The Wine Merchant issue 116

Page 1

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


Joe Woodhouse

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 01323 871836 Twitter: @WineMerchantMag Editor and Publisher: Graham Holter Assistant Editor: Claire Harries Advertising: Sarah Hunnisett Accounts: Naomi Young The Wine Merchant is circulated to the owners of the UK’s 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

10 seconds.

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:

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

Paul Chambers

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

Grain @133.

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.”

Feline groovy

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

economic crisis.

“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

Vineyards Direct

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.


Rising Stars

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

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




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.”

uncertain times.

“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




WINES OF G RE AT BRITA IN TRADE & PR E SS TAST I NG 202 2 Tuesday 6 September 10.30am - 5.30pm RHS Lindley Hall Elverton Street London SW1P 2PB


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

second home.

– 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.


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 …

Supplier of wine boxes and literature • 12 Bottle carrier box with dividers • 6 Bottle carrier box with dividers • 12 Bottle mailing box with dividers • 6 Bottle mailing box with dividers • 4 Bottle mailing box with dividers • 3 Bottle mailing box with dividers • 1 Bottle mailing box with dividers

01323 728338 • •

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

Aljoscha Wright

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

THE WINE MERCHANT august 2022 24


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

RRP: £16.95

ABV: 14%

ABV: 12.5%

Richmond Wine Agencies (020 8744 5550)

Carson & Carnevale Wines (020 3261 0929)

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

ABV: 13.5%

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

ABV: 12.5%

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.

ABV: 12.5%

RRP: £31.99

VIDA Wines & Spirits (020 7965 7283)

ABV: 12%

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

ABV: 12%

Ucopia World Wines (01435 517080)

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

ABV: 12%

Moldovan Wine (01483 808413)

THE WINE MERCHANT august 2022 26

Sam Hellyer On the Road


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 Call 020 7609 4711


Favourite Things

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



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

crime family.

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 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

grape variety.

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

fairly substantially.

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.

Stuart McCloskey

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

customer base?

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

too far.

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

incredible really.

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?

recent years?

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

supply-chain management.

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


really work.

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.


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

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.


Elliot Awin

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.

Sponsored Feature

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:

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.”


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)


João Barbosa

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 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

driver handovers.

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

Cabernet Franc.

“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”.

he adds.

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

export market.

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

and texture.


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.


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.

Aiming higher

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


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 ...


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

recent successes.

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


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.


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


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.


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

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@ 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

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 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

Temple Room

Great Hall

Grand Hotel

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 Tuesday, September 20 New Armouries

and owner-winemaker Kristen Searle

Tower of London

fermented Chardonnay.

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

London EC3N 4AB

Tuesday, September 20

Graft Wine Co is celebrating 10 years

Brettenham House

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

in 2019.

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

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

of Covid.

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

plum daiquiri

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

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 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:

@FellsWine je_fells

top selection 23 Cellini Street London SW8 2LF

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

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 @hatchmansfield



gonzalez byass uk The Dutch Barn Woodcock Hill Coopers Green Lane St Albans AL4 9HJ 01707 274790 @gonzalezbyassuk

vintner systems The computer system for drinks trade wholesalers and importers 16 Station Road Chesham Bucks HP5 1DH

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


hallgarten wines Mulberry House Parkland Square 750 Capability Green Luton LU1 3LU 01582 722 538 @hnwines

THE WINE MERCHANT august 2022 73


liberty wines 020 7720 5350 @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


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


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

Visit the new Wine Merchant website

It is much, much better than the old one. (Not hard.)

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


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 to register

THE WINE MERCHANT august 2022 77


The Great Hall, One Great George Street, Westminster, London SW1P 3AA


walker & Wodehouse 109a Regents Park Road London NW1 8UR 0207 449 1665


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 07789 008540 @FamilleHelfrich




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 …


To register:

Waterloo car park - Waterloo (1-minute walk) - Embankment (10-minute walk) - Charing Cross (10-minute walk)


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

THE WINE MERCHANT august 2022 79

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.