The Wine Merchant issue 109

Page 1

THE WINE MERCHANT. An independent magazine for independent retailers

Issue 109, January 2022

Dog of the Month: Bagel Melville & Mayell, Norwich

Time is running out to force U-turn on crazy duty plans Objections to the Chancellor’s punitive sliding scale of duty on wine must be submitted by the end of this month


he wine trade has until the end of

the current duty rate for wine at a strength

variation in duty calculations on mixed

this month to explain the damage

of 11.5% abv. But for every 0.5% of alcohol

pallets of wines. They also point out that

that is widely expected as a result

above that, duty will increase.

some wines see fluctuating alcohol levels

of the Chancellor’s overhaul of the duty system. The new regime will penalise most types

As well as adding to retail prices – a bottle of port would typically see an overnight price increase of £1.09 – the

from vintage to vintage, adding to the admin burden. There was indignation in the

of wine, applying a sliding scale of taxation

changes are expected to cause supply-chain

trade following Rishi Sunak’s budget

based on its alcohol content.


announcement in October, which gave the

The new system is planned to maintain

Importers are worried about the vast

impression that the duty system was being simplified and streamlined rather than complicated with a ladder of duty rates for wines between 8.5% and 22% abv. The new system, due to come into force next year, at least has the redeeming feature that it will no longer discriminate between still and sparkling wines. Treasury minister Helen Whately maintains the new arrangements will be “simpler to use, fairer to all producers, clearer and more consistent”. The plans were drawn up following a review of the duty system, which resulted in 106 responses from stakeholders and included roundtables attended by public health groups, trade associations and economists. The wine trade has until January 30 to respond to the proposals, which must be submitted using a templated form hosted

Rebecca Smithson of Bottle London in Highgate is one of many indies around the country raising money with wine events for charities close to their hearts. Read more on pages 12 and 13.

on the HMRC website. Search “HMRC alcohol tax proposals” or follow the link at


Inside this month

Join the indies who will make up this year’s Top 100 judging panel


No previous experience is required, and merchants can involve their

New arrivals in the indie scene

team members in the judging process if they like

and one Covid casualty

23 the burnnig question Are couriers getting better or worse? Indies give their views

30 hurrah for the loire Reporting back from our first buying trip for two years

are really being asked to assess each wine

the hunt for independents to join

in the same way as they would any wine

the 2022 judging panel.

looking for a listing. Is this an interesting

Since its creation in 2013, scores of

indies have joined us for this annual event,

Tim Pearce of Tim’s Wines: the RAF man turned wine merchant

wine? Is it worth the money? Would it sell? Judging will take place over a two-week

which involves blind tasting flights of

period in early April and all judges will be

wines that are exclusive to the independent

given a full briefing before they receive


their wines.

The judging has traditionally

34 merchant profile

taken place over the course

Most people who have joined us in the past have asked to be part of the fun again, and we’re

of one hectic day in west

very happy to welcome back

London, but in recent

some old friends. But we are

times we’ve changed the

40 focus on australia After some difficult years, the fightback is under way

46 new for 2022 Some profitable niche categories to think about for the year ahead

60 languedoc-roussillon David Williams suggests wines to give a true flavour of the region

68 supplier bulletin


he Wine Merchant Top 100 is on

plan. This is partly due to

just as keen to recruit indies

Covid, but it’s also a way of

who have never judged with

involving more merchants

us before.

who live a long way from the

We try to ensure our judges

capital. This year each of our judges will be

come from all across the UK, that there’s a good split between men and

sent something like 80 wines, flighted and

women, and that all types of business style

bagged up, to taste either on their own or

are represented. As far as possible, we’re

with members of their teams.

trying to mirror the trade itself.

They will be asked to give a score out of

Judges are paid £100 as a thank-you

100 to the wines that impress them most,

for their time. This money can either go

along with brief notes about why those

towards expenses or be donated to charity.

wines were their favourites. No previous experience of wine competition judging is required. Merchants

To nominate yourself as a Wine Merchant Top 100 judge for 2022, please email

THE WINE MERCHANT MAGAZINE 01323 871836 Twitter: @WineMerchantMag Editor and Publisher: Graham Holter Assistant Editor: Claire Harries Advertising: Sarah Hunnisett Accounts: Naomi Young The Wine Merchant is circulated to the owners of the UK’s 982 specialist independent wine shops. Printed in Sussex by East Print. © Graham Holter Ltd 2022 Registered in England: No 6441762 VAT 943 8771 82

THE WINE MERCHANT january 2022 2

Fiendish plan to get physical Online retailer Wine Fiend has opened a bricks-and-mortar shop in Cardiff. Owner Dean Euden says: “Naively, when I first started Wine Fiend a year ago, I envisaged that it could run as just an online business. But after three or four months I realised it was untenable and I needed a base where I could interact with customers and grow some trust.” Having scoped out a few different premises, Euden grabbed the opportunity of a unit at Corp Market. Based inside an old landmark pub, The Corporation, the

Dean Euden has worked for Majestic and Avery’s

market is a shopping hub providing a permanent home to several independent retailers. There’s also a shared events space freely

are from natural or low-intervention winemakers, and I know that those wines

of a neighbourhood feel.” After a year of looking for the perfect

available to the traders where Euden has

work because I already sell them in the

premises, Crookes has set up shop in a

already held some tastings.


former furniture store, which has been

“I’ve got some beautiful wines and some of them are difficult sells online,” he says. “You can write a description, include pretty pictures of the bottles but nothing sells easy when it’s just words.”

BBC man opens in hip Cornish resort

converted to four new units. The bar area has room for 20 covers, and he has permission to have tables outside on the pavement. Crookes says: “I’ve got a Bermar

Falmouth is now home to a new wine

system: it’s got sparkling and still wine

marked change in how swiftly he can keep

shop and bar called Kernow Wine,

preservation so I’ll do 16 wines by the glass

those particular lines moving. “Having

which opened at the beginning of

from that and I’ll do another four on tap. I’d

a shop is vital to gaining the trust of


put more taps in if I could, but I don’t have

Since opening, he’s already seen a

customers and to share any knowledge and passion you have,” he adds. Euden’s career has encompassed

Former BBC journalist Derek Crookes says he initially thought about working in almost five years ago, but some work

the WSET. He is not fazed by his return to

experience at BinTwo in Padstow inspired

retail: if anything, he appears energised by

him to open his own business.

grow the business. He’s working solely with suppliers for now but hopes to direct import in the future and has plans to start a refill range later this year.

“My motto is ‘sustainable, ethical, local’,

wine education after moving to Cornwall

Majestic, Avery’s, Fine Wines Direct and

the recent gear change and eager to further

the room.

“I did two summers of work at BinTwo and it gave me the bug to do something with the hybrid model, which they do so successfully,” says Crookes. “I picked Falmouth because it’s a hip and happening area of Cornwall. I thought it

“I can now get some of my best-selling

was a good place to open for year-round

wines in KeyKeg and the quality of those

trade. It’s got a big boating community, a

wines is very good indeed,” he says. “They

university, lots of local residents and more

THE WINE MERCHANT january 2022 4

Derek Crookes with wife Natasha

Bacchus so I’ll try to get as many products to fit

about once a month to make sure they are

those criteria as possible. I’m working with

OK, and it’s working really well.”

about 20 suppliers including Thorman

Cavavin also has shops in Glasgow

Hunt, Alliance, ABS and Bancroft, and I’m

and Hertford. Jouan, who owns Sheffield

trying to reach out a bit to some much

merchant Le Bon Vin, expects further

smaller suppliers too.

growth later this year.

“Retail-wise I’ve got room for about 300 wine lines. I wanted to have a wide range of lots of different types of wine and see if that works. “One of my main aims is to have regular informal tastings in the shop to introduce people to the wines.”

UK expansion for French group French buying group Cavavin has opened a further two stores in the UK. The shops, in Newcastle and Buckingham, both opened late last year

The Newcastle branch

Vintoto is victim of falling footfall

in time to benefit from the Christmas trade. The Buckingham branch is in a safe pair

Vintoto based near Wakefield station closed its doors for good on Christmas

of hands with franchisee Jean Francois

Eve. Owner Carolyn Skeels made the

Bisault at the helm.

decision following

Patrick Jouan, the UK-based managing director of the company, says his working relationship with Bisault goes back 25 years. “He was GM of a restaurant in Newark,

steadily falling sales. “Despite the figures and statistics

and I supplied his wine in the 1990s,” he

being put

says. “We lost touch when he moved to

out by the train

London to work at the Café Royal. He has

companies, station

such a lot of background in this type of

footfall – specifically commuter footfall – is


way below previous levels,” she reports.

As franchisees, previous wine knowledge

“Shop takings for August, September and

is not a deal breaker, as Cavavin provides

October this year have actually been lower

all the necessary training, in France and

than 2020, which I can only put down

then in the UK in Sheffield, for anyone

to people no longer feeling they need

wanting a change of career.

to shop local and support independent

Jouan reports that in Newcastle, the new franchisees Ash and Harris don’t have prior

businesses.” Skeels says she will continue to trade

experience in the trade, but “they are very

with some private sales and a “local wine

smart and quick learners, and the shop

by the case offering, but the physical shop

looks magnificent”. He adds: “We visit them

will be no more”.

THE WINE MERCHANT january 2022 5

Fiction factory

Of course we all have fond memories of Château Lafite 1953 and Other Stories, the only published fiction from sometime Guardian food critic Malcolm Gluck, which brightened up everyone’s 2010. The book was set in a more-or-less recognisable version of the wine trade. Not being one to change names to protect the innocent, Gluck wove in bemusing references to the likes of First Quench Retailing and Oddbins, and included off-colour cameos from women including Pamela Vandyke-Price and (then) Somerfield buyer Angela Mount. Now another work of fiction is offering readers a taste of life in the cut-and-thrust of wine retailing. Helen McGinn’s new novel, Just One Day, is loosely based on The Solent Cellar in Lymington, where she spent time grilling owners Simon and Heather Smith about their business and its customers. The couple aren’t namechecked in the story itself, but readers of the local Advertiser & Times newspaper will be fully aware who provided the inspiration for the leading characters. McGinn has previously used The Solent Cellar as a venue for her Knackered Mothers Wine Club gettogethers, and has put her name to a Christmas case exclusive to the store.

Undeserving causes

TripAdvisor is notoriously brutal and all too often a haven for cowardly moaners. That said, scrolling through one-star reviews can be an entertaining diversion on a quiet afternoon. Our all-time favourite: the couple who enter a London enoteca and order two £12 glasses of wine. They notice that the measures are unequal and bring this to the attention of the owner, who disputes the claim. “It’s the shape of the glass,” she retorts. The reviewer continues: “She then snatches both of our glasses, returns and says, ‘we over-poured in one glass, I’ve tipped out the excess’.” Why not just top up the smaller of the two and avoid wasting wine? “Well you made a big deal out of it, I didn’t think you deserved it and threw it away.”

Second retail site for Graft team

fine wine space for people to drink in. The

Graft Wine’s second retail venture,

Graft, Liberty, and Flint, with some from

Mother Vine, opened in Chelsea before

auctions and private cellars.”

aim is to collaborate with fellow businesses on the street to offer food platters too. “The wine range is mostly sourced from

Christmas. The store is headed upy Will Irvine in the role of general manager. Co-owner Nik Darlington says: “David Knott and I were fortunate to be offered

Original Beckford store is rebranded

the opportunity to take over a small wine

The original Beckford Bottle Shop in

merchant site on the foodie Pavilion Road

Tisbury, Wiltshire, has been rebranded

in Chelsea, just off Sloane Square.

after being taken on by its former

“It’s first and foremost a small neighbourhood wine shop with a small

manager. Tim Gardner resigned his directorship

The new-look Gardner & Beedle in Tisbury

As the business “thrived through lockdown”, Gardner says he could see how efficiently things were working and wasn’t

selection of beers and spirits. We have

of the Beckford Group [which has a

looking forward to reviving the drinking-in

tables on our terrace spilling out into

portfolio of country pubs and hotels, as

aspect once life returned to normal.

Pavilion Road, and in the upstairs bar and

well as a wine shop in Bath] and formed a partnership with Nick Beedle. Together

to strength and so far that’s proved to be

they bought the site, which has been

the case,” he says.

rebranded as Gardner & Beedle, focusing just on retail sales. Gardner says: “We just want to be wine merchants without being added

“We are now wholesaling to about five local pubs, so we’ve been able to extend the business that way. “When we had the Beckford association,

onto a hospitality-type venture. I

none of the local pubs wanted to get wine

think the restaurant side of things was

from us, but that’s changed now we are

overwhelming the wine side.


“We’re looking after our best customers

Nik Darlington

“I could only see us going from strength

“We’ve taken on a small warehouse to

and focusing on them rather than on a

keep our wholesale stock separate from

broader spectrum of people just popping

our retail range, and we’ll be looking to

in for a beer. We felt it was detracting from

expand our wholesale operation as well as

people coming in to purchase wine.”

working with private clients.” The working day is more in keeping with traditional shop hours and Gardner is happy that his work/life balance is better. “We’re working like dogs, but it’s at the right end of the day,” he says. “We know our customer base and they come in here because they want to see us. “Not many people can say they love going to work on a Saturday, but our Saturdays are joyous, with people popping by.” • York has a new independent wine shop in the form of Jorvine, a retail store and tasting lounge in the Fulford district.

The new site is just off Sloane Square

THE WINE MERCHANT january 2022 6

We are excited to return to London for our Annual Trade Tasting. Bush (pictured bottom right) was “looking for colours and ideas that were different”

With a wide range of varietals and regions to discover as well as the latest releases, this is the largest collection of New Zealand wines available to taste in one place. All wines presented are produced in accordance with one of our recognised sustainability programmes.


12pm-6pm I Wednesday 9 February 2022 Lindley Hall I Elverton Street I London I SW1P 2QW Please email if you would like to attend.



Bringing New Zealand to you

THE WINE MERCHANT january 2022 7


Not only have the Aussies pared down their

Château des Jaume Infusion 2020

Chardonnay winemaking style, they’ve also stripped

The vineyards are in Tautavel in Roussillon, celebrated

away the frivolity from their labels – at least in this

for the discovery of a 450,000-year-old human skull,

default-typeface example from Yarra. It’s actually a very

but you can’t taste much of that. What you can taste

enjoyable wine, described on the equally spartan back

is happy fruit: Syrah, Grenache and Carignan, to be

label as “fleshy, crisp and crunchy”. There’s no reason to

precise, pressed in whole bunches and vinified without

elaborate on such succinct phrasing, so we won’t.

sulphites. It’s all soft, supple, brambly flavours, with

RRP: £22.50

that giveaway scent of plasticine from the Syrah.

Warramate Chardonnay 2018

ABV: 12.5%

Vindependents (020 3488 4548)

RRP: £10.65

Famille Helfrich (07789 008540)

Frittmann Irsai FriSecco Irsai Olivér is a playful and aromatic Hungarian variety,

Château de Grandmont Beaujolais-Villages 2021

and it suits the frizzante style. The aromas may be

Growers faced any number of issues with their

peachy and floral, but this is arrestingly dry on the

Nouveau in 2021 (reduced yields, a late harvest, not

palate, with tart citrus and grapefruit notes that twitch

enough pickers and transport problems, to name

flagging sinews into life. A distant salty tang adds to

just some) but Chris Piper gamely soldiered on. On

the jolt, before the creamy mousse provides a soft and

November 18 this was tasting perky and vibrant, with

reassuring finale.

soft red fruit flavours and a breezy acidity.

RRP: £14.40

RRP: £9.37

ABV: 12%

ABV: 14%

ABV: 12%

Best of Hungary (0780 571 7576)

Christopher Piper Wines (01404 814139)

Avignonesi 50&50 2016 Since 1988, the owners of Avignonesi in

Miss Vicky Wine O Joie Fleurie 2019

Montepulciano and Capannelle in Chianti have joined

The whole point of canned anything is that the

forces each year to create this blend of Sangiovese

freshness and vivacity of the product should be

and Merlot, classified as Toscana IGT. The 2016 is just

perfectly preserved. O Joie does exactly that, with

hitting its stride, with fine-grained tannins, ripe black

its raspberry and redcurrant fruitiness hitting you

cherry and spicy notes, and a more savoury depth,

immediately. Of course it’s great for parties and

seasoned with herbs.

picnics, but this is no mere frivolity. It’s proper wine.

RRP: £117

RRP: £6 (25cl)

ABV: 13.5%

ABV: 13%

Vindependents (020 3488 4548)

Propeller (07544 769267)

G&G Bouvet Victor Emmanuel Crémant de Savoie

Tenute Tomasella Merlot 2020

A blend of Chardonnay and Savoie-native Jacquère,

another 7ha in Friuli, and gets good results by fusing

grown on the clay and limestone scree of Fréterive. In

the terroirs in its wines. This dry but floral Merlot is

its local market no doubt this is a simple pleasure, but

supposed to be enjoyed young: it sits on its lees in

the combination of yellow fruits, green apples and a

tank for five months, before a short period of bottle

faint nuttiness on the finish has a faintly exotic allure

ageing, and then it’s ready for action. The tannins

on these shores, where Savoie remains stubbornly

squeeze gently, but it’s all about the luscious fruit.

unfamiliar and underdeveloped.

RRP: £13

RRP: £15.89

Buckingham Schenk (01753 521336)

ABV: 12%

Famille Helfrich (07789 008540)

This family estate has 23ha under vine in Veneto and

ABV: 13.5%

THE WINE MERCHANT january 2022 8


LIMITED-EDITION GLENFARCLAS BOTTLINGS Cask-strength malt whisky collection is presented in Glencairn crystal decanters


hisky lovers and collectors are in for a treat from Glenfarclas as Pol Roger

Portfolio releases a new series of limitededition decanter bottlings. The exclusive range began with the launch in November of the 25 Year Old, which Pol Roger’s director of spirits, Peter Donnelly, says he chose with the festive season in mind. As the first whisky producer to sell caskstrength whisky back in 1968, Glenfarclas has set out to continue its tradition of innovation with a series of unique expressions that showcase the distillery’s finest. “When I was thinking about putting this project together, I thought the 25 Year Old was perfect as the very first one,” Donnelly explains. “The flavours and aromas are very Christmassy with fruits and spices, cinnamon, nutmeg and orange peel. It’s like Christmas in a bottle.” There will be five different bottlings over a five-year period and each edition will be beautifully packaged in a Glencairn crystal decanter, with a limited production of 600

of Glenfarclas in a collection that Donnelly

whisky, and all housed in a piano finished

per release.

describes as “much more affordable, being

box that represents the autumnal colours

in the hundreds instead of the thousands”.

of Speyside.

Donnelly will continue to select some truly special whiskies to complete the set,

He adds: “We’re bottling at a higher

and there’s not too long to wait for the

strength as well; it just adds something a

second one of the series. “We’re going to be

little bit extra for proper whisky drinkers.”

launching at different times of the year to

While each release will be different in

reflect the whisky style,” he says. “The next

terms of flavour profile, age, fill and price,

one will be released in June and it will be a

the collection will be identifiable by the

lighter style.”

hand-crafted decanter, designed to display

The entire series will showcase the best

the natural colour of the cask-strength

THE WINE MERCHANT january 2022 9

For more information visit or call 01432 262800 Twitter: @Pol_Roger


Rose’s toil was worth the trouble Fizz! Champagne and Sparkling Wines of the World by Anthony Rose, Infinite Ideas, £35


hampagne purists might argue that

relatively early days, and the future looks

it simply is not the done thing for

incredibly bright.

their favourite drink to be discussed

Notable fizz producers from Australia,

and catalogued alongside supposedly

New Zealand, USA, Canada and South

lesser incarnations of sparkling wine, or

Africa are thoroughly profiled, alongside

indeed for it to be reduced to the generic

the more obvious European countries

term of fizz.

including Italy, Germany and Spain. There

But it is a useful way of reading and

are also a few surprises from Moldova,

learning about the category as a whole,

Croatia and Switzerland.

especially at a time where we see

Any wine enthusiast or, more specifically,

exponential growth in English sparkling

wine merchant who may need a reference

production, unceasing popularity of

from time to time will find this thoughtful

Prosecco, and an increased interest in pet

guide immensely useful. Brimming with


facts and insight but never dull, the

Rose explains that Champagne was not

text zips along and is as “enchantingly

so much an invention as an evolutionary

ephemeral and enduringly exciting” as

process. During the centuries of bubbly

most of us find a glass full of bubbles to be.

progress, the various production methods Claire Harries

and the people behind them have migrated through Europe and beyond to make their

a “master viticulturalist, winemaker, taster

own joyous interpretations, which in turn

and blender”.

have become synonymous with their own region or country. It’s extraordinary to think that by the beginning of the French Revolution, nine of today’s most famous Champagne marques


ose reminds us that Peter Ustinov once remarked that “hell is Italian punctuality, German humour

and English wine,” but he was of course

were already up and running. Rose

speaking at a time way before the English

acknowledges that the story of fizz starts

winemaking revolution got underway. Of

way before then, and therefore puts to rest

the many producer profiles in the book, 26

the old marketing propaganda from Dom

are devoted to English-based businesses.

Perignon, but not without admitting that

Many of those are household names, maybe

the “teetotal, vegetarian monk” was at least

not beyond our domestic market, but it’s

‘By the beginning of the French Revolution, nine of the today’s most famous Champagne marques were already up and running’ THE WINE MERCHANT january 2022 10

Anthony Rose

All in a good cause Before Christmas, The Wine Merchant spoke to four of the many independents across the UK who raise money in all kinds of ways for their communities

The merchant: Tivoli Wines, Cheltenham The charity: Cheltenham Open Door Fundraising activity: In-store initiatives including promoting particular bottles that offer an instant £1 donation on purchase, and the opportunity for customers to donate their discount on bulk purchases “We have selected 35 wines from across our range – we designed stickers for them and we donate £1 from every bottle of those we sell between the beginning of November and Christmas Eve,” says Tivoli owner David Dodd. Within that selection of wines, there will be some of the shop’s bestsellers, alongside lines that are on offer from suppliers, and some bottles that the team are keen for customers to try. “We hope they will be encouraged if it means they are donating a £1 to charity,” explains Dodd. “We usually give away a 10% discount in store when a customer buys over 12 bottles, and customers have the option to donate that discount if

THE WINE MERCHANT january 2022 12

they want to. “The staff never ask at point of purchase if they want to donate it, as that can make people feel awkward, but there’s plenty of POS all over the shop. It’s really our customers who donated their discounts

their first in person tasting since Covid and

purchase it, whether it’s a case or single

increased their fundraising efforts with a

bottle or a magnum, we are donating to

supplier-supported raffle on the day.

charity. Retail customers have really got

“Supporting a local homeless charity just feels like the right thing to do,” says Hill. “We all walk past a homeless guy,

last year who made the difference. It

cradling a bottle of high-strength cider. I

probably raised about £1,500.

think it is right that our industry should

“Unfortunately homelessness is increasing in Cheltenham so we decided to support [homeless charity] Open Door.

behind it.” The label was designed by the artist Kathryn Callaghan, and prints are also available to buy as part of the fundraising.

shoulder some responsibility for the position many of them find themselves in. “Simon on the Streets does amazing

We raise funds throughout the year for

work engaging with the homeless and

Maggie’s and also for the RNLI.”

offering support in the Leeds and Bradford area.”

The merchant: Bottle London, Highgate The charity: Doorstep Homeless Families Project Fundraising activity: A Christmas themed tasting with 100% of ticket revenue being donated

The merchant: James Nicholson Wine

Rebecca Smithson went back to basics with

Merchant, County Down

her Christmas tasting at Bottle London,

The charity: Rainbow Lights (part of

to accommodate more punters and to

YouthAction Northern Ireland)

maximise ticket sales.

Fundraising activity: Creating a wine specifically dedicated to charity

“We are trying to do it more like a trade tasting,” Smithson told us before the event. “So rather than sell the tickets at a higher

The Latitude team models the merch

The team at JN Wine collaborated with

price and have a sit-down, more formal

Château Vignelaure to create Ode to Joy, a

tasting. We’re going to have three tables

£13.50 Provence rosé, which raises money

and around 15 wines with a staff member

with every bottle sold.

on each table.

“The money is going to Rainbow Lights,

“You can drop in, wander around and

The merchant: Latitude Wines, Leeds

which is sensory theatre to support people

try the wines and we will do Christmas

The charity: Simon on the Streets

with physical or learning disabilities,” says

dinner pairings, such as a salmon brunch

Fundraising activity: Branded T-shirts

JN’s Averil Johnston.

sold online and in-store. All sales proceeds are donated

“So far we have raised £5,000 which has helped to buy props for their sensory workshops, like mats,

Latitude owner Chris Hill first started working with Commonsense when he commissioned ethically-produced tote

beanbags and hula hoops. It also pays for workshop leaders. “We have been involved with

and a lunch pairing. There will also be a bubbles section.” The tickets were priced at £10 each and Smithson made 100 available. “We’d love to be able to make regular donations, but we are just finding our feet during our first year of turnover,” she says. “So I think doing

bags for the business. More branded

YouthAction over the past

merchandise followed, including the staff

few years. Jim [Nicholson, the

an event and getting involved with

business owner] felt that the

the community is a good way of

arts have had an even tougher

doing it.”

uniform. “The T-shirts looked so good we decided

Money raised helped provide

to put them on sale,” he says. “We then

time than hospitality during

came to an agreement with Commonsense

Covid, so he thought this

Christmas parties for the families

would be a nice idea.

which Doorstep works with and will

that if our profit was going to charity, then theirs would too. So our fair trade, ethically

“The wine is being sold

also go towards the cost of a new project for teens and young people

produced T-shirts are completely not for

online and through fine wine

profit, with all proceeds going to charity.”

shops and restaurants. It

that the project hopes to launch later

doesn’t matter how you

this year.

In November, Hill and the team also held

THE WINE MERCHANT january 2022 13

Rising Stars

Ollie Fazekas-Cooper Vino Vero, Leigh-on-Sea, Essex


uying a business lock, stock and barrel can also include the personnel. When Jaime and Holly Fernandez bought Vino Vero they were more than happy to keep on Ollie and a just over a year on, they are extremely pleased they did. “He’d been working there about two years before we took over so we knew him as we were regular customers,” says Jaime. “We are so glad he stayed. He’s got a scary depth of information about all wines and spirits. I don’t know how he retains all that detail – but he does!” Jaime admits that without Ollie’s involvement they would not have been able to develop the new part of the business, which has so far seen them direct import a range of wines from four new producers. “He’s been the shop manager for quite a while now,” he adds, “and that has enabled us to work on the importing side of the business. We trust him in any decision-making and wine buying; all that sort of thing. “He’s been really on board with the new wines we’ve brought in to sell and he’s always really keen to learn about wines in general, new regions, styles and winemaking techniques. “We have very similar tastes in wine, and we work very well together. We’re very lucky, he’s a perfect fit for our business.” The Hungarian part of Ollie’s name is courtesy of his wife. “We are both very big fans of Hungarian wines,” says Ollie, “but unfortunately for me, her favourite thing is also white Burgundy, so if I bring a bottle home I have to split it 50-50. There’s no sneaking little bits of PulignyMontrachet into the house and hoping she won’t notice!” The bar is almost back to operating at its pre-Covid peak. “People have been delighted to be back in the store talking to us,” Ollie says. “It’s what separates us from online-only retailers – you can buy the wine but you can’t have that interaction. We really want people to have loads of fun picking their wine and chatting with us about it, whether they have a tenner to spend on one bottle or several hundred to spend on a case. “It frustrates us how many people seem to feel put off from shopping in specialist wine retailers because they think they are expected to have bottomless pockets or

already know loads about wine. “If people feel that way, we as an industry are to blame for that by failing to nurture a more inclusive and welcoming culture. Not all of us by any stretch of the imagination, but there are sectors that still seem keen to engender a feeling of exclusivity that makes people happier picking their wine from a supermarket where they feel they won’t be judged on their choices, or have someone roll their eyes if they mispronounce Riesling.” There is a calendar full of customer tastings ahead. “People get super excited about those and it’s a great way of showcasing a lot of the wines we really love,” Ollie says. “We’re doing a whole tasting with all our own imports and that’s really exciting. We’ve got some fantastic wines made from Godello and Mencia from Galicia so there’s loads to talk about there. “The interesting thing is that, once you’ve tried the wines, there is a remarkable degree of familiarity to them. It does give you that lovely moment where you can share that serendipity with a customer when they are discovering something for the first time. “One of the reasons I’m having such a great time working with Jaime is the constant drive to challenge the business and move it in different directions. He always embraces new ideas so there is that feeling of creativity around the business that he does a lot to nurture – not just with me but with everyone else on the staff too.”

Ollie wins a bottle of Glenfarclas 12 Year Old Single Highland Malt If you’d like to nominate a Rising Star, email

THE WINE MERCHANT january 2022 14

The Wine Merchant Top 100 is now accepting entries This is the only competition judged exclusively by independent wine merchants. And the only competition in which all of the entries are exclusive to the independent trade. If your wine deserves to be among our winners in 2022, visit or contact Entry deadline: April 18

Ribera del Duero: growing, learning – and continuing to surprise Two tasting events for indies – one hosted by Tim Atkin MW in London and the other by Peter McCombie MW in Manchester – showed the versatility, and drinkability, of the region’s wines


he more you look at Ribera del

1km above sea level – the whiter the soil

Duero, the more enigmatic it


becomes. For one of Spain’s

But generalisations are often unhelpful.

“We know that 93% of Ribera is planted with Tempranillo but there are big variations within it depending on soil type,

youngest DOs – and one that focuses

Ribera has about 30 different soil types,

altitude and aspect. That’s the thing that

almost all of its production on a single

for one thing, and the geography presents

makes it interesting, I think.”

grape variety – there’s a richness to the

wine growers with an almost bewildering

region that can be surprising.

matrix of options.

This is extreme winemaking country, an

“I think the thing that has struck me

Atkin added: “The valley narrows and broadens at various points. There are four provinces: Burgos, Valladolid, Segovia and

elevated and sometimes bleak limestone

over the last few years, and particularly

Soria, where you find a lot of the oldest

landscape that can be roasting hot in

putting together the top 100 for the DO

vineyards, some pre-phylloxera.”

summer and, to the surprise of some

last September, is how diverse the region is

visitors, bitterly cold in winter.

despite the fact it has one principal grape,”

in 1982? Yes, because the region’s

Tim Atkin MW told our guests at our

winemaking tradition dates back to Roman

London lunch.

times, and in the 11th and 12th centuries

The higher you climb above the Duero River – and some vineyards are well over

THE WINE MERCHANT january 2022 16

Pre-phylloxera in a DO only established

Sponsored feature For further information about Ribera del Duero, contact or visit Follow Ribera Del Duero’s activities in the UK on Twitter @DORiberaUK

Benedictine and Cistercian monks

more time there will now know something

established vineyards that provided wine

is coming from Aguilera, from La Horra or

for the Spanish court, at that time based in

from Moradillo or Gumiel. Within 10 to 15

Valladolid. The region eventually became better

quadrupled in size in 40 years so I think

years, I would say there’s probably going to

in some ways it’s still evolving as a region.

be some regional appellations.” Ristanovic has “devoted the past 10 years

known for its cereal production, but from

What we’re seeing now is that people

the 1950s until the 1970s it was making a

are increasingly focusing, particularly

of my life” to Ribera del Duero wines and

popular rosé style, blending Tempranillo

these younger producers, on villages

has even established a thriving en primeur

(known locally as Tinto Fino or Tinto del

and vineyards, so it’s going more down a

following among his customer base.

Pais) with Albillo (which remains the

Burgundian route, if you like.”

region’s only permitted white grape).

Zoran Ristanovic, owner of City Wine

“The quality has improved so much in the last eight years,” he said. “The locals

Collection in Richmond, west London,

now perceive the wine as something to be

was a winery called Pesquera which

agrees. “We’re now getting a reasonable

proud of. In restaurants, pretty much every

produced a Vino de España and it suddenly

level of distinction between the villages,”

sommelier I’ve shown the wines to has

became quite popular. Robert Parker

he said. “People who are spending a bit

taken them on.”

Atkin said: “It wasn’t until 1975 there

picked up on it and called it ‘the Petrus of Spain’ and the whole thing took off. “In 1982 the DO was created and people

Chris Pacey, Charles Mitchell Wines, Manchester

started investing in the region. It went

“There’s been a change in the styles over the past 10 years – it’s no longer

from nine wineries and 6,000ha in 1982 to

about dense dark wines. What the region has done is produce something

307 wineries and 24,000ha today. So it’s a

that you can offer to customers alongside the top wines of Bordeaux and

boom region.”

Tuscany. They get something of similar quality for a great price, and they age beautifully.”


n Spain itself, Ribera del Duero enjoys

Nik Rezzouk, Reserve Wines, Manchester

the sort of reputation that Bordeaux

“These wines are so food friendly. Retailers can do their bit, but I think

does in France. But as a far younger and

what will make Ribera really fly is when sommeliers and restaurateurs

smaller region, Atkin acknowledges that

start offering more of the wines. Liquid to lips, I call it – ideally with a slab

producers are still learning. It’s a dynamic

of beef!”

winemaking environment. “There was a stage when there was a lot

James Spalding, GOB Manchester

of investment, in the late ‘80s and ‘90s, and

“It’s easy to think of Ribera as all being the same, but this tasting shows it

it coincided with a period when Robert

isn’t – there needs to be a move to highlight the diversity available in the

Parker was important,” he said. “He liked


a lot of oak, alcohol and power. So people were picking very late, the tannins were often oak tannins

Dominic Papalia, Grape to Grain, Manchester “The last Ribera del Duero tasting I did was full of big, chunky vanilla-

and a bit rough and

laden wines – it was a tough day. But this line-up was less of a challenge,

I think people have

and I really like the diversity of styles. And I hadn’t expected to enjoy the

pulled back from

rosés so much – they’re definitely wines that I’d be happy to put on for

that now.


“Ribera has

THE WINE MERCHANT january 2022 17

The tasting line-up: what we sampled in London and Manchester Avelino Vegas, Fuentespina Crianza,

Bodegas Grupo Yllera, Boada Joven,

2016 (Crianza) – €5.50

2018 (Cosecha) – €4.85

Bodega Bardos, Bardos Romántica,

Bodegas Monteabellón, Avaniel, 2019

2017 (Crianza) – €3.90

(Rosado) – €3.20

Bodega Matarromera, Matarromera

Bodegas Nabal, Nabal Rosé, 2019

Crianza, 2016 (Crianza) – €6.33

(Rosado) – €5.90

Bodega Tierra Aranda, Tierra Aranda,

Bodegas Tamaral, Tamaral, 2019

Bodegas y Viñedos Neo, DISCO, 2018

2019 (Rosado) – €3.10

(Rosado) – €4.13

(Cosecha) – €6.80

Bodegas Antidoto, Antídoto, 2018

Bodegas Valle de Monzón, Hoyo de la

Bodegas y Viñedos Pradorey, Sr. NIÑO de

(Cosecha) – €2.80

Vega, 2014 (Reserva) – €8.70

Pradorey, 2018 (Cosecha) – €4.95

Bodegas Arzuaga Navarro, Arzuaga Gran

Bodegas Valparaíso, Finca El Encinal

Pagos de Matanegra, Matanegra, 2018

Reserva, 2010 (Gran Reserva) – €3.40

Crianza, 2017 (Crianza) – €n/a

(Cosecha) – €6.30

Bodegas Bohórquez, Cardela, 2016

Bodegas Veganzones, Picnic Rosado,

Pomar Viñedos, Pomar de Burgos, 2010

(Crianza) – €3.09

2018 (Rosado) – €2.50

(Reserva) – €5.45

Bodegas Condado de Haza, Condado de

Bodegas Vizcarra, Vizcarra Senda del

Valdemonjas, El Primer Beso, 2018

Haza, 2017 (Crianza) – €3.95

Oro, 2018 (Cosecha) – €3.60

(Cosecha) – €4.99

Bodegas El Lagar de Isilla, El Lagar de

Bodegas y Viñedos Lleiroso, Lleiroso

Viñedos y Bodegas Gormaz, Viña

Isilla Reserva, 2015 (Reserva) – €4.75

Reserva, 2014 (Reserva) – €5.00

Gormez Joven, 2018 (Cosecha) – €4.84

THE WINE MERCHANT january 2022 18

leave the land in a better condition

take the remainder of the bottle home

than they inherited it. They are doing

to enjoy it with the food later.

great stuff with Chardonnay. The unoaked Chardonnay from Tohu is fantastic value and the Whenua, which

Tom Burke

On the Road

Not having everyone travelling to a tasting and the winemaker flying in from the other side of the planet has

is a range of higher-end Chardonnays, has

got to be better for the environment. It’s

scooped lots of awards. They are stunning

a small step but I think we’ll probably see

wines, beautiful and elegant.

more online tastings in the future with producers visiting perhaps every other

If you have ideas that work for your


customers, that’s the most rewarding part of the job. If you see someone is

I walk a lot with my dog, Luna. She’s a

trying out something new, you can make

rescue from Greece so I don’t have a clue

suggestions, get stuck in and help them out.


It’s been the pedal-to-the-metal for ages for a lot of merchants. The pandemic put emphasis on shopping local and supporting the independents and, to the credit of the indies, they’ve done really well in hanging on to those customers. It’s been so

Before I worked in wine, I was a teacher very briefly. I realised it was not my bag at all so I applied for some graduate schemes, and worked at Majestic, Laytons and Hallgarten. I’ve been with North South Wines for three years now and I’ve never looked back. The area I work is huge, but I love it. It’s nice to get out and see what’s working

We tried to make all our online tastings a bit different and special by sending out cheeseboards, charcuterie or even meal kits to go with the wines

was six months old and she was absolutely feral. Two years on she’s calmed down and she’s great. I love live music and I go to a lot of gigs and festivals. I would say that the most

in different parts of the country. All the

bizarre thing that’s happened to me at

beautiful views driving through the Peaks and Snowdon and places like that … there

what breed she is. We got her when she

impressive to see how people have adapted

work is while I was visiting Marc Hough

their businesses, whether it’s through

at the Heaton Moor branch of Cork of the

making deliveries or utilising outside

North. Rick Astley walked in and started

What’s great about North South is

space by grabbing tables and umbrellas.

chatting to him. We were having a glass of

that we have the connection to our

They have had to change their focus

wine and he was just talking to Marc about

producer partners. De Bortoli, Reh

a number of times within the past 18

having dinner at the Blossoms’ house

Kendermann and The Wine People in

months to work to suit the times.

because they were rehearsing for a Smiths

are worse places to have your office!

covers gig in Manchester. I’d only seen a

Italy: all have a share in the business, so there is a real interest from them in

We’ve been really proactive with

Blossoms gig a few weeks before, so that

what is working in the UK market. They

getting producers and partners on

was a really weird coincidence.

want to know what consumers are looking

board to do online tastings throughout

for, so they listen to our feedback and act

Covid to keep our customers engaged.

on it directly.

We tried to make all our online tastings a bit different and special by sending out

Feature sponsored by North South Wines

As a company we take sustainability

cheeseboards, charcuterie or even meal

For more information about

very seriously and we like to work with

kits to go with the wines. Sometimes

producers with a similar ethos. For

people tucked into the food while we were

example Tohu winery in New Zealand is

tasting, unless it was an early-morning

Maori-owned and their philosophy is to

New Zealand call, in which case they could

THE WINE MERCHANT january 2022 19

the company, email Call 020 3871 9210

WINE MERCHANT READER SURVEY 2022 Since 2012, The Wine Merchant’s annual reader survey has been the most comprehensive exercise in mapping out the UK’s thriving independent wine retailing scene. Please spare 10 minutes to take part. All the details are at Five lucky participants will be selected at random and will win a Coravin, courtesy of our partner Hatch Mansfield.


customers we could do without

30. Mariella Freeborn I’m hoping you can suggest what we should buy for him … I understand nothing about wine but I’m told he’s a huge fan and I think he really knows his stuff … and it is his 60th, so all the team want it to be something really special that we’ve thought hard about … no, I’m not sure what kind of wine he normally drinks but I should think it’s probably … red? I heard he adores Bordeaux wines but hates Italian ones … but it could be the other way around … budget is, I dunno … twenty-five quid? For something really unique

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Congratulations to the five Wine

and iconic? We can maybe stretch to thirty … do you have any ideas? Hmm, it’s hard to describe him … I guess five

Merchant reader survey respondents

ten, five eleven, grey hair? Quite likes rugby, slightly raspy

whose names were drawn at random

AM ANAand TIaMCoravin, GRwho E courtesy of each win

voice, had a Dalmatian called Archie, which died … objects to paying VAT … I guess he is a tiny bit racist but that’s probably a generational thing … he gave me a

our partner Hatch Mansfield. Can you unscramble these Australian winemakers? If so, you win a pardon for one transported forebear. Peter Fawcett, Field & Fawcett, York

lift home once and he just played the © GVS /

same song on his CD over and over again, it was called A Ship Called Dignity … does all this give you anything to work from?

1. Raunchy AnthonyBroiler Borges, The Wine Centre, 2. Arouse Soil Great Horkesley, Essex 3. Top Reggae Zoran 4. BornRistanovic, Scarier City Wine Collection, 5. The Bros Censor London Daniel Grigg, Museum Wines, Dorset Riaz Syed, Stonewines, London

THE THE WINE WINE MERCHANT MERCHANT january october 2021 2022 20

ight ideas br

28: Recipe suggestions Steve Martin Camber Wines, Portsmouth

In a nutshell: A new

What sort of feedback

website features recipes

have you had?

contributed by chefs who

“It’s quite hard to quantify.

work for the company,

I mean we’ve had a

which includes two

few people who have

restaurants and a wine

mentioned that they’ve

shop, complete with wine

tried out a recipe with the


recommended wine. We’ve had some feedback on

Tell us more.

Trustpilot but nothing too

“During lockdown we had

direct. It’s really a way for

the time and impetus to

us to connect with potential

take Camber Wines online

wine buyers. We’re trying

and update our existing

to capture the local

website, which was 10

community and get them to

years old and very basic.

come to us by giving them a little extra.”

“We’ve got two restaurants: Abarbistro, which our wine shop is located above,

likely to be different to what a home cook

Has this been good for business?

and a seafood restaurant called The Briny,

would expect, so we have tried to simplify

“Yes. I think one of the things we struggle

which is two miles down the road on

them, but still retain the creativity.

with from a retail perspective is that we

Southsea seafront.

“We wanted a mixture of small plates

“I asked the chefs [Phillip Murell, left,

and some main dishes and a couple of

are not on the high street. We can be hard to find if you don’t know where we are. “We get a lot of footfall through both

and Cameron Bradshaw, right] to give

desserts. I want to develop a few more

me a couple of recipes. We needed to do

recipes so there’s a constant flow of new

restaurants and with every bill there’s

something that was different to what other

stuff when customers are selecting wines.”

an invite to sign up to our website. By involving the chefs and showcasing their

wine merchants were doing and we felt that our expertise would be to put some

Food can be notoriously difficult

dishes online, alongside our fantastic

recipes alongside some of the wines that

to photograph well. Did you get

wines, it’s a way to engage the customers

we love.”

professional photographers in?

across all the aspects of our business.”

“Because we started doing it in lockdown Recipe ideas aren’t a new concept, but

it was difficult for the chefs to come in and

we like the way you’ve presented this.

make the dishes for us to photograph. I

“I asked our chefs to make the recipes as

sent the recipes to our designers and they

simple as possible but, chefs being chefs,

sourced the photos from image libraries.

there can be complications!

It was much better than us getting our

“A recipe a professional chef follows is

cameras out.”

Steve 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

THE WINE MERCHANT january 2022 21


Favourite Things

Majestic Wine is calling time on its business in Calais after Brexit regulations decimated the traditional “booze cruise”. Prior to the UK’s exit from the EU – and

Belinda Harrison Harrison’s Wines, Ealing


Majestic bids adieu to French branches

New Super Tuscan group plans event

the onset of the coronavirus pandemic –

A new committee for “historical Super

the two Majestic stores raked in £10m in

Tuscans” has been created by a group of

annual sales and are understood to have

wine producers in Tuscany, with plans

contributed around £1m to the retailer’s

to hold an inaugural event in the US in

bottom line.


Retail Week, December 13

The association has set its headquarters in Castelnuovo Berardenga, near Siena. Its founding members include San

Favourite wine on my list

Felice, Antinori and Castellare di

Clos Louie from Cotes de Castillon, Bordeaux. The vines are pre-phylloxera planted in 1950 and reputed to be the oldest in Bordeaux. The grapes are still trodden by foot. It’s a blend of Merlot, Malbec, Carmenère, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Castellina, alongside Montevertine, Castello di Monsanto, Isole e Olena, Badia a Coltibuono, Querciabella, Castello di Fonterutoli, Ambrogio & Giovanni Folonari, Riecine, Felsina, Castello di Volpaia, The Majestic branch at Coquelles

Favourite wine and food match

Alsace Riesling and sushi is a favourite pairing of mine. I love finding wines to pair with Asian cuisine, and Alsace wines work so well with sushi, curries etc.

Favourite wine trip

The Hospices de Beaune auctions in Burgundy are the top of my list. Such a beautiful place and a great story behind the history of the auctions with unrivalled celebrations during the runup to it.

Favourite wine trade person

It has to be Craig Norton at Fine & Rare Wines. He’s always happy to help with sourcing exciting wines.

Favourite wine shop

If I want to look around a wine shop that isn’t my own I always head to Hedonism in Mayfair. I could happily spend the whole day browsing their impressive and extensive selection.

Castello di Ama, Castello di Albola, and Brancaia. The 16 founding wineries all boast at

New editor at The Wine Advocate

least one critically acclaimed Super Tuscan made from grapes grown within the Chianti Classico area before 1994. Decanter, December 8

There’s new leadership at one of the world’s most important wine publications. The new editor in chief of the Robert Parker Wine Advocate is Joe Czerwinski,

Survey reveals Brits’ wine quirks

previously the site’s managing editor. He

Half of Brits think sharing your wine

succeeds Lisa Perrotti-Brown, who led the

knowledge over a glass is pretentious,

Wine Advocate for eight years.

according to a study.

Also promoted is the British wine critic

A survey of 2,000 people by Invino

William Kelley, who assumes the role of

also found that nearly a quarter (22%)

deputy editor.

sometimes pretend to know more about

The subscription site is owned by Michelin, of tyre and dining-guide fame,

wine than they actually do. One quarter admitted to judging a

and it employs eight wine critics who

bottle based on whether it uses a cork or

publish wine reviews as well as vintage

screwcap closure, while just under half

reports, blog posts, travel articles and

(45%) said they enjoyed a glass of red wine


over ice.

San Francisco Chronicle, December 2

The Drinks Business, December 9

THE WINE MERCHANT january 2022 22

BA is on the hunt for a new MW



How good or bad are you finding the service from couriers right now?

I think on the whole the couriers have been fairly decent. I get on well with the local guys but ones who are not familiar with the area can often be intimidating and stressful. That’s all probably down to them being under pressure. ‘Fragile and handle with care’ means absolutely nothing and you have to have extreme protection afforded to any packages. Our main courier is good on the phone and email so when things do go wrong we do have someone we can at least sort it with.

Bosses at British Airways are turning to fine wine to get the beleaguered airline through the turbulence of the pandemic. Until 2010, BA employed top wine writer Jancis Robinson as its consultant. But

she resigned after the airline’s then boss, Willie Walsh, cut costs by appointing a

Alan Irvine The Scottish Gantry, Milngavie & Stirling

single supplier for the airline’s three cabin classes. The flag carrier, which has faced criticism over plans to make passengers order food and drink from an app, is recruiting another Master of Wine in an effort to lift its game. Daily Mail, December 4

We didn’t realise that the greatest bane of our lives would be sending things and it not arriving in one piece. We were so excited when we sent out our first order. We’d lovingly boxed it up and handed it over to the smiley collection guy and it was never seen again. That was our wake-up call. Every time a box goes out we cross ourselves like Catholics and just hope it’s going to make it. We changed couriers three times during our first year.

Alex Griem H Champagne winner H Chilled & Tannin, Cardiff

We had a situation yesterday where the courier had a breakage and for some reason they managed to return it to a private individual, who isn’t even a customer. So this 85-year-old lady received this breakage and it leaked all over her floor. It’s one thing to break the wine but to send the return to a completely random person – it’s just bizarre. Most of the time things are OK, but I think they are all under pressure and they don’t have enough staff.

Mega winery faces local opposition

Plans for Britain’s biggest winery have been put on hold over concerns about

Francis Peel Whitebridge Wines, Stone, Staffordshire

traffic – and badgers. An almost three-hour planning committee meeting was held at Medway Council in Kent to determine the fate of a proposal to build what would be Britain’s biggest winery and visitor centre. This vast, and contemporary, £30m project – named Kentish Wine Vault – would be built on green belt land located in a designated Area of Outstanding Natural

We work with Parcelforce and they’ve been brilliant. There’s a members’ forum on the Vindies website and I think the consensus was that Parcelforce was the most reliable. We use the three-stage pulp packaging, you could almost drop it from 20 feet and the bottles would be fine. I think if you get the packaging right, you’re halfway there. We don’t label it with our company logo so it’s not blindingly obvious that it’s a box of booze.

Simon Hill The Artisan Wine & Spirits Co, Salisbury

Beauty, surrounding the small village of Cuxton, on the North Downs. Many councillors were concerned over the impact of the winery’s visitor centre.

Champagne Gosset The oldest wine house in Champagne: Äy 1584, December 11

THE WINE MERCHANT january 2022 23

The beauty of Bairrada This captivating region of central Portugal, where artisanal winemakers benefit from the cooling influence of the Atlantic, is a natural partner for independent merchants


f you were to build, from scratch, the

wines that balance ripeness of fruit with

consumers looking for something new and

ideal wine region to match the needs

trademark cut and freshness. In Bairrada,


and likes of the UK’s independent

the southern European sun is moderated

Certainly, Bairrada’s prime red grape

wine merchants, you’d be hard pushed to

by the cooling influence of the Atlantic

variety, the captivatingly distinctive Baga,

come up with something that fits the brief

Ocean just a few short miles away in what

is perfectly cast for cult status. There’s

better than Bairrada in central Portugal.

is a decidedly mild, maritime climate.

something of Nebbiolo’s combination of

This, after all, is a place of small-

Those conditions have made Bairrada

aromatic prettiness and grand architectural

scale, artisanal production, with a long

a magnet in recent years for some of

structure (firm tannins and a spine of

tradition of winemaking, based on a mix

Portugal’s finest and most creative

acidity) in the region’s best traditional

of distinctive local and judiciously chosen

winemakers, people with stories to tell

Baga red wines, grown on clay-limestone

national and international grape varieties.

about a region that is equally adept

soils. Robustly structured but elegant, they

at producing grapes for youthful and

are capable of long ageing, taking on ever

fascinatingly fragmented vineyards set

It’s also charming: a patchwork of

ageworthy reds, for scintillatingly balanced

more exotic and complex scents of honey,

among a picturesque concentration of

whites and for Portugal’s best and most

spices, incense and woodsmoke once they

woods and family-owned farms as the

historic sparkling wines.

get to 10 years old or more.

From Baga to Bical

food wines: aged Baga with leitão, the

region moves away from the coast and up into gently rolling hills. More importantly, this relatively narrow

These characteristics make for great That Bairrada remains slightly under the

local speciality of melt-in-the-mouth,

strip of the wider Beira Atlântico area

radar in the UK only adds to the appeal;

crisp-skinned roast suckling pig, is one of

has the ideal conditions for producing

it’s ripe for discovery by adventurous wine

the world’s classic regional food and wine combinations.

Bairrada has become a magnet for some of Portugal’s finest and most creative winemakers

Baga is complemented on the red side by Portuguese grapes Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz and Aragonez as well as international Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah, all of which have adapted well to the local conditions and are permitted by the DOC

THE WINE MERCHANT january 2022 24

Bairrada rules. It’s a similar situation with whites. The traditional Bairrada white is a blend, based on a local quartet of Arinto, Bical, Cercial and Maria Gomes, and sometimes complemented by Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Whether it’s youthful, early- and easydrinking aromatic, or something more serious, mineral, pithy and long-lived, these white blends are every bit as singular as Bairrada’s reds, the combination of varieties, climate and terroir coming together to provide wines with a beguilingly natural spine of acidity.


hat’s true of the sparkling wines, too. The first Portuguese region to make a traditional-method

sparkling wine back in 1880, Bairrada remains Portugal’s standout producer of quality fizz, accounting for around two-thirds of the country’s total annual production of bubbles. Here too there’s stylistic variety: Bairrada sparkling can be citrussy fresh and direct, or more aromatically pretty and floral. It can even be red. But, like everything in Bairrada, it’s always marked by the streak of Atlantic freshness that has made the region one of European wine’s rising stars – and a perfect match for the UK’s independent wine retailing scene.

A basket of Bairrada wines Aplauso White Bairrada DOC Brut 2016 (Amathus, RRP £15) A three-way blend of Baga, Touriga Nacional and Pinot Noir, this characterful Bairrada Blanc de Noirs is lithe and lively and bright with appealing soft mousse and flavours of crisp apple and lemon zest, leading to a savoury-spicy ginger-biscuit finish. Vadio Bairrada Branco 2020 (Bibendum, RRP £13.95) A classic blend of Bical and Cercial grown on a mix of sandy and clay-limestone soils, this tightly coiled dry white is full of latent energy and verve, the steely acidity providing the backbone for pithy lime and lemon and some salty seasoning on the finish. Luis Pato Vinhas Velhas Bairrada Branco 2020 (Raymond Reynolds, RRP £16.49) The latest vintage of star winemaker Luis Pato’s justly celebrated old-vine blend of Bical with Cercial and Sercialinho is a kind of Atlantic answer to great dry Riesling, all tensile steely acidity, rocky minerals and dancing Cox’s apple and grapefruit tang. Delicious now, but built to last.

Niepoort Drink Me Natcool Bairrada 2020 (Raymond Reynolds, RRP £17.50) From the ever-restless, everinnovative Dirk Niepoort’s Bairrada outpost Quinta de Baixo, a 100% Baga that aims for pure drinkability and elegance and doesn’t miss. Light (12%) in alcohol, crisp in acidity, it’s bursting with just-picked raspberry and cherry and sappy ripe tannin. Aliança Bairrada Reserva 2018 (Boutinot, RRP £8.95) 70% Baga supplemented with Tinta Roriz and Touriga Nacional, this is aged in stainless steel to better present its fruit-burst of inky blackberries and touch of figgy sweetness, nicely contrasted with the tang and chew of plum skins and just enough tannic grip to keep things red-meat friendly. Marqués de Marialva Colheita Selecionada Bairrada 2018 (Seeking distribution, RRP £10.99) There’s lots of sweet jammy fruit in this crowd-pleasing, warming red blend of 50% Baga with 30% Aragonez and 20% Touriga Nacional, while the plentiful tannins are well-managed and soft after six months in used French oak, with lively acidity balancing the cherry bakewell finish. Arco Dâ Agieira Bairrada 2016 (Portugalia, RRP £21.17) From the region’s north east, a different take on the Bairrada red, in which Touriga Nacional, grown on alluvial soils, takes the lead to sumptuous effect, the fruit perfectly ripe and fleshy without being fat, the ample tannins polished and fine, the Bairrada freshness shining through.

Traditional-method sparkling wine has been made in Barraida since 1880

THE WINE MERCHANT january 2022 25

Sponsored feature


Don’t judge a wine by its label. But looks do matter There’s a reason why so many independent wine merchants seem to fill their shelves with good-looking bottles. David Williams learns some facts of retailing life in the company of some old hands


am a firm believer in the value of

just don’t find when you’re tasting, as I

a wine label at a given price, or style or

blind tastings. In my view, tasting

almost always tend to do, with producers,

region. Even I am able to sense that the

without knowing the producer

journalists, or even sommeliers.

funky illustration and loud colours that

(vintage and region are another matter) is

Indeed, for many of my press colleagues,

might work, craft-ale style, with a glou-

the only way to really be sure that nothing

a fixation on labels is just not the done

glou pet nat are just not going to work on

extraneous gets in the way of judging a

thing. Any discussion of packaging beyond

a Burgundy grand cru. But I’d be much

wine’s quality – the only way to keep out

a brief aside is liable to provoke under-the-

less confident in asserting what would

prejudice based on reputation, whether the

breath muttering about books, covers and

be effective for all the many gradations

sentiment you bring with you is negative

philistines: it’s the definition of superficial.

of style in between those two stylistic

or overly reverential. A week spent tasting with

To which any merchant would be justified in responding with


Loire at the end of

the realities of how


last year, however,

wines make their

years of conditioning about what makes a

reminded me that

way from shelf

fine wine label and, therefore, not a little

there are limits to blind

to purchase soon

conservative. I like my fine wine labels as

a group of independent merchants on a Wine Merchant trip to the

tasting, that there are other factors involved in testing a wine’s worth as a commercial entity, and that no

a roll of the eye and an invitation to spend a day in a shop where

make themselves apparent. Listening to the group of merchants in the Loire

y own instincts with packaging are almost entirely emotional, I’ve come to

realise, based on a mix of nostalgia and

traditional as possible: the Germans should be fluted and filled with gothic script and elaborate fine-point illustrations in gold, black and green; I feel a little short-

successful wine survives on the quality of

dissect – sometimes rather ruthlessly – the

changed and suspicious if my Bordeaux

the liquid alone.

worth of each label as we tasted that week

doesn’t have a château depicted; I respond

was all the more fascinating since I felt so

powerfully to anything that comes with a

under-qualified to join in.

bold 1920s or 1930s-style font.

I have some sense of this already, of course. I’m not completely naive. All the same it was striking how much interest my

Clearly there’s more to it than simply

For those producers who don’t have that

companions in the Loire took in the way

liking the picture, or the layout, the colour

kind of length of service, but are charging

the wines looked – a quality and intensity

or the font. There are judgement calls to

more than £20, I don’t want faux-retro, I

of attention to labels and bottles that you

be made on what consumers want from

want something coolly, minimally modern.

THE WINE MERCHANT january 2022 26

Under £20, it’s much more that anything

may be, a new wine is never going to get a

taken out into the world, it’s also acting,

goes, so long as I like it. I am, in other

place on the shelves if it is dressed, as one

indirectly, as an ambassador for your

words, a fairly typical wine consumer.

of my companions in the Loire described

business, provoking awkward questions

one unfortunate bottle, “like a 1990s

for your customers from their friends like

considerably more analytical about

The best merchants, however, are

Powerpoint presentation” or a “Bulgarian

“Where did that hideous bottle come from

what works than me. Even when their

wine from Tesco in 2007”. For one thing, it

– Lidl?” Which, if nothing else, reminds

judgements start to feel like instinct, it’s

brings the overall look of the shop down.

us that there may still be value in blind

an instinct of experience and knowledge of

And if, by some miracle it gets chosen and

tastings after all.

their customers, what appeals to them, and what they are likely to pick up and buy. an aesthetic. In any wine merchant wine bottles make up the majority of the wall space: they are, to all intents and purposes, the décor. A merchant can tolerate a few poorly designed aberrations if the wines are sufficiently good and/or well known. But no matter how good the liquid inside

For many of my press colleagues, a fixation on labels is just not the done thing. Any discussion of packaging beyond a brief aside is liable to provoke under-thebreath muttering about books, covers and philistines: it’s the definition of superficial © chiyacat /

But it’s also about wanting a shop to have

Blind tastings remain the best way of assessing wines without prejudice

THE WINE MERCHANT january 2022 27

SPICING THINGS UP F i t z S p e n c e r o f H o n k y To n k W i n e L i b r a r y h a s d o n e a l o t o f thinking about the way he runs his business. It’s a process that has resulted in an exclusive-label rum, and plans for a n e n t i r e l y n e w d i v i s i o n f o r t h e c o m p a n y. T h a t ’s b e f o r e w e even get started on podcasts, health products and fish.


ots of independent merchants are

have our own brands, plus niche brands

intrigued by the potential of rum.

that want to come into the UK. We don’t

Few are so invested in the category

want to go heavy on the wine brands, but

that they’re prepared to launch their own

we’ll be looking more at spirits.”

brand, but that’s exactly what Fitz Spencer

The retail side of the company is also in a

has done.

dynamic phase. “No longer can you just put

Honky Tonk Plantation Spice Batch Rum

wines on the shelves and open the doors,”

is named after Honky Tonk Wine Library,

says Spencer. “People want something

the Plymouth shop and bar that Spencer


established in 2018 with partner Zoe

“Honky Tonk has moved from being a


wine shop and deli to a wine shop, deli and

“I could have gone down the easy route


and jumped on the gin bandwagon, but I’ve

“At the end of next year, we’ll take on the

grown up with rum,” he says. “If it comes to

new building next door and that will be our

spirits, my go-to would always be rum.

deli shop and a fishmonger, butcher and a

“Spiced rum is becoming very popular,

huge wine emporium. Fitz Spencer

especially in the UK. I wanted to do it in

“So all the retail side will be next door.

the old-school style, very flavoursome with

People can still come into Honky Tonk to


the wine library if they want to buy wine to

The company’s partner in the project is Devon Distillery. “We talked about the heritage of where the flavours were coming from,” says Spencer. “We did about 12

cocktail bespoke to us and if that goes well,

take away after their meal. That will grow

we might look at putting that out too.”

as a separate brand, and we’ll hopefully do

There are more launches in the pipeline, including a straight rum and a bourbon.

another one of them. “What we’ve found is that there are

batches before we got to the base batch

offshoots of different businesses that come

that we liked. Then it took us another three

from Honky Tonk.

months of tweaking the flavours and spice

“We can’t put our eggs in one basket. We

sell on the shelves for £39.95. Other


retailers can buy the rum for £24.15, if they

£80,000 in the business and that doesn’t

order between one and five cases.

include the rum side, which was just shy of

lockdown. It was a bit like Desert Island

£9,000,” he says.

Discs but talking about wine. We’re trying

and balancing out the alcohol and getting the recipe right.” The initial order was 860 bottles, which

“It’s full of flavour to start off with, then

ockdown provided Spencer with

had to diversify during lockdown: online,

time to take stock of his trading

own brands, online tastings … we did

model. “During that time, we’ve

everything to keep our heads above water,

probably invested another £70,000 to

and we thought, ‘this is working’. “We started with a podcast before

you can taste the vanilla, then you get the

“The margins and exclusivity are part of

spice kick – it is slightly spicier than most

the appeal of launching our own products,

“We’ve been so busy. I was mad enough

of them out there,” says Spencer.

but it’s more about looking at our business

to start another business on the health side


of things too.

“The perfect serve is over ice with a wedge of orange and when you have that

to get French and Saunders on.

“Through lockdown we did pretty well

“We’ve got staff on the shop floor and

orange zest hitting the spice, it really

with online sales. We spent £10,000 on an

Zoe and I are in the office most of the time

complements it. Failing that, I would say a

e-commerce site and the aim is to take the

running the business. Once or twice a

splash of Coke or with ginger beer to give it

Honky Tonk brand into a different sector.

week we are on the shop floor, but we are

that extra kick.

“I want to be able to develop separate

“My mixologist has come up with a

businesses in the months to come, so we’ll

making sure we’re running the business rather than the business running us.”

We’ve probably invested another £70,000 to £80,000 in the business and that doesn’t include the rum, which was just shy of £9,000

THE WINE MERCHANT january 2022 29

Hurrah for the Loire


f, after nearly two years without so much as stepping in a vineyard, you were casting around for the best

European region to make your first postpandemic wine-buying trip, it would be hard to think of a better pick than the Loire Valley. Here, after all, is a classic French wine region that, in terms of sheer variety – of grapes, terroir and winemaking approach and style – is like several regions rolled

A group of stir-crazy independents were itching to take part in their first post-pandemic buying trip – and what better destination could there be than the multi-faceted Loire Valley?

into one: nowhere else can offer so much in one place, while still retaining an underlying, regional identity. Indeed, as our party of seven independent wine merchants soon discovered after converging on the Loire

David Williams reports back on an eventful five days

from their homes across the UK in midNovember, the better part of five days in the region may only scratch the surface of

Photography by Riaz Syed

what’s available. But where else in the world could you move so seamlessly from vibrant, fragrant

THE WINE MERCHANT january 2022 30

young dry whites to exquisite lateharvested elixirs, via some of the world’s best (and best-value) sparkling wines, red wines both youthfully juicy and built to age, incredibly complex barrel-fermented dry Chenin, and rosés filled to bursting with character and gastronomic potential?

Vouvray: A classically styled beginning The trip began in one of the Loire’s most historic and famous appellations, and one of the best places in the world to grow Chenin Blanc: Vouvray, and the cool cellars

Alex Edwards of York Wines

of one its most fastidious and qualityfocused producers, Domaine Vigneauof the region’s history and terroir, which

Chenin), with production in Touraine,

he dispensed as the merchants followed,

Touraine-Chenonceaux and IGP Val de

victiculture, winemaker Christophe

sometimes crouching into the darkness,

Loire, while the winemaking is modern,

Vigneau, who runs the 33ha family

the chalky taste filling the senses, just as it

clean, focused.

domaine with brother Stéphane (the fifth

runs through the Gautier family’s extensive

generation), explained that “organics is a

and expressive range of sparkling, dry and

Domaine de la Renne Touraine Sauvignon

way of life,” at the domaine, and has been

sweet Chenin Blancs.

was a standout. “Straightforward, fresh

Chevreau. A long-term advocate of sustainable

since he took over from his father in 1995.

“I’d certainly keep an eye on what he’s

For York Wines’ Alex Edwards, the

and light, with hints of blackcurrant,

doing,” said Stonewines’ Riaz Syed. “I

nettles and gooseberry, and prickly – in a

to go biodynamic, the green pioneers’

thought the quality was good. And I loved

nice way” it was “really quite good for the

production is a study in fine Chenin Blanc

his enthusiasm.”

price”, said Edwards, who also enjoyed the

Only the second estate in the region

in all its forms, with the Vigneau frères convinced their approach is the best way

domaine’s cherry-scented Gamay. Working in the same trio of appellations,

to help preserve Vouvray’s characteristic

Touraine: Freshness and variety

but at a considerably smaller (12ha) scale,

freshness as the climate warms.

After a memorable homemade lunch deep

Domaine du Vieil Orme charmed the

in the caves with the Gautiers, the group

merchants with the quality of its wines

Company, these wines “were among the

left Vouvray behind. But the themes of

and what Marc Hough of Cork of the North

most memorable of the trip. Taut, baked

family and careful stewardship of the

called the “lovely vibe of the place”.

apple and stone-fruit layered sparklers and

land continued throughout a fascinating

the most sublime Chenin Blanc, Cuveé de

afternoon in Touraine.

For Camilla Wood of the Somerset Wine

“This is exactly the sort of place you hope to find when you’re on a trip like this,”

First up was the immaculately tended

Hough added. “The wines are great and are

vintages but no less complex and beautiful

60ha family estate Domaine de la Renne,

going in the right direction, and the people

for it, in my view. Their 1990 Clos Baglin

which is run on organic lines (including

are warm and lovely – the kind you want to

dessert wine was a very special conclusion

6ha in official conversion) by Patrice Dupas

work with.”

to the tour here.”

and Laurent Brunet.

Silex: now in a richer style due to hotter

Another pair of passionately committed

The pair’s efforts have transformed the

brothers were on hand to welcome and

look of the domaine, with vineyards that,

guide the merchants at fellow family-run

in Dupas’s words, “looked like the moon”

Vouvray cellar, Caves Gautier. And a guide

before the current generation took over

was most certainly necessary as Benoit

now filled with cover crops and flowers.

Gautier led the merchants through the

The vineyards are planted to a broad

byzantine network of caves carved out of

palette of grape varieties, both red

the tuffeau (limestone) below his winery.

(Cabernet Sauvignon, Gamay, Malbec aka

The erudite, professorial Gauthier was an endless source of fascinating details

Côt, and local speciality Pineau d’Aunis) and white (Sauvignon Blanc plus a little

THE WINE MERCHANT january 2022 31

Victoria Platt of Vagabond

how versatile Chinon Cabernet Franc can be. “Chinon Cabernet Franc like this works in every season,” Freddi added. “It works when it’s the summer and served cold, and in the winter it can still offer the comforting hug, the warming hug. I think it has a really great future in the market.” From Chinon, it was on to another classic Cabernet Franc appellation: SaintNicolas-de-Bourgueil. As Carine Rezé, of

Camilla Wood of The Somerset Wine Company

Domaine de la Jarnoterie told the group, Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil is a “very small village” appellation, but its expression of

Winemaker Laurent Benoist and

was at first glance narrower: all the estates

family’s vineyards near their home in the

visited were red-wine specialists, and

village of Saint Julien-de-Chédon are just

Cabernet Franc specialists at that.

5km from Château de Chenonceau. They

As it turned out, however, that didn’t

Cabernet Franc is “unique”. Certainly, the merchants were charmed by the Jarnoterie experience. The fifthgeneration family firm uses neutral

yield impressively balanced Sauvignon,

make the visits – or the wines tasted – any

chestnut and old oak for ageing, as well as

Chardonnay and Chenin, for dry, sweet and

less diverse than the previous day’s multi-

fermenting all its production in concrete

crémant styles. The group was particularly

coloured tour of Touraine and Vouvray.

tank, as it looks to make the fruit the star in

impressed with the fragrant, ageworthy

Modern-day Loire Cabernet Franc speaks

its range of Cabernet Franc cuvées, which

reds made either exclusively or with a little

in a variety of very different accents, it

all take their name from musical terms, a

Cabernet Franc from Côt.


reflection of the music-teacher background

As Camilla Wood said: “This was an

At the group’s first stop, the benchmark

of Rezé who runs the domaine with her

adventurous, adaptable, pioneering but

Chinon producer Domaine du Saut au

typically modest farming family letting the

Loup, for example, everything owner Eric

land talk for them.”

Santier does is geared towards getting

in another one of the region’s remarkably

the best expression of the clay-limestone

deep limestone cellars, hidden some 30


A red-letter day For the second day of the trip, the focus

winemaker husband, Didier. The wines also benefit from being aged

metres down, and accessed via a

Santier, who bought the 13ha

250-metre drive ever deeper

(12ha Cabernet Franc, 1ha

into the earth’s interior.

Chenin Blanc) estate eight

The visit was “the

years ago after leaving his

highlight of the trip” for Will

career in the food industry,

Honeywell. “A wine library

is currently in the process

trapped in another age, with

of converting officially to organics, as well as changing the name from the previous Domaine

described the experience.

Dozon (which you can still see on some

“We were presented with a beautiful

labels). He makes a variety of Cabernet Franc

Will Honeywell of Vinological

the atmosphere of a villain’s secret hideout” was how he

lunch, fit for the elite of Paris, surrounded by rows of chestnut barrels and a roaring

cuvées from different plots, with his top

fire fuelled by Cabernet Franc vine

wine, Le Grand Saut, coming from a plot


of 70 to 80-year-old vines. As Albertine’s

No less impressive, to Honeywell and

Rob Freddi, for whom the domaine was a

the rest of the group, was another feat of

highlight, said, Santier’s wines show just

innovative engineering, this time from

THE WINE MERCHANT january 2022 32

“I get through the best part of a pallet

of Prosecco rosé a month, and this is a much better wine that will appeal to the same audience.” MARC HOUGH, CORK OF THE NORTH

the exuberant diversity of styles that

Caves de la Loire, which represents nine

characterises this beautiful corner of the

sites and 180 growers across the region.

wine world. As well as in the wines themselves,

So it was particularly gratifying for Syed to see the positive reaction to a number

there’s a healthy diversity of approach, too,

of Les Caves de la Loire wines, notably

in ways of making, marketing and selling

the opulent dry Chenin Feuille d’Or Anjou

wine. At Domaine Moncourt, for example,

Blanc and the lusciously complex aged

a mere century (rather than several

Jean-Charles Moreau’s raison d’être is

Coteaux du Layon dessert wines Moulin

centuries) into the past.

to provide “as many people as I can with

Touché 2003 and 1977.

Riaz Syed of Stonewines

Based around a very special 10ha clos (or stone wall-enclosed single-vineyard),

good-value wine”. Having started working with his

The balanced golden richness of the very best Coteaux du Layon also provided the

Clos Cristal represents an audacious bid by

father selling wine “door-to-door”, the

highlights of the group’s final visit, to the

leading Loire co-operative Alliance Loire

entrepreneurial Moreau has grown his

beautifully situated Château de Bellevue,

to establish Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil in

business from 34ha to 120ha, supplying

which has some 35ha of vines, specialising

high-end restaurants and retail.

competitively priced varietal wines to

in rich but balanced Chenin Blanc in

export markets including Russia and China.

Anjou Blanc, Savennières, as well as the

The clos was developed by Antoine Cristal, the debonair textile magnate and

It may not be the most glamorous job in

friend of artists such as Claude Monet.

wine, but, as Edwards said, “someone has

Cristal came up with a way of planting

to do it” and Moreau’s affordable cuvées no

sweet wine Coteaux du Layon Premier Cru Chaume et Quarts de Chaume Grand Cru. With sweeping views across the Loire

vines in which the roots are placed on the

doubt bring new consumers to the region

Valley, the estate was the ideal place to

northern side of a wall running across the

and its array of small artisanal producers.

reflect on a week of stunning wines and

vineyard, while the vine itself is trained

Vincent Esnou, whose Domaine de La

fascinating visits, as the complex honeyed

through a hole so that the canopy grows

Belle Etoile is based in the Anjou-Brissac

scents of Château de Bellevue’s Quart de

onto a south-facing wall.

appellation and produces wines of all

Chaume 1997 Cuvée Polite lingered in the

colours and styles – from impressive oak-


The idea was to balance freshness with ripeness. And while the jury may still be

aged dry Anjou Chenin to gloriously sticky,

out on the science, the results of the first

apple-tangy Coteaux de l’Aubance sweet

(2017) vintage of the wine produced since

wines, and vibrant crunchy Anjou-Brissac

Alliance Loire took over the vineyard and

Cabernet Franc – is certainly in the latter,

began renovations in 2016 suggest there

artisanal camp.

may be something in it. “Tasting the Clos

Esnou, who worked for many years

Cristal in the vineyard, surrounded by

in South Africa, also impressed with a

the red-speckled Cabernet Franc leaves,

Crémant de Loire rosé. “I get through the

really brought the flavours to life, and I

best part of a pallet of Prosecco rosé a

was delighted to experience an expression

month, and this is a much better wine that

that I didn’t know Saumur-Champigny was

will appeal to the same audience,” said

capable of,” said Honeywell.

Marc Hough of Cork of the North. For Riaz Syed of Stonewines, the

Anjou, Saumur and the diversity of the Middle Loire The trip concluded with a return to

penultimate visit was a validation of his buying choices. Syed already stocks a handful of wines sourced by Richard Kelley MW from the extensive portfolio of Les

THE WINE MERCHANT january 2022 33

Sunset in Coteaux du Layon


Tim Pearce, South Petherton, November 2021

Flying sourcer Former RAF engineer Tim Pearce changed course to bring quality wines to a not-quite-so remote corner of Somerset. Nigel Huddleston pays a visit


hen Tim Pearce decided to wind down his lucrative aeronautical engineering

consultancy, opening a wine shop was third on a list of three alternative career options. The first was a hang-gliding school in Spain, where the climate makes it more

market that fit the bill. So a wine shop it was – and Tim’s Wines

connects London with south west England

Petherton in the spring of 2017.

via Stonehenge.

“This little shop came up,” recalls Tim. “It used to be a ladies’ fashion shop. “I didn’t know the village but it looked really nice. We only lived seven miles away

does in the UK. That idea was scuppered by

in Long Sutton but never came here.”

The second was to buy a golf course in the UK, but there was just nothing on the

drive from the A303, the busy road that

opened in the Somerset village of South

of an all-year business proposition than it arcane Spanish property laws.

remote, but it’s actually only two minutes’

“We used to drive past it all the time on the A303 and didn’t even realise it was here,” adds Tim. He’d done a lot of international travelling during an RAF career as an engineering

With its stone-built shops and houses,

officer looking after Nimrod, Hawk,

red phone box and old-school indie traders,

Tornado and Hercules aircraft. After

South Petherton village centre feels

realising that his consultancy business was

THE WINE MERCHANT january 2022 34

TIM’S WINES requiring him to be away from home even more than he had been during his RAF days, he embarked on a big career change. “It took a little while to come down to a slower pace of life,” he says. “It was like chalk and cheese in terms of stress levels. “I was playing at it a little bit at first, but then I realised I really enjoyed the

‘I was playing at it a little bit at first, but then I realised I really enjoyed the atmosphere and meeting people and talking about wines’

atmosphere and meeting people and talking about wines.” What was the attraction of the village

now come in and have a bit more drive. The

who doesn’t know anything about the


others are generational businesses that


There are over 4,000 residents but you

get passed on; some still see it as Victorian

don’t realise because it’s so spread out.

times. They’d have a horse and cart if they

the wines and he just memorises it all –

There are other lovely little villages around

could. It’s good to have that feel, but it’s

and he can talk about them better than I

here as well. We’ve had a big influx from

also good to have people who are looking

can. Everyone says he’s great. I’m lucky

London and the south east since the

at the 21st century and how they can do

he’s a good little sponge.

pandemic, so house prices have gone sky

things differently.

Gavin’s like a sponge. I talk to him about

How does that approach stand up

high. Properties are only on the market for How many people work in the business?


There’s just me really. If we go on holiday

I can afford to do it. I’d invested in fine

there was The Vineyard in Sherborne, a

we just close. My son Gavin’s a graphic

wines through Berry Bros way back, so

wine shop in Taunton and Santé in Wells

designer and comes in and covers for me

I sold those wines and used that money

but there was nothing in between. There

sometimes. Other people have offered to

to stock the shop. I’d bought them as an

were lot of really well-heeled villages and

help out, but you need to make sure they’re

investment and never touched any of them

nothing to serve them.

the right personality, to give out the right

for 15 years. I even forgot about it to be

a day and get lots of offers. When I first looked at doing a shop,

We used to buy our own wines from

message and understand the wines as well.

Santé. When I told them I was setting up

We don’t want customers to find someone

Continues page 36

a wine shop [David Schroetter] said he was disappointed because one of his best customers would disappear. But they were really good in helping me to set up and connecting me with other people. What is the local business community like? When I came here I started a business association to try and get shops to see how they could build on what they’ve got by working together, because it was very much everyone doing their own little thing. It worked for a little while, but they all went back into their shells when the pandemic came. It was a bit of shame. But there are some new businesses who’ve

The shop covers a lot of bases without being “overpacked with wine”

THE WINE MERCHANT january 2022 35


From page 35

How have you reconfigured things?

simple. It works and people like it. It’s easy

We have a local rosé and sparkling wine

to remember.

from Smith & Evans and we also use honest. I didn’t want to sell those wines in here because they’d have been too

Langham’s in Dorset. After that, I use Liberty, Ellis Wines,

They still come in ask my name though. And when Gavin’s in they call him Tim as well.

expensive, especially to start establishing

Bancroft, a little bit of Delibo. The rest I

a market.

shop around and pick wines I like and can

Is it rented or freehold?

wax lyrical about to customers.

It’s a lease. There’s a flat above and a flat

We had savings as well but thought, why use that if we don’t have to? We’ve made

There’s a lovely hotel and restaurant at

below. It would be great if I could take over

four times what we’ve got from selling

Bruton, nearby, called The Newt, run by

the cellar but they wanted too much rent

those wines, so it was a good investment.

the people who own the Babylonstoren

for it, so I store wine in my double garage.

wine estate in Stellenbosch. [Koos Bekker]

The owner asked me if I wanted to buy the

Which suppliers have been supportive?

made his money in telecoms and now he

building but I’m 60 now: do I really want to

Initially, I used Fields Morris & Verdin; they

imports his wines to the UK. They’re selling

take that on?

were brilliant. They came down and stayed

really well. It’s another arm that’s local and

for a couple of days and let us try lots of

easy to restock. I don’t need to order lots

how it went and it’s gone really well. A lot

wines. They were planning to come for a

of wine from them. I just ring them up and

of people said we’d never sell wine in this

day and they stayed for three days and we

say, “we need a dozen of this and a dozen of

village – “what’s a wine shop doing here?”

got a good selection.

that”, and they just bring them out.

We said, “if you don’t try …”

We leased for two years initially to see

Unfortunately, just before the pandemic, BBR cut the legs from under FMV. Lizzy Rudd sent a nice letter but then we were left looking round to search out wines from elsewhere.

‘Turnover quadrupled in 2020. I’ve kept probably three-quarters of that. Independents thrived if they moved with the times’

After losing a big supplier like that there’s been a bit of churn through the pandemic to get the stock right.

What about the shop design?

How did you change those perceptions?

We used a local firm to decorate the place.

When we opened I had the front open

There’s a sawmill down the road. My idea

and just stood by the railings outside and

was to get scaffolding poles and planks and

chatted to people as they went past. It just

put them round the walls.

created the right atmosphere with the

They told me I could buy sycamore wood

locals, to make sure they knew we weren’t

for the same price as a scaffolding plank.

too standoffish. I also started putting

He cut and smoothed it down and all we

funnies outside on the board and that got

needed to do was put Danish oil on it. We

people talking about us. It’s a nice village

got some oak blocks to put the shelves on.

and people are very friendly.

They cut them to the right shape, because it’s a rhombus shape, and I put them in.

One thing that’s striking is it that although the shop is small it doesn’t feel

And the name – why just Tim’s?


I looked at other wine shop names and

I haven’t overpacked it with wine. I could

think they can be quite corny.

have gone a shelf higher and extended

I asked Gavin to do a logo and think

things out to cover the space but I didn’t

about names. He came up with some

really want to do that. You can have a

names and we went through a whole load

relatively small selection of wines and

of them, but we decided to just keep it

cover almost every base.

THE WINE MERCHANT january 2022 36

© Chrs /


Tim’s RAF career saw him working with aircraft including the Tornado fighter jet

If someone comes in and says they like

mess bar you get good wines.

independents thrived if they moved with the times and did Zoom tastings and

a particular wine I’ll go and get it. We’ve had Jordanian, Lebanese, Romanian and

What are your own favourites?

delivered to people. I see in The Wine

Hungarian wine. If they’ve been away

I love full-bodied wines; I love Argentina, I

Merchant that places have shut and I

somewhere and liked the wine, why not

love Australia, I love South Africa, because

wonder why, because really the market has

do what you can for them? That’s what we

their reds are deeper and more full-bodied.

jumped up. People wanted to still be able

supply, really: individuality.

But there are occasions when I love a

to have something really nice and not have

fine Beaujolais or Pinot. It depends what

to stand in a supermarket queue. They

Where did your own passion for wine

you’re eating and who the company is. I’ve

were willing to pay a bit more because they

come from?

got a broad palate. I did WSET Level 3 to

didn’t have to go out.

Before the forces I never really enjoyed

learn about wines. I thought I had some

wine. In the 1970s it was all Piesporter and

knowledge, but you realise how little you

How did you make the most of that

Blue Nun – the German stuff. When I joined


time? During the pandemic we did more of a

up I went away a lot and you’re always on good rates of pay and allowances for hotels

So, how have the last two years been for

– and you eat in those hotels and they’ve

the business?

got fine wine. I tried different wines and

Turnover quadrupled in 2020. I’ve kept

just got a taste for it really. In every officers’

probably three-quarters of that. I think

THE WINE MERCHANT january 2022 37

delivery service; we closed at 4pm and did

Continues page 38

MERCHANT PROFILE reticent about being in close company, even though they might have been to the pub and stood cheek by jowl. We’re doing by-the glass in the shop and we’ve got tables and chairs outside – and I spread out up the steps to the church as well. It’s a little Tuscany-like place to sit. What is South Petherton drinking at the moment? There’s a big market for cheap and cheerful but there’s also a good market for fine wine. The bestseller at the top end is an Amarone from Monte del Frà. It’s deep, almost like a port, 15.5% abv. It’s got real depth to it and people just love it. It’s almost a last-thing-at-night wine after they’ve eaten, like sitting with a glass of brandy. My mid-range is selling fantastically

Tim Pearce: happy running his “adult sweet shop”

well: anything between £15 and £20. The customers here are knowledgeable about

From page 37

employees had been to a tasting here and

wines but they want gulping wines for the

thought it would be something they could

right time of year as well.

do instead of Christmas party. They had 80 deliveries at the end of the day. The pub

employees and their partners on Teams. It

Any plans to replicate Tim’s elsewhere?

was doing takeaway wine and beer at first

was a first for me but I gave it a go.

We’ve talked about expanding. I’m

but that got taken away from them. We were very lucky in that respect. We were open but it was two people

There was me and the chief exec in their office and we sent six bottles out to all the employees. After that I did around

financially secure so I don’t really need to. I’m happy doing my adult sweet shop. I’ve tried to get Gavin interested enough

maximum. Ever since we started we’ve

30 of varying sizes. I also did a private

to have another shop he could run

been doing evening wine tastings in here;

one at a campsite, for about 50 people

somewhere else, but, although he likes

we can get 12 to 15 people in the shop but

sitting around a fire pit. It was face-to-face

wines and enjoys it, it doesn’t get his

it’s bit cosy. We did them monthly before

because it was open air. Overall, they were

creative juices going enough, like graphic

the pandemic and after that I brought in


design does.

Zoom tastings. What started it off was a

I like the idea of somewhere bigger so

local company that makes solar panels,

Will live events return to the shop?

I could have more tables and chairs and

who asked me to do one because some

I haven’t done because people are still

more of wine bar, as well as the wine shop. But it would take me away from it all … the payroll and so on. I don’t really want to do

‘We’re doing by-the glass in the shop and we’ve got tables and chairs outside – and I spread out up the steps to the church as well. It’s a little Tuscany-like place to sit.’

that. I’m happy with what I’ve got. It was a two-year plan to see how it worked. If it hadn’t we’d have had a great cellar and just shut the shop. But it did work, and carried on working, and it’s flown from 2019 onwards, really.

THE WINE MERCHANT january 2022 38


Pete Caldwell

Dalrymple Vineyards, Tasmania Tasmanian-born Pete grew up in a farming family before training at Roseworthy and then embarking on an 11-year journey working at wineries in California, Bordeaux, Burgundy and New Zealand. He returned home and joined Dalrymple, which since 2007 has been part of Hill-Smith Family Vineyards.

Roseworthy, during my time, was based around volume and price points and making these shiny, fruity wines that were very popular in the late 80s and 90s. It was only when I was in Europe that it struck me that what we were doing in Tasmania was more on the edge. More involvement in the viticulture, and more finesse. The fine balance. It was not just all about sunshine but a bit more about intensity with restraint. When I went to work in Margaux I couldn’t believe how good that very first press of Merlot was. It was then that I realised this was the way I was going to go: to follow the path that is not so easy and is fraught with danger and stress. A lot of people see Tasmania as the cool-climate region of Australia. And cool-climate wines are being championed more and more in the restaurant trade and among consumers. You have reliability in Australia to a certain degree. The sun is always going to shine, you’re never going to run out of season, you’re always going to make something. In Tassie you have to do everything right. Viticulture is the big difference between Tasmania and the mainland. You can’t push your yield or cut corners on any hands-on work. We have more of a vigneron attitude here. More people here are running vineyards and making the wine, rather than just being one or the other, and I think that connection is more European in mentality.

Pinot is a never-ending curiosity. I’ve been to so many Pinot conferences and met so many Pinot people and they are in a world of their own. We have fruit from four different vineyards and out of that I make 35 different Pinots. You have to appreciate little parcels and understand them. My attitude to whole-bunch fermentation changes from year to year. I do like it. I like the wines to be foodfriendly and a bit complex. Whole-bunch gives you that edge but some years you can get that green tomato and sappiness that can be overwhelming. You need to know when to say in a warm year that you just don’t do it. Chardonnay is about a quarter of our production. The rest is Pinot Noir. We used to do Sauvignon Blanc but we’ve moved away from that now. When I first came back to Tasmania I started doing a Chablis-esque Chardonnay, sort of thinking we were going to see those Chablis greener edges to the wine. But the fruit proved to be a lot riper than that. We do everything by hand and that helps a lot with phenolic control. I’m very careful about not pressing too hard and taking that free-run off quite early. That retains the brightness of the fruit and keeps it away from too much structure. I use large-format older oak. The concentrated oak character doesn’t really work with the natural balance of the wine

Dalrymple wines are imported into the UK by Fells 01442 870900 THE WINE MERCHANT january 2022 39

so people are moving towards ceramic products. We’ve got a couple of ceramic eggs and I think that works better for Chardonnay. We are not a part of Burgundy, we are not a part of Australia. This is Tasmania, this is the site, this is what it does and you can’t expect it to do anything else. I’m happy to say this is Pipers River and this is the style we make, this is the character and if I can make this character from year to year, then I feel we own something.

Cave Block Chardonnay RRP: £26.99 I’m not scared of showing a bit of acidity as that’s a hallmark of where we are in the world. It’s balanced off against the fruit power. The lees stirring adds a bit of texture and gives it a bit of creaminess and biscuity character. It ages forever because the natural acidity keeps it together so well.

Estate Pinot Noir RRP: £31.99 This is a blend of our vineyard in the north at Pipers River and our vineyard down at Coal River Valley in the south. The fruit from the north has flavours of sour cherry and cinnamon spice, and from the south it’s a more blue fruit spectrum and black cherry flavours. It has a lovely concentration and beautiful spice.

Australia bounces back With a vintage almost a third bigger than the fire-ravaged disaster of 2019, Australian winemakers have a lot of quality wine to sell. And with China almost out of the picture for the time being, the UK has once again become the country’s most important export market, as David Williams reports


ine Australia called it a “unicorn

way, and the vintage ended up being the

enough, the headline figures show a fall in

vintage”. Other sources preferred

smallest in 10 years.

value of 24% to £1.23bn, and a 17% drop

“largest ever”, or simply “massive”.

In that context, the 2021 vintage, which

in volume to 638m litres. As well as in

However you choose to describe it, there’s

was as ever dominated by a resurgent

China, Australian wine struggled in what

no doubt that Australia’s latest grape crop

South Australia with 1.06m tonnes (52%

is now the number two market by value,

was a tonic for grape growers after a torrid

of the total) followed by New South Wales

the United States (losing 11% in volume to

preceding couple of years.

(580,875 tonnes; 29%) and Victoria

£213m) and in its fifth largest market by

(334,834 tonnes; 17%), could be seen as

value, Canada (down 12% to £93.6m).

2.03m tonnes, some 31% bigger than 2020

The 2021 vintage clocked in at a total of

the year Australia bounced back, providing,

and 19% up on 2019. Better still, according

as Triggs put it, “an opportunity for

to Wine Australia’s National Vintage

depleted inventory levels to be restored,

Report, it was “characterised by near-

ensuring we have the supply we need to

perfect growing and ripening conditions

take up new export opportunities”.


across most states and regions”. In a Wine Australia statement, the

Outsiders could be forgiven for finding

n the plus side of the ledger, Hong Kong was up 135% to £112m. And, rather more pertinently for readers of

this magazine, Australia is in the midst of a UK boom. Indeed, the British seem to have

a slightly euphemistic edge to Triggs’

fallen hard once again with Aussie drops

body’s general manager for corporate

reference to “new export opportunities”.

– and it’s premium wines that seem to be

affairs and regulation, Rachel Triggs, said

This, after all, is an industry trying to come

finding the most favour.

there was “good fruit set, plenty

to terms with the collapse of what

of water at the right time, lack

was, until late 2020, its most

of heatwaves, low disease

important export market by

pressure, and favourable

value, China.

harvest conditions [that]

The effects of the

have resulted in a high-

swingeing tarrifs imposed on

yielding, high quality vintage”.

Australian wine by the Chinese

The upbeat tone was perfectly understandable given the apocalyptic

government at the end of last year were rapid and severe.

“Over the past 18 months, there has been a significant increase in exports to the UK, which has led to the market solidifying its place as Australia’s number one destination by volume and it has now overtaken mainland China as the number one destination by value,” said Triggs. According to the Wine Australia Export Report, published in mid-October, exports

scenes of the Australian summer of 2019 to

According to the latest figures from Wine

2020 and the Covid-ridden times that have

Australia, exports to mainland China fell by

the year to September 2021. Significantly,


an astonishing 77% in value, to £148m (to

a slight drop (2%) in volume was offset by

In spring 2020, the full cost of Australia’s

to the UK grew by 7% in value to £249m in

put it in sterling terms) in the year to the

average value increases of 9% to 99p per

devastating and prolonged bushfire season

end of September 2021, while the number

litre, which is the highest average value

was still being counted and analysed. The

of Australian shippers selling wine to China

Australian wines have managed since mid-

fires ended up destroying around 1% of

fell from 2,241 to just 750 in the same


the Australian vineyard, but with many


producers choosing not to produce wines

Naturally, a loss of that scale (Treasury

“In the past 12 months, exports in almost all price segments to the UK have

because of smoke taint, Wine Australia

Wine Estates alone lost £41m worth of

continued to grow, with exports at an

estimated that 4% of production, or 60,000

Chinese sales) is going to have an effect

average value over $5 per litre enjoying

tonnes, was affected by the fires in some

on the overall export figures. And sure

35% growth in value,” the Report said. “The

THE WINE MERCHANT january 2022 40

growth in premium wine has meant that the UK has moved from the seventh largest destination of exports above $10 per litre to fifth in the past year.” It’s not all good news for Australia in the UK. As the Wine Australia Export Report says, “worldwide shipping delays, linked to Covid restrictions, have also impacted exports within the 12 months ended September 2021 … shipping lines around the world are lacking capacity and there are major delays at ports, leading to worstever schedule reliability when combined with current record levels of ocean freight.”


he country’s geographical position means long delays have become par for the course for importers. As Stuart

Possibly a faster way to ship wine at a time of transport chaos

McCloskey of Kent-based Australian specialist The Vinorium told The Wine Merchant in July, “The problem is that we

be helped by the terms of the free-trade

country’s strict Covid response having a

are now waiting 16 weeks door to door and

deal agreed in principle by the British

significant effect on cellar door visits and

it’s getting worse.”

and Australian governments in summer

domestic sales, the UK market, for all its

Other smaller-scale importers contacted

2021 remains to be seen. Although details

fabled price consciousness – and shipping

by The Wine Merchant, including Hennings

have not been confirmed, the headline

headaches notwithstanding – no longer

Wine Merchants and Specialist Cellar,

figure of a saving of around 10p per bottle

looks like such a bad bet for Australia’s

made similar observations, with Matthew

for importers has been greeted with

varied, dynamic and creative scene of

Hennings saying the “domino effect in deep

scepticism by many in the UK trade. And

smaller producers.

sea containers will take months to sort out”.

the government’s new duty regime, which

Such problems are not restricted to

All of which makes Australian wine

will penalise many Australian wines for

a more attractive proposition for UK

Australia, however. And in general there

their alcohol levels, may in any case wipe

independents and their customers than

is a sense that Australia’s travails in China

out any such benefits.

it’s been for some time. The reasons

have led to an increased focus on the UK,

More important for the independent

behind that might be less than ideal. But

a market of historic importance that some

sector, however, is the sense that the UK is

the wines themselves – not least those in

exporters may have been guilty of taking

now getting a more realistic representation

the selections overleaf – show an industry

for granted in the period when higher-

of Australia’s full vinous repertoire.

still very much capable of surprising and

value Chinese sales boomed. How far that feeling of optimism will

With many producers having lost sales in China and/or the States, and with the

THE WINE MERCHANT january 2022 41

delighting in a range of styles to match anywhere in the world.

Five sides of modern Australia David Williams selects a handful of producers that should be on the radar of indies

Place of Changing Winds (Macedon Ranges, Victoria; Graft Wine)

Estate make its name as a leading producer

Robert Walters is one of Australian wine’s

For Distant Noises, Carson has developed

of cool-climate Shiraz/Syrah.

most interesting figures. He has spent

a side-project that aims to project the best

much of his career working as a wine

of cool-climate Victoria at considerably

buyer, as co-owner of the Melbourne-

lower prices than the usual. The Cabernet,

based fine-wine importer Bibendum Wine

tasted by this correspondent at The Dirty

Co (not to be confused with the British

Dozen, achieves its aim with something

or bulk wine: an important part of the

company of the same name).

to spare: superbly supple, elegant and

Aussie wine story, but not usually included


in the marketing spiel. Deliquente, the

More recently, he’s established himself as one of the country’s

work of Con-Greg Gregorgiou, a Riverland

most gifted wine writers, the

native and son of a winery manager, aims

author of the subtly iconoclastic

House of Arras (Tasmania; C&C Wines)

to challenge those perceptions by making

Champagne: A Secret History. Since

Few individuals have done more to

natural-leaning, single-vineyard modern

2011, he’s also been a vigneron,

establish Tasmania as a leader in global

wine bar wines with stylish hipsterish

buying – and then planting at

sparkling wine than Ed Carr. The head

packaging from the Italian varieties that

very high density – a virgin

winemaker at House of Arras has been

he feel work best in the Riverland’s hot,

3ha site at some 500m altitude

making sparkling wines in Australia since

dusty climate, such as Montepulciano and

between Mt Macedon and Mt

1986, moving to Hardys in 1994 and being


Bullengarook in Victoria’s

one of the original pioneers in Méthode

Macedon Ranges.

Tasmanoise from 1998.

The intensely, meticulously (organically) farmed vineyard, with

The quality of the wines has slowly won

With a bunch of highly impressive, highly drinkable releases now under his belt, he’s already made his point.

an international audience, and built up a

its tiny yields, has now produced its first

loyal following in the UK over

wines, and they’re beauties: immaculate,

the past decade. The secret is

Aphelion (McLaren Vale; Graft Wine)

expressive, superbly detailed cool-climate

in the combination of Carr’s

The slogan on the website is very first-

Syrah, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

commitment to long, careful

wave of Aussie wine: the 1980s-tastic

ageing and the zing and zip of

“Taste our bottled sunshine”. But the

the Tasmanian Chardonnay

wines of this small family producer run by

Distant Noises (Yarra Valley, Victoria; Swig)

and Pinot Noir fruit, leading

husband-and-wife duo Rob and Lou Mack

Another key figure in Victorian – and

to modern classics such as

could not be more 2020s: small-batch,

Australian – wine for several decades now,

the Bollinger RD-alike EJ

finely crafted and elegant, they bring a

Tom Carson worked at a succession of

Carr Late Disgorged and a

very different character to the big-boned,

leading Australian Pinot Noir producers,

plethora of other rich but

big-fruited wines with which McLaren Vale

including Lenswood with Tim Knappstein,

refined sparkling wines.

originally made its name.

Coldstream Hills with James Halliday and

The grapes are sourced from partner

Yering Station, before taking up the reins

growers working with sometimes very

at Yabby Lake in 2008. There he’s been

Delinquente (Riverland; Indigo Wines)

old Grenache vines in Blewitt Springs and

responsible for some of Victoria’s top

Riverland is Australia’s winemaking

White Valley, and the wines have earned a

Pinots and Chardonnays in a variety of

engine, but it’s never been a place for

devoted following in Australia (where Rob

Mornington Peninsula’s best sites, while

vinous romantics. It’s where you go to

Mack earned a Young Gun of Wine award in

also helping sister operation Heathcote

source simple juice for your big branded

2018) and, increasingly, in the UK.

THE WINE MERCHANT january 2022 42


Jo Nash

McPherson Wines, Victoria Jo graduated from Charles Sturt university and began her career under Andrew McPherson’s tutelage at the family-owned winery, becoming head winemaker in 2011. She is perhaps best known for Don’t Tell Gary, a wine she first made by quietly bypassing the annual budget set by the winery’s general manager.

McPherson is very much like a family. When you’re in the winery everyone is working together, everyone is appreciated, everyone has a part to play. It’s certainly not a hierarchical structure, it’s a warm family environment where everyone comes to work and does a great job. I’d extend that to the sales and marketing team too.

not only do we look at central Victoria, in terms of Strathbogie Ranges and Heathcote up to Dookie, but we move out to places like the King Valley and towards the Yarra. There are so many different regions that we actually get to be involved with, which is fantastic, because all the regions have their own nuances.

Andrew McPherson is lovely; he’s like a big teddy bear. He’s really gruff on the outside but warm and lovely on the inside. We certainly had our differences of opinion over the years but we worked collaboratively and we got the end results we wanted. He was great. In the early years he was there as much as I needed him to be and then he allowed me to step up and put my fingerprint on the wine and the winemaking styles.

I’ve never been a big fan of American oak, it’s always been French for me. It’s much more delicate and integrates a whole lot better with the wine. There’s nothing more romantic than a 500-litre French oak puncheon that’s brand new. If you’re fermenting Chardonnay and you stick your nose in the barrel it’s just the most incredible thing you’ve ever smelled.

The philosophy for me has always been, why interfere with the style of the fruit? Let the fruit do the talking and let the wine speak for itself, so whether we are making a commercial wine or a premium wine or anything in between, it’s really important that stylistically you put your nose in the glass and you’re like, “yep, it’s a fruit-driven style, it’s fresh, the wine’s in balance”. The guys work so hard out there in the vineyards and there are so many challenges. So it’s important we capture all of that work. I’m really lucky in that we are located in central Victoria and we get to draw fruit from various regions surrounding us. So

I have a love/hate relationship with vintage. Every year before you head into it you’re thinking, “goodness, here we go again”, but once you’re into it it’s the most amazing thing. The winery is full of aromas and the team just comes together. We’re very busy and a very small team but we are all conscious that we have to have a good time. When you’re midvintage and working 12 hours a day, six days a week, or longer, if you can’t have a laugh, then what’s it all about? We keep a sense of humour and we don’t take ourselves too seriously and I think that’s been part of the success of the business. We are making this wine with this crew of people, and people on the other side of the world are enjoying it. That’s what we do it for. That’s what gets me out of bed.

McPherson wines are imported into the UK by Vintrigue Wines 01207 521234 THE WINE MERCHANT january 2022 43

Don't Tell Gary Shiraz 2019 RRP: £13.50 It’s minimal intervention so it’s all about the fruit. It’s certainly a riper style of wine. It’s not Barossa jammy or anything like that; it’s more of a full-bodied style with good length. There’s a fair bit of oak but it’s all in balance. It’s cool-climate so there’s some lovely pepper and spice in there and some riper characters.

Aquarius Sangiovese/Shiraz 2017 RRP: £12.75 Sangiovese is a lighter style and it’s been gaining a bit of traction in Australia, so it was certainly something that the market was telling us. We are going for a lighter style with this one. It is a little more savoury, which is something a bit different for the McPherson portfolio.

Sunburnt Chardonnay 2019 RRP: £12.50 This is barrel fermented and we use batonnage. The fruit is from the vineyard right next to the winery, which I look at out of my window every day. It’s a good example of Goulburn Valley Chardonnay: it’s a riper style and it has a good whack of oak in there. It’s a food wine, even if it is just cheese or charcuterie.


Alex Head, HEAD Wines I worked here in Australia with Rhône negociant-style producers and felt that the business model could be telegraphed via Barossa’s incredible wealth of grower vineyards. This is the major challenge: to establish relationships with the right sites and growers to produce a house style that is both unique, consistent and within a traditional Barossan framework. The growers are the most important part of the negociant puzzle. In many ways they are like family and the relationships are constantly evolving and require patience, great communication, trust and mutual respect. It is of course necessary to have the right combination of growers and sites so the business is both feasible and sustainable for both grower and producer. Shiraz has a unique trick: it can still express its site whether picked early or late. This helps Shiraz in the Barossa, where we do have big seasonal variations and a myriad of unique micro-climates and terroirs. I really enjoy knowing that Barossa’s potential is still so great and that we continue to understand that we can improve on the wealth we already have. I can see the interest, confidence and understanding from consumers growing and this will allow movement away from large mono blends towards the release of single-site wines that have unique and historical stories to tell.

2020 HEAD RED Grenache Shiraz Mataro RRP: £22 Grapes are picked on the cusp of ripeness with some whole bunches retained during the fermentation. Each varietal component is fermented separately then blended after 11 months, resulting in more fruit definition, a dried-herb aroma and harmony of tannin structure.

We work with many varieties that sometimes make unique small-batch bottlings that are only available to mailing-list customers. Some could become a more permanent part of the portfolio. These include Viognier, Montepulciano, Nero d’Avola, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Tempranillo. We are more or less customer-led on the potential of these varieties. In the meantime, they can be great blending components. Viticulturally Barossa has always been set up to negate the effects of climate change. It is not something new we are dealing with. We are finding ways to improve or hold the quality of our fruit once it hits the winery. We are also exploring Mediterranean varieties and finding new ways to retain acidity. We will eventually see most white wine varieties move out of the Barossa Valley (not Eden Valley) and only traditional red noble varieties will remain. I do love the time when we classify all the wines we have made (50 to 60 parcels) which happens three to six months after vintage. Then of course when we blend the wines which happens nine to 12 months after vintage. Bottling can be a very stressful time – we create 10 to 15 wines each year and this is the time when things can go horribly wrong! Around 2010 the Barossa winemaking scene started to become more progressive and open-minded. There has

Alex began his wine career in retail management, having graduated from Sydney University with a degree in biochemistry. After more study and stints in import and auction businesses, he became a winemaker in 2006, establishing HEAD Wines in the Barossa. HEAD Wines are imported into the UK by Amathus Drinks 0208 951 9840

been a changing of the guard with the next generation of growers and winemakers arriving on the scene at a time when an explosion of online retailing has opened up an enormous space for new wines to be produced. Couple this with restaurants demanding more margin and ultimately allowing the natural wine phenomenon, the creativity has been relentless. The Barossa’s winemaking scene is now so dynamic yet we aren’t even near our potential. The future is bright and safe with the next gen!

2018 HEAD RED Shiraz

2019 HEAD Old Vine Shiraz

RRP: £21.50 Fruit is sourced from up to 10 Barossa vineyards, predominantly coming from the higher altitude, cooler sites of Eden Valley. The wine receives 12 months' barrel maturation in French oak of differing sizes. This is certainly the best value, most traditional style and most popular wine of the portfolio.

RRP: £28.50 We do not push the ripeness here and instead ferment with 10% whole bunch and a gentler extraction. Combine this with only 20% new Burgundian barriques for 12 months and the wonderful richness and sweetness of Old Vine fruit remains in focus. Its flamboyance will surely blossom when approached by richer protein dishes.

THE WINE MERCHANT january 2022 44

Australia: the new Italy? Winetraders sees interesting parallels between the two winemaking cultures – which is why boss Michael Palij MW is heading back down under


ichael Palij MW is excited about Australia, a country whose winemaking scene reminds him in many ways of his beloved Italy. He first visited over a decade ago, while teaching at the Sydney Wine

Academy. “Every time I went, I would spend a week touring around a region,” he says. “So over the course of a decade I ended up visiting most regions of Australia and visiting loads of winemakers and really developing my knowledge of Australian wine.” Palij noted that most Aussie vineyard owners were selling grapes to larger companies. “What intrigued me were the people who had got their own vineyards and were vinifying their own wine. These were the people I was meeting,” he says. “They were just as passionate about what they do as any Italian.”

Tscahrke, Barossa Making organic and biodynamic wines, this estate is achieving success with varieties such as Albariño, Savagnin and Montepulciano as well as Shiraz, Grenache and Mataro (Mourvèdre). “We’ve got an Albariño from Damien Tscharke that’s stunning,” says Palij. “It embarrasses stuff from Rías Baixas. We only had 10 cases and one Michelin-starred restaurant has taken it all.” Eperosa, Barossa Brett Grocke, a sixth-generation Barossan, is James Halliday’s 2021 winemaker of the year. His family pride themselves with wines “built from the dirt up” including Grenache, Shiraz and Semillon.

Palij talks about the Wine Flight of a Lifetime tour to Australia in 1992 as “the launch of Brand Australia”. He adds: “It did incredibly well. In a way, that was Italy in the 70s with Soave, Chianti and Valpolicella. “That early success robbed them of perhaps the soul searching, the brand building in the more specific sense of the word … it was all about critter labels and easy-todrink styles. And yet underneath that beats the heart of hard work and ingenuity and a slightly more relaxed approach to legislation, which was the kernel of real greatness later on.”


uring lockdown, Palij decided to take another look at Australia, which he knew was producing some wines that would fit the Winetraders portfolio. The company’s Australian line-up now includes Tscahrke and Eperosa from

the Barossa, Flaxman Wines from Eden Valley and Wines by KT from Clare Valley. Palij shares the frustration among some Aussie producers that their wines don’t

Flaxman Wines, Eden Valley An estate dating back to 1929 producing Riesling, Shiraz and Semillon, owned by Colin Sheppard, a former builder and one-time MasterChef contestant. “It’s a wonderful, tiny estate,” says Palij.

always command the price points and acclaim that they deserve. “The reaction has been very good, but still there is this challenge: with Australia and Italy, sales just fall off a cliff for anything above 10 quid. People view both those countries in the same way. “It’s very difficult: you have Grange and a few other icon wines at the top, which people collect as they do in Italy with Conterno and Sassicaia, and then you’ve got all the supermarket stuff under 10 quid, much of which is sold on promotion, and then nothing in between.” But there is hope. “Where we are finding traction is with the indies,” he says. “There are people saying, ‘these are really good wines in their own right,’ and they have time, I think, to tell that story.” Palij is returning to Australia to seek out more treasures. “The stuff that I’m tasting down there, like Nebbiolo, and particularly more Mediterranean varietals like Touriga Nacional … the quality really is second to none,” he says. “I think this idea of matching varietal to terroir, which is alive and well in Italy and obviously in France, is the way forward.”

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THE WINE MERCHANT january 2022 45

Wines by KT, Clare Valley Based in the Watervale district, Kerri Thompson is “sort of Clare Valley nobility,” says Palij. “She was making wine for Leasingham for a long time and knows Clare Valley like you know your garden. She knows her craft. She makes great Cabernet and Shiraz but Riesling is really her thing and I just love it. Not naming names, but tasting against the big names of Clare, I was like, ‘this stuff is better’. They are exceptional wines.”


2 2

ive g d oul the c s rie as for o g ate h ide c s ks rin me fre head? d us t a k o a l s h r a W yea s t ches ies t d n n i cha st ni r e m nt eciali e d pen ir sp e d in he Six ough t thr

Simon Hawkins (left) with brother James. English still wines are world class, he argues

English still wine: No longer a novelty act


n recent decades, most of the excitement in the English and Welsh wine industry has been generated by sparkling styles. For a brief moment, our still wines were looking like an evolutionary cul-de-sac. But not anymore. Randall Grahm, an enfant terrible of California winemaking, raised eyebrows more than 20 years ago when he predicted that England would one day be the most exciting place in the world to make Pinot Noir. Today, his words don’t seem quite so eccentric. Much of the Pinot produced in England and Wales is indeed world class; Chardonnay is also increasingly impressive. Bacchus, lauded as the UK’s answer to Sauvignon Blanc, is achieving credibility that makes it far more than the novelty act it was once perceived to be. Hawkins Bros in Godalming, Surrey, is a specialist English wine merchant. “Our sales split between still and sparkling has been 50-50 for a couple of years,” reports director Simon Hawkins. “The still wine is very much a growing category for us.”

Hawkins argues that English still wine is, in many cases, “world class”. With production dominated by white wines, reds occupy a small niche, but it’s one that Hawkins is having fun with. “Sixteen Ridges, on the HerefordWorcestershire borders, make a really good Pinot Noir Précoce, which we sell an awful lot of,” he says. “Inscription from Winbirri is a Dornfelder and Rondo blend; we call it the Norfolk Rioja. It’s had time on American oak, and it has that lovely vanilla character you’d expect from a Rioja.” What about the whites? “Bacchus is the fourth most grown grape in England and we have our own made for us by Simon Woodhead at Stopham Estate [in West Sussex]. He is a very precise winemaker; we love all his wines and are very lucky to have partnered up with him. “Simpson’s Wine Estate [in Kent] make two beautiful examples of Chardonnay: their oaked Roman Road, and the unoaked Gravel Castle.”

THE WINE MERCHANT january 2022 47

Hawkins also namechecks Kit’s Coty from Chapel Down in Kent, and Stanlake Park [in Berkshire]. “Their Kings Fumé is just luscious,” he says. “It’s a blend of Ortega and Chardonnay, it’s seen some oldish French oak and it’s really very good. “Artelium [in East Sussex] have really perfumed and crisp Chardonnay made by Owen Elias. That’s really starting to fly.” Official figures show that still wine now accounts for getting on for 40% of English wine volumes. “England is a very exciting place to make wine at the moment,” says Hawkins. “The book hasn’t been written and you’ve got people from all over the world coming to make wine because they can experiment and do stuff that in other countries they wouldn’t be allowed to do.” Hawkins believes that consumer perceptions are changing. “People come in looking for still wines and they want to be sold a still English wine that’s as good as, or better, than the wine they are already drinking,” he says.

Lebanese wine: ‘Like fruity new-world Bordeaux’


certain chateau has done a

thing about the white wines is how

Franks says he added the Lebanese-owned

lot to make the association

much they are balancing them with

Domaine des Tourelles to his list and it has

between Lebanon and wine quite

malolactic fermentation, oak aging and

become one of his best-selling wines in the

immediate, but there is much more than

slight oxidation to bring in those nutty

range. He also does very well with Ksara,

Musar to come from the Bekaa Valley.

characteristics and some spice.

which he says will be a familiar name to

Ben Franks at Novel Wines in Bath

“There’s lots of acidity, herbs and spices

anyone who has visited the country.

sources his range of Lebanese wines,

used in Lebanese cooking and that’s

which he says are all “high-volume lines”,

reflected really nicely in the white wines,

from Lebanon all retail at below £15, but

from Hallgarten, Lebanese Fine Wines and

so you get a real sense of place through

Franks isn’t afraid of working with the


Lebanese whites.

pricier end of the market.

“Because Lebanese wines are very

“Chateau Oumsiyat were the first to

Novel’s range of Bordeaux-esque wines

“We have stocked mature Musar before,

French in style, made by classically trained

plant Assyrtiko in Lebanon, which is quite

so 97, 98, 99, 2000 and 2001, and it’s one

winemakers, using French grapes, I think

exciting and a little bit different. Rather

of those wines where you might have it for

they are a nice bridge between old and new

than the volcanic, minerally style it is more

a while then someone comes along and

world,” he says.

of a crowd pleaser.

buys a case of it,” he says.

“I sometimes describe them as the

“It’s softer, with lots of tropical fruit and

“We have decided that the best way to

big and fruity new-world Bordeaux. If a

it’s a lovely one to put into restaurants

sell Musar is to buy about five vintages

customer has never tried Lebanese wine

because it pairs so well with mezze, tapas

every so often and just do a vertical tasting.

before, that’s the easiest description to

and small plates. It has the richness and

We’ll just buy stock in for that event and

help them understand.

the body but with that nice bit of acidity to

push the end-of-night sales; when it’s gone

keep it fresh.”

it’s gone.

“This is Bordeaux, but fruit forward, with that Lebanese heat.” He adds: “Perhaps the most interesting

French heritage and ownership is the norm in Lebanon but there are exceptions.

THE WINE MERCHANT january 2022 48

“It will just avoid wrapping up the cash in that kind of wine.”

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Sake: A natural choice for many wine enthusiasts


hanging tastes in Japan mean the number of sake producers has dropped significantly over the past couple of decades. But this concentration of production has actually led to higher standards in general, according to sake aficionados. Modern brewing techniques have also come into play to help sake escape some of its cultural bonds and be enjoyed by a whole new audience. Japanese restaurants probably remain the primary educational ground for discovering the joys of sake, and as they flourish in the UK beyond London, independent merchants can play an important sales role. Gnarly Vines in Walthamstow specialises in natural wines. General manager Oliver Dibben believes this gives the business a useful platform from which to take customers on a journey into the sake category. “We have customers who like to explore different tastes and are maybe a bit more

open-minded in terms of what they like to drink,” he says. “There are some good sushi restaurants around here, so people have had their interest piqued. “It’s definitely a growing category and it’s a useful point of difference for us. We have six or seven sakes in our range and we try to cover all the different styles. “We have a Nigori, which is more full bodied and has a bit of residual sugar. We also have a Yuzu sake, which is rich and sweet with a citrus zing and works in place of a dessert wine or great with a splash of tonic in the summer.” If that sounds a bit too adventurous for some, what would be the ideal sake for a newbie? “I would give them something that was a lighter style, just because that is more palatable for most people and more versatile with food pairings”, Dibben says. “We have Konishi Silver Ginjo, which is also available in a smaller bottle [30cl] at £11. It has a slight acidity, which is quite unusual for sake, as sake is more like beer

THE WINE MERCHANT january 2022 50

in that it uses bitterness to structure the drink. This is really versatile and goes very well with creamier western dishes as well as sushi. “From there we can point them in the direction of different styles. Maybe more fruity, or more umami and savoury.” There is much to explore even within each category of sake, so finding a supportive supplier is essential. “The world of sake importing has changed over the last five to 10 years. It used to be a very closed shop, relatively traditional and inflexible. But we work with Tengu Sake and they have been brilliant. “Based on the information we gave them, they recommended three bottles for us to start with. They did a full tasting of everything and were super-generous with their time. “They gave us loads of resources and some great pairings with western food as well as Japanese dishes. They ensured we had enough information to enable us to sell effectively.”

© Photoboyko /

Cider: It’s OK to compare apples with grapes


ider ticks all the boxes for natural

is making some incredible things with co-

our craft beer lovers are attracted to the

wine fans – and, it turns out,


canned ciders, which have similar vibrant

sparkling wine lovers too.

“He’s making beautiful country wines


without added sugar and he’s blending

The wassail, which involves making lots

co-owner of The Hop Inn, Hornchurch,

those with his keeved cider [keeving is a

of noise in the orchard to frighten away evil

says: “It’s easy to transfer your natural

method of making naturally rich, sweet

spirits, is a tradition that locals can easily

wine customers over to cider because there


partake in.

Alison Taffs, pommelier-in-training and

is a similarity in flavour profile and the way

“His ciders are unbelievably complex

“It’s a lovely celebration of the apple and

and fascinating. For a 750ml bottle you’d

the orchard,” says Taffs. “Sussex-based Big

be looking at an RRP of £13, which is

Nose & Beardy have a wassail and invite

like wines. They are pressed in the autumn

remarkably cheap for what is a beautifully

their cider club members.”

from whole fruit.

made product.

that they are made. “The ciders that we are selling are made

“The only thing added is a bit of water

“If people are white wine drinkers, I try

With so many parallels to be drawn between the category and natural wines,

to wash them and they are fermented with

them with the very light, juicy Kent ciders

why is it that cider seems to occupy so little

either wild or cultivated yeast. Come the

and they are astonished it’s not wine. One

of the limelight?

spring they are ready, or some are left a lot

of our best sellers is Gospel Green.

longer than that.

“It’s made using Champagne yeasts and

Taffs beieves it comes down to our Britishness. “In this country we are not

in the traditional Champagne method and

very good at recognising what we do well,”

Kent. They use fresh rhubarb juice and

has characters of brioche, apple and with

she says.

elderflower, which they blend into their

tiny bubbles.

“I’ve got lovely ciders from Turners in

cider. They make one that has apple pie

“Natural wine fans love to hear about

“We are not terribly good at saying cider is something we’ve been doing for

spices. These are great gateways for people

great producers like Little Pomona, Oliver’s

centuries, it’s completely unique in the

to get into whole juice ciders.

and Duckchicken – really cool kids making

world and we should really, really shout

cider in a maisonette in Streatham. And

about it.”

“Martin [Berkeley] at Pilton in Somerset

THE WINE MERCHANT january 2022 51

© JoyImage /

Greek wine: Banished memories of rubbish retsina


ith just shy of 50 Greek wines listed on the website and available in store, Greek wine is a central pillar of Ben Greene’s offer at Greene & Wine in Totnes. “We’ve found a lot of our Greek wine sales go through the website, just because they are not available in many places and there is a subset of wine enthusiasts who want them,” Greene says. “Our Greek range is the biggest section after France at the moment. On the whites we mainly do Assyrtiko, from Santorini especially, which is probably one of the best-known Greek wines. “There are a lot of high quality producers there. I think Hatzidakis was the first wine we bought. “Xinomavro is the red variety that does very well. We have a lot of Naoussa, which is the village in Macedonia where Xinomavro comes from, although it is cropping up elsewhere in Greece. It ages really well so we’re always looking out for older parcels.”

As for keeping things moving and his customers interested, Greene reports there is plenty more to be discovered. “Every week we find a new variety that no one has ever heard of,” he says. “Crete is very interesting – there’s a lot going on there, and on the other islands too. We’ve got wines from Lesbos and Kefalonia as well as really interesting retsinas.” Retsina has come a long way since its days as a much-maligned staple of middling tavernas. “It shouldn’t scream retsina at you,” Greene says. “We have the Tetramythos’ Retsina Amphore Naturε and they just suspend some resin in the wine that they get from the pine trees growing around the vineyard. It’s just a subtle hint. It helps that some of the top producers are beginning with a much better quality wine in the first place.” Greene believes Greek wine is gaining momentum in the UK precisely because of the wealth of indigenous grape varieties and the uniqueness these offer.

THE WINE MERCHANT january 2022 52

“I think it’s a particularly good moment right now as there seems to be a lot of interest in indigenous grapes in general,” he says. “The winemakers want to go back to them, especially with a lot of young Greek winemakers taking over their family businesses. “The quality has improved enormously in general, as it has probably all over the wine world. But I think Greek wine perhaps has been a bit difficult because all the labels were in Greek, but now most of them are in English and the branding is smarter. “People are getting more familiar with the varieties and the producers are moving forward in a business way. “Some of the Santorini wines and Xinomavros can be expensive but they are still good value for the quality. You can still get wines for about £20 that are just fantastic and with a bit of age on them. We’ve got some 2013 Foundi Estate Xinomavro, it’s a lovely mature example and it’s £22.95. It’s really good.”

© Khun Ta /

Koshu: Aesthetics add to the appeal


apan’s wine industry is very young. The first decent table wines didn’t appear until the 1980s, and only recently has Koshu, its trademark grape, started making an impression on the trade. And it’s not just about origami hats on grape bunches (used to protect the fruit from sunburn). Koshu is a pink-hued thick-skinned variety, 70% vitis vinifera and 30% vitis labrusca, with high acidity and low sugar – though historically winemakers favoured sweeter styles. It’s a remarkably versatile grape, these days more frequently vinified dry, with production including white, sparkling and orange wines. Perhaps orange be a good place to start. As Rob Hoult at Hoults in Huddersfield explains, Chateau Mercian produces a “fantastic” one. “I first tasted the Koshu Gris de Gris at a Boutinot tasting around three years ago,” he says. “I didn’t buy it because it was an orange wine and I didn’t buy it as a novelty

from Japan. I bought it because it is a bloody good wine. “It has a really nice palate weight but it’s not a shouty wine. The [Chateau Mercian] Yamanashi has got a bit more purity to it but not as much texture, still with great length.” Hoult admits that part of the wines’ appeal is their aesthetics. “They look so beautiful,” he says. “It’s that thing about Japanese design: the culture and the history oozes out of them and yet it looks contemporary. “There’s a great story to them; the attention to detail, every element of winemaking is so Japanese, as you’d expect it to be. Not regimented, but detailed.” Ben Franks at Novel Wines in Bath agrees. “Japanese drinks in general come with unquestioned quality,” he says. “People who know their whiskies, sakes and wines are aware of that Japanese attention to detail. I think that does a lot of the work in building the trust when it comes to selling it, and then you factor in

THE WINE MERCHANT january 2022 53

that beautiful packaging and branding.” Franks sells Koshu from Chateau Mercian and from Grace Winery, with which he has a long association. As a journalist, almost a decade ago, he wrote about the winemaker Ayana Misawa. “The Grace Koshu Kayagatake was one of the first wines we stocked,” he says. “Her father, Mr Shigekazu, came to visit me. I couldn’t work out why, as we were tiny back then and I didn’t even have a shop. He said he’d been following me since I wrote about Ayana and he’d seen we were stocking his wine, so he wanted to thank me. “It was a lovely moment and I think that was my credibility point in the wine trade!” He adds: “I’ve got a lot of time for Koshu. It needs a hand sell but it has been one of our best-selling wines for the last five years. “The UK’s love for sushi has probably helped to push Koshu as a grape variety and encourage people to try other Japanese products, so we’re definitely riding on the coat-tails of that one.”

© Alex Shirmanov /

Georgian wine: Qvevri, quirks and quick sales


s enthusiasm for Georgian wine among the indies gathers momentum, Lucy Harris at South Downs Cellars in Hurstpierpoint, West Sussex, looks back on the success of a recent promotion, which resulted in Georgian wines being a welcome addition to her list. Harris admits that prior to October last year, she knew very little about this category. In fact her suggestion to host some tastings was met with bemusement from her team. “I’m not sure that many of us had ever tasted any before, but when I started looking into it, I thought, ‘these wines are just fantastic,’” she says. “It was a really interesting promotion to run. The in-store tastings were really well received and had a ridiculously high conversion rate. “About 92% of people who tasted ended up buying a Georgian wine. It was a positive reaction because people hadn’t come across them before and they liked the

idea of something completely new. “There’s been repeat business on certain wines, which is the telling thing. It’s all very well when they buy something because they’ve just tasted it, but when they come in the following week to buy it again, that’s when you know.” In her Georgian masterclass last year, organised in partnership with The Wine Merchant, Sarah Abbott MW observed “there are lots of niche and quirky wines but also a lot of accessible, really enjoyable wines” coming in from Georgia to the UK. Harris finds herself in agreement. When it came to selecting the final lineup of 11 wines for the shop, Harris and her team homed in on more familiar styles rather than anything too daunting for their regulars. “Even though we have qvevri wines, we don’t have the extreme end,” she says. “Everything is vibrant and fruity – just great, delicious wines.” “A couple of the qvevri wines, Aladasturi for the red and Tsitska/Tsolikauri for the whites, are really popular with everyone,

THE WINE MERCHANT january 2022 54

but I would say they’ve all been really well received. “I’ve been really impressed with the quality and surprised by just how much is available through UK importers. A couple I’ve spoken to who don’t have any Georgian wine at the moment are looking at bringing something in for next year, and one of the specialist Italian suppliers that we work with is currently looking at a range, so it seems to be on their radar.” Harris is unfazed by the potential pronunciation pitfalls of Georgia’s grape varieties. “You can’t really go wrong with Saperavi, that’s easy to say, but when you get onto the white varieties that’s when the fun starts,” she laughs. “If a supplier takes on a new producer, in the past I probably would have glossed over it and gone on to the countries that I’m more familiar with. “Now I’ll definitely stop and look and consider refreshing the Georgian range we currently have. The wines are definitely here to stay.”

. T H E D R AY M A N .

Roll out the barrel Just as in the world of winemaking, a growing number of brewers understand that the judicious use of wood can elevate and add extra layers to their products

ood-ageing has become quite the thing in some


Both are perfectly drinkable but the smoky version is a more

beer circles. There’s nothing new under the sun,

complex and rewarding experience. To my mind dark beers that

of course. Belgian’s lambic brewers have been

have more heft to start off with are able both to withstand the

British ales in which wood maturation plays a vital role. But the

Harviestoun Old Dubh is a version of the brewer’s modern

modern brewer’s thirst for experimentation, and the popularity

classic Old Engine Oil stout aged in 12-year-old whisky casks

of crossover in drinks categories, mean that the transformative

from Orkney’s Highland Park distillery, delivering luscious

powers of oak on beer are becoming more common.

notes of liquorice and chocolate. It’s complex, dense and decadent

doing it for donkey’s years and there are sprinkling of old-school

impact of time in oak and flourish because of it.

It’s not been an easy path for the niche’s development. A couple

against Innis & Gunn’s simpler, accessible, easy-drinking style,

of decades ago, HMRC made life hard by demanding extra duty

like watching an episode of Succession straight after The Waltons.

because they deemed that any beer that had absorbed traces of spirits from, say, a whisky barrel should be charged at the spirits rather than beer rate. This was at a time when there was more resistance than there is now to high prices for beer from less savvy consumers.


he powerful hops and malty sweetness of a strong ale also seems to result in a more harmonious relationship with wood. An oak-aged IPA from Marston’s posh

There have also been controversies about methodology, with one wood-ageing champion, Innis & Gunn, taking some flak for a process that involved putting oak staves into beer, rather than the beer into complete barrels.

Horninglow Street range adds interesting vanilla tones that soften some of its hoppy bitterness. But my top tip is a beer whose makers say is “the beer the brewery was started to discover”. Natural fermentation specialist

It still uses the former process for its Original beer, though it

Wild Beer takes inspiration from those wood-aged lambics of the

employs the latter for some if its specials and limited editions

past for Modus Operandi, a sour red blend from 20 beer samples

– elements respectively of light-touch new world oaked

that its creators suggest finds a sweet spot between Kentucky

Chardonnay and heavyweight Rioja

bourbon and red Burgundy, but which also has an acidity that

The difference in impact of those processes can be seen in a comparison of the Original with Innis & Gunn’s Smokin’ Gunn

Just like that grape variety, it won’t be to everyone’s taste, but it exists to remind us how diverse great beer can be.

© nosorogua /

limited edition, aged in bourbon barrels.

recalls the tart green apple character of good Riesling.

87% of winners also wear caps

THE WINE MERCHANT january 2022 55


e went on our Christmas

Organised way and in retaliation I

Night Out. Not for the period

order some inexpensive, plentiful and

21-22 (imagine!) but for those

unrewarding wine for the table in a Keeper of the Company Credit card way.

long-ago forgotten lands of 20-21. We shut the shop early and do a Linner, later than

Then we go to the place owned by the

an Amazing Lunch and actually on closer

guy who (allegedly) both burnt his nose

inspection rather like Tea, as in you’ll be

out and bit someone’s nose off whilst on

having yours. Jordan, the best Master of Organisation that I know, gives me a shortlist of wellthought-out venues with pros and cons for each. We opt for the excellent and reliable stalwart in what was once named one of the 50 Coolest Neighbourhoods in THE WORLD, I shit you not. (Let me tell you, when I lived in Finnieston it was certainly

14. NIGHT OUT It’s time for Phoebe Weller and her Valhalla’s Goat team to let their hair down in Glasgow. Expect cheap wine, singing, storming off and at least one resignation

powder (although at different times). I am flagging a little and Queen Carla says that a bottle of Ruinart would help and goodness it does, the following bottles less/more so, and then Prince Harry (not that one) turns up and we are singing and having a carry-on and then we get told off and I go off in a Huff and sit in the bus stop and then check the bus times and there are no buses for 20 minutes so I Huff back, only

not – it was the place of the verbal and retail diarrhoea of Mac in Clan Stores, of

(vodka is superseded) vomit from a first-

to find myself in a taxi soon after and then

Jaz sneaking bottles of post-10pm vodka

floor window permanently eroded the

eating forbidden toast in my kitchen soon

(the worst of drinks: I was younger and

pavement beneath, still visible on Derby

after that.

more (or less?) foolish) through the

Street should you wish to check.)

curtain in Taste of Punjab, of the only

Inappropriate Ben makes us Daiquiris

Which sounds fine, really, doesn’t it? I can think, easily, of several hundred

possible thing to eat being Microchips

from the spirits samples in the cellar,

nights where I have been more obnoxious,

from the 24-hour shop, a fundamental

which are certainly not Daiquiris. I put

less moral, rule and indeed law-abiding.

memory of neon reflected on constantly

on a sequinned orange dress and some

So why have I become someone blessed

rainmirrored streets, of someone smoking

kind of bizarre make-up, we drink canned

with crippling day-after Fear? Hollowing,

crack in our kitchen at a party once, of

cocktails on the walk over the park, Jordan

tongue-disabling, evil stomach-knotting

another party where black Sambuca

orders way too much food in a Masterfully

shame and anxiety. Is this pushing-40

© naidzionysheva /

related? Is this Covid related? Is this just not-going-out-a-lot related? I excuse myself from the shop floor to sit in the OG office with the lights off, the heater on, and look at puppies and ducklings on Instagram for a while. I put Methril Spirit Armour on the YouTube, and eat a Rottencake sandwich and a bit of Pepe’s special curried battered fish (the man is a genius!) These Amazing follow-on Lunches don’t help much with the Fear, but eventually the entire package starts to breathe life into me. Two people hand in their notices in the following week. They assure me that it wasn’t anything I did, but I think we will leave the 21-22 Christmas Night Out for a An artist’s impression of what the Valhalla’s Goat party was never going to look like

THE WINE MERCHANT january 2022 56


Black cat corkscrew Black cats: lucky or unlucky? There are only positive vibes coming from this delightful feline., RRP £16.50

Restaurant Crystal Clean Banish cloudy wine glasses and decanters with a professional bar glass wash. This ultraconcentrated liquid contains no solvents or harsh chemicals. It is made from natural ingredients, and completely biodegradable and odourless. It can be used if washing by hand or by machine. One 475ml bottle washes more than 2,200 wine glasses., £19.95 including VAT

What could be more comforting on a cold winter’s eve than the classic Bloody Mary? This variation replaces vodka with bourbon for an extra level of indulgent flavour and some sweetness to balance the tomato juice’s acidity. I’ve seen versions with grandstanding ingredients like bacon and sun-dried tomatoes but sometimes simple is best. But, of course, the beauty of a Bloody Mary is that you tweak the control panel to suit your own taste.

Ready-made gift box with glassware This stylish gift box with a magnetic closure is designed to house a standard sized bottle of fizz and comes complete with two Princesa Champagne flutes. The neutral colour scheme means it can be accessorised to suit any point in the retail calendar and used for in-store displays.

5cl bourbon whiskey 7.5cl tomato juice 2cl amontillado sherry 2cl lemon juice A few drops of hot pepper sauce A few drops of Lea & Perrins Celery salt Ground black pepper

The box comes flat packed for easy storage and sold in

Coat the rim of a highball glass with a mix of the pepper and celery salt and half-fill with ice. Put the rest of the pepper, some more ice and liquid ingredients in a shaker. Gently shake. Strain into the glass.

a wholesale pack of 12 boxes. For online sales, specially designed transit outers are available separately., £10.40 per unit excluding VAT

THE WINE MERCHANT january 2022 57

© Paul Atkinson /

Building a

négociant or co-operative wine – has sometimes prevented consumers (and importers) from sampling and appreciating the region’s other, funky side: an evergrowing independent scene comprised of several hundred small-scale or “artisan” winemakers that have flourished over the past 20 to 30 years. Ask almost anyone working in or with the region and they’ll tell you that the two sides of the Languedoc-Roussillon are very much interdependent. Smaller producers may set the tone: exciting enthusiasts with small-batch, terroir-driven wines helping to publicise the diversity on offer in a region still caricatured as monolithic. But the region’s economy cannot hope to survive on concrete-egg-fermented micro-cuvées alone. And fortunately, the Languedoc-Roussillon has some of France’s most adventurous and well-run larger producers, a group who between them produce some of France’s most consistent,


and best value, independents-only brands.

hat the Languedoc-Roussillon is an

producing country, accounting for more

enormous vineyard is a commonplace

than a quarter of France’s vinous output.

observation. But statistics about the

That very size is both a blessing and a

When it comes to putting together a Midi list, then, it pays to have representatives from all parts of the Languedoc-

sheer scale of the place can still boggle the

curse for the region’s winemakers. The

Roussillon’s wine-producing community


Languedoc-Roussillon has always been

and stylistic range. That’s what we’ve tried

the engine of French wine, the workhorse,

to put together here: with RRPs going from

240,000ha planted to vines in a region

blessed with both the scale of production

under £7 to around £30, but superb value

that starts around Nîmes in the east and

and the flexibility of winemaking rules to

running all the way through. And with

stretches along the Med up to the Spanish

be the provider of bargains and a rapid

a greatly reduced 2021 harvest likely to

border. That makes it easily the largest

responder to mass-market fashions.

put pressure on prices in the Languedoc-

There are, according to the OIV, some

wine-producing region in what is (in most years) the world’s second-largest wine-

But that reputation – useful if you’re looking to shift large quantities of cheaper

THE WINE MERCHANT january 2022 60

Roussillon (as it will all over France), now seems like the perfect time to stock up.

Languedoc-Roussillon wine list It’s a region so large and so varied that it can be hard to make sense of it as a single entity. But that was the task we set David Williams, who suggests some wines that would give any independent retailer a representative selection of the south of France

Domaines Paul Mas Claude Val Blanc

CB Wines Syrah, IGP Pays d’Oc 2020

rosé has been one of the biggest success

2020 (Domaines Paul Mas)

(Carte Blanche)

stories in 21st-century wine marketing.

Jean-Claude Mas’s vinous empire is the

One of the most attractive things about

But the Languedoc-Roussillon, France’s

Languedoc-Roussillon in microcosm. If

the Languedoc-Roussillon from a smaller

largest rosé producer (with around 230

you’ve enjoyed a bottle of supermarket

British importer’s perspective is the

million bottles of pink a year to Provence’s

own-label Languedoc red blend or

opportunity it offers to create

160 million), has had its own rosé

Marsanne, chances are you’ll find the Mas

something new and bespoke

revolution, cannily and subtly borrowing

name somewhere on the back label (his

for your own needs.

the marketing cues perfected further east

only real Languedoc rivals for prolific

There’s a lot of good value

along the Med (the variously shaped clear

consistency in the UK grocers’ wine ranges

wine out there that sometimes

and frosted glass bottles, the perfumier’s

are Gérard Bertrand and the increasingly

– for want of decent

fonts etc), and steadily gaining listings and

busy Laurent Miquel).

distribution, marketing,

market share.

But Mas also crafts some of the

packaging or just bad

Rosé now accounts for some 28% of

region’s best “fine” wines, albeit

luck – struggles to find

IGP Pays d’Oc production. And while the

at decidedly ordinary prices. The

a market. In the case of

vast majority is very much in the pastel-

superb red Château des Crès

Carte Blanche, an importer

Provence mode, the quality (and quality

Ricards Stécia AOP Terrasses

with a deserved reputation

to value ratio) can be outstanding, with

for turning up intriguing

Domaine Lafage’s graceful, mineral Sud

du Larzac 2019, from a single estate in the increasingly

bottles from small, organic,

de France Top 100-topping Miraflors a

interesting Terrasses

biodynamic and natural-

particularly stylish standout.

du Larzac appellation,

leaning producers, a source

retailing at around £15, is

for some inexpensive but beautifully made

a particularly expressive

wines was found in the village of Castelnau

Calmel & Joseph Ams Tram

example. Between those

de Guers in “Picpoul country”.

Gram Quartier Libre 2020

two points there’s an

Carte Blanche bottled the wines with its

(Daniel Lambert Wines)

almost bewildering range

own modernist, eye-catching labels, for a

Laurent Calmel and Jérôme

of well-made reds, whites,

range that is never less than compellingly

Joseph’s eponymous operation

drinkable and reasonably priced, with the

has a very distinctive way

of which could find a happy place in

Syrah a particular highlight for this taster

of working. The two are

an independent range. Confined to just

in a line-up that also includes a Pinot Noir,

essentially négociants, but

one bottle, however, we’ve gone for this

a Picpoul and a rosé.

rather than sourcing finished

rosés and sparklings, any

serial Wine Merchant Top 100 winner, a

wines with little or no input

fruit-salad blend of varieties including

from them, they work in

Vermentino and Grenache Blanc with a

Domaine Lafage Miraflors Rosé, IGP

tandem with their wine grower

bright, unoaked tropical juiciness, coupled

Pays d’Oc 2020 (North & South Wines)

and winemaker partners, who

with surprising weight and freshness.

The enormous growth in sales of Provence

are generally based in cooler,

THE WINE MERCHANT january 2022 61

higher-altitude sites, stamping their signature on all stages of production. At the same time, the two also run their

The area’s sparkling

successful Languedoc zones at

wines have undoubtedly

communicating a distinct vinous identity,

had a big hand in that,

then Terrasses de Larzac is one of the most

Domaine Calmel & Joseph, a 200ha site

with Limoux fizz firmly

coherent of the chasing pack.

at the foot of the Alaric Mountain and the

established as a high-

Haute Corbières. Between the négoce’ and

quality budget bottle-

decade, Languedoc local, Andrew Jefford,

the domaine the duo now produce dozens

fermented alternative

said after a recent tasting of the area’s reds

of wines across a range of terroirs.

to Champagne and

for The World of Fine Wine, “it’s a beautiful

northerly French

and diverse wine landscape” which


produces “mid-weight, nuanced wines of

But the house style runs like a thread throughout: there’s plenty of fruit but it’s always offset with a winning freshness,

But the higher-altitude

As the wine writer and, for the past

pronounced Languedoc character”.

not least in the luminous, grapefruit-tangy,

cooler climate is also

floral, mouthfilling Clairette dry white of

providing the right conditions for some

dry, rarely low in acidity, and often with a

Ams Tram Gram.

of the Midi’s most elegant still wines.

resonant spectrum of bitter notes” of the

Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and the local

“garrigue” kind.

white Mauzac all perform well, with wines

He defines this character as intense,

All of Jefford’s descriptors can be applied

Domaine Les Ors Chardonnay Limoux

such as the slinky elegant Bruno Lafon

to one of the best wines of the region, Mas

2019 (Famille Helfrich)

and François Chamoissier Racine Pinot

de Brousse’s wild, deep, Mourvèdre-led red

A number of the Languedoc-Roussillon’s

Noir 2020 (Haynes Hanson & Clark) and

blend, with its polished-stone tannins and

individual crus are starting to gain a

the peachy-creamy Domaine de Les Ors

lively, fresh, long finish.

reputation – with consumers beginning to

(a blend of 75% Chardonnay and 25%

identify a particular style in, to pick just

Mauzac) just two recent highlights tasted

three of the higher profile examples, Pic St-

by the Wine Merchant team.

Domaine Jones Fitou 2018 (Gonzalez

Loup, Corbières-Boutenac or Terrasses du

Byass UK)

Larzac. But few of the region’s sub-zones

The Languedoc-Roussillon wine scene has

have the kind of consumer recognition, and

Mas de Brousses Terrasses de Larzac

more than its fair share of Brits living the

sense of distinct identity, that Limoux has

2018 (Stone Vine & Sun)

French winemaking dream.

managed to attain.

If Limoux has been among the most

Expats are responsible for a surprising number of the region’s best wines, whether it’s Bertie Eden (Château Maris) and Jon Hegarty (Hegarty Chamans) in the Minervois or Justin Howard-Sneyd (Domaine of the Bee) and Jonathan Hesford (Domaine Treolar) in the Roussillon. The backstories alone would make these Brit-made wines a compelling listing. From Elizabeth David and Peter Mayle to A Place in the Sun, there’s a certain strain of Brit who loves to hear about those who’ve made a success of life in the south of France. But this kind of romantic tale only really works if the wine itself comes up with the goods, as it most emphatically does in the case of a much-loved ex-pat British winemaker, Katie Jones, whose Fitou is rich, deeply flavoured, sun-filled but superbly balanced.

Katie Jones loves her vines

THE WINE MERCHANT january 2022 62


Damien Brisset

Ferraton Père & Fils Maison Ferraton was founded in 1946 by Jean-Orëns Ferraton, the scion of a family of vignerons with a smallholding in Hermitage. Since 1998, this bijou producer has been a firm proponent of organic and biodynamic farming, with an increasing focus on site-specific wines.

I first immersed myself in the world of wine at Château Haut Brion in Pessac Léognan. I was fascinated by this constant search for perfection in all places and at all times. There was always a flamboyant aestheticism in their style of wine that has captured and shaped my imagination.

Saint Joseph is one of the only northern Rhône appellations where you can still find new terroir and beautiful single plots. After very extensive research, we chose to invest in Tournon and Mauves: Lieu-dits Saint Joseph, les Oliviers, Paradis, Bonneveau etc.

I did a two-year apprenticeship at Saint Julien. There I learned about Médoc rigour, borrowing from ancestral know-how, and that continues to accompany me today. I also learned about the genius of the terroir approach and plot vinification at Château Cheval Blanc in Saint Emilion. My arrival in the northern Rhône was the culmination of this initiation.

There’s been great progress in the Rhône in recent years. We see more precision in single-plot wine-growing and winemaking. Also the emergence of organic farming and biodynamics, in which Ferraton has been a pioneer. There’s been enormous progress in the production of whites, too, with varieties such as Marsanne, Roussanne and Viognier. CrozesHermitage blanc, Saint Joseph blanc, Saint Péray, Hermitage blanc and Condrieu are incredible wines that are still under the radar but deserve more of the limelight.

Hermitage soil is a geological accident. It’s a combination of both left and right banks of the Rhône. It is truly a place that cannot be compared to anywhere else, with wines that are delight for our senses. Crozes-Hermitage produces more approachable wines, from vineyards on more accessible topography. The Saint Josephs are the expression of Syrah growing on a granite “cut”: more austere, but so much more mineral, with ageing potential and greater longevity. Saint Joseph’s granite shapes Syrah with tension, minerality and elegance, and finely chiselled tannins. The juice is full of energy and a remarkable balance. First it was a hunch, then it became a discovery. Today, it’s a passion: at Ferraton we cannot do without Saint Joseph.

Our approach to winemaking is simple and traditional. We use soft extraction and long vatting to better highlight and enhance the specificities of each terroir. The biodynamics process is certified by Déméter, and I guess difficult to measure from a scientific point of view. It’s a reconciliation between man and nature; and between our generation and that of our elders, who took the time to observe and understand nature – and to sublimate it. It’s also a reconciliation between the scientific approach, based on observation, and our ability to marvel at what still eludes our analysis. And that’s good for us.

Ferraton wines are imported into the UK by Berkmann Wine Cellars 020 7609 4711 THE WINE MERCHANT january 2022 63

Crozes-Hermitage Lieu-dit Les Pichères RRP: £26.99 Les Pichères is a plot on the terraces created by the Isère river, at the southern end of the appellation. There the soil drains better than it does on the Rhône terraces, giving the Syrah a darker profile than the usual Crozes Hermitage. Exceptional density and great ageing potential.

Saint Joseph Bonneveau RRP: £42.99 This wine embodies our exploration in the fabulous playground that is Saint Joseph. This plot, at 350 metres, shares the same geological history as the granitic Hermitage hill across the Rhône. It shows outstanding potential and the work we are doing should elevate this site to the top end of the appellation’s production.

Hermitage Les Miaux Rouge RRP: £67 This blend from Les Dionnières and Le Méal is a faithful expression of the powerful, deep but yet friendly wines the Hermitage has to offer. An iron fist in a velvet glove. Les Dionnières is where the history of the estate started; le Meal is the iconic site where Michel Ferraton planted what became the jewel in the crown of of our production.

Château Milhau-Lacugue Saint Chinian Cuvée Magali Languedoc 2015 (Yapp) Robin Yapp was one of the earliest UK importers to bring in quality wines from small-domaine Languedoc producers when he got started as a merchant in the 1970s. The business still has one of the best selections of Languedoc-Roussillon going,

Jean Lacugue of Château Milhau-Lacugue

with a knack for finding wines in that independents’ sweet spot between £10 and £20. Château Milhau Lacugue’s blend

Like Jean-Claude Mas, Gérard Bertrand

power and intensity with long potential

of Syrah, Grenache Noir and Cinsault,

is one of the Languedoc-Roussillon’s big

lives in the cellar.

grown on limestone soils, and with plenty

négociant beasts making wines across

of softening bottle age, would surely come

the price spectrum with a rather

is his superb-value (around £25 rrp)

with a much bigger price tag if it came from

remarkable consistency.

Domaine de Cigalus white: a richly

a smarter address to the east in the Rhône, or the west in Bordeaux. As the Yapp website has it: “If one were

But if, in my view, Mas has the edge when it comes to finesse at the entry-level or thereabouts, Bertrand

Perhaps the highlight of the portfolio

concentrated, barrel-fermented blend of Chardonnay, Viognier and Sauvignon Blanc with a heady

looking for a wine that exemplifies how the

shades it at the top end. The ex-

Languedoc offers terrific quality at modest

international rugby player has a

prices, this would silence any sceptics.”

number of cuvées, both red and

After tasting it, we’d have to agree.

white, from individual crus and

Mas Amiel Muscat de

estates: from the brooding spicy

Amiel 2016 (Bancroft/Lea &

“grand vin” of Château Hopitalet in


Gérard Bertrand Domaine de Cigalus

La Clape, to the concentrated slick

Much like their counterparts in

Blanc 2018 (Hallgarten & Novum

of red and black fruit of Clos d’Ora in


Minervois-La Livinière, these are wines of

intensity and a spark of citrus tang.

the Douro, the winemakers of the Roussillon have made an impressive fist of adapting to the world’s dwindling appetite for fortified wines, forging a reputation, instead, with dramatic Grenache-based reds and intriguing full-bodied, mineral whites. If the mass market for Roussillon fortified wines is a thing of the past, however, the best, premium exponents are still much in demand. Names to consider include Domaine de la Rectorie with its plummy, figgy spiced compote of a Banyuls Cuvée Léon Parcé, and the fractionally-blended treats on offer from the Maury co-operative. The modern labelling and impeccable fruit in the fortified bottlings of Mas Amiel, both red (the succulent Maury Vintage) and white (the almost dainty, floral and zesty Muscat de Amiel), have their own

Gérard Bertrand: a former international rugby player turned vigneron

THE WINE MERCHANT january 2022 64

stylish appeal.

vineyard vistas This summer will see the publication of a pictorial guide to the UK’s winemaking scene, authored by writer and photographer Ed Dallimore. The book is based on visits to more than 150 vineyards, including Wiston Estate in West Sussex, whose harvest is captured in this shot. The Vineyards of Britain: Cellar Door Adventures with the Best of Britain’s Wines is published by Fairlight Books.

Picture by Ed Dallimore (Instagram @59Vines)

THETHE WINE WINE MERCHANT MERCHANTjanuary january 2022 2022 6565

Deep Down Under

“Australia has been pigeonholed for too

merchants the most exciting array of

long. For a whole manner of reasons

Australian wines ever assembled on these

selections and trends of Australian wine


had become jaded in this country, with

This year’s event will see the

Following on from the success of the

many of the brightest and best wines

introduction of tasting trails and there will

first Deep Down Under tasting last July,

not making it to the UK and the same old

be new vintages on show.

importers Liberty, GB Wine Shippers,

brands popping up at the top and the

Indigo, Nekter, ABS and Graft have

bottom of the market.”

gathered together for a second time to showcase their Australian gems. Nik Darlington from Graft explains:

He adds: “The importers behind Deep

Monday, February 28 Wild By Tart

Down Under set out to change that

3-4 Eccleston Yards

perception and offer independent wine

London SW1W 9AZ

THE WINE MERCHANT january 2022 66


Louis Latour Agencies Tasting

New Zealand Winegrowers Trade Tasting

and Dublin, virtual events will include

steamer, the event will feature more

As part of the activities forming part of

major Pinot Noir growing regions.

than 160 wines, Champagnes and

New Zealand Wine Week, the London


annual trade tasting is back with over

contact Sarah Shepherd by emailing

40 exhibitors showing more than 300

Taking place on a replica paddle

Winemakers present will include Bruno Pepin from Maison Louis Latour; Paul Espitalié and Helen Ryan from Simonnet-

a webinar titled Business of Wine in NZ – 2022 and Beyond, and a Pinot Noir masterclass webinar that will focus on the sub-regionality across New Zealand’s To register or for more information,

New Zealand wines. “We are delighted to be welcoming some

Wednesday, February 9

Febvre; Sophie Rath from Vidal-Fleury;

producers new to the UK as well as some

Lindley Hall

Bertrand Verduzier from Champagne

old favourites,” says Chris Stroud, who

Elverton Street

Gosset and Cognac Frapin; and Jgor Marini

leads the New Zealand Winegrowers team

London SW1P 2QW

from Banfi.

in London.

The Louis Latour

“There will be eight regions represented

Indigo Wine Portfolio Tasting

portfolio also

with a wide range of varieties and styles

includes producers

to showcase our premium quality and

such as Henry Fessy,

diversity, so there will be lots to discover

Michel Redde et Fils,

for the independents looking for something

Indigo has over 20 new producers in its

Morgenhof Estate,


portfolio and this event is the chance to

Isonto, McHenry Hohnen, Wakefield Wines,

“We have had great support from our

try a huge cross section of the range.

Smith & Sheth, Pyramid Valley, Smith & Co

producers who are keen to show their

A free-pour selection will showcase the

and Viu Manent.

wines again. Covid permitting, we may

southern hemisphere, including Vigneron

even have the odd representative from

Fine Wines, a natural wine producer from

the tasting.

New Zealand.”

the south of Chile, headed by Sebastián

New Zealand was the first national

and Marco, the next generation of the De

Tuesday, February 1

wine industry to establish a nationwide

Martino family. Also included will be the

Dixie Queen

sustainability programme back in 1995,

Scions of Sinai project, from young South

Butler’s Wharf Pier

and all wines at the tasting will be certified

African talent Bernhard Bredell, and new

London SE1 2YE

as sustainable.

vintages from Ochota Barrels.

Scan the QR code above to register for

After the success of the inaugural New

Additions to the Spanish portfolio

Specialist Importers Trade Tasting

Zealand Wine Week event in 2021, New

include Leo and Roc Gramona with wines

Zealand Winegrowers will be kicking off

made from selected small vineyards in

the second New Zealand Wine Week from

Penedès, David Silva and Jonathan Garcia

February 8.

at Bodegas Tamerán in Gran Canaria, and

Themed Bringing New Zealand to You,

Javi Revert at Finca Sandoval in Manchuela.

SITT is back in Manchester and ready to

activities include tastings, discussions and

Also new is Thomas Rouanet, making low-

bring together specialist importers and

online activities.

intervention wines in the Languedoc; Col di

independents from across the on and off-trade.

“Being able to run hybrid events, with

Corte, with its biodynamic Verdicchio from

a combination of virtual and physical in-

Castelli di Jesi; and Panos Sarris, making

For more information and to register,

market platforms, is an impactful way to

whites from native varieties in Kefalonia.


share the New Zealand wine story in our

Email Jo Lory:

key export markets and shine a light on our Wednesday, February 2

premium and diverse wines to our trade

Tuesday, February 22

Etc Venues

and media audiences,” says Charlotte Read

China Exchange

11 Portland Street

of New Zealand Winegrowers.

32 Gerrard Street

Manchester M1 3HU

Aside from the tastings in London

THE WINE MERCHANT january 2022 67

London W1D 6JA


liberty wines

Celebrating Australia’s Single Vineyards This month sees the arrival of the eagerly anticipated 2020 vintage Single

020 7720 5350

Vineyard wines from Yarra Valley’s Giant Steps – each one a wonderful expression of its individual site. The revered Sexton Vineyard lies on steep, exposed north-facing slopes, where low-yielding Chardonnay and Pinot Noir blocks on shallow gravelly loams above a tough rocky clay base give intense wines with fresh savoury flavours. The east-facing Applejack Vineyard’s more volcanic soils and higher


altitude result in a finer, firmer, spicy Pinot Noir, contrasting with the complex structure and pronounced perfume of the Primavera Vineyard Pinot Noir from red friable soil. At 420 metres above sea level, the Wombat Creek Vineyard is the highest in the Yarra Valley and produces an elegant, scented Chardonnay. Over in McLaren Vale, Stephen Pannell and Willunga 100 showcase Grenache’s great potential for site expression. Willunga 100’s recently released 2018 Blewitt Springs Grenache comes from the Trott Vineyard, where 80-year-old bush vines planted at 210 metres on ancient sandy soils lend a beautifully grainy tannin structure to the wine. Just 10km north, a 97-year-old site on loam soils over red-brown clay, coupled with the higher altitude and more continental climate here, produces their more elegant and aromatic Clarendon single-vineyard Grenache. Try all these wines alongside single-site expressions from Cullen, Henschke, Peter Lehmann, Shaw + Smith and more at Wine Australia’s London tasting on 25th January.

richmond wine agencies The Links, Popham Close Hanworth Middlesex TW13 6JE 020 8744 5550

Whispering Angel 2021 now available from RWA Contact us for pricing


THE THEWINE WINEMERCHANT MERCHANTseptember january 2022 2021 68

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

0207 409 7276

Join us for our trade tasting on February 1 We are excited to return with our 2022 annual trade tasting: a show case of more than 160 wines, Champagnes and Cognacs. It will be held on Tuesday, February 1, 2022 from 10am until 5pm. The tasting will take place on the Dixie Queen, a replica paddle steamer moored on the banks of the Thames in the shadow of Tower Bridge. It will be our biggest tasting event of 2022 and offers the opportunity to try new vintages and new wines as well as the chance to meet with several of our partners who are travelling to be with us including representatives from Louis Latour, Simonnet-Febvre, Gosset, Frapin, Vidal Fleury, Banfi and Wakefield Wines. We will have safety measures in place for Covid-19 which we confirm by email to all those registered well in advance of the event. Please register using the QR code above.

hatch mansfield New Bank House 1 Brockenhurst Road Ascot Berkshire SL5 9DL

Veganuary at Hatch Mansfield In 2021 it was estimated 3 million people in the UK tried to eat vegan for the month of January. Please find below a snapshot of some of our favourite independent friendly vegan wines.

01344 871800 @hatchmansfield

Speak to your Hatch Mansfield account manager, or scan the QR code for more information and samples.

THE WINE MERCHANT january 2022 69


Fells Fells House, Station Road Kings Langley WD4 8LH 01442 870 900 For more details about these wines and other wines from our awardwinning portfolio from some of the world’s leading wine producing families contact:

@FellsWine je_fells

top selection 23 Cellini Street London SW8 2LF

New to the Top Selection portfolio. Contact us now for samples and further details.

Contact: Alastair Moss Telephone: 020 3958 0744 @topselectionwines @tswine

THE WINE MERCHANT january 2022 70

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

Bollinger Special Cuvée, the purest expression of the house style Champagne Bollinger was established in 1829 by Jacques Bollinger and, to this day, is still family-owned. A family atmosphere pervades over the Bollinger House, one of the last family and independent houses in Champagne. Special Cuvée is the result of delicate blending from harvest grapes and a majority of reserve wines, including some aged in magnums for more than 15 years. Golden colour with a beautifully fine mousse. “It is a pretty wine that captures the essence of the house style nicely...It offers up scents of orchard fruit, baked apple tart, brioche, spice and dried floral notes, all in a profile that holds plenty of near term appeal.” Antonio Galloni, November 2021 92 points

93 points

Antonio Galloni, November 2021

James Suckling, December 2021

For more information, please contact your Mentzendorff Account Manager.

AWIN BARRATT SIEGEL WINE AGENCIES 28 Recreation Ground Road Stamford Lincolnshire PE9 1EW 01780 755810




STOP PRESS: Postponed until further notice

VISIT ABS AT THE 2022 AUSTRALIA DAY TASTING STOP PRESS: Postponed until Thursday, April 7


THE WINE MERCHANT january 2022 71


BERKMANN wine cellars


10-12 Brewery Road London N7 9NH 020 7609 4711

There will be wines from different regions, multiple grape varieties, and even a couple of award winners. So there’s something for everyone! For more information on how to get your ticket for this event visit and if you would like to hear more about our Australian wine portfolio, contact your Berkmann account manager or email

Berkmann Wine Cellars are excited to be exhibiting at the upcoming Wine Australia tasting at the Royal Horticultural Halls, London on 25th January 2022. We will be showcasing a selection from our premium Australian portfolio, including Yarra Yering, Langmeil, Woodlands, Lethbridge, Unico Zelo, Brash Higgins, Chapoutier Australia and Deakin Estate. @berkmannwine @berkmann_wine

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

@BuckSchenk @buckinghamschenk

THE WINE MERCHANT january 2022 72

walker & Wodehouse

Ferrari launches limited edition F1 fizz Ferrari Trento presents a NEW special Blanc de Blancs cuvée that celebrates its

109a Regents Park Road London NW1 8UR

position as the Official Sparkling Wine of Formula 1 motor racing. The Ferrari F1® Limited Edition is a Blanc de Blancs cuvée, an expression of Chardonnay from the mountainside vineyards which the Lunelli Group has made popular all over the world.

0207 449 1665

Matured on its lees for 38 months, this Trentodoc displays great intensity on the nose, with notes of ripe fruit as well as hints of bread and hazelnuts; the wine’s flavour is inviting and satisfying, thanks to its freshness and the fineness of its bubbles, with an aftertaste that combines mineral sensations with citrusy nuances.


Famille Helfrich Wines 1, rue Division Leclerc, 67290 Petersbach, France

Dry January? We’ve got it covered! 07789 008540 @FamilleHelfrich

They’re all smiles to your face …

THE WINE MERCHANT january 2022 73


hallgarten wines Dallow Road Luton LU1 1UR 01582 722 538


malux hungarian wine


020 8959 2796 For stand out-wines please contact sales@



We are thrilled to LAUNCH in FEBRUARY 2022

New Artisan Wineries - New Wines - New Vintages @maluxhungarian CBD, SOFTS & 0% ABV wine_spirits Explore Hungary’s Diverse and Exciting Quality wines from Passionate Producers Contact Malux Hungary’s Leading Specialist UK Importer For details of our PORTFOLIO tasting, email Trade and Press Only

THE WINE MERCHANT january 2022 74

C&C wines 109 Blundell Street London N7 9BN 020 3261 0927

@CandC_Wines @carsoncarnevalewines

gardabAni wines 020 7101 0669

Two iconic Georgian wineries Askaneli Askaneli started in the village Askana in the region of Guria west Georgia near the Black Sea. It is interesting to note that even the name of the village is related to the activities of Askaneli since the son of Aeneas descendant of Dionysus was called Ascanius. Legend would have been just a good story if not for the great grandfather of the Askaneli’s, Anthimoz Chkhaidze. There

@GardabaniWines @gardabaniwines

in the winery vault built by him lays a pitcher dated 1880. Chateau Svanidze In the heart of Kakheti region, near Signagi overlooking the great Caucasus Mountain range lies Château Svanidze, with over 100ha of organic vineyards. Exhibiting the delights of traditional Georgia with idyllic landscapes and seriously traditional winemaking, Chateau Svanidze are balancing their vinous stories, rich with the ancient culture of Georgian winemaking, with a modernity, bringing a uniqueness and approachability to their wines.

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THE WINE MERCHANT january 2022 75

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