THE WINE MERCHANT.
An independent magazine for independent retailers Issue 55, February 2017
Brought to you by the white heat of technology
Wine thieves may have had access to inside information
4 comings & GOINGS
Merchant opens second branch after just six months
8 tried & TESTED
Hold on to your hats, the Aussies have got Assyrtiko!
Australian retailer Wine Republic has hit new design heights with the opening of its second
branch in Melbourne. More details on page 45.
Picture by James Newman
12 haywood WINES
Happy chaos reigns at the new Bournemouth indie
WSTA aims to minimise chaos caused by Brexit
Wine prices would increase by an average of 30p a bottle if the full impact of the pound’s collapse since the Brexit referendum was passed on, according to the Wine & Spirit Trade Association.
Chief executive Miles Beale says the currency situation has “fundamentally affected” wine retailers and calculates it would take a 10% cut in excise duty in the March 8 Budget to balance out the effects of the pound’s slide since the summer.
The WSTA is calling on the Chancellor to reduce wine and spirit duty by 2% which he claims is the “very least” the government could do to alleviate pressure on the drinks industry.
Beale is urging wine merchants to write to their MPs to argue the case for lower duty, which he says could also deliver higher returns for the Exchequer, based on the experience of 2015 when spirits duty was cut and wine duty frozen.
The WSTA is in talks with counterparts in Europe and around the world to draft trade agreements to give politicians ready-made solutions to the challenges they will face after Brexit.
“The UK government can’t start these negotiations immediately, but we absolutely can,” Beale says. He predicts relations with nonEU wine producers could improve after Brexit. • Miles Beale interview – pages 18-21.
24 david williams
Not all great winemakers are solo artists
28 WSET CHAMPION
Jason Millar of Theatre of Wine lifts the Vintners’ Cup
30 FOCUS ON CHAMPAGNE
How merchants justify the price premium over Prosecco
46 MAKE A DATE
Tastings galore as spring looms on the horizon
49 supplier Bulletin
Essential updates from agents and suppliers
Street credibility for Jackson’s team
Road closures are disastrous for most wine merchants. For Samantha Jackson, they’re part of a surprisingly lucrative new revenue stream.
Her business, Chester Beer & Wine, is planning its most ambitious street festival this year after its first few attempts met with resounding success.
“For the last couple of years I’ve been involved with a fundraising group to raise money in Hoole for the Christmas lights and local community centre,” Jackson says.
“It was just little events and then we went, sod it – let’s do a street festival. So we did that last year as Notting Hoole and it was fab, and then we did another one in the autumn.”
The festivals featured all-day live music as well as a number of other traders. “We went to a load of food and drink festivals and poached a load of stalls. Hot and cold food, nick-nacks, vintage clothing … in fact one of the barbers round the corner put a barber’s chair in the middle of the street.”
The pop-up bar allowed Jackson to sell drinks at on-trade prices and the profitability of the events means they will now be an important element of the company’s business model. “It’s hard work and long hours, especially on the day, but
it’s really good fun,” she says. The original fees charged to stallholders
were too low, Jackson realised, so the rate will be raised this year. “That covers the cost of closing the road, paying for the PA system, paying for the security, paying the medics … all the costs of putting on the event,” she says.
The forthcoming event in April is the first that will be run purely as a Chester Beer & Wine festival. “We’re putting in an extra bar so we’ll have two Chester Beer & Wine bars in the street and the shop open as well.”
In the summer, the city council has asked Jackson and her team to put together a larger-scale event near the riverside, to be called Grooving at the Grove.
“It’s a huge area,” she says. “There’s only really one big bar down there so we will need more bars. It’s going to be a really exciting project.”
2017 is one long festival for Samantha Jackson
Why Ann’s better off without food
Ann Hayes has “got her mojo back” after abandoning her experiment with diversification and focusing squarely on wine retailing.
Although her shop in Newark is called Ann et Vin, in recent years it could almost have been renamed Ann et Vin et Café et Curry et un Festival de Jazz Occasionnel.
The problems that these bolt-ons created included “staff, wastage and whingeing
customers,” Hayes says. “It just diverted me all the time and took me away from what I should be doing so that I had to work on my day off to catch up with stuff.”
Although five tables remain inside the shop for customers to enjoy wine on the premises, the coffee shop and food elements have disappeared altogether. The courtyard area, where jazz festivals have taken place, remains available for private bookings.
“We started off just doing tapas-style stuff and – god knows how it happened – ended up with chilli and curry,” Hayes says. “We haven’t actually got a proper professional kitchen because (a) that costs a bloody fortune to do and (b) extraction was going to be really difficult because it’s a listed building.
“The cook made curry and chilli and frittata and smoked salmon and prawns … it turned into a ladies-that-lunch venue. It was lovely; relaxed and quiet. But they don’t drink, and they don’t buy wine.
“Saturdays were great because we did get a different sort of person in – though you do get the whingers in on a Saturday, I have to say.
“It just got too complicated. My advice to anybody doing it is, keep it simple. Just do platters – cheese, pate, meat, that sort of stuff. Don’t go down the restaurant route.”
Staff were made redundant but two part-timers have been kept on for Fridays and Saturdays, with Hayes now covering the Tuesday to Thursday shifts on her own. “I’m making Saturdays tasting central in here and really pushing that,” she says.
This year Hayes is exploring the possibility of dipping a toe in the online market, as well as finding more space for speciality spirits and glassware.
“It’s feeling really nice and people have been reasonably positive,” she says. “I’m actually really enjoying myself. Even if I only do the same wine turnover as last year, I’ll be fine.”
THE WINE MERCHANT FEBRUARY 2017 2
Counting cost of warehouse thefts
Yet there have been no sightings and presumably the stolen goods were absorbed into the black market.
Cocker at Martinez says: “I’ve called up
Two Yorkshire wine merchants
all the auction houses in the country. It’s
sustained huge stock losses from their the sort of wine that won’t be drunk for
warehouses just before Christmas. Sheffield’s Starmore Boss had seven
three years, all top Burgundy. HMRC were no help and the police have been next to
pallets stolen from its new warehouse only rubbish.” Boss adds: “I’ll be honest, I’ve not
12 days after taking occupancy.
heard anything from the police.”
Fifty miles away in Ilkley,
But he says the “phenomenal”
Martinez Wines had a pallet of
response from suppliers means
Burgundy worth £6,500 lifted from
that the company has been able
just outside its warehouse.
to trade as usual and managed to
Both business owners believe
keep all its wholesale customers
the thefts were planned rather
than the work of opportunists.
“I’ve got to say a huge thank you
Jefferson Boss from Starmore
to all the people in the industry
Boss says: “It was suspicious that
who supported us. We wrote
they had all the right tools. They had specific cutting devices to
to some of our suppliers and explained what had happened. ID
get through all the bolts, the right
Brands kindly knocked us 10% off
sized vehicle – they would have
when we reordered and we had
needed a seven-and-a-half tonne
extended credit terms from some
truck – and they had a four to five-hour window to load up the
of our suppliers. Some of them even put in free stock as good
stock and get out in time. How did they know? It leads me to
Just one of Starmore will.”
Cocker was given a 20%
believe that somebody had all
discount by a supplier and the
the inside information.”
transport company has waived
Jonathan Cocker at Martinez Wines says: its fees for a couple of deliveries.
“It was all a bit weird. The [delivery driver], Cocker is keen to forget the experience,
actually took a photo of the pallet sitting
which has left him considerably out of
outside the warehouse – they don’t usually pocket as he wasn’t insured for goods left
do that. I could have had a long drawn-out just outside of the warehouse, but reports
battle with the transport company because that overall the business had a “great”
there was no signature.” Although most of his stolen pallets
Christmas. “Both shops, both wine bars and wholesale was all up. But I expect profit
contained wholesale wines, Boss says that will be down because of that pallet.”
there were “special bits and pieces” such
Boss adds: “It could have been worse,
as 35 bottles of limited-edition Forest Gin in distinctive porcelain bottles. Likewise,
nobody was hurt. When I got the call my first thought was that Barry [Starmore]
the 300 bottles of Domaine des Verchères might have been caught up in it. If you
Mâcon Villages 2014, which made up part come with all those tools to remove stock
of Cocker’s stolen pallet, were imported
and someone’s in the way, you’re not going
direct and would be “unlikely to be sold by to think ‘I’ll come back later’ – you’ll just
anyone else in the area”.
knock them out of the way.”
THE WINE MERCHANT FEBRUARY 2017 3
“Our Man with the Facts”
• The ice wine harvest in Quebec takes place in December and January at
temperatures between -8˚C and -12˚C. For every 100kg of grapes harvested, the juice extracted only amounts to 12 to 15 litres compared to 80 to 85 litres
in conventional winemaking.
• During America’s Prohibition years it’s estimated that New York City had
as many as 32,000 speakeasies. By contrast, today there are 1,800 bars.
• The town hall of the 18th arrondissment in Paris has a bottling line in its cellar. It’s here that grapes from the tiny vineyard near the SacreCoeur, planted in 1933, are packaged as Clos Montmartre. Seventy-five per cent of the vines are Gamay, with Pinot Noir accounting for most of the rest.
• German entrepreneurs started many of the most iconic Champagne houses
including Bollinger, Deutz, Heidsieck, Krug, Mumm, Roederer and Taittinger.
• The most alcoholic wine in the world is Superprimitivo, made by Nicola
Chiaromonte in Puglia, which naturally reached 19.5% ABV.
Six months on, it’s time for store two
Just six months after opening his first shop, Ian Renwick is expanding his Jaded Palates business with a second branch in Devon.
He has bought Best Cellars in Ashburton from the retiring Jonathan and Emma Richards, whose Chagford branch he acquired last July.
“We will take on the lease in April,” Renwick says. “Our first shop in Chagford has converted to hybrid, and this will be a proper hybrid from the beginning with a real wine museum experience upstairs. Then on the top floor, we plan to start rolling out WSET classes in the near future as well as to begin ramping up our wholesale operation.”
Half of the ground floor at Ashburton is devoted to retail, with office and storage space behind it. A maisonette currently occupies the upper two storeys.
“We’ve decided to take the whole building and change the use upstairs,” says Renwick. “So we’ll be extending the retail area all the way across the ground floor, and on the first floor we’ll have a little wine tasting/wine bar, and a little wine museum area to really get to grips with the experience of wines and vines.”
He adds: “We’re still working out exactly how it’s going to happen, but we’ll buy any stock left over. They don’t want to run the business into the ground – as they run out of one particular wine, we’ll sell them a similar wine so they can start stocking our wines as well.”
• South Street Cellar, a sister store to ArtisVin in Eastbourne, has closed. Owner Steve Hodden, who opened the venture last spring, says he now wants to focus his retail efforts on the original shop in the Meads neighbourhood of the Sussex town.
Renwick has now acquired both Best Cellars shops in Devon
“The tasting events were a fantastic success so they will be continued at a nearby hotel,” he says. “People loved coming to South Street to be entertained, but not to shop.” He adds: “Meads will also receive a facelift to the internal fittings to give it a more premium feel.”
New hybrid store hoves into view
Café Malbec may sound like an Argentinian wine and food specialist, but this new wine merchant, deli, wine bar and café on Church Road in Hove includes wines from Brazil, Uruguay and Chile.
Its owner, Damian Kelly, sells 130 bottled wines, including half-bottles and magnums which can be drunk on site or taken away. Eleven wines, sold by the glass, can be washed down with empanadas, toasted sandwiches and cured meats and cheeses known as picadas.
Kelly, who is of Argentinian and Irish heritage, is also the owner of LatinoAmérica, the Argentinian restaurant next door. The success of the restaurant,
THE WINE MERCHANT FEBRUARY 2017 4
launched just 18 months ago, together with the growing popularity of Argentinian wines, has drawn him to this new project with which he hopes to attract more lunchtime customers.
“The shop next to my restaurant closed down and I saw the opportunity for a niche South American outlet,” he says. “I see Malbec drunk at restaurants everywhere I go and at my restaurant, empanadas are very popular. And so many customers ask me for bottles of wine to take away.”
Kelly has sourced his Café Malbec wines from supplierss including Atlantico, HispaMerchants, Sheridan Coopers, Amirante Empire, Bancroft Wines and Vinals Wine & Food. The list includes a broad range of red, white and rosé wines, mainly from northern Argentina, Cuyo and Patagonia. Retail prices range from under £10 to £60.
Merchant closes after 102 years
Edinburgh merchant Peter Green & Co, which has traded in the Scottish capital since 1915, has closed.
Owner Michael Romer, whose parents bought the business from Peter Green in 1947, told the Edinburgh Evening News: “We are sad to be closing, but it feels like the right time.”
The store was famous locally for its wine tasting events, which “bring together all sorts of different people with different interests,” Romer said.
“It has always given me a lot of pleasure to see people talking to each other and finding things in common through the events.
“We’ve had many budding authors and artists who have met each other and got to know each other through the wine tasting events. Our biggest worry is losing contact with lots of people whom we’ve enjoyed meeting.”
Campbell keeps his options open
Fyne Wines in Lochgilphead, Argyll, has closed after just over three years of trading.
Owner Stuart Campbell says: “I have generally enjoyed and found the experience personally rewarding, despite the constant challenges and ever-fruitless returns. 2016 proved particularly woeful for level of trade – down 55% from 2014 excluding December – and so with personal motivation declining, I took the decision to seek the pursuit of other personal ambitions.”
Campbell is embarking on a three-month coastto-coast cycle tour of the USA in May and is open-minded about opening another specialist wine shop in a new location at a future date.
Hasty despatches from the frontline of wine retailing
Ijust love Valentine’s Day. All those bottles of delicious pink bubbly flying off the shelves as tokens of true love. Nothing says “I love you” more than blush fizz – as every woman knows.
No, I haven’t taken leave of my senses. Nor is the above sentence dripping with sarcasm. For 2017 is the year when I stop being a curmudgeon and start embracing the positive; when I look at reasons to be cheerful, no matter how idiotic customers, suppliers and the entire wine world might be. I am posting only life-affirming things on social media with liberal sprinklings of #attitudeofgratitude, and I have started to write down all the nice things people say about the shop instead of remembering only the whinges.
My smile is fixed at rictus and I am gliding around with such serenity that Mr M declares he’s a bit freaked out. He was so supportive at 2am on Champagnefuelled New Year’s Day when I grandly announced my resolution. He just didn’t think it would last this long.
It’s been a breeze so far. January was so peaceful, I was utterly delighted to see anyone. Perhaps the hugs were a bit much. But I did receive a lot of concerns about my well-being, for which I was grateful. Those blackboards outside imploring people to participate in “Try January” on one side and “Make it Dry January – Dry Gin, Dry Wine” showed just how funny and original I can be, and cheered up miserable abstainers.
As my holiday to Barbados got postponed for another year, I was able to spend quality time at all those relevant Burgundy en primeur tastings, getting to meet all the suppliers’ private clients who snap up the best stuff. Clever them!
February has been pretty good so far,
too. I am truly grateful for Valentine’s Day and the healthy sales this brings after the post-Christmas “reflective period” (I am NOT going to use a negative phrase like “deathly lull”).
I am grateful for all those fabulous generic trade tastings. A hundred New Zealand Pinot Noirs to try? What an opportunity for a new discovery or two! All those Italian varieties now grown in Australia and available at more premium
I’m positive that 2017 will
be the year when I kick the negativity
prices? I love Nebbiolo and Arneis and if the wonderful new global trade deals mean that Australian prices plummet and Italian ones rocket, think of the fun to be had when customers say they “don’t drink New World”.
I will pore over every word written by industry commentators and not dismiss their insights with a withering “what do they know?” I will provide a table and chair for customers who need to search through a thousand pictures on their phones of a wine they are sure they bought from here six months ago. I will have a suggestion box for customers who want to tell us what we “should” do. Prizes for the best suggestions!
And when prospective suppliers drop in unannounced? I will get them a coffee and let them talk me through their entire portfolio. It’s going to be such fun.
THE WINE MERCHANT FEBRUARY 2017 5
Oxford bags new city centre branch
Camilla moves from dairy to deli
Despite his well-publicised reticence about retail, Oxford Wine Company boss Ted Sandbach has taken the plunge with a new store in the city centre.
The company already has a branch on Botley Road but recently Sandbach and his team have focused investment on the two wine cafés in Oxford.
Sandbach admits he “didn’t intend to open another shop” but explains: “I was looking at something else and the site came up and I got in quick. I thought the centre of Oxford is somewhere we ought to be.
“We’ve got our shop on the Botley Road which is going very well, but to some people it could be in another county, quite frankly. A lot of people don’t know us or can’t be bothered to go down there.”
The new store, a former shoe shop, is “right in the heart of one of the best pedestrian areas in town”, Sandbach says.
“I think we need to have a presence there, not least to keep everyone else out. People haven’t opened in Oxford because the one-way system is a nightmare, and the rent and rates are so high, but this place is pretty reasonable.
“It’s not huge but it’s got a nice cellar, which is perfect. We can use it as a function room or for storage. It’s thin but by the
The Botley Road branch is “going very well”
time it’s cleared out there will be more space than you’d think and we don’t need a huge space to operate in. I think it will work really well.”
The shop will be run by Mark WardeAlden, who managed Majestic’s branch in Summertown for 26 years. “He knows everybody, and everyone seems to know him,” Sandbach says.
“I certainly won’t do any retail shops after this, although I’ve said that before.
“We had a couple of little sojourns into retail in rural Gloucestershire and that didn’t really work. That was my fault for going out of my area, really. I hadn’t realised how hard it would be to almost
start a new business somewhere else.”
The two wine cafés are “going well, particularly the Jericho one”, while Oxford’s wholesale trade has been “tremendous” over the past year, Sandbach reports.
The new shop is in a busy pedestrianised part of the city centre
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The Somerset Wine Company’s collaboration with a local delicatessen to create an enoteca-style offering has meant a welcome move from a dairy building to a high street location.
“I’m still The Somerset Wine Company, and they are the Deli at Castle Cary, but sharing the space with another business is brilliant,” says owner Camilla Wood.
For the past year Wood has been supplying the Tisbury Deli with a selection of her direct-import Velenosi wines and her box wines from Richard Hamblin at More Wine on Tap.
“I had my Somerset Wine Company branded shelving in the Tisbury Deli, and that’s where the idea grew. They wanted a second site and as Tisbury is a similar market town to Castle Cary, they felt this would be a good space for them.”
Wood has an 800-strong customer base.
Fullaloves is really going to town
For three years Fullaloves has operated from a cabin within the idyllic location of Stydd Gardens in the Ribble Valley.
But Ben Fullalove says “in hindsight, we should have built a bigger cabin”. The success of the regular tasting evenings has necessitated a move to a larger premises.
Fullalove says his tastings “seemed to strike a chord” with the locals. “For people to really try the wines on our shelves – and take away a case, having done so – was really popular, so we wanted to upscale that,” he adds.
The new shop in nearby Longridge opens this spring. Previously a stables, it will offer plenty of retail and social space with high ceilings and a mezzanine floor.
THE WINE MERCHANT FEBRUARY 2017 7
tried & Tested
Rapaura Springs Reserve Pinot Noir 2015
It’s perhaps a bit elitist to single out the Reserve Pinot when this Marlborough producer has so much else to recommend further down the price scale. The regular Pinot, which retails for a fiver less, is a savoury delight. This moves things on several notches, with its swirl of elusive dusky flavours and a gentle cherry sourness. RRP: £19.99 ABV: 13.5% Maisons Marques et Domaines (020 8812 3380) mmdltd.co.uk
Spice Route Terra de Bron Swartland Carignan 2014
Winemaker Charl de Plessis says Carignan is his favourite grape to work with, and it certainly shows. Beautifully smooth, with just enough old French oak to add a spicy, nutty depth to proceedings, this is one of those wines that give the impression of being made with the lightest of touches. RRP: £19.99 ABV: 13.5% Liberty Wines (020 8819 1458) libertywines.co.uk
Brown Brother Vintage Release Heathcote Durif 2014
Durif is nobody’s favourite grape variety to say out loud, which may explain the ambivalence some people feel. In this case, that’s a shame. It’s a fragrant and floral affair, and although it looks like a bit of a bruiser it sits nicely in the mouth, with plum and blackberry aromas melding in an intense but elegant kind of way. RRP: £15.99 ABV: 14% Fells (01442 870900) fells.co.uk
Jim Barry Assyrtiko 2016
Yes, the latest improbable development in this crazy world is that the Aussies now have Assyrtiko. Will they use it for good or evil? “Interesting” is the adjective we find ourselves reaching for in this Clare Valley project. There’s a zesty, tropical fruit character that would probably persuade some people they were drinking New World Sauvignon Blanc, but a chalky seam too. RRP: £19.99 ABV: 12.5% Negociants UK (01582 797510) negociants.com
Hunter’s Chardonnay 2015
Some would say that Chardonnay was once the weakest link in the line-up but all that changed with Jane Hunter’s decision to switch to wild yeasts and barrel fermentation. Now it’s way more elegant, with lemon and lime flavours that dance across your tongue and a leesy depth. No wonder it’s collected gongs for the oldest family-owned Marlborough producer. RRP: £14.95 ABV: 13% Laytons (020 7288 8880) laytons.co.uk
Dürnsteiner Liebenberg Grüner Veltliner Smaragd 2015
Liebenberg translates as the slightly creepy “Love Mountain” and can be found west of Dürnstein in the Wachau. South-facing gneiss vineyards are planted with 65-year-old vines, in this case producing an arresting and deliciously peppery wine with ripe fruit flavours and a steely substructure. RRP: £52.99 ABV: 14% Liberty Wines (020 8819 1458) libertywines.co.uk
Loveblock Sauvignon Blanc 2016
Loveblock is the new project of Kim and Erica Crawford in the Awatere, a wilderness from which “you can almost see the edge of the world”. Although badged as an SB, small amounts of Arneis, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer are in the mix, adding mystery and complexity. It tastes wild and natural, with a white fruit and elderflower character and a peachy palate. RRP: £14.50 ABV: 13.5% The Knotted Vine (020 8616 2170) theknottedvine.com
Bird in Hand Sparkling Pinot Noir 2016
Made by Kym Milne in the Adelaide Hills in an area
once scattered with goldmines, this is a zippy and refreshing bottle of fizz with strawberry and sour cherry flavours, a vaguely aniseed note and a peppery tang. It’s clean and fresh but with a comforting creamy texture, as befits a wine made in a former dairy. RRP: £13.95 ABV: 12.5%
Seckford Agencies (01206 231188)
THE WINE MERCHANT FEBRUARY 2017 8
Majestic or just mediocre? Christmas uplift isn’t a panacea
Majestic’s Christmas trading statement was described by one City analyst as “a curate’s egg”. Although total revenue in the 10 weeks to January 2 was up 15.3% on the same period a year ago, retail margins took a hit as the retailer resorted to discounting to pull in the punters.
It’s only a few months since the company jolted investors with a profit warning and a half-year group loss of £4.4m. The festive sales report has restored a bit of faith, but the longer-term prospects for the business are far from clear.
In Majestic’s heyday, there seemed few barriers to growth. It carved out a wide swathe of the mid-market where competition was fragmented and often vastly inferior. It routinely opened 12 new branches each year, and delighted its shareholders with annual profit growth.
It had to level off eventually. Decent locations, inevitably, became harder to come by. Majestic has pulled the plug on expansion and won’t venture beyond the current high-water mark of 210 stores.
Meanwhile the market has become more crowded. Commentators tend to focus on the effect that the discounters have had on supermarkets, which has clear and obvious knock-on implications for a big group like Majestic – hence the Christmas deals. What’s less reported is the increasing competition that the company faces from independents, which now operate in excess of 800 shops compared with nearer 500 a decade or so ago, when Majestic was in its pomp.
This basically means that, for millions of wine lovers, Majestic is no longer the
Festive period sales were up, helped along by a bit of discounting
only specialist merchant within striking distance. Also, the sheer scale of Majestic’s current business means that larger-volume wines, frequently sold on promotion, dominate its marketing message. Deals like Marlborough Sauvignon at £5.99 move Majestic’s centre of gravity closer to the cut-throat world of the multiple grocers. Independents, meanwhile, can reap the rewards of a more specialised highermargin offer and a boutique appeal.
Although CEO Rowan Gormley is delighted with the Christmas performance, which he argues puts his three-year turnaround plan firmly on course, there are plenty more hurdles to overcome.
Dry January, which may turn out to
to risk its reputation on such a strategy. Although suppliers are often heard to mutter that the company is “no better than the supermarkets these days”, it’s not a sentiment that has trickled through to the bulk of Majestic’s customers.
Longer term, Majestic will have to decide whether Naked Wines is doing well enough to justify its £70m price tag. Perhaps the 30% jump in its Christmas sales signals that this part of the business can make a useful contribution long into the future. If the performance stalls (and perhaps even if it doesn’t), investors will doubtless agitate for a sell-off, and recouping the £70m is by no means a given.
Most independents coexist quite
Deals like Marlborough Sauvignon at £5.99 move Majestic’s centre of gravity closer to the multiple grocers
be more entrenched in 2017 than it was in 2016, could yet wipe out some of the festive gains (as indeed it could for any wine merchant). And at some point, Majestic is going to have to accept the reality of higher input prices. That was a conversation it was unwilling to have before Christmas, suppliers have grumbled.
To some extent, supermarkets and discounters can circumvent the problem by purchasing inferior juice, squeezing suppliers even harder, and just about hold the line on pricing. Majestic would be crazy
happily with Majestic. Increasingly, it feels like they’re courting different types of customers. To add to the good will, Majestic’s once-aggressive wholesale division, which competes for their on-trade accounts, has underperformed and is being starved of investment.
So, not many indies will be alarmed at news of a happy Majestic Christmas. But investors are likely to need a lot more persuading that the company’s current trajectory is going to keep the share price buoyant, and the dividends flowing.
THE WINE MERCHANT FEBRUARY 2017 9
bits & BOBs
21 Wines Brighton
Favourite wine on my list Domaine Ortas Icon Rasteau, 2009; layers of dark fruits, damp rich soil,
herbs and spice.
Favourite wine and food match I do enjoy a dessert wine every now and
then. A sweet Tokaji with a gorgeous homemade tarte tatin and vanilla
ice cream. Otherwise as a main, pan fried duck breast, creamy potatoes – dauphinoise – braised red cabbage and a
lovely Garnacha from the Priorat.
Favourite wine trip One of my trips to Reims and Epernay. An intense couple of days with visits to several cellars – CIVC, SGV, etc – and
finishing off each day with a great selection of Champagnes, good food and
Favourite wine trade person I think everyone in the wine trade who works with us deserves this title. However I am a bit of a fan of Jancis Robinson. Otherwise, Damian Barr from The Sunday Times Magazine. The loveliest person you will ever meet.
Favourite wine shop Probably Harry’s at the Walled Garden Vineyard: an unusual, quaint hidden little shop/shed on the Sheffield Park grounds. If you look carefully you can find some
real bargains if you can forgive the conditions the wines go through!
Innovator thinks inside the box
Mail-order wine service Garçon Wines, which launches in February, has developed a flattened 75cl bottle that can be delivered through a letterbox.
The bottles are made from tough plastic and are slightly taller than average wine bottles, but are around half as thick. They come packaged in a cardboard box.
Garçon Wines founder Joe Revell said he thought of the idea after hearing a friend complain about missing wine deliveries. Subscriptions start at £10 a month. The Telegraph, January 12
What you get when you order a flat white
British Fizz on his wine lists. Bob and Sam Lindo of the UK Vineyard
Association liked the name and are now applying for a protected geographical indication for the term. Sparkling wines made with grapes grown in England, Wales, or Scotland will be able to use the name. Metro, January 19
Wildfires destroy Chilean vines
Century-old vines have been destroyed and up to 100 vineyards damaged in wildfires that Chilean authorities have declared the “worst forestry disaster in the nation’s history”.
So far, more than 100 vineyards in Maule have been reportedly damaged by fires and approximately five hectares of vineyards have been destroyed in Colchagua as the fires continue to spread. Decanter, January 24
An even worse idea than ‘Britagne’
From now on, wine made with grapes grown in England, Wales, or Scotland shall be known as British Fizz.
The name was coined by New York bar owner Jason Hicks, who started using
• John Kennedy, president of Europe for Diageo, insists retail prices of its brands won’t be hiked up in the wake of Brexit despite inflationary pressures. Speaking in London, he said: “If we based our prices on changes in currency we’d be changing them all the time.” The Drinks Business, January 26
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The Wine Merchant is mailed freely to the owners of the UK’s 820 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 VAT 943 8771 82 © Graham Holter Ltd 2017
THE WINE MERCHANT FEBRUARY 2017 10
Oregon & Washington State Annual Wine Tasting
Monday 13 March One Great George Street
London SW1P 3AA
Explore the quality and diversity of wines from both Oregon and Washington State.
Visit individual winery tables, meet UK importers and selfguide through a line-up of as yet unrepresented wines.
Discover new favourites, from the renowned Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays of the Willamette Valley to the spicy Syrahs, Bordeaux blends and crisp whites of Washington State.
For more information and to register visit bit.ly/2jOfZQR
THE WINE MERCHANT FEBRUARY 2016 11
merchant profile: haywood wines
Eighteen months after going into business together in their native Bournemouth, Philippa Haywood and Suzy Wood Power are enjoying life selling quirky wines merchandised
in an unconventional way – to a customer base which enjoys the sister act as much as the products they sell
The way that Philippa Haywood and Suzy Wood Power giggle their way through a quiet January morning, you’d assume few things are as much fun as being wine merchants. True, it is a smiley kind of profession. But probably not many people in it smile as much as these sisters do.
Haywood Wines is their proud joint venture, opened 18 months ago on a busy shopping road in Southbourne, a few streets away from the beach. Their closest neighbours are a barber, a gift shop, a micropub, a BP garage and a Sainsbury’s Local. Although they describe the shop as tiny, it’s actually a decent-sized space: narrow but deep, with steps dividing the front end from the rear.
It was once a video library. The refit involved ripping out the suspended ceiling and shelving. The walls weren’t in great shape so brick-effect wallpaper went up.
Most of the wines are displayed on tables. “We really didn’t
want racks and shelves,” says Suzy, who spent a decade as a full-time mum before joining Philippa in setting up the business. “We wanted to break it down and make it really touchy-feely. It’s arranged by countries and then red, white and rosé. But you can have a £6 wine next to a £60 wine. ‘Happy chaos’ is what someone called it.”
She surveys the space. “That table over there was my daughter’s old art table … that one was my office desk … that one was from eBay … and my husband made that one. The bookcases at the back are from my children’s bedroom.” (They’ve been replaced.)
Philippa’s wine trade experience began at Majestic. “I started up in Shepherds Bush in 1990, which was the number one store in those days,” she says. “I ended up opening and running Sunningdale for two years and that’s when I did my Diploma. It was great fun.”
After that she spent some time running their parents’ hotel before joining an on-trade wholesaler. “We were then bought by a bigger company and I was a specialist in the wine department there. Then we were bought by another big brewer. Then I worked for smaller wholesalers in their wine departments before this.
“This is something that I’ve wanted to do for a long time. In fact I nearly did it 20 years ago and I’m jolly glad I didn’t, because I know so much more now, not just about the product but the maths behind everything and the logistics, and I have contacts. That’s really just as important as knowing what a Cabernet Sauvignon tastes like. You need to have that business head on and get the maths right.”
The shop is a former video library on a busy road in Southbourne
How have you put the range together? Suzy: Because we’re only 18 months old the main focus is keeping the shop going and expanding the range. Because we’re such a tiny shop, what you see is what we’ve got.
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Philippa (left) joined the wine trade with Majestic in 1990. Suzy was, until recently, a full-time mum
Philippa, bless her heart, has put a lot of her knowledge and
doing something then?” I said, “I’m only doing it if we sell wine”.
expertise into having choice so that takes up a huge amount of her Suzy: Actually it was my husband who gave me a kick and said, go
time. We go to the odd tasting but Philippa has tasted everything on, get your arse in gear girl!
in the shop over the years anyway. She’s either sold it or known it
It’s the two of us and we’re quite fortunate that we were in a
or bought it.
Philippa: Or I know what it should be like. I’ve got a
‘We haven’t got the space forreally good general knowledge.
We reject quite a lot of stuff. The range was originally very commercial. I wanted the skeleton
a wine bar and we haven’t
there in place and we’ve added to it over time and added things of interest, things that people have
got a tasting area.
talked to me about, things that I’ve discovered, things that suppliers have brought to us and said “try this”.
We are purely and utterly
Everything in here has a place. Every bottle earns its spot on the table. If it doesn’t sell, it doesn’t come
a wine shop’
back. It’s good to be able to have a conversation with
people about what they’re drinking, what their menus are, and
everybody’s different. That’s what makes it really exciting.
position to set it up ourselves. So we don’t have outside finance or
We’ve got such a diverse range: £6.99 entry level up to £180 for anything – we are completely our own bosses, which in a way is
Sassicaia, and lots in between. You’ve got to have an interesting
why we want to grow slowly. We want to stay in control of it.
audience to be able to sell this kind of stuff – you look out there
We haven’t got the space to have a wine bar, we haven’t got
and there’s all sorts of different people, and that’s why it works.
a tasting area, we haven’t got space to put machines in; we are
purely and utterly – and want to be – a retail shop. The business
Was it always your plan to go into business together?
Philippa: Not really, no! Suzy phoned me up and said, “do you fancy
Continues page 14
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merchant profile: haywood wines
jump ahead of the reps you deal with? Philippa: People come and see us and I know what they’ve got that they can give us, so I know I get sharp prices. It puts me in the position of being able to buy keenly. Suzy: We’ve always paid on time, we’ve never blagged anything, we never ask for any samples unless it’s a new one, and because they know Philippa and they know we are not taking advantage. So I think our suppliers have been incredibly supportive.
The sisters get on well but have separate interests outside of work
From page 13
has always stood on its own two feet, which is down to Philippa, but it’s cash flow. People come in, they pay, they take their goods and they go. We’re not chasing people for money.
Do you close at 6pm every night? Philippa: The reason we very much wanted to be 10am to 6pm is that I remember in my Majestic days we’d get to 6pm and we wouldn’t see anyone, so you’re hanging round for two hours, cashing up, giving the boys a beer and waiting to lock up. It just seems pointless.
Six till eight … what are we going to get? People coming in for last-minute casual things. Well, Sainsbury’s do that. But if people come in at six o’clock or five to, and they want to stay and chat, we’ll stay open for them, of course. On New Year’s Eve we had to lock the door because people kept coming in.
Having been a rep yourself, do you feel you’re sometimes one
Which suppliers do you work with? Philippa: I love Hallgarten’s wines. I’ve sold them in trade before. I know [account manager] Adrian Dew really well; I’ve worked with him before. I trust his palate and his knowledge and he’s great fun. And I think the wines are lovely. They often send me a sample as well. I’ll try it with the customers and I think, wow: tick again. Job done. I think they’re brilliant.
Ian Murray who works for Matthew Clark is the most efficient rep out there. He’s brilliant, he’s on the ball and he’s a really nice chap too. Charlie [Monro] at Berkmann: we just met him last summer, he’s lovely and we buy little bits from them because they fit into what I’ve already got.
The other one I particularly like is Seckford. I think they’ve got fabulous wines. We buy quite a lot from them and I love Bouchard Finlayson; I think he’s a fabulous producer.
They have lots of other really interesting bits and bobs that again I’ve sold before in trade. I remember their rep Sue Whelan sadly passed away – she was an incredibly professional and personable lady and that’s another thing that’s made me look to them, not only for their product but I remember how we were looked after by her. This trade is very much about people and who you know.
Your approach to merchandising is quite unusual, with most things displayed on tables. Philippa: I don’t particularly like seeing things in rows on shelves and having big tags around them with a load of blurb. I just think, put the bottle down with a price on it and then people can have a look at what it is and I can have a chat to them.
It keeps it very relaxed and informal. I want them to feel comfortable in here because I’m very aware that it can be an intimidating subject, and scary, and I want to take all of that out of the equation.
You help people find what they’re looking for and what they’re happy with because if you get that right, they’ll go away and enjoy it and come back for more. This is what Suzy and I have been doing since day one. We’re not shouting about it and advertising. We’ve just been quietly going about what the business is which is
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customer service, looking after people and building up loyalty.
How are you doing financially? Suzy: The average spend is going up. About £50 I think we said last time. At 18 months old it’s paying its bills and that gives Philippa the flexibility to go shopping for new and interesting things. Money comes in and money goes out and the bit that’s left grows, over time.
‘Everything in here is priced for one bottle or 100
bottles. You don’t have to perform tricks
to get a discount’
You’re both paying yourselves a salary? Philippa: Yes, not a huge amount. Suzy: But enough. We always knew it would be at least two years before we could go “yippee!” We didn’t come into it with rainbows. We knew everything had to go into the business.
Did you have a detailed business plan? Suzy: We started to write one because that’s what they tell you to do, but it was so boring we gave up. Well, we didn’t have to show it to anyone for finance and I thought, “who am I writing this for? Philippa and I know what we want to do.”
all about price, discounts and “do this to get that” and it takes your focus away from what it is in the bottle – and that’s precisely why we don’t do that here.
If someone comes in and asks “what do I get if I buy six bottles or 12 bottles, do I get a discount?’ I say “No”. Everything in here is priced for one bottle or 100 bottles. I am taking that completely out of the equation – you don’t have to perform tricks to get a discount. Suzy: I was told don’t discount because then you lose control. But we have offers: if we have bought something at a special rate, we can pass that on to our customers.
Have you always got on really well? Suzy: Yes we have. We don’t spend a huge amount of time socially together because we’ve got different interests and hobbies but she lives just up the road. There’s only a year and six weeks between us and I think the reason we don’t argue is that we’re right about different things.
I respect Philippa’s knowledge and experience enormously. I’ve never been involved in this trade before and I trust her completely and implicitly and that’s another thing that makes it work. And we want the same thing.
How do you approach your marketing? Suzy: From the beginning we only had so much money to buy our stock. We worked really hard on customer service. We’ve done some events and got some names and addresses but we’ve done very little with our database as we’re not in a position yet to run a
Continues page 16
How do you look back at your time at Majestic? Philippa: I enjoyed it. I learned so much so quickly which was just incredible.
We always felt we were the cream of the crop because we sold by the case and we were all graduates doing the same thing, all pulling together as a team, but it was great fun. It was physically tough but very rewarding.
I don’t think Majestic is anything like what it was in my day. I think for them it’s
Tables are preferred to shelves and neck collars simply show the price
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