The Wine Merchant issue 44

 

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The Wine Merchant issue 44

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THE WINE MERCHANT. An independent magazine for independent retailers Issue 44, February 2016 Debtors beware: we have a new lawyer Saturday Kitchen offers olive branch to indies Saturday Kitchen is open to the idea of filming on location in independent wine shops, the show’s producer Amanda Ross has told The Wine Merchant. is also prepared to explore the possibility of available exclusively to independents. There has been irritation in the trade Ross, who is managing director of Cactus TV, Ross explained that strict rules imposed by But she said it could be possible for the Ofcom and the BBC put the production team in a “an editorial and compliance straightjacket”. programme’s wine experts to film inside not be identified. independent shops, provided the stores could indies. We will get the wine experts to research wine matches that could be readily available could film in. in independents and identify which shops we other independents.” She added: “We’d love to embrace all those THIS MONTH 2 BACCHUS January was drier in some areas than others, it seems 4 comings & GOINGS featuring wines on the BBC1 show which are that the show seems fixated on wines sold in supermarkets and Majestic – a point articulated in this month’s issue by Dave wine offerings”. Why the Oxford Wine Co is concentrating on cafés 8 tried & TESTED Gorbachev was very wrong about Armenian wines 10 ST ANDREWS WINE CO Eglington of Wolseley Wine Loft who accuses the programme of a “complete imbalance of Speaking exclusively to The Wine Merchant, “I’m an independent and I would love to help Peter Wood and his farmers’ market for wines • Saturday Kitchen special: pages 18 to 23. 16 david williams Learning from the Tokyo shop that sells just one book 32 focus on gin The boom continues, but for how much longer? 42 CALIFORNIA WINE Indies are finally getting access to the wines causing all the excitement 48 supplier Bulletin Essential updates from agents and suppliers 56 make a date The judging panel is in place for this year’s Wine Merchant Top 100 and as always it’s made up entirely of independents. For details of the competition and how to enter, visit the website at www.winemerchanttop100.com. Pick your own highlights from a mad March

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BACCHUS Sales dry up in January, for some The combined effects of social media, national publicity and the government’s new drinking guidelines made Dry January a tougher month than normal for many wine merchants. in Bath, jokingly boos at mention of the to January 2015. Richard Lecoche, at Great Western Wines b talking to people that they’re not drinking in January and that has to follow through to a proportion of our customers. Maybe that us growth were not drinking in January. “Our main group of customers are 10%-20% who would normally have given drinking as usual. We see all the same faces and speak to the same voices on the phone, and the website orders are robust. But the numbers don’t lie.” Lecoche says Great Western tried to counteract the impact by focusing on some lower-strength wines. “That’s had some success,” he adds. “It wasn’t something we planned but as it went on we realised January wasn’t doing as well as previous Breakfast is served on February 1 point in trying to flog a dead horse. Just enjoy the calm.” surprised by how well January went, even without specific promotions. Some stores ended up short-staffed due to the rush. January,” she says. “At a glance the web “We seem to be about 20% up on last Corks Out boss Ruth Yates has been years and looked at ways to drive business. offers but we have picked out one or two wines that are a bit lower in alcohol and something they might enjoy.” Kevin Griffin at Weald Wine Cellars in recommended them to our customers as “We haven’t run large low-alcohol wines phrase and says sales were flat compared on a very good year-on-year growth trend 10%-20% up in any one month. “Can you pin it on Dry January? It’s very for about two years, of nearly always being difficult to quantify it, but I do know from “It’s had an impact,” he says. “We’ve been Cranbrook says Dry January had “a massive impact – definitely worse this year”. couple of weeks and we get a surge the last couple of weeks when people start to give people to keep away.” He adds: “It’s always worst in the first and wholesale seems to be pretty static but the retail and bar sides are doing very Dry January, our customers are not really taking much notice and still seem to be enjoying themselves.” well – I’m surprised at the amount of retail going through. In terms of the bar side and up. We’re a destination shop so it’s easy for pricing. “We always have a January sale Griffin tries to hold his nerve on January Draining the lake Plumpton College is taking on its first sales person to help reduce what it describes as its own wine lake. bottles, about 8,000 of which are its own aromatic white wine Cloudy Ridge. the institution’s wine team to draw up production on sparkling wine. Still Plumpton Lake is formed of 18,000 which is a proper bin-end sale and we had away because what’s the point? I’ve only that again this year, but we don’t give stock got to go and buy it again, with less money. it in January, they’ll buy it in February or March.” Stourbridge is resigned to the impact of post-Christmas abstinence. Edward Wilson at The Wine Press in “I just sit on the stock. If they don’t buy a new business plan for 2016, focusing The size of Plumpton Lake has prompted one of our best Januarys but that’s been Wilson: enjoying the calm more the function side of things than retail. Christmas we all have time off. There’s no “We have such a hard campaign at “You’ll never stop it,” he says. “We’ve had winemaking will be drastically reduced. and Dean Blush sparkling wines are sold at Waitrose, but its still white wine has fared of sales personnel. less well. The college blames this on a lack Plumpton College’s award-winning Dean THE WINE MERCHANT february 2016 2

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Merchants ready to get real in April Real Wine Month and its companion consumer event The Real Wine Fair make a return this year after taking a sabbatical in 2015. of Les Caves de Pyrene. The company will have special trade discounts on around 200 wines from its portfolio for the throughout April. promotional month which officially runs The events are organised by Doug Wregg They’ll get a better deal for doing that, because the price is subsidised by us. in a nice way. the box and learn a little bit about the wine, windows with Real Wine posters and hold involved. That’s what I’d like to see across the board because that makes it work.” category still has legs. “Some wine merchants really plaster the “For one month they can drink outside Flying Füchs events and open bottles and get customers Wregg says he feels the whole real wine “Everyone was announcing the death of “Retailers who are quite conservative will be hosting tastings and other activity from February until May. extra margin to play with, whether they or offering 5% or 10% off,” he adds. “The discounts gives them a little bit of Wregg says shops, bars and restaurants it but if you crunch the numbers … “Our Man with the Facts” Alan Rickman as Steven Spurrier and Paris wine tasting, filmed its Parisian supplied by members of the Arcane • England’s highest vineyard is Auto Society. street scenes in Sonoma. Cars were retells the story of The Judgment of • The film Bottle Shock, which stars are thinking they need to reflect this 30. They want a good chunk of their streets and the supermarkets. generation of drinkers, generally under use that discount for opening free bottles selection to be wines like this because they are distancing themselves from the high “These wines are very attractive and venues will take part this year, a slight rise on the 230 participants in 2014, of which 50 were wine shops. The aim is to enthuse trade and He’s hoping as many as 250 retailers and allow them to interact with their customers a little bit more. Everyone’s quite positive about the vibe behind it.” Real Wine Fair is at Tobacco Dock in east sign up will feature on the website at therealwinefair.com. Real Wine Month is in April and the consumers about organic, biodynamic and natural wines from artisanal producers. not way up the list, but a little bit up. Wregg says: “We’d like people to drink, London on April 17 and 18. Retailers who produces include Rondo, Solaris, Seyval, Siegerebbe and Madeleine Angevine. • Queen Victoria’s favourite drink whisky. metres above sea level. The grapes it Holmfirth in West Yorkshire, at 256 was a mixture of claret and single malt • Corks were originally removed from bottle necks with the aid of a device used to clean muskets. Corkscrews were developed later in the 18th century. be less than 3% alcohol and reach 85% Around 50 wine shops took part in Real Wine Month in 2014 years to ferment. Resulting wines can residual sugar. Tokaji Wine Company, is made with free-run juice that takes six to eight • Essencia, produced by The Royal THE WINE MERCHANT february 2016 3

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Café culture leads to Oxford closures The Oxford Wine Company has closed its shops in Cirencester and Tetbury to focus on its wine café activities. was ticking over but making little impact – and crucially was an hour from Oxford, where we have developed a stronghold Witney.” with two wine cafés and a wine shop, as The same logic applied to the Tetbury He adds: “We have seven sales people Owner Ted Sandbach says: “Cirencester people from London moving to the area, particularly families,” says Chris. encourage a buyer to take on the business as a going concern and are marketing the business immediately. • Costello’s Wine & Food in Horsham has closed. The business, which started life as The Horsham Enoteca, was bought by Lisa Costello in late 2014 and rebranded in March 2015. The Becketts are hoping that this will well as our HQ , warehouse and shop near closure – Sandbach says the store was “too far away to manage”. covering the central south of England, the areas we want to develop. Chris and Lin Beckett are ready to retire Morrison joins from Hedonism The Good Wine Shop has appointed former Hedonism fine wine retail manager Derek Morrison as its new retail manager. Morrison will take a lead on private client work and wine buying across the three shops in Chiswick, Kew and Esher. Owner Mark Wrigglesworth says: As well as managing the Esher site, South Wales and London and all these are within the city of Oxford and it was difficult to devote time to Cirencester, which felt on a limb. The whole business is now manage. geographically tighter and much easier to refitted our head office, warehouse and business. “ Sandbach says the “fun, lively and “We have completely overhauled and “There are plans for further expansion Saying goodbye to The Bottleneck After 27 years at The Bottleneck in Broadstairs, Chris and Lin Beckett are hanging up their corkscrews and planning their retirement. a general off-licence into a specialist wine have come and gone over the past three decades. with sales “nearly 5% up for the six Chris reports a successful Christmas The couple transformed the shop from shop to bring it in line with the rest of the profitable” wine café concept has retail is “a struggle”. shop, weathering the economic storms that “I’m delighted to have Derek joining our team. His extensive experience of wine retail, particularly in fine wines, will be a tremendous asset. We’ve already made a great start at our third shop in Esher and “completely changed our thinking”, while weeks leading up to New Year”, with a few customers trading up and splashing out up to £45 on a Nuits-Saint-Georges or a Puligny-Montrachet. welcome change, as Chris admits that exception of Champagne.” These seasonal purchases made a Derek’s got exciting plans to build on that.” Sandbach says. But he is bullish about the future of the business. ahead and sales figures for 2015-6 are “We are all very excited about the year There will be no further shop openings, already well ahead of the previous year.” • Rob Darlison, owner of Cana Import in generally they’re “still not getting people But the economic landscape of in looking at anything above £25, with the Broadstairs is evolving, with the recent addition of a high-speed rail service attracting Londoners to the area. “The new train link means they can get to Leamington Spa, announced the closure of the shop at the end of December. “We will concentrate on wholesale to the on-trade and internet for retail,” he says. London in just over an hour and we’ve had Morrison: responsibility for all three stores THE WINE MERCHANT february 2016 4

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tried & Tested Clos de los Siete 2013 How time flies. It’s now the 12th vintage for Michel Rolland’s Valle de Uco project, a wine made from fruit grown at 1,100 metres altitude. This year’s model is 53% Malbec, with Cabernet, Syrah and Petit Verdot says it’s “difficult to resist”, but he may be biased. RRP: £14.99 ABV: 14.5% Champagnes & Chateaux (020 7326 9655) champagnesandchateaux.co.uk playing supporting roles. It’s plummy and spicy, firm Seresin Marama Sauvignon Blanc 2013 Barrel-aged New Zealand Sauvignon was very much a “thing” at the recent generic tasting and this old-vine It’s fumy, rich and opulent, with a honeyed character but also the freshness you’d expect. Other boxes ticked: biodynamic, vegetarian, available. RRP: £22 ABV: 14% Armit Wines (020 7908 0620) armitwines.co.uk example from Marlborough was one of our favourites. but rounded, with a fresh, herbaceous finish. Rolland Amic Clos d’Agon Blanc 2014 Blended from white Grenache and Macabeo grown in a little austere and unyielding, in keeping with the Empordà, this is an intriguing wine that at first appears and the talking point is really its bracing minerality. violets on the palate. Isn’t life full of surprises? RRP: £14.99 ABV: 12% McKinley Vintners (020 7928 7300) mckinleyvintners.co.uk Zorah Karasi Areni Noir 2014 Armenia is the cradle of winemaking but Gorbachev Diaspora Armenians Zorik and Yeraz Gharibian are like Areni Noir, in this case producing a beautifully RRP: £24.99 ABV: 13.5% Liberty Wines (020 7720 5350) libertywines.co.uk didn’t worry too much about that when he ordered the destruction of its vineyards on public health grounds. now reviving an ancient tradition with native varieties fresh wine with soft tannins and hints of red cherries. V-sign label. It’s not exactly harsh, but the fruit is muted And then: a sudden and unmistakable hint of parma Julicher Pinot Noir 2011 This Martinborough producer, with its fondness for open-top fermenters, makes a beautifully tight and sour Sauvignon Blanc and its Pinot Noir is no less interesting. It clearly takes its cue from Burgundy, of black cherry and coffee. RRP: £33 berkmann.co.uk Stanley Estates Reserve Chardonnay 2014 Well this is pretty gorgeous stuff from a producer said to have upped its game in recent vintages. The fruit comes from a single vineyard in the Awatere Valley and expresses all manner of citrus, peach and nuttiness on the palate. The ageing is in old oak, contributing to a textured wine with traces of caramel on the finish. RRP: £15.50 ABV: 13.5% Seckford Agencies (01206 231188) seckfordagencies.co.uk combining refinement with complexity, and displaying a distinctively savoury and earthy character with hints ABV: 13.5% Berkmann Wine Cellars (020 7670 0972) Heinrich Burgenland St Laurent 2012 St Laurent is like Pinot Noir’s shouty cousin, thicknote tactfully says “forest fruits”, we’d rather put RRP: £23.99 ABV: 12.5% skinned and occasionally abrasive. This hails from a our cards on the table and celebrate its shameless agricultural pungency and animalistic tendencies. Liberty Wines (020 7720 5350) libertywines.co.uk warm, dry vintage and although the approved tasting Domaine Rolet Tradition 2008 Here’s a real jolt to the system from the largest family-owned estate in Jura, a blend of Chardonnay and Savagnin that looks like honey and smells like an antiques shop. The musty, oxidative character is balanced by a bracing citrus acidity, a combination traveller in search of off-piste thrills. RRP: £23.99 ABV: 13.5% berkmann.co.uk that will doubtless horrify some but delight any vinous Berkmann Wine Cellars (020 7670 0972) THE WINE MERCHANT february 2016 6

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Brintex

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bits & BOBs FAVOURITE THINGS Ciaran McErlean Tasting House Reading Grape museum could go under France needs to build a new “Louvre of the grape vine” to house over half of the world’s grape varieties in a bid to safeguard wine diversity. store the world’s vines in the mid-19th century in the wake of Phylloxera at area immune from pest attack. The country first started trying to safely bottles of wine last year. average in Italy. Magpie around the hillside town of Gaiole, said the animals ate grapes equivalent to 130,000 The current population of these species in Tuscany is nearly four times the national Decanter, January 21 Favourite wine on my list I am absolutely in love with a new wine for us, Big, juicy, beautiful black fruits and wonderful fine tannins. It’s intense but at the same time just delicious. Favourite wine and food match We recently did a pop-up dinner with a local Clos de Paulilles with a dark, rich chocolate the 2013 Joel Gott 815 Cabernet from Napa. Domaine de Vassal, on the south coast in an Rising water levels due to global warming engineer at Inra National Agriculture Institute. Telegraph, January 21 “Vassal is only one metre above sea level. could submerge us,” says Thierry Lacombe, Lidl buying quest draws Blood Lidl is to launch a 1970s favourite, Bull’s Blood, as part of its spring Wine Cellar specials range. vineyards near the town of Eger, has been reimagined for a modern generation. of Wine working with Lidl, said the UK consumer was more open to exploring Caroline Gilby, one of three Masters The Hungarian wine, which comes from café called Picnic which was great. We served a lightly chilled 2013 Banyuls Rimage by Les both elements working in perfect harmony. Favourite wine trip I visited Quinta do Crasto in the Douro last factor, our trip in August to Napa blew me away. To see so many different producers very special region. torte. An absolute match made in heaven, with wines, and Hungary was likely to benefit Wildlife ravages grape crops May which was amazing, but for overall wow really gave me a great understanding of this Favourite wine trade person My account manager at Enotria&Coe, Tomek Mikulin. He puts in so much effort to make sure we are looked after. His knowledge is excellent and his attitude and passion for wine is outstanding. Shame he supports Arsenal! Favourite wine shop I love James Nicholson in Northern Ireland. years, it’s still down to earth and stocks some fab wine at good prices. James is a really nice guy and happy to chat to anyone. although it has increased in size over the It’s really near to where I grew up and from a “nostalgic” feeling from those who remember it in its 1970s heyday. The Drinks Business, January 22 Bored of the boars Producers of Chianti Classico are supporting a proposal to cull 250,000 wild boar, roe and fallow deer, because their vineyards come under nightly assaults from the animals. Four of the largest producers, all situated • The Napa Valley estate of the late comedian Robin Williams has sold for $18.1 million. The buyers of the 650-acre property are the Tesseron family of Château PontetCanet, who had been looking to invest in Napa for several years. Wall Street Journal, January 27 winemerchantmag.com 01323 871836 winemerchantteam@gmail.com Twitter: @WineMerchantMag The Wine Merchant is mailed freely to the owners of the UK’s 785 specialist 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 2016 VAT 943 8771 82 THE WINE MERCHANT FEBRUARY 2016 8

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Portugal

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merchant profile: st andrews wine company A farmers’ market for For Peter Wood, wine is all about the people who make it. His shop on the east coast of Scotland aims to bring customers as close as possible to the producers, sometimes with a little help from Lionel Richie W ine merchants find the to find themselves staring out across a first-hand the wisdom of an esteemed picturesque vineyard at sunset. Or hearing It might be a holiday where they happen inspiration to start their own businesses in many places. winemaker talking about the fruits of their when someone comes up with a sublime in a great restaurant. For Peter Wood, the eureka moment but surprising wine selection over a meal labour at a tasting. Or possibly the moment was more prosaic. “I was in Tesco and saw a punnet of strawberries with a farmer’s about wine’.” name on them and thought: ‘No one really cares about strawberries, but people care world of wine after four years with Wood was already immersed in the Wood worked at another St Andrews independent, Luvians, before going it alone in 2012 the consumer as close as possible.” Oddbins in St Andrews and another eight working for local independent Luvians. But it was the strawberries that prompted him styled “farmers’ market for wine”. That was in 2012, and three years to strike out on his own and create his selfdown the line, Wood’s St Andrews Wine of Scotland. through either hand-selling or the talkie tasting notes attached to washing lines with miniature clothes pegs above the bottles so as not to obscure the labels. A key element of this is communication, merchant community in his desire to “try and democratise wine and make it a bit know how to go about it the right way. You have a sign outside that says something like “you can’t trust a supermarket’s beefburgers, so why would you trust their wine?” Yes. I mean it is mass production; where is it bottled? There was the exposé on Wood may not be alone in the wine more accessible” but he certainly seems to spirit in the delivery of the St Andrews Company has become an important player The focus is on smaller producers, or as message, whether it’s the external signage Lionel Richie. There are clear traces of the old Oddbins on the independent scene on the east coast the A-board puts it: “Family-made wine from a family-run shop”. taking a pop at the supermarket horsemeat That one, for Domaine Marie et Paul scandal or the wine description that quotes Jacqueson’s 2012 1er Cru Naugues from to get that link between the producer and Wood says: “It’s very much about trying Mercurey, reads: “When a great man sang wine.” television about what goes into it so people are going to the farmers’ markets; they are shopping at the butchers here. They are caring about what they eat but they aren’t necessarily thinking about what they are ‘Hello, is it me you’re looking for?’, I believe he was singing from the perspective of this THE WINE MERCHANT FEBRUARY 2016 10 drinking as well. That is a message we are

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r wine trying to get across. If I can’t remember who made the wine within a couple of seconds, we can find out for you. We have got a big TV up there which constantly shows the producers’ faces and the wines that they are making. I want products that we stock. to tell the story of the people behind the we spent a lot of time getting our till system linked up so that we can print up want them. And if they don’t, the talkies allow them to make a very informed it or where it is from and obviously the We put talkies on things, which is why these talkies and constantly have streams of information to give the customer, if they decision. We put whether it is organic on tasting notes. We try and make it as easy There seems to be two schools of for the customer to pick up wine as we can. thought on shelf talkers. Some retailers want to provide as much information as possible; others don’t use them as they want to have a conversation with the customer. I agree with both of them. Obviously it is massively labour intensive if you are handwriting everything, which is why we vintage comes in, so it means that we can keep on top of them very easily. print them. We can change them as the new If you come into a wine shop and you are St Andrews: it will be even nicer when they finish the cathedral intimidated by it, you at least have a point in and we can facilitate a decision by then do. I like talking to people about wine but some people don’t necessarily want to talk to me. shop back to front, inside out. I could tell you everything about them. But when I walked into my new job [at Luvians] on day one I hadn’t a clue. I knew the regions products and that was a shock because I I knew every product in my Oddbins was really in at the deep end. of reference. Someone might have selected talking to them. So that is what we try and for a customer coming into a new shop for you might know a lot about wine but you have got no idea about the product, and two or three wines that they are interested the first time. You know a bit about wine or that is what I think the talkies do: it gives Continues page 12 I realised that that must be what it is like and everything, but I had no idea about the THE WINE MERCHANT FEBRUARY 2016 11

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merchant profile: st andrews wine company From page 11 you that first bit of information and then we take it from there. talkies? Exactly that. So we put all the data on to etc etc, tag it appropriately which also our till: tasting note, descriptions, organic Do you have a template set up for the It’s a discerning market. You don’t have to haggle on price but people want service they didn’t want it to be another chain or another lawyer’s office or something. moment and in a few years’ time that all-dancing big shop, but it is very expensive here. I think we can manage as it is at the makes the winter range and the summer range? It is golf tourism predominantly. They whiskies. are generally foreign and they want to You try and focus a bit more on obviously works for our website so we can filter things very easily there. And then we basically export a product list from that and put it into Google. don’t particularly understand. I just do straight on to A4 paper; chop them up, stick them on the shelf. Very simple. Tell me about the shop because it is quite a small shop, really. The trend these days is for bigger wine shops because people are trying to fit machines into them and serve ham and cheese and that sort of thing. Yes, it would be nice but St Andrews somewhere. doesn’t have a lot of big shops that aren’t taken up by the chains. You have to start nice small shop, it was affordable. I also have very nice landlords and they are The attraction basically was it was a My brother did some wizardry that I might change. I would love an all-singing, experience Scotland. So you have a range of producers that they have never heard of or they can’t get, or are more difficult to get; independent bottlings. So that is what the summer market is, it St Andrews is known for two things – the university and the golf. Does that define the local market or is there more to it than that? The golf is seasonal, the university is much. There is a consistency, so you been the locals. seasonal; they don’t really overlap that change the products you stock but the There is a large local market here most important market for me has always in town and in the surrounding areas what he tells me and that prints them up, is whisky and a growing sector is gin. And people want to try Scottish beers as well. A bit of a higher-end American wine thrown … not too high. The winter market, the student market, in as well and a bit of higher end Bordeaux is very much more wine and beer focused, and gin as well. They are again an different things. adventurous clientele, they will try lots of You have your own whisky bottling division, St Andrews Whisky Company. How has that come about? Basically I am just going out and finding good whisky; doesn’t matter where it is does under one banner, if you like. and that is the most important market because they are the ones that are going ones that are going to be buying wine in to be here in five years’ time. They are the very helpful. They know that this place is been here for years and they wanted an independent merchant in their building, January when there are no students and no tourists. They are a very important market the tourist market as well, the golf market. Is the local market a wealthy one? They will spend money but they want but similarly so are the university and so is in safe hands. They are a family that have from, what its strength is, what its age is. I We are buying on the open market and am just wanting to showcase what Scotland it is purely based on taste. The idea behind it is to just do a series of single malts; first, second, third, fourth and so on. I will taste them, if I think they are suitable and they are offering good value for money we get be part cask – anything, really. quality; they are a discerning market. You don’t have to haggle on price. You don’t quality products. That is what they are to pay for it. service, they want knowledge, they want have to chase to the bottom but they want after and if they get that they are prepared Shop is small: “You have to start somewhere” them. It doesn’t have to be a full cask, it can as well … buying new mixed spirit and We are looking to start laying down stuff Could you give some examples of what THE WINE MERCHANT FEBRUARY 2016 12

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having it aged at the distilleries. countries for wine? What are your best performing France is the biggest but we are selling a a little bit this year. lot of South Africa. We are selling a lot of There may be a sort of combination Spain and Portugal. Italy has slumped back of Italian drinkers moving to Spain and Portugal. We have recently started expanding our Spanish diversity and that numbers that it was. has, I think, driven some sales there maybe. Italy still sells well; it is just not selling the is being dominated by other countries so away from Italy in volume rather than is with Italy. Maybe it’s because the cheaper market The individual tasting notes are printed direct from the store’s EPoS system the sales figures we get are sort of shifting To paraphrase the Sparks song: this town is big enough for the both of you, is it – you and Luvians? There used to be five [wine shops]. There was an Oddbins … I think mid ‘90s there were two on this street. Yes, we are selling alcohol, but the way I think we are doing different things. bottle. So yes, that might be what the issue am trying to build America. France is important, and South Africa. I is about building that relationship with what I want to try and do. me and building that relationship with the products and the producers. And that is It is a harder way of doing things. It Is that a personal mission? Yes. America and Portugal are the two things I would love to grow. Portugal would be very easy to just go out and deal with nothing but the big boys in terms of distributors and I would probably get a lot more in-store tastings and winemaker to do that. But I am dealing with a lot of smaller specialists and that is the way I want to take the business. because of the different grape varieties, winemaking nation. we approach it is very different. This is plus I am a bit of a Port freak. And America Look at the size of it: they have got very much a personal thing for me. I am because I think that it could be the greatest diverse climates, they have got the ability is not just about the west coast. the owner, I am here most of the time. It visits because the budgets would be there What suppliers are you working with? Las Bodegas for Argentina, Indigo for Spain, Dreyfus Ashby for the Loire. to make wine in so many different states. It You look at companies like Belle Glos: they are making Pinot Noir in California that is lovely. You have such diversity in America how to sell it. Even in California there is diversity there. These are companies that are very much things around them. I look at what they from the other suppliers. are doing and I can use their lists as the specialists in one field and then have other backbone, and then we find other products Are there people that you have worked with or people in the trade who particularly inspired you? Yes. Early on when I was learning about Continues page 14 that they could make pretty much anything they want, but the other thing is they know country on the planet and if they couple brilliant. They sell things better than any other looking at what their soils and climates can do with how they can sell it, they could be THE WINE MERCHANT FEBRUARY 2016 13

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merchant profile: st andrews wine company From page 13 wine I read a lot and I looked at the sort of established critics and commentators on wine as a way of learning. … their books and columns and things People like Jancis and Michael Broadbent I bought a £30 A-board during The Open saying ‘whisky shop this way’ Has traditional marketing played a role in how you have managed to build a relationship with customers? Yes, it has. A perfect example: an A-board at the bottom of the street during The Open saying “whisky shop this way.” I had so want to spend X number of hundreds or B&Bs around St Andrews?” many people coming to me saying, “Do you thousands of pounds in this golf magazine I bought the 30 quid A-board, stuck that’s going to be in 20 different hotels and it down there so it is the first thing the down at the moment. from retail? 90%-plus. moment? I would rather not say. It is growing. For us treading water. I am more looking at will see about 10% growth. the entirety of 2014 we had building work on the street, so year two was just about figures from two years ago. So hopefully we profitability of what you are selling so that is something that I am very, very focused on making sure is maintained. Turnover is irrelevant really. It is about How big a chunk of turnover comes helped me understand the initial foray into wine. It was Broadbent’s book Vintage Wine that became my bible, effectively, compulsive note taker that I am. and that was the thing that made me the And what is the turnover figure at the lot of the positives of what a chain can do in terms of how you go about promoting things and then also you take a lot from have and just mash that together. With regards to the internet, I look I think I have taken bits from my jobs, a the eclectic range that an independent can to America all the time. With Gary Vaynerchuck, I am actually not overly golfers see regarding whisky when they are coming from the course up here – it diverts people this way. Particularly because we so that helps. Traditional advertising needs to be had our own unique product to sell them, very, very relevant otherwise you are just interested in the wine part of his career. I what his influence is on social media and how to use social media. Because I think he is definitely pioneering that in a very interesting way. am more interested in his business parts: Does direct shipping have a role to play in the future of the business? It is something that we could look at. I am planning on doing a few reccies next year and speaking to people and looking at sure that your cash flow is fine and that stock. shipping. The main thing is always making you are not left with an embarrassment of direct through an agent but it was a very it out. And we achieved that because we We have brought some Italian wine in frittering money away and so I don’t think that that is a route that we really need to go sharp price and the idea was get it in, get knew that we would have a lot of functions; it was a good wine, it was a good deal and we could shift it through quickly. It made money and it was almost a safe bet. something that could be a good bet, but Direct imports could start having more of an impact for Wood and his team also could be a costly mistake if you don’t taking gentle steps in that direction. Buying a pallet load of Champagne is get the right products. So that is why I am THE WINE MERCHANT FEBRUARY 2016 14

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Condor

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