The Wine Merchant issue 25

 

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The Wine Merchant issue 25

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THE WINE MERCHANT. An independent magazine for independent retailers Issue 25, May 2014 Let’s air our dirty linen together in public Indies urged to join big rivals in duty campaign The Wine & Spirit Trade Association is hoping to persuade more independents to join its ranks. of the Call Time on Duty campaign, which resulted in a freeze on spirits tax in the recent Budget, and it believes a united victory for wine. The WSTA has begun a consultation The trade body is celebrating the success retailers. Businesses with a turnover of £500,000 currently pay £404 a year. There is also nervousness among independents about being part of an association that counts multiple retailers and big brand owners among its key members. with a small group of independents has taken place. “We’re looking at working with the marketing manager, says an initial meeting Louise Vaux, the WSTA’s membership and THIS MONTH 2 BACCHUS Bordeaux and bingo, and taking journalists to task 4 comings & GOINGS Celebrations in East Anglia, but mixed news for Wales 6 tried & TESTED campaign could ultimately achieve a similar exercise with the independent trade to find ways of representing the sector within its fees have been a stumbling block for many Eight wines we’d be proud to call our friends 9 merchant profile Bottle Apostle’s own Hackney Empire ranks, but admits that current membership independents to see what we can come up Continues page 2 14 david williams What’s with this weird obsession with alcohol levels? 24 Nab some nAPA Some wines that could ease your passage to California 28 LONDON WINE FAIR Why independents are the centre of attention this year 32 suppler bulletin Essential updates from leading agents and importers The second Emporia Spirit School for independent wine merchants took place recently at the Barrio East Tequila bar in London, led by Ed Baird (left) and Iain McPherson (right). For more details and a chance to win a bottle of Carlos I Gran Reserva XO Brandy de Jerez, turn to pages 18-19. 43 make a date More opportunities to expectorate in public

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BACCHUS discover new wine, and interesting people to listen to,” says one regular, following a Portuguese-themed night hosted by Charles Metcalfe. “At the end of the evening I can’t discount price is £6.61.” in a later column, along with an entreaty to readers to seek out independent wine shops. To Clare’s credit, the letter was included remember anything they’ve said. But I know I’ve had a good time.” Local hero It pays to use the professionals The Wine Circle in Virginia Water, Surrey, is hardly unique in running a regular wine tasting evening featuring guest speakers. But the videos it produces of such events arguably set a new high standard for the trade. work with called Retail Therapy, who have made quite a lot of commercials,” explains owner Sonny Jafri. “They are members of a club we run within The Wine Circle YouTube.” “We have a company we do quite a lot of WSTA campaign From page 1 with [on membership fees]. We obviously says. “We need to move on some kind of need to have some economies of scale,” she collective-type membership for them, Independents are accustomed by now to being ignored by national journalists, whose recommendations inevitably focus on the likes of Waitrose, Tesco Wine Club and Majestic. appears to give preference to a retailer fight back. But when a local newspaper critic based hundreds of miles away, it’s time to Writing in the North Wales Daily Post, Jane Clare recommended because they’re in every town around the and what we do about wine and how we campaign on that.” persuading independents to share an Vaux acknowledged the problem of UK and a lot of them helped with Call Time on Duty. We’re working on plans for 2015 Bruno Paillard and listed some faraway retailers as a good source. This prompted Deiniol ap Dafydd, managing director of Blas ar Fwyd in Conwy, to put pen to paper. Champagne Bruno Paillard “We have offered the agenda with larger rivals. The fault lines in the industry were exposed over the issue of minimum pricing, a policy that was But she says there are other policy widely supported among independents but opposed by the WSTA and supermarkets. areas where the trade has a more restrictions on multibuys. unified approach, such as opposition to they see everybody lumped together really. Whether you’re Tesco or a smart wine types of store.” shop in Knightsbridge, you’re a retailer of alcohol and a lot of people buy from both independents and says it’s possible that than in London. She will be explaining the WSTA’s Vaux acknowledges the time poverty of “When you’re talking to government with 800 members. They also interviewed me for a business programme they do on of the videos pays dividends. “There’s no he says. Jafri believes the professional production point doing a makeshift, amateurish thing,” and generate a lot of interest in the The videos are uploaded to the website wine for the last 20 years and our current London,” he pointed out. “As part of a dozen mixed bottles it Brut Premier Cuvée as part of our 700-odd selection of price is £40.75, considerably cheaper than would cost £37.69! Beats £44.99 by £7.30 – enough to buy a cracking Ontanon Rioja Crianza here. throughout Wales for delivery of any 12 ‘imes wine merchants and clubs. “Further, we offer free delivery business and the club events, he adds. “Our whole marketing philosophy is that we who come to these events talk to other people about them.” in club events and some of them are don’t go for newspaper or magazine ads – we try and market from within so people Around 60 people typically take part wines – which beats the various ‘aites and as well when the Saturday Telegraph “This happened a couple of weeks ago meetings could be conducted online rather relevance to independents at the Speaker’s Corner area of the London Wine Fair on before or after that date. Tuesday, June 3 at 4.30pm and welcomes comments and suggestions from retailers interviewed on camera. “It’s a tremendous venue, lots of fun, lots of atmosphere and a good place to make new friends and promoted an M&S own-label Gavi that was reduced from £9.99 to £7.25 – whilst our normal price is £7.15 and our case THE WINE MERCHANT MAY 2014 2

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Inflation finally hits Borough It’s the end of an era at Borough Wines. Since launching in London’s Borough Market in 2002, customers have been charged £5 to refill their bottles from one of the retailer’s barrels. Reluctantly, the company has now increased the price by 50p. without an increase, but the business has band of customers. It seems like a modest rise after 12 years the Barrel wine refills, we have tried to while there’s nothing we can do about minimise the impact of this unjust system: duty, we can do something about bottle/ packaging costs, meaning that when you buy our refills, more of the money you spend goes towards the wine itself. Flying Füchs with non-refill bottles at the same price, the wine.” twice as much of the price you pay goes on producers in France, Italy, Portugal and be supplied with the barrel system. Borough Wines sources the wines from “In fact, if you compare our refill bottles gone to some lengths to justify it to its loyal Spain, with the selection changing every “Our Man with the Facts” • Dom Pérignon did not invent sparkling Champagne and in fact of breaking the glass. The quote four to six weeks. Other independents can Housey wine Picture the scene. A rugby club fundraising night, with the local netball team also out in force. Wine and giant marker pens in ample supply. And, amid the chaos, a local wine merchant attempting to conduct a game of bingo. that was the mission of Duncan Murray during a recent engagement at Market Harborough Rugby Club. Murray introduced guests to a series Or, more precisely, Bordeaux Bingo, for worked hard to prevent a secondary fermentation in the bottle for fear frequently ascribed to him – “come quickly, I am drinking the stars!” – seems to have first appeared in a 19th-century advertisement. • Michael Broadbent has filled 140 notebooks with 90,000 wine notes. • At 629 miles, the Loire is the longest river in France and drains more than a fifth of the country’s longest river in the world. land area. But it is only the 170th • There are 213 registered of Bordeaux wines (or wines with a link to the region, for example a New World Take your customers to cask Carmenere) while acting as bingo master with some suitably adapted calls (“two some of the livelier participants). little Medocs” may have been wasted on people started drawing on each other,” they were eyes down.” their toll. Duty has a “disproportionately company explains, because whether you negative effect” on lower-priced wines, the buy table wine or cru classé Bordeaux, the packaging, logistics and the retail margin, wine”. tax is the same. And once you factor in VAT, of money that goes towards producing the “This is patently unfair on you, the Currency fluctuations have taken admits Murray’s wife Megan. “He did get The event has prompted speculation “I must say that as the evening went on distilleries in the UK, according to HMRC figures. The UK accounts member state. for 18% of all jobs in the European heckled quite a bit. But generally speaking about more Murray madness in future spirit industry, the highest of any EU • Len Evans, described as “the “the ever more infinitesimal the proportion months. Muscadet Monopoly is one idea. So is Tequila Twister. “I think that may already have been done in people’s front rooms,” Megan suggests. godfather of the Australian wine in 1955, at the age of 25. industry”, was born in Felixstowe and only arrived in his adopted country customer. By introducing our Straight from THE WINE MERCHANT MAY 2014 3

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comings & GOINGS Taylore made for Suffolk town Another piece of Suffolk has been coloured in with the opening of The Framlingham Wine Shop. Taylore and fiancée Sarah Mitchell, who after a whistlestop tour of the February trade tastings. “I moved to The store has been launched by Richard we had an empty shop in the village and I thought I would run it as a pop-up for six shop became available I took it.” weeks. It went so well that when another site of a branch of Wine Rack, blamed two months. disruptive street works for the closure of the shop after it lost 35% of its trade over • Sketty Wines in south Wales has closed. The business was established in 2010 by Streets ahead Anglia Wine Merchants in Ely is under new ownership. been bought by Matthew and Kate Street, who have relocated to Cambridgeshire from south London. The shop is the only specialist wine The business, established in 2010, has built their 230-strong range from scratch former Threshers franchisee David Davies. Charm of the farm The Colchester Wine Company is relocating its retail business to a new site to the north of the town. will continue to be managed by James from the previous shop, home to the business for some 50 years. The shop at Birchwood Farm, Dedham, Framlingham about two years ago and we just found there was bottle of wine,” says Co-op to get a decent retailer in the town and surrounding area. enjoy the fact they can stand and talk logistics. to somebody about the product,” says “I’ve maintained pretty much every “It’s got a very loyal customer base who nowhere except the local Richard. “So we thought it was something we needed to do ourselves.” broadly aligned with our thoughts.” “The feedback from the community has Matthew, whose background is in wine Russell-Grant, and will also feature the same huge Châteauneuf-du-Pape barrel supplier that the previous owners used but also brought in one or two of my own. We want to take the foundations grow it. they have firmly • The Wine Shop in Chislehurst has a new owner. Anil Patel, who owns a nearby from its retiring owner, who established the former Threshers branch as an independent in 2010. Patel says he wants to retain the shop’s specialism in wine while at the same time Richard’s contacts from his on-trade work. The line-up contains “a bit of everything” and ranges from £6 to £60. “To be honest, any supplier that got Some of the wines have been sourced via convenience store, has bought the business back to us and was helpful got some of our business,” he says. “The ones we felt we had to chase we let go quite quickly.” established and to I studied it for my WSET Diploma, and also American wines are becoming much more well known and popular now, but still somewhat undervalued by people.” Prescient pop-up Discover Wine, a south coast wine events company, has taken the plunge into retail following the success of a pop-up shop. in Denmead, a Hampshire village near Waterlooville. “I worked for a wine wholesaler for Owner Janine Pert has opened a store Vinho Verde and Portugal in general. South “I’m particularly keen on Alsace, because upgrading the off- licence section of his grocery business. Arth and home Born in a barn After 10 years of running The Ox House Wine Company, Stephen Eggerton has rebranded the Cotswolds business as The Northleach Wine Company. the venture has a new lounge bar created a week. A combination of wine shop and bistro, Arth Wines, the Welsh wine shop that closed earlier this year, is to reopen with a new name after the premises were taken on by a Cardiff independent. Shop in Roath, Cardiff, in 2011 has been be open for business soon. Dan Williams, who opened The Bottle about 10 years,” she says. “That closed parties and corporate functions. down so I went out on my own with an events company three years ago, doing “A couple of months before Christmas renovating the Penarth store and hopes to who opened the business in 2010 on the Former Arth Wines owner Richard Silk, in a former barn area. It opens seven days as Savage Selection but has no connection with that business. The company occupies the same building THE WINE MERCHANT MAY 2014 4

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tried & Tested Silverado Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 Robert Louis Stevenson could see vinous potential in encounter the natural flavours that burst out of this that makes you yearn for a bit of wild camping. RRP: £35 ABV: 14.5% World Wine Agencies (020 7237 0567) worldwineagencies.com lively wine. A great fumey blackcurrant aroma, and a the untamed Napa wilderness and he’d be pleased to firm grip, all rounded off with a savoury, herbal finish La Báscula No Stone Unturned 2012 Bruce Jack and Ed Adams’ Spanish project already includes the Catalan Eagle range. This new blend of old vine Garnacha and Cariñena comes from Terra from a judicious 10 months in new oak. RRP: £15.99 ABV: 14% Boutinot (0161 908 1300) boutinot.com Alta and is a delight: smooth, sweet and leathery, with concentrated fruit and a spicy, vanilla edge resulting Masseria Li Veli 2010 Armit is now carrying the full range of wines from this Puglia producer and there’s good value to be had. Admittedly this Negroamaro/Cabernet blend is one of the pricier options but it encapsulates what Italy is all a winemaker who understands this is a wine for food. RRP: £27.99 ABV: 15% Armit Wines (020 7908 0660) armitwines.co.uk Villa Maria Cellar Selection Sauvignon Gris 2013 Aimed exclusively at independents, this addition to the VM range is a great summer quaffer. The fatty sweetness slightly outguns the acidity but the layers fewer than 14 of your Earth pounds. RRP: £13.49 ABV: 13.5% Hatch Mansfield (01344 871800) hatchmansfield.com about. The ripe, juicy, peppery elements are all present and correct but there’s a gentleness and restraint from of elderflower, pear and stone fruit flavours make it a multi-dimensional wine that offers a lot of pleasure for Familia Zuccardi Tito Reserva 2011 Malbec dominates the blend here, supported by Cabernet Sauvignon and Caladoc (a cross between sweetness to latch on to, there’s also an unusual exciting spicy burn. RRP: £20.65 ABV: 15% Malbec and Grenache, silly!). Although there’s a little Vuurberg White 2012 A blend of of Chenin, Viognier, Semillon, Roussanne, Grenache Blanc, Verdelho and Clairette Blanche that sip. But listen carefully and you can hear each of the component varieties singing, and the harmony they hint of banoffee pie. RRP: £16 boutinot.com ABV: 14% could be mistaken for oaked Chardonnay with the first create is both luscious and minerally, with more than a Boutinot (0161 908 1300) shittake mushroom, umami flavour that lingers and an Alliance Wine (01505 506066) alliancewine.co.uk Lowburn Ferry Pinot Noir 2011 Hailing from Central Otago, this is a beautifully balanced wine combining a restrained raspberry sweetness with a scrapings-from-the-meat-dish Giovanna Tantini Bardolino 2010 A simple, fresh wine that suits good weather and easy conversation. Made by a former lawyer who manages 11ha of vineyards in Castelnuovo del Garda, this too. On the finish we get a gentle herbal note. RRP: £15 ABV: 12.5% Winetraders (01993 882440) winetraders.eu a gentle almondy sweetness, but a pleasant tartness Corvina-dominated blend has a hint of redcurrant and savoury element and a whiff of minty freshness. It certainly clever. RRP: £28 manages to be both light and serious at the same time, with no catches and no gimmicks. It’s not big but it’s ABV: 14% Daniel Lambert Wines (01656 661010) daniellambertwines.co.uk THE WINE MERCHANT MAY 2014 6

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BEAUJOLAIS TASTING PREVIEW More to Beaujolais than meets the eye Annual Press & Trade tasting 2014, 5th Edition Thursday June 26, 11am-7 .30pm, The Westbury Mayfair Mark Savage MW Savage Selection, Northleach “Knowledgeable drinkers will know on the planet, the perfect ‘jug’ wine if you like, ideal for uncomplicated refreshment. that good Beaujolais is one of the most satisfying and easily affordable wines to be bothered to try and excel with the Gamay grape, and yet a good Gamay Pinot Noir. wine is in my view a much better bet than an ordinary and more expensive Beaujolais for 20 years, very happily, best in the world for my taste. “We’ve been fighting the corner for “No other region in the world seems in the belief that if you know where to look, the value there for red wines is the anything else. I drink it young and I drink it old. I actually lay it down. I Moulin-a-Vent: one of the crus that have given Beaujolais a fair wind in the UK “I drink more Beaujolais than almost bought a lot of 2009 not trying to sell it in a hurry because I knew it would be good at six or seven years old.” B themes: eaujolais has a unique bond with independent merchants and this year’s tasting allows will be on display at the tasting: expect well integrated tannins. Lieux-dits et climats in Beaujolais aficionados and novices alike the chance to take stock of the breadth of the region’s offer. This year’s London event has four main structured wines, full of freshness, with Beaujolais wines may be made from one vary extremely from one cru to another, and from one parcel to another. Christopher Sherwood Bottle Apostle, London “Our increased focus on Beaujolais, with 20 to 25 wines, has been very unique grape variety, but their profile can The importance of terroirs, lieux-dits and well received. We can’t think of another region that offers such quality, breadth of stylistic differences, modest alcohol levels, and sense of place for such reasonable prices.” Beaujolais White & Rosé White and rosé represent only 3% of among the trade and consumers. The 2013 vintage total Beaujolais production of the region but have established a growing following A late start in the vineyards was followed by unprecedented sunshine in July and August, creating healthy growing conditions. The short rainy spells in optimum maturity. climats is fascinating and this year Inter Beaujolais will be revealing the results of a research project on the characterisation of 11,000 holes to analyse the terroir. Older vintages To register, visit www.tastebeaujolais. co.uk. More details about Beaujolais are at www.beaujolais.com. Twitter: @BeaujolaisUK. Facebook: Beaujolais Wines. soils which took five years to complete and Beaujolais is widely recognised as a wine to enjoy young, so the tasting focuses on how well it can age. September then helped the grapes reach The fruits of the vignerons’ labours exhibiting older wines which demonstrate table with a surprise theme. This year’s tasting will feature an extra Sponsored feature THE WINE MERCHANT MAY 2014 7

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bits & BOBs FAVOURITE THINGS Brett Dawson Turton Wines Bolton Favourite wine on my list This changes quite a lot but is currently a new wine in this Troy is Enotria’s new heavyweight Former Constellation Europe boss Troy Christensen is replacing Alison Levett (pictured) as chief executive of Enotria World Wine. with the business for seven years, turnover grew to over £120 million. Levett has been Magpie Antique antipathy The Antique Wine Company has vowed to “vigorously defend” itself against a law suit from a client who claims the wines it sold him are fake. is demanding nearly £15 million in US property tycoon Julian LeCraw during which time from £52 million Noir. It’s made using Red Hunter technology: quite a new way of making wine. I’m not entirely very, very nice Pinot! sure how it works but it makes month, The Fabulous Ant Pinot compensation after buying 15 bottles labelled as Margaux, Château Lafite take up the post after relocating to London from his native USA. The Drinks Business, April 24 Christensen will Rothschild and the legendary Château d’Yquem of 1787, one of the few remaining wines predating the French Revolution. At nearly £55,000 it was the most expensive bottle of wine in the world. The Telegraph, April 25 believes the bottles are not genuine. A “wine detective” employed by LeCraw Favourite food and wine match Stobi Vranec and it goes very well with Another new addition is Macedonian Moroccan Shepherds Pie. Pintia pulled Vega Sicilia has recalled 100,000 bottles of wine due to excessive levels of sediment. a clarification error, according to managing director Pablo Alvarez, who offered to from 2008 or the forthcoming 2010 release. replace the faulty wines with alternatives The wine is made with grapes from the The 2009 Pintia wines were the victim of e Naked news Naked Wines is targeting rapid expansion after joining a business support scheme backed by the London Stock Exchange. two-year programme that puts growing The company has enrolled in ELITE, a Favourite wine trip winery. All those tunnels full of wine! A visit to Moldova and the Cricova Favourite wine trade person We like a lot of wine people but Emma like happy people) and Sadler makes our job very easy by always is always happy (we McRobb from Bibendum Giles from Barton Brown having excellent wines. Toro region and was first released in 2001. Decanter.com. April 4 businesses in touch with a pool of investors and business advisers. Only 19 companies have been offered the opportunity, which comes six years after the business was employees. created by Rowan Gormley. It now has a Norwich Evening News, April 30 turnover of £60 million and more than 100 Favourite wine shop We hear nothing but good reports about how nice and knowledgeable Alex and Emma are. It has to be Aged in Oak [in Garstang]. The Wine Merchant is mailed free of charge to www.winemerchantmag.com 01323 370451 Twitter: @WineMerchantMag winemerchantmag@gmail.com the owners of the UK’s 723 independent wine shops. Except one. Edited by Graham Holter. Printed in Sussex by East Print. © Graham Holter Ltd 2014 England: No 6441762 Registered in VAT 943 8771 82 THE WINE MERCHANT MAY 2014 8

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merchant profile: bottle apostle The Hackney empire It took seven months to plan the first Bottle Apostle shop as Andrew Eakin searched Europe for the perfect retail formula. Five years on, a fourth shop is on the way and the planning is starting to pay off T his summer, Bottle Apostle will open its fourth shop, somewhere in east London. creating something he hoped would meet the needs of Hackneyites. A second store followed, in Crouch End, and a third this year in Clapham. succeeded Jarvis as general manager. Chris Sherwood, who joined in 2004, wanted; I paid Tom six months’ wages Eakin – a straight-talking Irishman who admits his enthusiasm for wine is not Victoria Park in Hackney. It will be five years exactly since Andrew before we opened the door. We went to Amsterdam, we went to London, nice wine shops and nice wine bars … the Enomatic We want people to recognise the brand We paid a designer to come up with logos. but also when they walk in the door they will either see me or see Chris or see working every Saturday and Sunday. matched by his knowledge of the subject – opened the original shop, on the fringes of any good independent – they were either do a better job than this myself.” He’d done his research. “I couldn’t find He says: “I think it’s fair to say we grew faster than expected, and the business machine was the main route I wanted to go. just needed a bit more help in every area and just being a bit more organised and structured.” You’ve got a very recognisable brand identity and a personality to your too snobby or too intimidating,” he recalls. Armed with start-up capital from some in terms of general management, buying, Miranda [Fong, who handles all marketing], People can walk in and feel comfortable – matched to their food, at a decent price. Chris: You wouldn’t have to spend long they’re going to get a great bottle of wine, “I went round London and thought: I could well-timed business dealings in Ireland, in the form of Tom Jarvis, and set about marketing that looks like it was thought through very carefully. Andrew: Seven months. I knew what I Eakin recruited the services of a manager, Continues page 10 THE WINE MERCHANT MAY 2014 9

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merchant profile: bottle apostle From page 9 here to see how important people are to this company, but we balance that with to worry a bit. brand identity. If brand identity is the most important part of your business, you need Andrew: It’s important that every second Saturday at least I try to work in the shop. work five to seven days a week. There’s a huge amount to do. Andrew: You can’t build a brand from sitting down at a computer. You can’t. ‘A lot of wine suppliers will sell to anyone who phones them up. We don’t want to look lazy’ mothership? Chris: Yeah, very much. Customers: suitable. absolutely. What we need to buy: yeah. Andrew: Our guy Alastair has loads of Chris: Yeah. Two hours ago we did a tasting of what our main rosé of the summer is often by joining me at tastings. It’s very important. Who are your main suppliers? Chris: Thorman Hunt; Fields, Morris & end. Clark Foyster is a very important Verdin; Les Caves de Pyrene; Domaine going to be. We involve people all the time, Chris: It’s very normal for all three of us to What sells … even down to what staff are tattoos and dreadlocks and that’s fine for End. People would never walk into the don’t really know yet. This is our third week. They seem pretty cool. shop! In Clapham it’s more open but we You need to engage with customers. Andrew: People laugh because I don’t know much about wine, but will still take my but I do know that’s a bloody good Sancerre, because I’ve drank it. advice about wine. I say, I’m not qualified Pinot for £30, or I do know that’s a good Chris: That’s what we look for in staff. all you need to know is, how is that knowledge is not that important. It’s quite reassuring when people have different to that, and why. Textbook Do all the shops have their own identities, or do they all resemble the here. But I couldn’t move him on to Crouch Direct. Enotria is very useful at the lower Chris: Everyone who works for us has to what it’s like to have 600 or 700 people through the door at the weekend. spend some time here – they need to know I need to go round all the stores because supplier to us. We specialise in a few areas – Portugal, Italy, Austria – and they’re very source of our house rosé. We can’t find the value we want from southern France so for the last three or four years our house rosé has been from Austria, a Zweigelt/St hands down. strong in Portugal and Austria. They’re the diplomas and qualifications, but basically I need to buy wine for all of them; Miranda can’t market the stores without going on. round; Andrew needs to see what’s going Laurent blend. Twelve and a half per cent Boutinot refuse to deal with us – they alcohol, good acidity, and it beats Provence said they have someone important in east London. Liberty would like to deal with everywhere. us but they’re expensive and their wine is Do managers have any direct or indirect input into buying decisions? Andrew: Also a lot of suppliers come and do days here on a Saturday. It’s not something we enforce, but we say, look, you have to try to do at least two days [of in-store tastings] a year, especially in December. Chris: We’ve seen things shift over the past who shares the ideas that we have. A lot of wine companies aren’t as professional as maybe they should be. Can you name names? Chris: No, not particularly – there are sales go down with us. enough of them and they’ve seen their year in terms of who’s important to us, and Colour-coded wines and suggested food matches are central to Bottle Apostle’s proposition THE WINE MERCHANT MAY 2014 10

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Andrew: They’ve been short-sighted. The not willing to grow with us … plan isn’t just to sit here and potter away; Chris: … or they’ll sell to your nearest three stores – you have a lot of near neighbours. we want people to work with us. If they’re neighbours. London’s not that big a place, really, and it gets harder when you have who phones them up. And we just don’t want to look lazy. If you have the same defeats the point of being independent. plan? Andrew: I’d seen them in a place in A lot of wine suppliers will sell to anyone selection as someone up the road, it just Were the Enomatics always part of the Amsterdam and they were used behind a bar in that case. We had a lot of hassle with the council originally because they wanted us to dispense at 125ml and 250ml. Since We put it out to the customers and said, will we keep going with four machines or two weeks – sometimes every two days? every day in each store. Andrew: We focus on the customer who door. then, that law’s been knocked. We had four. will we drop it down to two, change every Chris: This is plenty – 16 wines on tasting comes in the door, wants to try a bottle of wine, wants to drink it now – and out the right. They don’t cost us anything. They must have cost something originally – or are they leased? Chris: The machines are all purchased. Even after servicing costs and gas, they’re fine. They cost £9,500 each, possibly a bit more now. We bought two new ones for here are now in Clapham. spent. Crouch End and the two that we took out of Andrew: That £9,000 is the best £9,000 I’ve Chris: For that amount of money you could probably open three bottles a day Chris: Enomatics make money in their own Sherwood, Fong and Eakin: “You can’t build a brand sitting at a computer” for a year. But it’s like when you go to a conversation, although that’s what’s often assumed in specialist shops. Andrew: We will say hello, how are you, welcome … if you have any questions, ask, if not we’ll leave you alone. I hate going to around. wine tasting: you don’t always want the winemaker standing there looking at you trying to explain something, and customers the thing. They just want to get on with it. Andrew: Once a customer has a card, they never ever, ever speak to us. They walk in the door, come over, pick up a glass and taste. And they might turn round and say, just want to come in and be left alone. If they have a question, they’ll ask. It’s an interesting point – a lot don’t want us standing there having poured buy something with someone following me What kind of things are trending at the moment? Chris: I’d probably say that we try to make our own trends. We have areas we really actually that’s really interesting – but they enjoy. We probably have the best Beaujolais Continues page 12 of customers really don’t want a THE WINE MERCHANT MAY 2014 11

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merchant profile: bottle apostle room. We came up with a design for it, range. It’s going very well. took out the doors and expanded our beer How much of the range is London beers? Chris: Ninety per cent. We have a bit from Kent, Essex, Berkshire and Copenhagen. We deal with up to 15 London breweries. I’ve been debating whether to get stuff in from America for the past six months and never quite felt it’s worth sitting down and doing it. When you stick stuff on a container from the States it starts looking really expensive. What’s the latest on the fourth shop? Andrew: We know the site, we’re just waiting for solicitors. Look, we had two Andrew Eakin: “We still couldn’t get a bank loan. We’ve got no borrowing. We pay bills on time.” shops before, all ready to go, sitting with them fell through with a week to go and Is that the last piece in the puzzle, or just another piece? solicitors, ready to tell people, and one of From page 11 it was a beautiful day and we had four or and Vinho Verde sections in London, or the UK maybe. 14.5%, 15%. People are very conscious You won’t find any wines in here at five people sitting out the front, which was nice. We pay a stupid amount of money to customers use them. Chris: If you’re talking about the evening, with the other one we just pulled out of it. the council for those two seats, so you hope we’re the first stop of the evening. We don’t want to deal with people on their last stop. So no deli either? No meats or cheese? We don’t specialise in cheese or cured meat. Andrew: It’s another piece, but it’ll be the last piece for a good couple of years. We of alcohol levels. We all know that people We try and sell wines where you would comes in – most of it is 10.5%, 12%. bar route? Andrew: No. We’re not a wine bar. I want with drunk people. something open. always knew there would be two this year. We were asked to go into this certain area Chris: There’s no point expanding too quickly. You’d lose the whole thing. two years ago. for the fourth one. Four is enough for now. want something that’s drinkable and fresh. drink the entire thing, if you didn’t have to get up at 6am. That’s where Vinho Verde Chris: We think it’s best if people specialise. Andrew: We’ve a good deli across the road. Chris: We have local partner for cheese – them. There’s a cured meat and salami Andrew: We have expanded too quickly – in some people’s eyes. I would have done it Some independents reckon you only start achieving the economies of scale when you get to a fourth or fifth shop. Chris: You need a central payroll and until you get to four or five shops. company. organisation when you get to two and a bit shops. But I can see it not paying for itself Andrew: I’m still putting money into the Chris: If we were absolutely hungry for seeking direct relationships and doing Have you thought about going the wine staff to be finished at 9pm, safe, not dealing Chris: It’s not even the kind of shop where it passes seven o’clock and you crack probably one of the best cheese merchants in London, and we do amazing events with company nearby, Blackhand, and we’re gets complicated. doing events with them. We specialise in Andrew: We have seats out the front; you’re more than welcome to take a glass and sit out the front or you can sit in the little alcove. We have an on and off-licence – you have to with these machines. On Saturday wine and there’s no point in diversifying. It The new beer zone, The Brew Testament, is looking good. Chris: We could see that people are interested. This was our ground floor store profit then we would have been going out THE WINE MERCHANT MAY 2014 12 much more by the pallet, but we don’t want

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‘We always knew there would be two new stores this year’ to compromise the interest of the list by forcing a load of stuff on our customers. We let it grow naturally. The stuff we buy from pallet is still only the stuff that is already going well. What’s your turnover? Andrew: Over a million. The financial year is just finished. But that doesn’t relate to profit because it’s just all being pumped straight back in. Crouch End, hopefully, money yet. We’ll see. to show it very much in its second year. business with bank loans? Andrew: [At first] we couldn’t get credit from suppliers because they could see that couldn’t get a bank loan because we’ve no borrowings. The bank will say: you don’t even have And you still aren’t funding any of the complete opposite. Andrew: We pay early because I don’t want to owe anybody money. We pay rent in advance. We could easily sit on our what it is – for 90 days for everything or whatever it is. But if you pay someone give that out – it works in both ways. they need another order. suppliers – and their money, because that’s early, that helps. We may need extra stock when we’re over our stock limit and they’ll Chris: We work with our suppliers. Half of them get paid by their merchants when someone going to offer you an evening with one of their best winemakers, or We need to get the best out of them. Is we’ve got no borrowing. We still to this day this year will make money but hasn’t made Chris: We opened in Crouch End in a place that we knew had competition. But we a credit card. No, we pay our bills on time. And that is our downfall. Chris: A lot of companies refuse us credit Companies House and thought there was something funny going on. It’s the because they’ve pulled the accounts from stock that’s allocated, if you’re not paying stock than we probably deserve when our suppliers well. your bills on time? We frequently get more something’s running out because we treat knew it had great potential and it’s started THE WINE MERCHANT MAY 2014 13

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just williams Balance is everything the ABV level on a bottle was to make units of alcohol to the pound. the crucial (indeed purchase-defining) I’d then say something about how calculation of which wine offered the most fretting about high alcohol levels in wine is a sure sign that you’ve metaphorically traded in your Porsche for a Zafira and basically given up on life; that being sensible about alcohol levels was like being sensible about sex; that an obsession with low alcohol left you at the top of a slope made slippery by reverse osmosis and what Aussie winemakers call the long black snake, leading down, down, down through a spinning cone to the bland, limp, lifeless hell of Weightwatchers Pinot Grigio. Since when was high alcohol the enemy? The knee-jerk disgust for ABVs that venture north of 14% does the trade no credit. We should worry less about the little number on the back label and instead look for balance in wines of all strengths NOT MANY LAUGHS down there, but then I am at least a little serious about this. It really does seem odd to me that so many merchants and supposedly serious wine enthusiasts – are so preoccupied with a composition to the extent – and this is any wine with more than 14% alcohol people who claim to love wine – including single, secondary element of its complex W what really bothers me most about it – that is now seen as flawed in some quarters. never mind the balance, here’s the ABV. It’s not, I should point out, that I Forget aroma, mouthfeel and flavour, and particularly want my wines to be high in alcohol. I’m no fan of the homogenizing recipe that, rightly or wrongly, I will forever associate with Michel Rolland – that one-size-fits-all viticultural plan with its straining for over-ripeness, its e all have our collection of pet gripes, those insignificant, banal but technique, of the petty examples I see old school and dudeishly inverted. irritating bits of day-to-day life that have us coming over like a ranting observational comedian auditioning for a spot on Mock the Week or a 6.30pm slot on Radio 4. that my own list of the annoyances most middle-aged, David Mitchell-lettingoff-steam-style riff – a list that seems to Given how I spend my days, it’s inevitable everywhere of snobbery both classically grand-scheme-of-things grievances that of years is the current obsession with alcohol levels. where the demand for the bantering Another of these very-minor-in-the- I’ve been nurturing, Frankie Boyle-style, beyond all proportion over the past couple If, in some appalling parallel universe likely to trigger a tepidly amusing, tetchily expand with my waistline each year – are largely inspired by the world of wine. I’m and abuse of the word terroir, of selfpromoting wine-writer Tweets, of laptop thinking of things like the unthinking use topical panel format has got completely found myself appearing on “Have I Got obsession with ever-longer hang times all over the world in the past couple of out of hand among TV commissioners, I and its over-zealous green-harvesting – that has made monsters of so many wines Booze for You” “8 Out of 10 Vats” or some chit-chat, my set-piece faux-spontaneous monologue would be about how “when I were a lad” the only reason you’d check other moribund half-hour of wine-related decades. And I still find it hard to adjust to Bordeaux at 14.5% or 15%, as many were in 2009 and 2010, when until the 1980s alcohol in the Gironde rarely eclipsed 13%, and was frequently down in the 11s trolleys at tastings, of ostentatious spittoon THE WINE MERCHANT MAY 2014 14 (famously, in the warm, dry and bountiful

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1959 vintage, Château Latour was bottled at a mere 11.6%). minds close off, and damning aesthetic judgements are made, purely on the Where I do have a problem is when drawing a line at 14% (or even, in the case upper limit of your alcohol toleration, you But you’re also denying yourself (or your of one high-profile merchant, 13.5%) as the will cut out the over-ripe clumsy monsters. customers) the pleasure of vast swathes of of southern France from the Châteauneufof Austria, Italy, Priorat, the Douro, and great Australians from Hill of Grace to of fortified wine. David Williams is wine critic for The Observer basis of that little number, and not on the inherent qualities of what’s in the glass. I present wines at consumer tastings: it’s got to the point where I won’t reveal the so that those with a higher ABV aren’t I find this happening increasingly when fine-wine production, from Barolo (I’ve just tasted some superb 2009s at 15%) to most du-Pape to the Roussillon, as well as much alcohol until after I’ve presented the wines ruled out before they’re even poured. And I know from speaking to wine merchants both indie and multiple that more and a whole bottle rather than just a glass. drink become a criterion of quality? It likewise there are wines at nearly 16% into an ample whole. As wine merchants you may feel you where the alcohol is absorbed seamlessly have a duty to stock as many lower- Grange (both 14.5% in their latest available vintages), not to mention the whole genre more consumers are asking for lower ABVs, that they want wines where they can drink But since when did the amount you can alcohol wines as possible if that’s what IN THE END, it all comes down to balance – in the wine and the consumer. There are wines that taste horribly alcoholic at 12% because they lack the balancing flavour and weight that comes with phenolic ripeness; your customers want. But you’re also in a better position than anyone to explain to a bottle, and that buying wine by the ABV by the BPM. them that they don’t always have to drink leads to baby-with-bathwater decisions: by is as bizarrely arbitrary – and irritating to the seller and producer – as buying music FRENCH WINES PORTFOLIO Thursday 22nd May 2014 10 am to 5 pm Haymarket House 28-29 Haymarket London, SW1Y 4SP A great line-up of 27 Châteaux and Domaines featured in the last French Wines Portfolio, showcasing wines from Alsace, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, Languedoc, the Loire Valley, Provence, the Rhône Valley and the South West. More than 100 wines to taste! No producers will be present. SPRING TRADE TASTING © Chantovent For more information and to register, please contact: Lysanne Desroches lysanne.desroches@ubifrance.fr 0207 024 3656 THE WINE MERCHANT MAY 2014 15

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