The Wine Merchant issue 61

 

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The Wine Merchant issue 61

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THE WINE MERCHANT. An independent magazine for independent retailers Issue 61, August 2017 We’ve gone to Rhyl again for our summer holidays THIS MONTH 2 BACCHUS You give customers wine. But what about paint? 4 comings & GOINGS New shops in Leicester, Broughty Ferry and Heskin 8 tried & TESTED The wine that’s ready for a tango and a punch-up Aimee Davies of Aimee’s Wine House in Bristol Independents put faith in exclusive drinks lines 16 the wine centre How a trip to New Zealand transformed an Essex wine merchant 22 david williams Are we maybe too fixated on eggs and amphorae? 28 reader trip to abruzzo Where Trebbiano is actually pretty exciting stuff A growing number of independent wine merchants are investing in own-brand products. Retailers are producing their own craft beer, as well as gin and even whisky, in a bid to improve margins and create a genuine point of difference for their stores. Aimee’s Wine House in Bristol is the latest wine merchant to install a microbrewery on the premises – a move that has already been made by The Grape & Grain in Haywards Heath and Mitchell’s in Sheffield. Quaff, which has branches in Brighton and Hove, has launched an exclusive beer range under the name Lost Pier which it believes has the potential to drive wholesale business as well as provide a focal point for its retail trade. Luvians in St Andrews has been celebrating its 21st anniversary with the launch of a Scotch whisky and a gin, both made in collaboration with local distillers. There are plans to introduce new versions, with different recipes, every year and the business is in talks with local brewers about the launch of a Luvians beer. Full story: pages 12 to 15 34 reader trip to tejo Why this corner of Portugal is perfect for independents 40 make a date Looks like you’ll be tasting a lot of wine in September 44 supplier Bulletin Essential updates from agents and suppliers

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BACCHUS b Mixing palates and palettes For many merchants, offering their customers a glass of wine is risky enough, without the additional hazard of pots of paint entering the equation. Pall Mall Fine Wine has a more enlightened attitude, as witnessed by its popular pop-up painting events. Budding artists set up their easels in the iconic Royal Opera Arcade in London to indulge in an evening of gently guided painting accompanied by a glass or two of wine. No absinthe for this lot, please Manager Laurence Baylac says: “It’s really good fun, even if you are terrible at painting. A glass of wine and a cheese and charcuterie platter is included in the price of the ticket.” As well as all the paints and accessories, the two-hour session, priced £49.99, offers a step-by-step guide to creating your own famous work of art. Past themes have included The Kiss, Starry Night Over London and Van Gogh’s Café Terrace. Baylac says although some participants have shown genuine talent and application, there are others who just go their own way. “It was the first one we did – Van Gogh, I think – and at the end when we took a photo of everyone’s creation, there was a girl who had painted a little cat and a house, but nobody minded,” she says. “We have galleries all around us – so wine, art and music … it’s all part of the place where we are,” she adds. “We usually give them a glass of wine when they arrive and then in the break we chat to them about whatever they want. But they usually want to talk about wine.” Hoults takes DIY approach to boxes How do you make a drab cardboard box look as exciting as its contents? Huddersfield wine merchant Hoults has found the solution. The company has invested in custommade ink stamps that personalise its packaging. Owner Rob Hoult says: “We were looking at branded boxes but they are only cost effective if you want 2,500 of them.” Taking into consideration the time it would take to work his way through a large quantity of boxes and the space required to store them, Hoult decided that it was easier to buy 100 plain brown boxes at a time and brand them in-house with bespoke tape The Hoults stamp collection and stamps. “The trick was using a good designer to make the stamps,” he says. “It’s about knowing your skills. I can buy wine, sell wine and talk the hind legs off a donkey, but I’m not a designer. I’d rather spend £500 getting someone to design stamps for me and spend £160 getting them made. “The devil’s in the detail – it’s all right doing homemade and a little bit of arts and craft if it’s done properly.” The designs include versions of the Hoults logo, silhouettes of bottles, grapes and glasses, and a postmark-style roundel which works best with red ink. The largest design is 13cm tall and requires an outsize ink pad. Designer Aidan Nolan has drawn up a fool-proof document explaining how to use hs creations. He counsels against stamps that go across the box lid fold, and suggests a mix of logos with no repeats of the same image. “No overlapping of stamps or too many, as they will become muddled and lose their impact,” he warns. And finally: “Keep things straight, rather than on the piss” – a useful adage for everyday life, it could be argued. THE WINE MERCHANT august 2017 2

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Village Vintners makes a meal of it Food and wine make a winning combination but for many merchants, it’s tricky to go much beyond the familiar cold cuts and cheeses. Village Vintners in Woking has tapped in to the luxury frozen food market by running a Cook concession in store. Cook is a brand of upmarket frozen ready meals that, rumour has it, are occasionally passed off at dinner parties as the host’s own handiwork. Village Vintners, owned and run by father-and-son team Paul and Rob Hill, has had its Cook concession for about two and a half years. “We wanted to do something different,” says Rob, “and we thought Cook was a good thing because customers can get a quality wine from us and a quality meal to go with it. The risk wasn’t high because the meals sell well everywhere.” Cook requires the owners of its concessions to invest in at least one 1.7m chest freezer at a cost of £890 plus VAT. It says its partners should already be running “an established food retail business that already stocks a substantial premium food offering” – meaning some wine merchants could just scrape in. “I don’t know why more [wine merchants] don’t do it – I’d definitely recommend it,” says Rob. “It also brings trade in earlier on in the day, and people tend to buy steadily throughout the week because that’s when they’re working and then they don’t have to cook a meal, taking the stress out of the evening.” Flying Füchs “Our Man with the Facts” • A study published in 2016 in the journal Nature Climate Change reported that grapes across France are now harvested, on average, two weeks earlier than they were 500 years ago. The art of food and wine matching Pairing food with wine is a notoriously imprecise and controversial business, but Worth Brothers has an eye-catching way of dispensing useful advice. The merchant, with branches in Lichfield and Kirk Langley, commissioned artwork that works just as well on its website as it does on the walls of the stores themselves. What about printing small versions as leaflets? “That would totally make sense but I think it’s about number 98 on my list of things to do,” says Tim Worth. “It’s not a failsafe method. I have had a couple of people try to buy sausages off me. You have to explain to them that that’s not really how it works. But who knows, maybe I could consider a bit of butchery on the side.” • Chemical compounds known as alkylmethoxypyrazines can give wine an under-ripe flavour even if the grapes are rich and healthy. The cause is often the presence of harlequin ladybirds, which feed on grapes and hence find themselves part of the winemaking process. • In 1861 the law was changed to allow grocers to sell single bottles of wine. The Gilbey family established a network of 2,000 retailers to sell their “grocer’s claret”, which contributed to a sixfold increase in sales of Bordeaux wines in Britain between 1859 and 1878. “What kinds of sushi have you got?” THE WINE MERCHANT august 2017 3 • Scientists at the University of Washington may have developed a perpetual fermentation device. When they embed yeast in a 1cm cube of hydrogel, fermentation has been observed to continue for four months without the yeast multiplying or dying.

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Simpson calls time on Market Row Dave Simpson’s Market Row Wines store in Brixton Market has closed down after five years of trading. The business – and Simpson himself – has developed something of a cult following since opening with its blend of DIY shopfitting, iconoclastic wine selections and a humorous (some would say almost belligerent) approach to marketing. Simpson has proudly paraded the shop’s “awardless” status and been vocal in his criticism of parts of the wine trade establishment – not least the cheerleading done by wine writers for the multiples. His credo is perhaps best summed up by a tagline on tasting sheets issued to guests at a recent event: “Drinking good, pleasurable wine is actually very easy.” He is philosophical about the closure. “I needed to force some change and couldn’t commit to another autumn and winter,” he tells The Wine Merchant. “I’m hoping to possibly get it up and running in a different location at some point, although nothing is definite at the moment.” Simpson: “Drinking good wine is easy” The shop opened in Brixton Market in 2012 and was fitted out with found objects McNicoll & Cairnie takes Aitken site When Aitken Wines decided to close its Broughty Ferry branch near Dundee, staffer Euan McNicoll had other ideas. “We had a really loyal customer base and it seemed to be turning a good profit, so it just seemed like a good opportunity to do my own thing,” he says. So McNicoll has gone into business with long-term friend and previous customer Alexander (Sandy) Cairnie. “I’m an old guy now, in my early 50s, and I’m quite happy to admit the stuff I’m not good at,” says McNicoll. “I’m not good at back-office, and Sandy’s background is IT and running business projects.” They are currently giving the new McNicoll & Cairnie shop a makeover prior to re-opening. “We want a more contemporary, clean and bright feel than what it was,” says McNicoll. “It was kind of getting tatty around the edges – you could almost smell the sawdust. “We’ve gone for a completely different THE WINE MERCHANT august 2017 4 look. We don’t want to be flashy and put people off and we’ve taken our time to do it, but the local encouragement has been fantastic. We’ve been consulting with customers on an ad-hoc basis so there’s been a lot of customer involvement.” Aitken Wines has retained its original shop just eight miles away, and McNicoll insists they won’t be competing. “They are more of a warehouse and this is definitely a bottle shop,” he says. “I’m intending to stock wines that are completely new to this area, so I’ve gone with suppliers that don’t stock Aitken’s already. “We did a bit of market research; I’d worked for Aitken’s for years so I kind of already knew the local market, but I looked round wine merchants in the east of Scotland. With the exception of Peter Wood [at the St Andrews Wine Company], a lot of wines you see from the big suppliers are ubiquitous, and customers notice that. “I’m dealing with smaller-scale producers and hopefully will do some direct importing. You want it to be fun as well as making a bit of money.”

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Second branch for 45 in Leicester Finding himself in want of a bar to stock his gin in 2015, Phil Burley opened 45 West Bottle Shop & Bar in the heart of Leicester. He is now growing the 45 brand, which also includes the 45 Gin School, with the launch of 45 St Martins – also in Leicester – which will focus on wine and Champagne. The house Champagne is BillecartSalmon, which Burley says is not available elsewhere in the city. “In 45 West we sell predominantly gin, cocktails, bourbons and whiskies,” he adds. “I’ve acknowledged that nobody comes to 45 West and stays the whole night – unfortunately, they like to go to different venues. “I listened to what our clients were asking for and people were crying out for higher-end, less accessible wines and Champagnes. I thought if nobody else was going to provide it then we’d provide it ourselves.” The clientele won’t have far to go as the sites are “literally 50 or 60 metres apart”. Burley has invested in Enomatics and says: “I truly believe that it doesn’t matter what demographic you are in – to spend £500 on a bottle of wine, or even £100, that you can’t taste prior to purchasing is a big faux pas.” Burley is “massively” into training and education and has just enrolled four staff members in WSET programmes. Education is one reason why he is so enthusiastic about using Alliance for the majority of his stock. “They really want to help us and they will be guiding us through with the training,” he says. As Burley continues to grow the 45 brand, he has “handed the reins” of Burleigh’s London Gin to Alex Turner. The original 45 shop is more cocktail-focused than the new branch New Totnes shop picks up award A Totnes wine merchant has picked up an award within months of opening. Ben’s Wine & Tapas is a spin-off from the Ben’s Farm Shop mini chain and was named as Devon’s top wine merchant in this year’s Muddy Stilettos awards. Manager Harry Watson says: “It was a bit of a shock but it’s fantastic.” The business has “always been very keen on the wine side, but being part of a farm shop we’ve never been able to really push it,” Watson says. “So we decided to open up a wine shop in Totnes and do a bit of food as well, and wine by the glass.” The range of 158 wines is sourced from Liberty, Raymond Reynolds, Vintage Roots and local vineyards, or bought ex-cellars. “At the moment we’re a bit more of a bar but we definitely want to push off-sales more,” says Watson. THE WINE MERCHANT august 2017 6 Ben’s Wine & Tapas offers 158 wines

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Adeline Mangevine Farm life is good – until 5pm, anyway Start-up wine merchants are frequently finding locations away from high streets and in farm developments, markets and food halls. The latest to go this route is Jane Dutton, whose new Quaff business is located in a unit in Heskin Farmers’ Market in Lancashire. She has thrown herself into the swing of things, with a gin festival and a charity event already under her belt, and she has taken advantage of the summer weather and made good use of the garden space. The butcher and grocer in the food hall are proving ideal neighbours but Dutton has come up against a problem. “I’m restricted because I cannot stay open for on-trade business after 5pm – which is what the locals want – because there is no access to toilets after 5pm,” she says. Dutton worked for many years in brewing and wholesale with Waverley TBS. “After Waverley’s went, I’ve not been able to stick with anyone, so I thought, ‘right, I’m going to have a go on my own’. I’m enjoying it but it’s the slight lack of money that can be an issue when you’re starting out,” she says. Gin is proving to be popular and she has just listed Cuckoo, distilled locally on a farm in Chorley. Dutton buys from a handful of suppliers including Bancroft and Matthew Clark. The post 5pm access is a continuing worry and Dutton admits that once she’s more established she might well look outside of the market for an alternative location. • Liverpool wine merchant Vinea has closed down. The shop and restaurant in Albert Dock, which was also the meeting place for the Liverpool Wine School, opened in 2007. Hasty despatches from the frontline of wine retailing Meet Eunice and Edmund, who were until recently my most “engaged” customers. (Yes, of course I’ve changed their names. Who in their 30s is lumbered with those monikers?) They started coming to the shop about a year after I opened and we had an instant rapport. I would throw around phrases liked “volcanic soil”, “native yeasts” or “Dirk Niepoort” – and their eyes wouldn’t glaze over. Also, they didn’t baulk at paying over £20 for a white. Result. Soon we were following each other on social media (my business account – I’m not that stupid). I’d like a post or write a comment whenever they tagged the shop in a positive post, which was always. It was quite lovely. And then things changed. Eunice and Edmond started a wine blog. I’d bump into them at trade tastings where they progressed rapidly from being the wide-eyed kids in a sweetshop to making recommendations to me not on what I should taste, but what I should “really think about stocking”. They hadn’t a clue as to minimum orders, margins, cash flow or any of those boring details that prevent you from putting every wine you fancy on the shelves – and still stay in business. Now, when they came into the shop, they’d openly pick holes in my shelf talkers or dismiss some of my best sellers as “too commercial”. If I did ever stock a wine that we’d tasted side-by-side at the same event, one of them would brag on social media about how they’d helped “source wines” for their local indie. I said nothing. Eunice and Edmund spent well. It was only a matter of time before that “sourcing” took the next step. I was presented with a holiday bottle which was “astonishing value” at €4 from “the most amazing organic winery”. They’d blogged about it the winery at length, no concrete egg overlooked. But they hadn’t done the maths and understood how much the wine would cost once it had crossed the Channel. “I’ll put you in touch with Enrique, the owner, “ said Edmund, flourishing a price list. Before I could stop her, Eunice had Instagrammed a picture of Edmund handing me the bottle – and tagging They were the perfect customers – until they started playing silly bloggers Enrique. Expectations were raised. Awkward. Days later, samples of more of Enrique’s wines arrived. I had to put a stop to this. So, I messaged them suggesting we tasted the samples together. I’ll never forget their crushed faces as I explained the harsh realities of the modern wine retail environment and its supply chain. “We’ll import it ourselves,” said Edmund before grabbing Eunice and flouncing out. Judging by their social media posts, they never did. Nor did they come into my shop ever again. A temporary dent in finances was mitigated by a huge sense of relief. Eunice and Edmond have moved to different area now and are harassing another wine merchant. Good luck mate. You’re going to need it. THE WINE MERCHANT august 2017 7

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tried & Tested Eva Fricke Kiedricher Riesling Trocken 2016 The former Leitz winemaker is one of the stars of the Rheingau, making wines with crispness and precision but also a mineral depth that seems to defy description. You feel like you’re getting a good whack of slate and quartzite here, but also a sprinkling of juicy exotic fruit. A lovely wine that twists and turns. RRP: £22.50 ABV: 12% Fields Morris & Verdin (020 7819 0360) fmv.co.uk Juan Benegas Malbec 2015 The label calls it “young, intense and true to its origins”, the origins being vineyards at 1,450m altitude in the Valle de Uco. There are some bland and samey Malbecs around but this one is sticky, spicy and pleasingly feisty, perfect for a sultry summer’s evening. Unpolished, untamed, ready for a night of tango and a punch-up afterwards if need be. RRP: £16 ABV: 14.5% Las Bodegas (01453 874772) lasbodegas.co.uk Kaapzicht Estate Kliprug Bushvine Chenin Blanc 2015 Kaapzicht has impeccable ethical credentials, being home to the famed Pebbles children’s project and adult literacy centre, so it would be awkward if its wines weren’t very good. Luckily that’s not a problem. This is a rich, fleshy and buttery Chenin that makes an ideal accompaniment to that shiny thing in the sky. RRP: £13.90 ABV: 13.5% Seckford Agencies (01206 231188) seckfordagencies.co.uk Fattoria Nicodemi Le Murate Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Colline Terramane 2014 This is a young DOCG with some old vines, in this case of the organic variety and trained on pergolas at an altitude of up to 300m. A plush and deeply fruity wine with a peppery, herbal quality and an authentic earthiness. RRP: £14.50 ABV: 13.5% Winetraders (01993 882440) winetraders.eu Grand Mayne Rosé 2016 Located in the Côtes de Duras, Grand Mayne started as a crowdfunded vineyard set up by Andrew Gordon. A devastating hail storm in 2013 might have spelled disaster but now, under the leadership of Philip Addis (ex Great Western Wine), it’s producing some quality fare including this excellent rosé, with its blend of soft cheese, tart red fruit and salty minerality. RRP: £10 ABV: 13% Grand Mayne (+33 05 53 94 74 17) www.domaine-du-grand-mayne.com Luís Pato Vinhas Velhas Branco 2015 You can never have too many blends of Bical, Cerceal and Sercialinho and this one from Bairrada is a bit of a treat. The alcohol is on the low side, which has been known to send alarm bells ringing in some imbibers, but the wine packs a flavour punch with its lovely almondy acidity and firm structure. RRP: £14.99 ABV: 12.5% Raymond Reynolds (01663 742 230) raymondreynolds.co.uk Tramin Pinot Bianco Moritz 2016 This provided a welcome jolt of electricity after a long day at the office. Tramin was formed in 1898 and has 310 member growers, working at altitudes of up to 850m. There’s a bracing mountain freshness, as you’d hope to find in an Alto Adige wine, and a savoury, stony minerality too, leavened by a warm nuttiness. RRP: £15.99 ABV: 13.5% Hallgarten Druitt & Novum Wines (01582 722 538) hdnwines.co.uk Sentiers de Bagatelle Donnadieu St-Chinian 2013 A simple, unpretentious blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre offering the kind of value we’ve come to associate with this corner of the Languedoc. We tried hard to pin down the flavours: maybe a bit of liquorice, some cherry, some spice. But really it just tastes of the land that it comes from. RRP: £14.32 ABV: 13.5% Boutinot (0161 908 1300) boutinot.com THE WINE MERCHANT august 2017 8

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PMEIDODPALEY'S- 4HPIMST,O2R8YTHMSUESPETUEMM.BMEARN2C0H17E. STER, M3 3ER. Raymond Reynolds New Generation McKinley Clark Foyster Las Bodegas H2Vin Dreyfus Ashby Flint Wines Winetraders Registration: https://onefineday2017registration.eventbrite.co.uk THE WINE MERCHANT august 2017 9

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bits & BOBs FAVOURITE THINGS Maxence Masurier Made in Little France, London Favourite wine on my list At the moment Domaine De la Loyâne Cuvée Marie Lirac 2010. 100% Grenache made from vines aged 100 years-plus. It has a beautiful dark colour, with little hints of menthol and chocolate notes. This special cuvée is a limited release of only 3,000 bottles, made with love by the Dubois family – people I met in a rural market in the Rhône. It’s selling extremely well. Favourite wine and food match Cuvée Marie with a nice T-bone steak, or Galician ribeye from our great friendly butcher next door to us, Turner & George. Favourite wine trip South of France, in the Var, Château Malherbe, which I have known since I did the grape picking for them when I was 14 years old. Now I’m their official importer here in the UK, and it’s always great to visit the Ferrari family in their fantastic organic vineyard by the sea. Favourite wine trade person Without any hesitation, Nicolas Joly, one of the pioneers and leading personalities of the biodynamic wine movement. His wine conferences are incredible and so interesting. I warmly recommend his book Biodynamic Wine, Demystified. Favourite wine shop Berry Bros & Rudd for their incredible and exceptional range of vintage French wines. Niepoort’s ‘new wine category’ Magpie Portuguese producer Dirk van der Niepoort is hoping to create “a new category for wine” called Nat’Cool. To qualify for the Nat’Cool stamp of approval, the wines must be affordable, low-alcohol, terroir-focused and natural or low-intervention. The Nat’Cool selection includes wines made by Niepoort as well as winemaking friends from around the world. Winemakers signed up so far include Vitor Claro in Alentejo, Raúl Pérez in Bierzo, Alain Graillot in Crozes-Hermitage and Côte-Rôtie’s Stéphane Ogier, who will produce his first Nat’Cool wine from the 2017 vintage. Imbibe, July 11 Not exactly hard to counterfeit performance from the group’s retail division. Like-for-like sales at Wine Rack were up 4%, which CEO Diana Hunter said reflected the importance of a specialist high street proposition. The business acquired Matthew Clark in 2015 and Bibendum PLB in 2016. The Drinks Business, July 17 France braced for record low in 2017 This year’s French wine harvest could fall to a historic low because of frost and hail damage, officials have warned. The ministry of agriculture is braced for a 17% fall in production which would take levels even lower than the 1991 harvest. Frost badly damaged parts of Chablis and the Côte de Nuits, and hailstorms devastated parts of Fleurie and other Beaujolais Crus. In Alsace, frost means 30% lower production than in 2016, with Gewurztraminer hit hardest. Decanter, July 24 Wine Rack sees sales rise by 4% Conviviality’s profits have risen 147% to £322.5m, thanks partly to a “pleasing” • The Vatican has issued new guidelines for Holy Communion wine, insisting that it must be “natural”, “pure and incorrupt” and “well conserved”. Decanter, July 10 winemerchantmag.com 01323 871836 winemerchantteam@gmail.com Twitter: @WineMerchantMag The Wine Merchant is mailed freely to the owners of the UK’s 828 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 august 2017 10

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SAVE THE DATE ANNUAL PORTFOLIO TASTING 05/09/17 - 10:30am-5:30pm We are extremely proud to represent many exceptional producers exclusively in the UK, including some of the world’s outstanding performers along with the stars of tomorrow. Join us at our portfolio tasting to take advantage of a unique opportunity to taste over 150 of these wines. VENUE 8 Northumberland Avenue,WC2N 5BY RSVP atilling@armitwines.co.uk or call +44 207 908 0623 for further information. THE WINE MERCHANT august 2017 11

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analysis: exclusive labels We don’t just sell the stuff … we make it, too There’s a small but growing trend among independent merchants to offer exclusive-label drinks – some of them created in partnership with established producers, others actually made on the premises. The Wine Merchant spoke to three retailers about their respective projects Aimee’s Wine House, Bristol Brewing and bottling oin the store room It’s a brilliant air freshener for the shop,” jokes Aimee Davies. “We do most of our brews on a Friday and our customers come in and say, ‘oh, you’re brewing – it smells fantastic’.” The aroma generated by the microbrewery at Aimee’s Wine House in Stoke Hill, Bristol – one of two stores that the company operates – is a welcome by-product. But the real benefit of Davies’s investment is being felt in the till. Although she has a degree in food All the Aimee’s Brew beers retail at £2.50 science, Davies and her husband Gavin were complete newcomers to brewing when they installed the kit in a store room a little under a year ago. “We’ve had to learn from scratch,” she says. “We did a few days in other breweries first to get the gist of it. You’ve got to really research and make sure you know what you’re doing first. But even our first brew was really nice – perfectly drinkable. There seems to be a whole thing that it’s really difficult, but it’s actually really easy to do.” The Aimee’s Brew beers are bottled by hand, on site, in 50cl packs that retail for a flat rate of £2.50. “We label them all by hand – it’s very satisfying,” says Davies. “My husband did all the labels. We get requests all the time to do the same ones again because each one we do sells out.” The couple now have two fermenters, which were the most expensive items. “We started off with one and we get anything from 115 bottles to 125 bottles out of it. The second fermenter came about four months afterwards, just because the bottles were selling out and we had to increase straight away. It’s twice the size of the small one and we get about 280 bottles THE WINE MERCHANT august 2017 12 from that one. “The fermenters are the most important because as soon as you’ve got that beer sat in containers you’ve got to make sure there’s no air and no light getting to it. We’ve got a cooling system so it’s maintained at a temperature while it’s fermenting. We’ve got big pans for the actual making of it – we had to source those from a metal works in north Wales. “We brew once a week. We could brew every day if we wanted to.” The couple have experimented with a surprisingly broad range of styles. “It keeps my husband happy – his brain is more focused,” says Davies. “He creates the recipes. “We look at trends, at what is coming through the shop from other breweries. My favourite is the blood orange beer; it’s really smooth and rounded. Fruit in beer has been a popular trend. “The whole session drinking, IPA craft beer movement has been really big, and making beers that aren’t too strong so people can have a couple of them and still be OK is important. “There was one brew we did just before Christmas where we used quite a lot of the Sorachi Ace hop and we thought it might

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be a bit OTT. We called it The Snowman Bites because it was quite a pale beer and it was buttery and citrusy. It sold out and people are asking for it so we’re going to do it as a Christmas beer again, as well as a more stouty-style one. Maybe put some whisky in it. “I really wanted to do a plum porter – or a blueberry bitter. You do have to just do it and if at the end of the day it’s a bit horrible you just pour it away. We’ve not had to do that yet.” Interestingly the arrival of the microbrewery has not resulted in Davies buying less beer from other brewers. “I wouldn’t say that it has affected us at all like that – I mean this year for us has been the busiest year. The business just seems to be getting better and better over the eight years we’ve been going. Other breweries – Bath Ales, St Austell – that we use say that we’ve been selling more beer for them than ever, so they’ve come to us and have given us a better price.” Davies is now exploring the possibility of selling her beers beyond the confines of her own shops. “We’ve had a couple of our suppliers say they would wholesale our beers, so we might move to that,” she says. “But we want to make sure our customers get our beers first – we have made it quite exclusive. People like that – they like to support their local wine shop.” More retailer stories on pages 14 and 15 Aimee Davies says sales of other beers continue to thrive despite the success of her own ales ‘We’ve had to learn from scratch. We did a few days in other breweries to get the gist of it. But even our first brew was really nice’ THE WINE MERCHANT august 2017 13

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analysis: exclusive labels Quaff, Brighton Brewing venture sets merchant apart from its peers Draught beer has been a feature in the Quaff wine shops in Brighton and Hove for two or three years. Now owner Toby Peirce has gone into the brewing business himself, creating an exclusive label called Lost Pier. It’s a name that will resonate with Brightonians whose seaward view takes in the skeletal remains of the West Pier, a structure that’s arguably become more iconic in its state of decay than it was in its fully-formed heyday. For the project, Quaff has teamed up with Dan Gale, a Plumpton-trained winemaker making beer on equipment rented by Jordan Mower, who has created a brewery called Missing Link. “We wanted to do our own beer, not because that we’d had enough of selling everybody else’s beer but frankly Dan Gale is a bloody good brewer,” says Peirce. “Jordan Mower operates out of a very high-tech brewery and they’ve got some really rock and roll kit that allows you to be really fancy in your processes and techniques, and Dan, being a winemaker with a very technical background, is very turned on by that. “This particular brewery has been set up with the likes of us in mind. So we go in and rent space there and it gives us flexibility to make beer that we couldn’t otherwise have done at this stage because we couldn’t afford the kit.” Peirce adds: “We’re doing three brews initially in can: Beach Session IPA, and then we are releasing APA Actually as a nod to Hove, and Miami Weiss, an American hopped beer. “The can designer is a really cool guy called Mister Phil and he’s a local hero. There’s a Mister Phil street in Kemptown [a district of Brighton] with his artwork all over the walls.” The initial run is 1,500 cans but Peirce says “we have lots of flexibility to scale it up if we want to” and eventually Quaff will explore the possibility of investing in its own equipment. Quaff is a member of The Vindependents and Peirce may discuss the option of selling the beers within that group. A more immediate priority is to focus on the local wholesale market. “If we do ramp up the volume, we’ll knock on doors and go, well, here’s our beer, we’re the only people who sell it … and by the way why does your wine list look so shocking?” If Quaff’s venture into exclusive labels is a success, there’s an even more ambitious idea floating around. “Dan’s dream is to have an urban winery with a brewery,” says Peirce. “The market [for wine shops] is getting saturated now. Increasingly you have to come up with a point of difference in order to stand out. Well, you do an urban winery and you’re back out in front of the game. But it’s a six-figure sum to do that properly – we won’t run until we can walk.” Dan Gale is a winemaker who has turned his hand to craft brewing THE WINE MERCHANT august 2017 14

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Luvians, St Andrews Celebrating its 21st with exclusive whisky, gin and beer launches Luvians has teamed up with a few local drinks producers to create a range of products under the label The Graduate, which celebrates the 21st anniversary of the St Andrews shop. A whisky has already proved successful, a gin has since followed and a beer is now in the planning stage. Manager Archie McDiarmid says: “A couple of months ago we released The Graduate Dram, which we came up with Edradour who are basically the most local distillery that we have producing something you can actually call whisky. “We are really happy with it, it has been phenomenally well received. It tastes great, it looks great and we managed to hunt down through payroll records and an extensive Facebook search the names of as many former Luvians employees we could find, so we’ve got 100 names on the back of the bottle.” The Luvians team has recently been working with Eden Mill, a more local distillery, on a gin launch. The object was to create something genuinely collaborative and bespoke, rather than to simply recreate something from a recipe book and apply Luvians branding. “It’s something that we’ve been talking about doing with them for a while,” McDiarmid says. “They’ve got a new distilling team and they were very receptive to the idea of doing something. “Originally the idea was just to do a Luvians gin, something that we’d do on a repeat basis, but instead we thought The gin has an Asian profile – this year, at least about what could we do as a one-off, just a small batch. I think we tried four different recipes initially on the little one-litre test kit that they’ve got. “One of them didn’t work at all so we binned that straight away. We had three recipes that we quite liked and thought could work. We let them settle for a week, which is what the guys from the distillery always say – let the flavours interact for a while. “We actually tested them in-store with customers, just clear bottles with text written on in Sharpie. Based on that we made some tweaks to the recipes and got more feedback from staff and customers. Ultimately, we went with pretty much the first recipe that Christina, my wife, suggested which is quite an Asian style with kaffir lime, lemongrass, fresh lime peel and coriander. “It’s not a gin that’s designed to appeal to everyone. There was one that we called in the shop ‘super citrus’ – we’d gone very heavy on the citrus fruit, and although some people said they could drink it all day, nobody was wild about it. With the kaffir lime and lemongrass one, quite a few people said ‘I’m not into that’ but for every person who said that, you would have two or three who said ‘that’s absolutely amazing’. So we decided to do something that was quite esoteric. “We were also trying to play with the idea of what St Andrews is, which is this incredibly cosmopolitan small town. We liked the idea of all this local know-how and knowledge going into making the gin, but going for some quite exciting international ingredients. A very outwardlooking gin made very locally, which for us really captures our experience of St Andrews.” Luvians is now talking to a couple of breweries about producing Graduate beer, with an initial run of around 200 bottles. The recipe may well be one that the store sticks with indefinitely, though with whisky and gin “the idea will be that this kicks off an annual thing where we can change our recipe every year”, McDiarmid says. “The whisky we will do again – it’s not quite sold out but it’s getting close. That was an entire cask and it’s three months since launch, so we’re very pleased. If gin goes the same way we’d love to do something with Eden Mill again and play around with the recipe.” The business is delighted with its exclusive- label project. McDiarmid says: “What’s been fantastic is all these local companies are very keen to work with us and do something a bit different, and for us it’s a natural next step.” THE WINE MERCHANT august 2017 15

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