The Wine Merchant issue 36

 

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The Wine Merchant issue 36

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THE WINE MERCHANT. An independent magazine for independent retailers Issue 36, May 2015 See you at Olympia New stores on the way for ambitious indies Established independents are leading growth in the sector with Oeno, Planet of the Grapes, Vagabond Wines and Bottle Apostle all planning to open new sites in the next few months. Planet of the Grapes is to close its original location in London’s New Oxford Street Holborn’s exclusive Sicilian Avenue. and replace it with a bigger site nearby in In August wine shop-cum-wine bar pioneer will trade from there under the Fox name with secondary signage to emphasise “fine wines and spirits”. Other notable features include a curved “We’re very excited to get our hands on bomb-proof window installed in World War II and pre-war interior cabinetry. it,” says owner Matt Harris. “It’s a beautiful THIS MONTH 2 BACCHUS Can you really make a profit on £1 corkage charges? 4 comings & GOINGS Somerset’s got soul, and it’s all change in Horsham 6 tried & TESTED and bar in the former home of Fox, an iconic City umbrella retailer and gents’ tailor. The listed building has a famous art deco It also aiming for a July opening for a shop building. You can’t change the sign, so it made something like ‘Planet of the Grapes at Fox’. Planet of the Grapes.” sense just to use the name rather than go with operation, it’s very much owned and run by The shop, at 18 London Wall, will be over Wines that explode with flavour … or just explode 9 merchant profile “But in terms of the wine, the buying and the frontage and neon sign featuring the name of the original business, so Planet of the Grapes Dalling & Co: busy even at 11am on a Tuesday 14 david williams Continues page two Just tell him the price, please 16 three-minute heroes The independents marketing themselves with films 20 london wine fair The treats in store at Olympia 32 FOCUS ON ARGENTINA Malbec and much more 32 FOCUS ON rum Versatile, premium and ‘more interesting than gin’ 44 SUPPLIER BULLETIN Wines from Navarra have been creating a stir in the independent sector of late. You can find out why at this year’s UK tasting. See Make a Date, pages 52 to 55. Essential updates from leading agents and importers

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BACCHUS second site will open in Cheltenham in May or June. company and will oversee the operation of the two stores. shops in Gloucestershire or further afield if he feels there is a need for us to be company. there,” says Burton. “He’s not saying no to anything – he’s very ambitious for the “Dave has plans to open three or four Manager Nick Burton is staying with the “We’ll be sourcing direct for wines below £15, bringing in wines from Bordeaux, the Loire, Languedoc, Puglia and Spain. The exchange rate’s good and there’s lots of value to be had.” its focus on the New World and try to develop wholesale. The expanded business will also increase Other forthcoming expansions will see Ambitious indies on expansion trail From page one five floors: a kitchen in the basement, the shop on the ground floor, dining on the second and an office at the top. first floor, a less formal lounge bar on the want to lose what we’ve had at Holborn somewhere where you can come to buy drink if you want to. “There’s a pocket in that part of the the second shop because he felt it wasn’t “He lives in Cheltenham and chose it for Vagabond Wines open its third London store in the trendy Spitalfields district soon and Bottle Apostle going to four branches when it opens in East Village, close to the Olympic Park. Worth voting for Wineries from England and Spain have had the dubious privilege of being paired with Nigel Farage and Nick Clegg. also chose wines to go with the other main parties’ leaders in a pre-election article for the Derby Telegraph. Farage was matched with Henners Brut Tim Worth of Lichfield-based Worth Bros over the last 10 years but we want to be “We’re still retail,” says Harris. “We don’t wine and stay and have some food and a City where there’s nowhere you can supermarket.” Matt Harris: four Planet of the Grapes sites 2009, perhaps less for its “citrus, apple and floral flavours” than the suspicion that the pint-loving UKIP leader would “down a bottle of English sparkling wine”. Clegg’s Spanish wife and children called go to buy wine unless you’re going to a locations, with its sites in Bow Lane and Leadenhall staying unchanged. “That will probably be it for me for at The changes bring the group up to four well-served for the size of the town.” Georgian property but the bespoke not be reproduced there. modernist look of the existing store will The Cheltenham site is a two-storey Antonio, Alberto and Miguel inspired the choice of K-Naia 2013, a “zesty, limey” Verdejo from Rueda. Ed Miliband got Cave St Verny Puy de least two years,” says Harris, “but I’d never say never and if the right site came up we could do it.” rebranded as Appellation Nation Cirencester-based Oeno is being – maybe about £30,000. It’s a classic old Cheltenham shop, but we do have a few surprises up our sleeves,” says Burton. “There will be a fine wine area and tasting room in the cellar and it will be because it’s a bigger town.” Burton and Carson visited Prowein “It would be very expensive to recreate Dôme Pinot Noir 2012 on the grounds that with the Labour Party’s ethos”. alternative to Bollinger. David Cameron was allocated it is co-operative-produced and “in keeping Champagne Lallier as a cheaper, austerity Mangan River Sauvignon-Semillon 2010 The line-up was completed by Cullen after being bought by South African businessman Dave Carson – whose background is supplying brewery original owner Giles Davey. equipment in his own country – from the a knock-through into a next door unit. A very much more event-led than Cirencester to source new wines. “We’re looking to The existing store is doubling in size with strengthen the entry-level,” says Burton. “We’ve been very strong at £15-£20 but weren’t doing particularly well sub-£10. from Western Australia (Natalie Bennett, Green), Scot Norrel Roberston’s La Multa Old Vine Garnacha 2012 from Calatayud whisky (Leanne Wood, Plaid Cymru). (Nicola Sturgeon, SNP), and Penderyn malt THE WINE MERCHANT may 2015 2

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Coffee’s a pound and so is corkage The occasional accusation of profiteering usually comes with the territory for indies. But a new venture in Greater Manchester stands a good chance of avoiding such charges. which also sells a specialist wine range, than £1 for a latte or cappuccino. Toast Saddleworth, a coffee roaster take away. The store can accommodate about 25 people and also offers cheeses, smokehouse products, bread and cakes. model is profitable. Flying Füchs as “a total lunatic”, he insists the business though there are some great bottles of “This is not for the wine expert, even Although Hockenhull describes himself wine here,” he says. “It’s for people who “People who like nice wine like nice charges just £1 corkage on its wines and Brian Hockenhull has redeveloped an like a good bottle of wine and don’t want to go for those £5-off offers down at Tesco. coffee, great bread and great olive oil. I’m about the strippers on a Sunday morning though.” also believes it’s “immoral” to charge more industrial unit and buys wines from Julian and Phil Garratt, who own Saddleworth Wine Vault and Wino’s in Oldham. “This is the product of about 30 years’ He points out that coffee growers are trying to get the mix right. I’m still not sure “Our Man with the Facts” • The term “grog” comes from The joy of six “grogram”, a fabric used in the cloak decided that sailors’ rum rations bad living – all the bars and coffee places An East Anglian merchant is aiming to get one over on local supermarkets by offering retail customers a selection of wines from its wholesale list. prices in the Bury St Edmunds shop on minimum purchases of six bottles of “popular everyday” wines, including Thomas Peatling is offering wholesale worn by Admiral Vernon, who in 1740 should be diluted with water to limit drunkenness. Old Grog, as he was their rum with lime and sugar. I’ve been to in the world,” says Hockenhull. paid around 1p per cup. “It’s not nice to sell it for over £3 – it’s bloody immoral and rips people off,” he says. The fair price he pays facilities in Ethiopia. for beans helps to fund schools and medical really. I’ve also been pissed off with the price of a glass of wine. We’ve got good couple cost more than a tenner. Prosecco is going like mad.” “On the wine side it’s the same principle, known, also allowed “good men” to mix • Freshly-picked grapes are covered with Kloeckera and Candida wild Chilean Merlot (£5.49), Italian Pinot Grigio, Australian Shiraz-Viognier, Argentine Blanc (£7.99) and Chablis (£9.99). Malbec (all £5.99), Rioja Crianza (£6.99), Prosecco (£7.49), Marlborough Sauvignon are broadly in line with those offered to they might be less”. He adds: “It’s a way of opening up the Director Nicholas Corke says the prices yeasts, which start to ferment the fruit almost immediately but die off when alcohol levels reach about 5%. The • There are five AOC wine regions work is finished by Saccharomyces. in Belgium. Ninety per cent of the Pinot Meunier. wine here at supermarket prices and only a and things like that. Rioja is going well and an element of self-service – customers the glass, either on the premises or to Hockenhull saves on costs by allowing “We’re doing bin ends – Shiraz, Malbec wholesale customers “but in some cases market to people who are buying for country’s wines are white but reds are made from Dornfelder, Pinot Noir and • According to a straw poll on the can enjoy wine by the bottle but not by Come and taste this year’s winning wines on Stand A10 at the London Wine Fair parties and the like where they might pass “Some of the wines were in the shop us by as a specialist wine merchant and the sales might otherwise go to a supermarket. before and some weren’t. The single bottle price is more expensive but it’s very rare that people would pay that. very keen prices for an independent.” “It’s had a very good response. They’re Cellartracker website, the longest Niederhausen Schlossböckelheim Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese. Schloßböckelheimer Kupfergrube wine name is 2006 Gutsverwaltung THE WINE MERCHANT may 2015 3

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Station shop sends out right signals The Somerset Wine Co is a new retail operation situated in The Factory – an art, antiques and food space in a disused dairy’s pasteurising facility at Castle Cary station. formerly with Christopher Piper Wines in Le Merche in Italy. She is running the store with George The business is owned by Camilla Wood, Ottery St Mary and who owns a vineyard in Zsiga who grew up on a family vineyard in Hungary and imports the country’s wines under the name of Danube Wines. wine shop” focusing on wines from small producers “with soul and integrity”. The shop, which has a courtyard area Wood bills Somerset Wine Co as a “social Somerset Wine Co focuses on local products as well as imports local festival celebrating all things Italian – including food, cars and opera. It included extending hours until 9pm, introducing to tapas. Italian style of small-plate cuisine similar the business,” says Lisa Costello. “The “Retail is still a very important side of tables and chairs and offering cicchetti, an £42,000 and plans to use the extra funding to integrate online and shop stock control. Pop Brixton, a development of offices, shops, street food outlets and communal shipping containers in the south London district. The shop will eventually be housed in Owner Melanie Brown raised over for customer use, also seeks to champion artisan ciders and beers in addition to locally-made wines, spirits and cheese. There will be a pop-restaurant once a month and regular tastings and educational events. “This is the best and most enjoyable way to gently educate customers about wine,” says Wood. “It’s just an agricultural product, and should be approached in a places where you feel belittled for your lack of knowledge”. changes we made were really in response to customer demand. Because we had draught wine [to refill bottles] we had go all the way with the idea.” people coming in after work and asking if The sister store, Godalming Enoteca, is dining spaces being constructed from old “The aim is to do something quite simple light-hearted, life-enhancing way. Old-style wine merchants can be stuffy, intimidating they could buy a glass, so it made sense to in the process of being sold and Costello’s new owner with draught wines. and authentic that will allow the wines and the producers to speak for themselves,” going to be engaging with people about fine New Zealand wine.” says Brown. “There will be lots of tastings because an important element of this is Italy on Tap business will be supplying the Hello to Costello West Sussex’s Horsham Enoteca is to have a name change as the second phase of a 2015 relaunch. renamed Costello’s Wine & Food and the shop is upgrading its from-the-barrel draught sparkling. The family-owned business is being Kickstarting Kiwi wine sales The UK’s first shop dedicated to New Zealand will be perhaps appropriately, housed in a shipping container. is moving into bricks and mortar – or in in excess of its target of £35,000 in a Kickstarter appeal. Online retailer The New Zealand Cellar sales but no machines, and Brown says she foresees retail sales as the lion’s share of the business. Brown has been overseeing the wine list There will be on-premise by-the-glass at West End restaurant Providores for six years and started the New Zealand Cellar last summer. fine New Zealand wines in fine dining “I wanted to do something that gave Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.” the regions and producers a platform “It was frustrating that you could find wine offering to include chilled white and April so the store could take a full part in a The first phase was completed in time for this case steel – after attracting investment restaurants but not in retail,” she says. to show that New Zealand goes beyond THE WINE MERCHANT may 2015 4

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tried & Tested Clos Rocailleux Braucol Rosé 2013 Winemaker Jack Reckitt left his job in insurance to enrol at Plumpton and now makes wine in Gaillac with his wife Margaret. This is billed as having aromas of “fruits and flowers of the summer”, but to us it evoked a busy farmyard on a July day. The palate is clean and RRP: £11.99-£12.99 ABV: 12% Red Squirrel Wine (020 3490 1210) redsquirrelwine.com mean, however, with oodles of juicy red fruit flavours. Cleefs Classic Collection Chenin Blanc 2014 The watery colour and fairly neutral nose don’t set the pulse racing but this is an understated and nicely it’s a good summer quencher that rounds into a RRP: £8.90 ABV: 13.5% Hatch Mansfield (01344 871800) hatchmansfield.com structured wine offering great value for money. Steely, savoury finish and will go well with olives and nuts. with a good bite and notes of not-quite-ripe pineapple, Frithsden Fizz 2013 Full marks to this Hemel Hempstead vineyard for one of the best English labels we’ve seen. The crown cap nearly took our eye out, mind you, as the mad Celler de Capcanes Peraj Petita 2012 Capcanes is 100 miles south west of Barcelona, 20 miles from the Med, and there’s a bracing seaside freshness to this elegant (kosher) blend of Garnacha, Tempranillo, Merlot and Syrah – or perhaps it’s just RRP: £14.99 ABV: 14% purple liquid exploded out and the foam cascaded into neighbouring streets. The weird burnt rubber aroma fun to find such an idiosyncratic domestic wine. RRP: £25 ABV: 11.5% Frithsden Vineyard (01442 878723) frithsdenvineyard.co.uk and vegetal flavours won’t appeal to everyone but it’s the cool mountain air that’s working its magic. A really Alliance Wine (01505 506060) alliancewine.com nicely integrated wine with thyme and rosemary notes. Gulfi Nerojbleo 2010 Describing a Sicilian wine as tasting of blood conjures up all the wrong images, but this thick, to haemoglobin. We loved it, by the way. It’s a gentle sting on the finish. RRP: £18.99 alliancewine.com ABV: 13% rich, slightly sweet and iron-tinged monster really can’t be discussed without at least one reference wonderfully agricultural Nero d’Avola that emits a Alliance Wine (01505 506060) Saveurs de Lyre Auxerrois Chardonnay 2013 Aged on lees for eight to 10 months, this new Louis Latour arrival hails from northern Burgundy in an area being revitalised by Simmonet-Febvre. This example is a delight: it’s lean and elegant, but the fruit gradually shines through and the finish is long, pure and consistent. A steal at this price. RRP: £13.49 louislatour.co.uk ABV: 12.5% Louis Latour Agencies (020 7409 7276) Gibson Bridge Sweet 16 Botrytis Pinot Gris 2011 An aroma like a spent sparkler dipped in honey, a texture resembling golden syrup and a palate combining apricots and 1970s cough medicine make sweetness lightly, so just enjoy the opulence. RRP: £65 ABV: 10% Gibson Bridge UK (07809 727001) gibsonbridge.co.uk Louis Jadot Monthélie Domaine Gagey 2010 Burgundy below £30 versus Pinot Noir from almost anywhere else in the world is a fight the bookies example has an airy classiness that the New World almond notes remain aloof, well down in the mix. RRP: £26.95 ABV: 13.5% Hatch Mansfield (01344 871800) hatchmansfield.com would have no trouble in pricing. But this firm, fresh this a Marlborough wine you’re unlikely to forget in a hurry. With 230g/l of residual sugar it doesn’t wear its often struggles to replicate. The strawberry, plum and THE WINE MERCHANT may 2015 6

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bits & BOBs FAVOURITE East meets WSET THINGS in wine education The Wine & Spirit Education Trust has won one of the UK’s highest business accolades, the Queen’s Award for Enterprise 2015 in International Trade. over the past decade has more than The proportion of non-UK candidates Magpie Whitmore & White Heswall Graham Simpson Favourite wine on my list This is a tough one as I love them all, but for white it would have to be Lamont Riesling (my desert island grape) and for red it would have to be the sumptuous Gamba Amarone Classico “Campadel”. Favourite wine and food match An old claret from the cellar and a nice, juicy, rare fillet steak. Bliss. doubled from 37% to over 75%, while overall candidate numbers have more than quadrupled, covering some 62 countries. quadrupled since 2008, while numbers in Australia have increased eightfold over number one market. Decanter, April 21 WSET candidate numbers in France have Wine analysis: a high-pressure job the same timescale – and Greater China is fast catching the UK to become the WSET’s Prosecco parties British drinkers spent more on Prosecco than Champagne in supermarkets for the first time last year, according to figures. found affection for Prosecco. Some suggest drinking preferences. than Champagne. Alfonso Cevola, an author and Italian Experts are at odds to explain our new- Sweet taste of ocean Champagne Philippe Jeandet, who has been analysing the chemical composition of wines for 18 years, has spent the past 12 months studying the world’s oldest Champagne. back to the 1830s, on a wreck off the Aland islands between Sweden and Finland. notes kept during the early 19th century by Veuve Clicquot, the winemaker who gave her name to the Champagne house. added salt and gelatine than in modern The tests found far higher quantities of His study has confirmed the accuracy of Divers found 168 bottles, which date Favourite wine trade person I couldn’t single out any of our wine and spirit suppliers as they’re all fantastic, so I will have to go with Jancis – watching her Vintners’ Tales way back when really inspired me to get into wine. Favourite wine shop I’m not the first, and I certainly won’t be the last to say D Byrne & Co in Clitheroe. A veritable Aladdin’s cave of wine and spirits. Favourite wine trip My first visit to Italy a few years ago in Verona as a guest of Liberty Wines. It was a most memorable trip, visiting some top estates and finishing with lunch at a restaurant on the shores of Lake Garda in the beautiful October sunshine. the years of austerity have stretched to our wine expert, said: “Prosecco seems easier luxury product, while Prosecco is really a fancy clothing, no hushed lights and no celebration needed.” The Independent, April 12 wine for all people. You don’t need to wear “Champagne has built its reputation as a Champagne and “three or four times the sugar content of a Coca-Cola”. Grape syrup as Mme Clicquot had written at the time. The Telegraph, April 20 had been added to make the drink sweeter, The Wine Merchant is mailed freely to the owners www.winemerchantmag.com 01323 370451 Twitter: @WineMerchantMag winemerchantmag@gmail.com of the UK’s 760 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 may 2015 8

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merchant profile: dalling & CO Folkins (left) and Moorhouse: disagreements over Jeremy Clarkson but not wine Herts so good Dalling & Co started as a deli, then doubled in size to incorporate a wine shop where customers can enjoy anything on the shelves for a modest £3.50 corkage. Owner Jeff Folkins knew “nothing” about wine when he started out, but then one day Mark Moorhouse hoved into view … I t’s 11am on a Tuesday, a time when most wine merchants are pretty quiet. But Dalling & Co is already “became a failed investment banker” and in Kings Langley, a Hertfordshire village just off the 11 o’clock dial of the M25. buzzing. decided, with his wife Claire, to open a deli “We did what every wise person does in arrangement didn’t work, and Folkins of a white knight investor. The wine side of the business only ended up buying them out with the help really got into its stride when Mark up the early April sunshine with glasses of something dry and white. Others are tucking into pastries and sipping cappuccinos. Inside the shop – half of merchant – steam is hissing, staff are a sense that the lunchtime rush is imminent. Outside, three regulars are soaking business – you take all of your assets, you sell your house and you put it all in one recession. It fooled the economists.” available six months later and was The newsagent’s next door became which is run as a deli, and half as a wine exchanging playful insults, and there’s In 2009, Canadian-born Jeff Folkins business,” he says. “At the beginning of the Moorhouse arrived four months later. With 25 years of experience of selling to the trade, he could spot the problems – failing off-licence into a specialist wine shop. off, and set about transforming it from a and the potential – of the business a mile transformed into an off-licence, trading under the Dalling name but operated share basis. For various reasons, the by two other entrepreneurs on a profit- Continues page 10 THE WINE MERCHANT may 2015 9

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merchant profile: dalling & CO From page 9 How did you get started with the overhaul of the range? Mark: The first few weeks of being here I have we got four wines from the Douro, trade at all. looked at all the shelves and made a list of everything that was here. It was like, why and no Chablis? With respect to Jeff and Jeff: No, absolutely not. We started importing two and a half years ago – the first pallet scared the hell out of me they were knowledgeable – but actually Jeff: It sounds corny but they were friendly and they were knowledgeable. Of course was free; the reps got the score cards back, so we could say “it doesn’t work, and that’s and said, oh, we helped choose that. ownership. why”. We’d take the top 10 wines and bring them into the shop. In April people came in Mark: “You’ve got my wine.” It gave them Jeff: We only do it in a couple of points of the year now and we say to reps, if you get a fair view. Claire, you guys had no clue about the wine It grew organically from there. We had that is a key thing because some of them from a major, because the rep was just a waste of space. We didn’t ask for a lot but Karen and some really good reps. Mark was in touch really good people backing us up. Liberty Mark: … Martin from Fields, Morris & Verdin … really aren’t. We binned one not long ago with some of his old friends. There were a lot of reps we didn’t want but we had some was brilliant, Karen was very supportive … Jeff: … Martin was extremely important. There were others, but those were the them early. Martin were generous with samples, which we really don’t abuse. There’s no point for home and get drunk or have a drink with someone to waste their budget on us to go but we really try and use them efficiently, have things you’d like us to try, that’s the We’ve got to a point now where we’re dinner. It’s nice to be given a bottle of wine and I often send things back unopened or sell it here; or interesting, what would any better than that for the price. I won’t let reps open them. Because I’ll say, that retail for because we’d have to knock another wine out and it’s not going to be time to submit them, because at least you’ll full. I don’t need any more Cabernet main two. We paid them on time or we paid Mark: Having been on the sales side of things, all my customers used to take the it a bit more. Jeff pays on the nose and I our suppliers. was like no, no, no! But actually it works right, interesting, don’t like the label, never Sauvignon or Merlot or Sauvignon Blanc. If we spend 10p more … they’re all the same. You know, with all respect – they’re nice. us – changing a product involves a lot of have any gaps! This has all been a learning curve for maximum amount of credit and then push because we’ve got even more support from Aside from credit terms, what did you most need from your suppliers in the early days? it’s honest. Sometimes they force us to try things, which is sometimes a good thing! Mark: Karen and Martin were interested in our business, what we were doing. Five years ago there weren’t as many independent retailers as there are now. You sometimes let your customers deliver the verdict on the samples you’re given. I think our reps appreciate that because thought. So when somebody comes in and says, “what gaps have you got?” … I don’t Mark: I agree with Jeff on that; however, certain things have got their time and therefore that’s when a natural gap appears. A wine you were selling 15 dozen of every month and then is down to one or replacing it with something else. with now? Jeff: About 17. Big minimum drops are a two dozen a month, then it’s time to look at How many suppliers are you working Jeff: We had all these samples in the back … so we put them all on the table one night, and there were 40 or 50 wines. We put they get them marked, and people try scorecards with them. It was a win-win pain but at the same time I am sympathetic to it. I do understand it. Those minimums are a little less rigid than they used to be lot of wine. but 15 dozen with some people … that’s a What kind of storage have you got? because the reps get their samples tasted, a plus for us and a plus for them. And it wines they never thought they’d try. That’s THE WINE MERCHANT may 2015 10

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Jeff: Not a lot. We can get everything in and on the shelves, and now we’re importing ourselves. It’s just really started. I have a German friend who has a small wine business in Germany, and he accesses some really good Austrian wine and also does in with him, and that was a major step. phenomenal. some Prosecco. So I started working with him a couple of years ago. I brought a pallet Mark: The stress levels for Jeff were quite Jeff: We started doing that two and a half hell out of me. It’s cash flow. As with any small business, if you manage your cash the job as well. years ago, and that first pallet scared the flow you can do anything. I learned that on Was this all DPD? Jeff: Yeah. I had nothing to do with bond. On our side it’s not worth the hassle, frankly. It may come to that point. So I got transport months – now from Germany we’re doing Prosecco we’re selling is just huge. There was one particular red wine that sorted and it worked out really well and we went from doing one pallet every five or six one every couple of months. The amount of was just flying out the door last year and we got a chance to do it ex-cellars, which wine shops, so we created our own little with. The Italian one has been really good because it’s one middle-range negociant saved us a lot of money. The street scene in Kings Langley at 11am How does the turnover break down between the two sides of the business? Jeff: Well they’re completely separate as I say. Turnover is roughly the same now. and they’ve some good wines in there; it’s What’s your natural limit for your own imports? Half of the range? More? Jeff: Right now it would be about 10%. The maximum is probably 40%. Mark: It’s looking at the faster moving lines where you need the volume. If it’s The deli used to turn over more. We were we were up 17% and the year before that 12%, so we’ve been growing really well and our margins are growing as well. get established, that’s what part of it is. Jeff: It is now, it’s just getting there. Could there be a second shop? Jeff: We would love to open another shop. Location is everything; I just wouldn’t do it for the sake of it. There are a couple of locations coming up in north London. up 30% last year and the year before that saves us a lot of money, obviously. This guy very wisely got us in touch with two other buying group. It took us six months to get it done because we didn’t get time to get splitting four pallets. We’re only able to look at importing more attractive to do it ex-cellars because you can make a better margin, then let’s have a look at it. Bringing in everything ex-cellars just wouldn’t work. We do some wholesaling but Jeff and I would probably get too involved in that and ignore what was happening in the shop. Jeff: … the thing on that though is I sell We have 10 Austrian wines … Christmas really blew my socks off. But you Is the shop profitable in its own right? Where does the business go from here? organised. It went from splitting a pallet to now because the business has made a bit of money, thank god, and we’re finally at expand the business. Bordeaux is another one we’re going the point where we can use the money to to do ex-cellars. We’re going to have six, them to other people, and I’m pushing to get other shops to buy them, and even a couple of suppliers are talking to us about Where it goes from here, I have no clue. getting them. If you’d have said this to me That will be worth getting the seed capital for and actually we’re getting our current investor interested in getting involved. perhaps in a smaller space? Jeff: I’d be loath to have a wine shop that’s Continues page 12 eight, 10 Bordeaux and that’s it. It’s not like I’m going to have a big Bordeaux section. There’s a Chablis producer that a friend of ours found, which we’re going to go Five years from now we might be sitting in it; I would never believe that in a million years. But I don’t know. even six months ago I’d have gone, naaaw. Would a second shop be a replica of this, an office somewhere with 15 shops. I doubt THE WINE MERCHANT may 2015 11

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merchant profile: dalling & Co From page 11 But you know what: we’re making money, it’s profitable, people are happy to come here, they enjoy it. I don’t ever want to come across as taking the piss. On beers we charge 50p, almost as a matter of defence, a Peroni for £1.95? Mark: When we first introduced corkage people were a bit suspicious of it and would go down to the lower end. They’d buy an £8 bottle of wine, so they paid because frankly where are you going to get comes out at £9.37, that’s what we’re going to do. We’re not going to rip you off. What kind of margin do you aim for? Jeff: On a gross margin basis we aim for 15% and 25%. between 40% and 50%. Obviously with just simply wine. The idea of being able to tasting and stuff, is important. We do a lot of business where people come in sit down and have a glass of wine, certainly and have a glass of wine, and a bottle of wine, especially on the tapas nights. We’re heaving, we’re booked solid. If you don’t we can’t physically take more people. Corkage at £3.50 seems almost book a week or two in advance you don’t get a table. I hate to turn people away but wholesaling we might be getting between can’t be bothered to have two sizes. 175ml is what we serve. We’ll open pretty much anything within reason. We’re going to boost sales of higher-priced wines. towards the Winefit. I think it will help range. If you give someone a taste of where our business has grown. get a wine preservation thing. I’m leaning I know what works in the £7.99-£12.99 We only do one size of glass because I £11.50. Then people started working it out, and you’d see people with Gevrey or Nuits St Georges or a bottle of claret. For £3.50 pay triple that at a decent restaurant. they can go to 20 or 30 quid because they’d recklessly low. Some people are putting something more expensive, that’s when That’s part of being in a village with they make that quantum leap, and that’s a regular customer base. They’ve taken themselves upmarket. I don’t have an average bottle price, I wish I did, but it’s few years ago. definitely gone up. People easily spend £10 to £15 where they wouldn’t have done a Mark: We do tastings about once every six weeks, and when we started the numbers were not getting there, it was family and friends coming along. Now they sell out The deli is run as a separate business and accounts for about half of total turnover pretty much as we publish them. marketing. I guess a shop like this is its own £10 on a bottle. Mark: Yeah, but that’s London. Central London you can get away with that. When we first introduced it we had a couple of we have a published list of two reds, It’s like wine by the glass as well: yes Jeff: It is its own marketing. Mark is also very good at Facebook and Twitter. I’m hopeless. Mark: I think our people are more Twitter people than anything else. Jeff puts out a newsletter once a fortnight. Jeff: We do a supper club every month, it’s £22.50 a person, and it’s seasonal, people querying it and we explained about staff costs, heating and electricity, cleaning the glass and all the rest of it. We pointed out that the Sauvignon Blanc that they were being charged £13.50 for with the two whites and a rosé but if someone comes in and says, “I want two glasses of Chardonnay”, then I’ll open a bottle up. Because actually if you pour two glasses, for which we charge £3, £3.50 or £3.95, £3.50 corkage charge in a wine bar, even in Kings Langley, would be double that, and objects to it. it wouldn’t be the quality. And no one now Jeff: Customers tell us we should put it up. those two glasses will cover the cost of the bottle, make a little bit of profit, and then use as sampling. With our pricing the customer will say we’ve got a bottle that we can either sell or “why £9.37?” Well actually that’s because we have a margin that we make and if it and I always do suggested wines for the imploring people to go to the hustings on Wednesday night because all five evening, so that’s a great thing to put in the newsletter. I’ll be sending one out today THE WINE MERCHANT may 2015 12

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candidates are going to be there, or I’ll rant because he really was pissing me off. It’s really just an outlet to say, “we’re here!” life. Jeff: We are part of a community. We’re very lucky with the frontage we’ve got on about Kim Jong-un; I did that for a while You seem quite embedded into village I always under-budget for expected sales and over-budget for my VAT bill aid? Jeremy Clarkson? Taste in wine? that. Jeff: No, there are never any issues with five of us but a couple are really parttime. In the deli we’ve got about 15, but I’ve got great confidence in Nat, our that’s a lot of people on one day a week. we’ve had other young people who’ve done really well. My son’s done really They catch on really fast. here, that makes a big difference. But to do to have location, and parking’s a big thing. Things we genuinely lucked out on. I can’t really wasn’t. You’ve got to have a good council, and business as a deli or a wine shop you’ve got say there was a masterplan, because there we’re very lucky – they’re really helpful your neighbours. Keep your cash flow. Mark: There are wines here that Jeff likes and I’m not a great fan of, and vice versa. five years we’ve worked together we’ve We talk it through and work it out. In the sales assistant. He’s done really well and well; he’s at uni now. He learned a lot. people, do not bullshit people. If you and really nice people. And keep good with Honest to god, for the first year I used to do that mental thing – “we’ve spent this much, flow now. I can pretty much forecast any period of time ahead based on expected budget for expected sales and I always we’ll probably spend that much next week.” don’t know, tell them you don’t know. If deli people have to cover for us we say, up to the big heavy-hitting Argentine Malbecs, and then bone-dry up to We’ve always stressed with our sales I’ve built a spreadsheet that runs my cash there’s the layout: light, Beaujolais style, aromatic, flowery and whatever. Find sales and actual sales and I always underover-budget for my VAT bill, so my worst case scenario eight weeks down the road is way outside our overdraft: “my god, we’re going to go under!” But I’d rather do that I just got through it, and that nightmare and get the relief every week of saying, oh, ways to recommend stuff: “I know this sells really well” or “Mark and Jeff really like this” or try something and then you when someone takes a real interest. A useful motto for customers and staff alike can say “I don’t like that”. I get a real kick yourself. The customers that come in are really all friends, and they get treated while you buy somebody a drink. just as badly as our own family. We have a laugh with them … and every once in a The bottom line is really just being scenario keeps moving down the calendar. culture. Canadians have a famously good service Jeff: Apparently we do. I don’t know if that makes a difference. Mark and I are like chalk and cheese. He brings out the inner teenager in me. He’s so OCD. Customers people think he’s an ass and I’m great. opinion about? Jeff: Where do we start? How about foreign think I’m an ass and he’s great, and some What are your biggest differences of probably had one or two arguments. because he kind of smoulders. Jeff: He gets an angry face on, it’s really funny. If Mark’s in a bad mood, you can tell, Mark: We both know what we want from the business and we both know how we want the business to go forward. Jeff: The place is as well run if I’m here or not here. You just take that for granted. in the team now? Jeff: In the wine shop there are How many people are respond to us very differently. Some people THE WINE MERCHANT may 2015 13

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just williams Tell me the price and I’ll pay Confusing consumers with complicated deals is a grubby business. Honesty on pricing is surely at the heart of any decent retail strategy, because not everyone is interested in haggling or multibuys I am not, and never will be, a natural of business in even the most trivial circumstances. dealmaker. I just can’t play the games wife would book appointments with buyers when she knew I wasn’t going bartering is expected – hailing a cab on holiday in India, for example, or buying When I find myself in situations where to be there, because I had a tendency to information. “Oh yes, the boiler’s a bit say and when … all the fine judgements words, just felt too disingenuous, too artificial to me. ruin everything by blabbing out too much with a spanner if you smell anything. And yes, the bedroom’s got rising damp, but essential to the art of negotiation, in other It’s not surprising really. I’d been trained second-hand furniture at a boot fair – I am an abject failure. I stop at the first price, at dodgy, but don’t worry you can fiddle about it’s not too bad if you put a hair dryer on it from time to time.” I just can’t help myself. to think of business as the dirty work of the cynical and amoral. I was a child of of the commercial world, who thought which point there’s always an embarrassed public sector workers innately suspicious bucks should never be quick but earned, a journalist, I was indoctrinated from a slowly, from your own honest toil. And as very early stage in my career with the idea that the wall between the grubby, moneygrubbing commercial and the pure, lofty all costs. editorial departments must be defended at IT TOOK A couple of years’ working as a of business, and of retail in particular. I retail journalist for me to start to respect – if not to absorb for my own life – the skills went into my first interviews with retail MDs and drinks department bosses with an unspoken Paxmanian attitude of “why are these lying bastards lying to me,” thinking they were driven by cash, and cash alone, An ancestor of Williams bargains for a crayfish with an essay he’s written about rootstocks motivated more by the need to line their customers. pause when the vendor blinks in disbelief, and, briefly (until it dawns on them before it’s even started. they’re getting a stupidly inflated price), disappointment that the game is over When we were selling our flat a few just too honest, too good mannered to be a salesman – even that it was somewhat necessary information, volunteering something only when asked a direct I used to think, rather piously, that I was own and their shareholders’ pockets than offering the best possible service to their others – and I’ve met many more since – got a thrill from the art of negotiation. Many of them were. But there were beneath me. Withholding all but the most question, knowing exactly how much to who took a genuine joy in retailing. They years ago, it got to the point where my They knew it was often a game, but it was THE WINE MERCHANT may 2015 14 a game of nerve and skill that wasn’t to be

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taken personally, and which offered its own rewards and satisfaction. people call, rather grandly, the “art of They also take pleasure in what some turning around the fortunes of the troubled chain. And while I know he’s not every reader of this magazine’s copa of fino, I’m from suspension as he talked me through month. thinking of Tesco drinks boss Dan Jago, so David Williams is wine critic for The Observer retailing”, but which might be better be work of retail that ranges from store- summed up as the tactics – the creative obviously back in his element on his return the logic of his range at a Tesco tasting last admiration in some cases, for retail and that the tricks of the trade need not scepticism entirely. But while I may have more respect, even dressing to discounting, from advertising to product design and market research. All those many different ways of getting people to choose your shop over another. SOME PEOPLE, I found, are just born to be retailers, and are lost without the buzz. former marketing director of Threshers, who lit up as soon as he discussed the who admitted to me in an interview that he had very little life outside retail – and three-for-two on every wine that, at the time, had earned acclaim for seemingly of recent years, with its inflated single retailers now – and while I may understand necessarily be cynical – I can’t suspend my Call me naïve, but I still feel a little bottle price, so hard to love: both give me the same anxious feeling I have when I’m bartering. “Forget the faffing about, just give me a straight price!” I want to say. more so now they’re one and the same, I’m thinking of people like Alex Anson, the uncomfortable when the marketing wheeze or the sales tactics are indulged to the point where they seem like a retailer’s sole raison d’être. It’s why I’ve always found Naked Wines, with its complicated hall of mirrors Angel scheme, and the Majestic and apparent in cases as diverse as Tesco The danger in both these cases – all the and the long-since departed Threshers – is offer: the best possible products sold possible price. that the game-playing of business obscures without fuss or obfuscation at the best what should be at the heart of any retailer’s THE WINE MERCHANT may 2015 15

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