The Wine Merchant issue 31

 

Embed or link this publication

Description

The Wine Merchant issue 31

Popular Pages


p. 1

THE WINE MERCHANT. An independent magazine for independent retailers Issue 31, November 2014 Season’s greetings from all The Wine Merchant team Independents take the garden path to success Garden centres and farm shops are providing lucrative opportunities for specialist wine retailers. make such a move, opening a new branch at Bents Garden Centre in Warrington. Others in the Ribble Valley and Barrica Wines at Huntleys Farm Shop in Samlesbury. include Winesolution in Taunton, Fullaloves Reserve Wines is the latest independent to Wyevale, which is offering a small selection under the wine company’s branding. closed stores based at garden centres – Although some independents have Recently Laithwaites has teamed with THIS MONTH 2 BACCHUS Subterranean breweries, pizza ovens and mystery wine 4 comings & GOINGS that have already opened similar concessions including Noble Rot in the West Midlands, and Boutique Wine in Northumberland – expanding wine businesses. chartered surveyor Simon Quinton Smith Wine merchants typically pay a gross is convinced there is a big opportunity for rent at such locations, linked to turnover. centres are improving their year-round Second store for Barrica, and all change on Orkney 6 tried & TESTED near Bury, operate their own specialist wine shops while others, like Woodlands in Kent, take a bespoke wine selection from a third party company, in this case the wholesaler Winefantastic. Some garden centres, such as Summerseat The wines battling for space on your shelves 9 merchant profile Although sales can dip in the winter, garden appeal with a varied range of concessions. • Weedkiller and wine – pages 22 to 24 Vinomondo: “You can be funky and commercial” 14 david williams Indies can fill the growing void left by supermarkets 16 SHERRY SHINES Christmas is the ideal time to broaden consumer horizons 18 buying groups Why some independents prefer safety in numbers 38 NZ SAUVIGNON BLANC How regionality and new styles are taking this retailer staple into new territory Six independents travelled to Spain recently as part of a Wine Merchant trip to Ribera del Duero. Read what they made of their experiences, and the wines they tasted, on pages 26 to 30. 42 suppler bulletin Essential updates from leading agents and importers

[close]

p. 2

BACCHUS “Everyone is more than happy to give you advice and help to get you on your feet.” As he speaks, a rhubarb beer is fermenting downstairs and a honeyed west coast-style IPA – a success in a trial brew – may also see the light of day. away from public gaze, Perfect has been Although the brewing plant is hidden considering ways to make it a focal point and in the future may consider installing Customer reaction has been positive. The most local brewer of all It’s increasingly common for independent wine merchants to stock the beers of a local microbrewery. Grape & Grain in West Sussex has gone one step further by installing its own brewing equipment in its basement. up with four partners to create Heathen Store owner Ed Perfect has teamed glass floor panels to make it more visible. “They seem to like it,” Perfect says. “We beer, which is a different style of beer had a little street tasting on The Broadway in Haywards Heath. We did it with wheat for most people, and we found it really Ann Hayes: taking the high road has had “a pretty good year”. Clifford Lax there has been a small flurry of interest is offering the leasehold for £150,000 and admits she is in no particular rush to sell. appealed to people who don’t normally like beer, if that makes sense. We’ve also had shoestring, just a few thousand pounds. The brewery hasn’t got any inherent overheads as such so we really can do fine too.” He adds: “We’ve set this up on a quite a lot of interest from the local pubs.” from potential new owners, though Hayes a more prudent approach to the range. “I’ve reduced my lines on the wine side; single“And I’m still taking the same money!” don’t need five different Chablis,” she says. In recent months Hayes has been taking facing some lines and deciding that I maybe Brewery, which is selling its wares in both bottled and draught format. The plant is capable of producing 400 litres per batch and the first brew, a Belgian-style wheat well received in Haywards Heath. Perfect began experimenting with beer called Heathen Chemistry, has been things exactly how we want to. If it works, it works, and that’s fine … but if not, that’s The mystery of Great Grog bottles, identity disguised. Ann et Vin has a different plan In the middle of Great Grog’s shop in Edinburgh is a dump bin full of wrapped The mystery wine fixture is intended brewing a year ago and the new business Brewery among its directors. Horsham brewer Hepworth & Co is helping with bottles. “The collaboration between counts people from local cooperative Adur One of the country’s best-known female wine merchants is selling up after a decade. Ann Hayes has put her Newark shop, Ann et Vin, on the market and is planning a life outside the wine trade. says. “It’s 10 years this month and the plan eventually. I’m not getting any younger … I’m ready for a break.” The business was extended in 2007 to “I’ve had enough – I’m moving on,” she to encourage customers to take “a leap of faith” and try something unfamiliar, for a modest discount. slow-moving lines. is that stock But management is keen to stress that brewers is quite incredible,” says Perfect. this is not simply a cynical way of clearing “People say, Christmas brake The Wine Merchant now takes its usual Christmas pause for thought and will publish its next edition on January 15. Good luck to all readers for the frenzy that lies ahead and best wishes for a prosperous 2015. is to go to our Scottish house and live there include a wine bar, which hosts live music performances and offers table service (except on particularly crowded nights). The business turns over £520,000 and you want to get rid of?” says Why would manager John you do that?” Blair. “It’s not. THE WINE MERCHANT NoVEMBER 2014 2

[close]

p. 3

Amps is fired up over oven success Amps Fine Wines is getting extra value out of its courtyard area with the construction of a wood-fired oven. ability to host food and wine events on its rely on local restaurants. The brick-built oven has given Amps the Some people, unbelievably, haven’t been in the shop before because they’ve only been to our events in restaurants.” ticket to its events, for example pizza of the Pinots, which was due to take Amps will typically charge £20 for a Flying Füchs own premises, rather than always having to been used to cook joints of lamb and pork. It was designed by Rebecca Holder, one of the Amps team, but Philip Amps has duties thus far. “It’s been a really big success,” says volunteered for all cooking and stoking marketing manager Danielle Freer. “It The oven is ideal for pizzas and has also with South African wine or The Battle accompanying the New Zealand reds. place on November 11 with roast lamb other wines that aren’t necessarily part of the promotion, and obviously the tills are of not having to deliver the wines that don’t have to wait for their delivery.” people buy on the night, and customers “When people are actually here they see open,” Freer adds. “There’s also the benefit “Our Man with the Facts” • The world record for the most bottles of wine uncorked in one minute is held by Alain Dorotte of 60 seconds. France. In 2001 he used a T-handled allows us the flexibility to do events here. corkscrew to open 13 wine bottles in • According to figures from HMRC, 1.8 million litres of wine were in 2013-14, with a revenue value seized from suspected criminals of £5.9 million. The amount of beer seized during the same period had You’re fired: boss Philip Amps is the man in charge of the flames an almost identical tax value, while to £7.4 million. the duty on seized spirits amounted • It is estimated that 99% of MOG – material other than grapes – is removed at wineries prior to crushing. The most notorious From page 2 not a problem getting rid of stock. You just dump the price. Why would you sell crap to dump stock. We just turn it over.” Owner Richard Meadows agrees. “It’s till because obviously the name of the wine comes up on the screen,” says Blair. warehouse in the north of the Scottish The retailer, which also operates a “We suggest to them not to look at the stock at full retail? You just wouldn’t. We’re in the luxurious position of not ever having The mystery wine changes each month, capital, says the mystery wine scheme is a way of highlighting a wine each month deserves”. components of MOG include twigs, insects, mice, birds and even snakes. • The coffin of Ahmed Pochee, the maverick founder of Oddbins who in the back of his beloved delivery Kenyan jungle. with customers encouraged to take it home and taste it blind – tearing just the top off the wine so that the label is not revealed. sometimes a few tasting description are also written on the wrapping. The colour of the wine is made clear, and “that we think doesn’t get the attention it by Corks Out, which invites attendees at wine in a blind tasting. its customer events to identify a particular wins the taster a magnum. The most accurate answer on the night The mystery wine idea is also employed died in 1998, was taken to his funeral van. He had previously survived both meningitis and a plane crash in the THE WINE MERCHANT NoVEMBER 2014 3

[close]

p. 4

New store is grist to Barrica’s mill Barrica Wines is opening a second branch after being offered a groundfloor unit at Botany Bay, a retail development near the M61 in Chorley, Lancashire. store operates from a farm retail complex in Samlesbury, about 10 miles away, has Botany Bay is based in a mill building, also acquired a small wholesale business. built in 1855 as part of the areas’s cotton industry. It was converted to retail use in 1995, with shops on five floors. floor where their artisan bakery is doing really well and there’s a big ice cream parlour in there too,” says Cuthbertson. “Initially we’ll have 250 to 300 wines in Owner Jane Cuthbertson, whose original way to do that is getting everyone to do a little bit of everything at both stores. But I’m also going to take on a full-timer and part-timer.” a wholesale business. The guy who did the wholesaling has come to work with me. We only had about five accounts and now we’ve got about 30 pubs and restaurants. be running it from there.” Site is “certainly in play”, says Applejack Cuthbertson adds: “We’ve also taken on “The new shop also has storage so we’ll Thorold not sold Thorold Wines in south London is remaining under its current ownership at least until the new year. had appeared to be finalised (The Wine no agreement has yet been reached. A deal with The Salusbury Wine Store Meat and drink It’s the end of an era on Orkney, where John Scott & Miller has closed a business that has been serving the local community since the late 19th century. and nursery equipment, the shop has In addition to specialising in Calor Gas “It’s really exciting. We’re on the ground Merchant, September). But Adrian Parker, “They [Salusbury] have expressed an traditionally offered a broad range of wines and spirits. The family owners could not drinks element of their trade. find a buyer for the business as a whole but two local entrepreneurs have taken on the fishmonger Jollys of Orkney, and Thorfinn Craigie, owner of Craigies butchers. Both businesses now share a unit called The Brig Larder with the renamed Scott & Miller’s wine shop. Graeme Wright, who managed the They are George Stout, owner of of Thorold owner Applejack Trading, says interest and carried out a lot of behind- there. It’s just a bit smaller than our first shop. We’ve got 600 square feet and the the-scenes work to obtain this site, but at present things are on hold,” he explains. to restore the image of our premises. new shop is 500-and-something. There are a lot of coach trips to Botany Bay so we’re going to focus a lot on wine-related gifts residential development round there.” to do a bit extra. I want some sort of The expansion has obvious staffing and accessories but also looking to build up the local trade because there’s quite a lot of implications. “The existing staff are going continuity between the two and the best guidance and we have had a minor revamp in play, as we wish to move on early next gained and a new lease is ready for the site.” • The Wine Company, which recently relocated its retail business from Colchester to Dedham in Essex, has renamed its shop Wheelers Wine Cellar. The store is open from Wednesday to Saturday, and on Sunday throughout December. “The store continues to trade under my year. Certain planning approvals have been “However in terms of a sale it is certainly original wine department at John Scott & and retains his buying responsibility. “The new place is only 70 yards up the Miller, has transferred to the new business road,” he says. “It’s a first for this neck of the woods to have such a good array of food retailers under one roof.” The entire range of products listed by John Scott & Miller is on offer at The Brig but not massively so,” says Wright. John Scott & Miller finally closed on Larder. “We might end up with slightly less, October 5. “It was a day of mixed emotions Cuthbertson: new wholesale business • Wine & Wallop, a new wine bar in West wines for take-home consumption as well as for enjoying on the premises. The bar, which is owned by Justin Parkinson, occupies a unit formerly occupied by a video rental store. Didsbury, Cheshire, is now open and selling but we were left so touched by so many came to visit us,” says Rob Miller. wonderful comments from everyone who THE WINE MERCHANT NoVEMBER 2014 4

[close]

p. 5

sponsored editorial W e had a really good response to this year’s promotion: more than 50 merchants We’re going to Chile! got right behind their Chilean ranges throughout September. interesting, quirky and innovative methods in their campaigns. The winners were chosen for these reasons as well as for increasing their Chilean line-ups, achieving a rise in like-for-like sales of Chilean wines … and the sheer energy and enthusiasm that they showed for Chile. Taurus Wines – Guildford Dedicated a lot of time to getting under the skin of Chilean wines by research, including winemaker tastings at Wines catalogue presenting wines by variety; each page had a producer overview. of the Beautiful South. Created a Chilean Creatively used the POS that WoC provided; held a consumer event where homemade empanadas and Pisco Sours were served customers to trade up. Chilean sales doubled during the promotion. The Wine Reserve – Cobham Again really dedicated time to along with some great wines, encouraging So many wine merchants used new, Wines of Chile UK director Anita Jackson reveals the five winners of the Independent Wine Merchant Awards, who will be off to Chile next month – and the runners-up who will each receive £500 Chilean wine were up by more than £2,500. McAlindon Wines – Belfast Reflected great enthusiasm: held a a mixed case offering, and ran two Good use of POS. customers. Nice use of POS within store, 1,986%. understanding Chilean wines, increasing use of POS; also played Chilean music in the store, and ensured their staff were their range from 19 wines to 28. Creative fully trained for the promotion. Had a very strong social media and online campaign, were up by £2,000 over the month. and regular tastings. Sales of Chilean wine Hercules Wine Warehouse – Sandwich Created their own POS as well as using known varietals, heavily promoted the WoC’s. Increased the range with lesser- and strong website information. Achieved a stunning year-on-year sales increase of Runners-up This was tough as all merchants presented very strong in-depth reports and organised fun activities and well-run promotions. We decided to extend the runners-up prizes to six retailers instead of five: Bottle Shop, St Andrews, Fife; Park Vintners, Wimbledon Park; The Merchants. Wine Centre, Colchester, Essex; Cambridge Wine Wine Merchants, Huddersfield; Luvians Corkscrew Wines, Carlisle; Hoults winemaker tasting and supper, created competitions to win a case of Chilean wine on their website, Facebook and in-store. Stone Vine & Sun – Twyford Substantially increased their already eclectic range of Chilean wines, and new range, and also focused on regionality. Offered a range of chilled Chilean wines. Strong social media campaign, use of Regular newsletters and in-store tastings. produced an in-depth brochure to inform their customers about the wines. Also held a dedicated consumer evening, listed three new wines exclusive to SVS, and sent a detailed list of Chilean wine six-second tasting notes on video. Sales of recommendations to their list of on-trade THE WINE MERCHANT NoVEMBER 2014 5

[close]

p. 6

tried & Tested Domaine de l’Agly Les Impressions 2010 A Côtes du Roussillon Villages wine made from oldand packed with liquorice, blackcurrant and burnt RRP: £17 ABV: 14% vine fruit, described by one taster as a “pungent little number”. It’s robust yet smooth, with yielding tannins, with meat on the table and a howling wind outside. Las Bodegas (01435 874772) lasbodegas.co.uk La Rioja Alta Vina Alberdi Reserva 2007 There’s an air of excitement here, right from the off: aromas of old boxes in mysterious shops and the promise of goodies lurking within. The winery uses its own coopers, applying light toast to the American oak, wine and its almost effortless lightness. RRP: £16.99 ABV: 13.5% Armit Wines (020 7908 0690) armitwines.co.uk caramel flavours. A wine that really comes into its own which suits the simple purity of the 100% Tempranillo Thistledown Thorny Devil Grenache 2013 Thistledown sources its fruit from the Barossa, McLaren Vale and Langhorne Creek. Although it wants each parcel to have a sense of place, it’s keen to mix wine, seasoned with mostly old oak. RRP: £15.99 ABV: 15% Alliance Wine (01505 506060) alliancewine.co.uk grapes from old and younger vines, whether they’re of the bush or trellised variety. A powerful but elegant Mas Cal Demoura L’Infidele 2011 When we say this reminded us of blackberries and plums with custard, it’s meant as a compliment. The fruit (a blend of Syrah, Grenache, Carignan and with the oak in a full-bodied, autumnal wine. The RRP: £19.90 ABV: 14% estate, created by Languedoc pioneer Jean-Pierre Alliance Wine (01505 506060) alliancewine.co.uk Cinsault from Terrasses du Larzac) blends beautifully Julien, will be certified organic from the 2012 vintage. Domaine Rewa Riesling 2012 Rewa is a tiny private biodynamic vineyard in Central Otago. Although this is certainly off-dry, with 20g of features. There are all kinds of fruity fragrances beautifully clean-cut. RRP: £21 h2vin.co.uk residual sugar, the minerality is one of its most striking jostling for position, and the flavours seem to change as you attempt to pin them down, but the finish is ABV: 11.2% H2Vin (020 3478 7376) Guinot Bulle Cremant de Limoux NV Fruity flavours are to the fore here, with floral and honeyed notes also in the mix. But as the bottle empties you gradually pick out other elements: the well as an aperitif. RRP: £13.99 unitywine.co.uk almonds, butter and vanilla all become obvious once ABV: 12% you tune into them. A crowd-pleasing wine that works Unity Wine (+33 468 43 59 48) Gibson Bridge Reserve Pinot Gris 2013 This is a wine that’s all about texture, thanks largely to the lees. “Is it oaked?” asked one taster, a fair question given the creamy depth to the mouthfeel (it isn’t). peachy flavours and a sprinkle of spice. RRP: £23 ABV: 13% Gibson Bridge UK (07809 727001) gibsonbridge.co.uk Made by Howard and Julie Simmons at their boutique vineyard in Renwick, Marlborough, it’s full of warm Eagles’ Nest Shiraz 2011 This estate is nestled in the foothills of Table Mountain where the maritime influence tempers the lingering in the background, but it’s the cherry and pepper flavours that stay with you. The long hang time and ripe tannins contribute towards a rich, savoury wine with terrific length. RRP: £30 ABV: 14.5% dreyfus-ashby.co.uk Dreyfus Ashby (01636 858774) South African heat. There’s a familiar Cape smokiness THE WINE MERCHANT NoVEMBER 2014 6

[close]

p. 7

why not recommend something a little less ordinary? YOUR CUSTOMERS NEED WINE STORAGE; • The right conditions • Space to store large amounts of wine • A commission scheme to thank you for introducing us to the client • An opportunity to help your customers keep their cellars stocked up Wine cellars less ordinary TEL: 020 7101 7928 . MARKETING@SPIRALCELLARS.COM Welcome to the Family... Founded in 1896 in Ollauri, Rioja Alta, Federico Paternina's wine cellar is one of the big classics of Rioja. In 2014, Paternina joined the premium Marqués de la Concordia Family of Wines, owner of Spain’s finest estates since 1812. Part of the Marqués de la Concordia Family of Wines, Paternina is represented in the UK by Ehrmanns who strategically targets and distributes the range through the Independent Trade Channel. Welcome to the Family. Tel: 020 3227 0700 Email: info@ehrmanns.co.uk

[close]

p. 8

bits & BOBs FAVOURITE THINGS Chris Hill Latitude Wines Leeds Pubs think big over wine sales Pubs are encouraging customers to drink larger glasses of wine, according to a report commissioned by Direct Line insurance. It found that 84% charge less for a 250ml measure than for two 125ml glasses. The report said: “Our study amongst Magpie cities as Melnik, Petrich, Karabunar, Rusensky and Shumen Province. Decanter, October 13 Burgas, Harmanli and Beloved, as well as in Counting calories Wines, beers and spirits should be labelled with their calorific value to help combat the obesity epidemic, according to the Royal Society for Public Health. on the subject and found that 80% did not wine. The organisation polled 2,000 people Favourite wine on my list Everyone knocks it but Prosecco has probably try and save something from Favourite food and wine match Champagne with fish and chips on a Billecart-Salmon Blanc de Blanc Priorat. the shop was burning down I would been very good for our business. If non-chain pubs across the UK found that glass of wine and of those that said they listed anywhere on the menu.” The Drinks Business, October 24 15% would not serve customers a 125ml would, 29% admitted this measure was not know the calorie content of a large glass of to decide by December whether to put drinks. The Guardian, October 31 of washing up, is one of the few perks of Favourite wine trip too bad, particularly lunch overlooking wine trip I’ve ever been on has been awesome. I’d like more please … Favourite wine trade person Tuscany last year with Liberty wasn’t the job. inappropriate night, with the minimum Monday night. Expensive wine on an nutritional labels, including calories, on The European Commission has promised Wine for hippos People over 60 who drink a glass of wine a day have significantly better Say when Fontodi’s vineyards. In fact, every Italian memories than those who drink more excessively, or who do not drink at all. the universities of Texas, Kentucky and not benefit in the same way. Research conducted by researchers at Bulgaria to bulge As many as 11 new wineries will be built in Bulgaria in the next few years as a result of foreign investment. Bulgarian State Agency on Winegrowing & Winemaking, said the planned new wineries will mainly be built in the southern part of Bulgaria within such Krasimir Koev, executive director of the We’ve had a lot of support from an awful lot of trade people over the years, for which I am very grateful. It’s nearly impossible to single out just one. Favourite wine shop Maryland found that younger drinkers do that moderate alcohol consumption may Findings from animal studies suggest help to preserve hippocampal volume – the area of the brain critical for memory – by The Telegraph, October 24 promoting generation of new nerve cells. The Wine Merchant is mailed freely to the owners of the UK’s 745 independent wine by Graham Holter. Printed by East Print. © Graham Holter Ltd 2014 England: No 6441762 shops. Except one, and that’s deliberate. Edited Registered in VAT 943 8771 82 year before we opened, was the one that inspired what I do now. But if I were a Russian multi-millionaire, I too would open something like Hedonism. The Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant in San Francisco, which I visited in 2007, a www.winemerchantmag.com 01323 370451 Twitter: @WineMerchantMag winemerchantmag@gmail.com THE WINE MERCHANT NoVEMBER 2014 8

[close]

p. 9

merchant profile: vinomondo Julie Mills: “I have a one-week holiday once a year. “The industry is crap for online retail. Everything that you can Why would I do that if I didn’t love this business?” possibly imagine can be wrong is wrong.” A world of difference Julie Mills has completely reshaped the north Wales wine business she bought in 2008, moulding it in her own image. It reflects her love of both commercial and “funky” wines and her passion for sharing knowledge with customers – and also offers an impressive range of beers and olive oil J ulie Mills turned her passion for wine from an interest into a career when she bought Conwy Fine Wines in might regard as one of the highest-margin considerably tighter. “I didn’t realise quite how low the North Wales in 2008. businesses around to one where things are margins were,” she jokes. in the town, whose 13th century walls Anita Mannion was upping sticks to the English Midlands – where she went on to open Leamington Wine Co – and Mills, who’d moved to the Conwy area opportunity. Two years after it had opened, owner were built by Edward I and whose castle shop is small but perfectly formed in a The business actually occupies two sites livery, much of its product range and the parochial name in favour of the more in Italian it should be Mondovino, but switched it round.” Mills ditched the original shop’s purple is a UNESCO world heritage site. The main unit on the High Street, handily opposite world of butchers – Edwards of Conwy. A couple of hundred yards away is a the world famous butcher – at least in the second shop selling wine accessories and Continues page 10 and was a customer of the shop, saw an globally aware Vinomondo. “To be correct it didn’t quite have the ring,” she says. “Vinomondo sounded better so we just no qualms about moving from what many Mills was a Liverpool plumber and had housing a tasting room and wine academy THE WINE MERCHANT NoVEMBER 2014 9

[close]

p. 10

merchant profile: vinomondo From page 9 which delivers WSET courses. while championing further outposts of the spot at the moment. So, any regrets about ditching the high world of wine. Greece is a particular sweet margins? “No, because this business is The range is sharp on classic regions We’ll take a chance on funky wines and maybe sell two in a year, but who cares? Where did your interest in drinks come from? Was it family or travelling? Well, yes, travelling; a lot of holidays all over the world, and I just became really range massively. We added, overnight, 50 new wines, and since then, we’ve added another 87 wines. We generally stock whiskies and spirits. a minimum of 300 beers from around fun. I’m never going to get rich from it, so it? I ask the question of lots of miserable are you doing it? Just stop’.” if I’m not going to enjoy it why would I do shopkeepers: ‘If you’re not enjoying it, why interested in what people could offer me. When I took over here, I developed the the world. We normally have 200 to 300 If I had visited in 2006 and was coming in again today, would I recognise the place or has it changed dramatically? No, you wouldn’t recognise it. The place is There are a lot more boutiquey, small vineyard wines. very different. The wines are very different. We tried to strip it back and to make it a little bit more interesting and to challenge our customers. We put wines on the shelf that we absolutely love, regardless of whether it’s a commercial wine. If we love that’s a very exciting wine and they have to try it. it, it goes on the shelf and that’s that. Then, it’s up to us to convince our customers that To be able to bridge the gap between a commercial wine and a really interesting, good wine is incredibly difficult and it’s quite a skill. How do you achieve that, then? Fortunately for me, I’m blessed with a more commercial palate than I am a fine wine palate. Even though I might try something a little bit obscure, as long as I know that it has that ring about it and that taste and then it gets listed. Then, we take a chance on one or two quite funky wines. Maybe Spain, Portugal and Greece are the current favourites in the Vinomondo wine range nose that I know my customers will enjoy, we’ll sell two in a year, but who cares, heaven for us. because every minute of that sale will be THE WINE MERCHANT NoVEMBER 2014 10

[close]

p. 11

really interesting, obscure, funky wines in for people to taste to encourage them to play around and push their own palate. Can packaging play a part? When we do our tastings, we’ll bring Packaging does play a part. Any wine of French wines because, on the whole, I £15 and above needs to look pretty smart. think the labels are quite poor, and when let themselves down. Our sales of French driven by the way they look, quite often, and the perceived value in the wine. What’s the make-up of your range? We do have quite a big French selection for quite a traditional base of customers that Portugal … Portugal is huge. we’ve got here, but really probably Spain, love Portugal. We’ve got 10 wines listed about to list another five, which is quite small. I think it’s a problem with some of the somebody is paying £15 to £25 for just an everyday drinking wine from France, they wine have really fallen away, and it is, sadly, Julie Mills says the store is “unrecognisable” from the business she acquired in 2008 Well, we do a tasting a week. Not in store. In our Wine Academy, with whatever we fancy putting on, or it may well actually be a region. One a week is a massive investment. We have been rewarded over the last We do the Wine & Spirit Education Trust courses there and we educate our customers there. They’re not really customers. Most of them are friends. I think the fact that we give them an education and we show them and tell them what’s out there has really opened many wines can be, to be fair. They want to be enlightened. They’re of our customers’ eyes to how good these eager to understand more about wines. They don’t want to drink another from somewhere else. something that’s a little bit similar but from Portugal at the moment. We’re just a big Portuguese selection in a shop this We all love Portugal and our customers three years with continued growth in sales because of it and a drive into the business that otherwise would have fallen away without a doubt, because I’ve seen it with other shops. The economy at the Customers would have drifted. those tastings, we would have lost sales. moment is in such a bad way that without the Riojas into the more interesting Priorat interesting there. We don’t do too badly on Italy, but I have kinds of wines and trying to find something to say our strong points, probably at the moment, are Portugal, Spain and a few I just think the quality of a lot of the Spanish wines: we’re moving away from marvellous Sauvignon Blanc. They want It’s great to be able to walk around the Are these free events or do people pay? Some of them are free, but most of them show less than seven or eight wines, so they’re good value. are £5 or £10, so it’s great value. We never Greek wines that sell phenomenally well. ancient vine wines, and to have them shop and pick six or seven wines that are going to give them same satisfaction, but maybe a little bit more unusual for them. Continues page 12 Greek wines is great. We’ve got some really on the shelf at £17 a bottle. Some of the oldest vines in the world producing just not be a bargain? What happens at the wine academy? spectacular wine at £17.99 a bottle: how can that not be worth buying? How can it You said that it was your job to convince customers. How do you convince them? Fortunately for me I’m blessed with a more commercial palate than a fine wine palate THE WINE MERCHANT NoVEMBER 2014 11

[close]

p. 12

merchant profile: vinomondo From page 11 Is Conwy a wealthy town? It is a wealthy town. There are a lot of retired people here. They’re the typical – and I don’t even like using this word anymore – claret drinkers. They would want a Bordeaux or perhaps a big Rioja. We have 35 gins in our gin palace … it looks like a tart’s boudoir, to be honest with them as they’d rather have a conversation … You can’t always do that. I think that’s a lazy merchant, to be honest. A “gin palace”? We have 35 gins, all with different tonic so, grapes, samphire grass or rosemary. inside and a chandelier. It looks like a but all served with different ingredients; It’s just a big tent. It’s all velvet curtains Does that offer you an opportunity with “Fine Wine” with a big F and a big W; the very top-end stuff? No, it’s not something that we would generally buy a lot of. Around Christmas a bottle, nothing over that, and they will all sell. they need them, but there’s not really a market for that type of wine here. What’s your sweet spot on prices? I would say about £8 to £14. Most people because the tourists will come and get don’t buy anything under £8. We have them time, we probably will. We’ll load up with 30 or 40 cases of wines from £60 to £200 in there has to be changed. Probably twice a year they have to be changed for price changes or variations in wine. If you don’t offer the customer These are really hard work. Every vintage tart’s boudoir, to be honest. It’s a proper weddings and people hire it. 5,000 visitors. We order wines for people as and when something, how can you sell unusual wine? They’ll walk into a shop and think, “I don’t know what I’m looking at. I have no idea what a white Sangiovese is.” They’re all our own notes. We don’t lift old-fashioned gin palace look, with heavy drapes. We take it to shows, we take it to our first one last year. We had just over That you hosted? That we organised and hosted on the waterfront here. The very first one. It’s were desperate to come back and do it We have a wine and jazz festival. We did them off anywhere. I think you would be mad not to engage in some way with a embarrassed. customer on that level. Some customers don’t want to talk to you because they feel of information goes a very long way, which if they can keep the label. What do you say? To be able to just give people a little bit booked again for June next year. All of the because everybody had such a good time. bands are booked and all of the stallholders is why quite often they come to the counter with the bottle with the label on and ask us How much do you market the business? It sounds like you’re making an effort to get out there and spread the word. We advertise in the Welsh Coastal mouth. Magazine. A huge amount is word of A lot of wine merchants say they rely on word of mouth, but they don’t do any other marketing. Oh no, no, we do other things. We massively rely on Facebook and Twitter. Social media is enormous for us, and advertising in magazines, but, predominantly, getting out of here and being at local events, being at shows, even if we don’t make any money. We do a lot of social events and a lot of food festivals around north Wales, country “Yes, go on then,” through gritted teeth. Do you sell by mail order, or online? Not with wine. I just don’t think it’s worth tightly and they do so well with a massive marketing budget. I don’t think it’s worth selling the wine online, apart from some are gifts, because we’ve got a gift shop up gifts and things like that. We do a lot of events. We have a gin it. I think the big boys have got it covered so them for barbecues, but we don’t really sell a lot of them. just under £10 at the moment. Our average price per bottle is probably oddments and things. What we tend to sell the road where we sell quite unusual wine palace that we take on the road. You’re keen on the tasting notes. Some merchants say they don’t bother THE WINE MERCHANT NoVEMBER 2014 12

[close]

p. 13

The Vinomondo beer range is likely to double to 500 next year. The store has its own brand – and its own Greek olive oil fundraising. We are just sending a local pensioner over to South Africa to put a headstone on his daughter’s grave. I heard his story in the street one afternoon and set up a charity called the “Headstone £3,000 to visit South Africa. on the website? Beer. Lovely, lovely beer, because we love so they’re entitled to a discount in store. We are selling as much beer as we are beer. Customers get special offers from us, wine, so we decided to increase it, and in us close to 500. I decided that the customers and the staff here would do something about it, so we Fund” and we’ve just presented him with What’s the Hop Circle that you mention world. We’ve had an American brewer and a brewer from Bavaria. Hop Circle members to produce a beer and they produced this fantastic beer called Dr Jekyll’s Last Waltz. We launched a competition with our of the top shelf and the front stands are permanently devoted to Welsh beers. good; Welsh gin; Welsh vodka; Welsh whisky; and Welsh liqueurs. Caernarfon, which is actually surprisingly We’ve got Welsh wine from Pant Du in You sell olive oil with your own name on it. Have you got local olive groves? They’re Greek olive oil, which is the best in the world. There’s nothing that touches it at all. I have a friend that imports it for me come back and have it refilled. impressive. We’ve got some great products and all and we store it. We have great big vats of it. It’s bottled and sold as Vinomondo. People Your range of Welsh drinks is You come across like you really love your work and you’re having the time of your life. I wouldn’t want to do anything else. If I wine or beer or spirits. Yes, it’s my life. I love it. We have fun. It’s really, really hard work. I can’t have a holiday, it’s to find out more about the New Year we’re going to try and double our range of beers again, which will push We sell a huge amount from all over remember working less than 60 hours a that if I didn’t love this business? week in the last four years. I have a one- week holiday once a year. Why would I do the world; a lot of Welsh ones. We’re very proud of our Welsh beers. and we have brewers from all over the We meet once a month. We taste beers We massively rely on Facebook and Twitter THE WINE MERCHANT NoVEMBER 2014 13

[close]

p. 14

just williams The future can be better As the big grocers are sucked nearer to crisis point, there’s a real opportunity for independent merchants to capitalise not only on what already sets them apart – but also the ethics of their trading I n Cloud Atlas author David Mitchell’s latest fictional romp through an alternative reality, Bone Clocks, a hellish near-future Europe is in the throes of some kind of catastrophic climate change-driven meltdown. Fuel is so scarce that cars and public transport are an unthinkable luxury and electricity is only sporadically available. The internet has all but disappeared. Gangs of armed youths of murderous intent are – anything they can lay their hands on. Militantly intolerant forms of religion or medical care depends on the profitstate. liable to turn up at any moment to plunder your food, livestock, solar panels, daughter thrive. Any semblance of security, stability driven whims of the all-powerful Chinese Independents tend to have “saner, more humane” relationships with their suppliers Clocks gets its chilling plausibility (and its satirical cutting edge) by taking elements of contemporary life and pursuing them to their logical conclusion, describing would be for our future day-to-day in intimate detail what the implications As with all good speculative fiction, Bone dates and buffalo mozzarella,” one of Mitchell’s characters says. used to be: where you get everything, bar our modified prams, pushchairs and old supermarket trolleys, we’re a hungrysix years ago.” the basics found in the ration boxes. With “Now the market’s what the supermarket apply in Mitchell’s books, where everything seems to happen for some cosmic or karmic reason), I finished reading Bone Clocks on the day that Tesco announced the news of its notorious missing £250 million (or is that now £263 million? Who knows, Tesco sure doesn’t seem to). its ongoing investigation to pin the blame for the overstated profits on the errant rather than its entire way of corporate plainly more fundamental. This is a story of a business that Although the retailer would clearly like By chance (a concept that doesn’t really existence. Mitchell is very convincing at up the experience of what amounts to a Coast Ireland in 2043. “When I first moved to the Sheep’s this sort of minutiae, not least in conjuring shopping expedition in apocalyptic West looking, unshaven, comestic-less, jumblesale parody of a Lidl or Tesco only five or cheap Chinese shampoo, or bags of seaweed salt for un-dyed wool and As they barter homegrown eggs for Head peninsula 25 years ago, a West Cork and jam for the craic, West Cork hippies incomes bought organic pesto, Medjool market was where local women sold cakes Dutch tourists and people on middle-class homemade potcheen, Mitchell’s characters are filled with a nostalgic longing for took for granted, were maybe even a something that until very recently they behaviour of a handful of head-office staff life, the immediate cause of the incident is routinely abuses its power over its tried to sell sculptures of the Green Man to little hostile towards: a supermarket, any supermarket, would be better than this. suppliers, and that came to rely on the THE WINE MERCHANT NoVEMBER 2014 14 sweating of suppliers for listing fees and

[close]

p. 15

David Williams is wine critic for The Observer bonuses to compensate for its falling sales. bookkeeping notwithstanding – is most of unsavoury trading practices that the business world, if not consumers, has certainly not unique to Tesco, and whose It’s also a story that – overambitious coffee, from maize to soya, from dairy to fish.” Or indeed, wine. increasingly unpredictable harvests and and is living on borrowed time. The big emerges to replace it be any better, any more ethical? In an age of spiraling oil costs, environmental impact, not to mention a far-from-transparent corporate structure. As Lawrence says, they are no more than a “part of the unsustainable late period of better future”. Big Retail, skirmishing on their battlefield Much hope is invested, then, in small roots go much deeper even than the kind known about for years. Dig a little deeper struggling to cope with the very same climate change. global problems that inspired Mitchell’s speculative world: the looming crisis of diminishing resources, in other words, Big question remains, however: will whatever I’m not so sure. Certainly if, as many are Retail is evidently no longer fit for purpose while the rest of us fight our way back to a independent retailers. Most shoppers (every little helps) and you’ll find a sector suggesting, the leaner, more cost-efficient German discounters carry on eating into point where they’ve effectively replaced be celebrating. the British Big Four’s market share to the know a good indie will have better, more responsibly produced stock. That they have saner, more humane relationships with their suppliers and customers is also matters, however: well, I’m not convinced that indies are taking this any more seriously than the supermarkets – yet. is clear is that there is an opportunity and ask tough questions about the As life gets harder for Big Retail, what CERTAINLY THAT’S HOW many observers are interpreting the malaise at Tesco and the rest of the Big Four club of supermarkets. them, then, as a consumer, I for one will not ranges. For all their much-trumpeted Take for example the discounters’ wine axiomatic. When it comes to environmental author of the seminal anti-supermarket tract Shopped: the Shocking Power of Britain’s Supermarkets, explains in a perceptive article headlined “Why As Felicity Lawrence, retail analyst and recent improvements, I can’t see either Lidl or Aldi ever graduating beyond the point where they are now: doing just enough here, for those that are willing to adapt supermarkets are on the way out” in The Guardian: “Big Retail’s” business model was predicated on an era of cheap oil now with their multibillion-pound that “will never return. They are stuck ordering systems that depend on justprocessors to centralised distribution chains are throwing up problems as Big Retail’s business model was predicated on cheap oil the potential costs, it is, it seems to me, a a vital point of difference. commercial opportunity – out-greening the supermarkets can give enterprising indies sound, a moral opportunity – a chance to make a small but real difference, and to growing closer by the day. help ward off a future Bone Clocks-style dystopia that, to me at least, seems to be But it’s also, no matter how twee it may sustainability of their supply chain. Despite investment in sophisticated logistics and in-time buying, trucking food across the centres to stores – burning fuel on each globe – from farms to a handful of megaleg of the journey. Almost all their supply to claim, as the recent Lidl ad campaign essentially did, that “some of our wines a recipe for future nostalgic longing for Tesco. no more than a tweak of the moribund Big Retail model, with lower choice aren’t as bad as you might think”. This is More importantly, the discounters offer climate change bites and global population growth increases demand – from cocoa to and costs, but an equally poor record in both supplier and labour relations and THE WINE MERCHANT NoVEMBER 2014 15

[close]

Comments

no comments yet