The Wine Merchant issue 45

 

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The Wine Merchant issue 45

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THE WINE MERCHANT. An independent magazine for independent retailers Issue 45, March 2016 Thanks for giving us your seal of approval in the reader survey Turnover dips as indies increase wholesale trade Independent wine retailers saw turnover fall by 5% last year, according to figures compiled by The Wine Merchant. than £40,000 to £765,617, which equates to shows that confidence levels among an average turnover per store of £558,852. This year’s Wine Merchant reader survey Average sales per business slipped by more reliance on shop sales for their turnover has fallen to 68.4%, the lowest figure since the survey was first carried out four years ago. recorded in the survey. Online sales have seen a significant leap to almost 6% of average turnover, the highest ever THIS MONTH 2 BACCHUS You really, really need to register for the AWRS 4 comings & GOINGS Kilmacolm is finally on the wine trade map 8 tried & TESTED independents has taken a slight knock, and the proportion of respondents expecting to take on extra staff has fallen significantly. But Earthy goodness and Turkish delight in this month’s line-up 10 RODNEY DENSEM overall confidence levels remain high and the the same as in 2015. percentage of merchants who are considering opening additional branches remains roughly the wholesale channel where average levels dipped slightly to just under 20%. This year’s survey found that merchants’ Other 5.2% The Cheshire merchant sticking to traditions Wholesale margins have taken a knock 16 david williams Margins are holding up well, except in popularity stakes among their independent customers, though the survey also gave frustrations with suppliers generally. merchants the opportunity to vent their Once again Boutinot and Liberty lead the Saluting the mavericks who border on the unnatural 18 borough wines how independent sales are split Wholesale 20.7% high level of minimum drops, which some say is making direct shipping increasingly attractive. management from some suppliers, and reps who fail to make an effort to work in partnership with their retail customers. Retailers also rail against a lack of channel There are concerns raised about the “archaic” Can Muriel Chatel really open five branches this year? 38 english WINE Independents reap the reward of a domestic product 49 make a date Online 5.7% Shop 68.4% way London dominates the tasting calendar. Based on 137 responses “We neither have the time or funds to attend,” says one Yorkshire-based merchant. 22 with more to follow in our April edition. There is annoyance in some quarters at the The April tastings worth the train fare 52 supplier Bulletin • Eight pages of survey coverage begins on page Essential updates from agents and suppliers

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BACCHUS Time running out to join AWRS Deadline day is looming for the Alcohol Wholesaler Registration Scheme, with many independent retailers still in the dark about how the system will work and the severe penalties that exist for non-compliance. restaurants, clubs, hotels or other retailers must apply for the AWRS by March 31 or face fines and the confiscation of stock. last year but was delayed for technical The system was intended to launch Anyone who sells alcohol to pubs, b are obliged to register. for the new scheme, which is intended to caused by illicit alcohol trading – and no direct correspondence with thousands regulations. make inroads into the £1.3bn duty deficit of businesses that will be affected by the for the scheme must allow 45 days for a decision. But there has been limited publicity with the AWRS register. relatively simple – search for AWRS on among many merchants about how a the gov.uk website for more information scheme as far ranging and important as this has been so poorly communicated. gains from prosecuting non-compliant businesses will make up for its lack of marketing effort prior to the launch. The application process is actually – but there is confusion and bemusement checks to be carried out, adding it is illegal This has prompted fears that merchants HMRC is insisting that anyone applying Perhaps HMRC is hoping the publicity it to sell alcohol while the applicant waits for who have only belatedly learned about the scheme, and who apply close to the March 31 deadline, could be forced to suspend deliveries from April 1. But an HMRC during the early stages of the AWRS. register for the scheme, it’s also the A berry good idea With gin becoming ever more eclectic as a category, consumers are taking extra interest in botanicals. Cheshire merchant Whitmore & White is selling ingredients such as juniper berries and pink peppercorns as part of a gift pack, which allows gin drinkers to enhance the flavour of their favourite brands. includes five miniatures – Chase Elegant tonics. The £69.95 Gin Botanical Tasting Set spokeswoman says this will not be the case Not only must all alcohol wholesalers legal duty of all retailers to ensure their wholesale suppliers are registered on brokers and any kind of importer. the AWRS. This includes auction houses, reasons, which should have given HMRC more time to get the message out that even given a unique reference number that must be quoted on all invoices, and from April who fail to cross-reference this number 2017 there will be penalties for customers All AWRS-registered businesses will be Gin, London No 1, Martin Miller’s, Caorunn and Sipsmith’s – along with five premium which also include cardamom pods, rose buds and star anise. Owner Graham Simpson says the The botanicals come in small glass jars businesses with minimal wholesale activity business had already been selling boughtin packs of botanicals before creating its one step further,” he says. own gift packs. “We just thought we’d go “The original botanical sets absolutely flew out. We almost couldn’t keep up with past couple of years and people seem to their G&T to give it an extra dimension. it will just overpower it. But a dash of If you sell to your local wine bar, even in tiny quantities, you have to register for AWRS demand. Gin has absolutely rocketed in the want to throw an extra few botanicals into “You don’t want to put too much in, as this and a dash of that – you can try out different combinations and see how it works. It’s very much trial and error.” THE WINE MERCHANT march 2016 2

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Flying Füchs Tivoli’s upstairs area was originally a store room “Our Man with the Facts” imprisoned on St Helena, he and his staff were given an allowance of 50 • When Napoleon Bonaparte was Store’s conversion to tasting events Tivoli Wines in Cheltenham is expecting to maximise the benefits of running wine events after converting a former upstairs store room into a bespoke tasting area. ground since we opened in 2010,” admits buyer and assistant manager Mike Norledge. “We’ve completely repainted, wallpapered and floored the upstairs. We used to have our tastings in the shop but now we can have them upstairs and run the business. money.” the shop concurrently, so it actually adds to on both levels, so that’s going to save us “We’ll have our wine fair there this year, The space has a capacity of around 35 “Upstairs has been a bit of a dumping to start tastings earlier and do some flexibility.” during the day – it just gives us a bit more “It’s a work in progress. It allows us Poetry pays off in Cambridge Nicolas Hall at Cambridge Vinopolis has been running monthly poetry nights in store since last spring. London, and some of them are already “We invite local poets, some come from bottles of wine a day, along with 50lb of beer, 50lb of mutton and pork, one roasting pig, two turkeys, 12 pigeons and 42 eggs. • The Bubble, a Gruner Veltliner sold in to be the smallest bottle of sparkling • Bordeaux’s 1956 vintage is widely wine available in the world. a 125ml spherical container, is claimed quite established,” Hall says. “I provide a £12. It’s one of the only evenings when, as the owner of the shop, I get to relax serve them the wine on tap.” couple of glasses of wine and a buffet for because I don’t have to do a tasting. I just and wine is taken into account, there’s not a huge profit to be made from the poetry evenings. However, he can identify eight the events. “It’s like a net: if you’re not dragging new regular customers as a direct result of people in constantly, and if you don’t do tastings people don’t know what you people to come in.” Hall says once the outlay for the food regarded as the worst in living memory. It was the coldest year since 1709 and blocks of ice were seen floating under the city’s Pont de Pierre bridge. The frost destroyed around 50% of the region’s vines. and is currently furnished with tables and chairs, though Norledge says this may change to make it appear less formal. “Based on feedback we’ve had, we might look at mixing that up a bit, with some more wine-like.” Sussling are among the many synonyms • Bâtard-Montrachet in the Côte de to legend, the plot was given by the that exist for Chardonnay. Gentil Blanc, Rouci Bile, Moulon, Gamay Blanc, Luzannois and Breisgauer • Petit Chatey, Pino Sardone, Klawner, standing room and also making it a bit down the line, to use the space as a wine bar and also to host WSET courses. There are also tentative plans, further do,” he says. “The days have gone where you can just sit on your bum and wait for Beaune is so called because, according Lord of Puligny to his illegitimate son. THE WINE MERCHANT march 2016 3

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Enoteca inspiration for Guildford store Guildford’s newest independent wine merchant offers a mix of on-premise and retail sales. Quarry Street in the town centre, is the brainchild of local residents Andy and wine trade background. Deborah Doré, neither of whom have a Corkage, which opened last month in enoteca,” says Ackroyd. “There will be cheese and nibbles in the future – we early evening. “It feels very much like an Italian Corkage’s volume will be achieved from the wine bar and shop sales. haven’t quite got that far yet but that’s the sort of feel we want to engender in the “We offer any bottle of wine on the shelf early evening on-premise sales, he suspects turnover will be split fairly evenly between come from Mason & Mason. “Some of the old favourites that I’ve helped bring into about them,” he says. them intimately and I’m very passionate round and finding our own little niches that we can cherry-pick from.” The range includes some wines that have Although Ackroyd predicts that most of to drink in the shop for a £5 corkage fee. reds and six whites. They’re sealed with eight-bank Enomatic machine which is four Chardonnays in there and a range educational tool as much as a point of interest for tasting.” We’ve got wines by the glass as well – six the UK are on our shelves because I know “The future is definitely about us going the Verre de Vin system, and we’ve got an proving quite popular. Initially we’ve put of Italian reds. We’re hoping it will be an been recruited from Mason & Mason, a organic wines. wholesaler in Chichester specialising in The shop manager David Ackroyd has in France and Europe. But at the moment we’ve got a small selection of importers The shop was in the planning stage for a year and took three months to fit out, but for wine tastings in the evening because functions,” Ackroyd says. the reaction from locals suggests it’s been worth the effort. “We’ve got lots of interest it’s such a lovely premises, and people are coming in and asking to book it for private Henderson heading to France Henderson Wines in Edinburgh is on the market after 15 years of trading. the trade for 40 years and is “seeking a deserved R&R. Owner David Henderson has been in semi-retirement plan” with an eye on a joining his brother in France for some wellmanager as the turnover is too low to He says the shop is ideal for an owner- support a big wage bill. But he says “the other option is for another person to come on board and do the bulk of the work and • Blossoms Wines & Ales in Leigh on Sea, Essex, has been put up for sale by owner Robert Robinson. The business was Cheese and nibbles on the agenda have me in the background as an adviser”. established in 2009 and moved to larger premises in 2014. THE WINE MERCHANT march 2016 4

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Kelly has designs on the wine trade When James Kelly found himself wondering where to find a decent bottle of wine in Kilmacolm, 15 miles west of Glasgow, he decided the answer would be to open his own shop. change of career” after 36 years as an In what he describes as “a total sea- Druitt & Novum Wines. Friday night tastings. gin and whisky section and runs popular • Terroirs, the Covent Garden wine bar, The shop features a dedicated Scottish lease runs out in April 2017. concern and we’ve had a bit of interest in it,” says Richards. “Because it’s leasehold side of it stacks up a bit more. quite a chunk of money.” he set up 27 years ago. there’s been more interest – the financial you’ve bought that and the business it’s “I’m looking to sell Chagford as a going has started selling wine on a retail basis. All wines on the list are now available for takehome purchase. “Ashburton was freehold and by the time Richards is planning a “slowdown” rather “It’s not bad for someone who was told interior designer, Kelly has opened Vino13 and has already reaped the rewards for spotting a gap in the market. “Business a half weeks.” is building and building,” he says. “I did a Kelly has a solid relationship with Richards counts down to 2017 Devon independent Best Cellars has put its leasehold shop in Chagford on the market as founder Jonathan Richards edges towards retirement. wife Emma, sold the freehold on the Richards, who runs the business with than a sudden exit from the business which you’re starting up in a dead-end business months,” he says. nine-week projected turnover in three and Alliance, having known his rep as a friend for over 30 years, and says the company has provided “tremendous support and back-up”. He also buys from Hallgarten and you’ll probably be gone in a couple of down a bit and not be carting cases of wine around. I don’t want to put my feet up and sit and vegetate but it will be nice to have years, six days a week.” a bit of time to myself after working for 45 “I’m at an age when I don’t mind slowing other site in Ashburton last year, and will continue to operate there until a two-year A concise collection of wines from 25 of Germany’s most outstanding producers Start 11am sharp. Finish 5pm sharp Please register with germanwine@thisisphipps.com THE WINE MERCHANT march 2016 5

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tried & Tested The Morgenhof Estate 2006 New to the Louis Latour portfolio, Morgenhof is based in the Simonsberg mountains near Stellenbosch. This Cabernet-dominated Bordeaux blend announces itself with a whiff of blackcurrant before releasing concentrated blasts of chocolate and spice but also RRP: £25 ABV: 14% Serre Valdobbiadene Prosecco DOCG Brut Anyone with “normal” friends will know there’s some truly dreadful Prosecco out there. Here’s a reminder of why people got excited about the stuff in the first supposed to be about pleasure, after all. Isn’t it? RRP: £11 ABV: 11% Whisper Vines (07766 483219) whispervines.com place: a clean, pure, crisp wine with subtle, tart fruit more subtle hints of earthy goodness. Worth laying Louis Latour Agencies (020 7409 7276) louislatour.co.uk down a bottle or two: this is going to get even better. flavours that stays classy right through the finish. It’s Maison Ventenac Cuvée d’Eve Syrah 2015 Based in Cabardès in the Massif Central, Ventenac’s hallmark is a balance between concentration and Atlantic-influenced freshness. Micro-oxygenation smattering of pepper. Simple but very effective. RRP: £9.99 ABV: 12.5% Ehrmanns (020 3227 0700) ehrmanns.co.uk softens things up nicely, creating an approachable Ca’Rugate Valpolicella Superiore Campo Lavei 2013 The grapes here are Corvina, Corvinone and Rondinella, a proportion of which are set aside to dry in wooden trays until the end of December. The final wine ages in oak for another year. What results is a flavours of black cherry and coffee. RRP: £19.99 ABV: 14.5% hdnwines.co.uk vibrant, spicy and engagingly prickly wine with rich and unpretentious wine with dark fruit flavours and a Hallgarten Druitt & Novum Wines (01582 722538) Domaine des Moirots Givry Blanc Le Haut Colombier 2014 A lovely fresh nose and luxurious body are perhaps climes of Burgundy, but this gem from the Côte only to be expected from a good vintage in the warmer Chalonnaise exceeds expectations at this price point with its alluring blend of butter and soft fruit on the palate and its grippy, crisp acidity on the finish. RRP: £19.95 ABV: 12.5% Ellis of Richmond (020 8744 5550) ellisofrichmond.co.uk Champagne Gosset Petite Douceur Rosé Brut Jean-Pierre Mareigner wanted to make a wine to pair with the desserts of his childhood: crêpes Suzette, orange blossom cake and pear tart with cinnamon led blend, and a nice citrus crunch to the finish. RRP: £55 ABV: 12% Louis Latour Agencies (020 7409 7276) louislatour.co.uk – no Angel Delight in sight. There’s a very gentle red- fruit sweetness working its magic in this Chardonnay- Cooperative Coteaux Heliopolis Coteaux de Cèdres du Liban 2009 The farmers behind this Lebanese cooperative were inconvenienced by a 1993 ruling banning cannabis cultivation, so with French assistance tried their hand at grapes. This is an improbable blend of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo and Caladoc with a leafy, fresh blackcurrant aroma and big, juicy red fruit flavours. RRP: £15.99 ABV: 13.5% Ehrmanns (020 3227 0700) ehrmanns.co.uk Kayra Kalecik Karasi 2014 A great wine with unfortunate initials, made in the Anatolia region of Turkey by a pioneering winery specialising in indigenous varieties like Öküzgözü, Bogazkere and Kalecik Karasi. There’s a trademark and soft, and all in all it’s a Turkish delight. RRP: £12.99 ABV: 14% hdnwines.co.uk acidity to this wine, from fruit grown at 900 metres, and full, rich fruit flavours. Tannins are manageable Hallgarten Druitt & Novum Wines (01582 722538) THE WINE MERCHANT march 2016 6

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Argentina

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bits & BOBs FAVOURITE THINGS Claire Carruthers Carruthers & Kent Newcastle Burgundy blight threatens supply Burgundy wines may become even more difficult to find because of vine disease and smaller harvests from ageing vineyards, according to a new report by the region’s wine council. and prices for top wines remain high, While demand for Burgundy is strong, Magpie de Sours property in Bordeaux, which Martin Krajewski. boasts an 18th century castle and produces 500,000 bottles of wine a year, from Briton Daily Mail, February 25 Favourite wine on my list Right now the red is the Vina Cobos Bramare Malbec 2013, Uco Valley. It’s a collaboration between Andrea Marchiori and Paul Hobbs and is a velvety super cushion of warming, Auxerrois 2003 @ £19.99. Everything you honeyed sweetness with a lovely acidity. Favourite wine and food match I love my dessert wines of all shapes, sizes and colours with blue cheeses, chocolate, cake and whatever but I recently had a divine Rosary Ash creamy goat cheese along with a Pinot Gris from Oregon. It was heaven. Favourite wine trip Two trips to Chile and Argentina were major Wines of Chile, but they’ve been topped by a Liberty trip to Veneto, Alto Adige and Fruili. I carried the itinerary around in my bag for years afterwards to remind me of the most amazing food and wines that we had. Favourite wine trade person Too many to mention and I don’t want to miss we started out with five years ago. Favourite wine shop Pitti Gola in Florence. Back in 2002 it was the We wanted to be the first wine shop/enoteca in England after going there. highlights courtesy of Concha y Toro and overall harvest size is set to shrink – and not just due to the perennial threat of hail. or fanleaf affect almost 14% of vineyards and ultimately kill many vines. Decanter, February 24 Degenerative vine diseases such as esca Don’t make a Hobbit of it A tall wife and her short husband are locked in a legal battle over whether they are allowed to have the word Hobbit in the title of their wine business. & Hobbit, which imports wine from difference in their heights. Stuart and Elise Whittaker set up Giraffe chocolatey, spicy, savoury goodness and worth every penny of its £29. White: Rolly Gassman would want from Alsace – perfectly balanced small vineyards in Provence, France, in the summer of 2014 to poke fun at the Enterprises, which owns the copyright Esca is on the march to the word Hobbit, is trying to block the as a trademark. Telegraph, February 22 But American company Middle-earth couple’s attempt to register the company Ma for de Sours China’s second richest man, Jack Ma – the founder of e-commerce giant Alibaba – is the latest investor from his country to snap up a French vineyard. The billionaire has bought the Château • Lotto millionaire Gerry Cannings bought £200 worth of wine at Tesco — but still used coupons to get £50 off. The retired teacher, 63, went to his store 24 hours after he was unveiled as a £32 million winner. The Sun, February 25 winemerchantmag.com 01323 871836 winemerchantteam@gmail.com Twitter: @WineMerchantMag anybody out. We still use the same people that The Wine Merchant is mailed freely to the owners of the UK’s 789 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 inspiration behind opening Carruthers & Kent. THE WINE MERCHANT march 2016 8

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Las Bodegas

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merchant profile: rodney densem wines Cheshire cheers Rodney Densem started out as a retailer – now wholesaling is its main activity. But, as director Nick Gent explains, its shop in Nantwich remains a vital part of the business, and is achieving good results by sticking to the things it does best. No cheese, no tables and chairs … but maybe an Enomatic, one day … T here’s a stunning, eye-catching floor display of gift packs at Rodney Densem Wines in the Cheshire market town of Nantwich – bottles of wine nestled in baskets with crisp shimmering wrapping paper, shiny bows and ribbons and sparkles of glitter. business at Christmas. It’s just the sort of thing that works a treat Yet this is no festive display, but an all- for many wine merchants in drumming up year-round feature. Rodney Densem has made gift packs of wine – and spirits – a core component of its retail marketing strategy. The gift packs, and an individual purchase wrapping service, are indicative of the importance that retail manager Claire Rimmer and her team place on in the heart of the town centre. attention to detail at the immaculate shop the store to list famous top-end names in addition to buying producer labels Buying expertise at head office allows alongside genuine exclusives – and the business also creates its own own brands direct . This has helped it to build a strong and Margie Densem in 1972. is still a director. reputation both locally and nationally since it was founded by former hoteliers Rodney continues to honour his name and Margie Wines, which RDW bought in 2011, and Rodney died in 2013 but the business Nick Gent is managing director of Telford Nick Gent with retail manager Claire Rimmer, November 2015 THE WINE MERCHANT march 2016 10

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has board level responsibility for the shop, which features around 400 wines wholesale trade. from a list of more than 1,000, including those sourced for the group’s substantial a wide constituency, from the archetypal claret-quaffing retired army officer to those with a casual interest in wine looking for a decent good value bottle that may, or may not, be a gift. enquiry about Chilean wine from a Oldham Athletic. The interview is punctuated by an Gent says that the shop aims to appeal to Nantwich: an affluent market town with a broad demographic, from OAPs to Oldham footballers customer who turns out to be Jamaica football international Riccardo Fuller of Many wine merchants say the opposite – that diversifying away from classic wine retailing is the key to their success and growth. Well the majority of our business is wholesale first and foremost, out of our units in Crewe and Telford. The shop is because we are doing what we do best. We’ve taken over 100 of them and we don’t have to take a huge amount of stock. We keep that area looking really fresh. It’s the same with rum, Cognac, pigeonhole ourselves in to just supplying one age range or one demographic,” says Gent. “A reason for our success is that we don’t Armagnac and vodkas. We keep different and spirits and chocolates and glassware to anybody. shop that people don’t want to come in question.” “We try not to be that ostentatious wine “We are happy and delighted to sell wine still experiencing increased profitability liqueurs as well – maybe things that people will come to us for because they can’t get them somewhere else. Lillet for example. Where there is a brand leader, as with And Ricard: that isn’t available everywhere. amaretto, we are stocking two really good alternatives that are much better quality products than Disaronno, for example. to the total business? It’s 5%. It’s quite small in terms of turnover. And what’s the turnover overall? The turnover of the whole business is over £10m. So is the retail side essentially a shop Continues page 12 because they’re scared of asking the wrong digit growth”, which he ascribes to “doing what we do, and doing it well, and not trying to reinvent the wheel”. wine, spirits, Champagne, gifting … lot of wine merchants are doing. He explains: “We are continuing with Gent says the shop is achieving “double- People in Nantwich and the surrounding area know Rodney Densem Wines because we’ve been established for over 40 years. business but the reputation is really important for us. The good thing is that Yes, we are backed up by the wholesale What contribution does the shop make we can bring new products into the shop quite easily that are from the wholesale important. division. But also it gives our customers in here a much better choice. That’s really in this year, or over the last 18 months, The other thing that we’ve seen growth glassware as well. We don’t feel that we have to offer coffee, tea and cheese, like a their offerings and there’s nothing wrong with that. But for us, we are still growing with doing what we do very well.” “Retail wine merchants are expanding is premium spirits and really offering a massive selection of gins. I think there are 250 to 300 gins that came to the market in the UK over the last three or four years. THE WINE MERCHANT march 2016 11

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merchant profile: rodney densem wines From page 11 window for the wholesale business or does it justify itself in its own right? It’s both. I mean the shop stands on its own two feet. We have a separate set of The shop stands as a metaphorical and business. Where we are doing the volume, we make sure that we ship directly good bottles of spirits, really good bottles of wine, and that’s important. list? No. We have a wholesale list and then the into here. shop will pull from that and put everything So you are your own wholesale supplier? Absolutely, yes. All deliveries go to our here. It allows the shop to have such a warehouse in Crewe, they don’t come to massive range because that’s the thing: supported by our wholesale business. trade accounts? No. I would say within a five or 10-mile radius we’ve probably get 20 to 30 trade we are small, family-run, with a very flat are easy for us to do, definitely. we don’t just have half a dozen rums, we have lots. Gins, we have over 100. That’s Is there a separate retail and wholesale all sourced direct? About two years ago we changed our philosophy as a business. Where we can sell a critical mass of wine, we need to directly. We ship directly from producers in accounts for the shop so we know exactly where the shop is at. It works really well. physical shop window for the wholesale here at the weekend if they’ve run out of wine because we do a lot of local We get a lot of trade customers coming make sure that we are shipping that wine all major deep sea countries: Australia, wholesale. It just works really well. The It’s a really, really important part of our business. business was started over 40 years ago as a retailer and we’ve moved into wholesale. Because of the history and the reputation New Zealand, South Africa, US, Chile and Argentina, every month. We also ship from the main wine producing areas of Europe: southern France as well; from Spain. We ship from at least six or seven different France, Champagne, Burgundy, the Rhône, points in Spain, the same in Italy as well. make sure that we ship directly. That is – or we have started, over the last two suppliers. of the company being in Nantwich for over 40 years, it’s imperative that we still have percentage of the turnover, it makes up quite a big bit of the profitability because at a low margin. Here, we can sell really this retail outlet. Although it’s a very small wholesale is about selling a lot of stuff but Doesn’t that create conflicts with local working with producers where they give us exclusivity either for the UK or regionally and then getting them filled by different So if you take Chile, we own three years, actually registering our own brands Where we are doing the volume, we will accounts. We would happily take wines out of the shop if there was a conflict. Because scale of management, those kinds of things the shop. What we do have is the spirits, How many wines are there on the wholesale list? Over 1,000 wines. We don’t have every single wine here in brands. Only one of them is in production currently: La Laguna. We do Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet, Shiraz and we do a rosé as well. We ship we have originated the label, it gives us ultimate control. In two years’ time, if we fall out with but then the spirits are fair game, I think. this directly. Because we own the label and the people that are filling La Laguna at the moment, we can take that brand and get it What about in the shop? Probably 400 lines in here. filled by anybody. Ultimately it gives us the we can switch supply – or if we’re not can switch supply. most flexibility in terms of quality of what’s in there. If we’re not happy with the quality happy with the quality in terms of price, we Spirits are a Densem speciality Where do you buy your wines? Are they THE WINE MERCHANT march 2016 12

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that in Argentina. We’re about to ship New Zealand. directly from South Africa. We do that in agency side of the business. Whilst we’re protecting what we do with our own For us, the next step is developing an We’ve done that in Chile; we’re doing brands, in the future, should we wish to go do that because we own the brands; we have control. What about UK suppliers? What we also like to do is to trade with what I would call the key agents in the out into an agency kind of business, we can UK, so people like Fells. We do a lot with from all over Spain. And Zonin, Italy’s largest private vineyard holders. Torres. We do a lot with Grupo Codorniu as well who have still and sparkling wines We deal with a lot of agents as well as The shop contributes just 5% of group turnover but is a “really important” part of the business Has the business been built up on specialism in any particular countries or regions over the years? The business started originally looking at Rodney imported into the UK were these guys here, Château Lamothe. We’ve been importing their wines for over 40 years and we are actually the agent. French, definitely. The very first wine that bringing in directly. Where we are doing the volume to ship, we will always ship exclusivity. great thing is that we’re not a stuffy wine merchants. People can come in and they because we take maximum advantage of Who handles the buying? There’s one buyer – that’s myself. I’m the buyer for the whole group, the whole decisions on new wines, it’s normally together. myself and the MD, Steve Leonard, that will get recommended wines from all over in just good wine and being able to sell good wine off the shelf. the world. I wouldn’t say we’re a Jack of all trades, master of none but we do specialise I think New World has taken much more company. In terms of when we’re making will taste together and choose new wines Do you taste samples that are sent in on a regular basis? Regularly. When it comes to things like wholesale, we have also eight account road. We’ll get them involved as well, entry-point wines that are important for managers that work for us, based on the brand? What do you think of this label? to do. That helps sell the wines. we have with the family. We know them, the husband, the wife, the grandfather, the grandmother, the kids and what have you. We import all their wines directly and we the UK but we’re the agents so it works really well for us. It started in France but these days, presumably you have extended your specialism into other areas? It’s a very long-standing relationship that of a control of what we do just because of Chile as opposed to the value of what we or £7 retail … Chile is by far the best. price. The value of what we can get out of can get out of France, at that entry level, £6 What kind of money do the people of Nantwich want to pay for a bottle of wine? We easily sell wines at £10 a bottle and retail for £6.79. over. We do have wines on the shelf that the shop. That’s by having them here on wines on what we call the barrel at the have done for a number of years. In fact, he does other work with other people around looking at labels: what do you think of this give them ownership of what we’re trying We like everyone to be quite hands-on to Absolutely. The business very much started on the concentration of Old World wine; French, Italian, Spanish. Now we are importing wine from all over the world. a Saturday doing tastings where we have We get a lot of suppliers involved with front of the shop. The wines will be open. Continues page 14 French wine is very important to us. The THE WINE MERCHANT march 2016 13

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merchant profile: rodney densem wines From page 13 and Twitter so our customers know that there are certain suppliers with certain wines in on other certain days that they can come in at the weekend and try before they buy. That is invaluable to our growth key for us. this year. Supplier support has been really How would you describe the retail customer base here, other than Premier League footballers? It’s a traditional market town. We are fortunate that we are in the location that we are because Nantwich and Cheshire is a very affluent area. We are very lucky because we can easily sell wines at £10- We’ll publicise that through Facebook E-commerce is negligible for us but we are planning to launch a new website this year for Oldham now, but yes. What about marketing? Are you so well established locally that you don’t have to shout about the business? No, we do a lot of Facebook, a lot of Twitter, absolutely, which is important. We do a we go as far as Chester, about 20 miles and Manchester. lot of outside events as well. We’ll do local wine societies. That’s just not in Nantwich, Wales. Yes, traditionally where we’ve wine clubs and individuals. retail? E-commerce is a very small percentage of what we do. It’s negligible. We did have a website this year. website; we are planning to launch a new wholesaled, but also where we look after Does the web play a part for you in away … a couple of wine clubs in Liverpool being just for Nantwich and the local area but we also like to go a bit further afield. in Manchester, Liverpool, Chester, North Because people see our vans around delivering, we have more of a reputation We like to expand our reputation, not If you’ve got customers who are buying from, say, Liverpool, are they ordering via the traditional mail order route and over the phone? Yes, absolutely. Telephone, email. If we do a tasting – we do a lot of wine dinners in our ours – we will always make sure we have cards and order forms on the evening. So list of the wines and the prices from that evening as well. Have you ruled out things like wine dispensers and on-premise sales? We have looked at Enomatics. It is something we would quite like to do. It’s about deciding how we do it and where we put it because obviously you can see it’s quite a narrow shop. What you don’t dozen people standing round. plus per bottle retail. That will be reflected in the minimum spend. Our customer base is a broad range, from pensioners all the way down to people in their mid 20s. Premiership footballers? Well they play customers’ venues, either at their behest or if people do want to order they can take a card away and phone or email, and have a want to be doing is clogging up the areas by having an Enomatic machine and half a the direction of our business. I admire people that do it – Hangingditch in France is still at the heart of the Densem offer If we go for that option, we are changing Manchester, he does really well with it. While the business is still growing like it is, THE WINE MERCHANT march 2016 14 we will carry on doing what we do.

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Jackson Nugent

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