THE WINE MERCHANT. An independent magazine for independent retailers
Dog of the month: Charlie Milne & Pickles, Peebles
Issue 116, August 2022
Hybrids buckle up as the squeeze on spending hits Only a third of hospitality firms are in profit – and some indies have already concluded the sums no longer add up
ybrid wine merchants are battling strong headwinds in the face of
escalating costs and the squeeze
on consumer spending.
High profile closures recently have seen
Kwas in Huddersfield stop trading and Real Drinks close its store in Twickenham (see pages 5 and 8).
It was Real Drinks’ second branch to face
the axe this year after its shop in Notting Hill, west London, closed in January.
A report for UK Hospitality, the British
Institute of Innkeeping and the British
Beer & Pub Association suggests that only
37% of hospitality businesses are currently making a profit.
The biggest reasons cited are rising
energy costs (74%), stock price inflation
(55%) and increased labour costs (54%).
Almost a quarter have reduced opening
hours and one in six have no cash reserves. Hybrid wine stores are trying to remain
positive but admit the going is tough.
Richard Everton, at Bottles in Worcester,
says on-trade sales are 20% up on 2021
so far this year on a like-for-like basis, but Wine importer Beattie & Roberts has opened premises in Newington Green to be known as Cadet. The restaurant/wine shop concept is the idea of (from left) Francis Roberts, George Jephson, Jamie Smart and Tom Beattie. Full story on page 9. Only about half of revenue comes from walk-in custom
off-trade revenue is flat. Wholesale is up because of the general return of the ontrade.
“Some customers have gone to the
market a little bit and we’ve picked up
Inside this month
a lot of business from the national
4 COMINGS AND GOINGS Relocations, some sad farewells and two changes of ownership
12 caught in a bottleneck How soaring glass and other dry goods prices are affecting wine
20 saluting santorini Our group of indies gets to grips with world-beating Assyrtiko
29 the burning question How did record temperatures in July affect the independent trade?
wholesalers as a consequence of the
service we gave during the pandemic,” he adds.
“We’re bucking the trend in the on-
trade,” he says. “We recently changed the concept so the shop and bar are more
stand-alone [rather than a mixed hybrid space] and that’s helped.
“In the shop, customer count is up but
individual transaction sizes are lower, and people are down-spending on the quality of wine.
“Online is up but nine times out of 10
they’re things that people have sought
out because we’re cheap on them. We’ve
36 Australian angst Has the UK really fallen out of love with Aussie wine as data suggests?
40 talking wines profile The wine trade equivalent of total football at the Cirencester indie
54 buying trip to portugal Our group finds plenty to explore in the Setúbal Península
58 focus on champagne A welcome return to sustainable pricing in the UK market
‘Transaction sizes are lower, and people are down-spending on the quality of wine’
experimented by putting a few prices down on claret and Burgundy and they very quickly got sniffed out.”
On rising costs, he adds: “We’ve not
massively felt the pain on energy yet but we’re ready for it and we know we are going to.
“Wages, fuel, products, glassware,
cardboard and shipping costs are all going up. It’s a case of making sure we’re not
subsidising it and we’ve put prices up in both on-trade and off-trade.”
Xhulio Sina, at Bottle Bar & Shop in
Catford, south London, says the diversity of its business is a plus, particularly the
ready-to-drink cocktails that it sells online
and supplies to other retailers.
“I’m optimistic,” he says, “but if our
business was depending only on Catford
– the bar and the shop – we wouldn’t have
survived. We are not in profit but we’re not about to close the business.
“Everything’s gone up: our wines, the
liquid for the cocktails and beer prices have gone up. But customers’ bills have gone up too. Some people are not spending money the way they used to, that’s for sure.”
Bottle Bar & Shop employs one full-timer
and two part-timers.
“The part-timers would like full-time
jobs but we can’t afford to give them that,” says Sina. “I’m sometimes giving them
shifts when we don’t really need them, just to support them – but I wonder how long we can keep that going.”
Everton at Bottles says things could get
worse before they get better.
“People don’t go around with their eyes
closed and they accept that things are
costing more – but unfortunately alcohol
and socialising are things that could easily be put on the back burner.
“I don’t think we’ve experienced the
worst of it yet. Profitability will be down
ultimately and it’s a case of battening the hatches and hope you come through, or
being a bit more bullish and trying to take a greater share of the business.”
THE WINE MERCHANT MAGAZINE
winemerchantmag.com 01323 871836 Twitter: @WineMerchantMag Editor and Publisher: Graham Holter email@example.com Assistant Editor: Claire Harries firstname.lastname@example.org Advertising: Sarah Hunnisett email@example.com Accounts: Naomi Young firstname.lastname@example.org The Wine Merchant is circulated to the owners of the UK’s 1,007 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 august 2022 2
Finding more trade in Morpeth
“We were initially looking at the centre of Folkestone,” says Wilson, “and then this property came up.
“I’ve always loved Sandgate: it is
A relocation from one end of the high
Folkestone but it isn’t. It’s got its own vibe
street to the other is proving to be a
as a little village but you drive through it in
positive move so far for Grape & Grain
in Morpeth, Northumberland.
“You can walk to Folkestone, so it’s got
Owner Mark Stephenson reopened in the
all the benefits of a pretty seaside village
new premises at the end of June and has
but still close to a vibrant town, which is
already attracted new customers.
absolutely popping at the moment – and
Stephenson says: “There have been so
it’s only going one way.”
many people who’ve come in over the past
Wilson had previously worked with the
two weeks and when I tell them we were
only down the bottom of the road, they say they’ve lived here for over 30 years but never realised we were there.
“We were right at the end and the
shops around us were selling carpets and
windows, so I knew we were missing out a lot on passing trade. This unit is opposite what will be a big hotel. It’s close to our market square and a shopping arcade. “We’ve even picked up a few more
corporate orders as people have driven past and spotted us.”
Grape & Grain was initially owned by
Paddy Eyres and traded as Bin21 before
Michelle McKenzie took over in 2018 and rebranded it.
Stephenson is an ex-train guard who
started working for McKenzie shortly before the pandemic. He bought the
business in December 2020 and has reinvigorated the offer.
“In two and a bit years, I’ve gone from
a job that I really didn’t like to owning my
Shortens on the wine list for the restaurant. Mark Stephenson bought the shop in 2020
smaller suppliers and they’ve been very supportive as well.
“Every weekend I’ve got a couple of
bottles open for people to try. Engagement with customers is very important.
“There was a really good energy and spark between us all.
be our first one since 2019.
“Morpeth is really on the way up with
lots of new restaurants and bars opening, and tourism has increased massively.”
Folkestone indie is a team effort John Dory is a wine shop and tasting
I work with about a dozen suppliers
previously worked in the wine trade in
America, Marcato Direct for Italian wines
account manager at Armit.
including specialists such as Marta Vine for
Provence, and Zeren Wilson, a food writer
those regions. It’s great working with these
than doing things separately,” says Walls.
biannual tasting event in November. It will
Folkestone in Kent.
“I feel they all really get under the skin of
things and we decided to collaborate rather
booked Morpeth town hall for our big
and Thorman Hunt for France.
an opportunity to do more wine-focused
tastings restarted next month and I’ve
room on its way to Sandgate, near
our Portuguese range, Condor for South
growing interest in wine and there was
“I’m really looking to get our monthly
own wine shop – it’s been incredible,” he “I’ve changed about 80% of the range.
“They recognised there was this
It is being opened by Louisa Walls, who
and wine consultant who was once an They have teamed up with local
restaurateurs Sam and Andy Shorten
from Space Bar & Kitchen in the town.
THE WINE MERCHANT august 2022 4
Louisa Walls toasts the John Dory launch
“It’s a beautiful space, quite rustic but
not in an over-the-top way. There’s some
bare brickwork and concrete floors and a lovely area at the back of the shop, which has a very high conservatory-style roof. We’ll have some gorgeous plants and install a wood-burner for the winter.
“The space lends itself to having a tasting
room at the back and a social area at the
front and plenty of shelving. It won’t be all super-modern, new and shiny. It will have quite a cosy feel.”
Bacchus Kwas closes as cost of living bites Huddersfield indie Kwas has closed its shop and bar in the West Yorkshire town’s centre but is continuing with its wholesale business. Co-owner Duncan Sime says rising
business costs and the impact of the cost
of living crisis on consumer spending have brought things to a head.
Sime and co-founder Ola Dabrowska
expanded their natural wine, craft beer and cider offering during lockdown by adding groceries.
Late last year they then moved to bigger
premises, next door to their original unit, to accommodate the growing business once the on-trade ramped up again,
financing the move through a crowdfunder. “The numbers weren’t stacking up,
unfortunately,” says Sime. “People
aren’t going out as much. Fridays and
Saturdays have been good but the daytime trade needed to double or triple to be sustainable."
Right time to sell Cheshire business Cheshire’s Whitmore & White has been sold by founders Joe Whittick and Jamie Godber-Ford Moore. The new owners are Brian Spark and
second site in Frodsham a year later.
Whittick says: “Jamie has continued
to run his other business as a specialist
building contractor. He does restoration work on churches, castles and stained glass.
“I’m an ecologist and I’ve been working
the whole time too. We do like to be ridiculously busy.
“But we’ve come to the point where
we’ve realised we can’t give the business
the attention it needs – we are just running to stay still.
“Chris and Brian have a lot of energy and
they will take it forward.”
Managers Katie Butler (Frodsham) and
Graham Simpson (Heswall) will be staying with the company.
Bigger premises for Knutsford duo Morgan Edwards in Knutsford, Cheshire, is relocating from its shop in the town’s Market Hall shop to larger premises nearby. Co-owner Morgan Ward says: “The
larger and more prominent location will enable us to offer an expanded range of
wines as well as hosting tastings, offering
valuations, and collaborations. The location will raise our profile and customer base.”
of the business since it first opened.
“For the last couple of years, Brian and
I had been exploring different options,”
says Fletcher, “from our own start-up to
considering other existing business. The
type of thing we wanted, if you look at the
DNA of it, was very similar to Whitmore & Whittick and Moore launched the
business in Heswall in 2014 and opened a
Apologies are due to Lloyd Beedell and his team at Chester’s in Abergavenny. In our July edition we described Winyl in Essex as the only shop in the UK specialising in both wine and LPs, forgetting that Chester’s has a small selection of vinyl on sale. Lloyd can probably claim one unique honour, however, being the only independent merchant that we know of to have his company logo as a tattoo. Our photo of his ankle should prove the point.
ideas. It just feels right for the business and
Chris Fletcher, who say they have been fans
Setting the record straight
Morgan Ward (left) and Edward Speakman
THE WINE MERCHANT august 2022 5
Not funny, not clever
The cobwebby cellar at the José Maria da Fonseca estate on Portugal’s Setúbal peninsula dates back to 1775 and it’s an atmospheric place. As visitors tread softly through the gravel walkways, admiring the barrels and breathing in the musty aromas of evaporating Moscatel and dusty oak, the faint echoes of Gregorian chanting add an extra sense of reverence. The music is really there for the tourists, our guide more or less admits. “But the vibrations maybe help the wine to age a little quicker.” Spotting an opportunity for a clever wisecrack that will make him appear both perceptive and original, our editor suggests that heavy metal or hip-hop is played instead, thus speeding up the maturation process even more. Our guide barely allows him to finish the sentence. “Everybody says that,” he interjects, turning on his heels to continue the tour.
American dream becomes a reality Online US wine specialist Pacific Wines is opening a bricks-and-mortar retail site in north London. The shop will open on Islington High
Street on August 29 with a range of wines from California and Oregon.
Pacific Wines was started as an online
business by former maths teacher Rachel Gilbert, and her father Graham Gilbert, nine months ago.
Rachel fell for the US states when
the pair went on a road trip after she graduated 10 years ago.
Plans for a wine shop were hatched as
Finley’s fitting-out relied on the help and good will of some talented friends
long ago as 2019 before the pandemic got in the way.
The site will stock 150 wines and has an
events space to the rear with a capacity of 30.
“We are the first UK retailer to focus
exclusively on North American wines,” says
Rachel. “Lockdown gave us the opportunity to set up Pacific Wines online and start
to develop our range of wines, and living locally, I had my heart set on opening a store in Islington.
“When this store became available, I
Rachel Gilbert: a former maths teacher with a love of west coast wines
knew the time was right.”
Cocker branches out to Leeds West Yorkshire indie Martinez Wines has plans to open a third store this autumn and owner Jonathan Cocker has his sights on premises in Leeds. “I’ve been looking for about 10 years
for the right property,” he says. “It had to be in the right location, the right sort of
thing for Martinez – I like old-fashioned, characterful buildings.”
Cocker is in the final stages of securing
a Grade II listed building in Thornton’s
Arcade in Leeds city centre, a location
tapas. There will be a small retail element
novel of the same name.
the-glass, bottle-in, bottle-out and a case
famous for its animated Ivanhoe clock that depicts characters from Sir Walter Scott’s
“The location is great,” Cocker says. “The
ground floor has capacity for 30 and that will be walk-in only.
“We’ll take bookings for the first floor,
which takes about 20 people and on the top floor we’ll have one big table with
space for about a dozen people and use it for tastings and private hire.
“We’ll be doing a minimum of 40 wines
by the glass, all matched with cheese. It will mainly be a wine bar with simple
THE WINE MERCHANT august 2022 6
but our focus on this will be deliveries.
“On the menu we’ll have prices for by-
delivered to the local postcode area.
“We think that there’s still a market
for home delivery and we’re trying to
push that a little bit more. It’s everything
Martinez is: small and friendly with quality wines.
“The idea is to entice, educate and
encourage people to try something different.”
Martinez’s existing branches are in
Bingley and Ilkley.
THE WINE MERCHANT august 2022 7
Real Drinks shuts Twickenham shop
told The Wine Merchant that revenue was £9.5m annually with growth of 56% in
the first quarter of 2021, versus the same period a year earlier.
Real Drinks has closed its original store
The Twickenham store had what
in Twickenham and its ecommerce
the company called a “significant
business with the loss of three full-time
refurbishment” with more drinking-in
jobs. The London indie’s move follows
space as recently as May of this year.
the closure of its Notting Hill shop in
“Making decisions like this are never
January and leaves it with only a single
easy,” said Dolan, announcing the closure
hybrid branch, in Maida Vale.
by social media.
The business was founded as Real Ale by
“We have been able to achieve many
Nick Dolan at the Twickenham site in 2005,
things and we have had a lot of fun along
as a specialist in bottle-conditioned beer. An unusual revenue stream for the
The store’s 2021 rebrand
business saw it acting as a beer sourcing consultant for Marks & Spencer.
It was over a decade before Maida Vale
(in 2017) and Notting Hill (2019) brought expansion of the Real Ale estate.
The company undertook a high profile
rebranding in April 2021 as Real Drinks, to reflect an evolution in recent years to
include more wine and spirits in its range. At the time, the company’s Zeph King
the way, mainly due to our dedicated and passionate team who have done so much more than just work here.
“The last few years has made us embrace
change and consider how we grow as
a business, which has led us to difficult
decisions around our retail offering and ultimately the closing of Twickenham.”
The Grand Hotel Birmingham Monday 12 September, 10.30am – 5.30pm | Lunch included between 1-2pm Scan here to register
For more information email: email@example.com
Portfolio tasting in association with Condor Wines: Celebrate the diversity of South America
THE WINE MERCHANT august 2022 8
LETTERS Restaurant but also a wine shop
A devalued pound In the How Much is Brexit Costing? article
in the July edition, Yannick Loué states “the
Specialist wine importer Beattie &
exchange rate is a lot better now than pre-
Roberts has opened Cadet, a wine bar
Brexit. We were near enough to €1.10 to the pound in those days”.
and shop in Newington Green, north
This is factually incorrect. The pound
was above €1.30 for many years before
Tom Beattie and Francis Roberts have
Brexit and even reached above €1.40.
teamed up with George Jephson, who runs
a charcuterie business, and chef Jamie
Lake District Drinks Co
Smart for the venture.
Beattie says: “We work with 25
winemakers across France, Germany
and Italy and Iambic beer producers in Belgium.
“Initially we’re only going to be working
with our imports but down the track we might open it out.
“For the past four years that we’ve been
importing, we have held on to some back vintages with this project in mind, so we
Wine bar will be a bonus for Bruce standalone wine bar at 133 High Street
“predominantly” on-trade but that retail
The bar will be housed in an old bank
in Crediton, a few doors away from the
Beattie says Cadet will be
existing wine shop.
“To open just a straight restaurant seems
will be an important element.
and the name is expected to be Grape &
that multi-offering – you can eat in, no
option to buy,” says owner Bruce Evans.
like a risk,” he says, “so to be able to do
reservations, or just buy some charcuterie and a bottle of wine to take away – abides
by that caves à manger style that you see in France.
“There’ll be a small shelf near the
entrance with all the wine on display and
everything that needs to be refrigerated to take away, will be.”
• The Vine Shop in Five Valleys Shopping Centre in Stroud, Gloucestershire, closed last month after just nine months of trading. Sommelier David Almeida, who owned the business, posted on social media: “I’d like to say a big thank you to all the people that supported the business. I’ve met great people and I will miss you all.”
Fantastic. Finally another cover page Cat of the Month! A great improvement. Will Bentley
Bentley’s Wine Merchants of Ludlow
Devon’s Grape & Grain is opening a
are really looking forward to showcasing those.”
Chef Jamie Smart. Pic by Joe Woodhouse
“I’ve taken a long-term lease with an
“It’s not a new concept: it’s a wine and
cocktail bar with a little bit of continental beer.
“But it’s new for Crediton. The town has
eight pubs but this gives people a new
option. Crediton needs something like this.” Evans is unperturbed by the gathering
“It’s good to open when it’s like this
because you’ll naturally do it in a lean way, and it will hopefully be better set up for
Too many Vineyards I was reading the July issue of The Wine
Merchant, with much pleasure as always. This issue was particularly thrilling
as we were, for the first time I believe,
mentioned in an article: Steve’s Found His
Groove [a profile of Winyl in Manningtree, Essex].
Unfortunately it must have been a
misprint as I don’t think I’ve ever met
Steve Tattam; we haven’t done SITT in at least seven or eight years; and we don’t
do French wines. I can only assume it was meant to be From Vineyards Direct.
Oh well, I’ll take my 10 seconds of fame
wherever it’s coming from! Dario Langella
Enfield, north London
when things improve,” he says.
Editor’s note: We went back to Steve and
it doesn’t open then, it will be February,
Correspondence is welcome.
The aim is to open in late October.
“There’s a lot of work to do,” he adds. “If because there’s no way I’m opening in November, December or January.”
THE WINE MERCHANT august 2022 9
he tells us he actually meant to namecheck Vineyard Productions.
James Riley Highbury Vintners, London
rom a career in banking to working the vineyards in France, via some serious exploration of wine regions in New Zealand, James Riley has now found his happy place at Highbury Vintners. “We have a trainee programme where we train everybody up in all areas of the business so that everyone can do everything,” explains manager Tom Hemmingway. “More often than not, they carve out a niche for themselves, just as James has. He’s been with us for about nine months and we accelerated him along because we saw very quickly that his skill set and attention to detail makes him very well suited to his role.” James coordinates all the in-store tastings as well as running the store’s social media. “We do everything from packing up orders for shipping out to buying wines and serving customers,” he says. “I like the customer side best, in the sense of taking them on journeys with tasting events, for example. They learn something, have a nice time and they go away radiating happiness and fulfilment. It’s nice to be in a role where you can create that environment.”
ames had worked at HSBC, and lived in Hong Kong for a year, before joining Lloyds and then leaving banking in 2018 and travelling to his partner’s native New Zealand. “We’d always visited wineries on holidays,” says James, “but our time in New Zealand was the first time we did it in a concerted way. They have some fantastic stuff and they keep a lot of it for themselves.” By the time lockdown hit, James had spent time in Rioja, Ribera del Duero and Rías Baixas, worked a harvest in the south of France, completed his WSET Level 3 and was in the process of buying a property in France. “We bought a little winemaker’s house to renovate to give us something to do and provide us with a base to explore in between the various lockdowns and curfews,” he says. “It was a really informative and educational year. It’s such a nice world; you meet really interesting people. People who work in wine mostly do it because they are passionate. Nobody does it to get rich and that’s a refreshing thing.” Tom describes James as having “really immersed
himself in the London wine scene”. So after all that travelling, why London, and why retail? James explains: “When we were in France, we did think ‘do we want to make wine?’ although we’d enjoyed being part of the winemaking process for other people, it wasn’t for us. We both love living in London so it made sense to come back and work in the wine business here. “I really believe that wine should be accessible, and Highbury Vintners is great because we’re a community wine shop in the heart of Highbury and we have a lot of regular customers who have known Tom for a decade or more. It’s an exciting time for the business and I’m getting more involved and want to continue to be part of our growth. “I also want to continue building relationships with small producers around the world. Whether that will lead to me becoming more involved in visiting wineries and working on the buying side, or setting up a business on my own, I don’t know. Life has taught me not to predict too far ahead!”
James wins a bottle of Glenfarclas 12 Year Old Single Highland Malt If you’d like to nominate a Rising Star, email firstname.lastname@example.org
THE WINE MERCHANT august 2022 10
Connolly’s pins hopes on hybrids Solihull shop is sold to its manager and the hunt is on for sites where on and off-sales can combine
onnolly’s has consolidated all its activities to its bar and shop in
Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter
after selling off its Solihull store to its manager.
The move, which comes a couple of
years after the business sold its wholesale operation to Frazier’s, frees up the
business to focus on its hybrid operation
and to look for new sites where its Arch 13 concept could be replicated.
The Solihull branch, in Dovehouse
Parade, has been taken on by Mark
Stammers and will now trade under the Vine & Bine banner.
Chris Connolly says there was an
option to extend the lease but due to
his “advancing years” (he is 62) he was
reluctant to make any further commitment to the shop.
“It gives us a bit more time and a better
work/life balance and a chance to take
time off without worrying about what’s going on back at the farm, so to speak.”
Connolly’s daughter Abi runs the Arch
13 bar in a railway arch in Henrietta Street, a corner of which is sectioned off as the Connolly’s shop.
“Arch 13 is working well but Abi really
isn’t interested in stand-alone retail. She’s
much more interested in the hybrid model and she’s got some quite exciting plans to develop that and roll that out,” he says.
“We are actively looking for somewhere.
The last two or three years have been
difficult for everyone, and they continue
to be difficult, but it’s working as well as it was before lockdown.”
“We took on the premises just over 10
recently there has been a series of wine bar openings, and Midlands debuts for
Vagabond and Vinoteca, both making their first forays outside of London.
“Birmingham is a big enough city to
cope with that kind of competition,” says Connolly. “I think what we do is really quite different. We don’t get involved
with Enomatic machines and this sort of
thing. It’s much more service-driven and
staff engage with customers; they chat to them and they give them a little taste of
something if they’re not quite sure what they want.
“The cheese and meat side of things that
we do is very important. Presentation is
“I like to think it’s the best cheeseboard
certainty from us.
you’ll find in Birmingham. We’ve had some
“It’s based in a 1930s shopping parade
fantastic TripAdvisor reviews recently. The Above: Chris and Abi Connolly Below: The Solihull branch
you can seat 20 people comfortably.
food side of things is as important as the
wine side although we are not a restaurant and we don’t have a full-on kitchen.”
Does Connolly feel that Birmingham is in
“It’s gone to someone who’s been
any way insulated from the current woes
working with us for 22 years and he’s
facing so much of UK hospitality?
taken on a couple of staff who were
“The bar side of things is growing at the
working with us, so we’ve had no
moment so I can’t say we are feeling the
redundancies. The whole thing has been
pinch. Obviously costs are going up, which
done in a very amicable way.
makes things more difficult.
“It was working well, it was ticking over
“I think Birmingham as a city is growing
and we had a great team in there. But
generally at the moment. The demographic
actually if you’re driving it yourself as an
is very mixed and very young and there is a
owner-manager then it’s quite a different ball game, I think.
provides some friendly rivalry, and more
up the alcohol.
flexible but they wanted some degree of
room and offices and in the tasting room
like as sophisticated as it is today. Loki
It’s not just a little bit of something to soak
end and the landlords were prepared to be
the first and second floors into a tasting
Birmingham’s wine scene was nothing
really strong and the quality is really high.
years ago,” he says. “The lease came to an
– it’s a very strong location. We converted
Connolly’s started out in 1976, when
buzz around the city. Fingers crossed from
THE WINE MERCHANT august 2022 11
our point of view it’s going all right.”
here are plenty of challenges facing the global wine trade so perhaps one more won’t matter. But a
shortage of glass bottles creates a pretty
fundamental problem, and it’s one that’s beginning to bite.
All UK importers seem to be affected to
some degree. Most of the problems are
centred on Europe, but South American
orders have also been disrupted. Soaring energy prices and supply-chain logjams have been blamed.
Whatever the root cause, the bottle
shortage is creating unwelcome delays and additional costs for a worldwide industry
that’s still trying to re-assemble itself after two chaotic years of Covid.
“Many producers are struggling to obtain
glass – we have had three shipments of
core lines held up for this reason,” says
received – but had been told that there
at Liberty Wines, adds: “Clear glass and
Enotria&Coe is finding it’s a struggle
Doug Wregg of Les Caves de Pyrene.
Nicholas Moschi, director of buying
bottles with non-standard shapes, sizes and attributes [including traditional
Provence bottles] have been hard to obtain. In the last few weeks even more standard bottles have been hard to find.
“Europe is most affected. Within Europe,
we have seen that Italy has been severely affected. Orders have been delayed while waiting for the bottles to arrive.”
Flint Wines director Jason Haynes
reports similar problems. “When we were in Burgundy three weeks ago, quite a few
growers told us how they had placed their
orders for bottles months ago, had received confirmation that their orders had been
THE WINE MERCHANT august 2022 12
was no guarantee they would actually get them.”
to obtain glass “at every level of supply
volume”, according to managing director Sam Thackeray. “Some producers have been forced to discontinue alternative
bottle formats, such as half-bottles, or to
withdraw them from certain markets,” he says.
“Supply is being disrupted, and it’s
ongoing. Delays are inevitable in both manufacture and production.”
Marcato Direct is an Italian specialist.
“Sourcing glass bottles has become a big
problem which has meant us ordering our bottles months and months in advance so that we can secure the stock,” says
HT IN THE
A shortage of glass, and the price rises that this has sparked, are creating huge problems for wineries and their customers. But as Graham Holter reports, the issues aren’t just about bottles
Sharing the cost burden It’s a basic law of economics that shortages create price increases. So how severe has it been with the cost of wine bottles?
Berkmann buyer Simon Zuckerman says:
“We are certainly seeing issues with the
availability of glass from South American suppliers, which I believe is largely due to local issues with furnaces in both Argentina and Chile.
“This is affecting production lead times,
which have increased significantly and led to several situations where our suppliers
have had to temporarily switch from their
then it is very likely that these costs will be
“Booking your bottling slot in advance,
and then discovering you have no bottles, incurs costs and causes disruption with our supply.”
Condor Wines is a South American
wine specialist and can confirm that the
problems go beyond Europe. “There has
been a shortage of clear glass,” says owner Lee Evans.
“It’s meant we’ve had to bottle some
white wines in green glass temporarily and we’ve not been able to ship some rosado wines, which don’t work in green glass,
and we decided to wait for supply to be available again.”
“However, in specific circumstances we
will be compelled to push through price increases. For example, it is very likely
that in response to the Consorzio Tutela
Prosecco, we will have to put through an increase in Prosecco pricing.”
Glass isn’t the only problem
of a wider pricing issue with dry goods
if the situation continues into next year,
when we need it.
important for the trade to succeed in these
increases yet, as brands look to maintain continuity of pricing during the year. But
have found that the stock is not there for us
stable supply and consistent pricing is
Although the rising cost of glass is arguably
“This hasn’t translated into price
have requested the stock in advance we
impact for our customers, as we feel that
normal bottles to an alternative colour or shape.
director Rebecca Skeels. “Even when we
Simon Thackeray at Enotria&Coe says:
“We are doing what we can to absorb the
factored into any price increases.”
Such increases are already apparent in
Europe. According to an email seen by The
Wine Merchant, sent by a German producer to its UK importer, the cost of a 75cl glass bottle has risen from 32 cents before the
pandemic to 40 cents now, a 25% increase.
“Even when we have requested the bottles in advance we have found that the stock is not there for us when we need it, incurring costs and causing disruption” THE WINE MERCHANT august 2022 13
creating most of the chatter, importers are keen to point out that it’s just part generally.
Producers are facing – and passing on,
where they can – a suite of additional costs. The German producer, quoted earlier, is being hit by even bigger price increases than it’s noticing with glass.
Its cardboard 12-bottle cartons are
now 45% more expensive than they
were two years ago. Corks are up 34%, and screwcaps 100%. Labels cost 41% more. That’s before you factor in some
essentials such as fuel (up 52%), salaries
(up 26%) and toll surcharges on deliveries (up 204%). It’s no wonder that exporters
expect a bit of sympathy and support from their partners.
“Yes, costs are being passed to us,” says
Doug Wregg at Les Caves, “I think mainly because the totality of increases across all the raw materials, combined with
very small vintages, combined with wage inflation, combined with high fuel prices, hasAdam put huge upward pressure on prices. Clarke (left) with John Winchester “Normally, producers will wait until a
Screwcap bottles are in short supply too
new vintage is released before passing
on the costs, but in certain cases they do it mid-vintage.
“We have been trying to manage our
prices as best as possible. It has become increasingly difficult because shipping,
warehouse and delivery costs have gone up around 10%. With Covid, the war in
Ukraine and climate crisis, we’re in for a rocky ride.”
Nicholas Moschi at Liberty Wines
is equally upfront. “Prices had been
rising steadily with increases passed to
producers in December 2021 and January 2022,” he says. “The war in Ukraine has
made things significantly worse with less availability and energy cost increases.
“Pricing for Europe has mostly been
agreed so producers have been absorbing
most of the costs. Some of these have been significant so we had to help producers.
If difficulties remain, unfortunately more increases will be necessary.”
All in it together
Sadly for retailers, spiralling price inflation looks certain to be a fact of life for the foreseeable future.
“I think the important thing is for
customers to understand that most wine merchants, I suspect, will do everything in their power to minimise price rises,”
says Doug Wregg. “But there are additional costs that you have to pass on sooner
rather than later, because the longer one
postpones, the bigger the eventual jump. “The other hidden cost out there, not
related to glass, is the complexity of
shipping and the financial calculations
that need to be reset each time. We have had to employ more people in shipping than ever – so, higher costs there
too – to communicate with transport
companies, growers, check forms, arrange consolidations, and chase the bonded warehouse.
“Shipments take weeks longer to arrive
than they used to. It is probably slower now than 300 years ago.”
What’s the alternative? Boxes and kegs won’t solve the problem
ight the problems with glass persuade producers and importers to investigate other forms of packaging for their wines?
“We’re open to ideas other than glass,” says Doug Wregg at Les Caves.
“We have a decent number of wines in KeyKeg, but the wine shortage in Europe has
meant less and less wine available for this purpose, and the increasing length of shipping times means that there is less time to sell the stock when it eventually arrives in the UK.”
Wregg points out that, as things stand, even a 20-litre KeyKeg only represents a
marginal saving on the same wine in a glass bottle.
Sam Thackeray at Enotria&Coe says that alternative packaging hasn’t really come to
the fore since the glass crisis began.
“The knock-on impact of changing labelling, and the problems with dry goods and
other elements that make up the product, mean that additional complexity just brings more delays,” he says.
“And prices of cardboard and aluminium – the key components of the most popular
packaging alternatives, bag-in-box and cans – have also risen astronomically owing to energy surcharges.”
Many importers are even experiencing problems with screwcaps. “There is a
worldwide issue with availability of screwcaps, which in turn means we are having to look to different bottles to try to bottle under cork,” says an Alliance Wine spokesman. Lee Evans at Condor adds: “At times we’ve had to wait for availability of screwcap
bottles. When the glass manufacturers have problems or have higher demand, they focus on core bottle products – and in South American that’s mainly cork closure.
“I think the most has been weeks rather than months, but it has caused some
disruption and not been welcome when we have also had delays in shipping.”
THE WINE MERCHANT august 2022 14
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THE WINE MERCHANT august 2022 15
argument. Its members have taken a look at the Sunak blueprint and responded: bring it on.
The BBPA’s position is based on naked
protectionism. Its members are spooked
Editorial Wine merchants beware: the drinks trade is far from united on duty reform
BBPA is also gunning for the wine trade.
the motorway to enjoy the comforts of his
Chief executive Emma McClarkin said
– presumably with a straight face: “When
What would Sam be doing if he ran a
people visit the pub they primarily drink
wine business right now? No doubt he
beer, which on average is 4.2% abv, the
see 70% of all wines taxed at a higher rate
Trade Association continues to make a
and costly that it’s likely to deter some
and Matt Hennings of Hennings in West
solution will doubtless come along, just as it did with VI-1 forms, and meanwhile we can all keep concentrating on buying and selling lovely wines.
We don’t yet know whether Liz Truss
will be our next prime minister, or Rishi Sunak, the proud architect of the duty
reform proposals. We do know that the
government has paused a final decision
on their implementation, at least until the autumn. Maybe the plans will be quietly shelved, especially if the Wine & Spirit
to talk about licensees as
it would be easier to sympathise. But the
the patio heater, and zips up and down
clout and more time on their hands. A
have a slightly creepy tendency
confined to white cider-fuelled mayhem
he jumps on long-haul flights, turns on
But maybe, he would conclude, that’s for
any who represent publicans
the on-trade, and if their arguments were
with it and make it go away. Cheerfully,
others to worry about, people with more
higher wine consumption? Not the pubs.
demonised by sections of the beery end of
feeling is that eventually someone will deal
from 31% to 33%. Who’s benefiting from
provide. Off-trade sales have always been
agree that it’s a huge problem. But his
producers from bothering with the UK at
down from 37% in 2019. Wine’s share rose
that only the nation’s noble landlords can
disputes that it’s a problem. He may even
sliding-scale system so time-consuming
accounted for 33% of alcohol consumption,
they choose to drink alcohol – supervision
about climate change. I don’t think he
than currently, in a fiendishly complicated
Covid restrictions. In 2020, it reports, beer
assertion is that people need supervision if
nowhere near as worried as I am
duty review which, if implemented, would
drinking, trends that accelerated during
guardians of public morality. Their
have a friend called Sam who is
would be alarmed by the government’s
by rising wine sales and a decline in beer
convincing case, with the help of indies like Hal Wilson of Cambridge Wine Merchants,
Sussex, whose excellent recent social media video on the subject is worth watching and sharing.
But the WSTA is not the only drinks
industry body lobbying the government. The British Beer & Pub Association has also been banging drums and, rather
unhelpfully, it’s on the other side of the
BBPA members have taken a look at the Sunak blueprint and responded: bring it on THE WINE MERCHANT august 2022 16
lowest strength alcohol category, and so
ideal for moderate consumption. It is great to see the Chancellor recognise this and promote lower strength alcohol drinks
with his changes to the UK alcohol duty regime.”
So, inconveniently for all those involved
in wine importing and retailing who can see that Sunak’s idea is a catastrophic
error, increasing business costs, adding
new levels of bureaucracy and reducing
consumer choice, it’s not possible to claim
that everybody in the UK drinks industry is opposed to the plan. Far from it.
We can sit back and wait for common
sense to prevail, or for the WSTA to
persuade Treasury grandees that duty reform, in its current incarnation, will
badly damage a section of the economy
that has been a success story for several decades. Maybe something will turn up.
But maybe it won’t. It’s time to email our MPs, again.
NOT YOU AGAIN!
customers we could do without
37. Sid Ferbert Where d’you say you’re off to? Italy? Or was it Spain? Oh, France. Work thing is it? What, drinking wine? Don’t sound much like work to me! Sounds more like an ’olidee! Going round vineyards and getting stewed? All right for some! Tell you what, let me know next time one of them trips comes up, I’ll do it for ya. No money – pay me in wine! So, what they do then, just expect you to drink wine all day … is that it? What is it you say to ’em – oh, my goodness, this one has an exquisite bouquet … simply divine … I’ll buy three crates! Reckon I could do a job like that, no trouble at all, you just call me next time you need an ’elper! Yeah? Mind you, I’m not sure I’d particularly fancy some of that plonk if I see all them feet squashing the grapes … puts you right off, I would imagine … then again that’s what they say gives it the flavour … but the last thing you wanna see is a toenail or a grotty old plaster floating in yer glass … I won’t drink no French wine anyway, not with them playing silly buggers with all this EU red tape what’s causing all this aggravation at Dover … what the hell they playing at? Plus they won’t let you in without about six injections … no thank you …
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Congratulations to the five Wine
Merchant reader survey respondents
whose names were drawn at random
AM ANAand TIaMCoravin, GRwho E courtesy of each win
our partner Can you unscramble these trendy Hatch grape Mansfield. varieties? If so, you win a I ♥ Bâtonage bum bag. Peter Fawcett, Field & Fawcett, York
1.Anthony Soya Skirt Borges, The Wine Centre, 2. Sarnie Great Horkesley, Essex 3. I Am Ron Vox ZoranMelon Ristanovic, 4. Alec’s SealerCity Wine Collection, 5. Actual Olive Indulger London Daniel Grigg, Museum Wines, Dorset Riaz Syed, Stonewines, London
THE WINE MERCHANT october august 2022 2021 18
Indies seek out the Assyrtiko grape in the Santorini PDO – an environment where almost everything else struggles
Rock star winemakers 3,500 years of achieving the impossible on Santorini
verybody knows that grape vines
thrive in inhospitable landscapes. But in the Santorini PDO, the
resilience of vitis vinifera is tested to something approaching its limits.
This famous Greek island likes to extend
a friendly welcome to holidaymakers, but there’s little here to make viticulture feel
at home – despite the fact that people have been making wine on Santorini, in various forms, for 3,500 years.
It’s a harsh volcanic landscape of pumice
stone and ash, baked by the scorching
Aegean sun and blasted by wind. Trees
and grass struggle to establish a foothold on Santorini, and so would most grape
varieties. Assyrtiko is one of a handful of
honourable exceptions, almost all of them white.
Assyrtiko from Santorini, the main
variety of the PDO, has become a favourite among many UK independents, who seem to find a ready market for its ultra-zippy, full-bodied white wines, which typically
come with a faintly salty tang on the finish. When the opportunity arises to visit
the island and get to understand not just
classic Assyrtiko but the famous Vinsanto sweet wines too, there’s no shortage, unsurprisingly, of willing takers.
Old vines that dig deep Anyone who says that vineyards
everywhere look pretty much the same
has never visited Santorini. Vines sprawl at ankle level across the volcanic debris,
their precious grapes protected from the elements within a gobelet-like basket
system called a kouloura. By encouraging the vines to grow this way, the fruit
occupies its own microclimate, protected from wind damage, dehydration and
sunburn. Put your hand inside this secret chamber and it’s immediately clear that
the temperature is 1˚C to 2˚C cooler than the surrounding air. It’s why the pickers sometimes keep their lunch here while
they set about their back-breaking work. When wine growers on Santorini talk
about old vines, they mean very old, often more than 200 years. Phylloxera can’t
cope with the island’s clay-free conditions, so vines can rely on their own rootstock. Eventually, when yields become too low,
growers graft on a new head to the vine, initially anchoring it into the ground to
stop the winds whisking it away. The vines drive down deep into the black rock: one grower we encounter believes the roots on some of his plots extend 75 metres underground. It can take more than a
THE WINE MERCHANT august 2022 20
Above: Chris Goldman and Elly Owen representing UK indies Below: A classic tourist view of Santorini
Assyrtiko vines trained in Santorini’s traditional kouloura system
oak ageing. The wines can be strikingly complex, and long-lived.
After a number of tastings we start to
appreciate how Assyrtiko can develop
with age. The steely, citrus elements of its youth don’t disappear entirely – indeed
we consistently remark on the surprising
freshness of five or six-year-old wines. But
as the colour darkens a little, it’s noticeable
that the wines take on a satisfying richness, an additional stone-fruit sort of character and maybe a touch of honey. We also pick
up a pleasant nutty sensation, and flashes of figs and mountain herbs. We begin to decade for a new vine to become viable.
white. Phenolics are “through the roof”,
sourcing theirs? Rain falls on just 65 days
bottle age before their flavour components
There is no natural source of fresh
water on Santorini. So where are the vines a year, on average, amounting to a mere
370mm (or an alarmingly meagre 119mm
in 2021) that evaporates quickly. But there is a natural drip-irrigation system in the
form of the morning dew, and evening sea mists, which supplies the plants with a welcome, and crucial, moisture boost.
We notice a few dried-out bunches here
and there, outside the embrace of the
kouloura. On healthy bunches, the grapes
are packed tightly together, but there’s no chance of fungus taking hold in this dry
heat. Vineyards on Santorini may or may not be officially classed as organic, but
in reality only the most eccentric grower would feel the need to spray their crops.
The white grape that acts like a red Although most of us on the trip think we
have a fair idea of the Santorini Assyrtiko template, it soon becomes apparent that
the spectrum of styles is broader than we realised.
Some winemakers remark that the
tannic structure of the grape makes it
behave more like a red wine than a classic
according to one producer, and some
styles certainly benefit from a few years of properly meld together. But the consumer clamour for young, fresh wines is
something producers are happy to indulge. The PDO for Santorini Assyrtiko now
stipulates that at least 85% of the blend is Assyrtiko. Some producers have gained a
following for their genuinely single-varietal wines, but most also include some Aidani
or Athiri, which complement the headline grape’s natural austerity with more aromatic characters.
Then there’s the question of oak.
Although some producers we meet clearly enjoy expressing the purity of the fruit
without any barrel influence, others insist
that some judicious oak seasoning creates a more rounded – and arguably more gastronomic – wine.
A style we encounter almost everywhere
we go is Nykteri. The word translates
loosely as “working through the night” and is a reference to the traditional practice of harvesting the grapes during the cooler
hours of darkness. The juice for Nykteri
wines is usually drawn off without pressing before a minimum of three months of
THE WINE MERCHANT august 2022 21
understand why many of our hosts choose to decant their older Assyrtiko wines.
We taste an impressive orange Assyrtiko
at one winery, which helps confirm that
experimentation is adding new dimensions to the island’s winemaking. Amphorae can be spotted lurking in some cellars, and occasionally eggs made from concrete, steel or clay.
“The results are very interesting,” one
oenologist assures us. “It’s good to play;
to use your imagination and be creative.
Assyrtiko is a grape that never disappoints you.”
Charlotte Dean Wined Up Here, west London The vineyards were great to see; the dark
volcanic soil and dramatic volcanic slopes
contrasting against the vibrant green vines low to the ground that had soaked up the morning dew, and were weaved around
the grapes to protect them from the harsh
sun and wind. It was great to put your feet
The sweet spot of the Santorini PDO
antorini’s signature sweet wine, Vinsanto, can look on first inspection like it’s made with a red grape. But once again it’s Assyrtiko working its magic: at least 51% of the blend must come from the variety. The grapes are allowed to overripen before being laid out in the sun – or in some cases, partial shade – to gradually dehydrate. As the fruit turns into raisins, the sugars are concentrated. After a slow (often spontaneous) fermentation and lengthy ageing in barrel and bottle, Vinsanto wines emerge with a characteristic velvety richness, but also a balancing acidity from the Assyrtiko. They are not fortified, making them far less heavy than many aperitif and digestif alternatives. Vinsanto proves to be another Assyrtiko-dominated wine that’s hard to pigeonhole. Some examples, we are told, should be enjoyed straight from the freezer in chilled shot glasses. At least one producer is considering developing Vinsanto cocktails. Often we detect that unmistakable Santorini salinity, creating a salted caramel effect. In a few examples, a bolder approach with oak imbues an interesting rustic edge. One winery treats us to a 2020 Vinsanto straight from the barrel. It’s just a baby, but already the fig, apricot and caramel flavours are dancing on the palate. Maybe, if we’re lucky, we’ll get to taste it again in 10 years’ time.
under the vines to feel the cooler air! A lovely detail to impart to customers.
The winemakers we met all seemed
very switched on, young and vibrant. It
was nice to see quite a few of them were
female and experimenting with amphorae and different sizes and shapes of vats, and different oak too.
I was amazed at how many cuvées each
of the wineries produced from just the
some real interest to the wines. However
complexity of the wine.
of the unique characteristics of Assyrtiko
one grape variety. The age of the vines
certainly had an impact on the weight and I preferred the wines with softened
acidity and more weight on the palate
obtained by the gentle oxidation by the use of oak, the more elegant the better.
The addition of other grape varieties,
especially Aidani, which gave a more
grapefruit zestiness to those wines labelled Santorini, was very appealing compared to the mineral austerity of 100% Assyrtiko, making the wines more refreshing and definitely inviting another sip.
Phil Innes Loki Wine, Birmingham I enjoy the fresher styles of Assyrtiko that really play to the acidity, minerality and salinity of the variety. I prefer Assyrtiko as
a single varietal, I think,
although sometimes the blends can be interesting and pare back some of the acidity, adding a floral note. I think oak can add
THE WINE MERCHANT august 2022 22
it needs to be well thought out, with a light touch. Too much oak can result in some from Santorini being lost.
I like the slightly sweeter styles of
Vinsanto. I think the best ones have a real salinity that comes through almost like salted caramel.
Santorini wines are very drinkable
and have a unique set of conditions that nowhere else can match, giving you a completely different style of wine to
anywhere else. The current trend is for
drinkable, dry wines, so Assyrtiko really
fits that bill. As long as the pricing can stay around about the current levels, I can only see the popularity increasing from here.
Aljoscha Wright The Oxford Wine Company
I felt the unoaked wines showed the true character of Assyrtiko and the terroir. It
seemed that the age of the vines, coupled with extended lees contact, balanced Assyrtiko’s searing acidity. These
wines also definitely improved with an extra year or two bottle age.
our shops has increased, with customers
Mark Wrigglesworth The Good Wine Shop, west London
our customers understand what it takes to
I preferred the
that was absolutely stunning.
I believe the wines resonate well with
consumers. The average bottle spend in willing to pay more for quality. These
wines are very much a hand sell and once
produce wines on Santorini, I believe they would be well received.
Elly Owen The Old Garage, Truro
Charlotte Dean (left) with Elly Owen
I really loved seeing the way the Assyrtiko was so adaptable. I liked the pure and linear style of seeing it unadulterated
where the acidity is evident. But I thought it was brilliant with careful use of oak or
bâtonage to accentuate the grape’s style and to round the edges ever so slightly. I think that the oak, used carefully,
definitely has a place in the range of wines Assyrtiko can produce. The best examples were where the oak was second or thirdfill and took a back-seat role in the wine.
These are often so subtle but to me it helps to create a lovely depth to the wine and highlight the depth of the grape.
The Vinsanto wines that I most enjoyed
tended to be the ones where the acidity
was still prevalent, helping to offset the PX type of sweetness and keeping freshness. This style had orange, saffron and ginger spice, which was really lovely. Aidani is lower in both alcohol and
acidity and Athiri brings aromatics.
Both support Assyrtiko well in a blend,
tempering its high acidity and alcohol and adding fruit to younger wines.
Assyrtiko proved itself very versatile
and in the right hands a little bit of old oak
added a pleasing layer of complexity. Given the minute amount of Assyrtiko Santorini
produces, I believe offering varying styles
is definitely a way of appealing to a greater
Santorini wines are quite diverse and
can offer a lot for one grape variety. Within the independent trade, some of the wines could definitely rival top-end Chablis and
could be marketed in such a way to explore this comparison.
Assyrtiko, considering its versatility,
actually represents good value at the high
end and probably has greater appeal than Riesling – which most customers have preconceptions about.
audience. We did taste one oaked version
THE WINE MERCHANT august 2022 23
mineral and saline
styles of Assyrtiko,
particularly those that had some texture and weight rather than
just refreshing acidity.
When it was entirely neutral oak did add
some weight and texture which, for pairing with food, has some merit. My preference
is for no oak, but if it is used, not deployed in a way that is noticeably detectable in flavour profile.
I preferred the Vinsanto wines with
lower sugar, which meant the balance of
acidity created freshness and less viscosity. Great with some of the cheeses we were served.
I certainly think Santorini can build on
its current momentum in the UK. They
have a unique growing climate and history as well as indigenous grapes that have adapted well.
This is perfect for the independent trade
as it gives multiple points for consumers to engage with.
I certainly think the wines will resonate
with customers as they are refreshing summer styles which pair well with a
variety of foods due to the high acidity. While prices of the wines are more
premium, I think for the educated and
informed customer, seeking a new wine experience, they offer a lot.
Equally, for those who may have
travelled to the region and enjoyed the
wines, there are ready-made advocates to drive the profile and sales in the longer term.
ight ideas r b
35: e-bike deliveries Louisa Fitzpatrick & Jamie Tonkin Old Chapel Cellars, Cornwall
In a nutshell: An electric bike is an
eco-friendly way to make deliveries and doubles up as a useful marketing tool. Tell us more …
“We have a Riese & Muller Load 75, which we bought in January. We are B Corp
certified and that filters through everything we do. Our values are very much aligned with what B Corp means, but aside from
that we thought the bike would be good for business. Truro is quite a small town and
it’s actually easier to do some deliveries by bike when it comes to parking and access.
Plus it gives us a bit of kudos: we have our
enthusiasts and they have given us tips.
“We still need the services of a van,
Was it a big investment?
to fall off as there are drains and crevices.
delivery company for that. If we were to
logo and branding on it and people really notice it around town.”
“There were several things that added up
to making a case for buying it. Our van was getting a bit long in the tooth so we were looking for an alternative. We were also able to take advantage of a very short-
lived government incentive. The bike cost
approximately £7,000 and the government grant of £2,000 made that more viable
for us, and then there is an increased tax
write-down, so we just thought, ‘why not?’” We know that you’re a pretty active
bunch at Old Chapel Cellars. Do you all take a turn using it for deliveries? “We do, and we are actively looking for some formal bike training for the team as the rules of the road have changed.
We have a lot of customers who are bike
Apparently the last thing you should do is
go towards the left as you’d be more likely They say we should drive in the road and take ownership, so some formal training
is necessary to give us all that confidence. There isn’t an official organisation that
we know of, although we have spoken to the local bike shop and to someone who teaches cycling in schools, so we’ll sort something.”
In between deliveries, does it sit outside the shop looking beautiful?
mostly for our wholesale deliveries. At the moment we are using a local carbon-free buy another van, it would be electric.
“The bike also works really well as a
glorified sack truck. We have an account
just about a hundred yards up the road. We used to deliver their wine on a sack truck, and that could sometimes tip on a cobble, and it would take two trips. Now, we can
just load the bike up and walk it round all in one go.”
Do you think merchants anywhere in
“It does actually bring a few people in who
the UK would benefit from having an
being a delivery vehicle. We thought we
would be great fun. We’ve been using it
want to talk about the bike.
e-bike for deliveries?
might take it out on the road and run a bit
since January and so far we’ve not had to
“We think it has more potential than just
of a bar from it.”
Has it successfully replaced your van?
“Yes! Especially in flatter places – it
recharge it. Admittedly we’re only going
around the centre of Truro, but that charge is amazing.”
Louisa and Jamie win 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
THE WINE MERCHANT august 2022 24
TRIED & TESTED
Assuli Furioso Perricone 2017
Astobiza Gorabie Txakoli 2020
Reasons to despise phylloxera number 1,485: it almost
Everyone seems to love Txakoli when they try it, so
Nero d’Avola, with which it is often blended, but Assuli
Zuri, which makes up 85% of this crisp and grapefruity
why isn’t it a bigger seller in the independent trade?
destroyed the prized Perricone vineyards of western
Maybe this could finally be the summer of Hondarrabi
Sicily. The variety has since been overshadowed by
Basque white. There’s something extra going on
is keen to give it the limelight. The tannins here are
below the surface here, beneath the playful zestiness:
moderate by the variety’s standards and they allow the
something sinister and sulphorous, in a good way.
violet and blackberry characters to come to the fore. RRP: £24.99
Richmond Wine Agencies (020 8744 5550)
Carson & Carnevale Wines (020 3261 0929) carsoncarnevalewines.com
Château des Demoiselles Rosé 2021
Szeremley Birtok Badacsonyi Bakator 2008
To be honest, the majority of rosés in the Provence
A rare grape from Hungary’s Badascony region,
impressed with its intensity and length. Strawberries
UK. It’s capable of wines with superb ageing potential,
Bakator is high-yielding and pink-coloured variety that
style blur into one these days but this taut Cinsault/ Grenache/Tibouren blend from the Esclans Valley
and raspberries dominate the palate, obviously, but did we detect some green apple in there too? Maybe we did. RRP: £23.50
Louis Latour Agencies (020 7409 7276)
will be intriguingly unfamiliar to most imbibers in the as seems to be the case with this firm but medium-
bodied example, with notes of blood and raspberries. RRP: £24
Malux Hungarian Wines (020 7164 6925)
VIDA Estates Sandanski Misket 2016
Avondale Qvevri 2020
With prices set to soar in just about every established
in South Africa to ferment wines in qvevri, allowing
Paarl-based Avondale claims to be the first winery
wine region of Europe, countries like Bulgaria
the wine to accentuate the fruit characters but also
have the chance to make their case. This light and
minerality of the grapes – in this case whole-bunch
breezy white from the north west of the country is
Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Merlot, Petit Verdot and
an unpretentious crowd pleaser, but is still full of
Malbec. There’s an earthy character, too, which anchors
personality, with flashes of honey and ginger. RRP: £15.29
those rampant red fruit flavours and adds complexity.
VIDA Wines & Spirits (020 7965 7283)
Cachet Wine (01482 581792)
Vallisto Extremo Barbera 2021
Novak Floricica 2021
This high-altitude Barbera from Salta made The Wine
Moldova’s Floricica is another variety that will throw
There’s a freshness and grip that you might expect at
(pithy and oily) only adds to the sense of lost bearings.
most drinkers in the British market and the disconnect
Merchant Top 100 a couple of years ago and it’s a
pleasure to find it on good form in the 2021 vintage.
1,900m altitude (early picking also helps), and a finesse you might not always associate with Barbera. The fruit is rich and pure, suspended by gossamer tannins. RRP: £19.75
Ucopia World Wines (01435 517080) ucopiawines.co.uk
between the aroma (floral and grapey) and the palate
But it’s an enjoyable excursion into the unknown, and
another reason to take notice of the great-value wines from this increasingly interesting country. RRP: £16
Moldovan Wine (01483 808413) moldovawine.co.uk
THE WINE MERCHANT august 2022 26
Sam Hellyer On the Road
SAM IS HEAD OF INDEPENDENT SPECIALISTS AT BERKMANN WINE CELLARS. HIS CAREER HAS INVOLVED SPELLS IN THE RETAILING AND SUPPLY SIDE OF THE WINE BUSINESS
Independent merchants know what they want and they are quite direct about it, which makes them in many ways much easier customers than the on-trade sector. It’s their business and they are not trying to represent anyone else in their buying choices. No two shops look the same – it’s wonderful how different they all are. I love visiting them and exploring, as I always appreciate their huge range of wines and it means I usually leave with a bottle. There isn’t an independent wine merchant where I live in Wantage, which is a shame. Actually there’s a unit that’s just come up and it’s on the market square, with four parking bays right out in front of it. It would make a good wine shop and if anyone wants to open there, I can promise them lots of samples.
I got my first job in wine because I needed money to buy a bus pass for college. I worked at Bottoms Up and as I was only 17 I wasn’t allowed to sell the wine, but I could restock on a Friday. When I turned 18 they decided I wasn’t going to burn the shop down so they let me run the store on Sundays with another 18-year-old. There was a good amount of education
involved too, so it wasn’t all about the staplegun fights we had during quiet times. I studied sociology at university, but even before my first lecture I found the nearest Oddbins. I said: “I know the difference between a Gerwürztraminer and a Chardonnay, do you need to hire anyone?” By the time I got my degree I felt I’d devoted more time to wine than I had to my studies. Later, after two years of working my full-time job in market research at AC Nielsen, and the accompanying shifts at Oddbins, I realised I really didn’t like doing data analysis on Easter eggs for Tesco, but I really did like selling wine. As a rep, I love that sometimes you just have to grab things by the scruff of the neck and get on with it. When working for a much smaller importer years ago, I did have to make an impromptu delivery to Harrods in my battered Nissan Almera. At Berkmann we are moving over to fully electric cars soon, but right now I have a hybrid. In electric mode it is completely silent, so for safety reasons some noise is played through a speaker under the grille and the sound Kia has chosen is just like the hoverboard from Back to the Future. Needless to say, my kids love it!
We have an incredible range called Quails’ Gate, from the Okanagan Valley. You could compare the price to Burgundy, but the difference is that this is actually available! It also has a little bit more brightness and fruit to it, fantastic quality, and it works for indies because it’s a bit unusual. Top notch Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from Canada. There’s definitely a justified increase in interest from the trade for Lebanese wines. We’ve been talking to people lately
THE WINE MERCHANT august 2022 27
about Chateau Ksara. Their wines have a fascinating complexity. They don’t shy away from using international varieties, but they also embrace the use of native grapes. These are the sort of wines that indies can really run with.
The first wine I fell in love with was Australian Shiraz. Tasting a back vintage of d’Arenberg’s Dead Arm was the point I realised that two wines can be similar while being completely different. Nowadays I absolutely love a slightly farmy, rustic, earthy Burgundy. It’s as far from a polished new-world fruit bomb as you can get. But if you were going to take all other wine away from me and leave me with only one region, it would have to be Champagne. I’m not a huge Champagne drinker but I think there is something so exceptional about it. Such a unique method; often imitated, but never bettered. It’s a bit boring when I say that I really like spreadsheets, but part of me really does. I love figures and statistics. The amount of business Berkmann has within the independent sector translates to enough meaningful data to spot trends – we can see what’s moving and why. It’s really useful for making decisions that fit the market.
I am growing a mystery vine and I want to get it to the stage where it can be genetically tested. If it’s rare, I’m going to try and propagate it. It was a cutting that came from a 60-year old vine from Bothy vineyard in Frilford, and it had been rescued from Abingdon Abbey. Back in the 90s they had it genetically tested but no one could identify it. It’s doing well in my garden so far. I’m not a great gardener, but I’m good with trees and vines, so you could say I’m patient!
Feature sponsored by Berkmann Wine Cellars For more information about the company, visit berkmann.co.uk Call 020 7609 4711
BITS & BOBS
Penfolds is to launch its inaugural offering of French wine later this year. One of the two wines has been made in
collaboration with Bordeaux winemaking house Dourthe. Penfolds FWT 585 was
made in the Bordeaux region at Château Cambon la Pelouse, and is a blend of
Fiona Boulton Kerb Manchester Favourite wine on our list
It would have to be Bodega Cauzón Fresa Salvaje. It’s a pink sparkling and it’s bready, mad interesting and super juicy.
Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit
Verdot, aged partially in new American oak.
Penfolds II Cabernet-Shiraz-Merlot
comprises French Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, shipped down under and blended with Australian Shiraz before bottling. Just Drinks, July 26
They found that alcohol takes a toll on a
section of DNA called a telomere – but that
this kicks in only if people drink more than 17 units a week.
Telomeres are repetitive DNA sequences
that protect the end of chromosomes. They naturally shorten as people age, a process linked to cancer and Alzheimer’s. The Times, July 26
Pincher on not getting pickled inclusion of a wine column by local MP Christopher Pincher. The Tamworth MP resigned as deputy
chief whip when he “embarrassed” himself after drinking too much.
Favourite wine trip
But despite being suspended by the
I haven’t been away since Covid but top of the list would have to be Craven in South Africa. I met the winemaker, Mick Craven, and he was showing me photos of his estate – beautiful mountains right by the beach. Also, his wines are bangin’!
party while an investigation into his
conduct continues, his latest column in The
Critic magazine has been published.
Headlined “How not to get pickled”, the
MP discusses the merits of non-alcoholic cocktails.
Favourite wine trade person
Favourite wine shop
biological marker of ageing.
of a magazine to complain about the
The dream wine and food pairing would be some spicy fish tacos and Slurpy Boi NV from Fin Wines. It’s a light bodied, fruity, low-tannin red.
Bar Part Time in San Francisco is a really fun club with great wine. I love that they’re bringing wine to a younger generation without any snobbishness. What more could you want?
comparing their drinking habits with a key
A campaigner has written to the editor
Favourite wine and food match
My favourite people from the trade would have to be Ed Read and Sam Adamson from Distant Lands. We’ve known each other years and had a great night at a pre-Covid Friends & Family festival. They are always finding the best stuff from all over and are sound to work with.
Penfolds in French wine adventure
Lichfield Live, July 27
Stick to fewer than five glasses a week Drinking more than five large glasses of wine a week can damage DNA and cause premature ageing, research suggests. Scientists at Oxford University looked
at data from 245,000 adults in the UK,
THE WINE MERCHANT august 2022 28
Vegan wines booming at Virgin Virgin Wines has seen a 51% jump in sales of its vegan wines in the last two years. The retailer boasts more than 400
vegan-friendly wines. In 2021, Virgin sold
1,735,730 bottles of vegan wine, compared to 1,149,869 in 2019.
Vegan Food & Living, July 27
Former mafia man joins wine trade
THE BURNING QUESTION
How did you cope with the record-breaking July heat?
Heatwave? We love it. It makes people enjoy themselves by the seaside and have barbecues. It was only about 31-32˚C, so not too oppressive. Footfall was down but deliveries were up. It was uncomfortably hot to be walking around doing shopping, but our customers know they can ring us and we’ll deliver. I heard about people suspending deliveries and it beggared belief. We couldn’t do that. The delivery van’s got air conditioning, so it wasn’t a problem.
Former mob boss Michael Franzese has released an eponymous range of wines produced in the foothills of Mount Ararat in Armenia. Franzese was known as the “yuppie
don” in the 1980s after rising to the rank of caporegime in the notorious Colombo
Dean Pritchard Gwin Llyn Wines, Pwllheli
Fortune Magazine placed him at No 18
on its 50 Biggest Mafia Bosses list, and he gained a reputation as one of the mob’s biggest earners since Al Capone.
He is now a motivational speaker and
author, living in California with his wife
and seven children. He runs a mentorship site called The Inner Circle, and one of his mentees approached him with a plan to create a wine brand.
There’s a weather station down the road and it recorded 38˚C. We have a temperaturecontrolled warehouse, so all the wine was fine. The shop has air con. Quite a few trade customers were closed and some private clients chose not to have wine sent out because they didn’t want it damaged in transit, but generally it was business as usual. A few inbound deliveries didn’t turn up because drivers were probably told not to work – but who can blame them?
Decanter, July 27
Hannah Boyes House of Townend, North Ferriby
The horror of a new wine shop
We closed for the day. We had a few staff on holiday and a tasting in the evening. If we’d kept the bar and the shop open it would have been a lot of running around in the heat for my partner, Matt, and me at eight months pregnant. We just thought we’d make our lives a bit easier. The tasting went ahead, hosted by Marta Vine. It was well attended apart from a couple of people whose buses were cancelled. People sat in the garden, drank Vinho Verde and had a great time.
Deep Red Wine Merchant, an intimate wine bar and bottle shop, is coming to Avondale, Chicago, with an emphasis on
minority vintners, and decorative winks and nods to horror movie fans. A fan of horror movies since high school,
owner Dave Thompson says his interior designer is planning to integrate horror references into the decor.
When it opens, Deep Red will be the
latest entrant into a kind of horror alley in Avondale, just blocks away from
deceptively colourful horror-themed coffee shop The Brewed. The neighbourhood is also home to the Insect Asylum, a
taxidermy museum, and horror-friendly
books and records shop Bucket O’ Blood. “There’s a vibe here in Avondale,” says
Thompson. “I can’t explain why, but I like it.”
Kat Stead Brigitte Bordeaux, Nottingham
My thermometer read 38.5˚C. We stayed open and we filled up the fridge with extra refreshing things like fizz and nice white wines. It was a quiet day footfall-wise [on Tuesday the 19th]. A lot of people didn’t bother coming out but we still had customers. One reason we stayed open was because we were prepping for a wine tasting event the following night. The only problem I had was going to Tesco for the cheese for the tasting as its fridges were closed down. I had to go to Waitrose instead. I think they have a better class of fridge there. Tracy Markham H Champagne winner H Steep Hill Wines, Lincoln
Champagne Gosset The oldest wine house in Champagne: Äy 1584
Eater Chicago, July 26
THE WINE MERCHANT august 2022 29
My failed attempt to copy Kopke Kopke’s new 50 Year Old Tawny is a masterpiece of port blending, as Sarah McCleery can testify. She joins an audience of trade professionals to see if she can create her own version of Carlos Alves’s balanced and complex wine, and realises she should stick to the day job. Kopke is imported by Hayward Bros. Visit haywardsbros.co.uk or call 020 7237 0576
he work of a port master blender is an art form. The job is to bring together wines of varying age,
maturation process and even origin, to
create a port that is consistent to the house style.
Kopke is the oldest port house, having
been established in 1638. In 1828, C
N Kopkë, great-great-grandson of the
founder, Nicolau, sided with the Liberal
Party during the civil war, and the company changed its name to C N Kopke in 1841. It is a thrill to be invited to take part
in a masterclass that will allow us taste the newly launched 50 Year Old Tawny – a blend of aged wines described as a
“window to the great single vintage ports”.
is warm and generous and, importantly
it. We are given everything required for the
of Kopke’s ports, and it makes the idea
To boot we will get a glimpse of the work
of the master blender, by trying to recreate job. Five individual wines to choose from,
and a guidebook that explains the qualities of each.
There’s a measuring cylinder and a
conical flask and an array of glassware to
sample the various attempts. Most usefully, there’s also a bottle of the 50 Year Old Tawny itself.
Aromas move from green honey and
caramel to toasted almond, orange and
lime marmalade and then soaked prune,
dark chocolate and fig notes too. The palate
for me, brilliantly fresh. I understand that
this brightness is very much the trademark of exploring them further very attractive indeed.
o, armed with a clear taste of what I’m supposed to be creating, I commit to the task in hand.
Wine A is the youngest of the five and it
feels as though it has little to offer when it
comes to the complexity of the 50 Year Old. I think it might have a minor part to play. Wine B has a little more character and
breadth and there’s quite a lot of the citrus freshness that I found in the final blend. I also pick up a decent amount of caramel too. I feel this has to feature.
Wine C has honey and spice and is
showing more roundness and some of
the richer fruit notes. I am mindful of the advice we have been given about what
stocks Kopke will hold of its older wines,
and the volumes available for a final blend. It seems to me that as an older wine, but
not one of the oldest, wine C is going to be a major player.
Wine D strikes me as being the spiciest,
but I also find it the most volatile. It is very black-fruited and rich. I am not sure about this at all, but I can sense that it will add a The new launch has even more depth and sophistication than the 40 and 30 Year Old styles
THE WINE MERCHANT august 2022 30
lot of breadth and complexity in a blend. I should add that the pros describe wine
D as “fresh, with notes of caramel and chocolate”.
Last, but not least, is wine E. It is by
far the most concentrated, with roasted coffee notes. Though quite intimidating
on its own, you feel it is going to play an important role – albeit perhaps not the largest component.
So, here is where I end up. I pop 45%
of wine C into my measuring cylinder and then 10% of wine B. I pop 20% each of D
and E into my blend and finish off with 5% of wine A.
I am stupidly pleased that I seem to
have pulled off a rather good replica of the wine’s mahogany colour. Despite giving
my attempt a good swirl, it doesn’t have the inviting warmth of the real deal and
it’s evidently not as complete. The palate is also pretty disjointed, and I am some
way off the balanced complexity of Alves’ masterpiece.
Still, he’s a Portuguese gentleman and
does the honour of tasting it kindly and telling me “it’s close”. Hmm.
t is clear that Carlos Alves’s job
is secure. His years on internship at Kopke have given him an
encyclopaedic knowledge of the wines.
Knowing them intimately, having tasted
them over many years and tasted how they have aged, Alves is able to craft a blend
that captures the character of the Port and sustains a consistent house style.
The success of the blend falls firmly at
the feet of the master blender and their
skills not just as a taster but in knowing
how the different wines will come together for a taste of port magic. Alves must work with the Port treasures of the past to maintain Kopke’s heritage.
What does the Kopke 50 Year Old Tawny
give you that the 40 Year Old and 30 Year Old do not? Well, the answer seems to
be more sophistication and complexity,
greater depth and a step closer to the more expensive single vintages.
Top: Carlos Alves, a former apprentice and now the master; Below: Sarah McCleery, happy to leave the heavy lifting to the professionals
THE WINE MERCHANT august 2022 31
A little light reading David Williams considers his desert island wine books. True, it’s a category that’s far from lucrative for its authors and publishers. But there are titles out there that certainly enrich the reader
Collectively, Johnson’s World of Atlas
he request came in the form of
of Wine (in its most recent editions a
an email, but its tone suggested spidery writing on headed
co-production with Robinson) and his
notepaper. “Please excuse the intrusion and
lesser-known historical masterpiece,
The Story of Wine; the Robinson-edited
presumption”, it began sweetly.
Oxford Companion to Wine; and Robinson’s
“We (my wine club and I) are hoping to
build a wine library, a pooled resource of
co-authored (with Julia Harding and José Vouillamoz) Wine Grapes provide almost
no more than eight books (one for each
member), and we thought you might be
everything you might need from a wine
able to help us select the most appropriate,
book, especially since the rise of the
‘essential’ titles: a kind of desert island wine books, if you like.”
Happy to help, I answered, thinking
the task would require no more than a few minutes’ pondering, maybe a little googling.
Then I thought: has anyone ever selected
a wine book for the actual Desert Island Discs?
Neither of the wine luminaries who I
know have been on the programme had. Checking the archive, I found that Jancis Robinson (October 1996) chose George Eliot’s Middlemarch and Hugh Johnson
(May 1984) opted for The Complete Works of PG Wodehouse to complement their Shakespeare and Bible.
Both also had as their luxury a plentiful
internet has largely obviated the need for supply of wine (along with a pen and paper in Johnson’s case) suggesting that even
wine writers would rather drink wine than read about it.
Then again, since I can’t imagine
Robinson or Johnson having quite the size of ego that would permit them to choose
one of their own books, it rather slimmed down the potential works they had to
choose from. Between them, the duo is responsible for at least four stone-cold
classics, all of them books I can imagine
many wine lovers choosing were they ever to get the call to sit down with Lauren Laverne.
After a period when the flow of new wine books slowed to a trickle, recent years have seen something of a revival in the UK THE WINE MERCHANT august 2022 32
annual wine guides and other books based on necessarily ephemeral wine ratings.
Indeed, such is the definitive status of
at least three of this quartet (The Story of
Wine has only recently been republished by Academie du Vin), it’s been rather difficult for other serious wine reference works to get off the ground with publishers, or, in
the rare moments when they do make it to publication, to find an audience.
And it’s not just reference works. It’s an
open secret in wine publishing that most
books only just about break even or make
a loss, many barely make it to three-figures in sales, and that, as Jamie Goode, one of
the more prolific (and successful) of wine
book authors told me recently, “there’s no
money in it – unless you’re Hugh or Jancis
or Parker, you do it for the love of it and to raise your profile”.
oode’s Wine Science would in
fact be a candidate for number five on my list: a very readable
overview of all the technical nitty-gritty
wine writing, Andrew Jefford.
of winemaking and winegrowing that
The breadth of Valkyries means it
I’ve found immensely useful since the
edges out a previous Jefford classic,
first edition came out in 2014. In a
The New France, for a place in the pick
similar scientifically rigorous, detailed
of eight books I made for my wine club
and readably informative vein, I’d also
try to find a place in any wine library for
That list is completed by two American
Professor Jonathan Maltman’s exceptional, Soils: A Wine Lover’s Guide to Geology,
books that, like Jefford’s work, are as much
which gently deflates many of the myths of
timely 2018 book Vineyards, Rocks and
concerned with delivering literary pleasure as they are in the imparting of vinous
this age of terroir and minerality.
American importer Kermit Lynch’s
For all the hand-wringing about the
Adventures on the Wine Route is a rollicking
travails of modern wine publishing, it’s
French wine-country picaresque first
heartening to see books like Goode’s (the
published in 1990, while Lynch’s soulful
second edition was published last year)
modern-day equivalent Terry Theise’s
and Maltman’s emerging. It’s also worth
gently philosophical vinous memoir
remembering that this has always been a
distinctly recherché genre, and that, after
a period when the flow of new wine books
Reading Between the Vines (2010) is as
slowed to a trickle, recent years have seen
of Jasper Morris’s vast, magnificent Inside
presented labour of love that is Ben Little’s
the sector enjoy something of a revival in the UK, at least in terms of new titles.
wo relatively new publishers are
largely responsible for this minirenaissance. The first, Infinite
Ideas, has taken on the Classic Wine
Library Series first created in the 1960s at Faber & Faber, and then run into the
ground by Mitchell Beazley in the 2000s. A series of regional guides written by
acknowledged experts in the region, the
books’ very specificity rather rules out any place in a limited, generalist Desert Island Discs selection, although I’ve been very
impressed by the mix of accessible prose
Burgundy, published by Berry Bros & Rudd, and the eccentric, exhaustive, beautifully self-published Pignolo.
The other publisher that has helped
change the British wine-publishing
landscape is Academie du Vin Library,
which has a nice line in reprinting longlost classics of wine literature such as Maurice Healy’s enchanting survey of
winemaking Europe written in 1940, and Edith Somerville and Martin Ross’s late
Victorian jaunt through Bordeaux, In the
Vine Country, as well as Johnson’s Story of Wine.
It’s also responsible for my favourite
and scholarly information in the examples
wine book of recent years, Drinking with
and Anthony Rose’s Fizz. The same is true
presiding poetic genius of contemporary
I’ve read, notably Anne Krebiehl’s Wines of Germany, Matt Walls’ Wines of the Rhône
the Valkyries, a thematically arranged
compilation of journalistic pieces by the
THE WINE MERCHANT august 2022 33
good as anything I’ve read on the lifealtering joy of wine.
have any partiality. We know there is going to be scarcity but, strangely, retail markets tend not to react until a shortage is
manifest. So we are currently in the weird pendulum swing of benefiting from the
historic prices before the new reality bites.
Unfiltered If you love Condrieu, buy it now, because prices are only heading in one direction
iognier is an interesting but
has few admirers in the bargain-hunting
This prompts the question: why bother
long as either Chardonnay or Sauvignon,
capricious grape as it is both
difficult to grow and to vinify.
with it? To which the answer is: because it yields wines that are inimitable.
Its spiritual homeland is in Condrieu,
in the northern Rhône valley, where it is thought to have been introduced by ancient Greek traffickers in the third
century AD. Today there are 209 hectares
under vine spread across seven communes planted in steep south and south eastfacing terraces on soils rich in alluvial deposits, granite, mica, sand, clay and limestone.
At the nadir of Condrieu, in the mid-
1950s, after the ravages of phylloxera, two world wars and the Wall Street
crash, there were fewer than 12 hectares
under vine in the entire world (including the monopole, satellite appéllation of Château-Grillet) and Viognier almost
became extinct. Fortunately, a handful of
community. It can take seven years to
establish viable rootstock, roughly twice as but wines made with it enjoy an incredibly loyal following among enlightened aficionados.
The permitted yield in Condrieu is
currently 41 hectolitres per hectare. The
average yield is reputedly 37 hectolitres, but the yield in the frost-ravaged 2021 vintage came in at just eight. We can
therefore predict, with some certainty, price increases and a shortfall in availability.
Prices will inevitably increase. That is
partially due to inflation but also because costs of everything are rising – glass,
cardboard, fuel, labour, printing – never
mind the grapes. Interestingly, these price increases have not fully impacted at the time of writing. So the message is, buy
Viognier now if it is a grape to which you
any other grape variety. Putting that into
adjectives is not easy, but I have often tried
to do so over a 30-year career, so will do so
once again. Honeysuckle and acacia flowers both frequently appear in tasting notes, as
do peaches, apricots and white stone fruit. Viognier has quite a rich, mouth-filling
texture, but strangely often has a much
drier finish that its aromas encourage one to anticipate.
Good Viognier has finesse and elegance
in equal measure, and it can drink very
well with or without food. Opinions vary as to what the best food accompaniment to Condrieu is, but many purists argue
that quenelles de brochet au salpicon de
homard (pike perch dumpling in a lobster
sauce) is the crème de la crème. They also maintain that Domaine Georges Vernay’s Coteau de Vernon is the top wine in the
appéllation. Both are normally available at
the Beau Rivage hotel and restaurant which overlooks the Rhône in the middle of the
town of Condrieu. I have had the privilege
of enjoying that combination in situ, and if
it isn’t the pinnacle of perfection it can’t be far off it.
Opinions differ as to how much
bottle age Viognier benefits from. Many oenophiles enjoy Condrieu with five or Personally, I find it hard to resist its
the flame alive and gradually terraces
youthful fruit, so favour drinking it within
were replanted. More young winemakers
two or three years of bottling.
were encouraged into the fold, and an
So my parting advice is, treat yourself:
international following started to develop.
you know you’re worth it. Yes, it will be
This coincided with official (and illicit)
expensive, but think of the bragging rights
exports of vine cuttings that helped
– and the memories that can’t be taken
establish vineyard holdings in the south of
away from you.
France and the new world. Today, Viognier It does not yield inexpensive wines, so
don’t resemble the bouquet of
nuttier nuances and a deeper colour.
staunchest advocate, Georges Vernay, kept
beautiful, ethereal scents that
more years’ maturity, when it develops
dedicated vignerons, led by the grape’s
is a widely planted, and rightly revered,
iognier makes wines with
Coteau de Vernon: Condrieu’s superstar
THE WINE MERCHANT august 2022 35
Jason Yapp is director Reggio Emiliaof Yapp Bros in Mere, Wiltshire
Why aren’t we buying Australian wine anymore THE WINE MERCHANT august 2022 36
The UK has seen a big dip in its imports from Australia. We can blame problems in global supply chains and economic angst for some of the decline. But maybe there are other issues that producers need to address. Graham Holter reports
s the UK falling out of love with
Australian wine? The latest export
figures seem to suggest so. Volumes
fell by 15% in the year to June 30, and value was down 10%.
To put that into context, global
Australian wine exports decreased 10% by volume and 19% by value. This, according to Wine Australia, was “not unexpected”.
The performance was affected by shipping
delays, rising transport costs and spiralling inflation. There has also been a “significant decline” in exports to China, thanks to
punitive tariffs, which skews the figures Stormy weather: the 2020 vintage was affected by smoke taint from bush fires. Now Australian producers face inclement conditions in the UK market from a variety of causes
But take China out of the equation and
Australia’s overall export value is actually
up by 5%, and down by just 3% in volume terms. So why is the UK – Australia’s most important market after the USA – looking so anaemic?
Delays and shortages The Vinorium in Kent is a major importer of premium Australian wines, with
around 40 exclusive agencies. Owner
Stuart McCloskey says that 2022 is “by far the worst year” he has experienced for Australian sales.
This is partly because the business is
now unable to re-export Australian wine to its 1,000-plus customers in the EU, thanks
THE WINE MERCHANT august 2022 37
to Brexit. “It’s just impossible, really,” he says. “The cost is through the roof.”
Then there is the issue of shipping
delays, adding costs that neither The
Vinorium nor its producers are keen to meet. “The wine is on the water for an
average of four months now,” McCloskey says.
“Global shipping is a disaster and it’s
putting a lot of people off. It’s just so
expensive. We’re actually now working
with an Aussie shipper because no one in the UK is doing their job very well.
“We brought a container across from
Australia in March and it arrived here in
June after almost 16 weeks on the water. And the UK leg from the port up to our
bond at LCB was almost the same cost as the journey from Australia.”
Availability is also a headache. “Smaller
producers have had a couple of tough
years,” he says. “2019 was a really hard
vintage; 2020 [which was badly affected by smoke taint from bush fires] was super-
small and we’re now seeing quite a few of them favouring cellar-door sales against
exporting because they can make full margin. “A lot of them have said to us, we’re not
giving you an allocation this year. Or we
can give you five cases of this and five cases of that and you think: what’s the point?
You can sell that in two minutes, and it just doesn’t work.
“On top of that a few of our producers
didn’t produce a 2020 vintage. With our second biggest producer, Utopos [in the Barossa Valley], we’ve shipped almost
two containers in the past 18 months and basically 2020 was written off. So we’ve lost 6,000 bottles which we would have
on at a full salary is one option on the table. He admits to feeling a sense of “letting
Touch, retails for around £10 and around
premium wines. There isn’t the audience.”
this year because it’s been more difficult
people down” in Australia. But he adds:
“The market is not right for shipping super-
sold for £35.”
Happy with flat sales
Consumers are spooked
independents, recently had meetings with
McCloskey says the business has been badly hit by a downturn in consumer
confidence brought about by global events. He’s pragmatic about this: “I think we got away with it so well during the pandemic
and it’s our turn now to have a bit of a kick in the bum”, he says.
“The impact of the Ukrainian war is the
biggest issue we’ve seen. The drop-off of
Tony Wellings, owner of The Antipodean
Sommelier, which works with a number of some Australian producers trying to enter the UK market. “Their wines were good,
but I think they were being a bit unrealistic
on pricing,” he says. “It was super-premium stuff. Some of the Italian varietals from
New South Wales would come in at about £40 on the shelf.”
indies going absolutely crazy and we were 25%, 30% up. We’ve maintained sales in a
year when things have got a little bit more difficult.”
Wellings adds: “The only premium
if the brand’s right, the product’s right
ecommerce sales. Historically we would
and there’s value, certainly between
bring in 20% to 25% new business every
ship £2m less Australian wine than in a
“From an export perspective there’s no demand for these lean styles that get applause from Halliday”
make a decision about what to do next.
Mothballing the business and keeping staff
we definitely had a Covid upside of the
“I think the indies are still interested
“For us the biggest tell-tale is new
levels and then, at the end of the year,
I’m quite pleased about because in 2021
have just disappeared since the invasion.
normal year. The plan is to run down stock
Overall, Australian sales are flat, “which
enthusiasm for Australian wine among his
Customers who would buy from us weekly
parcels here and there” but overall he will
Valencia or Malaga, which is a pain.”
Does Wellings sense any lack of
spending £30 to £35 on a regular basis.
McCloskey expects to bring in “odd
to northern Europe. The rest drops in
got masses of distribution yet.”
rise in the cost of living, people are not
“We’re flabbergasted with the figures
seem to be sending one ship in three up
we’re still growing our brands. We haven’t
time. But now we’re seeing, because of the
that we’re seeing.”
is down to the shipping company who
a downturn but that’s maybe because
stock below £10, it’s just a waste of our
taking 70 or 80 days, and a lot of that
about 35% up in sales. So we’re not seeing
four or five years. We don’t really have
actually we can’t afford this. It’s a luxury
Wellings says. “Instead of 52 days it’s
for us and it’s between £13 and £15. That’s
is £33. It’s never really dropped off over
those super-premium wines and thinking:
to get shipments in due to lead times,”
continues to grow – it’s about 500 cases
“Historically our order average per bottle
it’s maybe the wider world looking at
“I’ve gone out of stock a couple of times
O’Brien’s stuff at Silent Noise and that just
it was zero. It’s not just our customer base,
1,600 cases hit the market last year.
wine we’ve got at the moment is Charlie
orders has gone through the floor. It’s quite
day from all search engines. In June I think
His entry-level Aussie wine, A Grower’s
THE WINE MERCHANT august 2022 38
£10 and £20. Up to £15 is where I would concentrate at the minute to try and get
some traction with the indies. Beyond that
you are starting to struggle because I don’t think the consumer gets it.
“When I started dealing with New
Zealand, Sauvignon Blanc was going
absolutely bonkers and it continued for eight or nine years. Australia had been
forgotten. Brand Australia became a bit damaged with all the half-price stuff
that wasn’t really half-price. Seven or
eight years ago the indies wouldn’t touch Australia, it just didn’t work for them. “Maybe these UK export figures are
Netted vines at Margaret River, Western Australia
skewed mainly by the mults because the
that are like Bordeaux blends – everything
producing wines for your export market
beating the shit out of it, really.”
those producers because we haven’t sold
we need more lees contact, more texture –
vast proportion of Aussie wine is still
channelled through them, and they are still
Watery Shiraz? No thanks Stuart McCloskey at The Vinorium is
worried that Australian winemakers are perhaps forgetting what they do best.
When he produced a report into the buying habits of his customers, accounting for
£23m in sales over a five-year period, it
emerged that almost three-quarters of that money had been spent on Shiraz. That’s
the bolder, traditional Aussie Shiraz rather than the leaner, more modern style.
“When you give people true cool-climate
Shiraz, customers run away from it,” he
says. “We’ve bombarded customers with
wines that are very Mediterranean, some
you’d want from Europe but from
Australia. We’ve had to delist almost all of their wines.
“I’ve been on a few Aussie podcasts
and said that these lean styles are superpopular, especially from Margaret River,
they get a lot of applause from people like Halliday and domestically they’re quite strong.
“But from an export perspective there’s
no demand for them and when we’ve brought them across, barring super-
collectible wines, actually customers want richer, more textural styles. Not the old
vanilla fruit bombs of 15 years ago … but
they want something that Australia’s just not producing.
“We’ve said to our winemakers: you’ve
got to make a decision. Either you’re
THE WINE MERCHANT august 2022 39
or your domestic market. Or you’ve got to put a barrel away for The Vinorium and
more time in oak, essentially, because we want slightly richer, fatter styles and we don’t want it tasting like water.
“Everyone’s so obsessed with being
scored by a critic and it goes back to the
old days of Parker, to a degree. But we’re
seeing it more and more now and I think
that’s why Australia’s got itself into a bit of
a pickle, especially on the cool-climate side of things.
“They’re having to please these critics,
but at the end of the day critics don’t buy the wines. Produce wine for consumers, not for critics. A lot of winemakers in
Australia now should be giving themselves a bit of a kicking because they’ve actually let themselves down.”
Simon Thomson, Cirencester, June 2022
Simon Thomson may be an Everton fan, but the way he’s structured his Talking Wines team bears the hallmarks of the great Ajax side of the 1970s. Everyone is happy to slip into any role that’s asked of them. Graham Holter reports
f you were to design the perfect premises for a medium-sized
independent wine merchant, you
might well end up with something
resembling the building occupied by Talking Wines in Cirencester.
The wine equivalent of total football
The location is easy to find, on a small
trading estate on the edge of the Cotswolds town. There’s parking right outside. The shop is large and airy, with big arched
windows letting in just the right amount
of south western light. Adjacent to this is
an office that comfortably accommodates
the entire team. At the back, there’s a tidylooking warehouse, large enough to cope with the day-to-day requirements of the business.
Simon Thomson was born in Liverpool
but moved to Oxfordshire as a small child,
THE WINE MERCHANT august 2022 40
‘There’s not anyone who will say ‘that’s not my job’. I’ll jump on the forklift and pick orders, and so will everyone else’
losing his accent but retaining his loyalty to
beauty of me coming from a background of
it is a good programme.
hopes for the coming season.
How big is the team?
We don’t get much staff turnover – we have
No, if anything we ship a bit more. Some of
driver, a credit controller and five of us on
a lot with Daniel Lambert ex-cellar – so
Everton FC: he still makes the regular trek to Goodison and chats at length about his He started Talking Wines in 2013,
originally in far more modest surroundings than the ones he currently enjoys.
Wholesaling is the main thrust of the
business, but online sales are growing, and the shop makes a small but useful
contribution. There’s no manager, and no need for one – there’s always someone in
the office or warehouse who can attend to the needs of customers.
How did you start the business? I was a keen amateur and I’d done some
courses and found I had a bit of an aptitude for wine. I was working for a phone
company that was being taken over by
Vodafone and I got an opportunity to take redundancy. That gave me the capital to
start the business. I spent six months in a garage. We’ve been here since 2012 and this is ideal for us.
We’ve got another warehouse across the
yard that we store full pallets in and then we can replenish the ground floor level.
We’re quite efficient and I think that’s the
great people, and they all work really hard. There’s a part-time driver, a full-time
the wine side. I say that, but there’s not
anyone who will say “that’s not my job”. I’ll
jump on the forklift and pick orders, and so will everyone else.
What’s the local market like? Cirencester wasn’t a great place to eat out
Have you been shipping less wine in
it is with Araldica from Boutinot, Manzanos in Spain from Alliance and we do quite
we actually place the order with Patrice Tournier in Burgundy or with Calmel &
Joseph in Languedoc. Sometimes we share shipments and post-Brexit, with shipping costs, that helps.
What’s prompted you to import a little
for many years, but we’ve been lucky that
bit more than you were?
picked up a lot of the accounts. Whether
nobody else has – for example, we have
there have been a lot of openings over the
I think we are growing on the things we
that’s due to a lot more people holidaying
Champagne from Yannick Prevoteau, a
past 18 months to two years and we have in the UK …
We were supplying Jeremy Clarkson’s
Diddly Squat farm shop, the restaurant
there. He bought in an outside catering company and they used us. But I think
they are having planning issues. Doing the
deliveries, the queues down those country lanes, you can see why the locals could get
upset by the traffic. I’m not a fan of his, but
THE WINE MERCHANT august 2022 41
ship. We have some unique wines that
very tiny grower-producer. He makes just over 100,000 bottles but the Champagne
is absolutely fantastic. Every Christmas we do a blind tasting in the shop, and it wins
every year across anything you compare it with.
We don’t really do the Champagne
Continues page 42
Is France worse hit than other places?
From page 41
No, bottling in Spain and Italy is also an
issue. Dry goods are the problem, rather
brands at all and people trust us. The
than wine, and then transport. We use
established house that we have is Joseph
Freight Transport from Portsmouth and
Perrier, so that is our brand, if you like, and
they are superb. Post Brexit their service
we try not to do any of the other big names.
has been just as good as it was before. We
are very pleased, as we’ve been using them
Who’s on the buying team?
for a long time, that they didn’t take on any
I generally do the buying and in terms of
new customers post-Brexit. The fact they
selection, there are five of us on the wine
are coming in from Portsmouth helps. I
side who will taste and we make a joint
think the more Dover-centric you are the
more difficult it is.
Are you aligned in your tastes?
Is the retail range a mirror image of
We all like freshness in wines. We tend to
your wholesale range?
are similar in that sense. Some of us like
same. We operate at roughly 35% retail,
find that anything that is slightly confected
Yes, there are a few wholesale lines that we
full-bodied reds and some prefer whites,
25% wholesale margins.
or commercial doesn’t get through, so we
don’t have in here but it’s pretty much the
so there is a mixture and we all come to a
Where we group ship and we have a
Is there a place you specialise in more than others? Not really. South America … we do a lot
with Condor Wines and that has given us a great offering there.
Is it harder to get quality around the £10 mark these days? I’d say in the shop our sweet spot now
done it on odd things, like New Zealand Sauvignon last year.
How are you finding availability from France and elsewhere? Lead times are all longer and the biggest
reason seems to be the availability of glass.
is the £10 to £15 mark. But because
wine that is unique to us in this area we
can sometimes edge it up a bit more, and
I’m quite cautious budgeting for exchange rates. I usually buy a bit better than I’ve budgeted for and that can give us a bit more margin.
How many wine come through the Rolleston wholesale buying group? It’s not that many, it’s the entry-level
volume lines really, so about 10 ranges.
How is Rolleston structured these days?
we wholesale a lot, we have things that
transfer to the retail environment where
There’s a committee of five. I’m the
Alexander Nall from The Southwell Vintner
we can start at £7.50. So there are still
secretary and Charles Eaton from
quality wines you can get under the £10
Nethergate Wines is the chair. We employ
We do our pricing once a year in
as the manager so he deals with suppliers
March and since we did it this year, our
and generally does most of the legwork.
transporters put a 11% surcharge on.
We’re fiercely independent and even
There’s a fuel surcharge of 3.5% and now
though we meet, everyone does their own
DPD suppliers are coming in with increases
thing: we generally buy independently,
as well, so this may be the year that we do another price increase. We’ve never had
to do that across the board before. We’ve
The pricing sweet spot is £10 to £15
THE WINE MERCHANT august 2022 42
apart from if there are areas that people
don’t ship from, like the south of France, where members would buy from me.
You’re not obliged to take the whole range. We’re always looking for new members.
We’ve just added Wright’s at Skipton. Julian [Kaye] is a great guy, very experienced in the trade and a volume wholesaler.
What other suppliers do you work with at Talking Wines? We have quite a tight supplier base and
the ones we work with we do a lot with, and try to go deep into their list rather
than pick up a few wines from here and a few from there. We have to bear in mind
the logistics side of it too. There’s no point diluting our range from places we already direct import from.
The shop has no full-time manager but is right next to the busy office
What trips have you most enjoyed? We went with Condor to South America, that was a great trip. We went to South
Africa with Boutinot a few years back, that was good.
Have you got a personal favourite wine?
‘I had spent a lot of time wondering if we’d ever make any money out of this business, but now we are seeing a decent return’
Christmas Day I normally drink red Burgundy. Unfortunately it’s more expensive now. It’s been a funny
experience, lockdown. In retail and
Covid, in that people questioned the
How’s the business performing
that with the economic turmoil we are
different approach to the nationals.
of years we’ve grown very nicely, and
wholesale, we are selling more and betterquality wines. Whether we can maintain about to see … we’ll see how it goes.
suppliers they were using, and we offered
We are growing and over the last couple
Would you say that approach was
wondering if we’d ever make any money
Your website is looking good and is
always appreciated by your wholesale
simple to navigate.
That’s nice to hear. We had it ready to go
It was appreciated some of the time,
and we link through to the producers’
customers. The problem with the on-
just when the first lockdown came and I
said, let’s just do it. I write the tasting notes websites. We’re probably not the cheapest and there are always people doing deals, but we don’t chase it.
I’d say 85% of our business is wholesale,
and about 12% here [in the shop] and
3% online. It’s all growing. Wholesale for us had a similar reaction to retail during
a personal and friendly service. We had a
sometimes you’re taken for granted.
We provide training for our wholesale
trade and hospitality is that there is such
a turnover of staff, you are going back six
months later to do another session and all the faces are new.
Our customers trust us, so if we have a
container stuck halfway across the ocean, they tend to be understanding.
profitably as well. I had spent a lot of time
out of this business but now we are seeing a decent return.
Last year the turnover was just short
of £1.8m. That was our best year. Because we’ve got such good staff who have been here so long and are so efficient, we can
increase in turnover without putting extra overheads on.
It’s lovely to be able to pay them
proper wages and reward them for their efforts and they are all incentivised on
Continues page 44
THE WINE MERCHANT august 2022 The Newington Green store has “a nice kitchen vibe” 43
From page 43
commission with no ceiling. On a Monday
when we’re all in, we have a team meeting where we talk about sales opportunities,
‘I’ve looked at having a second shop but I struggle to see how it would be profitable. Someone once told me the way it works economically is to have one, seven or 30’
new wines, any supply issues, and it’s all very collaborative.
What’s next for the business? We’re not very good at following fads and we’ve never had an outside investor. We
know what we are and we’re not planning to do anything radically different. It’s a
question of doing the right things all day, every day and just looking after people.
That’s what we try and do. We’d like to
have extra vehicles; we’d like to get the
floor above, which is vacant. We’d then like to put solar panels up, that’s a project that would be very beneficial. We might push
the geographical area out a little bit, but
put in a regional management structure
nothing massive. We’d like to do a bit more online. Nothing dramatic, just incremental I’ve looked at having a second shop and
I’ve done the sums, but I struggle to see how it would be profitable. If we did, it
and you’ve got enough economies of scale to make it work, but two or three don’t
The independent trade must seem a bit more crowded than it was back in 2012.
wouldn’t be Cirencester. We’re happy doing
There is more competition, but as long as
it works economically is to have one
diverse the market is, the more interesting
what we’re doing here.
Someone once told me that the way
premises, seven or 30. With seven you can
The picturesque streets of Cirencester
THE WINE MERCHANT august 2022 44
people operate on the right principles then the more the merrier, I’d say. The more it is.
THE WINEMAKER FILES //
Jean-René de Fleurieu Château de Montfrin
As a board member of our local co-op for many years, we realised that making organic wine within the group would be impossible. And so in 2011 we made the decision to start our own cellar.
Our soils are composed mainly of rounded pebbles from the ancient bed of the Rhône river, some deep sands of the actual river beds and poor soils of villafranchien gravel which allows us to obtain a diversity of juices. Working within the intersection of Provence, Languedoc and the Vaucluse is a strength which allows us to offer a variety of wines to please a large number of palates. We like fresh and fruity wines and produce these easy and fresher styles by choice. These are my preference as I do not really appreciate woody notes in wines from our area and I am passionate about making interesting wines that people will love. These styles are pleasant and good with food, and are great value for money, which satisfies a large part of our clientele. Our dry climate helps in holding back the spread of disease, but the nature of the soil, with so many pebbles, makes the work between the plants much more difficult. We grow over 15 varieties with very
distinctive organoleptic qualities. Their collective ripening cycles cover quite a large stretch of time. Five years ago we began experimenting with a new variety, a white grape named Monarch, which is basically treatment-free.
We produce one white Vin de France, which has been met with great success: À Mon Seul Désir. It’s made from the Viognier grape, and is very expressive and fruity. This year, a new cuvée is launched: a sparkling organic white wine, À Nos Amours. Of course we could consider producing other Vins de France, since it would be the easiest way to boost our production. But we are happy working within the rules and regulations of an AOP because it adds important visibility to our cuvées. My favourite wine within our range is Á la Rêverie Côtes du Rhône blanc: in my opinion, the most harmonious and sophisticated of our wines.
We aim to reduce our environmental imprint, and seize every opportunity to do so. We have adapted ourselves to the increase in demand for organic wine. In the past 20 years the vineyards have increased from 30 hectares to about 150 hectares of 100% organic vines. After the launch of red and white sulphite-free cuvées, we hope to introduce a new sulphite-free rosé: Un Coup de dés Jamais n’Abolira Le Hasard”.
Montfrin la Tour Blanc
A la Rêverie Rouge
One of our best sellers, this shows all the hallmarks of young Grenache Blanc with some tropical fruit notes, hints of peach and apricot and fresh pink grapefruit. Rich, satisfying and with complexity that belies its modest origins, this is a perfect aperitif or accompaniment to fresh tomato salads.
This wine really represents what we try to achieve at the winery. It demonstrates that by taking care of the vineyard and choosing the perfect ripeness, we can give the blend of Grenache, Syrah and Carignan soft tannins and long, light, red-fruit flavours. Perfect with any mildly spicy food.
THE WINE MERCHANT august 2022 45
Midway between Nîmes and Avignon on the cusp of two appellations lies Château de Montfrin - a historic estate, inherited by Jean-René de Fleurieu, who runs the family business. There are around 200 acres of land, including farmland, olive groves and 95 hectares of organically-farmed vines, yielding Côtes du Rhône, Costières de Nîmes and Côteaux du Pont du Gard wines. Wines are imported by Jeroboams Trade 020 7908 0600 jeroboamstrade.co.uk
After a lifetime of farming, I have not changed my mind that the best way to know a land is to farm it. And that is what I do every day, even when times are hard. We love sharing the pleasures of life through the wines we produce on this land.
A La Doucer d’Aller Côtes du Rhône Rouge A classic Côtes du Rhône Village blend with a fruity mouth feel. We select our oldest vines juices for their ability to add structure. The wine is aged in 600-litre barrels so wines develop complementary soft oak aromas, helping soften the tannins. This adds a level of complexity, ensuring the wines can age for five years or more.
ABS PORTFOLIO TASTING
Wine merchant, E meet wine producer
lliot Awin doesn’t have to think hard
about his answer when asked if there’s a common thread running through the
list of ABS agencies.
“Most importantly they are all people
you would go for a beer with,” he says.
As Awin Barratt Siegel prepares for its biennial portfolio tasting in London, partner Elliot Awin says the company’s aim is simple: to connect winemakers with the people who sell their wines
“The topics of conversations you’d have
might be vastly different, but they are all people you’d want to spend a couple of
hours having a drink with. It’s part of why I joined the wine trade – the people. They are all different, in an interesting way.” Next month, ABS’s independent
customers will get to spend some quality time with these winemakers too, as the company stages its biennial portfolio tasting in London.
Awin is a strong believer that people
THE WINE MERCHANT august 2022 46
Right: Veronica Vassala from Flavia Wines in Sicily, who will be attending the London event on September 7
who sell wine should have a direct link with the people who make wine.
“Having 48 producers in front of
people is so important,” he says. “ABS
Below: Wines from Corryton Burge, whose winemaker Trent Burge has a long family connection with the Awins
and companies like ourselves should just be a conduit for making introductions.
We are matchmakers, so to speak, rather than salespeople. We would rather have
an independent and a winery chatting to each other and building that bond and relationship.
“We have a good enough relationship
with both of these groups to allow that
relationship to flourish. We are just there in the middle to deliver that stock. Of course, our sales team help with range selection
and to help merchants understand what’s
possible. But more than anything we want
to see the wineries connect with customers and consumers, and that is where I think the trade is going.”
Awin talks about the “inverted
pyramid” of information that flows
between winemakers at one extreme and consumers at the other, with importers, wholesalers and retailers in between.
“Our role is to broaden out that inverted
pyramid into a straighter column of
information and the best way to do that
is to cut out the Chinese whispers in the middle,” he says.
“Of course we’re not going to write down
every little bit of information about the
winery in our booklet, but if we cut out the distance from winemaker to consumer the
September 7, 10.30am to 6.30pm
The Great Hall, One Great George Street, London SW1P 3AA Registration: email@example.com
communication will be more effective for
always at tastings in the 90s with the
Australian winemakers in attendance, as
the second generation of the Awin and
At this year’s tasting there will be 10
well as nine from South Africa and six from the US.
Trent Burge, winemaker at Corryton
Burge in the Barossa Valley, will be among them. He exemplifies the long-term
relationships that ABS has developed with its winemaking partners, and the family
bonds that exist beyond the commercial links.
“ABS as an Australian specialist was
pioneers of the Australian industry,
producers such as Grant Burge, and today Burge families are working together.”
here are seven ABS reps who work exclusively with the independent
trade. Awin and three of his colleagues
also look after a number of indie accounts in addition to their other roles.
The company worked hard to support
independents during Covid restrictions. “We did a lot of activity which put
THE WINE MERCHANT august 2022 47
winemakers on screen, both in a formal way on Zoom with tasting packs sent
out for B2B, and with informal chats on Instagram with a celebrity guest and a
winemaker for a more casual approach,” Awin says.
“It became more important that we
brought the feeling of what ABS is into
people’s minds rather than just looking at the order book.”
Awin wants the atmosphere at the
London tasting to capture that informal,
more “touchy-feely” way of talking about wine.
“It’s almost marketing B2B like we
would B2C. We’ve always thought that B2B interaction should be more formulaic and
professional, but actually we’ve found that a lot of the independents would rather it was more informal and relaxed.”
ABS PORTFOLIO TASTING
Quatre Vin, a Provence rosé launched by ABS during lockdown
flexible friends ABS minimum order quantities have been halved. Elliot Awin says: “We want people to cherry-pick. We like the idea that independents should have the best range of wines for their customers and not be dictated to by suppliers.”
n recent times, much has been written about the agency model and whether it’s fit for purpose in today’s wine trade. Awin says ABS is always adapting to what the market demands from its suppliers. With logistical and currency issues creating supply chain challenges, the business is able to insulate its customers from the worst effects of the problems. “These two things are quite a headache at the moment and so we do hold a lot of stock, and we do limit currency exposure through hedging to make sure we are offering good value,” he says. “We are shipping and consolidating full containers from most places rather than shipping pallets or half pallets. Our previous stock holding for any line would have been 20 weeks on average, and we are now moving that to 30 weeks average. If there is an interruption in supply or logistics or delays, we’ve got that covered, and we find that’s really important for independents who can still draw stock off it.”
The minimum order has been reduced from 14 dozen to seven dozen to give indies more flexibility. In September ABS also plans to launch a new web-based service allowing merchants to buy in even smaller quantities. “The idea is for independent retailers to buy at wholesale prices via an exclusive B2B Shopify website,” Awin says. “They can put together a mixed case of more expensive wines as a way of bolstering their offer. We’re hoping this will allow them to dabble a bit more in our range. Sure, they’ll have to pay the DHL or DPD delivery for that, but it will be next-day delivery and at least they can be reactive to requests from their customers. “This is not to replace their current ordering mechanism. It just means they don’t have to wait until they’ve reached their minimum order to re-fill on their everyday wines. It’s another service that will help them get the right range to their customers as quickly as they need it.”
THE WINE MERCHANT august 2022 48
WHO’s coming to london? AUSTRALIA Graham Cranswick-Smith (Cranswick Wines) Trent Burge (Corryton Burge) Simon Cowham (Sons of Eden) Walter Clappis (The Hedonist) Troy Jones (Payten & Jones) Jane Campbell (Campbells Wines) Wendy Killeen (Stanton & Killeen) Damian Shaw (Philip Shaw Wines) David Freschi (Casa Freschi Wines) SOUTH AFRICA Jacques Bruwer (Bon Courage) Kathy & Gary Jordan (Jordan Wines) Karl Lambour (Tokara) Hagen Viljoen (Zevenwacht) David Finlayson (David Finlayson Family Wines) Julien Schaal (Vins Julien Schaal) Neil Bruwer (Cape Chamonix) Niels Verburg (Saboteur) USA Chuck Cramer (Terlato Wines) Meliza Jalbert (Hope Family Wines) Peter Franus (Peter Franus Wines) Maja Jeremaz (Grgich Hills Estate) Tom Monroe (Division Wines) SOUTH AMERICA Alvaro Puebla (Finca Agostino) Alberto Guelo (Casas del Bosque) GERMANY Matt Giedraits (Dr Loosen/Villa Wolf) Konstantin Guntrum (Louis Guntrum) Karl Johner (Karl H Johner) Martin Luithardt (Weingut Schnaitmann) Alexander Stodden (Weingut Stodden) AUSTRIA Lorenz Hass (Allram) FRANCE Emma Jullien-Prat (Maison Montagnac) Romik Arconian (Château Canon Chaigneau) Melanie Soto (Vinibegood) Vincent Bremond (Château Mont-Thabor) Viv Menon (Domaine de Galuval) Marie Leclaire (Mas de Cadenet) Lea Desprat (Desprat Saint Verny) PORTUGAL Pedro Fonseca (Mouchao) Joao Vilar & David Baverstock (Ravasqueira) Pedro Branco (Quinta do Portal) ITALY Alessandro Fabiano (Viver) Léon Femfert (Nittardi) Veronica Vassalla (Flavia)
THE WINEMAKER FILES //
João M Barbosa Vinhos, Tejo wine region We planted our first vineyards in 2000. Since the beginning I’ve only worked with grape varieties that I like. We started with Touriga Nacional, Aragonês and Syrah. We took out the Syrah in 2014. Our terroir is very similar to Burgundy and the Côtes du Rhône and our Syrah was a very French style. But I think it’s a grape that can perform well in a blend.
We planted Pinot Noir in 2004, first of all to make sparkling. In 2011 we made a red for the first time and that was really great. It was aged in small barrels. Now we have more than one hectare of Pinot Noir. It’s a very difficult grape – very capricious. You never know what’s going on but when it’s good it’s really, really good. We are in the north west of Tejo, in the foothills of the Serra d’Aires e Candeeiros mountains and 15km from the Atlantic. In the past few years it has not been the heat that we’re concerned about. It’s the rain that’s coming out of season. Because we are working organically, last year we just got 20% of our normal white crop. This year we have had heat after the rain, which reduces the risk of oidium and mildew.
We have a big Atlantic influence and the soil is very salty. Our wines are very fresh and elegant. We have some salt mines here very close to our land – the ocean was here many years ago. All the limestone is very salty. The wines become very mineral, not boring wines. A lot of people are doing
Ninfa Maria Gomes I think this is a wine you can drink on any occasion. It has nice acidity, and is well balanced and fresh. It brings a lot of happiness to people who drink it.
things to give their wines more salinity, but we don’t need to. We waited until 2009 to plant our white grapes because at that time in Portugal white wines were not very well accepted. Nowadays we sell much more white than red. I have Sauvignon and Fernão Pires, which we call Maria Gomes; we have Alvarinho, and last year we planted Chardonnay. I am not a fan of Chardonnay but I am a fan of Chablis. The Chardonnay I usually taste is very fat and I don’t like this kind of wine. I told my children that if our Chardonnay becomes like a normal Chardonnay, we’re going to replant.
This year we’re going to have for the first time a very old variety called Olho de Lebre, which is a totally different grape. In the 50s it was planted in Tejo. I’m very excited about it. I think it will have a very nice acidity and a totally different nose and flavour. We have to wait and see, but I think it’s going to be very nice. We do some foot-treading – we’re going back to the old ways. It’s more gentle on the skins, and all the good things are on the skins. In the pulp it’s just water and sugar. We do some Pinot Noir this way, and the Vinhas Velhas, which is a blend of red and white grapes. Also Alvarinho, and that’s it. We are a small team and it’s usually done by myself and my children, and our guests. You can tell if the wine has been foottrodden because it’s velvety smooth and more elegant. It’s totally different.
Ninfa Espumante Reserva Blanc de Noirs This is 100% Pinot Noir aged between 18 and 24 months. We are currently selling the 2016 vintage. It’s a beautiful wine with very fine bubbles; the mousse is beautiful.
THE WINE MERCHANT august 2022 49
João began his wine career working with his grandfather and established his own business in 1997. The Ninfa wines come from his organic vineyards near Rio Maior in Tejo and are distributed in the south Wales region by ND John. The company is seeking similar tie-ups with other regional wholesalers. More information at joaotmbarbosa.com Tejo in the last 10 years has improved quite a lot. People understand how to make good wines and how to present them in the market. They have to understand what the market is looking for but the wines also have to have character.
Ninfa Grande Reserva Tinto This is 100% Touriga Nacional vinified in oak and aged for 24 months in barrique. It’s a complex, beautiful wine and very elegant with a very long finish.
The fast track to sustainable winemaking Langlois-Château has a long association with the Le Mans Classique motor racing event. But the producer is just as devoted to sustainable viticulture, with a growing commitment to organic farming in its Loire vineyards. A group of independent merchants was recently invited to taste the difference for themselves – and to spend an unforgettable day at the races.
oire wine producer Langlois-
Château has been making wine since 1885, but its longevity is
no barrier to progress. A recent and
significant leap forward is a move to full
organic certification for Saumur still wines, from the 2020 vintage, and Sancerre from 2024.
“Langlois-Château has a long link with
sustainable viticultural practices, going back to 2000,” says general manager
François-Régis de Fougeroux, “so it was
a natural progression to work on organic certification.
“At first we had six hectares of vineyards
which we worked on for 12 years to see the impact of being organic, and then in
2017 we started the certification process, and we now have 30 hectares of organic vineyards.”
The company’s complete holdings
– including those for sparkling wines
Saumur-Champigny and Sancerre AOCs,
and parent company Bollinger added 60 hectares in Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé
“The most important thing it brings
is gaining a nice balance in the soil and
that has led to more balance in the wines with extra freshness and acidity,” says de
Fougeroux. “This line of acidity helps us to build fresh, elegant, easy-drinking wines,
but also wines with more complexity and maturity.”
The Wine Merchant tagged along with
a group of indies, who all already list
Langlois-Château wines, when they were hosted by the producer and UK agent
– comprise vineyards in the Saumur,
Published in association with Mentzendorff
reputation of the region’s still wines.
with the acquisition of the family-run Hubert Brochard estate in July.
Langlois-Château is a major player in
Crémant de Loire and Saumur sparkling wines, but its investment in organic
viticulture and winemaking practices
is helping it take a lead in updating the
THE WINE MERCHANT august 2022 50
Mentzendorff on a three-day trip to the
region last month. The trip provided the opportunity to catch up on Langlois-
Château’s still-wine progression and
included a day at the Le Mans Classique 24-hour motor racing event, of which
Langlois-Château is an official sponsor.
With 200,000 spectators watching top
quality vintage acts over three days, it’s
kind of the motor racing world’s version of Glastonbury. The team was kitted out
in crimson Langlois-Château polo shirts
for ease of identity in the crowd, and VIP passes provided access to the pits, to get just metres away from the action during
The partnership is a perfect fit for
Langlois-Château, de Fougeroux believes. “We are the vineyard closest to Le Mans,”
he says. “It’s a high-quality event and we as a team are engaged in making high-quality wines. Also, a third of visitors to Le Mans are from the UK, and that’s a key market for us.”
The trip itinerary includes a winery visit
and a tour of Langlois-Château’s extensive
cellars, housed in caves burrowed into the hill under its adjacent Saumur vineyards. We are given special access to a library
of old and rare bottles of sparkling wine dating back as far the 1883 vintage.
The limited quantities of the vintages
stashed away – just one bottle each of the 1883 and the next oldest 1911 – mean
the corks stay in, but naturally there is plenty of opportunity for tasting more contemporary stocks.
These include the Quadrille brand (RRP
£28), an Extra Brut that’s a four-way blend
Langlois-Château’s indie guests were given VIP passes to the Le Mans pits
of Chenin Blanc (50%), Cabernet Franc
(20%), Pinot Noir (20%) and Chardonnay (10%), and whose label celebrates the
winery’s association with four legs as well
as four wheels, through a partnership with
the local equestrian institute Le Cadre Noir. Over lunch during the winery visit, there
is a chance to taste the Quadrille 2016 –
light in colour, fresh and fruity – against the 1994, displaying a lush yellow-green hue
and a caramel/crème anglaise character on the palate.
De Fougeroux says the earliest picking
windows for grapes have come forward by almost three weeks, from mid-September
without the green character that used to
“Our Vieilles Vignes still whites from
be associated with Loire Chenin Blanc and
Saumur or Saumur-Champigny reflect
how to get the right maturity in the berries
elegant wines and the price is very good
“Our winemakers used to obsess about
but that isn’t an issue anymore.
“We have more yield on the vines for
sparkling wines and we pick earlier to
keep the freshness that’s essential. For still
wines we pick later but can now find a nice balance.
to the end of August, since he first joined
more the terroir and special place of the vineyard. They are really balanced and
compared to Burgundy or other regions.” Langlois-Château’s reds also reflect
climatic and stylistic evolution, alongside
ageing potential. The Saumur-Champigny 2020 (RRP £15) has all the freshness and drinkability Langlois-Château is seeking from its modern approach, while the
2015 vintage of the same wine shows an additional soft and silky elegance.
the company in 2001.
On fizz, the aim for the Bollinger-owned
“Studies show we have the same climate
producer is simply to be “the best sparkling
now as Bordeaux had 30 or 40 years ago,”
wines outside of Champagne”.
De Fougeroux adds: “Crémant de Loire
“Bordeaux wines have around 14% or
production has grown from 6 million to 23
15% alcohol today, whereas we are at
million bottles in less than 15 years and
more than 50% of those wines are on the
“It means we have more freshness but
THE WINE MERCHANT august 2022 51
“We’re starting to see a big evolution
in the UK, and in the US. Last year,
crémant hit 1 million bottles in the UK
market and, as a producer, we have seen a huge increase.
“Consumers want to drink something
a bit different, more complex and with an identity of its own, and I think it
will continue to grow, especially when
Champagne prices are going up and there is not always enough available.”
The feeling among wine merchants
on the trip is that crémant represents a
good-value stepping stone for consumers between Prosecco and Champagne.
“We get people coming in and asking
for crémant and wiping us out over a
weekend,” says Georgie Toms of Salut
Wines in Manchester. “If they get a taste
for it, people realise it’s a great alternative to Champagne. But a lot of people don’t
realise how close, geographically, they can get something else that’s sometimes half the price. The wines here are beautiful; really well balanced.”
Simon Parkinson of Vinsanto in Chester
adds: “Crémant is generally the only non-
Champagne we put on the by the glass. For non-Champagne drinkers it’s incredible value.
“The Langlois-Château crémant is
fantastic value for money, looks good and the branding gives the impression it’s a
small winery and an artisanal product, but because it’s actually quite big we know we’ve got reliability, year in year out. It
always tastes good and our customers love it and are happy with it.”
WHAT INDEPENDENT MERCHANTS SAY ABOUT LANGLOIS-CHATEAU WINES PAUL WARDLE, CORKS OUT, CHESHIRE “We sell Langlois-Château crémant by the glass and we have Sancerre in our machines. The wines are class and every single one we’ve tasted on the trip has been fantastic. It’s really good on affordability and the value you get from the price points. People like crémant as a cheaper but quality alternative to Champagne. We had Langlois-Château’s Sancerre red, which is rare to see, and people found that an interesting talking point.” GEORGIE TOMS, SALUT WINES, MANCHESTER “The Sancerres are beautiful. We do some of the highest price point Sancerres in our Enomatics and they do really well. A lot of people love Sancerre but sometimes they’ll pick any bottle based on the region’s name; they want a French Sauvignon Blanc but that’s as far as the mindset goes. We like to give them something that’s got a lot more character and complexity that they’re not really expecting – and you can definitely do that with some of the wines we’ve tasted. We’ve got the rosé too and it doesn’t stay on the shelf for very long.” SIMON PARKINSON, VINSANTO, CHESTER “We list Langlois-Château’s crémant, Sancerre and the Saumur Blanc Vieilles Vignes. We’ve started taking the old vine Chenin-Sauvignon which is spectacular. We’ll definitely stock the Quadrille. I don’t know why we’d never looked at it before. There’s almost never a time when there isn’t one of its wines on our menu, and normally two. I don’t think there’s a single other winery that has that consistency of presence on our wine list.” JEFF FOLKINS, DALLING & CO, KINGS LANGLEY, HERTFORDSHIRE “They’re good wines and they’re great value. The Saumur rosé is absolutely exceptional for the price. They tick a lot of boxes: the wines are great, the pricing’s great and the presentation of them is great. That’s why I’m quite happy to have seven or eight wines on the shelves. It’s a well-regarded corporate enterprise but it feels like a small family producer. And we like the people. We always enjoy working with people we like.”
THE WINE MERCHANT august 2022 52
little noise about its packaged equivalent, bottle-conditioned beer, the subject of as
much heated discourse as real ale was back
in the 1980s and 1990s. Bottle-conditioned beer is still out there; it’s just that no one’s
The consequences of keg I just dropped in to see what condition bottle conditioning was in
popular misconceptions about cask ale. A YouTube video shows Adam reading out real-life tweets and ridiculing the views
held in them, including ones that “95% of
real ale does taste like warm arse piss” and “real ale is for old men, metalheads and weird folk guys in their twenties”.
projects are more relevant than a political
western neo-liberalism after decades of
and rise of keg beer, with young brewers
something that could not only comfortably co-exist with other branches of the beer
world, but was actually acknowledged as the true mark of quality.
For a while it even seemed like the
Campaign for Real Ale might disappear,
its agitating work in favour of the cask ale process complete.
So how did we end up back at arse piss
and weird folk guys? Well, one answer is
that the settlement around real ale’s status was a mirage all along, conjured out of
the beer preferences of a generation of
gatekeepers of consumer taste, who have all now been superseded by a younger
generation of radical thinkers. For them,
what the beer tastes like and the image it
left over from the first one. This produces a small amount of alcohol and soft
carbonation; crucially, beers produced in
this way will mature in the bottle, much the
though it remains a relatively niche
by the political scientist Francis Fukuyama.
ideologies, real ale became accepted as
second fermentation with the yeast residue
A few brewers are also can-conditioning,
It seemed for a while back there that
tension and rancour between conflicting
a bottled beer before sealing it, inducing a
In the modern craft brewing community, bottle conditioning is a dying art
comedian Maisie Adam to confront
to have settled into a consensus around
introducing a small amount of sugar into
Just as the global world order seemed
Essentially, bottle-conditioning involves
glass, bringing complexity, depth, balance
Brewery enlisted the help of
history, to borrow a phrase coined in 1992
another anymore, which is a shame.
same as with wine ageing in oak casks or
orth Yorkshire’s Black Sheep
cask beer had reached its own end of
really that bothered about it one way or
position on how it’s made.
Tied in with this is the inexorable rebirth
using modern hop strains and kicking back on filtration to deliver flavoursome beer
that is also cool, in both the physical and
image senses. As well as finding acceptance with many old men and metalheads, such beers also reached out across the bridge
to the mass market drinkers of premium
lagers that the ageing gatekeepers had all but forgotten about.
This all rubbed off on the off-trade, of
course. Keg beer is relatively easy to keep and doesn’t require the high throughput
of cask to keep it fresh – great for hybrid locations that want to do draught beer without the faff.
And in packaged beer there’s been a post
end-of-history shift from bottles to cans.
Yet while the social media trolls still have much to say about cask ale, there’s very
THE WINE MERCHANT august 2022 53
practice. But for the majority of
conventionally-canned beer, there’s only a short shelf life in which the beer remains at its best before succumbing to the aggravating impact of oxygen.
Most of the very best packaged Belgian
beers remain bottle-conditioned, as do
many from traditional British ale brewers. But within the modern craft brewing
community, it’s a dying art. Even Sussex
brewer Hepworth, a go-to source of advice and inspiration on bottling in the last
couple of decades, has installed a canning line.
With no particular big commercial
gain to be had, bottle-conditioning is
increasingly seen as a complication with
little material gain. One notable exception is London brewer The Kernel which, with its plain brown-label aesthetic,
doesn’t need the canvas of a can to daub
cartoon graphics on. It has stuck to bottles and bottle-conditioning as an article of faith: one that delivers arse piss-free
authenticity, longevity and character.
BUYING TRIP TO PORTUGAL
Atlantic waves The Setúbal Península of Portugal is gradually making a name for itself in the UK independent trade as merchants discover the value that the region offers at a range of price points. Eight indies joined our recent buying trip and were impressed by wines from terroir that its producers regard as Atlantic, rather than southern European. Graham Holter reports
ust a short drive from the elegant metropolis of Lisbon, the Setúbal Península is one of Portugal’s less feted winelands. It’s a landscape of gentle limestone hills and sandy plains, where the heat is moderated by Atlantic breezes. Setúbal wines have traditionally been made on an industrial scale, and in their homeland they are mostly associated with supermarket labels. That’s a problem for producers – both large and small – who are increasingly crafting premium wines but worry that the region lacks the prestige to command prices to match. But it needn’t be an issue in the UK, where Setúbal is effectively working from a blank sheet of paper and has the potential to establish itself from a higher starting point than it enjoys in its domestic market. That’s certainly the way the eight independent merchants on our July buying trip to the region saw it, anyway.
Castelão is king of the reds
To generalise, red wine production in Setúbal is dominated by Castelão, a variety with red-fruit flavours and modest acidity and whose rustic character can make it an awkward choice for single-varietal wines. This generalisation was tested to its limits during our three-day visit, being validated and debunked in equal measure. Castelão was to prove more enigmatic, and perhaps more enticing, than most of us had been expecting. Filipe Cardoso is the fourth-generation winemaker at Quinta do Piloto in Palmela, which began bottling wines under its own name as recently as 2013. He makes
a single-varietal Castelão from old vines, softened by a spell in lightly toasted oak, and – especially served slightly cool – it’s nothing like the more extracted styles that you’d find in mass-market iterations. “Castelão has been made for centuries in this region and we understand it very well,” he says. “I think Castelão has to go the same route as Baga in Bairrada. Castelão is our difference. It’s a wine that’s very difficult to copy in other places.” He’s happy to indulge the variety in his premium wines. “It’s more like Pinot Noir,” he says. “It’s very elegant. I think now it’s even becoming trendy.” Fernão Pó is another family-owned Palmela winery that began releasing wines under its own name relatively recently. Its winemaker is João Palhoça. “I always blend my Castelão,” he declares. “It’s not a perfect variety. Sometimes it lacks body and structure and colour. To get good [single varietal] Castelão you need 80-year-old vineyards, and I don’t have those.” So he marries his fruit with Touriga Nacional and, of all things, Tannat. These are, he says, the “salt and pepper” that bring alive his spicy ASF 2019 wine. Then there’s Herdade Espirra in the Pegões sub-region, where the old-vine Castelão grapes are trodden by foot and fermented naturally. The wines emerge from French oak full-flavoured but with a roundness and softness that’s a world away from rougher-edged supermarket examples. There’s a rumour going around that someone is making Castelão with carbonic
THE WINE MERCHANT august 2022 54
maceration, and we track down the man responsible. It’s Filipe Rodrigues of FR Wines (pictured), a pharmacist in his day job, who has breathed new life into the Comporta vineyard planted by his greatuncle in the 1970s. His Macaca Muda wine is a Castelãodominated field blend, which means there’s Baga, Tannat and even a little Fernão Pires in the mix. “I don’t like Castelão that’s over-extracted,” he says. “So I do a semi-carbonic maceration and age the wine for nine months in used oak.” It’s yet more proof that, while Castelão may be a signature grape for Setúbal, it’s a variety that relies on human ingenuity as much as it does on those warm, sandy plains.
Whites keep things simple
Setúbal is a seafood region, a point that’s proved several times over the course of our visit. Although lightly-chilled reds sometimes accompany the grilled catch of the day, it’s naturally the whites that make the most classic pairing. “For me, we have the best white grapes in the world,” says João Palhoça of Fernão Pó. Thirty per cent of Setúbal’s production is white, with Fernão Pires taking centre stage, though Arinto, Alvarinho, Chardonnay, Loureiro and Pinot
Ocean breezes take the edge off the Setúbal heat and can even add an extra layer of flavour
Blanc are also authorised in the Palmela PDO. The wines tend to be simple and refreshing, though not overly acidic, often with a gentle, aromatic appeal, and a distant hint of salinity on the finish. These are typically described by the producers as entry-level wines, though they are rarely bland. Verdelho is also cropping up in PGI wines, adding an extra degree of richness for those that require it. A few producers also make whites from Moscatel; wines with rose-petal aromas but which are bone dry on the palate. These are split-personality wines that tend to induce a double-take. They’re an interesting talking point, but not the real reason why Moscatel thrives in Setúbal.
Fine-tuning the fortifieds
The PDO for Setúbal’s fortified wines dates back to 1907, though the wines are not particularly well known beyond the region itself, and the bars and restaurants of Lisbon, where they are popular as an aperitif. Just 7% of production finds its way into export markets. Two main types of Moscatel are grown. One is Moscatel de Setúbal, which is the local version of Muscat of Alexandria; the other is Moscatel Roxo, an early-ripening purple-coloured member of the Muscat family. Roxo nearly disappeared from these parts at one point, with farmers frustrated by its popularity among the bird population. But it’s been enjoying a revival in Setúbal in recent years, with plantings recovering to more than 50 hectares. Fermentation is stopped with the
addition of grape brandy and achieves an alcoholic strength that can be as low as 17% and rarely more than 19%. Most winemakers we meet seem to believe Moscatel de Setúbal makes their most successful fortified wines, though a few make the case for the richer, more perfumed Roxo, with an aroma that Vasco Penha Garcia, head winemaker at Bacalhôa, compares to Paris by Yves Saint Laurent. But you sense it’s Moscatel de Setúbal that he enjoys more. “It’s crazy to think we make a wine with a grape variety that doesn’t ripen properly here,” he concedes. “But I think we make the best Muscat of Alexandria fortified wine, because we’ve planted it in a place where we have to pick it with 12.5%. Then we macerate. We don’t top up the barrels, so we allow oxidation. The aromas concentrate as the sugars are released and we can make a fresh, very sweet, fortified wine.” Bacalhôa’s best examples are intense and powerful, with an unmistakeable note of oranges and, more specifically, marmalade. At the José Maria da Fonseca Estate, export director Renata Abreu says there’s a more precise and calculated approach to Moscatel in the vineyard these days. “In the past we picked Moscatel in September or October,” she tells us. “Nowadays we decide when it’s the
right time to harvest: sometimes in the first week of August, depending on the maturation of the grapes. It depends on the year and the weather we have in the spring and the summer.” There are also decisions to be made in the winery. João Palhoça of Fernão Pó likes to keep his Moscatel on its skins, with the brandy, for six months. “That’s why, when we age it, we have a lot of things to marry and evolve and give complexity to the wine,” he says.
Our trip has been a crash course in understanding a region that feels like it’s in transition; a region full of modest winemakers, with wines they no longer need to be modest about. The producers we meet seem genuinely gratified by the reaction to their more interesting wines, and intrigued by the suggestion that these could gain a foothold in the UK independent trade. Many – perhaps most – will still need to make the sums add up by concentrating on the grocery and bulk wines around which the region has historically structured its business plan. But Setúbal doesn’t have to settle for just that. There is good stuff here. The winemakers just need to believe in it, and we just need to ship it.
‘Castelão is a variety we understand very well. It’s
very elegant. I think now it’s even becoming trendy’ THE WINE MERCHANT august 2022 55
BUYING TRIP TO PORTUGAL
A few of our favourites Venâncio da Costa Lima Foral de Palmela 2016
This classy example of 100% Castelão was a hit with Bridget Hoult. “It has a year in French oak and another year in bottle; I found this wine to be refined with lovely notes of pepper, deep dark fruit and a lovely long finish,” she says. “Beautiful.”
Bacalhôa Moscatel de Roxo Rosé 2021
“Moscatel Roxo was a nice discovery and I enjoyed it as a rosé, particularly the 2021 from Bacalhôa, mostly for the unusual rose scent,” says Coralie Menel. Jane Taylor is also a fan. “Delightfully different, with the exuberance of the grape neatly tamed,” she says.
José Maria da Fonseca DSF Moscatel de Setúbal Superior Cognac 1999 This Moscatel is fortified with Cognac, adding extra layers of complexity to an already characterful wine. “Just an explosion of orange peel, apricots and hazelnuts, and the length of finish is amazing,” says Bridget Hoult.
Casa Ermelinda Freitas Vinha da Fonte Reserva 2016
This wine is a masterclass in the art of the blend, consisting of Cabernet Sauvignon, Castelão, Touriga Nacional and Alicante Bouschet. Full bodied, with a pleasant seam of vanilla, it has spicy elements as well as luscious dark fruit.
Quinta do Piloto Vinha do Pardais Sauvignon Blanc/ Fernão Pires 2021
Both the red and the white blends with the Vinha do Pardais label were well received by the group. For Paola Tich, the white is “a stand-out for value, the Sauvignon adding lift but not dominating the blend.”
Fernão Pó ASF Unoaked 2017
This Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon blend was an unexpected hit among merchants
who assumed only Portuguese varieties would hit the high spots. “Spicy and with lots of red fruit and soft tannins – very pleasant to my taste,” says Amjuly del Carpio.
Adega Camolas Grande Escolha Old Vineyard 1931 2017
Another 100% Castelão wine, this time from the winery’s oldest vineyard, where the vines are untrellised. A deep and complex iteration of the variety, layered with toast and spice but leavened with a fresh acidity.
Herdade Espirra Pavão de Espirra Tinto 2017
In the words of Tom Hemmingway, this is a more concentrated style of Castelão with “a good balance of fruit and depth of flavour”. He adds: “I felt it was very good for the price, with attractive packaging.”
Herdade do Cebolal Clarete 2021
This Castelão is made with very little skin contact, offering another example of the variety’s versatility. According to Jane Taylor, the wine is “utterly delightful … all smoke and flint, followed by delicate red fruit.”
Sangue Real Colheita Tardia Moscatel Graúdo 2020
This interpretation of Moscatel was a pleasant surprise for our tasters. Amjuly del Carpio describes it as “very delicate” while Tom Hemmingway says the “lighter, fresher, naturally sweet” style would have customer appeal.
A Serenada Verdelho 2021
This white variety made a number of cameo appearances during the trip, and impressed with its fruitiness and freshness. This example is brimming with citrus and floral characters, but also a mineral saltiness enjoyed by Paola Tich.
THE WINE MERCHANT august 2022 56
‘The UK potenti TOM HEMMINGWAY, HIGHBURY VINTNERS, NORTH LONDON Setúbal has a lot of potential and all the ingredients to succeed in the UK market. There is an excellent quality-to-value ratio, which is paramount. UK consumers will not be knowledgeable about the region, so work will be needed to address this. The area seems to be undergoing a renaissance, and it is encouraging to see smaller producers experimenting and bottling their wine. It reminded me of South Africa when a small number of enormous wineries dominated the market share. Smaller producers need
From left: Jane Taylor, Dronfield Wine World, Derbyshire; Amjuly del Carpio, Cellar Door Wines, St Albans; Coralie Menel, Grocery Wine Vault, east London; Bridget Hoult, Hoults, Huddersfield; Lloyd Beedell, Chesters, Abergavenny; Philippe Polleux, People’s Wine, east London; Paola Tich, Vindinista, west London; Tom Hemmingway, Highbury Vintners, north London
They are located on sands, next to the sea; they have great seafood and fish cuisine; so they could market their white more easily and have a very glamorous image. Pretty much all wineries had fantastic Fernão Pires blends. Maybe after Pinot Grigio and Picpoul, we could have a trend of Palmela white ...
BRIDGET HOULT, HOULTS, HUDDERSFIELD
ial of Setúbal could be huge’ to collaborate and pool knowledge and resources to compete better so they can stand out from the crowd. From the Castelão examples I tried, I preferred expressions which used little or no oak to maintain the purity of fruit. Castelão, made from the hills with its higher acidity levels, benefited from being made in this style. I believe the lighter expressions of Moscatel have more potential from a sales perspective. This style is easier to explain to our customers and can sit alongside other dessert wines worldwide. The more aged Moscatels could compete with port and sherry but will require more explanation.
PHILIPPE POLLEUX, PEOPLE’S WINE, EAST LONDON Among the fortifieds. I believe that the Moscatel de Setúbal has the most potential. I found more acidity and freshness than in Roxo. It is a very complicated sale as it is very seasonal, and people can be put off by the alcohol level. However, the wine can be kept for a long time and served by the glass. In a hybrid wine shop/bar, it can be popular and a fun addition to a wine list. I think the potential of Setúbal in the UK market could be huge. In my opinion, they focus a bit too much on the red production while they have the ability to produce very popular crisp white wines.
THE WINE MERCHANT august 2022 57
I believe there is a market for both blended and single-varietal Castelão. We tasted some beautiful blends, but the most important factor of any of the wines is the winemaker and the choices that they make. Young, fresh or aged, oak or no oak, old vines or not … this is a very interesting grape and has a great place in the market. It offers options for a lovely fresh wine to pair with a fish dish, or a deep big hug of a wine to curl up with on a sofa on a cold evening with a good book. I had tasted a Moscatel de Setúbal before coming out, but I was amazed at the differences that can be achieved – and also the discovery of the Roxo grape. Wow: loved it. I really loved the slightly drier unfortified Moscatels which work perfectly as an aperitif, but the depth of flavour of the fortified Moscatels we tried was also amazing. I have every intention of making an orange cake to enjoy with a Moscatel de Setúbal very soon. I believe either would work for the UK market; it’s about how you sell them to the customer. Great from the fridge door, and the most important thing is they last – if you allow the bottle to last, anyway.
I A better outlook for Champagne
n the sales and marketing departments
of Champagne, the worst of times seem to have been followed by the best of
times. A year in which the global market for Champagne plummeted in a way not seen even at the height of the financial
crash in the late 2000s, segueing into a year of record-breaking growth. First, the worst.
In 2020, Champagne sales around the
world dropped by almost a fifth, down
18% to 245 million bottles. Things were in freefall almost wherever you looked, but
it was the performance of its three leading export markets that hurt the most: sales
were down by 20% in the USA and the UK,
The Champenois endured a wretched 2020, but exports of the world’s favourite fizz are bouncing back, including in the UK market. There’s also evidence to suggest that stable and more premium pricing is leading the way for the category, as David Williams reports
and by 28% in Japan. In total, Champagne sales shed €1bn in value, down to €4bn. Fast forward to the end of 2021,
however, and the picture was completely transformed. As the world’s bars and
restaurants, albeit somewhat haltingly and haphazardly, returned to something like normal, and with many drinkers having
already replaced their on-trade spending with more expensive take-home habits
THE WINE MERCHANT august 2022 58
Shipments to the UK were up by 32% in 2021, and 9% up on pre-pandemic levels
(including sparkling wine) than their pre-
imposed by Covid making the harvest
limit set by the CIVC.
Comité Interprofessionel du Vin de
boost by the quality and quantity on offer.
conditions have affected the finished wines,
pandemic norm, Champagne sales took off. According to figures released by the
Champagne, total shipments of Champagne in 2021 soared back up by 32% versus
2020, to 322 million bottles. The news was good at home: French sales were back to 2019 levels, up by 25% on 2020.
But it was even better overseas,
with Champagne exports setting a new shipment record: 180 million bottles, worth €5.5bn.
Still, the CIVC urged caution, pointing out
more logistically difficult, Champagne’s
growers were nonetheless given a welcome The glorious growing season followed
the equally bountiful 2018 and 2019 to
complete what many observers believe to be a trio of vintages that will go on to be
ranked alongside the legendary glorious run of 1988, 1989 and 1990.
s with much of France (and
indeed England), however, 2021, by contrast, presented a series
that a view that combined the highs and
of meteorological challenges that had
Certainly, it was the smallest in a long time:
lows of 2020 and 2021 is rather less rosetinted than one focused solely on more
“Thanks to exports and the consumer’s
devotion to fine cuvées, Champagne
will reach a record turnover of more
than €5.5bn,” said Jean-Marie Barillère, president of the Union des Maisons de
Champagne and co-president of the Comité Champagne. “[But] the average shipments in 2020-2021, at 280 million bottles and €4.9bn, remain under the pre-pandemic
many veteran growers talking of the most
difficult vintage of their working lifetimes. you have to go back to 1985 for a smaller
harvest, with late and severe spring frosts
and humidity reducing crops by 30%, while the seemingly never-ending summer rains brought a plague of downy and powdery mildew. Average yields were down to
7,300kg/ha, way below the 10,000kg/ha
levels (300 million bottles, €5bn in 2019).”
It’s still far too early to say with any
conviction exactly how the challenging
but word from various 2021 vins clairs
tastings suggests that quality may trump quantity, and that, for the best and most fastidious producers, 2021 represents a return to a “classic” Champagne style.
The UK: Finding the right level
One country the Champenois are looking
at with justified optimism is the UK. After that 20% dip in 2020, UK shipments of
Champagne were back up by 32% in 2021, from 21.6 million bottles to 29 million
bottles. Importantly, that figure was also
considerably up on pre-pandemic levels: by 7% versus 2019.
That’s still short of the consistent 30+
million-bottle average of the 2010s, and
far off the giddy 39 million-bottle heights of pre-crash 2007, but the Champenois
are hoping that the UK market is finding a much more sustainable level, with
more stable, premium pricing, and fewer
discount-driven oscillations than have been the case for much of the 21st century.
Barillère and the CIVC are also quick to
That seems to be backed up by figures
point out that, while 2021 was a great year
from market researcher Nielsen which
for Champagne’s sales directors, it was
show growth in the off-trade value of
rather the opposite for those who ply their
Champagne (up 18%) outstripping growth
trade in the vineyards. Indeed, the story of
in volume (+11%), and with the average
the two viticultural years of 2020 and 2021
retail price slowly ticking up: in figures up
is in many respects the complete opposite
to the end of March 2022, the average price
of the sales cycle.
for a bottle of Champagne stood at £26.70,
In 2020, despite the restrictions
up by around 7% on 2021.
THE WINE MERCHANT august 2022 59
FOCUS ON CHAMPAGNE
Outperforming Burgundy or Bordeaux in auctions Of course, Nielsen, with its historic
bias towards the supermarkets and
multiple specialists, is a notoriously
poor source of information about what’s
going on in independent wine merchants. But the Champenois have been buoyed
by consistent evidence of Champagne’s
increasing importance at the very top of the market.
According to Liv-ex, Champagne has
been the strongest performing fine-wine region in auctions and the secondary
market over the past year, outstripping Burgundy and Bordeaux and the
increasingly strong performance of Italy’s
and California’s biggest names. The Liv-ex
Champagne 50 index, which tracks the
performance of 50 leading Champagne brands, was up by some 40% in 2021
alone, with prices rising a further 15% in the first quarter of 2022.
Individual Champagne brands are also
beating off rivals such as Screaming Eagle, DRC and Petrus as the most in-demand
names in fine wine. Louis Roederer Cristal 2008 was the single most-traded wine on the Liv-ex platform, with Dom Pérignon 2012 not far behind, and with Cristal
2013 and 2014 also taking a place in the
top six. Put together, Louis Roederer also led the way in total trades on Liv-ex in
2021, accounting for sales totalling £6m,
THE WINE MERCHANT august 2022 60
with Dom Pérignon, Bollinger, Krug and Taittinger Comtes de Champagne also enjoying successful years.
It will be interesting to see if Champagne
can retain its place at the top of the fine-
wine tree, given that many observers put much of its recent success down to the
launch of wines from outstanding vintages
such as 2008, 2012 and 2013, the quality of which is not matched by 2014 and 2015. In the context of the past two years,
however, the Champenois can surely be
allowed a few moments to break open a
bottle or two from their own supply and
savour their successful recovery from the worst of times.
FOCUS ON CHAMPAGNE
Champagnes of interest David Williams picks out some of the most intriguing Champagne releases from recent years
Henriot L’Inattendue (Fells) The small, family-owned house of Henriot has always prided itself on its mastery of the art of the blend. In part, that skill is expressed in blending grape varieties and the uniquely Champenois art of blending vintages and reserve wines. But Henriot also draws on the unusually diverse range of vineyard plots it has collected over the years: 140ha (345 acres) spread over 29 villages. All of which background is explanation enough for the name of the house’s latest release: L’Inattendue (“the unexpected”). The first in a series of single-vineyard, single-varietal, single-vintage wines, it kicked off with a 100% Chardonnay drawn from the Avize Grand Cru in the 2016 vintage. But the wine will change from year to year, with the chosen cru and variety based on decisions made by the winemaking team during tastings of the vins clairs.
Bollinger PN (Mentzendorff)
Tammy Nell, David Nieuwoudt and Alex Nell of Cederberg
In a similar spirit to L’Inattendue, PN, Bollinger’s first new addition to its range for 10 years, back in 2020, was all about the singular. In this case the singular grape variety, Pinot Noir, with which the house is most identified. According to Bollinger, PN “offers a fresh vision of Bollinger’s savoir-faire and vineyards. Each edition will feature a different cru from the base year, carefully selected by Champagne Bollinger, so that each new version will be an elegant reinvention of the original cuvée”. The first two editions – PN VZ15 and PN VZ16 – were based on Pinot Noir from Verzenay from (respectively) the 2015 and 2016 vintages, with reserve wines making up 50% of the blend. The latest release, launched in June this year, is PNTX17, which has Tauxières as the main source, alongside Verzenay and Avenay, with 2017 as the base vintage and the oldest reserve wine coming from 2006.
Champagne Philipponnat 1522 Grand Cru vintage releases It seems a little absurd to talk about a family that has been in Champagne for five centuries as a “rising star”. And yet, in the year in which it celebrates its 500th anniversary, that’s exactly what Philipponnat seems to be: a house with a long-established cult reputation that is breaking through to a wider audience with its range of critically acclaimed Champagnes. The latest releases are all part of a series that explicitly references Philipponnat’s historic credentials, a trio of vintage wines in the house’s 1522 Grand Cru range: a 1522 Grand Cru 2015, 1522 Rosé 2014 and the long-aged 1522 Grand Cru LV 2002.
THE WINE MERCHANT august 2022 62
FOCUS ON CHAMPAGNE
Charles Heidsieck Champagne Charlie (Liberty Wines) Champagne Charles Heidsieck’s tribute to its eponymous legendary founder was first created by the no-less legendary chef de cave Daniel Thibault with the 1979 vintage. Given free rein to make a wine that best expressed the house style, Thibault changed the blend and elevage each year depending on the conditions. Only five vintages were made before the cuvée was discontinued when Charles Heidsieck was bought out by Rémy Cointreau in 1985. Those vintages were much sought after by collectors, however, and the house, now flying high as part of the EPI Group, gave current chef de cave Cyril Brun the task of developing a new Champagne Charlie cuvée. Launched earlier this year, the new Champagne Charlie stands out from the prestige cuvée crowd by drawing heavily on Charles Heidsieck’s enviable collection of reserve wines. A non-vintage wine, the first, “bottled in 2017” release is a 50/50 Chardonnay/ Pinot Noir blend of 20 different wines, based on the 2016 vintage, but with 80% of the final blend made up of reserve wines.
Roederer Collection 242 (MMD)
Champagne de St Gall Influences (Daniel Lambert Wines) With its members owning vines in top premier and grand cru villages across the region, the over-performing co-operative Champagne de St Gall is well-placed to take advantage of the fashion for terroir-driven Champagne. And that’s exactly the motivation behind de St Gall chef de cave Cédric Jacopin’s most recent new project: a quartet of Influences wines, each of which expresses a different village in the de St Gall portfolio, with a wine apiece from the grand cru villages of Ambonnay, Cramant and Oger, and one from the premier cru village of Vertus.
THE WINE MERCHANT august 2022 64
There was something almost shocking about Champagne Louis Roederer’s launch of Collection 242. It’s not that there wasn’t space in the market for another cuvée from one of the region’s most successful houses. It’s more a matter of what the Roederer team felt they had to do to make space for it: how many other brands are prepared to remove their flagship brand while it’s still selling well and consistently ranks among the best of its kind on the market? Any residual sadness left by the demise of Brut Premier soon dissipated as the quality of its replacement became apparent. The new wine draws heavily on a perpetual reserve, aka solera, which Roederer says is an attempt to retain the wine’s style far into the future, safeguarding its “freshness and minerality” against changes in the climate. The first release, which was based on the 2017 vintage, is a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier from the company’s own biodynamic vineyards. The name, incidentally, refers to the number of times the company has made a multi-vintage wine since its inception in 1776.
Growing it alone The Good Wine Shop prefers to support Champagne’s little guys rather than the grandes marques
he Good Wine Shop champions grower Champagne in its west
London stores. It imports directly
from Varnier-Fanniere and Hubert Paulet, lists several others, and runs a Grower Champagne Month every June.
“This year our tastings across the stores
were mostly oversubscribed and we had
to put on second events to fulfil demand,” says the company’s Bastian Fischer. “It’s definitely something people are very curious about.”
Sourcing grower Champagnes has
become easier in recent years, he adds.
“We have longstanding relationships and
we ship from our producers on a regular basis.
“It was a little bit more challenging a few
years ago when the market was dominated
by grande marque Champagne.
winemakers over to raise awareness.
had to make their own wine rather than
he says. “You can get a reasonably-priced
“But more and more growers realised
over the years that, to be independent, they sell grapes to the big houses.
“Selosse and Prévost set the tone and a
lot of growers at some point worked with them and it started a movement.
“There are a lot of fantastic grande
marque Champagnes out there, but the
growers are able to give a better expression of where they are really from, because the
big houses are actually just making blends from across the region. Rather than just
making Champagne as one big style, the
growers are focusing more on terroir and origin.”
Fischer says the shops work hard
with tasting events, sampling or inviting
Champagne’s other varieties If the single most significant development in Champagne in recent years has been the rise of the terroirdriven wine, with multiple singlevillage, single-vineyard and single-plot cuvées taking their place in portfolios of producers great and small, the region has also been exploring other new approaches to the way it goes about its business. New releases may focus on the vinification (such as Billecart-Salmon’s 100% oak-fermented Sous Bois); on how the reserve wines have been incorporated in the blend (various takes on the non- and the multivintage, various uses of the solera,
aka the perpetual reserve); or even on the packaging (Ruinart’s lightweight recyclable sleeve). Among the most interesting developments in Champagne this decade, however, has been the greater respect for Champagne’s “other
THE WINE MERCHANT august 2022 65
“The wines do cost a bit more but it’s
the same for pretty much any wine region,”
Burgundy from a big house or co-operative, but if you want a bottle that is a bit more special and a better expression of the
terroir you have to pay a little bit more.” Fischer concedes that many people
still look to the reassurance of big
names like Clicquot and Möet when
buying Champagne as a gift, but adds: “A lot of people also love the idea that
grower Champagne is something a little bit different that hasn’t just come from Majestic or a supermarket. We don’t
actually get much push back on that; a
lot of our customers are perfectly happy buying it as a gift.”
varieties”. It’s a trend that starts with what has been traditionally regarded as the weakest of the traditional trio, Pinot Meunier, which is increasingly being championed in single-varietal cuvées, from the likes of Billecart-Salmon and Gosset, after years of being pushed by growers such as Jérôme Prevost. Other growers are looking even further afield to make fine wines from the lesser-known bunch of varieties that are permitted but vanishingly rare in the region, such as Drappier Fromenteau (a 100% Pinot Gris) and grower Benoît Lahaye’s Jardin de la Grosse Pierre, a field blend of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Arbanne, Petit Meslier, Fromenteau, Gros Plant, Teinturier and, apparently, numerous unnamed others from a vineyard planted in 1927.
MAKE A DATE
Wine GB Trade Tasting This is a chance to meet long-
Jeroboams Trade Late Summer Portfolio Tasting
established and newer English wine
Raymond Reynolds Autumn Tasting A chance to explore the evolution of the importer’s portfolio, which specialises
producers, with free-pour tables
The wholesale arm of the west London
in single-estate wines from Portugal,
themed around styles and one for
retail chain will have 300 wines on
Spain and Germany.
Trophy winning wines from this year’s
show poured by some of its favourite
Wine GB Awards.
There will also be a focus on wines that
have gained Sustainable Wines of Great Britain accreditation.
To register, contact Julia@winegb.co.uk.
Tuesday, September 6 Lindley Hall 80 Vincent Square London SW1P 2PB
There will also be the chance to sample
new vintages and wines from producers who’ve recently joined the portfolio. The event will take place at “an
iconic SE1 art gallery”. Contact events@
jeroboamstrade.co.uk to register and the secret will be revealed.
Wednesday, September 7 Central London TBC
Registration via info@raymondreynolds.
Monday, September 12 The Beeswing 24a Minshull Street Manchester M1 3EF
Berkmann Portfolio Tastings Between 350 and 450 wines from 20
La Diferencia/ La Differenza This is a collaborative event between Condor Wines and Marcato Direct.
ABS Wine Agencies Portfolio Tasting The biennial tasting will provide an opportunity to meet new producers who’ve recently become part of the ABS portfolio, including Flavia Wines from Sicily, Corryton Burge of Australia, Spain’s Bodegas Chaves and Hanna Winery from California. More familiar names from the portfolio
will also be in attendance, with at least 45 growers flying in.
Registration through Lesley@abs.wine.
The, er, difference in the two names reflects the company’s specialisms: South America for Condor and Italy for Marcato. Condor will be hosting masterclasses
with Amanda Barnes, author of South America Wine Guide,
and Thibault Lepoutre, François Lurton’s low intervention winemaker.
To register visit
condorwines.co.uk or, as a Marcato Direct customer, scan the QR code. Monday, September 12
countries, will be on show, including new additions from Argentina, Chile, England, France, Greece, Italy, Spain and the US. A separate guided tasting session will
feature wines from Antinori (Cervaro della Sala, Guado al Tasso, Tignanello), Ridge
Vineyards (Monte Bello) and Vega Sicilia (Unico).
Lunch in London will come from Jonny
Lake (ex-Fat Duck) of Michelin-starred
Trivet. In Leeds, food will be courtesy of acclaimed Chinese restaurant Tattu.
There will also be the chance to connect
with the teams from Berkmann’s Spirit
Cartel offshoot and Veraison, its in-house wine education outfit.
Monday, September 12
The Brewery, 52 Chiswell Street London EC1Y 4SD
Wednesday, September 7
Tuesday, September 13
1 Great George Street
27 Colmore Row
Aspire, 2 Infirmary Street
London SW1P 3AA
Birmingham B3 2BS
Leeds LS1 2JP
THE WINE MERCHANT august 2022 66
The Dirty Dozen This collaboration between 12 specialist importers – Astrum Wine Cellars, Carte Blanche Wines, Clark Foyster Wines, FortyFive10˚, H2Vin, Howard Ripley Wines, Maltby & Greek, Raymond Reynolds, Swig, The Wine Treasury, Ucopia Wines and Yapp Bros – will ensure an eclectic mix of wines from small and select winemakers. More information and registration:
Vines in Alsace
Tuesday, September 13 Glaziers Hall 9 Montague Close London SE1 9DD
French Connections This event, organised in partnership with The Wine Merchant, will feature more than 80 wines looking for UK representation, from all parts of France, including Roussillon, Burgundy, Crémant d’Alsace, Loire, Champagne and Bordeaux. The line-up includes several sulphite-
free wines and French kombucha. Tuesday, September 13
DOCG in Piedmont, to show its range of organic wines from Langhe, Roero, and Monferrato, focusing on the Nebbiolo,
Barbera and Arneis grapes. Marco Bertone from the family Piedmont wine producer Agricola Marrone will also be there.
Matawhero in Gisbourne, New Zealand,
is one of Vindependents’ newer producers
Taittinger, Louis Jadot, M Chapoutier, CVNE, Esperão, Gaja, Esk Valley, Kleine Zalze and Zuccardi.
Registration required: contact
firstname.lastname@example.org. Tuesday, September 20 New Armouries
and owner-winemaker Kristen Searle
Tower of London
members. To register, contact louise@
The Graft Anniversary Autumn Tasting
will be showing its naturally dry-farmed
whites, including Chenin Blanc and barrel The event is open to all independent
wine merchants, not just Vindependents vindependents.co.uk.
London EC3N 4AB
Tuesday, September 20
Graft Wine Co is celebrating 10 years
Cecil Sharp House
since the founding of both Red Squirrel
London WC2E 7EN
2 Regent’s Park Road
and Knotted Vine, the two importers
London NW1 7AY
who came together to form the business
Vindependents Portfolio Tasting Over 20 producers will be showing a
Hatch Mansfield Autumn Tasting
total of more than 400 wines, and some
The Hatch team will be showcasing new
wines and vintages from across the
Lucrezia Povero will be flying in from
Cascina Vèngore in Terre Alfieri, a small
portfolio. The line-up includes names such as
THE WINE MERCHANT august 2022 67
The tasting promises a “tight and mouth-
watering selection” of 100 wines from its
portfolio, including some mature vintages in keeping with the occasion.
Register at graftwine.co.uk.
Tuesday, September 27
Central London venue TBC
The Vindependents tasting takes place on March 21
Rory, thanks). In Omelette Wars, another
re you on holiday? Kelvinbridge is.
as yet unmade TV show, people would
This month as everyone is on
share their idiosyncratic and incorrect
holiday, there have been some
omelette making techniques in front of a
“free lunches”’. Of course, as we know,
live, braying, caged studio audience. On
there is no such thing as a free lunch, but I thought I might give you a break from my existential angst this month.
Yellow labels proliferate in the Co-op,
revealing items usually snaffled up by
the parents of the posh kids: four kinds
of chickennuggets with baconnaise? Yes please! Rottencake and the Hippy Shop
are overestimating frolicking picnickers
or dealing with hayfevered fuzzybrainers who order and then wander away, lured by a motheaten Argyle sweater, quirky
Hawaiian shirt or unfathomable vintage shell suit in Mothcentral next door (yes,
21. NOT GOING ON HOLIDAY Phoebe Weller of Valhalla’s Goat in Glasgow is one of the few people in her neighbourhood staying put this summer. That means Co-op yellow labels aplenty – and time to refine the format of Omelette Wars
being a place where you can put a jacket
on if you’d like but you don’t need to put a
the back teeth of being here with
under many names: Rory who
Americans asking for something
I apparently went to uni with
they “can’t get back home”. This
(yes I did, I just didn’t go to any
raises some questions, doesn’t it
lectures or the graduation – 2:1,
– where is home? Do I know what
joint honours Anthropology
every offie in the world sells? And
and English Lit), Basketball
most importantly, do we live in a
Rory, Rory who had a crush on unfeasible amount of children,
Berocca #drinkresponsibly. I say swapped,
said in reference to the Imaginary (Kitten/
money box which then fiddled with the
two Schofferhofer Grapefruit Vineyards in the Hunter Valley– essentially
hotter than my threshold (my threshold
That being said, I am sick to
the Hippy Shop (who could go
unclaimed omelette, which I “swapped” for
somewhere that is a good 15 degrees
Rory, the Chief Chef from
FACE. Kidding! #TBT) came in with an
to go or what to eat, pretending to relax
Shiny Device and with a new flavour
know who’s a bit try-hard, Rory? YOUR
(thanks Mothcentral), choosing places
numbers in the numbers app on the
are two very unluncheonlike
Pepino) Episode, “is a bit try-hard.” Do you
I’m not getting away, I’m VERY
HAPPY not packing my motheaten clothes
many digits missing from the
fags and look worried, which
on an Amazing Lunch. “Preppy Pal,” he
my Fanstomers ask and no,
returning without luggage, with
Mothcentral as they only smoke
Rory, who, unfathomably, gave me notes
re you getting away, Phoebe?”
at other people and my own people,
of it? You just haven’t heard about
did #MeToo, Rory who has an
called Breaking Some Eggs.
jacket on), seething with frustration
there are three next doors, what
Sam Clare but then everybody
reflection perhaps this show could be
globalised economy run by lizards who, yes, might bottle something you can’t get at home but would
what I really mean is I “paid for” by
you actually like to drink it? I tell you
numbers in the numbers app on said shiny
gin, which again, unfathomably, they still
waving my shiny device at the beepy
device. Rory makes a good and generous omelette according to my rules, which are: beat eggs, hot fatty pan, minimal
additions (the Lanark Blue was excellent,
THE WINE MERCHANT august 2022 68
what you won’t get at home, Eric the
Pumpman’s Mint and Kiwi green ‘n’ sparkly don’t want to buy. This unique product will be prominently promoted for Hallowe’en
(spooky gin) and also Christmas (elf gin). Happy Holidays!
Recycled Plastic Bottle Protective Sleeve Netlon protective sleeves are perfect for stopping bottles clinking together when inside a gift pack or hamper and can also be used to protect
labels on valuable wines stored in a wine rack. They stretch out for easy application but shrink back to fit snugly over any wine, Champagne or spirit bottle, protecting it without obscuring the label. These netlon sleeves are made from 96% recycled plastic bottles, are 100% recyclable, and available in black or white. £57 excluding VAT for a 300-piece pack. From wbc.co.uk
The Daiquiri is a great, refreshing late-summer cocktail because it can be adapted very easily to accommodate a variety of seasonal soft fruits. It might require a tiny tweak of the sweetness element to suit the particular fruit or the ripeness of the crop, but the basics would be the same for Daiquiris made with strawberries, raspberries or blueberries.
1 fresh plum 5cl white rum 1.5cl sugar syrup 1.5 cl freshly squeezed lime juice
Peel the plum and cut into quarters, removing the stone as you go. Muddle the fruit in the bottom half of a shaker. Add the liquid ingredients, ice, and the top half of the shaker – then shake and strain into a chilled Martini glass.
Sheepskin wine cooler Sheepskin is a natural insulator and, in the hands of Dutch design company Kywie, it makes an extremely lux wine cooler. Available in a huge range of colours and sizes to accommodate cans as well as wine bottles, these eyecatching coolers will keep prechilled drinks cold for up to four hours. Visit Kywie.com for more details
THE WINE MERCHANT august 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: email@example.com
top selection 23 Cellini Street London SW8 2LF www.topselection.co.uk firstname.lastname@example.org
World class sauvignon blanc from breathtaking vineyards in southern Austria.
Contact: Alastair Moss Telephone: 020 3958 0744 @topselectionwines @tswine
THE WINE MERCHANT august 2022 70
LOUIS LATOUR AGENCIES 12-14 Denman Street London W1D 7HJ
0207 409 7276 email@example.com www.louislatour.co.uk
Simonnet-Febvre is an historic still and sparkling wine producer located in northern Burgundy. Its range has four parts with wines from Chablis, Grand Auxerrois,
Coteaux de l’Auxois and Cremant de Bourgogne. A few highlights:
Crémant de Bourgogne P100 Blanc de Noirs NV. Made from 100% Pinot Noir and
aged on lees for a minimum of 24 months. Simonnet-Febvre’s Crémant de Bourgognes
are made in the town of Chablis from grapes sourced from the surrounding hillsides. A perennial staff favourite.
Chablis Bio. A new addition to the Simonnet-Febvre range in 2020. This is just one of
four fully certified organic Chablis in the range. A classic unoaked Chablis characterised by flinty, saline notes.
Irancy. A great Burgundian red, from the Grand Auxerrois. The village of Irancy sits in amphitheatre which protects the vines from northerly winds and gives a south southwest exposure. It is a Pinot Noir dominant blend with 5%
César, an ancient French variety that gives structure and colour. Auxerrois, Coteaux de l’Auxois. The Coteaux de l’Auxois
vineyards once extended to 5,000 hectares but phylloxera and
then two world wars caused them to all but disappear. SimonnetFebvre is reviving these historic wines in its vineyards close to
Montbard. This Auxerrois is delicate, yet persistent, with plenty of fruit on the nose and palate and freshness on the finish.
hatch mansfield New Bank House 1 Brockenhurst Road Ascot Berkshire SL5 9DL 01344 871800 firstname.lastname@example.org www.hatchmansfield.com @hatchmansfield
THE THEWINE WINEMERCHANT MERCHANTaugust june 2022 2022 71
gonzalez byass uk The Dutch Barn Woodcock Hill Coopers Green Lane St Albans AL4 9HJ 01707 274790 email@example.com www.gonzalezbyassuk.com @gonzalezbyassuk
vintner systems The computer system for drinks trade wholesalers and importers 16 Station Road Chesham Bucks HP5 1DH firstname.lastname@example.org www.vintner.co.uk
Vintner Systems has been supplying specialist software solutions to the wine and spirit trade in the UK and Ireland for over 30 years. After 300 installations at a wide range of business types, we have developed the ultimate package to cover everything from stock control and accountancy to EPOS, customer reserves, brokering and en-primeur. Whether you are a specialist wine retailer, importer or fine wine investment company, our software will provide you with the means to drive your business forward.
THE WINE MERCHANT august march 2022 72
jeroboams trade 7-9 Elliott's Place London N1 8HX 020 7288 8888 email@example.com www.jeroboamstrade.co.uk
hallgarten wines Mulberry House Parkland Square 750 Capability Green Luton LU1 3LU 01582 722 538 firstname.lastname@example.org www.hnwines.co.uk @hnwines
THE WINE MERCHANT august 2022 73
liberty wines 020 7720 5350 email@example.com www.libertywines.co.uk @liberty_wines
IWC Trophy-winning Champagnes There was much for our Champagne producers to celebrate at this year’s International
Wine Challenge awards ceremony last month – an evening that saw Cyril Brun of Charles Heidsieck crowned IWC Sparkling Winemaker of the Year. Impressively, it is the 17th time
that the house has claimed this title and the second time for Cyril since taking over as chef de cave in 2015.
The Daniel Thibault Trophy for IWC Champion Sparkling Wine (Daniel
was the chef de cave at Charles Heidsieck until his untimely death in 2002) was awarded to the Rare Champagne Millésime 2008, the latest release of
this complex, distinguished and pure prestige Champagne, of which only 11 vintages have been declared since 1976. The 2008 marries 70% Chardonnay,
mainly from the Montagne de Reims for freshness and precise minerality,
with 30% Pinot Noir from the Montagne de Reims for its sheer intensity and powerful silky texture.
The IWC Rosé Champagne Trophy went to Charles Heidsieck’s Rosé
Millésimé 2008, a vivacious wine underpinned by great freshness and structure, while
their Blanc des Millénaires 2007, the latest in just seven vintages produced of this rare cuvée since 1983, which showcases the saline minerality and exceptional texture of the
Côte des Blancs’ best Chardonnay, won the IWC Vintage Blanc de Blancs Champagne
Trophy. The wonderfully gastronomic Piper-Heidsieck Essentiel Cuvée Réservée Extra
Brut NV (in magnum) scooped a trophy for the second year running, this time the IWC Non-Vintage Classic Blend Champagne Trophy. Our congratulations to all!
richmond wine agencies The Links, Popham Close Hanworth Middlesex TW13 6JE 020 8744 5550 firstname.lastname@example.org
Increased range of no added sulphites wines Since sulphur is a natural by-product of fermentation, all
wines contain sulphites and it is a legal labelling requirement to indicate when more than 10mg/l are present. Sulphur
dioxide is an antioxidant which has been used since classical
times in the preparation of many foods such as dried fruits for example. Some people are sensitive to an excess though, and many winemakers have cut down on the amounts used. The
EU has set minimal limits and organic and biodynamic wines
have stricter criteria still. “Natural wines”, while lacking a legal definition, are produced with as few additives as possible so generally have very little or no added SO2.
Château Peybonhomme les Tours, Blaye Cotes de Bordeaux Blanc 2020 Glou-Glou Gamay, Domaine Dupre 2020
Chenas Naturellement, Domaine Aufranc 2020/21 Château Picoron, Tattarrattat Merlot 2021
Domaine La Voute du Versus Cinsault 2021 Contact us for trade prices.
THE THEWINE WINEMERCHANT MERCHANTseptember august 2022 2021 74
BERKMANN wine cellars 104d St John Street London EC1M 4EH 020 7609 4711 email@example.com www.berkmann.co.uk
P O R T F O L I O TA S T I N G S
Save the dates for our 2022 tastings @berkmannwine
London Monday 12th September | Leeds Tuesday 13th September
@berkmann_wine SCAN HERE TO REGISTER
We are delighted to welcome you back to our headline event. Featuring over 400 wines, it’s the ideal opportunity to reconnect with the people and places at the heart of our range. To register, scan the QR code or contact your Berkmann account manager.
buckingham schenk Unit 5, The E Centre Easthampstead Road Bracknell RG12 1NF 01753 521336
Primitivo di Manduria
Primitivo di Manduria Riserva
The Brunilde di Menzione range is a great example of how good southern Italian reds can be. Offering great taste, quality and personality, Brunilde di Menzione wines have won multiple international awards. Covering the regions of Basilicata and Puglia, the range includes classic indigenous red grape varieties such as Primitivo, Negroamaro, and Aglianico.
THE WINE MERCHANT august 2022 75
NORTH SOUTH WINES Drayton Hall, Church Road West Drayton UB7 7PS 020 3871 9210 firstname.lastname@example.org www.northsouthwines.co.uk
Visit the new Wine Merchant website
It is much, much better than the old one. (Not hard.) winemerchantmag.com
THE WINE MERCHANT august 2022 76
mentzendorff The Woolyard 52 Bermondsey Street London SE1 3UD 020 7840 3600
Taylor’s Chip Dry & Tonic Croft Pink & Tonic The Perfect Summer Serve
Taylor’s and Croft, among the most distinguished of Port houses, have developed new Port and Tonic, pre-mixed cans to create the perfectly refreshing serve! Chill and enjoy straight from the can or serve over ice with a citrus slice.
For more information, please contact your Mentzendorff Account Manager
AWIN BARRATT SIEGEL WINE AGENCIES 28 Recreation Ground Road Stamford Lincolnshire PE9 1EW 01780 755810 email@example.com www.abs.wine
We are so excited to be bringing all our growers to London for the ABS Portfolio Tasting taking place on Wednesday 7th September 10:30 -18:30. It will be the first time in several years that many of our producers will have been in the UK. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to register
THE WINE MERCHANT august 2022 77
• NEW LOCATION
The Great Hall, One Great George Street, Westminster, London SW1P 3AA
walker & Wodehouse 109a Regents Park Road London NW1 8UR 0207 449 1665 email@example.com www.walkerwodehousewines.com
Château l’Hospitalet wins Platinum Join us in congratulating Gerard Bertrand on receiving an excellent score of 97 points and a platinum medal for their Château L’Hospitalet Grand Vin Red 2020 at the recent Decanter Awards. Located on the coast, Château de l’Hospitalet looks down on the Mediterranean from a height of 100 metres. Having a Mediterranean climate with mild winters, the vineyard enjoys exceptional climatic conditions. The heat from the abundant sunshine is stored in the limestone during the day and released to the grapes at night. The Mediterranean also has an effect, minimising temperature differences, and the altitude of the vineyards counteracts the summer heat. The colour is a brilliant ruby. The intense nose is dominated by spicy and red-fruit, strawberry, aromas. The mouth presents silky and fine tannins underlining the fruity freshness of this wine, which is a delicate blend of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre.
Famille Helfrich Wines 1, rue Division Leclerc, 67290 Petersbach, France firstname.lastname@example.org 07789 008540 @FamilleHelfrich
DATE LONDON 2022 JOIN US:
THE ULTIMATE PORTFOLIO EVENT
October 4th & 5th 2022 You are invited to GCF’s Private Wine Days – The Ultimate Portfolio Event For the first time, Les Grands Chais de France will be showcasing the best bits from its entire portfolio in London, as well as launching its on-trade Signature Range of 22 top properties selected for wine making excellence. Other highlights will include: new international award-winning properties in Chile, Spain, Germany and Hungary, Calvet the UK’s no 1 pan-appellation French brand, Crémant from every French producing region, a range of zero % wines and spirits and much, much more… …if you thought you knew GCF, think again, a lot has changed and it’s time to take a new look…
10:00am to 5:00pm on both days 16th Floor, 10 York Road, London 16th Floor 10 York Road, London SE1 7ND
They’re all smiles to your face …
STRIC TLY TR ADE & P RESS ON LY
To register: https://gcfprivatewinedaysoctober2022.eventbrite.co.uk
Waterloo car park - Waterloo (1-minute walk) - Embankment (10-minute walk) - Charing Cross (10-minute walk)
« PEOPLE, TERROIRS, PASSION »
THE WINE MERCHANT august 2022 78
Q&A “I’d like to be as good on drums as Roger Taylor. Fat chance!”
Jess Hutchinson Managing director, Vindependents
I’m a bit of a wuss on the violence front), full of action and really well written with lots going on and great characters. The plot is spy agent versus Muslim terrorist who is developing a biological weapon: a virus with a fatality rate of 100%. Give us a Netflix recommendation. The Good Place. Although it’s an American series it has a very British style of humour. Do you have any sporting loyalties? None, although as I live near Pau I have to pretend to be enthusiastic about Section Paloise Rugby.
Who’s your favourite music artist? I’m learning the drums, so my current enthusiasm is for Queen, as I’d like to be as good as Roger Taylor. Fat chance! Who’s your favourite wine writer? Jancis Robinson, as she has just written up our first vintage of Syrah and given it a lovely note.
You can ask any historical figure a question. Who, and what would you ask? Jesus. I’d ask him for the secret of turning water into wine.
What’s your most treasured possession? My pallet of bottles sat outside waiting for our Petit Manseng to go in. They are surely now worth more than my house.
Jess Hutchinson was brought up in Devon and, after completing a BA in French, Spanish and European economics, joined Majestic where she spent five years as a store manager. After that she worked for five years as sales director at Charles Taylor Wines before launching her own business, Tamar Selections. She is co-founder and managing director of Vindependents, and winemaker at Domaine d’Audaux in south west France, where she lives with her husband Jamie and their two daughters. What’s the first wine you remember drinking? Really rough wine out of a 1-litre plastic bottle from a French supermarket. My mum used to give me some mixed with water whenever we were on holiday in France. I hated it!
What job would you be doing if you weren’t in the wine trade? I would probably be a TEFL teacher. During my first week working at Majestic I was offered a job teaching English in Costa Rica. I got the call when out delivering 12 cases of water to a second-floor flat in the middle of August, so I was quite tempted. But I decided to stick it out in the wine trade and see where it got me. How do you relax? In the bath with a glass of wine and a good book with the door locked so no one can disturb me. What’s the best book you’ve read recently? I am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes. It’s one of these books you can’t put down and keep thinking about for weeks afterwards. It’s a spy thriller (which I don’t usually like as
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What’s your proudest moment? Other than producing two whole human beings, it would be starting my business.
Any hidden talents? I’m part of our local theatre group called Les Bouffons de Castetnau. We do one play a year and this is my third. We usually do a tour of five or six performances with all the profits going to local schools. I have so far played a teenage boy, a legal secretary and, currently, a crazy Italian woman who’s been dumped by her boyfriend and is out for revenge. Trying to understand all the nuances of French comedy is hard enough, but learning all the lines is super hard work and performing is terrifying. What’s your favourite place in the UK? Dartmoor, where I grew up.
We’re granting you three wishes. Go. 1. You’d be crazy if you didn’t want world peace. 2. To be able to fly – when I was little I used to cry about the fact this was impossible. 3. Five more wishes.