The Wine Merchant issue 37

 

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The Wine Merchant issue 37

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THE WINE MERCHANT. An independent magazine for independent retailers Issue 37 , June 2015 Our dress code: classical casual France and Boutinot triumph in Top 100 France emerged as the number one country, and Boutinot as the leading supplier, in the annual Wine Merchant Top 100 awards. the first time from 50 to 100 winning wines, The Wine Merchant Top 100 is the only the retailers themselves. Now in its third year, and expanded for NV. It came ahead of New Zealand, which Commended wines. contributed 13 to the 100 and eight Highly finished joint third with Italy overall, but took three trophies – Best Red Wine for Bodegas Navajas Gran Reserva, Rioja 2005 (Walker & Wodehouse), Best Value Red for Cuatro Pasos Mencía, Bierzo 2012 (£9.99, Liberty NV (Gonzalez Byass UK). It was also a good year for Spain, which THIS MONTH 2 BACCHUS Books and wine, secret meetings and karaoke 4 comings & GOINGS Smiling Grape to Hungerford; Underwood gets more space 6 tried & TESTED competition for wines aimed exclusively at the UK’s independent wine merchants, judged by entries submitted by 23 suppliers by a panel by David Williams of The Observer. France led the way with 29 wines in the The winners were chosen from a field of 430 Wines), and Best Dessert & Fortified Wine for Gonzalez Byass Leonor Palo Cortado Sherry Italy took the Best Value White Trophy for A few choice finds from the Esoterica tables 9 merchant profile of 16 independent wine merchants overseen top 100 and 12 Highly Commended wines – plus the Best Sparkling Wine Trophy for Azienda Agricola Contesa di Rocco Caparrone Pecorino, IGT Colline Pescaresi 2014 (£8.63, Boutinot), while Greece – which featured in winner, Gaia Wines Wild Novum Wines). the final selection for the first time with three Ferment Assyrtiko, Santorini 2014 (Hallgarten Druitt & Among suppliers, Liberty Le Bon Vin: a little bit of France in Sheffield 14 david williams Champagne Charles Heidsieck Brut Réserve wines – provided the Best White Wine Trophy- The squeezed middle of the UK wine trade 18 couriers APC again leads the field in our survey of independents Wines had a strong showing to finish runner-up to Boutinot, with Hallgarten Druitt & third spot. Novum Wines just behind in For the first time, all the 25 focus on ItalY Things that indies can offer that bigger rivals won’t 30 SUPPLIER BULLETIN winners in The Wine Merchant Top 100 were showcased over all three days at the London Winners were tasted enthusiastically at the London Wine Fair Essential updates from leading agents and importers 36 FOCUS ON VODKA Wine Fair. • Judging report and pictures: pages 16 and 17. Positive vibes from a spirit that doesn’t have to be neutral

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BACCHUS expand the company’s reach along the ago and the Chagford branch followed the year after. south coast. Wholesaling is becoming so warehouse is opening in Leyton to cope with demand. can see that the refill system is working Director Muriel Chattel says: “People successful for Borough Wines that a new Smile and sing Marketing ideas in wine retailing can sometimes seem like they’re in limited supply but a glance at The Smiling Grape’s programme of events – and mixed case packages – suggests the contrary. places for his second Wine Karaoke night and then we taste it, and then somebody sings a song,” he explains. one”, Ellis reports, though Champagne “Red Red Wine is quite a popular Owner Matt Ellis is currently filling well in our shops and ask if we can supply retail but we’re now at a point where we can also focus on wholesale.” Wines extending its brand to the west of Peckham. them. At first we were not proactive about supplying the trade as we were focused on Borough books a south coast space Borough Wines is pioneering a new bookshop/wine merchant hybrid in Hastings – and making its first foray into west London with a new shop in Twickenham. Borough Wines wholesale boss Jess The south coast store will be run by the capital and says that further branches She is excited at the prospect of Borough are expected to open in Kentish Town and at the St Neots store. “I introduce the wine, Supernova, Little Old Wine Drinker Me and Heard it Through the Grapevine are also expected to get a look-in at the June 26 a pop. This month also sees a screening of event, for which tickets are selling at £15 Sideways at the store – tickets are £20 Scarratt and her partner, author Michael the basement. business. Smith. It will specialise in independentlyThe pair will have a 50% stake in the published books and host literary events in Chattel: ready for a wholesale push which includes some California wines. Sadly, the “wine yoga” sessions Ellis had says the shop will offer refillable bottles and a selection of books upstairs, and downstairs we’ll make into a writing room,” she adds. of wine and beer, and have an on-premise licence. “We’ll do food and wine tastings Borough Wines director Corinna Pyke Twickenham offer, as they are in other stores in the estate. Chattel says they Refills will be a focal point of the envisaged when he moved to the premises have never materialised: “We couldn’t find any instructor that was serious enough to do it,” he says. cornered the market in niche occasion wine cases. In addition to the familiar Reward Case, a sop for husbands and clothes shops. The most original is The Flat-Pack The Smiling Grape appears to have account for something like 20% of sales. “It has been key to getting people to come in the shops,” she says. “You don’t want to spend money on a special wine every day It’s key to have wine at around £5 or £6.” Hall so it will be a bit like a farm shop – we’re a shop within a shop.” – the house wine market is very important. for us. We’re going to be part of The Food areas of London that Borough Wines has choose sites where there’s high footfall,” successfully colonised to date. “We always quite a lot of regeneration going on there, with the rebuilding of the pier. Culturally Hastings has always been an interesting Pyke sees parallels with Hastings and the all-Aussie/all rosé/all Chardonnay cases, the company offers The Patient Partner boyfriends who have been dragged around Furniture Recovery Case, for those who she says. “It’s a residential area and there’s She adds: “Twickenham is really fantastic place. There are lots of things happening.” for Borough Wines and will be aiming to Scarratt looks after wholesale business • Both Best Cellars shops in Devon are Richards’ decision to retire. The Ashburton shop opened 26 years struggle with unclear instruction manuals, missing screws and jammed drawers. In French and Romanian wines, the case includes a screwdriver. “These are just addition to the selection of South African, on the market following owner Jonathan THE WINE MERCHANT june 2015 2 ideas that relate to everyday life,” Ellis says.

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Tasting history in Sheldon’s cellars When wine merchants talk about the history of their cellars, it’s normally a reference to the decades that they’ve been using them to store wine. in Shipston-on-Stour have a place in the But the cellars at Sheldon’s Wine Cellars cellar,” says director Peter Creek. “There’s various points. There were barrels going bits of kit in there. a lot to tell people about what happened at 1970s and there’s still the crane and other nearly 40 years and worked with a lot of that so there’s a link to the past.” “Our warehouse manager has been here “It normally takes about an hour in the Flying Füchs in and out for bottling on-site as late as the nation’s history too. When the Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher needed secret talks with the IRA in the 1980s, the Sheldon’s cellars were chosen in a deal Howe, a regular customer. brokered by foreign secretary Geoffrey a discreet venue away from London to hold the people who were in the cellars before promoting the regular programme and 10 to 12 people. May. accommodates groups for one-off tours of Sheldon’s opened an on-site bistro in Creek said the company is more actively “Our Man with the Facts” • According to official figures, the most widely-served wine at government2014 was red Bordeaux (612 bottles), bottles). The Government Hospitality cellar contains almost 36,000 bottles with a market value of £3.1m. followed by English sparkling wine hosted events in the year to April the politicians’ trail every other month in a programme of cellar tours run by the wine merchant. history of the 12,500 square feet of cellars end with a tutored tasting. The cellars had a dedicated full-time Visitors hear about this and the earlier Other Sheldon’s clients can now follow former customers Elisa Sullivan and Jon menu, more than a dozen wines by the indoors. Shepstone. It offers a varied small-plates Eat and Drink @ Sheldon’s is owned by that date back to 1842. Tours cost £20 and staff of 15 before World War II when the glass and craft spirits and beers. There are “When we’ve got the restaurant up and 40 seats in The Courtyard and a further 25 running the cellar could be the next area to look at,” Creek adds. “We want to brighten up so we can use it as a dining space and venue for events.” (454 bottles) and white Burgundy (424 company was a major bottler of drinks for • Tastevins, the shallow silver drinking vessels originally used by Burgundian cellar masters, became fashionable accessories for wealthy citizens of producers including Jameson Irish whiskey. mid-18th century France. It was modish to bring one’s own tastevin to a host’s home in preference to the wooden or terra cotta cup in which your wine would otherwise be served. is a teetotaller. • American Master of Wine Tim Hanni • Baboons are an occupational hazard including Groot Constantia and Klein known to be destroyed by charging monkeys. Constantia. Electric fences have been at some South African wine estates, installed to protect vines but have been Sheldon’s has also opened a new fine wines and spirits room THE WINE MERCHANT june 2015 3

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Two victors in the Hungerford games Caviste’s decision to sell its Hungerford branch to The Naked Grape has not stopped it achieving record retail sales in May, according to Ben Llewellyn, owner of parent company Carte Blanche Wines. and Odiham, both Hampshire, will continue to operate as normal and are thriving, Llewellyn reports. “The Naked Grape made us a good The existing Caviste stores in Overton playing records in the store, and has a second career as DJ Pooky. “Thanks to all who came, bought and partied,” he wrote. small handful of beers stuck on a wine shelf we have a separate section and before.” probably 10 times more beers than we had look store are correct, “then closing for a overall,” he says. If Connolly’s projections for the new- couple of weeks shouldn’t cost us too much away has helped and we saw a number of to Solihull. I’m very glad that the builders Connollys has space for events – and for beers Livery Street regulars making the trek over were pretty accurate in their estimate of wanted to be closed for much longer.” the downtime though as I should not have “The fact we do have a store eight miles offer as they wanted to extend their retail operation,” he says. “Hungerford has and a bit of an oddity.” always been a slightly distant limb for us “The retail business for our two shops Arch back Closing your flagship store for two weeks for a spring refurb is a bold decision, but Connollys is now reaping the rewards at its Livery Street premises in Birmingham. poor planning than courage, frankly,” “I think it probably had more to do with A new take on garagiste wines Some merchants move premises in order to increase cellarage and some to make sure they have enough room for their collection of cars. the latter category and has vacated The Old Pie Factory. Now at the Blackhill Industrial Estate in Snitterfield, there is plenty of about 10, mostly of a 1950s vintage. room for the family’s collection of classic The company’s much reduced opening cars to be displayed in-store; expect to see hours of 10am to 5pm Thursday and Friday only and 10am to 2pm on Saturdays will side of the business. allow the team to focus on the wholesale • Whistle Wines in Exeter has closed its shop at the Devon city’s railway station. Underwood Wine in Stratford falls into and the private sales element is absolutely superb. We’re lucky now in terms of stock management and product focus – we wholesale and distribution business. don’t have to spread stock around three shops.” Carte Blanche is also focusing on its in a Wine Merchant interview in March that a third shop was a possibility, though at the time he suggested the radius he would main Alresford branch. There is another store further east at Four Marks. away but Evans is delighted with the favour would be up to 40 minutes from the Hungerford is 49 minutes and 41 miles Naked Grape owner Simon Evans hinted admits Chris Connolly. “We had originally were not sufficiently well organised and, rather than postpone for 12 months, we just wanted to get on and get it done. hoped to get the work done in January but have allowed us to remain open during the works but now that it’s all been done I am very glad that we went the whole hog.” the store, in a railway arch, has been A former office space at the rear of “Our original, more modest, plans would deal, which sees store manager Barnaby Smith stay in his role. “We are thrilled to have the opportunity to build on the work Caviste has started in Hungerford demographic,” Evans says. dismantled. “We had the suspended ceiling taken out and put some nice industrial style lighting in. We now have a much bigger space, and quite a theatrical space if you like. It’s got some character and some walking through the door saying ‘wow’. tastings and to hold events. “We’re not looking to turn it into a and bring our unique offering to what is a fantastic market town with our perfect • Adam’s Fine Wine & Spirits has “closed forever”, according to Facebook. The shop in Hoylake on the Wirral was owned by Adam Speechly, who was well-known for atmosphere in there. We are getting people wine bar as such but we are looking to do the store has effectively been converted into a beer cellar. Rather than having a “We can get more wine in. The back of Owner Piers Markham is in the process of • The Cheese & Wine Cellar in re-establishing the business as a wine club. Brockenhurst, in the New Forest, has gone into liquidation. The business began in South Africa. 2013 as Cape Wine Cellars, specialising in wines from owner Daan Coetzee’s native THE WINE MERCHANT JUNE 2015 4

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tried & Tested Abraham and the Heretics Pinotage 2013 “Pinotage rarely gets a good press,” the marketing crossed Pinot Noir with Cinsault to create South Africa’s signature variety – shows how much fun RRP: £9.95 ABV: 14% admits, but this homage to Abraham Perold – who the grape can be. It’s peppery and dusky, but very Dreyfus Ashby (01636 858774) dreyfus-ashby.co.uk Christian Ducroux Expectatia 2014 Ducroux is a biodynamic winemaker in Beaujolais who enjoys cult status for his delicate but complex wines. He has withdrawn from AOC Regnié, preferring to work under the Vin de France regime, and frankly it’s but not austere – indeed it’s packed with juicy fruit. RRP: £16.20 ABV: 11.5% Indigo Wine (020 7733 8391) indigowine.com approachable and capable of converting the cynics. the appellation’s loss. This is amazingly lean and light, Atamisque Serbal Cabernet Franc 2014 A luxurious and smooth Cab Franc from Tupungato in Mendoza, successfully blending vegetal and fruit a wine with no rough edges at all, unless you count rounded and balanced. RRP: £14.99 lasbodegas.co.uk ABV: 14% elements. Aged for six months in stainless steel, it’s Wine Punk Mouth Bomb 2012 Marco Giovanni Zanetti is “Frankfurt’s craziest sommelier” and this Tuscan blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, Ciliegiolo, Grenache, Merlot and Syrah is aptly named. But the gimmickry is a bit of a too and a nice herbal edge. RRP: £11.99 smilinggrape.com the slight peppery crunch on the palate. Beautifully Las Bodegas (01435 874772) red herring: yes, the flavours do explode on impact and it’s certainly big and bold. But there’s a freshness there ABV: 13.5% The Smiling Grape (01480 403100) Mitolo Jester Tarlton Shiraz 2013 There is Shiraz available with more personality, and great-value example of an Aussie red, this McLaren Vale crowd-pleaser ticks most boxes. It’s simple, a nice meaty finish and metallic edge. RRP: £13.99 ABV: 14.5% Liberty Wines (020 7720 5350) libertywines.co.uk more ability to divide opinion. But if you want a solid, perhaps a little one-dimensional for some tastes, with Ca N’Estruc Xarel-lo 2014 Located high in the hills in the municipal district of Barcelona, Ca N’Estruc has produced a simple but intriguing take on Xarel-lo that gets more enticing with a light wine, and one that’s so watery to look at. Subtle hints of honey flicker on the palate, and the finish is amazingly fresh, with a cleansing herbal flourish. RRP: £10.86 ABV: 12.5% Boutinot (0161 908 1300) boutinot.com every sip. The body and texture are remarkable for such Tio Pepe En Rama 2015 Because it’s unfiltered and unclarified you might expect something pungent and earthy from En Rama sherry. This year’s model is almost the opposite: the Ventoz Loureiro Vinho Verde 2014 It’s been a long day. You’re irritable. You reach for something cold and white. The gentle spritz perks you up; the light, zippy minerality hits the spot. The mood changes. You order a curry in celebration. But what RRP: £8.50 ABV: 12% fresh, lime-tinged finish that you’d missed. Job done. Oakley Wine Agencies (01206 863330) oakleywineagencies.co.uk about the wine? It’s doing fine, and the spices unveil a purity and finesse is what really strikes you. There’s a distant fruitiness and some textural base notes but it’s an ethereal, gentle sherry that melts in the mouth. It’s RRP: £15.99 ABV: 19% Gonzalez Byass UK (01707 274790) gonzalezbyassuk.com hard to think of a more pleasurable way to spend £15. THE WINE MERCHANT june 2015 6

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TASTE SOMETHING DIFFERENT THIS BASTILLE DAY If you want to do something different this year for Bastille Day on July 14, here is your chance to spoil your customers with Languedoc-Roussillon top quality wine. Sud de France Languedoc-Roussillon Top 100 wines are offering you an exceptional opportunity to test new wines with your clients and make them part of your wine sourcing. WHAT’S IN IT FOR YOU? • A case containing six amazing wines from the Sud de France Languedoc Roussillon Top 100. These wines are not yet sold by any large wine retailers; some wines are imported, some are not • At least one trophy-winning wine will be included • Beautiful POS materials: a large map, postcard format maps to give away and branded wine collars • Advertising guaranteed by a social media and PR campaign • The chance to gain exposure in both Harpers Wine & Spirit and The Wine Merchant magazines. TO REGISTER Please email duboullay@suddefrance-dvpt.com HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO DO … • Organise on Bastille Day week (13 -20 July 2015) free in-store customer tastings featuring the Sud de France Languedoc-Roussillon Top 100 wines given to you • Decorate your display with the POS materials sent to you ABOUT SUD DE FRANCE TOP 100 In its third year, the Sud de France Top 100 competition helps the wine trade and consumers choose from some of the best AOPs and IGPs from Languedoc-Roussillon. Around 600 wines from some 200 producers were • Promote both your tasting and the great wines of the Languedoc-Roussillon with a social media campaign (a media kit will be given to you). The three wine merchants with the best display and social media campaign will be featured in Harpers Wine & Spirit and The Wine Merchant narrowed down to 100 top wines during a rigorous blind tasting by a panel of leading industry experts, chaired by Tim Atkin MW. Trophies were awarded to stand-out wines. Visit www.suddefrancetop100.co.uk Terms and conditions apply. Entry deadline: June 26. Winners will be chosen by Sud de France Développement and the Comité Interprofessionel des Vins du Languedoc and announced on September 8.

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bits & BOBs FAVOURITE Sorry, but you THINGS Mario Sposito Bedales Wines London Favourite wine on my list Today it is Marco De Bartoli, Bukkuram, If I am only allowed one bottle, it must authenticity, every sip matters! have to spray Magpie de Paraje Calificado, meaning “qualified single estate Cava”. Consejo Regulador president Pedro The new classification will be called Cava Bonet said: “The category has been born regulations that will support it.” He anticipates labels bearing the term French officials have charged a second biodynamic winemaker for refusing to spray vines against flavescence dorée disease, this time in the Beaujolais Cru area of Moulin a Vent. domaines, one at Nuits Saint Georges in Burgundy and one at Moulin à Vent, the Beaujolais Cru appellation. Flavescence dorée was first spotted in Thibault Liger-Belair owns two and we’re in the process of developing the “Cava de Paraje Calificado” or “Qualified Single Estate Cava” will be available to producers by late 2016. The Drinks Business, May 20 Passito di Pantelleria “Padre della Vigna”. be decadent. A wine with this depth and Armagnac in the 1950s. There is still no It causes leaves to yellow and grapes to the productivity of older ones. Decanter, May 11 Favourite wine and food match Tortilla de camarones with a glass of De Lucia playing in the background. Manzanilla, ideally completed by an cure, and the disease is highly contagious. shrivel, killing young vines and reducing Shattered society The Wine Society has recalled more than 15,000 bottles of its own Prosecco after five shattered in its customers’ wine racks. society recalled the £9.50 bottles as a “precaution”. Daily Mail, May 28 There have been no injuries but the Andalusian sunset and a track by Paco Favourite wine trip We drove around Campania’s vineyards understand the wines of my region, results) how to use her first Nikon. while she learned (with far better using an old country house on the hills of Taurasi as a base. I tried to The first trip I took with my fiancée. Cheap choices Flavescence dorée is “highly contagious” Almost half of wine drinkers choose the second cheapest option when ordering at a restaurant, according to a survey of 2,000 adults commissioned by Asda. adventurous in the supermarket than when they eat out. Daily Mail, May 27 The poll found that consumers are more Favourite wine trade person Singling out Cava Cava’s governing body has approved a new single vineyard classification for the Spanish sparkling wine designed to promote top tier wines. establishment into question. His movies and books have been very inspirational. I believe he has more enemies than friends in the trade. approach and how he calls the wine Jonathan Nossiter. I like his critical winemerchantmag.com 01323 370451 winemerchantteam@gmail.com Twitter: @WineMerchantMag Favourite wine shop Any place that can offer the possibility of lived in Streatham, I used to pop in with pleasure into Market Row Wines at Brixton Market. a chat, the pleasure of a new discovery and a different perspective. When I The Wine Merchant is mailed freely to the owners of the UK’s 760 independent wine shops. Except one, and that’s deliberate. The magazine is edited by Graham Holter. Printed in Sussex by East Print. Registered in England: No 6441762 © Graham Holter Ltd 2015 VAT 943 8771 82 THE WINE MERCHANT june 2015 8

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merchant profile: le bon vin Le Bon Vin shares the logo of the Cavavin group from which it buys, but operates as a separate entity Vin extraordinaire Patrick Jouan began his business with £5 in his pocket. Now Le Bon Vin in his adopted Sheffield turns over around £4m, focusing mainly on estate-bottled French wines sourced via a buying group. It’s a system that gives the business a range that is typical in France, but still quite a novelty in the UK O n a busy arterial road just off the M1, Le Bon Vin plies its trade in the shadow of iron foundries and the Meadowhall shopping centre – past and future. Patrick Jouan, a Breton rather than venture an honest opinion about the merits and shortcomings of his countrymen’s approach to the wine trade. Some subjects he’s not keen to see references to a major trade client in print, for reasons that are an accent that remains northern French detected. Le Bon Vin represents the extreme commercially understandable. But every other topic he approaches with gusto, in he’d prefer to keep off the record, however: Jouan is a generous host, never shy to “There are 150 franchised shops in France, plus another 30 or 40 unfranchised wine shops like me,” Jouan explains. “I started in 2006; they started in 2005 Jouan proclaims Cavavin’s wines as symbols, perhaps, of Britain’s economic a Briton, comes across as a committed as a group of six or seven wine merchants and now they’ve got 150-plus.” “fantastic, brilliant” but believes the group is “a bit slow-thinking with export”. A progress has been laborious, despite friend is interested in starting franchised Cavavin shops in southern England, but Continues page 10 Anglophile (his wife Dianne is English) but his taste in wine is resolutely French. You can find wine from other countries wines dominate his thoughts. in the retail area, and in the warehouse that adjoins it, but there’s no doubt which without a trace of northern English to be outpost of Cavavin, a French buying group. THE WINE MERCHANT june 2015 9

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merchant profile: le bon vin From page 9 me, “Goodbye Patrick, we don’t want to me because I’ve got lots of good solid speak to you again,” it would be bad for producers who supply Cavavin – there’s an agreement with the head office in France. can go direct, if you’re big enough, to buy a pallet or two. This is 5% lower than able to buy direct. another independent in the UK would be What proportion of the range in the shop as a whole comes from France? Well you can see: when you come in you 60% French, 40% the rest of the world. £7.99, but everything is all domaine … six Côtes du Rhône and then Côtes du We start with Côtes du Rhône from see “French selection” and “the rest of the If you want to save 20 or 30 centimes you Jouan’s encouragement. here, and the management of Cavavin is thinking it’s too big to look after the “I feel like I’ve got enough on my plate French wines. We’ve got 75 to 80 wines from Bordeaux and they start from £7.49. How much of your French wine comes through Cavavin? Seventy per cent, I would say. You can pick UK and not have to have a pallet of that, a pallet of that – even Matthew Clark could not do that. It’s a huge advantage. We also buy direct from some of the up six bottles of something from the buying group and bring it over every month to the They’re all mise en bouteille au domaine. franchised side of the business. What they want is a little shop, not as big as this one, which imports French wines. But French wine alone doesn’t make a wine shop.” business? No. Our logo is the same logo as Cavavin. If tomorrow they turn round and say to Does Cavavin have any stake in your world”. I would say with trade it’s probably Ventoux. This one is in oak barrel, this one is organic, this one is from a well-known village, this one is from a farmer … but it has to be a domaine, you know? Look at the individual stuff. Let’s not follow Tesco and Sainsbury’s. All the independents should try to do their own thing. If you look at a little independent wine shop in France: what they’ve got, we’ve got. I go to Waitrose, Tesco, Sainsbury’s and all manufactured for the store. I’m not Asda and all that and I look at those labels and I don’t recognise any of them. They’re saying French supermarkets don’t do that – au domaine” everywhere. I struggle to find them in this country. What about in independents? Maybe they’re struggling a bit, and if you’re struggling you’ve got to carry on with what you’ve got – you can’t take a risk buying a the customer going to see the difference? going to take the risk of reducing that to Jouan can cut costs by bypassing central buying and approaching producers directly they do – but you also see “mise en bouteille wine that’s going to cost a little bit more. Is If they’re making £1,000 profit they’re not £800 for better quality wine. Do you sell to other independents? That’s growing. We have about 25 now. We’re trying to help them – it’s also helping THE WINE MERCHANT june 2015 10

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us. In the UK you have everything from Chile? all over the world, but at the same time … why should you need 20 Chardonnays from What’s your favourite region of France? Bordeaux and the Loire, really. The south of tremendously. Even the labelling has been so slow to get started in this. improved. Ten, 15 years ago Australia was already better than us. The French have France is also very popular. It has improved French wine is really intended for food. Does that play a role in the way you do tastings? No because I choose wines which are more easy-drinking. You have some good value Bordeaux. I don’t like to sell Bordeaux above £25. The fine wine section is great if you can City, £50 is £5 for me. afford to buy it. Up here where we are it’s a different world. In London if you are in the truly £8.75. To me it’s better value for and we’re lucky with Cavavin … none When that Bordeaux is £8.75, it’s really Jouan is wary of “manufactured” French labels, favouring estate-bottled wines money. It’s estate-bottled and at that price you just need to select the right vintage, of it will be 2012 or 2013. It will all be that has a little bit of bottle age. you’re dealing with someone who knows from New Zealand” and you give him a If somebody says, “I like Pinot Noir his Aloxe-Corton or whatever, and it’s fun. Burgundy, he’s going to say, “I don’t like that”. It’s more austere; it’s not open in Zealand I think is too fruity. event. Ninety per cent of the producers of Cavavin are all there. That’s when you don’t deal with through Cavavin, maybe once a year, or they come over. 2009, 2010 and 2011. They won’t release anything too young. You need something How is Burgundy performing for you? It’s OK. It’s harder to sell because whoever buys it from you has to know their Burgundy very well. David Blunkett is a customer of ours; his favourite wines basically see what you need to do. The rest of the time I go and visit the suppliers we the same way. You should never compare regions of the world. Pinot Noir from New How do you make your buying decisions? Is there a big tasting in France? In October there’s a massive three-day Do you have winemakers prepared to come from France to Yorkshire? We do from time to time. Very rarely. It’s only 45 come. time consuming and sometimes it’s a waste of time … you invite 400 restaurants and Will French wine continue to grow in your business? I think we’ll stop. We’re full up. With Cavavin you can have a range of Corsica, a Continues page 12 are Burgundy. With him it’s easy because I don’t like to sell Bordeaux above £25 … up here it’s a different world to London THE WINE MERCHANT june 2015 11 range of Jura, Savoie, Alsace … lots of things

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merchant profile: le bon vin From page 11 you would not come across every day in a wine shop. would not be able to purchase even if you were a big independent. Even the whisky we have is so unusual, it’s done through Scotland. a French group but it can be coming from been talking about Argentinean and Australian and Chilean and whatever I just feel like journalists have always of tasting in store.” I said, “What do you mean? We’ve got six or seven bottles open all the time.” He said, “Yes, but they’ve got 600 shops.” I said, “You’re telling me that In that case I will always be a runner up. the Loire competition is judged on the size? But don’t tell me the quality was worse.” Does the rest of the buying group think of you as an eccentric in the north of England? They all think that we’ve succeeded very well because wine shop would in France a normal The liqueurs are magnificent, things you and have not really looked at real French wines; real quality. It gets on my nerves. year Waitrose and ourselves were 70 wines from the competition and entered for the In the International Wine Challenge one shortlisted. We had Loire. I spent some time looking at the they had 25 wines Loire section. We Was Sheffield the first place you came to in the UK? I was in Nottingham for a short period of time. I was really getting nowhere. I was hotels and restaurants. I contacted the chairman of the buying group who was a pal of my dad, who said I could buy a was absolutely awful. On the red there and then the white was a fish. What a nightmare. When you arrived here were you familiar with New World wines? Yeah, because I worked in hotels and involved in wine. restaurants and my family were always just leaving the French army. I worked in had 75 wines for the same competition. There was not much difference in our prices; their cheaper pallet. It took me ages to sell it. The wine was a photo of a steak; the rosé was pizza; wines were cheaper than ours because Out of the 25 only half of it was estate. domaine and estate. turn over about €255,000. We’re almost they were not estates – it was factory stuff. Out of our 75 maybe 90% was chateau, £4m – it’s a big difference in size. Even the buying group chairman, the best shop that he owns is turning over €1m, which is big. cent is trade; Amazon has grown quite a lot; and the rest is the shop. keenest on? New Zealand. And not the Sauvignon. Cabernet, Merlot. Hawkes’s Bay. The a Sauvignon from the Loire. The reds – and not the Pinot Noir. Syrah, Last year we grew by 16%. Sixty-five per guy at the International Wine Challenge, “How do you judge that?” I don’t mind to know the reason why I’ve lost. He being a runner-up all my life, but I want said, “The problem is you don’t do a lot I just couldn’t understand it. I said to the Which parts of the New World are you Sauvignon is good but it’s too green for me. With a meal you want something more like Where do you buy your wines that come from places other than France? We import everything from source. Saying that, we buy Dom Perignon in the UK. There’s nothing in the UK I would need. The only thing I would love to buy is an English wine. It’s a real shame. I don’t know who to choose. Nobody’s ever approached me. I’m really fed up of that because I’ve The store frontage may be modernised, and offices created upstairs tried a few good quality sparkling wines and they said, “no no, we’ve got Waitrose”. I’d be happy to buy a whole pallet every THE WINE MERCHANT JUNE 2015 12

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time if we could be sure there’s a margin for us. How many customers do you have on your database? Just under 7,000 retail customers. We have a loyalty scheme – if you buy £35 worth of system and it really works. wine you get a stamp. It’s just a very simple Your pricing is interesting – you highlight the two-bottle saving rather than the single-bottle price. Does that scale when you buy a case? No. We were originally doing one bottle six bottles but didn’t get a discount. and 12-bottle prices and that didn’t work. I decided I’d had enough of that. I said People were complaining that they wanted OK, we’ll do one and two, and sometimes we’ll come out with further discounts. “I can buy my Veuve Clicquot from Costco they’re a regular or they have money and want to buy other things, we’ll follow. – can you do me a better price?” Usually, if Sometimes someone comes in and says, I guess the number of people buying one bottle has gone down – they think they might as well buy two. Exactly. Every time it’s two bottles. In 2009 or 2010 people were not doing very well £24 and £25. It’s not enough; you need to do that. Single-bottle sales are a rarity now that customers can see the savings when they double up and they were not spending money – it was bring them to £35. And they were happy to reception area, transform it and make it flat roof. more modern; break the rules. We could put the offices upstairs above the current where we are, and that’s what we want. The trade side can go anywhere. In a way it’s a retail site – people know young. It’s stupid. regret only having one child, I can look What are your plans if you don’t manage to buy next door? [Jouan has been turned down in a bid to buy a vacant neighbouring building.] For the next two years there’s no plan unless they come to us and say we can buy I think what we will do if we grow much further is to maybe take a unit and then after her better than seven. And I have the Are you glad you came to the UK? Yeah, because in France it’s lots of I’ve almost done everything. I don’t health of my family. I don’t want any more. Have you hit all your targets that you set yourself when you started out? I started with £5 in my pocket and I’ve got the original on my desk. I wanted a wife seven children, I had one. And I wanted you put that in your mind when you’re and I wanted seven children; I didn’t have paperwork. It would have been impossible to start. They’re all complaining in France because if a shop has one employee and an employer just shy of €5,000. There’s too much tax over there. People are there, you know? complaining here – but they should go he takes €900 in his pocket it costs you as it at that price. There’s no point in moving. move the internet department somewhere else. But the position would be to redo the American Express – I’ve got one. It’s funny, THE WINE MERCHANT JUNE 2015 13

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just williams Esoterica, the fair’s new home for smaller suppliers, was never less than rammed The squeezed middle The London Wine Fair is now squarely focused on the UK. But changing dynamics of the wine trade mean that many of the exhibitors it’s targeting are struggling to define their new raison d’etre F or the record, I wasn’t one of the many people who called for the ExCeL. It may have the feel of an Eastern excellent venue for a large-scale event. It was built to house exhibitions, European airport, but in many ways it’s an which means, among other things, that arranged; that there’s always space to London Wine Fair to be moved from never dazzled and frazzled by the heat appealing but rickety glass roof. and sun pouring through an aesthetically (where the opposite is true for each of the above), I’m still not convinced that the gripes about ExCeL were anything more all happen to have homes in south west than the complaints of a noisy minority of London. And while Olympia may be more convenient (not to mention reassuringly After spending three days at Olympia wine trade’s metropolitan elite, it’s actually a bit of a schlep for anyone who lives anywhere else. Worse than ExCeL in fact, which, for anyone with a 21st century view of London that includes the east as well as to get to. But that’s not to say that Brintex, the the west and centre, is actually much easier exhibition firm behind the LWF, wasn’t you always know where to find a loo. It also means that the stands are logically temperature is regulated so that you’re wine writers and senior trade figures who breathe and taste; and that the light and right to come back to Olympia. It may not be the fault of the venue, but in the dog days of the ExCeL years, there seemed to be a real possibility that the LWF, already far from the urban grit of Newham) for the THE WINE MERCHANT june 2015 14

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teetering on the brink of irrelevance, in those final couple of fairs that the would soon disappear from the calendar altogether. There was a persistent feeling action was taking place somewhere else: if you were a sommelier, indie merchant or journalist; in the vast spaces of Europe’s supermarkets. a wine producer or a buyer from any of But the move back to Olympia – across town at the Real Wine Fair or Raw Dusseldorf’s Prowein in March if you were not only what it says about the current configuration of the UK wine trade, and where its priorities lie, but the ahead. reconfigurations that almost certainly lie get a sense of London as the global wine capital anymore. Some of the producer of an abandoned kiosk in an Eastern European airport as they did at ExCeL. remembered from previous fairs. David Williams is wine critic for The Observer Visiting the LWF in 2015, you don’t really stands gave every bit as passable imitation And, it’s only an impression, but it felt like there were fewer foreign visitors than I If that is the case, it wouldn’t be past couple of shows have been a success because the focus has swung back to the UK, specifically the most vigorous and merchants, wine bars and restaurants. AT THIS YEAR’S LWF, that gave the interesting parts of the market: those indie important as it was symbolically in giving a sense of breaking with the recent past – wouldn’t have been enough to revive the fair in itself. It’s a series of other decisions deal of credit, that, after two apparently successful years at Olympia, have refor the British trade. established the event as a worthwhile, for which, I think, Brintex deserves a great surprising: it’s not news that, thanks to the impression of a trade on the up, expanding in exciting new directions, and focused on better quality wine rather than fixated on brands and pricepoints. But that feeling surely can’t last, if only useful, even at times enjoyable, occasion buzzing mezzanine sections, Esoterica I stopped by both areas several times because the maths just don’t add up: there are only so many indies (in the on- and off-trade) to go around, only so many places where that £20 Xinomavro can find a home. And as more and more suppliers, Olympia: nowhere near a DLR station and, the “fine wine” tasting area, The View. during the fair, at all hours of the day, and uncomfortably so. Esoterica especially, already a hit last year, was never less than rammed, occasionally had tried its hardest to court the small had never exhibited at all, or, in some Those are the sections where Brintex Those changes were most visible in the including many who traditionally earned resources into this increasingly crowded small space, something has to give. suppliers, the companies trading in In my view, it’s the medium-sized aggressive pricing tactics of supermarkets and the tax regimes of successive Chancellors – a combination that has all but obliterated profit in 80% of the their crust in the supermarkets, pour their suppliers who had either abandoned them, cases, hadn’t even existed in the corporatein with a small table without splashing out for an expensive stand. In doing so, Brintex wasn’t merely flavoured ExCeL years, offering them a way market – the UK’s reputation as the global shop-window for wine has long gone. It’s no longer an essential market for many producers, and with most of the major suppliers, SKUs or both at the moment, Brintex, in a paradoxical situation. The supermarkets drastically cutting back on they’re unlikely to return any time soon. That leaves the trade, and by extension wines that are too expensive for the supermarkets, but too mass-market for a boutique bottle shop, who seem Unfortunately for Brintex, these also most vulnerable in the current climate. happen to be the firms whose willingness to stump up for a stand pays the London Wine Fair’s rent. Without them, in other matter where the fair is held. words, there wouldn’t be an Esoterica – no hoping to sell more exhibition space. It was looking to win back the kind of visitors who tend to like that kind of exhibitor: indie merchants and sommeliers. FROM A WIDER perspective, what’s interesting about Brintex’s tactics in attempting to shape a new kind of fair is The UK’s reputation as the global shop-window for wine has long gone THE WINE MERCHANT june 2015 15

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