THE WINE MERCHANT.
An independent magazine for independent retailers Issue 33, February 2015
It’s back, and twice as big: see page 37 for details
Independents ‘must pay to quote Parker scores’
Retailers who quote scores and tasting notes from Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate are being warned they have to pay for the privilege. subscription, at $199 per store, in order to borrow quotes from Parker or any of the Wine Advocate’s seven other reviewers, or Shop in west London has been contacted have a commercial licence to do so. Mark Wrigglesworth of The Good Wine even to quote the points that wines receive. by the publisher and asked to stop quoting Wrigglesworth says: “I am somewhat Shops must obtain a commercial something that is in the public domain.” talkers and other marketing material is an issue that can create headaches for independents. Although Matthew Jukes argues that Using the words of wine critics on shelf-
BYO, bistros, works of art and cryptic clues
4 comings & GOINGS
Parker points are in the public domain, he himself charges for the use of material he and Direct Wines for using his quotes his words to be used in marketing. meanwhile, do not charge a fee. • Full story: pages 22 to 24. Anthony Rose and Victoria Moore,
Martinez and Vagabond on the expansion trail
6 tried & TESTED
self-publishes on his website. Martin Isark, without permission, demands £15,000 for
who has taken legal action against Majestic
A lot of New Zealand and a little bit of Monkhouse
11 merchant profile
Parker reviews on his website as he does not surprised that it is possible to to copyright
Harper Wells: now normal for Norfolk
16 david williams
“My heroic struggle to love difficult wines”
26 FOCUS ON SPAIN
Why so many indies are taking the road less travelled
32 FOCUS ON AUSTRALIA
The positive effects of the soaring Aussie dollar
40 SUPPLIER BULLETIN
Essential updates from leading agents and importers
48 make a date
Coravin, the American invention that allows access to the wine inside a bottle without removing the cork and without causing oxidisation, is hoping to recruit UK independents to act as sales agents. Full details on pages 38 and 39.
It’s time to recharge that Oyster card
“They all sell wine themselves but they I’d make it into 1996. We’ve done really well and when you turn a hobby into a
are happy to do this because it’s a good it really helps them.”
driver for quieter days,” says Fong. “Bistro
Union is completely packed on Sundays so
business it doesn’t really feel like work.”
Angry name for wine puzzle (9)
an online crossword competition.
You can’t say Regency Wines is clueless about web content – it’s just introduced Owners Ian and April Marks have added
Dining out on BYO promotions
London wine shop chain Bottle Apostle is chalking up extra midweek wine sales by linking up with local restaurants for bring-your-own promotions. partnerships with restaurants close to its receipt. The chain has instigated a number of
Fong: helping restaurants on quiet days
a monthly PDF wine-related puzzle to their site, after discovering that a neighbour had produced a whole book of them in 1996. the book published after combining his of Jules Feraud Champagne for the first Now-retired farmer Derek Court had
favourite hobbies of wine and crosswords. winning entry it receives for each puzzle. because the questions are very much of that the shop is still waiting for its first completed entry. answers.” “They are very hard to do,” he adds. their time,” says Ian Marks, who reveals “It’s very interesting trying to do them The Exeter merchant is offering a bottle
shops, inviting diners to buy wines in-store and get free corkage when presenting their what we carry and will know the wine was bought from us,” says marketing manager Miranda Fong. “The partnerships are bought from us.” exclusive, so the offers only apply to wines to the partner venue. A January promotion with tapas joint Bar Esteban near the the range, excluding fortifieds. its Sunday Supper Club. Crouch End shop covered just Iberian wines, but others are for any bottle from offer to tie in with a three-course menu at Apostle BYO deal on every third Tuesday. Maynard Arms in Crouch End on The chain also teams up with The The Bistro Union in Clapham runs the The format of the deal varies according “In practice, a lot of them are aware of
Auction stations for anniversary
Cumbrian wine merchant Richardsons of Whitehaven is lining up a charity wine auction as part of its 20th anniversary celebrations in 2015. Oz Clarke to front the event which will raise money for the shop’s regular good causes – community,” says Richardson, who also “We like to put a lot back into the local armed forces’ and children’s charities. organises a home and garden show, a film festival and a Christmas fair in the town. Owner Gerard Richardson is recruiting
“Even I find them hard – and I’ve got the
at 1995 prices were shelved after realising that Cloudy Bay was £7 a bottle when the business started, Richardson says. adds, “but really the shop is interesting enough that it doesn’t need gimmicks.” shop. “We decided it would be a bad idea,” he
Plans to mark the 20th with a promotion
Nearby Abbeville Kitchen has the Bottle
Wednesdays and The Empress in Hackney on Tuesdays and for a special threecourses-for-£20 menu every six weeks.
Sellafield nuclear plant to start the wine
Richardson left his job as a fireman at the “I would have been happy to know that
The Wine Merchant is again supporting Independent Buyers Day, a tasting event in London on March 19 aimed at specialist merchants. See page 29 for more information about this year’s show.
THE WINE MERCHANT February 2015 2
Aah, bistro! Novel idea for refurb
The refurbishment of an historic Midlands wine store will result in part of it being transformed into a 26-cover bistro. Stour will hand operation of the restaurant to a local couple as a separate business entity. customers will still be able to choose a director Peter Creek. “They’ll have their own wine list but Sheldon’s Wine Cellars of Shipston-on-
is being converted into living space.
my thinking slightly has been that for the Charles adds. “But I’m looking forward Saturday night.” to two-day weekends and going out on a
past three years, trade has been booming,”
“The only thing that made me doubt
A good palette
An artist has returned to a wine shop that once belonged to his family to help improve its image. replaced some old posters that adorned its walls with specially-commissioned work locally. by Dan Luckin, who works as a signwriter commissioned by current owner of the business, David Kelsey. Luckins in Great Dunmow, Suffolk, has
“Our Man with the Facts”
• The global wine industry churns out 5.3 million tons of carbon every year. It takes the European aviation total. industry 10 days to achieve the same • In his diary entry of April 10, 1663, Samuel Pepys refers to Haut-Brion book of 1660 calls it Hobriono. as Ho Bryan. King Charles II’s cellar • In November 2014, Joe Lentini of novice – ordered a bottle of 2011 dinner, misreading the price as restaurant settled for £2,200.
wine from the shop and enjoy it with their meal by paying a £10 corkage,” says retail in the shop on Friday nights before with deli boards but this will be a step up.” and is scheduled to open in April. “We have had our own in-house wine bar The bistro will be phase two of the refurb Phase one is due to complete by the end
The wine-themed original paintings were
of February and will see the creation of a
separate fine wine room within the shop, environment.
space for more craft gins, vodkas and single malts, and a more open customer shopping of a feature of our history, putting one of we used to bottle ourselves.” Creek adds: “We also want to make more
New Jersey – a self-confessed wine
our ledgers on display from 100 years ago and some of the old ports and clarets that
Screaming Eagle during a business $37.50. It actually cost $3,750. The • The Book of Jonah is the only no reference to wines or vines.
Charles and Adele Bennett are closing their Hanslope Wines business in Buckinghamshire and retiring. running this place for 28 years and I just fancy the idea of retiring,” Charles says. “I’m going to step away completely but I my own business any more.” am going to retain my personal licence just in case. But I’m certainly not going to run The shop, which adjoins the family home,
Other shops don’t get a Luckin
section of the Old Testament to make • In a study involving 54 oenology undergraduates at the University of Bordeaux in 2001, none of the participants noticed that the red wine they were asked to analyse wine they were being invited to appraise at the same time.
“I’ve been in the trade since 1970 and
was simply a dyed version of a white
THE WINE MERCHANT February 2015 3
Martinez sees pros in Con Club
The former Conservative Club in Bingley is being transformed into a wine bar and shop. specialising in Spanish and other European and plans to open in the spring. Owner Jonathan Cocker has been looking for a site for a second shop for two and a half years, partly as a safety net following Majestic’s arrival in Ilkley. “Actually they’ve had no effect on us,” he reports. “We were 2% Martinez Wines, the Ilkley independent
to change people’s perceptions of English wine.” facilitate tastings, meet-the-winemaker evenings and other events. Sharpham and more. The shop is licensed until 11pm to
“We’re very big on education. We want
Bolney, Bluebell, Hush Heath, Chapel Down,
Move to a more central location has paid off
The range features Digby, Camel Valley,
wines, has bought the Main Street premises
Flourish & Prosper has moved to a more central location in its home town of Howden in East Yorkshire. all its wines on one floor, increase its range of beer and spirits, and has a courtyard for on-premise consumption and events. Its cheese. Owner Sean Welsh says: “Sales in deli range has shrunk to focus on artisanal December were up 32% on the previous year. It really is all about location.” The new site enables the shop to display
Oliver gets more
A West Sussex wine merchant is upgrading its retail operation with a planned opening in early March. will include Wine Emotion machines and the current operation adjacent to its wholesale warehouse. Olivers Wine Warehouse in Copthorne
down last Christmas, which is neither here nor there. We’re quite pleased with that.” wine shop, supported by a wine bar, the While the Ilkley premise is primarily a
a coffee shop in a package that will replace The new-look store will be offering
Bingley branch will operate principally as a wine bar with a retail area attached. There is also an upstairs room that Cocker hopes eventually to turn into a function room for tastings. “We are doing very well – we’ve doubled turnover in five years and the wine bar has helped us put instant cash into the business and helped us to grow. “We don’t own the building at Ilkley “It was a natural move for us,” he says.
WSET courses in addition to its existing mix of wines, spirits and growlers of draught ales.
A shop specialising in English wines has opened at Cowdray Park, the country estate in West Sussex famed as a polo venue. is next to the estate’s farm shop and café open at any time. Customers can try free sample sizes or buy 125ml glasses. Heggie and English vineyard owner It is owned by former publican Iain The Exceptional English Wine Company
• The Pip Stop, currently selling wine online, is about to open its first retail the outskirts of Durham.
premises in a former Morgan car garage on • Vagabond Wines is opening its third Owner Stephen Finch is considering crowdfunding to finance a broader expansion of the business, with the
and we want some bricks and mortar to on to my kids when I retire.”
shop, in Old Spitalfields Market in London.
stabilise the business and to be able to pass
and includes a tasting bar with seven wines
possibility of stores outside London.
• Pukka Wines, which opened in the same road as Tanners in Shrewsbury in 2012, run by Dominico Dantonio, had diversified into offering Prosecco and seafood on the premises after abandoning wholesaling. • The Wine House of Penrith has closed was a former Threshers that had been independent since 2009.
Carolyn Butler and is being co-managed by another ex-pub owner James Hawkins. wineries. In Sussex alone there are 28 producers of sparkling wine.
Bingley site will focus on its wine bar offer
has closed its shop. The Wyle Cop business,
Hawkins, “with 470 vineyards and 130 “I think there will be more specialist
“The time is right for English wine,” says
shops like this and the Wine Pantry in Borough Market in future.
after failing to attract a buyer. The business
THE WINE MERCHANT February 2015 4
tried & Tested
Paddy Borthwick Paper Road Pinot Noir 2013
This 27-hectare Wairarapa estate was established in this particular blend of nine Pinot clones from two umami flavours and its minty clean finish. RRP: £14.99 ABV: 14% Armit Wines (020 7908 0690) armitwines.co.uk vineyard sites, aged for six months in barrel. But we enjoyed its simplicity and purity, its mouthwatering 1996. There are more premium wines available than
Domaine de la Motte Vau Ligneau Chablis 1er Cru 2012
It’s billed as a richer style of Chablis, made all the from 40-year-old vines on a small family estate. RRP: £15.99 ABV: 12.5% more luxurious by judicious oak ageing, but there’s an admirable straightforwardness to this wine, made
There’s a frisson of pepper on the palate; the finish is Boutinot (0161 908 1300) boutinot.com
as smooth as a mahogany figurine of Bob Monkhouse.
Litmus White Pinot 2011
There’s something deliciously contrary about white Pinot Noir, rather like a stadium rock band refusing to perform any of the hits, instead playing new material on acosutic guitars. This is one of the most Gabriel: a glorious melange of honey, toast, freshlyRRP: £27 ABV: 12.5% Litmus Wines (01306 879829) litmuswines.com
Julicher 99 Rows Pinot Noir 2012
Dutchman Win Julicher arrived in Martinborough in was shattered by the region’s frosts. So he turned to and cherry flavours and a crisp acidity. RRP: £20.50 ABV: 12% berkmann.co.uk 1972 with the dream of growing olives – a dream that viticulture, and produces great wines like this one: an earthy but fresh and juicy Pinot with a mixture of plum Berkmann Wine Cellars (020 7670 0972)
idiosyncratic things to come out of Surrey since Peter
snapped mangetout and cheese-and-pineapple sticks.
Holden Manz Visionaire 2012
You have to strap yourself in and sign a disclaimer Merlot, Shiraz, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Cabernet before you approach any blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Franc. This one, from Franschoek, was produced with the help of “cooling yet harrowing” south easterly and cassis flavours. Frightening but wonderful. RRP: £15 ABV: 14.5% Hennings Wine Merchants (01798 872485) henningswine.co.uk winds and combines thick black tar, dark chocolate
Yealands Estate Single Vineyard Gruner Veltliner 2014
The vines in this Awatere vineyard “battle against the elements” in the cause of human hedonism. The nose festooned with gooseberries, elderflower and even and glides to an exceptionally clean conclusion. RRP: £12.95 ABV: 13.5% Enotria (020 8961 4411) enotria.co.uk evokes early summer, and the palate is beautifully rich,
notes of fatty ham. But the finish is much more mineral,
Cypress Terraces Syrah 2012
The fruit comes from a north-facing terraced vineyard above the Gimblett Gravels. We’re a world away from Aussie Shiraz here: yes, there’s a liberal sprinkling of black pepper and some red fruit flavours, but this is essentially a savoury wine with brisk acidity and a pretty impressive. RRP: £28 taswines.co.uk ABV: 14%
Casa Silva Cabernet Sauvignon Carmenere 2013
How much can you realistically expect from Chilean wine at this price? Quite a lot, as it happens. Yes, there’s a very slight rasp that you might not get with with dense dark fruit and a smidgen of sage. Useful RRP: £7.49 jnv.co.uk ABV: 14% Jackson Nugent Vintners (020 8947 9722)
dusky, mysterious soul. The textured Pinot Gris is also The Antipodean Sommelier (01733 238942)
a £15 bottle, but the palate is rich and meaty, packed
proof, if you need it, that indies can offer great value.
THE WINE MERCHANT February 2015 6
The right (and left) choice
A chance to weigh up the relative merits of Left Bank and Right Bank Chablis was well attended by the UK trade as part of the recent Bourgogne Week in London. guests able to compare wines from “lefty” areas such as Vaillons and Montmains with the “righty” likes of Vaucoupin and Mont de Milieu. Françoise Roure (pictured), marketing The tasting put the focus on 2012 Premier Cru, with
communication manager for the Chablis Commission of the Bureau Interprofessionnel des Vins de Bourgogne, said: “We hope the event provided something for comparison certainly raised a few debates.” everyone and demonstrated the diversity Chablis
wines have to offer. The Right Bank v Left Bank tasting “very promising” for both quality and quantity despite unpredictable weather patterns through the growing season. It hopes that supplies will be sufficient for it to
The BIVB reports that the 2014 Chablis vintage looks
“regain control” after shortages of 2013 wines in some markets as a result of that year’s crop shortfall. with freshness, tension and good natural sugar”.
The body said it expected wines to “promise balance,
‘Gutsy and big-hearted’: the wine’s not bad either
A band composed of members of the wine trade will play a gig for Wine Relief at Vinopolis in London on March 9. coincides with the regional body’s annual tasting. members of Curiosity Killed the Cat and Gene. Wadsack and Charles Metcalfe. Skin Contact Live is being sponsored by Côtes du Rhône and
Richard Hemming, who will play keyboards alongside former There will be a series of guest vocalists including Joe
The supergroup was dreamt up by jancisrobinson.com writer
“We’re expecting something generous, gutsy and big hearted a range of Côtes du Rhône wines that could be described in exactly the same way.” Ticket details at skincontactlive.com.
from these two, and guests will have the opportunity to taste
Agnes Heller, export marketing manager at Inter-Rhone, said:
Hemming and Heller: victims of extremely crude Photoshopping
THE WINE MERCHANT February 2015 8
bits & BOBs FAVOURITE Row is bubbling
David Moore Camber Wines Portsmouth
Favourite wine on my list Enamore from Liberty. An Argentinian my daughter’s wedding day wine, the Favourite food and wine match Slow cooked pork belly with Gavi Nuovo Quadro on a white day and Amarone on Favourite wine trip Fernando de Castilla with Boutinot. An off 18 bottles of fino sherry in one day. Favourite wine trade person Good effort. tapas to die for. Twelve of us polished epic lunch at the Feria de Jerez with Jerez. Hosted by Jan Petterson at a red day. proudest day of my life. wine made using the appassimento
over UK Prosecco
Producers of Prosecco are demanding Britons start enjoying their fizzy wine by the bottle instead of on tap in a row over how it is sold in bars. raised the issue with its British The Italian government has already
Chateau Online (renamed Ares) and Cave wines purchased en primeur. Decanter, January 12 Privee businesses – owed millions of euros Heracles –which included the 1855, to creditors and buyers who never received claims totalling more than €40 million. Around 11,000 creditors have submitted
counterparts and it is expected to be raised again in the Italian parliament following a British media report over the soaring popularity of Prosecco on tap.
It’s story time
Wine writers who tell stories are changing the role of the wine critic, according to Mark Andrew of Roberson. correspondents Eric Asimov and Alice new type of wine commentator. crutch”. Andrew singled out New York Times
technique. A union of two cultures and
“Prosecco on tap” said that “fair or not”, the term Prosecco had become a byword for sparkling wine. The Guardian, January 7
One manager of a London pub that sells
Feiring as two writers that symbolised the stop consumers using wine scores “as a Drinks Business, January 29 Andrew believes this new approach will
Bad boy Boris
Amazing what you can do with a Sodastream
A thief who stole a rare £20,000 bottle of wine from Harrods had “no idea” it was worth so much, a court heard. the bottle of Romanée-Conti was worth drink it himself. Boris Chaudemanche did not realise
Yalumba’s roving global ambassador. We in Portsmouth and in the Barossa Valley and there is never a dull moment. Don’t Street at Boutinot is a great mate of our Favourite wine shop independent wine merchant with a shop that is impossible to replicate. Its family history and wine portfolio make it a national institution. D Byrne & Co is the ultimate business too. expect to get a word in edgeways! Alec have been entertained by her both here
The legend that is Jane Ferrari,
Troubled French online wine merchant Heracles has been forced into liquidation after a major investor withdrew support for its recovery plan. Heracles into liquidation on January 9, less from administration. The Tribunal de Commerce in Paris put
£19,995 and insisted he had intended to thought it was worth about £45 to £70. worth, he just said ‘What?’.” The Telegraph, January 26 Stuart Stevens, prosecuting, said: “He
than two months after it released the group
When officers told him how much it was
The Wine Merchant is mailed freely to the owners of the UK’s 753 independent wine by Graham Holter. Printed by East Print. © Graham Holter Ltd 2015 England: No 6441762 shops. Except one, and that’s deliberate. Edited Registered in VAT 943 8771 82
www.winemerchantmag.com 01323 370451 Twitter: @WineMerchantMag email@example.com
THE WINE MERCHANT February 2015 10
merchant profile: harper Wells
Harper (left) and Wells: customer “The industry is crap for online retail. Everything that you can pressure prompted store opening possibly imagine can be wrong is wrong.”
Dean Harper and Ed Wells have created a thriving wine business, blending retail and wholesale activities. They’ve also achieved a winning balance between quirky products and more commercial lines that appeal to customers who might otherwise not think to venture inside an independent
he attention to detail is one of Norwich independent Harper
the most noticeable things about
surgery, on the high street in Eaton on
the outskirts of the city, in 2012 by Dean Harper (formerly in IT for Aviva) and Ed Wells (once of Majestic and a local, now defunct, independent shop). The pair began selling wine to private
open it,” says Wells, who says there was a for a city of 200,000 people. “There had been some independent
clear gap in the local market, surprisingly wine merchants but when the market in a relatively short period of time.”
you name with their own design of cycling kit? It’s also got a cannily-crafted logo in the shape of a bunch of grapes which wine rings to urge consumers to be the “perfect host”. lends itself to a variety of uses on posters – coins to make a point about prices, red
How many other wine merchants can
clients in 2006. “We bought a pallet of wine and sold it; then we bought another pallet of wine with the money and sold that,” recalls Wells.
worsened following the banking crisis,
they closed down. Three or four vanished and the shop sells around 100 premium spirits and an extensive range of craft beers.
Continues page 12
The shop was opened in a former vet’s
high street retailing in 2012. “We didn’t
decide to open a shop; people asked us to
The pair decided to take the plunge into
The sweet spot for wine prices is £12
THE WINE MERCHANT February 2015 11
merchant profile: harper wells
From page 11
low ceilings, attractive spotlighting, oak cleared for events.
floors and custom-made floor displays on
The atmospheric Grade II-listed shop has
wheels to allow flexibility and space to be Before opening here, were you mainly selling to private clients? Ed: Yes. And we supplied a tiny amount of wholesale business as well. We supplied a couple of independent restaurants.
People want to talk, they want to taste, they want to get involved with wine
accountants, solicitors and everything, and they would make nice big orders. Some of them for their companies, some of them again for a year, and then we’d be back for themselves. And you wouldn’t see them We’d get some very well-heeled Whereas before, it was just a bit, “Who are you?” You haven’t got an anchor, and you just sort of float about. business now? Ed: We’d added a little bit of wholesale to the existing bit that we had, so we were looking after a few nice accounts. And then there was another wholesaler How do you feel about wholesale
locally, whose business had come to its end, for one reason or another. We’d known him for a long time, we trusted him, we liked a quite substantial book of wholesale chunk to the business. We still do the private clients. We customers along, which added a fair old employ a guy who works our private him. He came and joined us, and brought
client desk every day of the week, he’s
Wines below £10 are an important element in the Harper Wells marketing mix
great. So the private clients are a big part premium and fine wine.
of the business, and that’s still very much How big is the team altogether? Ed: Well, effectively you’ve got the three. You’ve got Brian, shop; Derek, who looks Dean, who run every other aspect of the business. Dean: We’ve got a new guy, a kind of What’s the split between retail, wholesale and private clients? Ed: Wholesale is now 50% of the business. The other part is made up of retail and the private client aspect. Dean: Which are about equal, as well. logistics and warehouse manager now.
But those had come about by chance, in as much as we’d done private customer dinners there. Dean: The first couple of years, we always used to say – when it used to rear its ugly head – “No, not retail.” wholesale. Ed: And then we were the same with So what changed your mind? Dean: Every year we have a showcase tasting at Norwich Cathedral. We have 200 people every year, and it sells out wines to try. It’s become quite a cult.
at the cathedral: in they come, and make another big order. carry on dealing with us? We came to the conclusion: because the rest of the year, we’re absolutely invisible. Ed: People love retail, where bottles are concerned. They’re tactile, they want to It did seem to me, why don’t they
after wholesale; and Sam, who looks after
private client. And then there’s myself and
taste, they want to talk, they want to get their money on, if they’re into it.
involved. I mean, it’s one of the few things Dean: At least one of our Norwich
that I think people genuinely love spending restaurateurs has actually come out and because you’ve got a shop in Norwich”.
instantly. We charged £15 a head, we’d get
our buyers involved, and a list of about 100
said, “I feel comfortable dealing with you
THE WINE MERCHANT February 2015 12
What’s the turnover of the business now? Ed: That’s around about a million. The turnover is 50/50 between retail and wholesale, profitability is not 50/50. As well as being more profitable presumably, the fun bit as well. Ed: Yes, definitely it is. Retail is fun, especially when there’s a party. That fun element seems important to you, with the signage, the little quotes and prompts to customers dotted around the place. Ed: Yes, absolutely. I think all of us are kind of feeling you got when you first knowledgeable and enthusiastic, and slightly quirky. What about the branding, the typography, and the colour scheme? Ed: The Harper Wells brand – which is the 13 circles, if you like – came from a of an age where you can remember the because cycling’s really big in Norwich – thinking that we might sell five of them. we have left. of the floor. Dean: They’re mobile. We pull them together, we’ve got tabletops upstairs
The wine range is about 600-strong and less dominated by France than it used to be
turnover part of it only tells you part of
the story, though, because although the
and higher margin, the retail side is,
went in a decent Oddbins. The staff were Dean: You found stuff there, in those days, were interested and amazed by it. That’s what we’re trying to do here, as well.
Norwich agency called Big Pink. It got quite a lot of national or international kudos for the whole rebrand, as well. We got a lot of series of advertisements that we ran. bunch of grapes … Ed: Yes. kudos for the design. They then integrated
We sold 50 of them on the first run. We did
another 50 this year, and this is the last one Tell me about these pods in the middle
that you didn’t see anywhere else, and you
it into some other ideas, so there’s a whole The design is clearly supposed to be a
At the same time, this is a much cleaner look than the old Oddbins. It’s not dusty boxes here and there. Ed: Yes, I think you have to do that. The isn’t as applicable as it used to be. So perhaps you want to take some of the world has changed, that model perhaps elements of that you feel have still got twist to it.
which fit on and clip together. So you can have a long table around here, put stools around it, we can do wine classes and the wine. tastings with some food as well, to match 20 people.
… but it becomes other things in other posters. Dean: There’s one with corks. things. Ed: And wine glass stains. All sorts of Dean: And we had T-shirts done. Ed: Last year we launched a cycling kit –
Ed: We have dining-in nights here for up to Dean: We had someone from Allegrini, the Italian wine producer, here recently. We were trying the wines, and we got a
Continues page 14
energy, and still got relevance, and you Dean: There’s the balance of being
want to add a little bit more of a modern welcoming enough, not to sort of scare business here, you’re taking it quite seriously.
people off, but to show people you mean This is a big thing for us, and you’ll find
stuff in here that you can’t get in Norwich, you can’t probably get in Norfolk.
Last year we launched a cycling kit, thinking we might sell five … we sold 50 of them
THE WINE MERCHANT February 2015 13
merchant profile: harper WELLS
From page 13
guy who is an outside caterer who’s got a to park at the back of the shop, and bring in smoked meats and things to have with
mobile kitchen in the back of a Land Rover, these wines. People were knocked out by it. You also display some of your wines on floor blocks rather than shelves. Dean: The whole idea is so things can kind of change, depending on the time of the year, and whatever we’re trying things a bit.
For all our wines to be hugely idiosyncratic would be a bit foolhardy
represented. We love the wines, and they offer something a bit different. that unless you give it a decent bit of real estate. Quite honestly, six months ago, there somewhere.” if someone said, “Where’s your German section?” you’d have said, “Erm ... down It is a difficult sell, but you’ll never break Roederer, and we have a demand for that. Chapoutier, and Klein Constantia. We work with Pol Roger quite closely, Mentzendorff, because we do Bollinger and because we’ve always done Pol Roger their portfolio.
to promote. It just allows you to change Tell me about the wine range. Ed: There’s about 600 wines in here. We don’t at the moment have a rigid range
Champagne, and take some things from we buy from very rarely, but they are important to us.
You’d probably add another dozen who
Do you import anything yourselves? Ed: Yes, we do a bit. From Languedoc, particularly.
of wines, it’s fluid. Because we’ve got the
three complementary parts of the business, it’s quite nice for one to feed into another. been here, but effectively it’s a little bit goes out. fluid in terms of what comes in and what We do predominantly local, but some national, beers as well. So we have core products that have always
Dean: We’ve noticed over the last year or so, the value and the quality from down there is fantastic. down there. Fifteen years ago, they
The tasting area is a focal point for the shop
We’ve done about 100 different spirits.
Ed: There’s loads of lovely people working struggled to get more than €3 a bottle. £12.50 a bottle. In other parts of the something of comparable quality. They’ve worked hard to push up quality, and we can put stuff on the shelf at, say, world you’d be spending £20-plus to get amongst ourselves is what’s the philosophy of the company we’re buying from? And your philosophy? then you ask yourself the question: what’s wines that we have are vibrant wines, looking people. I would say that a good majority of the One of the things we often talk about
Do you have any particular areas of strength with the wine range? Ed: Well, we used to be specialists predominantly in France, but I would say that these days, we’re quite confident where most countries are concerned. We’ve expanded the number of suppliers that we have in order to facilitate that. Spanish sections; most people have. Our we’re quite strong on South Africa. There’s quite a lot of Californian wine Who are your main suppliers? Ed: We do a lot with Liberty and Enotria. We do a fair bit with Alliance Wines.
Wholesale, we do a lot with Bottle Green. But then we’re dealing increasingly with smaller, younger companies. So Carte good examples of that. Blanche, or Indigo, or Astrum would be Dean: Yes. Because you don’t see them around quite so much, and they’ve got are what this shop is all about.
And the bigger guys, FMV and Hallgarten.
I think we’ve got strong French, Italian and Aussie section is quite strong. Relatively,
generally made by quite young, forward-
there, so we’re quite strong on that. We’ve pushed hard to increase our German think that Germany is a little bit under-
some really niche, interesting things, which Ed: We choose to work with other people So Maisons Marques, because we like for various obligatory parts of the portfolio.
estates in our portfolio of wines. We have an attachment to them. But generally, the wines that we have are often biodynamic
proposition as well, because personally we
a few, because we love them, and we’ve got
We don’t have a lot of very old, traditional
THE WINE MERCHANT February 2015 14
or organic, but that’s not why we’ve chosen
them. That’s often something that we discover later on. difficult, challenging wines, because it’s not what we’re asked for. So accessibility is an important part of your philosophy, then. Ed: I think they are accessible, because there is a welcoming nature to a lot of those wines. movement: if we embraced that in a For example, the natural wine We don’t go out of our way to find
So the wines have got to be interesting but commercial. Ed: Commercial isn’t a dirty word. Let’s not an independent wine shop in Norwich. So 600 wines at an average price of £12 a to go from zero to having somewhere with bottle … there’s a very small percentage of let alone £12. If all our wines were hugely forget that four years ago there wasn’t even
daunting to people.
News sketch with the hi-fi? It’s a bit like that, with your woofers and tweeters. And so we find that if we didn’t have purchases to the supermarket. wines at £5.99, or sometimes less than that, we would lose a lot of occasional happy about coming in. They’ll come wines, and they want to buy one for And those wines make people really
Remember that Not The Nine O’Clock
people in the UK who would every consider spending more than £8 on a bottle of wine, idiosyncratic, that would be a bit foolhardy. And you promote the fact that you have lots of wine below £10. Ed: We’ve worked quite hard over the last six months to broadcast the fact that we do have good value for money. Like all independent shops, whether you’re a hi-fi you can quite easily appear to be quite
in because they know we’ve got £5.99 when they put their feet up in front of
big way here, it probably wouldn’t be
embraced by our customer base. It’s not bottle in Norfolk, that’s for sure.
something which is really hitting the radar of people who are laying down £15-£20 a route of having a load of conservative Having said that, if we went down the
the telly. But once people come into an empowered to spend more.
independent shop, if that shop is doing
its job quite well, they suddenly feel quite independent wine shop, any independent shop, is to get people through the door for the first time. But you know, the real challenge for an
wines, that would do us no favours either.
retailer, or clothing emporium or whatever,
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THE WINE MERCHANT February 2015 15