The Wine Merchant issue 38

 

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The Wine Merchant issue 38

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THE WINE MERCHANT. An independent magazine for independent retailers Issue 38, July 2015 We get to the heart of the Mata Roberson quits retail to look for ‘new ideas’ Roberson is closing its iconic shop in High Street Kensington but insists its faith in independent wine retailing is as strong as ever. costs but managing director Cliff Roberson says the time is right to steer the business, founded in 1991, in a new direction. off-trade wholesaling division, led by independents a bespoke range. French wines. This includes the creation of a dedicated The decision was partly driven by escalating launched the London Cru urban winery. have younger people getting involved in the way. Which is fair enough – I’m very happy always done’. What’s the point of that?” business and they see the future in a different with that. I would sooner that happens than say ‘oh yes, we’ll carry on the same as we’ve £45,000 a year, has no parking facilities and was due for a rent review – will close at the end of August. his involvement with the business over the Roberson himself expects to scale down Speaking to The Wine Merchant, he said: “We THIS MONTH 2 BACCHUS From new apps to raw fish: it’s all happening in indies 4 comings & GOINGS New stores in Kent, Sussex and Enfield 6 tried & TESTED current shop manager Jack Green, offering The intention is to provide a specialist The shop – which attracts business rates of Two reds, two rosés and four whites that we loved 9 merchant profile selection, focusing largely on Californian and resources behind its online activities, which move into new territory, as it did when it The company also intends to put extra next five to 10 years “or maybe even before”, London headquarters which are soon to be extended. 30-32. • Exclusive Cliff Roberson interview: pages From internship to ownership of Friarwood have started to overtake sales in the shop. But Roberson himself is keen to see the business but continues to work full-time from the west 14 david williams 22 thrills in the hills We’re back in Chablis for more Kimmeridgian capers A homage to Catalonia and its wines 28 tastes of argentina Partnering Condor Wines for a Birmingham bonanza 33 Napa valley lunch Indies have a close encounter with visiting vintners 37 summer cocktails The store closes at the end of August after 24 years Shaking and stirring up your spirits selection

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BACCHUS Matt Ellis at The Smiling Grape in St Neots says he is paying 10% commission to Martin’s Wine Tech company, which owns on there,” says Ellis. “We’ve had a couple of orders but these the app. “We’ve got a about 30 of our wines things take a bit of time to get going. It’s a really good idea to give people help in trying to find things to try.” App gives indies a virtual boost Independent wine merchants are being courted by the creators of a new wine recommendation app. Martin, boss of the wine consultancy First retail director Greg Jones in charge of operations. The app’s principal USP over rivals Mr Vine is the branchild of Charlie new technology as a marketing tool for its own iPhone and Android app, set up for a special offers. $100 fee, which Ellis has used to promote we should take a look at it again, but all You’ve got to try everything you can, “But I always like to try new things. business. The Smiling Grape already has its Eakin: adverse chain reaction Ellis has been keen to experiment with these things need time to keep on top of. “It’s a couple of years old now and maybe of the company’s fourth branch in East its natural reach, Eakin believes. Village near the former Olympic stadium Growth Bordeaux, and has former Majestic especially in such a competitive market.” interest to join”. and has taken the company to the limit of on launch with “25 already showing keen site currently features wines from bricks Co, Nickolls & Perks, Alpine Wines, The In addition to The Smiling Grape, the Mr Vine had 10 independents signed up service as we currently do with 10 stores – you just have to have the personal touch,” Saturday and Sunday and try to spread myself around the company, and Chris same.” he says. “I think you lose personality when you start growing into a chain. I work every [Sherwood] and Miranda [Fong] do the “I just don’t think you can offer the same is that it will feature recommendations independent wine merchants. pulled only from the ranges of specialist commission on any sales. The app captures orders and feeds them through to the retailers for fulfillment. There is no minimum order size, Stores pay an initial signing-on fee plus and mortar and online sellers Red Squirrel Wines, Hard To Find Wines, Oxford Wine Real Wine Co, L’Assemblage, Cambridge Fizz. Wine Merchants, Vinceremos, Wineman, Saatchi & Saatchi chief operating according to Mr Vine, which says that it had 1,000 wines listed on launch in May. are guided to wines and ratings by a monthly tasting Users of the app Wine 2 Drink, Soho Wine Supply and Finest officer Katrien de Bauw and former ITV locals in the well-heeled neighbourhood, they feared it was a chain, though Eakin The first four Bottle Apostle shops close to Regents Park, were ready to object A local newspaper report suggested that to Bottle Apostle’s arrival precisely because says he was never aware of any opposition. have evolved their range to suit the local market and Primrose Hill will take the by Trip Advisor-style customer comments commercial director Paul Masterson are Education Trust are among a line-up of commercial partners. listed as “valued business advisors”, while Local Wine School and the Wine & Spirit same approach. “We’re going to start with the same wine we sell here in E9 and just adapt,” says Eakin. “We’re not going to go in too expensive.” dominated by beer, an increasingly film. The store’s window display will be panel that comprises writers Matt Walls, Richard Hemming, Zeren Wilson, Nathan Nolan and Helena Nicklin. Five is the limit Bottle Apostle’s fifth store, which is just opening in Primrose Hill, will be the last, owner Andrew Eakin insists. The new branch comes hot on the heels important element of the Bottle Apostle offer, shielded from the sun by protective THE WINE MERCHANT july 2015 2

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The raw power of Sherry and sushi Manchester’s Hangingditch has struck out on an untrammelled path with a tasting theme with a difference – Sherry and sushi. restaurant Umezushi for its first event last month and was so over-subscribed that it ran a second event almost immediately. between dry Sherries and the savoury other Japanese dishes. The tastings focused on perfect matches The shop linked up with city centre able to hold it in the shop. The chefs course up to the event.” prepped everything in the restaurant about an hour and a half before and brought each Valdespino Tio Diego Amontillado with salmon roe, while blow-torched wagyu beef with Palo Cortado had been a big favourite with guests. Sherwood said his own star match was Flying Füchs asked when we’re going to do another one, so we’ve got a waiting list for when we do.” He adds: “A lot of people have already umami flavours found in many sushi and Participants paid £35 each for seven Chester expander Chester with the opening of its seventh shop in an old auction house. that used to house the Bonham’s auction house in the Boughton area of the city. is often called the wine merchant of the logical step.” “Our Man with the Facts” • There are 134 registered distilleries in Scotland, according to figures from There are 61 in England, six in Wales and one in Northern Ireland. the Wine & Spirit Trade Association. Tanners Wine Merchant is expanding to Sherries matched with a total of six dishes. behind the events and says: “I’m a great food that would be great with it. “Umezushi is the best Japanese Sherry enthusiast and wanted to explore restaurant in Manchester and it’s only Nathan Sherwood was the driving force The store will be in an Art Deco building Chairman James Tanner says: "Tanners about 200ft down the road, so we were Welsh Marches, so Chester was the next caramel to achieve their desired colour, and sugar syrup to enhance sweetness, provided neither additive accounts for more than 2% of the finished product. • A Goldkapsel (literally “gold • Cognac producers are allowed to add capsule”) is sometimes placed over the wines in Germany’s Mosel-Saar-Ruwer • According to Burgundian legend, the by the stains it left on his white beard. So he switched to white wine and for red Burgundy but was dismayed region. cork on bottles of the most premium emperor Charlemagne had a penchant Sustainable Wines owner Tulip Hambleton has opened a wine bar at a the Dugdale Theatre in Enfield which also allows customers to buy wine to take away. “I just woke up one morning and thought ‘I need a retail outlet’,” she says. “I went looking for an opportunity in Enfield and ended up talking to the head of arts and culture and he said this would be perfect because their current offering was dismal.” Take-home prices at Eco Vino Teatro are £7 below drink-in bottle prices. “We probably need to crow about that a bit more,” Hambleton admits. be replanted with white grapes – hence • Around 1000BC a white wine similar to Greek Assyrtiko was used by the Phoenicians to wax their legs. the Corton-Charlemagne appellation. demanded that a section of Corton Hill THE WINE MERCHANT july 2015 3

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Online merchant gets physical Fine Wines of Mayfield, located in East Sussex around 10 miles from Tunbridge Wells, has opened on the site of a closed-down post office. to-premium wines, many of which are opposed to country of origin. The shop offers a wide range of mid- offering the chance to taste up to 18 wines. He is also hoping to put barrels and stools outside the shop. presence and this was a prime spot going begging,” he says. “I have always wanted a physical Inspired by Sichel Bottles Wine Bar & Merchants in Worcester is the realisation of a longheld idea of owner Richard Everton. It is, he says, the “combination of various different ideas, eventually made possible by technology for me to bite the bullet and put it all together”. Bordeaux in 1983, Everton was inspired the wine bars in South Africa, different he wanted, but he was “put off by the wastage”. His discovery of the Wine Emotion While working for Peter Sichel in Dodd: excited by country life displayed according to grape variety as Kendall Jackson, Greywacke and Opus One, open barrel showcases the store’s French fine wines. 2007 but says there is little overlap with what’s on offer in the shop. as well as Armenian wines. A custom-built Adams has been selling wine online since Adams stocks a range of wines including by the wine wall (“all those clarets, racked out against the wall, it was great”). Later, from anything in the UK at the time, set him thinking about the sort of business Third pillar for Hercules Hercules Wine Warehouse is opening a third branch, midway between its Faversham and Sandwich stores. development in Bishopsbourne, on includes craft retailers. The site forms part of a rural shopping dispense systems that he has installed in Customers buy a card and choose their 125ml measures. Where the barrels and stools might be going his new bar means that the wines are kept fresh for 28 days at the right temperature. own wine with an option of 25ml, 75ml or 350 wines, a 50-50 split between reds and whites. The bar offers 40 wines by the glass as well as coffee and spirits. “Simple be an evening with a guest chef. food” is on offer in the form of charcuterie boards and every now and then there will far cry from his grandmother’s first wine shop in 1918 but it’s working. “We’re six out the door,” he says. Everton’s high concept bar and shop is a Everton now has his own wine wall of the outskirts of Canterbury, which also Owner Kevin Dodd, who runs the business with his wife Sarah, says: “We are going to be operating a wine and fine food our first dabble into that kind of thing. It’s not technically a farm shop – we’ll do a on things like cheese and olives. section. We’re doing a little bit of deli – it’s wine producer Sussex Vineyards to stock their products. He has reached an agreement with local Buying wine from Adams online can be limited amount of fresh veg but focus more think it’s an exciting opportunity for us.” wine for consumption on the premises. There are no immediate plans to sell “It’s a slight step into the unknown but I cheaper in large volumes, he says, but his shop offers competitive prices, including free local delivery. “Online wine retail is about marketing To lure the customers in, Adams has and distribution, whereas here in the shop, I can talk about wine,” he says. installed Wine Emotion dispense machines, weeks in and we have a thriving wine bar and shop – and we’ve got people queuing • Raisin Wines in Bath has closed after three and a half years of trading. • Glasgow whisky specialist Good Spirits Co has opened a second shop in the city – this time focusing on wine. Good Spirits Co Wine & Beer, in West Nile Street, will fortifieds, dessert wines and craft beer. have an emphasis on Italian and Spanish wines, along with a New World selection, THE WINE MERCHANT july 2015 4

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tried & Tested Domaine Auzias Rosé 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache and Cinsault combine It’s certainly possible to produce a much bolder rosé like acidity and just a hint of marzipan. Could add a touch of elegance to even the dullest barbecue. RRP: £8.99 ABV: 12% Le Bon Vin (0114 256 0090) lebonvin.co.uk in this almost indecently pale wine from Carcassonne. Prà Morandina Valpolicella Ripasso Superiore 2013 You know that feeling on a summer night when the air is cooling and you slip on a faithful old fleece and edge nearer to the warmth of the fire pit? This wine cloves and toasted coconut. A bit like your fleece. RRP: £19.80 ABV: 14.5% Boutinot (0161 908 1300) boutinot.com with those grapes in this climate, but Auzias has opted for something firm and mineral, with fresh, grapefruit- has much the same effect. Full, deep, soft, leathery and meaty, it has plum and cherry notes as well as hints of Curatolo Zibibbo 2013 Yes, it’s just a funny name for Muscat of Alexandria details. Why shouldn’t Zibibbo be the next trendy white variety? Its orange-blossom perfume, sappy, but there’s no need to trouble the punters with such pineapple flavours and zippy acidity make this a real crowd pleaser, and this one has the added bonus of RRP: £17.99 ABV: 12.5% Liberty Wines (020 7720 5350) liberty wines.co.uk Poderi Parpinello Vermentino Sessantaquatro 2013 A superb summer wine, if that still applies as we go to press: a gentle prickle on the tongue, a blast of lemon, a sprinkle of pepper and spice and a warm, generous make it a wine that shows its best side with food. RRP: £14.49 ABV: 13.5% hallgartendruitt.co.uk on an empty stomach but its subtle savoury elements finish. Yes, some people could polish off a bottle of this coming from trendy Sicily. The revolution starts here! Hallgarten Druitt & Novum Wines (01582 722538) High Altitude Rosé 2013 The packaging’s not too inspiring, the colour of the wine (from Mendoza) a little too garish … we were braced for one of “those” rosés. But our prejudices strawberries, but no yucky sweetness. The acidity is fresh and zesty and a cool minty streak keeps it RRP: £9.39 ABV: 13.5% Walker & Wodehouse (0207 449 1665) walkerwodehousewines.com beautifully clean on the finish. Order a pallet load. were exposed. It’s full of rich fruit flavour, specifically Domaine Bardon Lafolie Pinot Noir 2014 The problem with budget Pinot (certainly from the You’d never mistake it for a Burgundy but there’s RRP: £8.99 ABV: 11.5% New World) is that it’s so often overblown and oversomething pleasing about its vibrant colour, bracing acidity, sour raspberry flavours and smoky tannins. Le Bon Vin (0114 256 0090) lebonvin.co.uk extracted but this Loire vin de pays is simplicity itself. Yalumba Roussanne Eden Valley 2013 Yalumba followed up its Viognier experiments of the 1980s with Roussanne production and you’d have Rhone varieties was misplaced. A slightly earthy, and terrific value at under £15. RRP: £14.49 negociantsuk.com ABV: 12.5% to be pretty hard-hearted to say its faith in northern Dominio de Fontana Sauvignon Blanc & Verdejo 2013 A 30% blast of Verdejo can make an awful lot of difference, even if you’re one of the trade’s most jaded SB tasters. This Castillan beauty promises intensity, white pepper and fennel notes, all ticked off on our RRP: £8.69 ABV: 12.5% spreadsheets. The combination of crisp, citrus flavours and a fuller, creamier Verdejo component is a delight. Barwell & Jones (0208 418 2888) barwellandjones.com minerally and elegant wine with a silky-smooth texture Negociants UK (01582 462859) THE WINE MERCHANT july 2015 6

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bits & BOBs FAVOURITE THINGS Richard Taylore The Framlingham Wine Shop Twins know a Sark wine can succeed The billionaire Barclay brothers have delayed launching a sparkling wine produced on the island of Sark in the English Channel, but said the move was due to “quality potential” rather than any problems. who own the Daily Telegraph and the Ritz, were expected to launch next year but the market until 2018. Consultant Alain Raynaud said: ‘The Twins Sir David and Frederick Barclay, Magpie France and other European countries. Rafael del Rey of the Spanish Observatory of Wine Markets said: “Quality is not the issue: the quality is high, but Financial Times, June 25 other countries are distributing the wines.” Favourite wine on my list Prova 2011 (Monte da Ravasqueira, us survive our first year. We’ve shown it knocks any comparatively-priced little corner of Suffolk! local following now and has helped Portugal) because it has a huge first bottles are now not expected to hit the unusual blend of mainly Chardonnay supermarket wine out of the park in this and Savagnin grapes, together with the we have excellent quality potential.” Decanter, June 25 excellent acidity levels and interest of the Favourite wine and food match Beef Wellington and creamed spinach on Would have to be Barolo with Christmas Day. base wine, mean I am fully convinced that Dung ... dung ... dung ... dung ... dung ... dung Mist opportunity A row has erupted in St Tropez over the new name for this year’s local rosé, Mist, after winemakers belatedly realised it means “dung” or “crap” in German. the name to call this year’s vintage Mist, an acronym for Made in St Tropez. The Telegraph, June 24 The town’s cave cooperative decided on Spanish imposition Spanish wine exports have boomed in recent years, especially after the country’s 2008 financial crisis. Since 1995, Spanish wine exports have tripled. Last year, exports grew 22% to 2.3 billion litres, helping the country surpass Italy as the world’s biggest wine exporter by volume. billion, because 55% of Spanish exports bottled and marketed by companies in But revenues fell by almost 3%, to €2.6 Favourite wine trip Hunter Valley, New South Wales – where it all started for me. Favourite wine trade person Kim Beeching at Harmonicande Vintners in London, which is a small supplier knowledgeable and passionate with All wrapped up in a terrific sense of humour and a big heart. of Italian and Spanish wines. She is • A bottle of wine apparently found in Napoleon’s carriage after Waterloo is be a Sherry. a small but wonderful wine portfolio. were unbranded bulk wine that was often to be sold at Christie’s next month. It is Drinks Business, June 29 “believed” to still contain wine, which may Favourite wine shop couple of years drinking them out of a white label New Zealand Pinot Noir at value ever since. Moncur Cellars, Sydney. I spent a winemerchantteam@gmail.com winemerchantmag.com 01323 871836 Twitter: @WineMerchantMag 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 $15 a bottle. Been looking for such great THE WINE MERCHANT july 2015 8

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merchant profile: friarwood From internship to ownership Peter Bowen spent half a century building up Friarwood in south west London, focusing on Bordeaux imports. His death last year led to the company being acquired by former trainee Ben Carfagnini, who is determined to build on the legacy of his mentor B en Carfagnini is young. So young was already well into its third decade. had finished his MBA at Bordeaux’s Three years ago, the Toronto native that when he was born, Friarwood, the wine company he now owns, International Wine Institute and rocked Friarwood founder Peter Bowen. Eight months later he was a fully-fledged member of the team. up in Fulham, working as an intern with his wife Isabelle, when he was in his early worked for some chateaux in Bordeaux. 20s,” Carfagnini explains. “He’d previously “He had contacts from Bordeaux and he “Peter started the company in 1967, with Le Bon Vin shares the logo of the Cavavin group from which it buys, but operates as a separate entity had the love for the wine and was kind of a pioneer in London, pushing the Bordeaux scene forward.” several years and died last September, Bowen had been battling cancer for setting in motion the events that led to Ben Carfagnini, June 2015: “There are big shoes to fill, for sure” Continues page 10 THE WINE MERCHANT july 2015 9

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merchant profile: friarwood From page 9 Carfagnini acquiring the business. The founder’s passing is a matter that his protégé reflects upon with evident sadness – and respect for what Bowen achieved. “They were big shoes to fill, for sure,” says the 27-year-old. “He had a great palate and a great focus on where the company him one bit. wanted to go. He stuck to it and believed in “Peter was a grandfather figure it and if somebody said ‘no’, it wouldn’t faze to everybody. He just had that open better.” ‘You can’t put a price tag on the contacts in Bordeaux that Peter Bowen built up’ Has the shop’s appearance changed at all since Peter’s day? The retail store stays the same. This [back office] used to be a big tasting room for the team, without a kitchen or any of that back there. Upstairs was office space; big boardrooms and big couches, almost like a mansion house style. But when we took Retail is a newer thing for Friarwood; it’s only been in the last 15 years I believe company that has been going for 50. Retail is an interesting one. It’s not that it’s been there, versus the wholesale going to grow hugely. We serve the local personality so it made it quite easy to get The Friarwood shop is on New King’s along with him. He pushed everyone to be Road in Fulham, a short walk from Parsons Green tube and the famous White Horse (“Sloaney Pony”) pub. A second shop, established in Edinburgh, was closed in original branch, its elegant frontage is largely obscured by scaffolding poles. over we didn’t lease the upstairs – they’re community around Fulham and Parsons Green and we have loyal customers who buying. It’s a very community feel. The sustain the wholesale side. enjoy and trust us, and some that come in shop does 30% of our turnover. It’s good, a nice profit coming in on a daily basis to Because we’re into high-end Bordeaux and expect wine that everyone doesn’t have. The wholesale side is a different thing. for a chat about football and leave without 2008. When The Wine Merchant visits the and fine wine we do have the hotels and Michelin-star restaurants and they want You obviously learned a lot from Peter. For sure. He passed away too early, just after his 70th birthday, and I needed to I would say he was a mentor. I enjoyed So is that the other 70% of the business? Is there any broking? Not yet. Soon to be. We have more sales got a couple of years to do it. Manager Patrice: ex Tante Claire sommelier learn more, but some things can’t change. going over to his and Isabelle’s house on of wine, and helping clean out the cellar of people. Sundays for lunch and having a good glass guys coming so we’re going to grow. We’ve Are your contacts in Bordeaux essentially the ones that Peter built up or have you found new ones as well? turning that into flats. We’ve reconstructed down here a little bit, changed it into a bit more office space, put in a kitchen, washroom and what-not. We have our own contacts that we’re going to use, and will use and do use. But the been built over 50 years. contacts that Peter grew ... you can’t put a price tag on it, and relationships that have Is Bordeaux still central to the business? For sure. With recent changes in tastes and fill any potholes in your wine list. It’s a bit difficult – you want to be a one-stop shop trends you have to vary from it a little bit to here on Sundays. He was a mentor for a lot Was your instinct to continue things in the same way as Peter had been running them, or did you think of it as a time to make some changes? It’s a good question. There’s always room for improvement but with the history and continue the same way and push forward in the way Peter would want it. How many people are in the team now? Seven, soon to grow. We’re going to take on some more sales guys. How does the business break down between the various revenue streams? the legacy that Peter had built up it’s hard to change things overnight. We’re going to THE WINE MERCHANT july 2015 10

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Bordeaux is the mainstay of the Friarwood business, with retail prices starting as low as £7.70 for people but it’s hard to fill on the fine Does it frustrate you, the way prices have gone at the top end? Yes and no. Bordeaux has been around for so many years; they know what they’re doing. For a merchant here in London, of to do ours. course the price is very sensitive. They’re doing their job and we have to find a way wine market. We’ve just signed a contract with a Bulgarian producer so we do have these quirky wines that we want to show and always will be. and have on our wine list. But at the end of the day we’re a Bordeaux-based company What does your cheapest decent Bordeaux retail for? Chateau Lisennes and Chateau Vignol are £7.70 in the shop. Good quality too. We do try to find hidden gems, within Bordeaux, to make us who we are and a bit different to everybody else while still having the Bordeaux focus. within France, within the world. It’s going Right now we’re just expanding our Alsace range. We’re in the process of signing up with a producer. Is that an exclusive arrangement? How does it work when you do these deals? We try our very best to get exclusivity for the UK or at least for London – and 90% Berry Bros or Farr Vintners or whoever. Do you feel that same sensitivity on the retail side as well? You’ve got an Oddbins about four doors away – not that I imagine there’s much overlap. No. It used to be Nicolas until three months ago and being a French company of course it had some overlap. Their customers stayed there but I think we have loyal customers who no matter what’s around Continues page 12 How much influence does Parker have on your business? Umm ... he’s there. We don’t purchase based too much on him. Our customers in the restaurants purchase on chateau but it all really comes down to price. of the Bordeaux is exclusive to us. We can’t risk selling the same wine to our clients as names, because they’ve heard of it before, In the shop it’s a different story – we can journey, how this wine was made or got there. What other areas of France are of interest to you at the moment? explain and walk the person through the I get the impression there is still a lot to be found in Bordeaux. Sure. It’s all based around the price right now. The top names are the most expensive, the ones that people know. THE WINE MERCHANT july 2015 11

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merchant profile: friarwood From page 11 driver – he comes in and he can leave at order. too? We go outside, yes. Obviously being a are in London. We keep this as full as we can with will always come to Friarwood. any time of the day. We have no minimum Is that just in London or further afield of Talbot; I’m a big fan of Château Menaut. Peter’s biggest was Pichon – he had a recently found a bunch of letters and Pichon. Well ahead of his time. Friarwood name? We do. We want to do more. We do a Friarwood Champagne – it is a wonderful Champagne, we do enjoy it, but it’s for to have it as their house Champagne. retail only. With Friarwood on the label In the future we do want to make our hotels and restaurants aren’t really keen own branded wines, maybe not under the Friarwood name. wonderful connection with Pichon. We’ve he was purchasing nine barrels of 1982 Do you bottle anything under the retail. It’s unlikely people will find a small Bordeaux or small Australian in another store. The sensitivity to exclusivity is less in emails and what-not back to the 80s – how And they can’t compare online as you’re not selling on the web. Not yet. It is happening. With the transition we are rebranding. Some things of the old Friarwood we can’t use and some things we wanted to change. The family crest two families’ crests put together. We’re rebrand. London-based company most of our clients orders from LCB and Octavian coming in every two days. the corner. and then we have a Bordeaux room around enough stocks, and depth and breadth of Bordeaux range, to keep us well afloat. Whites on one side, reds on the other, we’re switching out; it’s their logo, it’s the working with a guy right now to help us to Did it ever cross your mind to change the name as well? It always will be Friarwood. It’s such a strong name. So being Bordeaux-focused we have large We do about £2m turnover currently and that’s only going to go up Does the location suit you here? Would you consider relocating? Not right now. London is growing so fast and it’s just expanding out. It’s way beyond us now and we’re going to be in the heart are. We have Chelsea right beside us, we neighbourhoods with young adults, and that’s our clientele. Young adults who glass of wine. They’re City workers … in? All the time. It just seems that the area is and that’s who we target. the moment? I think I have to say Figeac. I’m a big fan attractive to that wealthier style of person What are your personal favourites at aren’t afraid to spend money on a nice have Fulham and Parsons Green, wealthy of it sooner or later … actually we already Everybody’s doing it – Berry Bros and all that. the business? Peter had health issues What’s the turnover of How did Peter come up with that name? The story I know is that he picked it out story or not! of a book. But I don’t know if I believe that Do you import into bond? We’re in two bonds: we’re in both Octavian and LCB. Peter used to only be in Octavian – we’re switching it half and half. Spread it out a bit; don’t put all our eggs in one their service to deliver. in the cellar? We have 5,000 cases or so, it’s all temperature all year round. temperature controlled. It’s under the company has always been profitable but you could see a downward slope. When he whatever it’s been before. That being said to purchase if it were at its prime. We do about £2m turnover currently and that’s only going to go up. he was ill so things like the website and e-commerce have slipped. Things like the company wouldn’t have been available for the last 10 years. The passed away it was kind of at the bottom of basket. We ship directly in and then we use What’s the storage like here, downstairs Peter didn’t focus on the company when … or Chelsea footballers? Do they come customer relationships kind of fell through gone for a really young, energetic team. Were you looking to start your own Friarwood came along? the cracks and need to be focused on. We’ve business before the opportunity with It worked out this way. I wouldn’t say I was looking or fishing around – I was always interested in it and always wanted to do it. But the timing kind of happened and earth so it’s a constant, perfect storing have access to do single-bottle deliveries, same day deliveries. We have our own I feel that part of the joy of us is that we THE WINE MERCHANT july 2015 12

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I jumped on the opportunity. I wouldn’t there. say for the good or for the bad. It just was Some things you just have to do and if You kind of take life as it comes I guess. you’re ready or not ready, there’s no time to think. You just have to do it. It worked out and here we are and with the team. I think we’re going to be going forward with a hockey-stick shaped graph of explosion. How was the deal structured? My father and I invested in it. It’s an asset purchase so we took over no debt from Isabelle. We took over the wines, the lease the space now. clients, the name, the location here. We Does Isabelle still pop in? She was here today. She’s always welcome and she knows it. She does like to come around and make sure we’re keeping things tidy and are on top of things. She’s transition and even such a short period get done. been a wonderful help to us in making the after Peter’s death it’s amazing how she’s able to help and to focus on what needs to How involved do you get with the retail side of things? Patrice is our manager. We have only one In the future we’re hoping to expand. store which, like I said, is the heartbeat. It Patrice was a sommelier for many years Carfagnini: “Some things you just have to do … there’s no time to think” We’re trying to switch a bit and create a wholesale and a retail list that’s a little bit different. I don’t have enough cellar room or money or wine to separate it and have a whole retail list and a whole wholesale list. But we’re slowly trying to select a dozen wines that we can take from the coming in and doing tastings here. food producer. place. We’re doing the Restaurant Show in October – we’ve teamed up with a Spanish It sounds like you have your plans in The transaction was in February, so quite recent. We have potholes to fill in and just goes by itself and runs its own engine. at Tante Claire and the Belvedere. He has huge amounts of knowledge and his palate is outstanding. We’re lucky enough to kind of pull him out of semi retirement and got in the future hopefully grow. him to help us push the retail forward and Does Patrice have access to the entire range or do you buy some things specifically for retail? Patrice has access to everything, and it used to be the same when Peter was alive. retail section and have wholesale-only, and that way we can serve local restaurants. the restaurant is five times or whatever Customers get upset that way too. shop? We do. We’re going to be doing that in the future. We have this room back here for tastings and out front we do tastings in the evenings. We enjoy having sommeliers it is they decide to mark up versus here. Do you do tastings and events in the One of the issues they have is the price at jumping on things too quickly is not going steady engine forward will be the way we as a team. want to do things and fix what we need to We’re still learning – but everyone to benefit us in the long run. I think a slow, fix now. We have things that we need to do should still be learning, so it’s OK. There’s lots to do but we have a good energetic Hopefully we can last another 50 years. team and we’re looking forward to doing it. THE WINE MERCHANT july 2015 13

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just williams The state that I am in Catalonia’s independent fervour is changing the way the local wine industry thinks of itself F or a haphazard handful of personal and professional reasons I’ve been, as book jacket cliché would have it, “dividing my time” between Spain and the UK over the past couple of years. I say Spain, but I really mean Catalonia, a distinction that you’re never allowed to Reminders that you are in what is forget in Girona, the small university city between Barcelona and France where I live. described on nationalist political posters the balance between the two has shifted (a new European state) are everywhere. – less emphatic than Italian, softer and towards the latter even in the short time – more in hope than expectation (although I’ve been here) – as a “nou estat d’Europa” There’s the language of course. Catalan Inevitably, the flag motif has found its Protestors gather outside the Williams residence rounder than Spanish, but like both derived directly from Latin – is the lingua franca, If you try a little Castillan Spanish in a shop in Girona (if not the rather more cosmopolitan Barcelona), the shop kind. not only on the street but in schools, on TV and radio and in all public administration. way onto wine bottles too, most notably on De Bandera, a robust rosé produced the Montsant DO. Released in time for of yellow against the dark ruby of the last September’s unofficial referendum by the Mas del Caçadora co-operative in sympathies looking to sell their wines as the independence movement has elsewhere in Spain have found it prudent to keep their counsel. In the past decade, become more vocal, consumers in the Catalan products, with Cava, the wine officially it can be produced in eight Penedes), the easiest target. rest of Spain have periodically boycotted assistant will generally opt for Catalan or on independence, its label is a solid block even English before reluctantly replying in OTHER CUES ARE visual, most strikingly the Catalan national flag. Draped from balconies, incorporated into the designs graffiti-ed and fly-posted on walls, of T-shirts, tattoos and trainers, fashioned into dog leads and key single star, is ubiquitous. wine showing through clear glass. From a can peel off to form a striped flag and, the makers suggest, mimic the emergence of the Catalan state. distance, it suggests the Spanish flag. But it comes with thin perforated strips that you most associated with the region (although Spanish regions, most of it comes from the independence question I’ve seen on a wine label. Most Catalan winemakers are rather more circumspect, less willing to alienate. De Bandera is the only overt reference to BUT IT CUTS both ways. A very detailed recent study on the effects of the Cava boycotts by a couple of economists at Barcelona’s Pompeu Fabre University chains, the yellow-and-red stripe, with or without an accompanying speak out on an issue that, even more than Certainly, producers with independence suggested that any fall in sales was offset by what the authors of the study called a “buycott” – a patriotically motivated increase in Cava sales in Catalonia. And in Scotland, has the capacity to inflame and Freixenet boss Josep Lluís Bonet, a Catalan THE WINE MERCHANT july 2015 14 at the head of a distinctly Catalan company,

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found his company’s products subject to a boycott within Catalonia after expressing York Times in 2013. In the circumstances, then, it’s not his desire to stay within Spain to the New surprising that most winemakers I’ve wine shops, supermarkets as well as delicatessens and independent wine You can see that in the various merchants, and restaurants, throughout del Duero and Galicia. And while that’s Tuscans in Torino or pick up a Pouillyis defined. met in Catalonia, whether pro or anti- Catalonia, where local wines far outnumber the handful of bottles from Rioja, Ribera generally the case throughout Europe – you wouldn’t expect to find many Super David Williams is wine critic for The Observer independence (my own straw poll suggests they are evenly split) prefer to keep their BUT THAT DOESN’T mean there isn’t a national pride in the local produce that, hardening in the decade since calls for independence moved from the political compared to around 50% today). political views away from the public arena. building a sense of a national rather than a regional wine industry. native Argentinian who runs my local deli says, you can get anything you want in wine without leaving Catalonia. I might disagree with him on the specifics of that climate reds and, disappointingly, Sherry when I’m back in England. All the same, I It’s as if they want to prove, as the gone- growing sense of Catalan wine as a distinct entity from the larger Spanish scene, a soft Catalan friends tell me, has been steadily Fumé in Perpignan – what’s interesting, to Maybe I’m reading too much into it, this glorified tourist at least, is how “local” but with the widespread emphasis on region – Empordà, Montsant, Priorat, Conca de Barbara, Pla de Bages, and arranging by DOs from throughout the Penedes, Terra Alta, Costers del Segre, point – I have to satisfy my craving for coolhave to admit there’s something thrilling, if occasionally disturbing, in being in a place where wine is very much more than just a drink. fringes to the mainstream (around 15% of Catalans supported independence in 2004, bulging stocks of Cava – it feels like Catalan wine sellers are, almost sub-consciously, THE WINE MERCHANT july 2015 15

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