THE WINE MERCHANT.
An independent magazine for independent retailers Issue 48, June 2016
There’s no room for passengers on our journalistic journey
What was all that stuff about Saturday Kitchen and indies?
4 comings & GOINGS
Openings, closures, expansion and new owners
8 tried & TESTED
© ollirg – stock.adobe.com
Hungarian wine producers are looking to build bridges with independent wine merchants in the UK, starting with a recent tasting hosted by The Wine Merchant. More on pages 28 to 31.
12 the beckford bottle shop
What exactly is that huge red sofa doing there?
Join us in a canvas tent for hedgehog and a glass of red
Membership milestone for Vindependents group
The Vindependents is almost half way towards its long-term target of 50 members following the recruitment of four more merchants in recent weeks. Nation in Cirencester and Cheltenham, total to 24. Mr & Mrs Fine Wine in Southwell, Appellation over the next few years. We want to take on allow demand for the wines to build. be a bit of shock for many of them. members slowly but surely over this time to “We are aiming for a total of 50 members “We work with many small producers so to “We want to be able to offer our suppliers
18 david williams
Nobody really understands the ageing process
22 AWRS UPDATE
So you’re not on the HMRC register. Do you face jail?
32 FOCUS ON new zealand
Prohibition Wines in London and Loki Wines Birmingham have brought the membership entitles them to buy from Vindependents’ Director Jessica Hutchinson says: “The
take on lots of new members all in one go would nationwide distribution so now we will already.”
Merchants are looking beyond Sauvignon Blanc for their Kiwi capers
48 focus on australia
exclusive agency wines and take advantage of the 5% margins that the business works on. than any of us dared hope for. Vindies concept has been far more successful
Members pay an annual fee of £1,000, which
specifically be looking to take on members from areas of the country that are not well covered Although some Vindependents members now Continues page 2
The premium end has appeal for independents
56 supplier Bulletin
source as much as 25% of their ranges from the
Essential updates from agents and suppliers
Saturday Kitchen: the wait continues
The makers of BBC1’s Saturday Kitchen have told The Wine Merchant that the independent sector is still on their radar for wine coverage. that a pledge made in a Wine Merchant Independents have raised concerns interview at the start of the year has not branches of major supermarkets. been acted on, with the weekly shows still In response to the fresh criticism, featuring wines bought from, and filmed in, producer Laura Somerville says: “The inclusion of the independent wine sector is something we are consistently mindful of justified ways of including the sector within the show. “As previously explained, there are and we do continue to consider editorially various factors that need to be considered for producing our wine VTs. However, putting compliance aside, editorially our educate, entertain, and not exclude any part of our nationwide audience. to keep the independent sector at the “With this in mind, we will continue utmost concern is making sure we inform,
taking a little longer to implement.”
Amanda Ross, managing director of the
production company Cactus TV, said: “We matches that could be readily available in could film in.”
In the interview, in our February issue,
look at, and within each category which
wines from other suppliers they want to
will get the wine experts to research wine
replace with Vindies-sourced wines. It is The group has also taken on new
then up to us to source the right wines at agencies from across Australia and from
independents and identify which shops we
the right prices to enable this to happen.” Bierzo, Jurançon, Gavi and Moret-St-Denis. The group also has a new Prosecco under Sauvignon Blanc. Next on the agenda for listings are the
the V label and has sourced a New Zealand Rhône, Rioja and Chile.
employees in July will “help drive the had originally planned”.
agency forwards at a faster rate than we She adds: “We have a portfolio tasting
Hutchinson says the arrival of two new
planned for October to enable any indies before signing up.”
interested in joining us to taste the range
Business is on the app at Village Vine
A Dorset wine shop is testing the water with its own app, developed in-house by a part-time member of staff. the Android-only app as an extra marketing Poole-based Village Vine has launched Customers downloading the app get “It’s an add-on to notify people of
New additions to the Vindies range
tool for the business.
Vindependents hit new milestone
from page 1 group, Hutchinson says that 10% is more common. to phase out existing lines and replace “Members give me guidance at each
a 10%-off discount code and the deal is advertised in the shop window. says owner Nic Tucker. tastings and vouchers, that sort of thing,” make it a bit more user-friendly and more stuff on there.” “It’s in development. We’re trying to
forefront of our mind, and will continue to consider ways of including them. As I’m sure you can appreciate, whilst we are settling into our new form things are
them with wines from Vindies,” she says. meeting as to which areas they want to
“The idea going forwards is for members
interactive, and improve it as we go to have • The July edition of The Wine Merchant will come with a supplement with details of all winners in this year’s Wine Merchant Top 100 competition.
THE WINE MERCHANT JUNE 2016 2
Cold comfort at Balham merchant
A London wine merchant is trying to give its on-trade offering a continental, family feel, with the addition of an ice cream stall. the stall as a bolt-on to an aperitif bar concept it launched in April, serving throughout the summer months. Road where the shop is based. permanent fixture. Whirly Wines in Balham has introduced
chocolate, caramel, lemon, raspberry
sorbet, mango and a “funky Argentinian one”, all supplied by Ice Cream Union of £2 apiece.
The ice cream range includes vanilla,
Bermondsey and served in waffle cones at
Friday night is food night at No 8
For stores that have free parking or a forecourt in front of the shop, the street food route may well be the way to go to generate extra business. local street food vendors’ wagons outside its shop in Blandford Forum every Friday night. an artisan quiche maker called Yummy vendor specialising in Thai food. The rotating line-up includes Myo pizza, Dorset-based No 8 Wine Co is hosting
charcuterie, olives, bread, nuts and 14
wines by the glass, with outside seating
street party that took place in Ritherdon “We sold 240 on the day,” says owner
The ice cream made its debut at a recent
“Our Man with the Facts”
on trees in the Quercus family as an The bark acts as insulator, allowing branches to resprout while other species rely on seed dispersal to survive. • Cork is thought to have evolved
Simon Newson, who intends to make it a
evolutionary response to forest fires.
stop and enjoy what we have to offer. Wine bars in Italy have a little ice cream stand mums and dads have a Bellini.” outside and it works pretty well. The kids have an ice cream in the evening while the
“It’s a way of trying to get more people to
Days, a gourmet hotdog business and a
initiative in its April issue, with the Thirsty apart from Sundays and Mondays.
Cambridge wine shop offering residence to
The Wine Merchant featured a similar
• At the Yunessun Spa Resort in Japan tea, sake or red wine. The wine is dispensed from a 3.6m tall bottle. guests can bathe in coffee, green
a different street food wagon every evening “Every Friday night we have a different local food vendor come in and feed the No 8 Wine Co manager Daniel Grigg says:
• The term sommelier is thought to modern word refers to the sommelier’s original responsibilities in France for taking charge of the delivery of court • Studies have shown that wine supplies. derive from the Old Provençal word saumelier, a pack animal driver. The
© Andrey Kuzmin – stock.adobe.com
masses and the shop becomes the bar.
to highlight new wines to introduce them to our customers. I run it myself which means the overheads are low, so you’re quality and a more generous serving.” are hands-on at their 10 Castle Street 10 miles away in Cranborne. Grigg is running the retail business
“We can change the wine list every week
paying much less than you would in a pub, and getting something of a much higher
cellar humidity has zero effect on the many maintain that dry conditions can • Gamay was banned from Burgundy to its current Beaujolais heartland. cause corks to shrink. of closure type or orientation, though contents of wine bottles, regardless
for owners Alex and Gretchen Boon who
restaurant, bar and private members’ club, operates in e-commerce and on-trade wholesale. No 8’s sister business Museum Wines
Mum can stick with the Bellinis
by Philippe the Bold, and pushed back
THE WINE MERCHANT JUNE 2016 3
Cementing position in Brick Lane
London-based wine distributor The Knotted Vine may have its offices directly below its new shop, Out The Box, but owner David Knott says he will be running both businesses as separate entities. Vine and Out the Box share the same philosophy,” he says. “In terms of the “In terms of winemaking The Knotted
range about 65% we bring in ourselves
and the rest is from other suppliers. I buy a lot at auction, so we have some old red some older vintages of port. “I am really into Australian wines and Burgundy, some old white Burgundy and
Out the Box is being run separately from The Knotted Vine
we have some back vintages of some more old-school Australian vineyards.” shop” but there is an innovative approach to wine presentation at the store, just £25. off Brick Lane. Knott has created three sections: under £15, £15 to £25 and over The concept is “an old-fashioned bottle
ourselves, we can be relatively competitive on price,” Knott says. “We start at around £8.50 a bottle and we have a good range few wines above that.” core of our list is £13 to £20 – and then a for refills, with three different sizes of red or white wines. between £8.50 and £12.50. I suppose the The shop also offers a bag-in-box system
bakery in Cambridge selling artisan wines, cheese, cakes and croissants filled with Nutella. site in Burleigh Road in the centre of the Signorelli’s Deli will occupy a 1,600sq ft It will have seating for 26 and the bakery
city and is scheduled to open in late July.
can browse a whole load of different wines and not have that thing where they look at the price tag and it’s a little bit more than what they were expecting,” he says. people have the option of buying wine in the road, or one of the more established retailers. I wanted people to have more of a reason to come here and have that they might like.” but talking to us and tasting something “We’re a small shop in a big city where
“It’s to give people the feeling that they
swing-top bottles on sale and a choice of There are plans to convert the garden
will be large enough to allow Signorelli to wholesale to other Italian retailers in the area. wines and beers he sells from Italy, and family-oriented vineyards” from other buy Italian sparkling wine from him. wines, including one sparkling, in He plans to import about 80% of the
into a wine bar and to launch a corporate membership scheme for the local office workers. A “basic” website is in development, but as the focus for now
will source wines made in “small, artisan,
the local supermarket, or in Majestic down
seems to be local, the e-commerce can
wait. “We can do home delivery straight from here,” says Knott. “Buy six bottles online shop.”
wine merchants, with the aim that they will He will be shipping six draught refill
experience that’s not just buying a bottle, Out The Box is already embedded into
and get home delivery, but we might do a
more traditional mail order service than an
recyclable plastic kegs. The system has bag-in-box alternatives.
UV protection which Signorelli says helps preserve the wine more effectively than • One of Cornwall’s many merchants has shut up shop. Free Run Juice in St Columb wrapped up business completely in April. Director Damien Chase had been at the helm since its launch in 2009.
the vibrant community of Brick Lane and has teamed up for tastings with Dirty nearby chocolate shop. Burger, Paradise Slice and Dark Sugars, a “Because we import a lot of the wines
Cambridge to feel the draught
Italian-born Alex Signorelli is in the process of translating what he calls “a bit of a weird vision” into an Italian
THE WINE MERCHANT JUNE 2016 4
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THE WINE MERCHANT JUNE 2016 5
Mr & Mrs Fine Wine banking on success
Chris and Gosia Bailey are moving their Mr & Mrs Fine Wine business in Southwell, Notts, to larger premises. which has been a bank for 50 years and grammar school. The new site is a Georgian building
before that was a science lab for the town’s new logo and revamped website with the sub-brand The Wine Bank. The Bank or the Old Bank. Room upstairs. Gosia says: “We’ve gone with the Wine “We’ve installed Enomatic machines The business, set up in 2014, also has a
Bank theme because everybody knows it as in The Vault and we’ve got the Treasury
Borough Wines is planning to install a “nano-brewery” to make beers with local producers in a new shop in north London’s Essex Road. The brewery will be in the basement, which already houses a “supper room” called The Vault in partnership with Butler’s gin founder Ross Butler, who has also set up his distillery there. The store is Borough Wines’ eighth in all and its seventh in the capital.
we could expand into. We want to run a lot more events – things with spirits and popup restaurants – and invite winemakers. It’s going to be a lot more proactive now do things outside or hire a venue.” Chris adds: “The range was limited by
“We’d always been looking for a site that
New beginnings in Chagford
The Chagford branch of Devon independent Best Cellars has been sold and will reopen as The Jaded Palate in mid-July. who has spent the last two years learning a wine importing business in Hong Kong. The purchase from Best Cellars owner The new owner is local man Ian Renwick,
something a bit different from the bog standard stuff. “ refurbishment, giving it a much more modern feel and look, much more books and magazines”. He is planning a “top to bottom
we have the space. Before we always had to the room we had. The new premises will afford us much more space so we can increase the range. “We’ve extended the spirit range by
comfortable and welcoming, with some to come and enjoy rather than walk in again.” He is planning to work with a local
over 50%. We hadn’t really looked at rum before, so we’re introducing a number of rums and some Calvados and different styles of Cognac and Armagnac – just giving the customers more variety.”
to make wine in France, and previously ran Jonathan Richards included the lease and stock. “There will be exclusive stuff,”
with a request for some wine and walk out cheese shop for events and will target festivals. “Traditionally Chagford was a very
Renwick adds: “I want a place for people
and a drink-in offer, with seating for 22 and a menu of cheese, cold meats, rustic bread and olives. Mr & Mrs has joined the Vindependents
The business will have extended hours
goodwill but Renwick is starting again on Renwick says. “There will be some
tourists visiting Chagford’s music and film affluent area, where people came to retire, but it’s becoming a much more thriving says.
wines, particularly from southern Rhône and Provence, which I’ll be bringing in winemakers.
group but Chris says the business will also be “sticking with our core, main suppliers want to make sure they come with us on the journey”.
myself. I’ve been there and spoken to the
young community with lots of families,” he and I’m hoping to tap into that.” “It’s a lively and interesting place to be
who have been with us from the start – we
both small and large distributors in the UK. value for money and trying to get “It’s trying to get a balance between
“The rest I have carefully selected from
continue to operate from its other store moves towards retirement.
in Ashburton for another year as Richards
As previously reported, Best Cellars will
THE WINE MERCHANT JUNE 2016 6
Teacher sets foot in the world of wine
A former teacher has transformed a chiropodist’s surgery in Dronfield, Derbyshire, into a wine shop. World on the first floor above independent beer shop the Beer Stop, founded by Matt Darken last year. says Taylor. “He does a lot of local familybased events, so I’m going to work with him on those.” Liberty, Condor and Boutinot are among “We’re sort of working off each other,” Jane Taylor has set up Dronfield Wine
Hasty despatches from the frontline of wine retailing
e’ve spent weeks putting it together. Snapping up bin
no tomorrow, swirling and spitting
till our enamel almost dissolved – and seriously putting our cash flow to the We’ve haggled a little unseemingly
ends and promos like there’s
party earlier that year, are on the reds. Giles is a bit out of his comfort zone, Burgundy on taste. Nevertheless, he
Giles and Susie, who we met at a
given the lack of high-end Bordeaux and enthusiastically declares each wine he Finally, Alex’s younger brother is generously pours as “rather jolly”. Susie running around, washing glasses,
over the rent for the local church hall, promoted the event so shamelessly, it would make a Kardashian blush.
wrangled friends and relatives to give
up a sunny Saturday to help pour, and (Perhaps that photo of young Alex in a
is over-promoting anything biodynamic.
Taylor’s suppliers but she is also buying importer. “We probably have a bigger range
“some amazing Italian wines” from a local of Chilean wines than most small
skin-tight white T-shirt with “Jancis Says Relax” was a step too far. Though it did of a certain age.) get a lot of Facebook shares from ladies our top wines for summer 2016.
independents would have,” she adds. like this in Dronfield. Things are just putting in a gin distillery.”
starting to take off – there’s a pub [the
“People are pleased that there’s a shop
Finally, here we are, proudly presenting There are wines to match everything
Come all ye faithful to our church hall wine extravaganza
bringing fresh bottles to open and lending a muscular arm to a few “tired a similar condition are on their own. to draw to a close, prising treasured and emotional” young ladies. Any men in After five jaw-aching hours, we begin
Blue Stoops] being refurbished and they’re completely. “I’ve done the WSET course she says. “I didn’t hate teaching but at the Taylor hasn’t left the classroom behind
from freak scorchers to downpour
disappointments and burnt BBQ bangers. £10 redeemable tickets have flown out of the door in advance. Mr Mangevine has been persuaded to mind the shop though not without its trials.
and would like to go up to Diploma level,” moment, what’s happening in the want to do.’ ”
and I am hopeful of a good day’s trading, in-law on the sparkling section. She’s a the inevitable tipsy freeloaders who glasses of fizz. I’ve put my Champagne-loving sister-
glasses from the remaining few who’ve their ticket for FREE BOOZE. A couple a corkscrew or two. But, all in all, we well. As we clink bottles of
no intention of buying anything beyond
Howarth at Lancaster Wine Co where she alone.
did some work experience before going it • PM Wine Cellars in Taunton has relocated and opened under the new name The Little Wine Shop at premises in Bath Place, in the centre of the Somerset town, a short walk from the original site. The business specialises in “organic and quirky wines, and some classics”.
Taylor has been mentored by Barry
think £10 earns them the right to several that I can say “yes, it’s dry” hundreds of on this occasion Rosé Woman and her friends actually believe me. again wearing that tight white T-shirt, has roped in his girlfriend-in-skimpyshorts to help on the whites. We sell a I’m on rosés because it’s been proven
emerge unscathed and have done rather restorative beer, I chirrup: “Here’s to our winter tasting!” The timing isn’t point.
times a day without killing someone, and Alex, who for some strange reason is
lot of whites that day. A lot. Even to the
THE WINE MERCHANT JUNE 2016 7
© BillionPhotos.com – stock.adobe.com
exhausted glares I get back suggest
© Scott Griessel – stock.adobe.com
education world is just criminal. I went to
a friend’s shop and thought, ‘this is what I
head teacher and a dab hand at handling
of bottles have gone missing, along with
tried & Tested
Alpha Estate Xinomavro Hedgehog 2011
This vineyard in north west Greece takes its name from the prickly varmints that roam the area. The aroma is packed with aniseed and red fruit; the wine smells like it’s still fermenting. On a the palate it’s a dead or alive. Which way did those hedgehogs go? RRP: £15.49 ABV: 14% hdnwines.co.uk
Riverby Estate Gruner Veltliner 2014
It’s the second time this Marlborough estate has attempted Gruner and very intriguing the results promises. The glycerine is miles away from the Austrian style, but that’s all part of the charm. RRP: £14.95 ABV: 12.5% Black Dog Wine Agency (01565 723154) blackdogwineagency.com are too. A fireworky, paraffiny nose followed by the ripe peach, citrus and white pepper that the label
dark, arid, serious affair: a wine that craves meat badly, Hallgarten Druitt & Novum Wines (020 7289 9952)
Château des Sarrins Rosé 2015
This Côtes de Provence estate was acquired by Bruno Paillard 21 years ago. The land is up to 300m above is a nicely seasoned and consistent rosé, with notes of under-ripe strawberries, black pepper and those RRP: £15.99 ABV: 13.5% sea level, and much of it is planted with old vines. This blackjack sweets you haven’t bought for 35 years but have somehow imprinted themselves on your palate. Walker & Wodehouse (0161 908 1315) walkerwodehousewines.com
Villa Raiano Contrada Marotta 2013
To be brutally honest the nose is a bit blah but this is actually a subtle and rather classy affair, even if the smoky bacon. A luxuriously ripe 100% Greco wine underpinning minerality that goes on and on. RRP: £19 ABV: 13% Boutinot (0161 908 1315) boutinot.com flavour does conjure comparisons with sausages and from Campania, with a strangely exotic edge and an
Tasca Antisa Catarratto 2015
Grapefruit is the dominant fruit here, contrasting nicely with the faint aroma of violets and – to our palate at least – a sensation of over-ripe pineapple, and the enjoyable metallic tang that sometimes comes with it. A zesty Sicilian wine that veers towards tropicality finish. “Antisa” means “wait”, but why bother? RRP: £19.75 ABV: 12.5% Berkmann Wine Cellars (020 7609 4711) berkmann.co.uk but is balanced by its sour notes, with a beautifully full
Domaine de la Solitude Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2012
If you can recall the thrill of unzipping a canvas tent on a hot summer afternoon, that’s more or less the aroma you get here. Now imagine your mum’s given you a wine, brimming with random 1970s nostalgia. RRP: £27.99 ABV: 13.5% hdnwines.co.uk Fry’s Chocolate Cream bar (plain, not milk) – that’s a bit like the flavour you get. An intense, well balanced Hallgarten Druitt & Novum Wines (020 7289 9952)
Calusari Pinot Noir 2015
This Romanian estate has been replanted with French Elvira. Light bodied, with notes of sour cherries and dark fruit, it has a subdued pungency. You wouldn’t confuse it with Burgundy or Martinborough in a RRP: £7.40 ABV: 14% and Italian stock by Englishman Philip Cox and his wife
FOS Rioja Crianza 2012
This is like meeting an old friend on a soft leather sofa, though why that scenario would ever arise is a cosy tannins and gentle wafts of vanilla. A superb conversation, and yet lends itself to both. RRP: £14.50 ABV: 13.5% Templar Wines (01202 300331) templarwines.com difficult question to answer. There’s a homely, mellow, value wine that would never overwhelm a meal or a
squillion years. But it’s a bit of a bargain and pairs well with a medium-heat curry. We know because we tried. Alliance Wine (01505 506060) alliancewine.com
evening primrose nose with warm spices on the palate,
THE WINE MERCHANT JUNE 2016 8
The Wine Merchant, in association with Wines of Brasil, is offering independent wine specialists the chance to WIN A TRIP TO BRAZIL to enjoy four days in the spectacular Serra Gaúcha region and visiting some of the most exciting wineries the country has to offer.
TO ENTER Send your name and business address to email@example.com and we’ll send you your very own Brazilian wine POS kit. Use your kit and your own creative ideas to create a Brazilian window display for a minimum of two weeks between 1st July and 12th September 2016. Once your in-store carnival is complete, send us photos and a summary of the impact on your sales and how you’ve raised awareness of Brazilian wine by 30th September 2016 to be in with a chance to take part in the real thing! As well as the fantastic main prize there will also be two cases of Brazilian wine for the runner-up. Third prize will be one case of Brazilian wine. THE POS PACK INCLUDES Two posters (one map and one image), flag, leaflets, cards that include details of the consumer competition, a T-shirt and other goodies. You’ll also be sent a list of UK importers of Brazilian wines, to help you put together your Brazilian range. Please visit www.winemerchantmag.com for full terms and conditions.
© Eduardo Azeredo – stock.adobe.com
Win a trip to
bits & BOBs FAVOURITE
Lamorbey Wine Sidcup
History, despair and a sniffing game
The corks will be popping in Bordeaux on June 1 when Cité du Vin, an €81 million hi-tech museum devoted to wine, finally opens its doors. building is a vast glass tower, said to be “inspired by wine swilling around in a glass”. through the maritime history of wine, describing their hangovers. The Guardian, May 19 Highlights include an immersive journey Dubbed the Guggenheim of wine, the
London’s growth levels were behind only Glasgow, where employment rates grew Edinburgh (4%) also saw sizeable rises. by 1.7% in 2015. City AM, May 23 Across the UK as a whole, employee by 17% last year, while Bristol (9.2%) and numbers in the wine and spirits trade grew
Favourite wine on my list
Tree Malbec 2013 from Matias Riccitelli with a long complex finish, but more importantly a fantastic seller. in Mendoza. Chocolate and ripe fruit The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From The
a bouquet sniffing game and a “chair of
despair”, where you listen to famous people
Pouring cold water on synthetic wine
“We can turn water into wine in 15 minutes,” claims Ava Winery, a San Francisco start-up that is making synthetic wine without grapes – simply by combining flavour compounds and ethanol. stiff resistance from classical winemakers and researchers. says Alain Deloire, director of the National Wine & Grape Industry Centre at Charles “It’s nonsense, to be honest with you,” But the company is likely to meet with
Favourite wine and food match
Fish and chips with Champagne Moutard permitted in Champagne. A hot salty through the hot oil, salt and vinegar. sumptuous blend of the six varieties Brut Cuvée des 6 Cepages 2008. A
melt into the quality bubbles, which cut
chip and hot cod or haddock in batter
Favourite wine trip
Fairly regularly we cycle down the Loire good company and beautiful countryside Valley visiting all our old friends along the way. Exercise, top food and wine, – superb.
The Guggenheim of wine
Sturt University, Australia. New Scientist, May 18
Employment levels in the London wine and spirits trade saw double digit growth of 16% in 2015, according to data released by LinkedIn.
• Millennial US winemakers have established what they call the first commercially viable rooftop vineyard in New York, hoping wine harvested from the Brooklyn Naval Yard will hit the market next year. Daily Mail, May 19
Favourite wine trade person
I am going to have to go with Gilles Wilfrid at Hallgarten Druitt. A true world is a better place.
gold. With people like Gilles around, the
character: sells hard but with a heart of
01323 871836 firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @WineMerchantMag
Favourite wine shop
laid out with good racking, glass shelving wines, beers and spirits. I borrowed a few ideas for Lamorbey Wine! and good lighting – not too bright but enough to see a quality selection of Le Relais des Caves near Blois. Very well
The Wine Merchant is mailed freely to the owners of the UK’s 799 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 JUNE 2016 10
Charlie Luxton and Kent Barker, with Elsa the dog, May 2016
merchant profile: the beckford bottle shop
Sofa so good
Take one wine guru, a business genius and an expert in hotel design and you have a pretty good starting point for an independent store. The Beckford Bottle Shop has gone the extra mile to make its customers feel comfortable, in every sense of the word
harlie Luxton is possibly slightly obsessed with design. As he walks into The Beckford Bottle Shop he winces at the ceramic dog bowl beside the doorway. The bowl is blue
House. I said to the owner, when you move on and sell them then give me a yell and I’ll buy them back off you. the whole hospitality idea. It’s not just a wine shop. Everyone does tastings but in a wine shop it’s quite difficult if you’re standing up some wine.” Barker wasn’t convinced, at least at first. But gradually the big by the counter, whereas here it just begs you to sit down and taste red sofa came to embody the partners’ ambition for their new is, was possibly more of an indulgence. it a combination of things? Charlie: A combination of things from my career. We put the tin ceiling in a hotel in New York – obviously there it was rather more fitting. We were in the meat packing district. I’d always wanted to do it somewhere and it doesn’t work in pubs, but it sort of works here. The wooden facings on the shelves look good. Charlie: I wanted to do a sort of faded wood look – these are from Southampton pier. They’d been there for 90 years. They’re just it. The hessian wallpaper is quite 70s retro but it’s quite warm. “The red sofa really was, not an afterthought, but it introduced
inside, but Charlie wanted a red one, to fit in better with the décor. he probably has more pressing priorities. Luxton has agonised over the fine details at the BBS, and it
He admits he’s considered respraying it himself, before concluding shows. As operations director of the Soho House group, he set up some of the world’s coolest hotels and wanted his wine shop to exude a similar kind of aesthetic. His partners in the project brought their own particular
expertise. Dan Brod (not present at the meeting) is, by common consent, the business brain. Kent Barker, whose day job is knowledge.
business. “I was very dubious. Rather annoyingly, I’ve had to eat
my words,” he admits. The tin ceiling, lovely though it undoubtedly Design-wise, is this inspired by anything in particular or was
Enotria’s director of sales for the south of England, brings the wine from Salisbury. It’s a village rather than a town, with a population of only 3,500 or so, yet it sustains a quality butcher, fishmonger, deli and now wine shop. There’s money in these parts, and the commuting distance of London. Luxton and Brod own two local pubs – The Beckford Arms presence of a mainline rail station nearby keeps the place within and The Talbot – and first encountered Barker as one of their suppliers. On a trip to Champagne, the idea was discussed of The shop is in Tisbury, Wiltshire, a winding half-hour drive west
opening a wine shop in Tisbury, and after rejecting the original site on the grounds of (a) its tiny size and (b) lack of running water, a better unit was identified. It opened on December 12 last year. takes his coffee to the huge red sofa that dominates the left hand After getting over the disappointment of the dog bowl, Luxton
beautiful. It really was just organic, there was nothing clever about These [framed wine maps] I saw in Ten Green Bottles in Brighton ages ago.
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side of the shop. “Let’s start with the red sofa,” he says. “I had two
of them in my garage from an old hotel that I designed, High Road
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merchant profile: the beckford bottle shop
From page 13
Kent: These [pendant] lights are brilliant. We clear this table off on Fridays and Saturdays and make benches, so they can then go up a little bit. Charlie: These lights are from eBay. I’ve got a bit of an eBay stupid idea [to sell old decanters], but I ignored him. Literally just as I uttered those words, Christmas we probably sold a dozen. somebody comes in and goes, “ooh, I’ll take two”. I think that was possibly set up. Over Charlie: The butcher’s block we bought the and the jamon sits there. problem with lights. And then decanters: I just think modern Kent: I said, why are we using retail space to sell decanters?
expensive at the top going down to the cheapest. We’ve grouped it around regions a bit more. Oddbins. My initial ideas were from my background in retail, which was
The sofa definitely sends a signal that you can relax and take your time. Charlie: You can take your time, that’s exactly it. The other trick, that Kent came up with, is when you walk into the shop, we say, “give me a yell if you need any help”. So often someone actually
decanters are horrible. My business partner thought it was a very
other day. We’ve got the charcuterie: we have a The logo we did ourselves. Dan is quite into
jamon on a Friday and Saturday so we pre-cut it that kind of design. I always wanted to do gold. For the paintwork we were going to do dark
I know pretty much every producer in the shop personally, and most of them are friends
comes out and says, “can I help you?” The English response to that is “back off!” Kent: The amount of times that sparks a conversation – “oh In a wine shop in particular. actually, yes” – rather than go “right, what can I do for you?”
green. We put on an undercoat of grey, and thought, hmm … we Farrow & Ball colour. It particularly goes well with the gold. experience was absolutely crucial. It’s unthreatening, it’s people. Kent: I think the key thing for all three of us was that the retail comfortable and an enjoyable experience to shop here. Being
rather like the undercoat, so we stuck with that. It’s Down Pipe, a
Charlie: I’m 47 years old. If I get approached like that I get addled. Kent: It is astonishing the amount of people that spend time with us now. A lot more than I had at Oddbins. How much of the wine comes from Enotria? Kent: We have a lot. It’s the dominant supplier, without a doubt. I know the wines incredibly well, I’ve worked for Enotria for nine have in the shop.
faced with a massed array of wines is quite intimidating to a lot of We’ve done it by country but we haven’t done it with the most
years and I know pretty much every producer personally that we coming in on July 4 to do an event here and he’s a very good friend of mine. Being able to utilise those relationships is brilliant. second largest supplier. They give us another angle which we don’t get immediately from Enotria. For me it’s crucial that we don’t become a shop window for Enotria. This shop is about providing the right product range for our Dave Cañadas is a director at Caves de Pyrene and they’re our Most of them are friends, which is brilliant. So Ken Forrester is
customers here. The key guiding principle is we have to be able within the national marketplace without any of the silly
Note the infamous dog bowl
to put a wine on the shelf at full margin that is then competitive discounting you get on the big internet sites. We did a big exercise in checking that we were competitive on
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all the wines. If something’s been deep discounted in Majestic, we won’t let it go on. It’s very important for us. a ridiculous price. So I won’t list it. stunning Riesling. But it’s in Majestic for 25 quid or something, it’s In your day job, Kent, are you still going round to other independents all the time? Are there any you think are particularly good that maybe inspired things you’ve done here? Kent: In the run-up to this we did two exercises. One was to go round stores that had been recommended in London, and I more out of going round Australia. tasted. For example I love Trimbach Frédéric Emile Riesling. It’s a
was in Australia and New Zealand for Enotria and I went round Charlie: I’m from Australia, from Melbourne, and the food and
Melbourne – a day going round the independents there. I got a lot drink in Melbourne is just amazing. The coffee is the best I’ve ever Kent: The shelving design came from an amazing looking place in Melbourne that I love. If you’ve been exposed to those kinds of places and seen what’s possible, maybe your view is that independents are on the start of a journey rather than reaching the summit. Kent: Absolutely. Charlie: I was in Paris at a place called Juveniles. Similar size back a little corner with a kitchenette sort of thing.
to this, a bit narrower. Down one side all the wines, with boxes
Charlie Luxton confesses to a fixation with lighting
everywhere, and then a load of round French café tables and in the haven’t got a food licence but with the next one we would look to You serve charcuterie here every Friday and Saturday? Charlie: Yes. They do tapas. That’s where the hospitality element came in. We
Grand Cru Rosé in ice. I walked out from the back, put it in the ice and a guy goes, “oh, I’ll have that”. Quite amazing. its own two feet and make a profit? Kent: We hope so. We’ve hit our break-even every month now since February, and December was just ridiculous. It went absolutely nuts. We did a very large sale before we opened, a corporate sale, but As things stand, do you think the shop will be able to stand on
get a place that has a little kitchen. Not just charcuterie but tapas.
Kent: Once a month we do food and wines. The last one was dotted it around and people helped themselves. Charlie: We had a camp stove out the back. Kent: I was trying to avoid saying that!
asparagus and Sauvignon. It was nuts, just unbelievable. We gave away the asparagus – we prepared a couple of hundred spears,
we took half of what I’d budgeted for the year in December so that gave us a really good start. It gave us the capital to be able to do what we’ve done. Charlie: The other thing is working with local caterers. There are some quite smart ones, some quite big ones. This year we’re not quite there, they haven’t quite picked us up yet. But next year … you need a few 21sts, a few 40ths, a few weddings.
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Charlie: I just think for an independent, that’s what it’s about.
Kent: Then we did oysters and Chablis. We had a Louis Michel It was astonishing.
Grand Cru magnum. I just thought it would sit here and we’d have The other day I put some of the Château Sainte Marguerite
to drink it amongst ourselves but we sold two in 20 minutes or so.
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