THE WINE MERCHANT.
An independent magazine for independent retailers Issue 42, November 2015
“Oi! My dad says he can get that Rioja for £3.99 in Lidl”
More branches and a wider web for Corks Out
Corks Out has outlined ambitious plans for an estate of as many as 10 shops. independent, says the company is hoping Ruth Yates, who owns the Cheshire maybe not all in Cheshire, but there are quite a few areas that we think would suit the new concept that we have.” where we feel we’d like to be in terms of the number of stores we’d like to have and the areas we’d like to be in in the north west. “We’re probably looking at a maximum of 10, She adds: “We’ve done some analysis on to quickly find a new location on the Wirral to compensate for the recent closure of its bar/wine shop hybrid a year ago.
That Yapp-Kendermann deal in full
4 comings & GOINGS
Heswall shop, which had been struggling to Corks Out has recently opened a branch
Three fond farewells amid a wave of indie openings
6 tried & TESTED
attract enough trade since its refit as a wine in Knutsford, bringing the current estate to six stores, and Yates is hopeful of further expansion. “Apart from the relocation of [Heswall] we
which I think would fit really well and help us in the future.” Yates also believes the Corks Out online
to achieve some of the goals we’d like to achieve business will see explosive growth, predicting the retail estate. • Yates aims for perfect 10: page 20.
Do you like wines with hornyhanded earthiness? We do
10 merchant profile
are actually looking at three sites for other stores,” Yates says. “Still in the north west,
that web turover will eventually eclipse that of
North Coast Wine Co: now serving wine in store
16 saturday kitchen
Lamb ragù with a £6 Asda own-label Chianti, anyone?
18 david williams
33 wowed by the rheingau
Reporting back from our first reader trip to Germany
The highs and lows of the autumn tasting bonanza
44 christmas bazaar
Gifts and gadgets for the festive season
48 supplier Bulletin
The vineyards at Quinta de la Erre in Rías Baixas are just a short river crossing away from Portugal, though there’s an hour’s time difference to factor in when you use the bridge. Owner José Santiago Rodríguez hosted six independents as part of a recent Wine Merchant trip to the Spanish region – see pages 28 to 32 for a report of what else the group discovered.
Essential updates from agents and suppliers
Yapp’s new (black) tower of strength
What’s a nice independent wine business like Yapp Bros doing selling a minority stake to the producer of Black Tower? The deal with Reh Kendermann has raised eyebrows in the trade, but MD Jason Yapp is comfortable in explaining the logic. who is also chairman of SH Jones, which has four shops in Banbury, Bicester and Leamington Spa. Jones bought Stevens owns the Slurp and Hawkshead online brands. Kendermann’s UK boss is Richard Jones,
independently and there are no plans to informal links. “SH Jones has better specialist
merge the businesses, though there will be knowledge than us in some areas,” says Yapp. “For example they’re better than us at sourcing what I would call entrylevel wines for pubs. We’ve found that not having a range of international varietals
Yapp and SH Jones will continue to run
share. We had to progress, or wither on the vine. industry moving forward and it’s a good “We will see some consolidation in the
time for us to be getting some investment.”
Nouveau riches for Square Wine
The Beaujolais Nouveau run still
has meant we haven’t been able to get in on the ground floor, so as a result haven’t been able to sell our more aspirational wines to gastro-pubs and similar establishments. We’re now using some wines they have
appears to have legs (or perhaps that should be wheels). But one Midlands wine merchant has hit on a way to gain maximum publicity and promote its wines without having to leave the town, let alone the country. brokered an introduction between a group. The Square Wine Co in Warwick has
sourced to make inroads into that market.” of Black Tower at his Mere retail shop but offer from its holdings in Germany and he is excited by much of Reh Kendermann’s Yapp may not be preparing a floor-stack
Beaujolais producer for a local fundraising race back to the town for an evening gala setting off from Signé Vignerons in the November 19. The Square has benefited from preWarwick Rocks is inviting teams to
reception and parade of participating cars, French region a minute after midnight on
Garnier’s retail business last year and also
Merchant will maintain its own identity
Yapp. “We were looking at some business synergies with SH Jones and it kind of developed from there.” The size of Kendermann’s stake has
“Richard is quite a good friend,” says
publicity for the event and will hold its own Nouveau breakfast in the store. in the morning so we’ll have a continental which will be a little bit of a celebration some local press along in the morning.” Vigneron through Hallgarten Druitt, The shop buys wines from Signé for the first cars back into town,” says co“We’re hoping the first few will get back
Burgundy. “We’ll certainly explore the
potential of shipping some of those wines to benefit from Reh Kendermann’s broad reach into export markets, especially the Scandinavian and Canadian monopolies, though this is not an immediate priority. firm. “Tom and I both thought we had to and we know particularly from our onYapp describes the Reh Kendermann The deal also gives Yapp the potential
not been disclosed but Yapp remains a
to give us a more extensive range,” he says.
breakfast and networking event in the shop owner Hannah Lovell. “We’re hoping to get
majority shareholder, as does CEO Tom
Ashworth. “We’ll continue in our current whatsoever.”
roles for the foreseeable future,” Yapp says.
“In terms of management there’s no change SEE YOU IN 2016
The Wine Merchant next publishes on January 15. Good luck with the festive frenzy and thanks for all your support in 2015.
investment as “good timing” for the family grow the business or else it was going to shrink,” he says. “It is highly competitive
which helped set up the link between the fundraising group and the producer. year’s Nouveau day, says Lovell, who thinks the maligned wine still holds some magic. “We did buy a few cases through Hallgarten and it sold straight away, and we thought we should have bought a bit more,” The Square had just opened before last
trade customers that if we didn’t broaden
our range we would definitely lose market
THE WINE MERCHANT november 2015 2
she says. “This year we will as we’re taking part in the event. people realise it’s not necessarily going to a bit of fun and, in this case, a fundraiser as well. introduction but we’ll make sure we get the publicity the event’s going to bring.” wine shop takes its name. “It’s almost come full circle. I think
wine and craft beer bar. has turned the former HSBC bank in the Julie Mills of Vinomondo in Conwy
be fine wine, but it’s quite a nice tradition, “We’re not making any profits from the
town centre into Bank of Conwy and is so proud of the result that she’s considering Architects award. bank notes. The internal design includes specially“We had to fight a lot of people to get
putting it in for a Royal Institute of British designed wallpaper featuring images of
extra Nouveau into the shop on the back of in the town’s main square, from which the It held a film and food festival in the
Warwick Rocks raises money with events
hold of it,” says Mills of the site, which now I wanted a business in that building.” different list to the Vinomondo shop. how much they have to pay in a bar
provides jobs for 11 people. “I always knew Mills says the venue carries a completely “People can’t get their heads round
“Our Man with the Facts”
• Riesling accounts for almost 23% next most widely planted varieties are Müller-Thurgau (12.5%), of Germany’s vineyard area. The
summer and will repeat it with a Christmas theme. It also held a chocolate festival at the start of November. “It’s been really good for the town and
for us because we get a lot of people right outside the door who haven’t seen us before,” Lovell says.
environment. If they saw a bottle of wine on the shelves in the shop for £6.99 and
that you were then selling it for £25 they’re going to think you’re greedy, which you’re not because you have got to pay the rent, the heating, the staff and so on.” But she adds: “We make a play on the
Spätburgunder (11.5%) and Dornfelder wine from Denmark than they do from • In ancient Crete, winemakers the UK. (7.8%). The Germans import more
Julie’s banking on new tapas bar
A North Wales wine merchant has its eyes on an architectural prize after converting a former bank into a tapas,
fact that the wines are all from Vinomondo – and we can sell them off-sales from the bank.” going strong”. Mills adds that the original shop is “still
vine, depriving them of sap and causing • The French government offered a phylloxera, but refused to pay out them to shrivel.
achieved sweetness in their fruit by twisting the stalks of grapes on the
prize of 320,000 francs for a cure for grafting could thwart the bugs, as this introducing the pest in the first place. • Roger Scruton’s 2009 book I Drink for a range of philosophers. These was deemed to fall short of an actual to Leo Laliman, who discovered that
cure. Some even suspected Laliman of
Therefore I Am suggests wine matches with Descartes, Argentine Malbec with
Do customers who stay away too long from Bank of Conwy get withdrawal symptoms?
include old-vine Châteauneuf-du-Pape Kant, and Beringer Sauvignon Blanc with Aristotle.
THE WINE MERCHANT november 2015 3
Vineking’s at home at Hampton Court
The Vineking has opened a fourth branch on the site of the former Lancelot Wines store in East Molesey, near Hampton Court. to open on October 31, has been given a full refit. Laan says the store, which was scheduled “Everything has gone and it’s going full
Grapes shop shuts
Grapes of Worthing is closing after 10 years. Richard and Jane Ambridge’s landlord is selling the premises and the new owner is converting the former fishing cottage back to residential use. but no longer from retail premises. Ambridge plans to continue selling wine “I’ve sorted out storage and I’ve got
Vineking,” he says. “We’re going to have a a mini enoteca in the back as well. that sort of thing.
another venue for the tastings that I would normally do in the shop,” he says. “The been touched for donkey’s years. I will carry on but I will work from home.”
Laan’s fourth store has an enoteca area
whole beer wall with lots of craft beers and wine with some bread, meat and cheese, “People can come in and have a glass of
dinners will carry on at the same venue
and I shall redo the website, which hasn’t Ambridge says the scaled-down range
a little bit and it doesn’t interfere with the shop. Every other time we’ve tried to do separate space for it to work, I think.” burgundy in the enoteca area. The once-black ceiling is now a “light
“It’s quite nice because it’s tucked away
will include parcels sourced from UK agencies he has with producers in Champagne and the Loire.
importers, but he also plans to re-establish
it, it just takes too much space. You need a pearl grey” and the walls battleship grey, or because I don’t really think we’d have and Reigate. “We’re not having any funky machines
Sampler looks beyond South Ken
Award-winning Enomatic pioneer The Sampler is considering the future of its branch in South Kensington. store is to close, owner Jamie Hutchinson Responding to trade rumours that the
• Fowey Fish & Fowey Wines in Cornwall has closed. The company started trading in 1983 and had been run by Karen Turpin since 2000. The business had been on the market for two years but no buyer was forthcoming. “In some ways this is a sad time,” says Turpin. “But in other ways it’s a welcome opportunity to take a rest after 32 years of dedicated trading.”
enough turnover for them,” says Laan,
whose other branches are in Weybridge
Sandra Maclean – she’s an ex sommelier. She’s worked for Fortnums and Gaucho Lancelot Wines closed in the summer.
“We’ve got a fantastic manager lined up,
says no decision has been taken either way. number of people keen to buy us out of the two shops in a less expensive area, but the decision as to whether to do it hasn’t been made yet. January, post December trading.” lease which potentially would fund another He adds: “We have been approached by a
Farewell to Vickis
Vickis Wine Merchants in Chobham, Surrey, has closed, owner Paul Taylor has confirmed. The family business had been operating since 1953. keeping it open for as long as I can,” Taylor says. “But even I have to face facts and open. throw in the towel as my landlords will never see reason or help to keep Vickis “I have been through hell and back
and I’m very excited to get her on board.” • Upmarket London steak restaurant M is opening a wine shop alongside its second dining venue which opens in the Zig Zag Building in Victoria in December. Entry to the restaurant will be through the shop, which will sell a selection of 150 wines from the restaurant’s list. The first M, in the City of London, was opened by former Gaucho managing director Martin Williams a year ago.
“I would think we will decide the plan in The South Kensington store opened in
2010, four years after the Islington branch. • Adnams has opened its 12th Cellar & Kitchen store, in Bury St Edmunds, which includes a try-before-you buy tasting bar and café. Manager Tom Crittenden previously ran a local branch of Waterstones.
closing but alas money and greed always seem to win.”
“Believe me I have tried to stop Vickis
THE WINE MERCHANT november 2015 4
Warwick wine warehouse Underwood Wines has moved to more cost-efficient premises across the M40 on the way to Stratford-upon-Avon. with brother Tim, says the move signals a partial retreat from the retailing – with regular opening houses limited to Nick Underwood, who runs the business
Thursday, Fridays and Saturday mornings – as weddings, and wholesale.
in favour of a greater focus on private client business, providing wine for functions such in following us,” Nick explains, “and we’re targeting the ones that we know are out the old-fashioned mail shots. there, and getting back to doing more of much less regimented in our hours.” “A lot of our customers have been great
“We’re really happy now because we’re
Department store group Fenwick has completed a refit of the wine shop of its flagship branch in Newcastle as part of a major redevelopment of its food hall. The new-look wine shop features Enomatics, by-the-glass sales, wine flights matched to food from the store’s Fuego restaurant and four-metre high shelving accessed by a library ladder.
THE WINE MERCHANT november 2015 5
tried & Tested
Teusner Joshua Grenache/ Mataro/Shiraz 2013
Drought conditions wreaked havoc with Kym Teusner’s Barossa bush vines, but he wrestled with what nature provided and ended up creating this little beauty. The fruit isn’t at all baked – in fact there’s a lightness and freshness, which isn’t obscured by any oak, and the RRP: £28 ABV: 14.5% Hallowed Ground (07799 414374) hallowed-ground.co.uk juicy and spicy flavours seem natural and unforced.
Jean-Luc Colombo Cornas Les Ruchets 2011
Those on a tight budget should check out the Cornasalike Les Forots, but for four times the price you get the real deal. The fruit comes from ancient Syrah vines, with almost as much denseness and complexity as the iTunes small print. Leather, spices, meat, dark fruits and vanilla: it’s all going on, and it keeps on going. RRP: £59.25 ABV: 13.5% Hatch Mansfield (01344 871800) hatchmansfield.com
Nicosia Etna Rosso 2012
A blend of Nerello Mascalese (80%) and Nerello Cappuccio (20%) grown in cooled lava at an altitude of 700m. The grapes ripen so late that they’re not picked till the end of October. There’s an appealing elegance here but the fruit shines through, with notes of cherry RRP: £11.49 ABV: 13%
Vigne Surrau Sciala Vermentino di Gallura 2013
This Sardinian DOCG Superiore is kept in contact with the grape skins for a short time prior to fermentation and then spends several months on fine lees, in stainless steel. So there’s plenty of aroma, body and richness, making it a versatile choice for the winter RRP: £21.60 ABV: 14% Fortyfive 10 (020 8875 1784) fortyfive10.com
and strawberry. The tannins squeeze gently, not enough to hurt, but as befits a wine made on an active volcano. Boutinot (0161 908 1315) boutinot.com
months, with a nice savoury finish to round things off.
Villa Maria Cellar Selection Sauvignon Gris 2014
Welcome Sauvignon Gris to the Cellar Selection family. The volume has been turned down a bit on the citrus and pear flavours, so the wine’s weight and texture its potential. This is certainly an encouraging start. RRP: £14.90 ABV: 14% Hatch Mansfield (01344 871800) hatchmansfield.com achieve extra prominence. The fruit comes from stony soils in the Wairau valley and Villa Maria is excited by
Domaine Chante Cigale The Cicada 2014
It’s not too hard to find a decent quaffing Rhône red but this one has a rare and winning combination of depth an honest, horny-handed earthiness, but also a good slug of raspberry and cherry fruit on the palate. RRP: £8.99 ABV: 13% Boutinot (0161 908 1315) boutinot.com of flavour, fun, and value for money. An 80-20 blend of Grenache and Carignan, it has a nice pungent nose and
Pazo Señorans Albariño 2014
Our recent visit to Rías Baixas unearthed so many gems that it seems almost unfair to single out just one. Pazo Señorans doesn’t aim for the salinity that you find in many wines in the region, instead focusing on rich fruit intensity. This one has a luxurious, almost and acidity that suggests a long and happy life. RRP: £16.99 ABV: 12.5% Alliance Wine (01505 506060) alliancewine.com
Wunsch et Mann Alsace Grand Cru Hengst Riesling 2010
Hengst is German for stallion, chosen here because the wine is pretty wild in its youth before settling down its rhubarby tartness and rich, ripe undercurrents. We’re happy to champion this wonder horse. RRP: £19.99 ABV: 12% McKinley Vintners (020 7928 7300) mckinleyvintners.co.uk into the lovable animal we find today. It’s hard to stand
oily texture and mandarin notes, and a racy minerality
out in a room full of lovely Rieslings, but this did it with
THE WINE MERCHANT NOVEMBER 2015 6
bits & BOBs FAVOURITE
Neill & Co Groomsport Bangor, Co Down
Favourite wine on my list Château de Lauga Cuvée Grand Père 2010: left bank Bordeaux brilliance. It makes a mockery of the outdated 1855 classification as well as the crowd of overpriced names.
Plans for four new stores every month
Conviviality Retail expects to open around 50 stores a year, boss Diane Hunter has confirmed. Rack and Bargain Booze branches. The openings will include both Wine
group is offering easy-drinking favourites such as Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio as well as a Nero D’Avola from Sicily, a Telegraph, October 20 Syrah from Washington, and a Prosecco. As part of an Evenings programme, the
buy-out of Matthew Clark, creating a
wholesale giant with a turnover of £1.1bn. be run separately from the retail division, but she would be “leveraging the best of both”. The Drinks Business, October 16
Conviviality recently completed a £200m
Hunter said the business would continue to
There are signs of rising tension between Beaujolais winemakers after Sebastien Coquard, president of the Beaujolais and Beaujolais Villages body, told producers he was stepping down. faced “threats’ to his privacy and claimed he was under “untolerable” pressure. agreed an uneasy truce with local No allegations were made against specific individuals. Winemakers recently merchants over prices for the promising 2015 vintage. An email sent by Coquard said that he
Favourite wine and food match Has to be whole quartered chicken marinated in real Tuscan olive oil, crushed garlic, rosemary and thyme, cast-iron grilled of course with a bottle of mature red Burgundy. Favourite wine trip There have been so many over the years but probably Western Cape South Africa last year. The scenery, wine styles and restaurants were simply awesome. Favourite wine trade person Pierre Nortje, export director of Simonsig Estate, Stellenbosch. A great host, wine professional and friend.
Wine and coffee do mix
Decanter, October 20
Starbucks has broken with tradition and is opening a new Star Reserve store which looks more akin to a restaurant than its ubiquitous chain of coffee shops. ipmarket branches will start at £6. Tthe price of some coffees offered in the
• Majestic Wine has abandoned its minimum six-bottle purchase as new boss Rowan Gormley seeks to lure back customers to the ailing chain. Customers who continue to buy six or more bottles will qualify for discounts of between 10% and 33%. “Our customers were telling us they wanted simpler, clearer pricing,” Gormley said. The Guardian, October 26
Favourite wine shop Etablissements Martin in Saint Emilion. Pure wine culture at every turn, with so many great Bordeaux names with back vintages all on the ground floor and a treasure trove of Burgundy downstairs in its ancient vaulted cellar. I could go mad in there, and once did!
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The Wine Merchant is mailed freely to the owners of the UK’s 766 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 november 2015 8
THE WINEMAKER FILES
Marinda Kruger-van Eck, Boutinot
Boutinot has been making wine in South Africa for almost 25 years. Today its production in the Cape is overseen by the charismatic Marinda Kruger van-Eck, who works closely with growers right across the region
I’ve been working for Boutinot for six years. Before that I was working for a huge cooperative cellar. I started up an experimental cellar there. That was great – that’s where In a big co-operative cellar it’s a bit like making Coca-Cola. There’s nothing winemaking and consistent quality.
you can play as much as you want to and you can really learn. You make exciting mistakes! wrong with that. That’s just the customer profile and you learn a lot about consistent I work with commercial yeasts and wild yeasts. Each vineyard has a unique microbial population and it’s fascinating to get a pure expression of terroir. I work at different sites around the wine region. You get a feel for which winery suits your winemaking and there are four or five where I make the wine. We don’t own any with us. It’s a partnership.
Mon Vieux Hell’s Heights Sauvignon Blanc 2014 RRP £10.99
“The grapes come from 545m above sea level on Simonsberg Mountain in Stellenbosch. There’s amazing natural acidity. I ferment in 500-litre and 600-litre French oak barrels. There’s a good balance between the fruit and the oak.”
vineyards but we have long-term vineyard contracts. The growers are very happy to work It’s always been my motto that it doesn’t matter at what price point I make wine, the customer must always think they’ve got good quality. It must always have a good, interesting nose, a front palate, a mid palate and then a follow-through on the finish. I think there are quite a lot of reasons why there’s a buzz coming out of South Africa right now. Our winemakers have had more exposure since 1995 – we’re not isolated on. Also our vineyards are getting older. It definitely makes a difference. anymore. We’re also exploring the diversity of South Africa. Education at an agricultural
Mon Vieux Aquifer Semillon 2014 RRP £10.99
“From the Swartland – a lovely sandy shale soil. The vineyard was planted in 1966. It’s bush vines and the yield is extremely low. The wine is naturally fermented in 70% new oak.”
and oenological level is better than it was a few years ago. There’s a lot of research going The Swartland makes fantastic wines, but I don’t think it’s better than any other region. An area like Stellenbosch, which I absolutely love, is really exciting but is quieter because they rely on the history and the heritage that’s there already. Stellenbosch still you cannot treat all wine regions the same. Cape Heights Sauvignon Blanc 2015 RRP £9.99
“If you stand in the main vineyard you can see and smell the Atlantic Ocean. I have to put up sprinklers to get rid of the salt on the leaves! We’ve worked with the vineyard for about four years. There is skin contact for eight hours. This year the wine was amazing.”
gets the most accolades. Regions like Elgin and Elim are majorly exciting. Even the Breda
River area, which is warm and high-production, makes interesting wines. As a winemaker The UK is a very well-integrated market. Sometimes people know even more about dynamic market and there’s always a gap for good quality wines.
South African wine than South African consumers do about their own wines. It’s a hugely
Feature sponsored by Boutinot (0161 908 1300)
THE WINE MERCHANT november 2015 9
merchant profile: north coast wine COMPANY
A Bude awakening
Oliver Tullett (left) and manager Tom Litten, October 2015, Seventy perafter cent the of Laan’s one month move range is imported direct
Jim Nicholson, Crossgar, September 2015: keen on further expansion if the right opportunity presents itself
North Coast Wines recently relocated to bigger premises where Oliver Tullett and his team can blend on- and off-premise sales for the first time. The move has already given the business a new lease of life
t’s 900 miles from Land’s End to John o’ Groats, and many people might guess that a business called North
does provide the business with a firm geographic identity. second shop is the way forward, St Ives, locations, but he’s not ring-fencing his ambitions. Should Tullett decide that adding a
Coast Wine would be near the Scottish end of the famous journey. In fact, it’s just a the Cornish start/finish point, in Bude. to one of the UK’s most southerly wine merchants. But within Cornwall – one a northern and southern coastline – it tenth of the distance along the coast from
moved to bigger premises in the town in embrace on-premise consumption in addition to the traditional shop format.
Padstow and Newquay would appear to
September, allowing the business to fully He’s favoured by-the-glass service rather
Tullett opened in Bude in 2009 and
in owner Oliver Tullett applying the name of just three English counties with both
There may or may not be some mischief
be the forerunners, if only because of their “There might be space in other places for
than dispense machines in doing so, largely based on cost concerns, something that’s made simpler by manager Tom Litten’s background in top-end hospitality. incorporates found and upcycled The décor has a high-spec feel but
us –whether it’s in the south west I don’t know. There’s a north coast on Scotland, there’s a north coast on Wales, there’s north coast on Norfolk,” he points out.
THE WINE MERCHANT november 2015 10
items – grape boxes for stock, the pedal
of the electrics and plumbing.
instant effect on turnover? Oliver: Yes. Our turnover has definitely half a million at the moment. gone up. Whether it’s a honeymoon period or not, I don’t know. Turnover is just over this way – we make enough money out of this to employ four good staff who know the time. Tom’s doing his Diploma. I stopped what they’re doing, and we’re training all The profit margin is reasonable. Put it
the bar, the flooring. It’s floating flooring mechanisms of sewing machines for table bases and refurbed cinema seats. The shelving were just one design feature the Latvian capital Riga. Anglepoise lamps used as spotlights over inspired by a wine shop (Vina Studija) in the business. “You don’t need a design Attention to detail is a watchword for
so all of this could be taken out and used patio outside as well and we plan to do a I wouldn’t be surprised if we’ve got 60 to 100 people in and around the shop drinking wine. quite good.
The shop fitting was paid for by me;
elsewhere if we needed to. We own all the bit of work on that soon. By next summer
glass of wine to buying a case of wine is
The conversion from people having a
training because I’m too old and not really academic enough. I just enjoy what we do
company,” says Tullett. “I did it all myself with my wife. If you’ve got inspiration in be that far behind. It’s all about how you present stuff, and presenting it well will give you best sales.” Why the move to the new shop? Oliver: I’ve had the business up the road in Bude for the last six years. It’s just a one. Tom joined me in January 2014 – smaller shop, about half the size of this
your wine, the artistic inspiration shouldn’t
before that I sort of managed it by myself. Tom is the reason we’ve expanded, to be help.
honest, as you can do a lot more with some to me, “I’ve got this site available, do you
The décor is high-spec and borrows ideas from merchants as far afield as Latvia
want it?” I think it was convenient for him, as it had been empty for 18 months, so he very helpful. It used to be a building society. The
We weren’t looking. My landlord just said
What was your vision for the store? Oliver: To create a nice wine merchants that I’d want to go to. I’d seen a lot of wine merchants down here that I’d supplied to – Wadebridge Wines, Bin Two – which is from in terms of the outside space and serving drinks. where a few of the ideas for this have come
and actually running the business is the bit I enjoy more than perhaps the tasting of wine.
gave us some money to renovate it. He was building itself needed work so they paid
Cornwall is a crowded county for wine merchants. Oliver: There’s room for everyone. There are obviously some wine merchants who to move forward. My personal opinion is there is plenty of brewery business and national account business to be had. I’d than against them. I have a good relationship with
for all the doors, windows all the building work – getting the ceilings redone and all
It may be early days but has it had an
feel that attacking independents is the way
By next summer we could have 60 to 100 people in and around the shop drinking wine
THE WINE MERCHANT november 2015 11
much rather work with other independents
Continues page 12
merchant profile: north coast wine company
From page 11
Wadebridge Wines, Wine in Cornwall,
with Jamie at Old Chapel Cellars … Castang Wines I have a good relationship with. Up until recently, Karen at Fowey Wines, but she’s now closed hers down. come up against where they’re attacking my business, which is not good for the independent trade. Is there a practical side to the good relationships you have with the other indies you mention – do you source wines together? Oliver: Yes, we do a little bit of sourcing wines together but also it’s a mutual But there are a couple of people I
I don’t have Pinot Grigio any more. It’s insipid and boring and people want to pay £5
but I’d much rather hand something over to somebody further down county that I push it to the nth degree to run it. can’t service than over stretch myself and anymore because it’s insipid and boring I was going to do Pinot Grigio I’d do an don’t believe it. merchant? Tom: Every wine in the shop here we wine merchant. would quite happily take home and drink and people want to buy it for five quid. If that a bottle of Pinot Grigio is £12. They organic Pavia. But you can’t tell someone
got to grow, and some are more aggressive than others. But there’s only one way a that’s “squash the other guy”. business gets very big, isn’t there – and How big do you want to get? Oliver: That’s questionable. In terms of the wine merchant side of things – the
Obviously I understand companies have
What do you think makes a good wine
respect thing. Having worked down here basis of “can I group people together to etc?” It can be difficult because you’ve got
with the wine merchants when I was trying to sell to them for Moreno, I worked on the help each other out, to get ex-cellars going
wholesale business that we have – I think it’s enough. It’s a very good way of losing just aren’t paying their bills on time. Tom: We’ve been here for a month now
ourselves. I think that’s the sign of a good is fine for the middle of summer when
money if a lot of people go bust on you, or and the first thing to do is to make sure
Oliver: We do two-for-£10 bin ends, which you’ve got 200 tourists coming through and just want to pick up a deal wine. who don’t have a wine merchants in their home town and don’t know what we are, I have to do a little bit of that. I certainly
personalities in there that don’t always gel,
we do this really, really well. I think we’d five years we’re going to have 200 stores across the country
both love to sit here and say in but the first thing is to get this
wouldn’t take the stuff home and drink it. it’s worth a fiver”. But a bottle of wine at today in Spar at £3.99. trade? Oliver: Not as much as we used to be. I
We do have to taste it and go “it’s all right,
shop as good as it can be. Then, if people like us and we’re here in a couple of years, something If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. I think got for the time being. we’re happy with what we’ve might come up at the right time.
£5 is too cheap. Though I did notice a Rioja How reliant are you on the tourist
would say that 70% of our business is local. Tom: I think that’s fair. I mean in August it’s nice to have that increased footfall and to at this time of year we are planning our big our locals come to. Oliver: The Christmas tasting is our major every year is because we treat them to dinner and have a drink with them. see new faces coming through the door, but annual Christmas events and things that all thing and all our reps come down and stay
What is the local market like? Oliver: Our local market is good, our locals like us. They like the to now – they can try a glass of something different. in here, in fact I refuse to have We don’t serve Pinot Grigio
fact that they have a bar to come
THE WINE MERCHANT november 2015 12
it, pretty much, on the shelf
with us. One of the reasons they come back
products, or one of the ways into it. I know a lot of people want to go abroad and taste you remove yourself from the romance of being in the winery, in the sunshine, and So the reps are very important to us.
Your rep is your way into finding new
the wines – but I’ve always found that once then you’re in Cornwall, in the rain – you’ve got to think “does this wine taste as good?” through the door on the night. All locals. Bude, just down the road. We get a couple of hundred people
This year we are holding it at the castle in Tell me about your supplier base. Oliver: We use Moreno: probably not our biggest supplier but one of our more David Courtenay Clack … quirky suppliers. Alliance, ABS, Armit,
Upcycling is part of the North Coast chic
Is there a wine region the shop is particularly famous for? Oliver: I have a definite penchant for Spanish wine. In terms of my knowledge, Spain is one of my go-to areas. We have a that it’s regional. the moment.
Tom: It’s a nice mix. We’ve got Curio Spirits who make really good gins and vodkas down on the south coast of Cornwall. tasting this year. It’s becoming like a They’re coming to the Christmas
has gone phenomenally well.
actually I’ve found the quality of a lot of
food and wine fair – we have all our food things.
good spread – we have more French on the shelves but that’s purely down to the fact Tom: Our sparkling range is very strong at Oliver: We’ve been using Henkell, which is Mionetto, and this has given us things like We put it on by the glass last week and it
Prosecco is free-falling at the moment and supermarkets all seem to be doing deals at £6.99, which is the same way that Cava are trying to find the next big thing. there will be other regions to go to. went. So if you look at it in a few years, the supermarkets are going to screw it, so we Grigio at some point will hit its peak, and Tom: We’ve got six Macedonian wines on the shelf and to be honest we can’t think range. We have the level of advice to go with it. of anywhere else that you would get that Prosecco has hit its peak, just like Pinot
There’s not a lot of Prosecco around –
producers coming. It will be a nice mix of
very different people doing very different in and buy a couple of bottles of wine for who come to fill up their coffee tins and people coming for the deli products. in the past few years. We do a lot of
the weekend, and then we have customers We’ve become more than a wine shop
We have our wine customers who come
Chapel Hill which is a Hungarian sparkling.
hampers and gift vouchers and we have a lot of excitement and compliments about the things that we do. There’s a big food culture in Cornwall.
Is it quite a hard sell to get customers to try those wines in the first place? Tom: Everyone is different. Some people are naturally adventurous.
we’re stocking at the moment. I think part of our appeal is that we have something in looking at the Prosecco and sparkling that are also made in Bude.
We have about 20 Cornish breweries that
for everyone: you’ve got the ladies coming wines, the gents looking at the beers and the kids looking at the Sweet P chocolates
our wines are good quality. Perhaps they lines, which is slightly different to what
The store was once a building society branch
normally drink Shiraz … we could get them to buy a Rhône or something along those they normally have.
I think people have come to trust that all
Continues page 14
THE WINE MERCHANT november 2015 13
merchant profile: north coast wine company
From page 13
ready to go for maybe the Macedonian
wines or the Château Musar. That’s down our restaurants are the same – they trust our judgement. To what extent do you think a wine merchant can survive these days just focusing on the retail side of things? Oliver: It’s made more and more difficult We’re just about to have a Lidl open in coming here.
Then when they come again, they are
Online sales are a waste of time. People should go to local merchants, not buy from me
money on their websites and they get very good responses and they sell a lot online. lot of money on it. But still where it falls any good. I have worked on my website, I’ve spent a I know that a lot of people spend a lot of and all the rest of it. Get them in your front door rather than on your website. in here with their phone, beep a product, Anybody is more than welcome to come
to building relationships with people, and
by the amount of supermarkets that open. town which will draw more people out of If it’s a cup of coffee, and while they’re town, so you have to give them a reason for having that coffee they are picking up a them to do another.
down is getting the distribution right. And none of the couriers that are out there are
search it online and go “actually, the price
is right”. Because we check what the prices people that are online. in the first place? Oliver: Word of mouth. I don’t spend any money on marketing at all. It’s the whole do something well enough you shouldn’t need to advertise. I’ve spent money on our website and
are, we know where we should be sitting in
the market, and we’re the same price as the How do you get people through the door
bottle of wine – brilliant! It’s about getting people in to do one thing, and then getting I’ve got one regular customer, John, who
“build it and they will come” thing: if you
comes in – he’d never tried a Pouilly-Fumé. He tries it – he’s had two dozen. He’d had a bad day, he’d wanted a glass of wine – straight on to it.
I’ve got a good strong email list. Including that’s probably 2,000 people.
Draught wine sales are new to the mix
Twitter and Facebook and all the rest of it,
Your website helps give an impression of the business. Oliver: At the moment our website doesn’t That being said, online sales are so poor – it’s just a waste of time. Tom: It’s a very saturated market at the people will choose the cheapest price. ultimately. moment. With things like Winesearcher It’s a very difficult market to operate in, Oliver: And I don’t like it. I think people not buy online from me. Go and chat to the guy rather than trawl through the net looking for a certain wine that’s delivered. 50p cheaper and then pay £10 to get it directly correlate with what we’ve got here.
Tom: We reach quite a lot of new customers by putting on events. Last year we had 200 people through the door for our Christmas tasting and probably 20% of those were brand new customers. Oliver: If there was a Majestic Wine
product and when they do break it it will take you two months to get it back, even if they’ve only broken one bottle out of 12. When it does come back it looks like
You can’t get any insurance on your
they’ve run a truck over it. God knows how the big guys deal with it. I think they just accept a certain percentage of breakages delivered first time, properly. and work it into their costings. As a small
warehouse on the outskirts of town – well, I actually wouldn’t be here. I just wouldn’t have bothered. They spend lots of money leafleting and all the rest of it. rather do what we’re doing, which is the next year.
ought to go to their own wine merchant,
business we can’t do that. We want it to be getting people to go online, and wherever don’t want to be spending our money. We want to be spending money on the whole “buy local, keep it local, low fuel miles” The nationals are spending their money
slowly-slowly, which gives you a stronger I know a lot of companies go out there
It costs so much bloody money. I’d much
base to work on for the next year, and then and really push it hard. I just don’t see the point. Do it well enough and people will their friends.
they’re spending their money is where we
tell their friends, and their friends will tell
THE WINE MERCHANT november 2015 14
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