The Wine Merchant issue 62

 

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The Wine Merchant issue 62

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THE WINE MERCHANT. An independent magazine for independent retailers Issue 62, September 2017 The awards continue to roll in THIS MONTH 2 BACCHUS Who’s behind a proposed super group of independents? 4 comings & GOINGS New wine shops in Hertford, Banbridge and Cardiff 10 tried & TESTED The wine that sent us into a zombie-like reverie There’s a different sort of prize on offer for independents who get behind Ribera del Duero wines this autumn: a meal at a top Spanish restaurant, for the entire store team. For details of how to get involved, see pages 26 and 27. Late payments causing headaches for suppliers 20 R&H FINE WINES The quiet expansion of a Liverpool merchant 28 david williams The industry needs to tell the truth about alcohol 44 book review Should we be expecting more from Champagne? Suppliers have expressed concern about late payments and bad debts among their independent customers. The Wine Merchant spoke to a number of suppliers about the issue, one of whom believes the problem has grown worse in the past quarter as retailers cope with a “tough” economic climate. The supplier – who asked not to be named – says: “Agents act as a bank for a lot of independents. The banks won’t lend them the money and the only other way they can continue to trade is to have the stock lent to them – which in essence is money – and when they can’t pay you start to get the excuses.” Other suppliers say the problem of late payment has not worsened significantly, though one suggests that the trend towards buying direct from wine producers is tying up more cash for independents and reducing their ability to pay their UK-based suppliers on time. Suppliers say they have tried to alleviate pressure on independents by reducing minimum orders and encouraging an honest dialogue with their retail partners. Full story: pages 14 to 18. 46 focus on chile Points of difference from a familiar land 51 make a date It’s another hectic October on the tasting circuit 55 supplier Bulletin Essential updates from agents and suppliers

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BACCHUS b Investors plan indie super group Independent wine merchants spend too much time on admin and only 35% of their time doing the things they enjoy – principally selling wine. They also struggle to make a financial return on their years of hard work and investment. Those are the claims of a new business that believes it can solve both problems by creating a super group of independents, which would maintain their respective identities but share back-end functions. The Great Wine Group is aiming to take a majority stake in a number of larger independents to create a network with a turnover of up to £100m within five years. It aims to have up to seven merchants signed up within the next nine months. The company is led by John Philips (ex Diageo), Ewen Cameron (ex Waverley Vintners), Graham Sumeray (ex Fine & Rare Wines) and Penny Heyes (ex Laithwaites). Already 20 independents have been sounded out. “Our premise is to bring a number of fine wine merchants together and run a consolidated back-office system, but retain the individual branding so the customer doesn’t know anything has changed,” says Heyes. “But behind the scenes we are consolidating everything from some purchasing – certainly the buying of boxes and the inbound/outbound logistics and digital marketing; and bringing them digital marketing expertise, e-commerce, website management and customer relationship management.” She adds: “We will be buying into these businesses. The existing principals will retain a shareholding. The incentive for them is that over a four to six-year period, we will possibly, if they want it, buy them out but on a ratcheted basis so the valuation will increase by the growth in the individual business and in the group.” Merchants will receive a share of profits Graham Sumeray: one of four directors from their own branch, and from the group itself. UK-based buying would be centralised but individual merchants could be allowed to continue to import from some wineries they already deal with. “The plan is to help them to make a bigger living,” says Heyes. “There will be a charge back for services from the central company, but what we are promising them in the first year is that the cost will be no greater than their current costs will be. We envisage there will be cost savings over the following two to five years as we are able to pass down the economies of scale.” To begin with the group is likely to focus on merchants in the south east though it is in talks with businesses in other parts of the UK, including Scotland. It is also prioritising merchants with large turnovers. “We look at everybody, but I suppose if they are turning over under £2.5m it is more difficult for us to take them on board at the moment, as we have to do the same due diligence for everyone,” says Heyes. “We’re probably happier if they’re turning over above £3m. Most of the people we are talking to are turning over somewhere between £3m and £6m. Most of them have got two or three shops and a private client business too.” Why does Heyes think that a new chain of wine shops will succeed where others have so spectacularly failed? “We’re not creating a chain, which is why we want to retain the individual branding and shops will continue to be run in the same way – just more efficiently,” she says. “We will take away the finance side and the HR and we’ll give them the ability to call on centralised services. This will still be the independent market with all its quirks and personality – we feel very strongly about this. “There’s nothing been done like this in the wine industry before but there are other models in other sectors: bizarrely, the optician and dentistry sectors, and the garden centre industry.” Who exactly is financing The Great Wine Group? Heyes says the business “is in discussions with a number of private individuals” and also receiving investment from its partners. And the exit strategy? “Well, nobody knows [what will happen] in five years’ time – our plan is possibly either floating the group or selling to a bigger trade buyer,” says Heyes. THE WINE MERCHANT september 2017 2

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Flying Füchs Derek Morrison, retail manager at The Good Wine Shop in south west London (pictured third from left), has launched a podcast and YouTube video called Bring Your Own, in association with production company Bottled Films. The first episode features a conversation about the merits of grower Champagnes and a second instalment is planned for the autumn. Riedel about it: glasses drive sales Naturally, the people who turn out for Vino’s winter wine fair in Edinburgh each November do so because of the quality of the wine. But one of the big draws is also the promise of a free Riedel glass, worth £20, as part of the ticket price: £10 for the early session and £15 for the late session. “The free glass is the biggest thing we have on the poster and it’s something that people recognise us for,” says Vino boss Andrew Lundy. “We’ve done it every year. It works fantastically well. We know that people collect the glasses and it’s great for them to add to their collection.” Vino uses the Vinum Extreme Riesling/ Sauvignon Blanc glass, which Lundy says also works well with reds. “It’s not massively dissimilar to the shape of the ISOs – it’s slightly bigger,” he says. “It’s the same stock we use for weddings.” Vino typically orders 450 glasses for the tasting and any spares are drafted into service at the company’s bar. Lundy says it is more cost-efficient to buy the glasses than it would be to hire them for the night. “Making them part of the offer makes a lot of sense,” he says. “It’s something that people know us for. Ticket sales have been quite strong.” Article of faith for BinTwo’s Boyne When Mike Boyne of BinTwo in Padstow received a message from a friend in the media world asking him to write an article for GQ magazine about how to choose wine in a restaurant, he believed that “opportunity had well and truly knocked”. He dashed out “a witty little piece against the absurdly short deadline”. But all was not what it seemed. “How we all laughed when it turned out that the blog was for our mutual friends from Gents Quarter Barbershop rather than the world-renowned magazine for gentlemen,” Boyne says. The culprits mocked up a front page of GQ magazine with Boyne as the cover star “after literally moments of feeling guilty”. THE WINE MERCHANT september 2017 3 “Our Man with the Facts” • The most widely produced white spirit in the world is soju, the Korean rice liquor, followed by vodka and cachaça – which originates from Brazil and is made from distilled cane juice. • The word “smaragd”, which denotes the highest of the three quality categories in the Wachau region of Austria, translates as “emerald” and is a reference to the distinctive green lizards that live in the vineyards. • The Beaujolais Cru of Brouilly contains the Pisse Vielle vineyard. According to legend, an old couple confused a priest’s instruction to sin no more (“ne péchez plus”) with piss no more “ne pissez plus”) • Peru was once a thriving wineproducing country. In 1525 the Conquistadors ordered all landowners to plant vines, but when Peruvian wine production got into full swing it became a threat to Spain’s own wine producers and production was restricted. • Most Sekt contains cheap base wine sourced from outside Germany.

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French buying power in Hertford A new wine merchant in Hertford has become only the second retailer in the UK with links to Cavavin, a major French buying group. Although the shop is trading under the Cavavin name, manager Ritchie Tough says the new venture is “not quite a franchise”, even though in France the majority of Cavavin-supplied shops – of which there are around 150 nationwide – do operate on such terms. “We use Cavavin for their buying power in France and therefore they help us logistically to get the vineyards on one pallet, and we take it from there,” says Tough. He says it’s a similar arrangement to the one already in place at Le Bon Vin in Sheffield: an independent merchant opened by Patrick Jouan in 2006, a year after the Cavavin group was established. The new business, occupying a former clothes store in the centre of the town, is owned by Chris Stokes, who has worked in wine retailing in France. Former sommelier Tough – whose CV includes spells at other Hertfordshire independents – will be the face of the business. Stokes says: “I’ve been working with Cavavin for a couple of years and during that time there was someone in London who was thinking of doing something similar, and someone in Bournemouth … as A franchised Cavavin shop in France The store, which was once a clothes shop, is also strong on Italy, Spain and South America far as I know there’s no one else in the UK apart from Patrick and me. “Patrick and I have met up and talked a lot, and he has been involved in this project [in an advisory capacity] but we are completely separate.” How would Tough describe the Cavavin range? “Of course there are products that we all recognise in the UK – Dom Pérignon, Veuve Clicquot and so on in their portfolio – but we’re not about that,” he says. “We want to choose the smaller family estates, so their portfolio for us is very attractive and of course it makes it possible to compete with other wine merchants, supermarkets and bigger chains. “It’s essentially like going direct but without having to buy a whole pallet from a vineyard – it’s a very attractive proposition. “It’s not something we did overnight – it took us about two years to get it all together.” France is expected to be the company’s trump card but Tough adds: “Italy is fairly strong, along with Spain and South America, and our sparkling wines from around the world are quite attractive.” THE WINE MERCHANT september 2017 4 Farewell to The Sommelier Wine Co The Sommelier Wine Company in St Peter Port, Guernsey, has closed its shop, which had been trading for 27 years. The company has been taken over by VWT, a wholesaler of confectionery, snacks and soft drinks established on Guernsey in 1978. Peter Allisette, the former owner of Sommelier, is assisting with the integration of the business. “Our shop lease had come to an end and both of us turned 65 this year so it was a natural closure,” he says. “However VWT have taken our stock and part of my new job is to set up a website for retail customers.” • Barrels & Bottles, the Chesterfield wine merchant, has relocated to Darley Dale near Matlock and is now focusing on its catering operations and cookery school. The company’s trading name is Derbyshire Wine Company Ltd.

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Appellation prefers the single life Appellation Wines in Edinburgh is closing its original shop in Dalry Road near Haymarket Station to focus its efforts on its branch in Comely Bank Road in the villagey Stockbridge area of the city. Owner Ashton McCobb says: “With two shops you start to lose control a bit and need more staff members. It’s harder to ensure the level of service that you want to provide. Ultimately it costs more and you don’t make any more money.” He says the larger Comely Bank Road branch attracts a healthy amount of casual trade while Dalry Road is more of a destination store. No redundancies have been necessary as staff have already moved on, and McCobb is now planning to run the Comely Bank shop – which opened in January 2013, just over three years after Dalry Road – by himself. “We’ll try to figure out what people want,” he says. “We’ll look at things like soft drinks and maybe even ham and cheese if we can jump through the red tape.” Goodbye McSherry’s, hello McGarry’s Glenn and Michelle McGarry are opening a new specialist wine shop in Banbridge in County Down, a town 25 miles south west of Belfast with a population of around 17,000. The new McGarry’s Fine Wines store will occupy the refurbished premises that has been occupied since 1989 by an off-licence called McSherry’s. Glenn McGarry will continue to work full time at Robb Brothers Wine Merchants, a wholesaler in County Armagh which also Janine Pert opened Discover Wine four years ago has a business in the Republic of Ireland. The company has been “hugely helpful” in helping the couple set up the new shop, which will be managed by Darren Ellis, formerly manager of The Light House Wine Store in Whiteabbey, County Antrim. The shop is scheduled to open in late September or early October and will have “something for everybody”, according to McGarry. “It will start at £5.99 but Darren’s very good and we intend to put a fantastic range in there,” he adds. “He’s the right man for the job and the shop has got huge potential.” Hampshire store ‘ready for next level’ Janine Pert’s Discover Wine shop in Denmead, near Waterlooville in Hampshire, is on the market. “I think it needs a couple who want to take it to the next level because there is so much opportunity here,” says the Australian-born Pert, who opened the store four years ago as an extension of her wine events business, which she will continue to run. “It could be a little wine bar two nights a week. There’s online sales and I’ve got a little bit of corporate and I’m totally geared up to send across the UK, even the world – that could be grown, so there’s so much opportunity still.” Pert’s husband has retired and the couple are keen to spend more time together. “Last year I broke even and this year I’m making some money so it’s disappointing now to put it up for sale,” she says. “But I’ve had a couple more grandchildren since I took it on so it’s a good time to test the water.” There is 18 months left on the shop’s lease and the landlord is keen to have a decision from Pert before February about whether or not she wants to stay. There is still a possibility that she may renew if the right offer does not materialise, but she is hopeful that a prospective new owner will see the potential of the store. “I’ve got a big catchment area – it’s only finances for me that prevents me from growing it; it’s cash flow,” she says. “People come in to the shop and are wowed by it because it’s quite quirky. And within walking distance of the village they are building a 100 new houses.” THE WINE MERCHANT september 2017 6

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Adeline Mangevine Shop sales growing for Oxford Wine Co Retail sales are playing an increasingly important role for The Oxford Wine Company, owner Ted Sandbach has said. The company has recently sold its Summertown Wine Café in Oxford and opened a new shop in the city centre. Although the café had been profitable for the past three years, a rent hike and an 87% leap in rates meant that Sandbach was happy to accept an offer for the business that is linked to a supply deal. “So I got cash in the bank and I’ll make more money supplying five restaurants, even on a percentage mark-up, than I would otherwise,” he says. “We’re moving very much into the centre of town now – the new shop is open, which is going really well, and we’re converting the downstairs cellar into a function and tasting room. “Before I did all this, as far as the wine company goes, we were always 70% wholesale and 30% retail. With the new shop that will probably change to 60-40.” A separate business, run by Sandbach’s son George, has opened a piano bar in Oxford called Sandy’s. “He’s done all the work, with a little bit of advice from us – some taken, some ignored,” says Sandbach. “We’re supplying the wine so it’s got a decent wine list; we’ve got a decent sommelier. The top bit is a bar-style place and downstairs is more clubby and there’ll be a guy playing the piano from 6pm until midnight. I think it’s going to go pretty well and if so then George will definitely look for more.” • Shepherd’s Bush gastropub The Princess Victoria, which also boasted its own wine shop, has closed. Its parent company, Affinity, abruptly shut all of its bars and restaurants, leaving some 80 staff redundant. Hasty despatches from the frontline of wine retailing Ilike to think of my shop as a purveyor of fabulous wine, with a bespoke service to make sure that every bottle sold is matched perfectly to the tastes of the buyer. In reality, I seem to be turning into a temple of gin. On the one hand, this is a good thing – there’s more spend per head, and it draws in a lot of new people to the shop. On the other hand, the margins are worse than wine, and customers rarely return for another bottle within the month. “Do you realise, we now carry more gins than Sauvignon Blancs?” says Alex (yes, he’s still here – he has his WSET Diploma to finish). Yet, despite having a current collection of 20 gins, we are told every day by an excited customer of a new one they’ve just discovered (“from Neasden, distilled with lichen from cracked pavements!”) and no collection could possibly be complete without it. Now, keen-eyed readers of this column may remember that I do have a fondness for gin. Especially in troubled times. But there is a limit to how many I want to try on a weekly basis, or how much intricate detail I can give about the specific tastes of each of my 20 different gins. And boy, do people want detail. How floral is this one compared to those four? Do you get more roses, irises or violets? Does the thyme or the rosemary stand out the most? Will my mother like it? What garnish is best? What tonic is best? Do you sell Fever Tree? Poor old Sauvignon Blanc never gets this attention, despite gin having the same limitations. With Sauvignons, some are more mineral, some are more tropical, some are more herbal, but there is no mistaking it when it’s poured into a glass. With gin, you can dress it up all you like with fancy botanicals. Ultimately, it still smells of juniper. A few gins stand out, of course, like the one distilled with seaweed and marine Gins may all taste more or less the same, but they do make the shop look prettier shells. It’s like sipping kelp. Perfect for an oyster martini. Not so perfect for a customer base that would never make this at home. I’ve yet to sell one. Ditto damson gin. No one buys this because everyone makes their own version – and then gifts their creations to me as they think I’ll be interested. Kill me now. I know what you are thinking. If gins are all a bit samey, and my customers are only buying them for G&Ts, why do I have so many? Simple. The packaging. In a world of boring white labels on dark Burgundy-shaped bottles, the diversity in gin packaging design is a wonderful thing to gaze upon. Customers may interrogate Alex and me on what a particular gin tastes like, but ultimately they’ll always go for the one they think looks the best. PS: I’ve just looked up that Neasden gin. The label is made from lichen. Welcome to gin number 21. THE WINE MERCHANT september 2017 7

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Wine Pantry bids farewell to retail English wine specialist The Wine Pantry has moved back to Borough Market, but is no longer trading as an out-and-out retailer. Julia Stafford’s business has taken on a 1,400 square foot unit that she describes as an “events and wholesale space” showcasing “the very best British produce”. It will be a base for the company’s corporate business and also used for education. “Every Friday we’re going to be open to the public, and they can come in and taste the wine, taste the gin, and they can also bring in their own street food from the market,” says Stafford. “But the real thing we want to do is more of the events side, so in the same way that you have producers doing cocktail masterclasses, those are the sorts of events that we’re going to be throwing, but more to do with English wine.” Wine will only be available to drink by the glass rather than to take home. “Retail is just too difficult,” says Stafford. “Waitrose now has 100 different English wines that people can buy online. “The problem with the retail side is that we just can’t compete with other retailers. And it’s almost like we’re being pitted against other independents or Waitrose. When somebody comes to you and sees a bottle of Chapel Down for £24, which is what Chapel Down sells for in their shops, and they tell you that Waitrose is doing an offer for £16.99, it just makes it impossible. “And sometimes our competition is the vineyards themselves. If somebody comes and tastes a wine that they really like, then they can go direct to someone like Camel Valley who’s got 4% agricultural VAT, rather than the 20% retail VAT. “There are just a lot of things that we learnt. Yes, I will miss it and I’d like us to go back to it, but we need to have more of a business back-end in order to do it properly. “We’re going to see if Borough Market can allow us to have a little stall or something further down the line, but for the time being we need to wait it out a little bit.” The business is planning to bring in quantities of lesser-known and rarer English wines rather than the best-known cuvées in wider distribution. “If we showcase those wines until we run out, then we can focus on the next producer and we can give each grouping of producers better marketing, better communication and more variety,” says Stafford. “A lot of people stick with the one wine that they really like. Nyetimber has been great for so long, but it’s just so widely available so there’s no real point in us just being sat there talking about Nyetimber for an hour to a customer, when there are so many other people coming on board.” Third store on way for The Bottle Shop The Bottle Shop is about to open its third branch. The business already has shops in Roath and Penarth and is now expanding to Cathedral Road in Pontcanna, a district of Cardiff, where it is converting a former estate agency. Owner Daniel Williams has applied for a licence to sell alcohol on and off the premises until 11pm seven days a week. Cambridge indie “is not closed” Cambridge Vinopolis is “still open”, according to owner Nicolas Hall, despite Google’s description of the shop as “permanently closed” and Twitter activity mourning its demise. Hall has also been named online by the Cambridge Blue pub as its new chef. Speaking to The Wine Merchant, Hall said the shop “may close in the near future” but added the business is “still here and also going into a different avenue” . Hall, previously an investment broker for two Bordeaux wine houses, opened the shop in 2013. Stafford pictured at The Wine Pantry’s original store in Borough Market THE WINE MERCHANT september 2017 8 • The Sanctuary, the Truro wine bar and merchant which opened in November, has closed. Owner David McWilliam is currently working with BinTwo in Padstow, a business that he originally set up.

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'NEW horizoNS' TRADE TASTINGS 2017 London Tuesday 3rd October 10.30am – 5.30pm Chandos House Robert Adam Room 2 Queen Anne Street london W1G 9LQ www.chandoshouse.co.uk Oxford Circus and Bond Street are nearest tube stations Edinburgh Monday 30th October 10.30am – 5.30pm The Glasshouse Hotel 2 Greenside Place edinburgh EH1 3AA www.theglasshousehotel.co.uk • Over 60 new and trade exclusive wines added this year. Selection on taste • Award-winning line-up from Terrace Edge, Waipara, New Zealand; Proemio, Mendoza, Argentina; and Stefano Lubiana’s stunning biodynamic Tasmanian wines – new to the UK • Focus on no sulphur added wines • Range of our winter and festive offers to taste • An ever-expanding range of organic fizz … and some surprises! Please let us know you are wanting to attend: email trade@vintageroots.co.uk or call us on 0118 932 6566. 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 september 2017 9

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tried & Tested Clos Clare Cemetery Block Shiraz 2014 The two-hectare vineyard is run by Tom and Sam Barry, grandsons of Clare Valley pioneer Jim Barry. It’s an inky but perfumed wine, demonstrating what you can do with love in a cool climate. It’s no lightweight: our tasting notes contain (favourable) words like chocolate, blueberries, coal tar soap and bacon crisps. RRP: £19.99-£22.44 ABV: 14% Hallgarten Druitt & Novum Wines (01582 722 538) hdnwines.co.uk Uggiano Chianti Riserva Fagiano 2012 The flagship barrique-aged riserva from Uggiano’s estate, now spread across 100 hectares in the Tuscan hills, is an authentic and affordable treat. Tight and fresh, combining elements of not-quite-ripe cherries and undergrowth with maybe a hint of coffee, it’s crying out for meaty, mushroomy pasta. RRP: £12.99 ABV: 13.5% Boutinot (0161 908 1300) boutinot.com La Crema Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2013 From the Jackson Family Wines stable, here’s a Pinot with definite California character but none of the jammy negatives that phrase might conjure up. The fruit is bold and polished but never allows the needle on the sweetometer to move into the red. Lovely depth and spice and a gorgeous lingering finish. RRP: £22 ABV: 13.5% Fells (01442 870900) fells.co.uk Oveja Negra Winemakers Selection Malbec Petit Verdot 2015 Apparently a cold night wind moderates the heat in this Maule vineyard, and it helps create a wine that is pretty light on its feet for a big fella. Violets, dense black fruit and a savoury, meaty finish make this a superb choice for autumn. RRP: £9.99 ABV: 13% Hallgarten Druitt & Novum Wines (01582 722 538) hdnwines.co.uk Quinta dos Carvalhais Branco Reserva 2011 A rich and luscious blend of Encruzado and Verdelho from the Dão, from fruit grown at up to 500 metres above sea level. It’s a joyous and intricate affair, with honeysuckle and nut flavours, and a gentle coconut note on the finish as the oak pops up to say a brief hello. RRP: £24.99 ABV: 13.5% Liberty Wines (020 7720 5350) libertywines.co.uk Viu Manent San Carlos Estate Single Vineyard Malbec 2014 The single vineyard in question features blocks of 100-year-old vines and they have yielded a firm, fruity Malbec that’s still on a journey to the peak of its development but is friendly and approachable at this point in its journey. Loads of dark, brooding flavours, a gentle whiff of smoke and a fresh, mineral edge. RRP: £20-£21 ABV: 13.5% Louis Latour Agencies (020 7409 7276) louislatour.co.uk Castel del Lupo Pinot Nero 2016 When you plant Pinot Noir for sparkling wine the temptation to vinify some of it as a still wine must be overwhelming. That’s what seems to be the case at this organic Lombardy estate, best known for its bottlefermented fizz. The red is fairly dry, and the acidity isn’t exactly shy, but the cherry fruit is concentrated and nicely rounded. RRP: £10.99 ABV: 12% Boutinot (0161 908 1300) boutinot.com Domaine de Cabarrouy Ambre de Samonios 2012 Jurancon has a cult following but wines like this deserve a wider fan base. Lovely grapefruit marmalade notes, a soft, rounded sweetness and a spicy finish make this a wine that demands quiet contemplation. One sip and we were stampeding for the gorgonzola and entering a zombie-like reverie. RRP: £18.99 ABV: 13.5% Vindependents (+33 7 85 03 81 06) tamarselections.com THE WINE MERCHANT september 2017 10

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Enjoy your English summer with a A herbaceous, savoury and premium London Dry Gin, that is foraged, distilled and crafted on the Suffolk Coast, but enjoyed everywhere. AVA I L A B L E F R O M Enotria & Coe | Bibendum | Amathus | Matthew Clark | LWC W W W. F I S H E R S G I N. C O M THE WINE MERCHANT september 2017 11

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bits & BOBs FAVOURITE THINGS Rachel Gibson Wine Utopia Winchester Favourite wine on my list As a lover of all things Kiwi, it would have to be one of our many amazing New Zealand wines. Seresin Reserve Chardonnay from Marlborough is my current choice – the rich, toasty oak is perfectly balanced with a streak of minerality and fine acidity. Fully biodynamic too and better than many a white Burgundy under £30. Favourite wine and food match Fish and chips with Amisfield Sauvignon Blanc from Central Otago. Such a clichéd pairing but I can’t resist! Favourite wine trip I won a trip to Tokaj when I first worked for Majestic – this opened my eyes to what our industry is all about! The people, wines and cellars are all truly awe-inspiring, and to this day it is my favourite dessert wine. Favourite wine trade person I feel lucky to work in an industry where we can build genuine relationships with so many wonderful people. Over the years I have been supported so much by Francis Murray (OW Loeb), Andrew Higgs (FMV), Nigel Gilling (Liberty) and Adam Baggott (MMD) to name just a few. Favourite wine shop Taurus Wines near Guildford – Rupert and Fliss do an amazing job over there and they always have enticing new wines right by their front door to tempt people in. Average wine price increases by 17p Magpie The average price of a bottle of wine in the UK off-trade has jumped from £5.28 to £5.45 over a 24-week period. The data from retail analyst IRI, which covers the period from early December to mid May, has been attributed to supermarkets investing in more upmarket wine ranges and the change in exchange rates since the Brexit vote. Simon Doyle, general manager of Concha y Toro UK, says: “We are seeing value growth across all channels in the medium term … and while there has been a lot of rationalisation in the supermarkets, the range architecture is now probably better than it has ever been – less is more.” The Drinks Business, August 22 Hot property in the multiple sector Extra rewards for Majestic managers Majestic is rolling out a “franchise-lite” model to give its staff more control over the day-to-day running of their stores. Following a successful trial run with 21 test subjects, Majestic expects the programme to reach 50% to 60% of its 210 branches over the next year. Partners will be given a bigger proportion of their store’s total contribution, rather than earning a bonus from a percentage of sales. Majestic says this means their salaries could go from £30,000 to £50,000 a year. City AM, August 29 Worcestershire wine legend dies Don Everton, who turned a family grocer’s into a fine wine and deli business with 12 branches across Worcestershire, has died aged 87. His son Richard, who now runs Bottles Wine Bar & Merchants in New Street, Worcester, says: “Dad was a huge inspiration to me in business, sport and life. He taught me the importance of playing hard and working hard and to be dedicated to everything that mattered.” Don Everton received numerous awards and became chairman of the Independent Wine Buyers Consortium, a group of 20 companies with 2,000 outlets. Worcester News, August 25 winemerchantmag.com 01323 871836 winemerchantteam@gmail.com Twitter: @WineMerchantMag The Wine Merchant is mailed freely to the owners of the UK’s 827 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 september 2017 12

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analysis: late payments and bad debts Credit where it’s due, but none where it isn’t Suppliers say that bad debts and late payments are part and parcel of dealing with independent wine merchants. But is the problem getting worse, and if so what are the pressures that are squeezing both retailers and the agents that work with them? Graham Holter reports Bad debts and late payments are an issue, to a greater or lesser degree, in any industry. Is the independent wine trade any exception? “It’s certainly getting worse,” reports one supplier, who we’ll call Alan. “I think the independents are now having a pretty tough time of it in terms of general retail sales and I think that’s probably got worse in the last quarter. “Independents generally hide behind a tree and don’t want to talk to their suppliers about late payments or having a tough time because they worry that their credit lines will be stopped. “You have to remember that agents act as a bank for a lot independents all over the UK. The banks won’t lend them the money so the only other way they can get the money and continue to trade is to have the stock lent to them – which in essence is money – and when they can’t pay, you start to get the excuses and then you’re in that Catch-22 situation.” Alan isn’t overly optimistic about the prospects for independents as Brexit gradually plays out in the wine trade, although he says the problem of bad debts predates the current situation by some time. He was one of the many suppliers who got burnt when First Quench – the parent company of Threshers and Victoria Wine – went to the wall in 2009, and he was forced to write off yet more money when Oddbins went into meltdown in 2011. Alan names a West Country independent “that’s absolutely going to go under in the next six months” and another in the same region that owes him £2,500. “He’s done a number on us,” he says. “No matter how many times we phone, write, email or Facebook him nothing comes back. I think he’s under investigation.” He adds: “Agents, generally speaking, don’t want to put people into receivership, because if somebody goes into receivership voluntarily or forcibly, nine times out of 10 you’re going to get nothing back. That’s why the insolvency laws in this country are a joke, frankly. “We’ve seen it with Oddbins in a big way and we saw it with Threshers in a big way where the service continues and all THE WINE MERCHANT september 2017 14 the creditors get nothing – but KPMG and Deloitte are making an absolute fortune out of it.” Alan believes that “independents are all very good at playing agents against each other”. “Agents talk to each other. It’s quite obvious that small independents may have 25 suppliers and they’ll use 12 one month and 12 the following month, and rotate between the two sets to make sure they get the terms they want. There’s no real loyalty with the products in the ALAN 'INDEPENDENTS HIDE BEHIND A TREE AND DON'T WANT TO TALK TO SUPPLIERS ABOUT LATE PAYMENTS because they worry credit lines will be stopped'

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© Tyler Olson / Stockadobe.com independents: they’ll chop and change as often as they want.” It’s a bleak assessment, but are these just the bitter reflections of an isolated supplier frustrated by the effect the fall in sterling has had on his own business? There’s no doubt it’s made life trickier. Alan lost £70,000 in currency dealings following the Brexit vote and he’s finding it harder to accommodate the bad debts that inevitably crop up in the course of an average year. His words are backed up by another small supplier, who budgets for a similar level of non-payment from his customers. “Retailers know they’re in a strong position with suppliers because if we start the legalities, they know we’re committed to a long an expensive process that probably won’t even result in us getting the money we’re owed,” he says. Merchants may strategically work with 12 suppliers one month and another 12 the next, according to Alan A third supplier – we’ll call him Bob – reports a series of problems with independent customers. “There are a couple of customers who we have stopped working with,” he says. “It would be wrong of me to say who they were but they were both independent wine merchants and it became impossible to trade with them. “It was 90, 150, knocking on 200 days without payment. Suppliers do talk and if a wine merchant becomes a bit renowned for late payment, word does get out and they will eventually struggle with suppliers. But there are a lot of suppliers, so I guess they’ll always be able to find wine.” Bob and Alan say the problem isn’t Continues page 16 BOB 'THERE ARE A COUPLE OF HIGH-PROFILE MERCHANTS THAT HAVE A NAME FOR BEING LATE PAYERS, YET MOAN ABOUT TESCO, WHO GOT SLAPPED ON THE WRIST FOR THE SAME THING' CHARLES 'THE ATTRACTION OF BUYING WINES DIRECT FROM ABROAD HAS CREATED ADDITIONAL CASH FLOW ISSUES FOR SOME INDEPENDENTS' THE WINE MERCHANT september 2017 15 DAVID 'I’D SAY WE’RE NOT HAVING ANY PROBLEMS AT ALL AT THE MOMENT WITH 99% OF OUR INDEPENDENT BUSINESS.WE’RE POSITIVE ABOUT THE FUTURE'

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