THE WINE MERCHANT.
An independent magazine for independent retailers Issue 35, April 2015
Sorry it’s a bit heavy this month Normal service resumes in May
One in three indies set to sell wine on premises
Just under a quarter of independent wine specialists are now selling wine for consumption on the premises, according to a Wine Merchant poll. of independents have been serving wine This year’s reader survey reveals that 18% 70-30 in favour of on-premise sales (see page four). The company already allows customers to drink on the premises in other contributed to a 20% increase in take-home trade for the company. rejecting the idea of on-premise sales has risen from 48% last year to 58% in this year’s survey. However the proportion of independents branches and owner Ruth Yates says this has
Missed Prowein? Then you may have missed a trick
4 comings & GOINGS
to their customers for at least a year, while another 5% have started doing so within the past 12 months. A further 5% say they further 14% have yet to make a decision. branch, embodies the trend towards this
Four merchants lock up their shops for the last time
6 tried & TESTED
have definite plans to start offering wine for on-premise consumption this year, while a Corks Out, which is about to open its sixth
the proportion of retailers dismissing the now selling beer.
hybrid wine shop/wine bar format: the new Knutsford store is expected to be weighted
concept of offering food of any kind, but the • More survey analysis starts on page 21.
There has also been a marked increase in
Greek Tannat, you say? Don’t mind if we do
9 merchant profile
survey reveals that 87% of independents are
Le Vignoble: arguably the nicest thing about Plymouth
16 david williams
A treatise on the absurdity of wine tastings
34 gin blossoms
Why juniper is jumping in independent stores
49 focus on champagne
Life beyond the marketing glitz and grocery discounts
58 SUPPLIER BULLETIN
Essential updates from leading agents and importers
65 make a date
Six independent merchants explored the wines of Franciacorta recently as part of a Wine Merchant trip to the region. Read their verdicts on what they encountered in our report on pages 28 to 30.
The May events vying for a slot in your diary
they are “fit and proper” to be an alcohol wholesaler. HMRC will make visits to March 2017. businesses to check on their credentials between January 2016 and the end of In addition to obvious criteria such as alcohol to other businesses, advertises scheme,” says an HMRC spokesman.
they will supply, or offers for sale to other businesses then they are caught by the The government is introducing the new
whether the business has previously been with HMRC or can’t provide evidence
involved in illicit trading, companies can be barred if they have a poor payment record of their “commercial viability and/or credibility”.
regime in response to pressure from the Federation of Wholesale Distributors – carry groups – in an attempt to tackle billion a year.
whose members include the big cash and
alcohol duty fraud by criminal gangs which Hal Wilson from Cambridge Wine
Wholesale change will affect indies
Independent wine merchants need to prepare for a new Alcohol Wholesaler Registration Scheme which will come into force by 2017 – regardless of whether they themselves have a wholesale element to their business or not. retailers who wholesale to register with Failure by either to comply will incur comes into force. There will be an obligation not only on
survey showed that just under 20% the average independent’s turnover comes from wholesaling. HMRC says there would be no threshold
The Wine Merchant’s recent reader
HMRC estimates costs the taxpayer over £1 Merchants says: “I’m just hoping I’ll
remember to apply in the short window allowed.” But he is broadly supportive that has left the door open for illegal activity. There does need to be some their way.” of the new scheme. “We’ve been a very deregulated industry for a long time and enforcement to protect those who do pay Regency Wines in Exeter, adds: “It’s not they’re doing it. We’ve had very little might mean.” Ian Marks, of wholesale-dominated
(eg, 5% or 10% of total turnover) to define
the scheme but for retailers to ensure that they buy only from registered suppliers. penalties – yet to be set – when the scheme any shops selling wholesale to restaurants, hotels or any other business will have to and December this year. Failure to put in an application means apply to join the scheme between October that a business could be barred from 2016. Although that isn’t until April 1, 2017,
necessarily a bad idea and I can see why colleagues in the industry about what it shops can assess whether they need to HMRC in May.
information about it apart from talking to More details on the exemption and how
make an application will be published by Also from April 1, 2017, retailers will
selling wholesale alcohol, and have their stock seized, from as early as January 1, From that date, any business involved
Independents typically achieve just under 20% of their sales by selling to restaurants and other trade accounts
have to ensure that they only buy alcohol from registered wholesalers, unless they are shipping direct from abroad. The burden on them will be to make regular ongoing checks of an online register to status has not changed. risk penalties. Independents who do not make the ensure that a supplier’s “fit and proper”
in wine wholesaling will have to quote a them as a member of the scheme on all alcohol invoices. To be accepted on to the AWRS,
a shop as being a wholesaler as well as a retailer.
unique reference number that identifies
wholesale sales made by a retailer but this will only apply where it is “unreasonable” for them to know that the purchaser is another business.
There will be exemption for “incidental”
effort to stay up to date with the register Wilson. “It seems to be doing someone else’s job for them.” “That’s pretty hard to stomach,” says
businesses will have to demonstrate that
“If a retailer knows they are going to sell
THE WINE MERCHANT april 2015 2
Prowein proves worth the effort
Prowein has been and gone and, as usual, it has not proved to be especially attractive to UK independents. the trip has given the Dusseldorf fair a of their own importing. But one merchant who did make
educational elements that give personality to the London Wine Fair, and has a much smaller seminar programme. This is not something that concerns Moorhouse, provided at the German show.
Prowein lacks many of the social and
who also prefers the larger tasting glasses advice would be make sure you have a plan and have some meetings set up – do your homework. We knew what our costs on costs we could afford. shipping were, the rate the euro and what the show only lasts three days.” “The thing that surprised me was that “I would want to go again,” he says. “My
ringing endorsement, arguing it’s a logical Mark Moorhouse, buyer at Dalling & Co “Jeff went last year for a day and a half
destination for retailers looking to do more in Kings Langley, Herts, joined owner Jeff Folkins on a two-day visit to the show. and came back really enthusiastic, and out for it this year,” he says. The vastness of the exhibition space
“Our Man with the Facts”
• Tannat contains the greatest concentration of oligomeric procyanidins of any grape. These OPCs are thought to have
decided that three of us were going to go meant that the team kept wandering time to a minimum. “We had a plan and I think for any independent who goes over there you have to approach it like that. We had group we’re going to be working with, a young Chablis producer, a Bordeaux various meetings lined up with an Italian negociant and a few from Austria, which
Art with a heart
Selling Fairtrade wines can help good causes in the communities that produce them – but a Fife independent has struck out with its own project in the hope that it can do even more good. in 2007 in conjunction with the Fairtrade Foundation. two years later, in the hope that more Wellington, South Africa. But it decided to pull out of Fairtrade Art du Vin began the Cannonberg Project
cardiovascular benefits. The journal region, Gers, is home to double the Coincidence?
Nature observes that Tannat’s native national average of men in their 90s. • In 1848 a Scientific American practice of selling fake and
is somewhere we’re doing more and more with. We tried 150 wines in two days and Wine Merchant survey, Dalling & Co is Like 56% of independents in this year’s
also took a look at some of the technology.” planning to import more of its own wines this year. Although this means bypassing Prowein meetings were set up with help on orders but are spared the expense of shipping and storage. “We’re talking to another couple of
of the money it raises would go to help “We’re not Tesco or Sainsbury’s, so
editorial bemoaned the widespread article quoted an export attesting “there is not a self-supporting American wine”.
the community around Imbuko Farm in the money we raised is relatively small,” says managing director Philippe Larue. administration of Fairtrade.” “It was disappointing to see so much of Art du Vin sells around 3,000 cases a the money we raised disappear into the year of Chenin Blanc at £7.10 and Cabernet Sauvignon at £8.20 under the Cannonberg to the producer community. It raises additional funds through
adulterated wines and spirits. The vineyard in the United States” and
“it is owing to this that we have no • For the past decade, astronomers methanol structures are not fully of billions of miles.
UK importers to some degree, many of the that importers can still earn commission
from these suppliers. Moorhouse points out
have been observing vast clouds of understood and can span hundreds • The Code of Hammurabi, a
alcohol in space. These ethanol and
independents about bringing over a large quantity of Italian stuff, in what would is fantastic,” he says. be almost an informal buying group. The increased margin that we’re going to make
label and donates a portion of the proceeds tastings and other wine events and money has contributed to projects to provide computers for schoolchildren.
canteens, a crèche for winery workers and
Babylonian king in the 18th century BC, decrees that miscreant wine
merchants can be thrown in a river.
THE WINE MERCHANT april 2015 3
Bar sales to the fore at Corks Out
The sixth store in the Corks Out estate will take the business further into ontrade territory, owner Ruth Yates has confirmed. next month, is likely to have a 70-30 mix in favour of on-premise sales, more than stores where bar sales also take place. The new branch is in a Grade II listed The Knutsford branch, due to open
Out stores but Yates argues it’s hard to such slender margins. seen the benefit.
finance the on-trade side of the business on on-premise sales, the entire business has people through the door because people says Yates. “A lot of independents struggle to get Where Corks Out has widened its offer to
Sue Bolam is closing her Rothbury Wines store in Northumberland which she has run since 2001, and relocating to an outbuilding at her home. adults so the immediate market is small – and during the past three years, three delivering in the valley,” she says. “We are in a remote valley of some 3,000
feel intimidated and that they should know something about wine before they go in,” “Our retail sales grew by 20% last year
supermarkets and Majestic have started – and passing – trade but keep my loyal earners, without the overheads and manageable this way.”
in the Alderley Edge and Stockton Heath building – a former kitchen shop – in the targeting for some time.
and the reason for that is people have felt more at ease about picking up a bottle of wine and taking it home.” Yates does not expect further openings
customers on my email ‘tasting club’ list and the events, some of which are good
“It means I will lose most of the summer
centre of Knutsford, a town Yates had been levels,” she says. “It has a character that’s It’s got a south-west facing garden and a room as well as extra seating.
very similar to a couple of our other stores. in the sun as well. Upstairs will be a tasting the Enomatic machines and it will be very visual, which is important as it faces the will be.” “The front area will be low seating with
“It’s on three storeys but we’re using two
this year but has longer-term ambitions for a seventh store in a location that has been identified.
employing staff. I feel it will be much more
Carlisle has lost its only specialist wine merchant with the closure of Corkscrew Wines. the business, in a railway arch in the city, Dave and Liz Ogden had been running
terrace which means we can cater outdoors
street. The back room is where the bar area of the branch will not be forgotten, even though there is not a separate area for off-sales. “Knutsford is crying out for a she says. Yates is adamant that the retail element
since 2008 and had failed to find a buyer. here. Since we took over the shop we’ve Carlisle is not a big city.”
Pearce: “We gave it our best shot”
says Liz. “It’s an extremely difficult market had five more big supermarkets open and where Dave has secured an engineering new role within the wine trade.
“It’s been on the market for 18 months,”
wine shop so we need to make sure people know we’re a retail store as well as a bar,” wines and spirits and craft beer. We want to give Knutsford a different personality. bar.” “We’ll still have a range of about 500
Andover and out
Grape Expectations in Andover has closed. who had run the shop since 2010, placed a their support, adding: “We gave it our best shot but it simply wasn’t enough.” in customers’ homes. local markets and run wine tasting events Pearce is still planning to sell wine at Former Bottoms Up manager Tim Pearce,
job with the BBC and Liz is hoping to find a
The couple are relocating to Manchester,
Rutland Vintners has closed following the retirement of manager Harvey Ellis. Brewery in 1985, operated from a former stable block in Oakham. It had been managed by Ellis since 1977. miles away. The range has now been incorporated The shop, which was bought by Everards
The other stores don’t really have a full bar facility. This branch is more set up to be a the glass, and five sparkling wines. Any The store will offer 10 Champagnes by
sign in the window thanking customers for
wine on the shelves can be consumed on the premises for a £10 “drinking in” fee.
This was originally set at £5 in other Corks
into the brewery shop in Narborough, 26
THE WINE MERCHANT april 2015 4
tried & Tested
Spice Route Terra de Bron Syrah 2012
This is Spice Route’s first attempt at a Darling Syrah, produced with slow-ripening fruit on a slope cooled by the Atlantic breeze. It’s a smooth and beautifully and plenty of spice, that emits a gentle sting before medicating with an umami balm on the finish. RRP: £19.50 ABV: 14.5% Seckford Agencies (01206 231188) seckfordagencies.co.uk concentrated wine, bursting with violets and red fruit
Angove Family Winemakers Whiz Bang Shiraz 2013
Ehrmanns presented seven wines from Angove within the “independents only” zone of its recent portfolio tasting, all offering authentic Aussie personality at a pepper and some supporting tannins. RRP: £11.99 ABV: 14.5% Ehrmanns (0203 227 0735) ehrmannswines.co.uk very fair price. This one is big, bold and rich, with red
fruit and plum flavours balanced out with a sprinkle of
Ktima Alpha Utopia Tannat 2010
The (relatively) cool uplands of north west Greece provide the backdrop for this arresting wine. Perhaps sensing that Tannat alone doesn’t have quite the grip 18 months in new French oak. The result is almost everyone, but we loved its opaque aggression. RRP: £19.99 ABV: 14.5% Hallgarten Druitt (01582 722538) hdnwines.co.uk like undergoing a local anaesthetic. Perhaps not for he’s looking for, Angelos Iatrides subjects the juice to
Buil y Giné Rosado 2013
Hailing from Priorat, this is an 80-20 blend of Garnacha and Merlot that looks less like a rosado than some Pinot Noirs. There’s a real weight behind it, and some meaty overtones, but the floral aromas and strawberry/raspberry notes lighten up proceedings. RRP: £14.99 ABV: 13.5%
“Versatile” is an over-used adjective but this is a wine Alliance Wine (01505 506060) alliancewine.com
that would suit a wide variety of foods and occasions.
Château Trillol 2011
You can see why people get so excited about the Languedoc. Trillol’s latest vintage release is a delight: an approachable, silky-smooth and flavour-packed
Château Rolland-Maillet St Emilion Grand Cru 2012
Robert Parker describes this property as an “overachiever” (Michel doubtless returns the compliment) and you can see his point. Here we have a really lovely make it “authentic Bordeaux”? Who cares? RRP: £23.95 ABV: 13.5% Bancroft Wines (020 7232 5470) bancroftwines.com
wine that offers incredible value. A blend of Grenache, Carignan and Syrah, it’s made from high-altitude, lowyou to the wilds of Corbières. RRP: £11.99-£12.99 www.sichel.fr ABV: 14.5%
yield fruit and has a herby edge that briefly transports Maison Sichel UK (01580 240454)
and juicy wine, with manageable tannins, a fresh, clean finish and some cedary notes for the purists. Does that
Far Niente Chardonnay 2012
The back story is compelling: the winery was founded in 1885 and was doing fine up to Prohibition, after which it lay abandoned until 1979 when Gil Nickel is no less captivating – a warm, rich, nutty Napa and has a gentle hint of spice. RRP: £58 hdnwines.co.uk ABV: 14.5% started a painstaking restoration. But the wine itself Chardonnay that’s spent nine months in French oak Hallgarten Druitt (01582 722538)
Hartenberg The Stork Shiraz 2010
Spitfire pilot Ken Mackenzie, who bought the Stellenbosch farm in 1987, “was a lanky chap with long, thin legs”, we are advised: hence “The Stork”. It’s a glorious, opulent affair, packed with rich cherry and cassis flavours, but with a burnt, savoury edge to add a welcome crunch to the finish. RRP: £32.95 ABV: 15% bancroftwines.com Bancroft Wines (020 7232 5470)
THE WINE MERCHANT april 2015 6
It’s one of the highest-profile online wine retailers, and now it’s got its sights on the nation’s high streets. Maybe it’s a strange move, but it’s one that should be on the radars of independents
oes Naked Wines’ declared aim virtual world of the internet to
the real one of the high street represent a game-changer for wine retailing? the former boss of Virgin Wines, seven years ago, and has become one of the highest-profile specialist online wine
to make the transition from the
help Naked make the transition, but the rewards may not be immediate.
Naked was founded by Rowan Gormley,
established wine merchant. “They’re not very different model.
going to be selling at their normal margins, some of which are as high as 50%, so it’s a with their own online business. If they
Rowan Gormley: angel delight
“It’s a really tough sector,” says one long-
“angel” subscribers who pay a monthly fee that they bank – and spend on wine when they want to. Rather than chopping and invest long-term in the producers from whom it sources the wines. enthusiastic participants, are crucial to driving loyalty. Just as important to the model is the marketing cash spent on new customers. generous money-off vouchers to recruit Reviews by angels, and rewards for changing what’s on offer through regular range reviews, Naked uses the money to
It’s established a clear USP, recruiting
end up selling the same wine for more in going to look pretty expensive.” It’s an interesting move but in some
“The risk is that they end up competing
the shop than they do online, then they’re respects an odd one. If your entire business model is built on a low-cost web base, why would you want the awkward stuff like rents, business rates, logistics and estate?
tasting rooms to the high street.
chest could be amassed for the project through either of the options under private investor.
Its track record suggests a sizeable war
discussion – a share flotation or a single REPORTS SUGGEST NAKED will value the company at that point at £100m – so, for to put a marker down in several areas of London and most major cities in the UK. customers into its stores with 140,000 customers. Innovations like Enomatics and the the sake of an argument, the sale of just a 10% stake would bring in £10m, enough It would also have a head start driving
recruitment/HR that comes with a retail as much as they would like in the online platform,” suggest one high street wine “Maybe they don’t see sales increasing
doing things differently. One of its latest ideas was a fixed-term Fine Wine Bond in wine, or a little bit less in cash.
Naked has established a reputation for
merchant. “In this market, if you need to than it is online.”
bring some presence and engagement to
what you do, it’s much easier to do offline to high street independents may depend outlets. Will they be Laithwaites-style markets? showrooms for the online business or a
which promised investors a healthy payout subscribed. Raising capital appears to be The bond delivered £5m and was over-
UK angels on its database plus non-angel merging of on- and off-trade models
on how Naked views its bricks-and-mortar serious attempt to blow rivals out of local in the growth of an independent sector wine retailers in the past decade.
How serious a threat Naked would pose
a strength for the company, which is now
planning to bring Naked Wines shops and
‘The risk is they will compete with their own online business’
THE WINE MERCHANT april 2015 8
provide the kind of interactivity that could
which has so successfully filled the vacuum left by the demise of numerous big-chain
If Gormley pulls it off, it could put holes
Majestic has so far only been concerned with “big box” retail: its property requirements are units of 2,000 to 5,000 sq ft such as former car showrooms and pubs. premises? It has to do something radical. Group profits in 2014 slipped by £1m to like sales. Online sales did rather better The conundrum facing Majestic is and now account for 12.3% of business. base accustomed to – and demanding – habitually rising profits. The latest set change of strategy. of results was effectively Steve Lewis’s Majestic cited an “investment in Might it be tempted to consider smaller
All aboard the Majestic Express?
Watford titled “Majestic Express Blueprint”. work? The economics would take some unravelling. The ratio between revenue and overheads would alter dramatically, and surely have to be abandoned – exposing would like to highlight.
Thinking outside of the big box
Would a small-format Majestic
£8.5m, despite a 2.8% increase in like-for-
the six-bottle purchase requirement would a higher single-bottle price than Majestic that’s more difficult to compare with the this piles on extra costs for the business. at least at this stage, but it would seem perversely incurious of Majestic not to rule it out as a long-term strategy. A wide-scale roll-out seems unlikely,
how to deliver growth for a shareholder
bigger stores (and website), though again
One solution would be a bespoke range
farewell letter, and there is a thirst for a consumer insights” as one of the
conceivable this exercise has already
prompted a plan to test the water away from its industrial estate/arterial road slide somewhere on a hard drive in
reasons for its recent profits slide so it’s
heartlands. Maybe there is a PowerPoint
dabble in a high street format – if only to
THE WINE MERCHANT april 2015 9
bits & BOBs FAVOURITE Four’s the limit as
Jolly Vintner Too Bournemouth
Favourite wine on my list
di Gresy, a man after my own heart who marches to a different beat. He planted Merlot in Piemonte as he felt he could Simply stunning aromas and flavours but at half the price. make a cracking wine – and he has. Monferrato Rosso 2007 from Marchesi
Aldi rations wine
Its slogan is “spend a little, live a lot”
lavish gifts were often used to curry favour with officials. The Guardian, March 20
and Aldi is certainly taking its message
seriously after banning customers from buying more than four bottles of fine wine. new tipples are so exclusive that they need to be individually numbered, and rationed. range is aimed at the now visiting the discounter. increasing number of Priced at £9.99, the The cut-price supermarket claims its
middle class shoppers Each 75cl bottle
An aerial shot of Mallorca, clearly illustrating the lack of grapes
which remind me of top-quality Pomerol
Favourite food and wine match
with some delicately fried Foie Gras – Condrieu Les Grand Chailles 2012 heavenly!
will come with a unique label, hand-crafted by artists local to the producer’s vineyard. The Telegraph, March 22
Shortage leads to pain in Spain
A shortage of grapes in the Spanish wine regions of Priorat and Mallorca has led to a surge in prices and is causing concern among some producers. already the source of some of Spain’s most expensive wines – has caused a spike in Mas Doix, one of the area’s leading red wine producers. grape prices, said Valenti Llagostera, from Producers were paying €3 per kilo, and A study from Catalonia’s Technological Rising demand for grapes in Priorat –
Sales of Bordeaux wines fell sharply last year, winemakers said, blaming a poor harvest in 2013 and rapidly slowing demand in China, the region’s main export market. were sold in 2014 – an 8% drop on the previous year, according to the CIVB. A total of 685 million bottles of Bordeaux “This drop was expected due to the poor
Favourite wine trip
Germany for three weeks in May 1980 Certificate exam. Great hospitality, great wines and learning what it meant to taste 100+ wines before lunch! as a winner of the 1979 Walter Sichel Scholarship from the WSET Higher My very first one which took me to
in some cases as much as €6 per kilo, for red grape varieties, he said.
Favourite wine trade person
Richard Bampfield MW. I have known Richard since 1982 when I managed wines blind every week.
harvest in 2013,” said Bernard Farges, head of the CIVB. “We can’t sell wine we haven’t produced.” new leadership has hit sales of Western luxury goods – including top wines – as A crackdown on corruption by China’s
Wine Park shows that in 2013, the average price for the Carignan grapes was €1.79 kilo. Decanter, March 13
the Oddbins in Chester and he managed George Duttons. We used to taste eight
per kilo with Grenache selling at €1.40 per
Favourite wine shop
Stapleton is a top man and best friend discovering something new and tasty. for over 30 years and he is forever The Jolly Vintner, Tiverton. Rory www.winemerchantmag.com 01323 370451 Twitter: @WineMerchantMag email@example.com
The Wine Merchant is mailed freely to the owners of the UK’s 755 independent wine shops. Except © Graham Holter Ltd 2015 England: No 6441762 Registered in one, and that’s deliberate. The magazine is edited by Graham Holter. Printed in East Sussex by East Print. VAT 943 8771 82
THE WINE MERCHANT april 2015 10
merchant profile: le vignoble
Loué: “My dream is to have five branches”
A Parisian in Plymouth
Yannick Loué spent a decade imagining what his own wine business would look like. Le Vignoble is the result of that mental planning: a place where as much wine is enjoyed on the premises as is taken away, and where straight lines are banned
lymouth isn’t a pretty city. In fact it looks like it’s hosted a competition to find Britain’s
in the yard’s jigsaw.
ugliest building and forgot to send back the entries. Royal William Yard offers some welcome respite. A former Navy victualling depot,
cooperage, a high-ceilinged and funkily
designed space where it’s hard to find a straight line: the shelving gently curves the central Enomatic fixture is circular. Customers sit at low tables, in comfy chairs, bathed in natural light from the full-length windows at the front of the
Le Vignoble occupies a unit in the old
arrived in England 15 years ago after training at the Catering School of his
native Paris and began a career as a food and beverages manager. “I worked for a my forte was to revamp them,” he says. life, really.” “I used to get headhunted to help bring A boat trip brought him to Royal
around the 200-year-old walls, and even
lot of different hotels and restaurants, and rundown hotels and restaurants back to William Yard and the plans he had been
resplendent in grand limestone buildings dating back to the early 1800s, the 16acre estate on the entrance of the River First came the swish apartments and Tamar was off limits to the public until it
was decommissioned by the MoD in 1992. offices, then slowly but surely the eateries began to spring up. Retail is the last piece
shop. There’s also some seating outside, beside a lawn on which fibreglass cows Yannick Loué, Le Vignoble’s owner, slaughterhouse is just a short trot away.
graze – a reminder that the yard’s former
gradually building in his mind suddenly
Continues page 12
crystallized. “I saw the location and I was
THE WINE MERCHANT april 2015 11
merchant profile: le vignoble
From page 11
like: this is it. You know, sometimes you Nine months later, I was open.”
hear a voice and it says: you should do it. I never understood that until that moment. How much of your sales come from retail, as opposed to people drinking on the premises? The proportion is 50-50. It’s quite interesting actually because in the first
Plymouth is probably one of the poorest areas in England, so we are careful on pricing
been studying the behaviour of people another Enomatic? Four months later. I bought the four-bottle and then a further three months later I bought the eight-bottle. Do you decide what goes into the Enomatic purely on merit or do reps offer incentives to stock their products? I go for what I want. I don’t get dictated to by suppliers. When I first opened it was like, yes, we can give you an Enomatic machine, don’t buy one, we can give you when they’re buying in supermarkets – they go for the bargain or they go for the
year, retail was nothing. In Plymouth there hadn’t been a wine merchant for 10 to 15 years – I think the last one was Thresher probably will, but not yet. or Oddbins. There’s probably a reason why Majestic haven’t turned up here yet. They what saved us was the tastings. But since last December we’ve seen a big push on So retail wasn’t too much of a biggie, but
same thing, they don’t really think about it. If you go to the old-type wine merchants, know what you like?
sometimes you feel obliged to buy what the keeper wants you to buy. But how will they types of people who buy wine. People who top, to impress. But the wines in between, they never get touched. And I got so I’m going to try. where people would say: you know what? In restaurants you’ve got three different
go for cheap, or house wine; people who go for middle of the range; and people who go frustrated. That’s why I wanted something
the retail. People are starting to believe us, very much starting to trust us right now. How big is the range?
this, we can give you that. But then what’s to be free. It’s my business: you don’t tell me what to buy, I tell you what I want to buy. Springfield coming in and tonight we’ve Next month we’ve got the lady from
starting to believe in our selection, and are
the deal? I don’t want to be tied up. I want
Was the circular Enomatic in the middle the first one that you bought? Yes, the Enoround. It made a big impact – it was actually the second one in the UK, of the latest model. It’s the Elite version. There is an older version where there is bottles in there.
Three hundred wines – we’re pushing up to 500. We’ve got a core list of 500, and 250 to 300 are in the shop. We can rotate that all the time.
got the guys from Leyda. So for the whole month we load their wine and showcase tasting for us. On the other Enomatic we play with
their vineyards and they come in and do a seasons, or other things. March was all about Women’s Day so we loaded the or women owners.
Were the Enomatics here from day one? Yes. I’d seen them in Paris first. What I wanted was a place where people could
no controlled temperature. There are 16 How soon afterwards did you install
discover wine at a controlled expense. I’ve
machine with wines from female producers
Royal William Yard, where Le Vignoble rubs shoulders with River Cottage Canteen & Deli and other eateries
THE WINE MERCHANT april 2015 12
The Enomatic samples start as low as 60p ... Yes, always. And this is understanding our market. It’s not London, it’s not Birmingham, or Bristol. It’s Plymouth. It’s probably one of the poorest areas in
England, so we have to be careful. In year
two actually we went too far. Too expensive wines in the selection and in the machine. below £10. We saw our sales drop. Ten per cent of the wines in the Enomatic are now entry level, People assume Plymouth is reasonably prosperous, but it’s not really, is it? It’s starting. The way I look at it is it’s a bit like Southampton and Portsmouth, but we’re about five years behind. I think it’s it’s still not there.
coming up. You can see, you can feel it. But say, wow, this is great! And I say, don’t get here. This is Plymouth! Some suppliers come straight here and
The current seating area is expected to be extended into the neighbouring unit
too carried away. You can’t just sell Petrus It seems that you started from day one without compromising – the Enomatics and the bespoke fittings. How did you finance it all? I used to be well paid and managed a lot of people; an F&B manager at the age of 23, very strong on the finance side so when I put away a lot of cash as well. But I wasn’t to be head of finance for British American reassurance that I was doing something OK. After a year I bought him out. there are people who fail because they thinking through all the retail details. curved shelving. The idea when we set up was to bring a new generation, a new vibe, into the wine It took me 10 years to set up. I think
trade. I didn’t want anything square. I
didn’t want anything dark. I wanted to
bring some fresh air into the wine world. Is there anything about the business it before you opened? When I first opened my daughter was six in catering anymore, I want to enjoy my months and I thought, I don’t want to work family life. So I set up here to be open from 10am until 10pm, just retail. But actually, retail didn’t work, so I had to change the and the liquor licence to be able to sell lease, I had to change the opening hours, about controlling the price brackets but I haven’t changed that much. You move things around all the time because it’s today that isn’t exactly as you conceived
No. One of the local guys in Cornwall was asking me about it, but I want to have my own things. It’s nice to have a buying collective but if you want to grow, then and you’d be selling the same thing.
you’d be on the patch of who you buy with, Had you already identified the suppliers you wanted to work with when you opened? I used to work for big companies and I knew how low suppliers could put their prices for the big groups. So I went first between Bibendum and Enotria, which
so very young. I really enjoyed my life but I first set up I had a silent partner who used
Tobacco in the whole of Asia. It gave me the
later. But apart from that ... it’s just really
with those suppliers. It was a 50-50 split
helped me a lot. Helped me to launch, to set the past 15 years when I used to work in the trade, so that was good. people we buy from now. I think we’ve got about 10 different
up. There are companies I’ve been using for
think they can open something without There’s a very distinctive look about the
never set in stone. I want to import more. Do you import much at the moment? We do a little bit, but not as much as I Portugal.
Are you working with smaller, more specialist agents these days? We have a few people that import just a
Continues page 14
would like to, from France, Spain, Italy and Do you team up with anybody else on imports?
few lines, but then to be fair, if they’ve only
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merchant profile: le vignoble
From page 13
got a few lines, why shouldn’t I just import them myself? Sometimes I wish we had to bring in some pallets because at the moment with the euro, it’s a killer. £100,000 and a nice bonded warehouse
Like a true Frenchman I was against all New World wine: ‘nah, I’d never touch that’
knew the prices they were offering were not the prices of the wine. I said, “why do sense, does it?” you want me to buy it from you when I can buy it directly from them? It doesn’t make enjoy it more. I’ll maybe grow the online side more. Time will tell. I think I prefer to focus on the public. I probably with just vodka, special whiskies, special brandies. I will avoid malt whiskies – I will just maybe put in a whisky from Brittany, a whisky from Japan, a whisky from Corsica. Things that are obscure, can’t necessarily find everywhere.
What about inviting in another silent partner for that kind of cash injection? Yes and no. Yes because I would be able to grow faster; no because I’m the one that works seven days. How many people are in your team? Four. They’re all under 30 years old. They’ve all got their qualifications. We they’ll be there. If I focus on the older
because that’s what I like. Things that you You say on your website that you hadn’t tasted much New World wine until you came to the UK. Twenty-five per cent of my list is French. old. In my first restaurant I looked at the wine list and there were three French right, so I went to see my restaurant wines. I thought, there is something not manager. He said, welcome to England. For a few months I was against all the When I arrived in England I was 19 years
aim to approach the young professionals generation ... I don’t want to be rude, but to 40 years.
– that’s what my vision is. In 30, 40 years, in 30, 40 years they might not be there any
more. And I’m looking at the business in 30 How do you market to those people? Social media, because that’s what they use. Social media is big for us, and it’s free. We work a lot with the local newspaper; it’s of Plymouth”. We did a lot of write-ups all about making Yannick “the wine man
The Enoround offers 16 wines at any time
New World wine, like a true Frenchman – I was like, nah, I’d never touch that. But the thing is my bank account couldn’t afford my French wine tastes in England so I had to change my mind. I went on a mission of discovering New World wine which could be as good as French for half the price. find most exciting then, and now? It goes in trends. The first was Argentina; I was and still am a big fan. Chile about five or 10 years ago was not there but now is waking up and is getting very, very good. very interesting. What parts of the New World did you
It’s good to have such a big space that can accommodate tasting events. Yes, this is great, but the downside is storage. There’s no warehouse or anything like that. You should come in my house. We’re looking to expand, actually. I’m There are bottles and cartons everywhere. the seating area. Tonight we’ve got a
for the Western Morning News; I go on the food and wine matching.
radio quite a lot; we try to use all the food
festivals; we team up with chefs and we do Do you go after any wholesale business? No, this is something that I don’t touch. I might be wrong; I don’t know. I just see it haven’t got it. I haven’t got a warehouse. to me in Cornwall and showed me their boys when I was in the New Forest so I When I was a food and beverage
fighting to get through next door to expand winemaker event: we have to close. We do a lot of education also, and when we do have the shop. bit: I can park everybody there and still
as very tiny margin and you have to buy a
lot. If it’s like, “can I have 20 cases?” ... no, I manager I didn’t like it when people came trade list. I had worked with the London
that we have to close. So to have that extra At the moment next door is a meeting
Same with South Africa. My family are now
buying New World wine in France, which is How many people are coming to tonight’s tasting? We’ve got 22 booked, which is pretty good.
room. The current tenant agreed for us to go in. I think what I will do will be a little
more cosy over there, with Enomatics but
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The way we do it is we charge £20 just to give them £10 back on the wine card for system. So the evening costs them £10. Is it always easy to get reps and winemakers down here to Devon? Sometimes it’s hard. Because we’re so for suppliers sometimes it’s hard for far down we hardly see journalists, and
make sure people turn up and we actually them to be able to enjoy the wine serving
12 hours every day. We’ve grown every year. The biggest jump we’ve seen was year we’ve grown 10%. When I set up I
replicate in a second branch? A lot of people ask me the same question. I say, how did Mr M&S get started? How did Mr Tesco get started? They had one Branson says: don’t be scared of the shop and now they’ve got thousands. You challenge. Go to the challenge and deal you’ll never move.
last year when we’ve grown by 40%. This
always said I would never be a millionaire work anywhere else.
in Plymouth. But Plymouth is good to start
with because if it works in Plymouth it can Would you like to relocate at some point or open more branches? I want to have five in the south west. It’s a 12 hours. I’ve got two young daughters, dream but I think it’s still possible. But not everybody is ready to work seven days, for three years old and one-and-a-half years
have to start somewhere. It’s like Richard with the problems when you are in there. If you start thinking about the problems
them to come as far as here. And we pay
premium because of delivery costs. It’s all consumer” – yes, but what help do we get hard as possible but we pay premium.
When might that second branch come? I’m itching. I’m passionate about wine, I love making money. but the other side is I really love business,
by postcode bracket. When you hear from
Decanter and the IWC “we need to help the in the south west? We’re trying to work as
You imagine picking up this entire shop, and relocating it to south west London ... I’d probably have a Ferrari outside. Every time I go to London and come back here I in the most obscure area in London. What about targeting the Navy?
get the London blues. Big time. Monday to
Sunday, everywhere you go is packed, even
We do. Yesterday that was it: 15 of them. It’s funny, a lot of people think that it’s very hard to deal with them. But
Plymouth is just Navy, it’s really hardcore, we get the officers. They go off on their submarine or their boat for seven months, drink. They come back to Plymouth ... it’s big money, on the one night. There is no
“If it’s just a hobby, you can’t be rich. But if it’s a business as well, who knows?”
they don’t spend a single penny, they don’t limit. Absolutely no limit. For a good 10% the first thing they’ve got in their mind is, let’s go to Le Vignoble. We even did wine tastings in submarines, in the messes, when they’re in harbour.
old. That’s their future. But then I pay the price that I don’t really see them. exactly on this one? I will tweak it depending on what’s located around. For example, if I go into Bristol, there are already wine merchants. Would I So the retail would probably be just 10%, other side of the business. be able to fight against them? Probably not. Would a second branch be modelled
soon as you start to feel comfortable you know there’s a problem. You want more. but that’s what drives you.
When you’re a young entrepreneur, as
It’s a bit kamikaze. It’s stressful, it’s crazy merchants say you can’t be rich out of That’s what I like. A lot of independent
being a wine merchant, but I don’t think
What kind of turnover do you have? In the first year the fact we broke even made me very happy. We finished this year at about £300,000 and I was quite happy, and we work seven days and near enough
20% of the business and I can play with the Your personality is part of the customer experience here – won’t that be hard to
it’s true. If it’s just your hobby then no, you can’t be rich, but then if it is a business as five branches then maybe I won’t be a have a bright future. If my dreams come true and I have well, who knows ... I think you can make it. millionaire but I’m sure my two girls can
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