
whites made from the current dominant
coast, around 300 miles south of Buenos
putting them in sharp contrast with the lively, fresh, aromatic mainstream dry white variety, Sauvignon Blanc.
Among the Sémillon names to look
out for in Argentina are Matias Riccitelli
(in Patagonia), Mendel and Bodega Teho Zaha (both Mendoza), while Chile has
Carmen, Bouchon, Rogue Vine and Santa Carolina.
Albariño In much of South America, Albariño is only at the very beginning of its journey.
And, as you might expect, given that the
great Galician grape’s ancestral home is in
the Atlantic-breezy Rías Baixas, producers have chosen to plant in coastal sites.
In Chile, the pioneer is cooler-climate
specialist Garcés Silva, which will have its
first harvest of Albariño from its plantings in the Leyda Valley in 2022.
centrepieces of its Mar y Pampa brand in
vineyards in Chapadmalal, on the Atlantic
already make a feasible claim to be one of
the handful of leading Albariño producers outside the Iberian peninsula. Cabernet Franc
Cabernet Franc is no newcomer to South
It began with Bodega Bouza, which was the
to Chile shortly after. Still, plantings didn’t
Further up the Atlantic coast in Uruguay,
however, the story is rather more advanced. first producer in the country to make the
connection between the Atlantic-influenced humidity of the company’s vineyards in
both Cannelones and Maldonado, and which released its first vintage from the variety in the early 2000s.
Since then, Bouza has been joined – and
in terms of volume, eclipsed – by Bodega
Garzón, now the country’s largest Albariño producer, with extensive plantings in
Maldonado. Garzón produces four different Albariño cuvées, from bright-and-breezy
entry-level to a high-end, single-plot wine fermented and aged in a mix of large
neutral oak barrels and concrete. It can
American wine. The vine first found its way to Argentina in the 1890s, making its way exactly take off. As recently as the early
1990s, neither country could boast more than 100ha of Cabernet Franc vineyard.
The past couple of decades have been
something of a boom time for the variety, initially because producers were looking
for something fresher, tighter and leaner to add to Bordeaux blends or, in Argentina, to leaven the fleshiness of Malbec.
Increasingly, however, producers have
seen the potential for the variety to do
something pretty special on its own, and the plantings of the variety have spread rapidly. There are now around 1,250ha
of Cabernet Franc in Argentina, and some 1,500 in Chile – with a further 250ha in Uruguay.
The results are particularly impressive
in Argentina. The variety seems to like the high altitude, and there are some
stunningly vivid, aromatic solo examples
being made in the Uco Valley by the likes
of Atamisque (Serbal), Zorzal and Bodega
Teho (Zaha), and the variety has also been used to great effect in blends from top
Mendoza producers such as Catena and Achaval Ferrer.
In Chile, meanwhile, a more sumptuous,
easy-fruited style has emerged from
producers such as Undurraga (Terroir
Hunter series), Lomo Larga, Valdieveso, and Viña La Rosa (La Capitana).
THE WINE MERCHANT july 2021 54
the highest peaks There’s a relentless quest for perfection at Remolinos vineyard, 1,050 metres above sea level in the Andes. Finca Decero’s Juan Marcó explains why this special terroir is worth all the painstaking work his team puts in.
igh up in the Andes in the Agrelo sub-appellation of Mendoza is the Remolinos vineyard, described by owner Finca Decero as “the star of our show”. It is, says CEO and director of viticulture and winemaking Juan Marcó, a “one-of-akind vineyard, with a unique tapestry of soils”. The wines here are made from Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Tannat. Finca Decero produces two ranges of single-vineyard wines: Decero and The Owl & The Dust Devil, which have received enthusiastic international acclaim. Marcó talks about the Swiss-owned business’s “insane focus on quality and attention to detail” in its pursuit of winemaking excellence. “Over 15 years producing singlevineyard wines with a very open mindset has allowed us to find nuances within Remolinos vineyard,” he says. This means studying rootstock performance, trying innovative viticultural and irrigation techniques, and mapping out “special polygons of vines which reflect unique terroirs within the vineyard”.
“The exploration process continues in the winery, with practices such as fermenting reds as whites and other unconventional methods to nurture complexity and a unique identity to our wines.”
Marcó is pleased with the results all this hard work achieves. The wines are famously elegant and reflect the character of Remolinos vineyard, and are widely praised. Decero Malbec was named by Wine Spectator as the number 34 wine in the world; Keith Goldston MS said the wine “belongs in the Sommelier Hall of Fame for over-delivering”.
arcó was born in Mendoza and was immersed in wine culture from an early age. “I love nature and agriculture and early in life I realised what I wanted to do,” he says. “In this process, I discovered a more creative side of my personality that was perfectly fulfilled by the purity of winemaking. Science with an edge of art is a perfect combo for me!” He graduated from UC Davis as a Master of Science, working for Kendall-Jackson and Diageo before arriving at Finca Decero. “It’s what I consider the pinnacle of my career,” he says. Marcó believes his responsibilities stretch well beyond winemaking. “We truly believe that it is our responsibility to preserve our place in such a way that future generations can enjoy this pristine land as much as we do today,” he says. “And the community that surrounds Finca Decero, and our team, are just as important as our environment. “Drip irrigation to preserve water, reusable materials, water soluble inks, light glass and investing strongly in health and education are part of our practices. Over the years we have sponsored and tutored many employee family members and we are proud that the first agriculture engineer has received his degree though this programmme. “Finca Decero is a founding member of the Porto Protocol [an international organisation of wineries committed to mitigating climate change] since its official launch in 2018 –and we were the first Argentinian winery to join.”
THE WINE MERCHANT july 2021 55
A roll-call of finca decero wines 2018 DECERO MALBEC, REMOLINOS VINEYARD Violet aromatics and a fresh and elegant profile are the hallmark of this Malbec – supremely balanced with a fine backbone of acidity. Fourteen months in French oak.
2018 DECERO CABERNET SAUVIGNON, REMOLINOS VINEYARD Dappled tannins, notes of cassis and great balance to this well-structured Cabernet. Fourteen months in French oak.
2017 DECERO MINI EDICIONES PETIT VERDOT, REMOLINOS VINEYARD Notes of blueberries and quince with firm tannins and acidity – a wine of great longevity and layers of complexity. Referred to as a global benchmark for Petit Verdot. Sixteen months in French oak.
2017 THE OWL & THE DUST DEVIL ICON BLEND, REMOLINOS VINEYARD 50% Malbec, 20% Cabernet 16% Petit Verdot 11% Tannat, 3% Cabernet Franc. A complex and full-bodied blend of these Bordeaux varieties. Eighteen months in French oak.
Finca Decero is imported in the UK by Bancroft Wines 020 7232 5450 www.bancroftwines.com / www.fincadecero.com
‘The pace of change is staggering’ Phil Crozier, Wine Argentina’s brand ambassador for the UK and Europe, explains how indies are central to the country’s plans for the UK market, with a broadened offer that goes far beyond the sales favourite that is Malbec
How is Argentina performing in the UK trade right now? Argentina was very strong in 2020, with a 10% increase in exports to the UK versus 2019. This was in large part due to multiples having very strong sales, and also having large volumes of bulk available from the 2019 vintage (bulk sales rose by 48% versus 2019). It would be wonderful to think that this was also the case for the indies, which I suspect is the case, but I have no data to support that. Smaller, independently owned wineries from Argentina are gaining much favour from the independent trade, with a huge diversity of grape varieties and terroir-driven wines being available. Much of this was of course driven by Malbec’s rising popularity. How much does Malbec dominate proceedings and what would you say to any merchant who claims to be a bit Malbeced-out? It’s been a tough year for us all, and so we need wines that are popular and sell. Malbec shows strong growth in all parts of the wine trade, and I would imagine that this has helped retailers to gain sales. The consumer is clearly not Malbeced-out, so why should the merchant be? We need sales more than ever. Until 2020, Malbec accounted for around 90% of value from Argentina to the UK, but we are now seeing that consumers are happy to try other grape varieties. Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc are performing well, with some of the more esoteric wines gaining a niche in the market. I think consumers who started with Malbec and Argentina trust us enough to try new things. Regionality will be the
Crozier: “So much diversity in Argentina”
driver for Argentina, especially when linked to styles of Malbec. What other varieties are performing well? Is there a next big thing? Chardonnay offers great value, as does Cabernet Franc. Torrontés still needs time, but I’m convinced that this will be higher in the minds of the consumer in coming years. Sémillon, although a niche variety, has a great future at the premium end, and I think the Cabernets will also continue to grow. Malbec blends will offer a safe opportunity for consumers to try other varieties too. I also believe that the Criolla varieties have a fantastic future in the independent trade. We are working hard to get this unique story to the trade.
of Argentinian wine to indies and how do the most successful and enthusiastic retailers make the category work for them? We are still relatively new to the UK market, so I think indies enjoy the discovery of Argentina, and when you start to scratch the surface, you realise how much diversity there is in the country. There are 126 grape varieties grown in Argentina, in 13 provinces that cover 23º to 45º south. There are new regions in the south and north of the country, with vineyard areas being planted by the Atlantic too. And the pace of change is staggering. It has been such an honour for me to witness and be a small part of this journey. Enthusiastic retailers can look at this diversity and offer surprises for their customers on so many levels: white, sparkling, lighter styles as well as the more traditional big reds for which Argentina is known. This, of course, is changing. I think it is the variety that Argentina offers that will work for them. What generic support and campaigns are planned for the coming year and how can indies tap into this activity? We have invested heavily in digital marketing in the past year, but I have been very busy on the ground with training, advising and conducting online masterclasses. I believe that Argentina’s future success will rely heavily on the independent trade. If anyone needs help with training and information, I am happy to help. I feel that this is where we can be most proactive.
How would you describe the appeal
Feature sponsored by Wines of Argentina
THE WINE MERCHANT july 2021 56
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org winesofargentina.com
THE WINEMAKER FILES //
David Bonomi, Bodega Norton During my 34 years as winemaker, I have only worked in three premium wineries in Argentina, each with the same objective of producing top quality wines. I believe that wine development requires patience and many years of research in order to achieve good results for our consumers.
I first arrived at Bodega Norton in 2002, and then I returned again in 2014 to take the leadership of the winemaking team and the vineyards. My objective was to emphasise and further advance the shift in our style, by transmitting the Argentine terroir in each wine. The value of my work is based on the interpretation of the soils, the interpretation of the region. Winemaking at Norton has evolved a lot since then. The changes began with innovative new techniques, new varieties and new terroirs. We started working a lot in specific areas of Uco Valley, microterroirs; not only in Luján de Cuyo, for example.
We do have a “house style”. It’s about emphasising the specificity of each vintage, the work we do in each region and area, the selection of each parcel and the purity of the varietals. These are the values and characteristics I work for every day with Norton wines. The most enjoyable grape varieties for me are Malbec and Sauvignon Blanc. And the most challenging ones are Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc and Semillon.
LOTE Single Vineyard is the ultimate expression of Bodega Norton’s terroir, in Luján de Cuyo. This range comprises three Malbecs chosen from very specific lots for representing the character and the particular expressions of each of our individual vineyards: Lunlunta, La Colonia and Agrelo, located at the foot of the Andes mountains. With this exclusive high-end line, we focus on the origin of the grapes as a key factor of the wine quality to offer consumers a sensory experience – the chance to enjoy the qualities of each terroir and to compare them through the prism of the same variety.
One of Mendoza’s benefits is its centuries-old viticulture that allows us to talk about experience and heritage, as we have very old vines. But there’s also the modern winemaking scene. In the past 20 years, there has been an explosion of new and wonderful areas and micro-zones in the foothills of the Andes. On top of this, we have been able to continue exploring new varieties like Grüner Veltliner, Marselan, Grenache Noir and Mourvedre. The overall standard of wines in Argentina is improving. A lot of work and progress is evident in the excellent wines of the recent vintages from other producers. I have seen an upswing on new varietals and more expressive wines. I love Mendoza for its diversity. Within just a few kilometres, variations in altitude and soil types allow us to produce very different and distinctive wines. We
Named Argentina’s winemaker of the year in 2020, David Bonomi heads up winemaking at Bodega Norton. The company first planted vines in Mendoza in 1895 and is now one of the most recognised names in South American winemaking. Bodega Norton wines are imported into the UK by Berkmann Wine Cellars. email@example.com 020 7609 4711
definitely haven’t reach a limit yet, and that is what I love the most. Climate, altitude, and diversity of soils are the characteristics that I like the most about working in Mendoza. It was a real honour for me to be named winemaker of the year in Tim Atkin’s 2020 Argentina Report. It was very gratifying and it also challenges me to keep moving in this direction, and to keep working on trying to make unique wines that express the terroir.
Privada Family Blend RRP: £22.99
Finca La Colonia Colección Grüner Veltliner
This wine was inspired by the connection between soil, elevation and microclimate in a very special vineyard located in Uco Valley in Mendoza. It displays remarkable intense fruity scents with an exceptional balance of mineral notes.
Elegant, harmonious and complex at the same time, this is a special selection of the best barrels of Malbec, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. The grapes for this wine come from the winery’s oldest vineyards, which are between 50 and 90 years old.
We are the only winery in South America with Grüner Veltliner vineyards at 1,600m above sea level. This wine comes from Finca La Colonia and expresses a fresh and delicate style with white peach and watermelon notes.
THE WINE MERCHANT july 2021 57
SOUTH AMERICAN WINE
A true story about terroir
Science has proved what the vignerons of Mendoza knew all along: the region is as varied in character as the great European appellations
erroir exists. Its effects endure from vintage
wines that had been microvinified under similar
important it was for wineries of all sizes to do
to vintage. And the vineyards of Mendoza
conditions. Chemometric data analysis made
their own research and to collaborate with local
are among the best places in the world
it possible to group the wines into distinctive
and international research institutions.
for demonstrating the dramatic influence that different terroirs in very close proximity can exert on wine character. Such were the findings of a groundbreaking research paper, “Terroir and vintage discrimination of Malbec wines based on phenolic composition
regions and parcelas. As well as being able to identify the vintage of
“Climate change requires it – our sustainability over time demands it,” Catena said. “And that is
each wine, some 11 of 23 parcelas were identified
why the Catena Institute’s vision is ‘to use science
by chemical analysis with 100% certainty, and the
to preserve nature and culture’ – and the mission
remaining 12 with 83% certainty.
is ‘to elevate Argentine wine for another 200 years’.”
“I used to be told by members of the trade
“We want to shout out loud that we have proven
across multiple sites in Mendoza, Argentina”,
that all Mendoza Malbec was the same and there
in this study that, firstly, Malbec is a grape that
published in the nature journal Scientific Reports
was a sense in the industry that only France and
reflects terroir just as much as a variety like Pinot
earlier this year.
specifically Pinot Noir could reflect terroir down to
Noir, and, secondly, that Malbec in Mendoza has
the cru which we call ‘parcela’,” says Laura Catena,
distinctive expressions according to altitude and
the Catena Institute, was used as a springboard
founder of the Catena Institute and managing
soil, and I am hoping that wine consumers around
for a fascinating webinar led by Laura Catena and
director of Catena Zapata.
the world will want to know more about these
The research, which was sponsored and led by
featuring contributions from some of the world’s leading scientists earlier this month. The findings were drawn from detailed
“As viticulturists working in Mendoza for four generations, my father and I knew that there
expressions of terroir,” Catena said. “We want to inspire wineries around the world
were differences at different altitudes and even
to collaborate with their local research institutions
comparisons of four different levels of terroir
among adjacent parcelas. What this study shows by
and with other wineries and research institutions
– three large regions, six departments, 12
chemical analysis is not only that there is ‘taste of
around the world to solve the problems of today
geographical indications, and 23 individual
place’, ‘taste of terroir’, for Malbec in Mendoza, but
and of the future. I want to give a message of
parcelas (smaller than one hectare) – over three
that it is particularly marked, most likely due to
hope, but also highlight that if ‘you do nothing’
different vintages (2016, 2017 and 2018).
a combination of varied altitudes and soils in our
you might not be around in 20-30-100 years.”
The study also included detailed climate information and drew on chemical analysis of 201
high altitude mountain region.” During the webinar Catena stressed how
THE WINE MERCHANT july 2021 58
And what happens next? “A movement,” says Catena. “A revolution!”
A kilometre up, standards keep rising
Doña Paula’s Altitude range demonstrates its expertise in unlocking the natural potential of Mendoza’s mountainous terroir
oña Paula is constantly raising the bar for high-altitude winemaking with continuous innovation in the vineyards. Under the stewardship of winemaker and vineyard manager Martin Kaiser, who runs the Terroir in Focus research programme, the winery has led the way to a greater understanding of the effects of terroir on the Malbec grape. Since acquiring its first vineyard in 1997, the team at Doña Paula has been striving to produce wines that embody the land from each estate located in the premium areas of Mendoza. With over 800 hectares of vineyards in the most prized terroirs of Lujan de Cuyo and the Uco Valley, all the grapes in Doña Paula wines come from its own estate. Its use of natural fertilisers and environmentally aware farming methods secured Sustainability Certification in 2018, which the company says drives it to continue to improve its social and environmental performance throughout the winemaking process and beyond to benefit workers and the community. All the estate’s wines are vegan friendly and gluten free. The Altitude series is an expressive collection of three wines, all blends produced with the best varieties grown in the highest altitude vineyards of El Alto in Ugarteche, Lujan de Cuyo at 969 metres above sea level, Los Indios in El Cepillo at 1,100 metres above sea level and Alluvia in Gualtallary at 1,350 metres above sea level.
Doña Paula 969, 2019
Doña Paula 1100, 2019
The name derives from the average height
A complex and balanced wine with
of the selected parcels for this blend of
aromas of violet and rosehip. The Syrah
Petit Verdot, Bonarda and just 5% Malbec.
contributes by way of some spicy notes
The Petit Verdot is cultivated on Finca El
and the Cabernet Sauvignon adds some
Alto’s stoniest plots at 1,030 metres above
great structure to this blend.
sea level and the Bonarda is from the
The grapes are harvested throughout
lowest part of the same vineyard at 908
April, handpicked and gently destemmed.
Each variety undergoes cold maceration
The wine has an intense violet colour with a black
separately to extract the primary aromas. The blend
tint. There are aromas of blueberries and jasmine
is made once the alcoholic fermentation is complete
accompanied by some intense blackberry and
and the ageing process is carried out in 20% new oak
barrels for 16 months.
Doña Paula 1350, 2019
Harvested from two blocks in the Alluvia vineyards in Gualtallary, this is a blend of 50% Cabernet Franc, 45% Malbec and 5% Casavecchia. Deep violet in colour and very spicy with floral notes and red fruit aromas, the Doña Paula 1350 is an elegant and wellstructured blend. The vines are planted in espaliers, using snow-melt water and drip irrigation systems. Feature published in association with Doña Paula Estate For more information on the Altitude range and the rest of Doña Paula’s portfolio, contact Hallgarten Wines at hnwines.co.uk or visit donapaula.com
The tasting room
Showcasing the world’s great wines
he fine wine investment company OenoGroup has just opened OenoHouse, a wine boutique at The Royal Exchange in the City of London. From August Justin Knock MW is joining OenoGroup full time as director of wine, leaving his role at London indie Philglas & Swiggot. “By building up this amazing collection and being able to offer these incredible tasting experiences at OenoHouse we will now be able to attract the drinkers and collectors of the world’s greatest wines,” says Knock. “We’ve done all the curating work, we’ve got the stock and now it’s about showing it to the world.” A second OenoHouse is planned for the US next year but meanwhile Knock is confident that being in the heart of London’s financial district is the right thing. “I’ve been coming in here for about six months and you notice it getting busier all the time,” he says. “It’s definitely not back to full capacity but we’ve already had enquiries from corporates about doing private events or helping them
Justin Knock MW
Spanish brand ambassador Almudena Alberca MW
with their wine sourcing. London always bounces back.” OenoGroup has offices in London, Madrid, Bordeaux, Tuscany, New York and Munich. The London store represents the group’s first foray into retailing.
The London shop is the group’s first
THE WINE MERCHANT july 2021 60
The reception area
THE WINE MERCHANT july 2021 61
Fells Fells House, Station Road Kings Langley WD4 8LH 01442 870 900 For details about our portfolio of award winning wines from some of the world’s leading family-owned wine producers contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
New Range - Professor Black Named in tribute to Professor Black from the University of Stellenbosch, who contributed to the rich farming history of Warwick Estate. Two new wines... An aromatic and zesty Sauvignon Blanc, with a touch of skin and lees contact for texture And Pitch Black, a Bordeaux-style blend with a dash of cinsault, aged for 18 months in French oak
top selection 23 Cellini Street London SW8 2LF www.topselection.co.uk email@example.com Contact: Alastair Moss Telephone: 020 3958 0744 @topselectionwines @tswine
THE WINE MERCHANT july 2021 62
LOUIS LATOUR AGENCIES 12-14 Denman Street London W1D 7HJ
0207 409 7276 firstname.lastname@example.org www.louislatour.co.uk
Pyramid Valley – fine, expressive wines from North Canterbury, New Zealand In the years since this vineyard was established at the turn of the 20th century, Pyramid Valley has built up an enviable reputation for its expressive wines. Since 2017 it has
been owned by Steve Smith MW and Brian Sheth who have continued to follow a holistic approach to viticulture and winemaking following biodynamic and organic principles.
The UK allocation is small but we currently have limited quantities of the following
Appellation and Botanical Collection wines. Get in touch for more info. North Canterbury Sauvignon + 2019: A blend of Sauvignon
with a little a little Riesling and Pinot Gris. Recently awarded 92 points by Joe Czerwinski in The Wine Advocate.
North Canterbury Orange 2019: A beautifully textured wine
is mainly Pinot Gris with a little Gewurztraminer and Muscat, sourced from two BioGro certified vineyards in Waipara. Field of Fire Chardonnay 2018
A textural, supple and powerful Chardonnay from a tiny block
on a south east facing slope. It has recently been awarded 94 points by Joe Czerwinski in The Wine Advocate.
Also in the range: Earth Smoke Pinot Noir 2018; Angel Flower Pinot Noir 2018.
hatch mansfield New Bank House 1 Brockenhurst Road Ascot Berkshire SL5 9DL
SAVE THE DATE
01344 871800 email@example.com www.hatchmansfield.com @hatchmansfield
London Portfolio Tasting Tuesday 7th September 2021 Details to follow
Rachel Hollinrake | firstname.lastname@example.org
THE WINE MERCHANT july 2021 63
C&C wines 109 Blundell Street London N7 9BN 020 3261 0927 email@example.com www.carsoncarnevalewines.com
Famille Helfrich Wines 1, rue Division Leclerc, 67290 Petersbach, France firstname.lastname@example.org 07789 008540 @FamilleHelfrich
They’re all smiles to your face …
THE WINE MERCHANT july 2021 64
liberty wines 020 7720 5350 email@example.com www.libertywines.co.uk
Site-driven wines from South America by David Gleave MW In both Argentina and Chile, the best producers are pushing viticultural
boundaries, focusing on individual sites, and creating exciting wines with a distinctive sense of place.
The arid Upper Calchaquí Valley in Salta is home to Colomé’s Altura
Máxima vineyard, the world’s second highest at 3,111 metres, where the extreme altitude, sun exposure and calcareous granite soils result in a
powerfully aromatic and intense expression of Malbec. In Mendoza, Altos Las Hormigas favour the diverse limestone soils and cooler, higher altitude
of the Uco Valley for their two single-vineyard Malbecs. The alluvial terrace of Appellation Paraje Altamira produces a more elegant and aromatic wine,
while the loamy chalk-rich soils of Appellation Gualtallary give greater concentration and structure.
Trailblazing Aurelio Montes has planted the only vineyard within the cold Zapallar
DO, the most coastal zone of Chile’s Aconcagua region, just 7km from the Pacific and the
source of their vibrant, intense Outer Limits Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Syrah. In
his native Itata, Pedro Parra has identified the hills and very poor soils of the Guarilihue sub-region as ideal for growing premium Cinsault. Sourced from old bush vines and
vinified identically, his three Cru wines have distinct personalities. The minerally Hub hails from iron-rich granitic soil, the elegant Trane from very shallow granitic soil with
silt and stones, and the structured, complex Monk from granitic clay soil. Tasted side by side, they offer a fascinating insight into the talents of Chile’s soil master.
richmond wine agencies The Links, Popham Close Hanworth Middlesex TW13 6JE 020 8744 5550 firstname.lastname@example.org
New to RWA: Domaine Tropez
Domaine Tropez was founded in 1996 and it has assembled a number of AOC Côtes de Provence vines, covering over 40 hectares and using certified organic fertilizers whilst harvesting is done at a low temperature.
White Tropez Rosé 2020
Pure, vibrant aromas of tropical fruits, white peach and subtle floral notes. The palate is silky and the tangy acidity adds zest to a clean, quenching finish.
Crazy Tropez Rosé 2020
Notes of citrus and tropical fruit. Delicious and indulgently fruity on the palate with suggestions of spice and minerality. Zesty citrus notes and juicy acidity converge on a smooth finish.
Crazy Tropez Bulles Rosé 2020
Gently sparkling and pale pink in colour. Floral and red fruit aromas with generous flavours of berries and tangerine zest. Refreshing, with a finish full of finesse.
THE WINE MERCHANT july 2021 65
walker & Wodehouse 109a Regents Park Road London NW1 8UR 0207 449 1665 email@example.com www.walkerwodehousewines.com
Ferrari Trento steps onto the podium at Silverstone! There has never been a better time to sample one of Italy’s most awarded producers of sparkling wine, Ferrari Trento.
Ferrari Trento was named as the official sparkling wine of Formula 1 in March, and
will be on the podium at the F1 British Grand Prix at Silverstone in July. Ferrari Trento’s story dates back to 1902, when a young Italian oenologist named Giulio Ferrari made his first trip to Champagne. Struck by the French region’s geographical similarities to his native region, he realised the Trentino Mountains’
extraordinary – yet untapped – potential for
growing Chardonnay. So began a lifelong dream:
to create Italian wines in the traditional method,
that could how its own against the world’s finest Champagnes.
Giulio’s efforts resulted in resounding success. Although the estate passed to
the Lunelli family in 1952, the Ferrari Trento wines are world-renowned for their
expressive nature, flavour, fragrance and complexity, that stand testament to the power and potential of Italian Metodo Classico wines.
For more information, please contact your Account Manager
buckingham schenk Unit 5, The E Centre Easthampstead Road Bracknell RG12 1NF 01753 521336 firstname.lastname@example.org www.buckingham-schenk.co.uk
THE WINE MERCHANT july 2021 66
mentzendorff The Woolyard 52 Bermondsey Street London SE1 3UD
ICONIC ALENTEJAN CARTUXA JOINS THE MENTZENDORFF PORTFOLIO
020 7840 3600
Cartuxa is one of the oldest wineries in Portugal and is steeped in history. Vineyards have been on the same Quinta de Valbom site in Évora since 1587. The wines of Cartuxa are produced within the Alentejo subregion of Évora and have long been legendary within Portugal. Indeed, Pêra-Manca has a long pedigree that is intertwined with Portuguese history. Not only were they first mentioned in a letter from Évora Town Council to King João II in 1488 but also aboard Pedro Álvares Cabral’s ship when he discovered Brazil in 1500. The wines continued to gather international recognition, when the reds won gold medals in Bordeaux in the 19th century, until the death of the vineyard owner in 1920. In 1990 Cartuxa revived the label for its flagship wines, celebrating native grape varieties. These wines now have cult status within Portugal and around the world.
Cartuxa is joining the Mentzendorff portfolio from Monday 5th July. For more information, please contact your Mentzendorff Account Manager.
AWIN BARRATT SIEGEL WINE AGENCIES 28 Recreation Ground Road Stamford Lincolnshire PE9 1EW 01780 755810
With the ABS Masters of Riesling
We are delighted to be working with a selection of our Masters of Riesling, Gunderloch, Villa Wolf, Louis Guntrum, Dr. Loosen, Schnaitmann and Fürst to curate 3 very special case offers for the 31 Days of Riesling. Talk to your Account Manager for further details of how you can get involved. Offers will run 1st July - 31st July.
THE DRY RIESLING EXPLORER CASE (12x75cl)
THE CLASSIC RIESLING CASE (12x75cl)
THE CURIOUS CASE (12x75cl)
• 6 bottles of Gunderloch Estate Riesling Dry 2019 • 6 bottles of Villa Wolf Riesling Dry 2019
• 6 bottles of Louis Guntrum Nierstein Bergkirche Riesling Kabinett 2018 • 6 bottles of Dr Loosen Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Spätlese 2019
• 6 bottles of Schnaitmann Steinwiege Riesling Organic 2017 • 6 bottles of Fürst Riesling Pur Mineral 2018
BUY 6 CASES GET 1 ADDITIONAL CASE FREE
(cannot be mixed between lines) ABS to fund 1 bottle of each reference per deal done as tasting stock. Promotion runs from 1st July to 31st August.
A perfect drink for an evening outside in the sunshine with friends. It’s no wonder Rosé has become an integral part of the British Summer. The recent explosion in popularity of Rosé means our two Big Pink promotional wines are ideal not just for this season, but all year round.
QUINTA DO PORTAL COLHEITA ROSÉ 2020 6x75cl JORDAN CHAMELEON ROSÉ 2020 6x75cl Show us your in-store or window Rosé display featuring our Big Pink wines to be in with a chance of winning a Rosé Jereboam. Contact your Account Manager for further details.
THE WINE MERCHANT july 2021 67