Issue 27: get it while it’s hot

The Wine Merchant issue 27 page 1Issue 27 of The Wine Merchant is here. The print versions are thudding on to the stripped floorboards of quality wine shops across the land, where they will be sniffed quizzically by Labradors, before being gently opened with the little knife on a Waiter’s Friend corkscrew. Amazing what you can train a dog to do.

Here’s the digital version. It’s exactly the same, though occasionally the spelling is better.

 

Congratulations to the Trophy winners

The Wine Merchant Top 50 2014 front pageEvery mailing of the July issue of The Wine Merchant includes a little green book that should prove very useful for all specialist wine retailers.

It describes all 50 winners in this year’s Wine Merchant Top 50, and also unveils our first-ever Trophy winners. They are …

Sparkling Wine Trophy: Champagne Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve NV

White Wine Trophy: Pazo de Senorans Albarino, Rias Baixas 2012

Red Wine Trophy: Chateau Paul Mas Clos de Savignac, Coteaux du Languedoc 2012

Best Value Red Wine Trophy: LGI Monastier Shiraz, IGP Pays d’Oc 2013

Best Value White Wine Trophy: Cavit Terrazze della Luna Nosiola, Trentino 2013

Congratulations to all this year’s winners, and also to our first-ever Highly Commended wines, all of which are also listed in the little green book. These are the wines that just missed out on a Top 50 placing but which have the credentials to add quality and value to any independent’s range.

Click here to access the digital version

Imbibe Live

The boundary between the on and off-trade gets increasingly blurred, and nowhere more so than among independents. Most specialist wine shops supply pubs or restaurants … and an increasing number are going the enoteca route, serving wine on their own premises.

So there are compelling reasons for a visit to Imbibe Live next week. The show runs at Olympia on July 1-2.

The event, unsurprisingly, has a strong spirits (and beer) element but wine is well represented too. Exhibitors include Berkmann, Concha y Toro, Enotria, Hallgarten Druitt, Louis Roederer, Negociants UK and Wines from Rioja.

Master Sommelier Ronan Sayburn is hosting a wine faults masterclass; Ruth Spivey (of Wine Car Boot fame) is running a workshop on staff training; and Michael Sager-Wilde is offering advice on how to target the elusive Generation Y consumer.

As a reader of The Wine Merchant you can also register for the exclusive Sommelier Hub packed full of invaluable wine sessions, plus access to the UK film premiere of Jason Wise’s Somm.

Click here to register and to find out more about this year’s show.

June issue: winners and losers

June 2014 page 1Not surprisingly, we devote a lot of space in our June issue to the winners in The Wine Merchant Top 50. The full details will appear in a supplement in the July edition – along with the names of our five trophy winners and more than 100 highly commended wines.

But while we celebrate the success of these worthy winners, there’s the hint of a dark cloud on the horizon.

Independents are used to competition from online rivals. We hear a lot about the “race to the bottom”: punters can shop around the virtual marketplace and seek out the cheapest price for the wines they want. It’s a fact of life in modern wine retailing, and it’s part of the reason so many merchants have recognised the need to differentiate their offer using tactics other than price.

But if those prices are massively cheaper than those your business is able to offer, and the wines are being shipped direct from producers, the game changes. Amazon is currently talking not just to UK suppliers to boost its wine offer, but to producers themselves. Some of the prices that can be found online are so cheap that the conclusion has to be that either the shipper is selling at a loss, or avoiding the inconvenience of duty.

HMRC points out that distance sellers to the UK are obliged to pay duty and VAT in this country. But how exactly is this policed? How many boxes of wine will be opened, checked for compliance, or seized? What powers do the UK authorities have to go after overseas tax dodgers, and what kind of resources? We await answers.

Let’s meet the winners

WM Top 50 LWF tastingThe winners of this year’s Wine Merchant Top 50 awards were unveiled this week at a tasting at the London Wine Fair.

They are listed below. The winners’ supplement, which will appear with the July issue of the magazine, will contain much more information about all the wines and why they won.

This is also where the 100-plus Highly Commended wines will be named – along with a few Trophy wines.

Congratulations to all 50 winners. The wines attracted a ­­­lot of attention at the fair this week and the line-up was praised for its diversity and, in many cases, exceptional value for money.

 

Sparkling wines

France

Charles Heidsieck Brut Réserve, Champagne NV (£42, Liberty Wines)

Charles Heidsieck Rosé Réserve, Champagne NV (£55, Liberty Wines)

 

White wines

Austria

Domäne Wachau Grüner Veltliner Federspiel Terrassen, Wachau 2013 (£8.58, Alliance Wine)

Domäne Wachau Grüner Veltliner Smaragd, Achleiten, Wachau 2013 (£17.92, Alliance Wine)

 

Australia

Hill Smith Estate Chardonnay, Adelaide Hills 2012 (£18.99, Negociants UK)

 

Chile

Viña Casa Silva Cool Coast Sauvignon Blanc, Paredones, Colchagua Valley 2013

(£12.95, Jackson Nugent Vintners)

Cono Sur Los Gansos Gewurztraminer, Central Valley 2013 (£7.99, Concha y Toro)

 

France

Jean-Claude Boisset Les Ursulines Bourgogne Chardonnay 2012 (£14.99, Liberty Wines)

 

Greece

Domaine Gerovassiliou Malagoussia, Epanomi, Macedonia 2012 (£14.99, Hallgarten Druit/Novum)

 

Italy

Agricola Punica Samas, Isola dei Nuraghi, Sardinia 2012 (£13, Armit)

Cavit Terrazze della Luna Nosiola, Trentino 2013 (£7.80, Boutinot)

 

Portugal

Luis Pato Vinhas Velhas, Beira Atlantico, Beiras 2012 (£12.99, Raymond Reynolds)

 

South Africa

Delheim Vineyards Barrel-Fermented Chenin Blanc, Simonsberg, Stellenbosch 2013
(£12.95, Jackson Nugent Vintners)

Jordan Unoaked Chardonnay, Stellenbosch 2013

(£11.90, Awin Barratt Siegel Wine Agencies)

 

Sweet white

Glen Carlou The Welder, Paarl 2012 (37.5cl; £10.99, Liberty Wines)

 

Spain

La Bascula Catalan Eagle White, Terra Alta 2013 (£9.86, Boutinot)

Casal de Arman Blanco, Ribeiro 2012 (£15, Alliance Wine)

Pazo de Señorans Albariño, Rías Baixas 2012 (£17, Rhône to Rioja)

Santiago Ruiz, Rías Baixas 2012 (£14.99, Stevens Garnier)

 

Red wines

Argentina

Altos Las Hormigas Malbec Classico, Mendoza 2013 (£12.99, Liberty Wines)

Matias Riccitelli The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From The Tree Malbec, Mendoza 2011 (£15.99, Hallgarten Druitt/Novum Wines)

 

Australia

Dalrymple Tasmania Pinot Noir, Pipers River, Tasmania 2011 (£28, Negociants UK)

Onannon Pinot Noir, Gippsland, Victoria 2011 (£34.11, Boutinot)

Teusner Riebke Shiraz, Barossa 2011 (£21.95, Hallowed Ground)

 

Bulgaria

Domaine Bessa Valley Enira, Bessa Valley 2008 (£19.99, Alliance Wine)

 

Chile

Cono Sur Single Vineyard Block 21 Viento Mar, San Antonio 2012 (£11.95, Concha y Toro)

 

France

LGI Monastier Shiraz, IGP Pays d’Oc 2013 (£7.99, House of Townend)

Les Domaines Paul Mas Clos des Mures, Côteaux du Languedoc 2012
(£12, Les Domaines Paul Mas)

Les Domaines Paul Mas Château Paul Mas Clos de Savignac, Côteaux du Languedoc 2012
(£17, Les Domaines Paul Mas)

Les Domaines Paul Mas Les Tannes Syrah, IGP Pays d’Oc 2013
(£7.95, Les Domaines Paul Mas)

Château Viranel Le V de Viranel, Saint-Chinian, Languedoc 2011 (£13-15, Bancroft Wines)

 

Italy

Cavit Terazze della Luna Teroldego Rotaliano, Trentino 2012 (£7.80, Boutinot)

Poggio Al Tesoro Sondraia, Bolgheri Superiore 2010 (£31.99, Liberty Wines)

 

Lebanon

Château Ksara Reserve du Couvent, Bekaa Valley 2011 (£10.99, Hallgarten Druitt/Novum)

 

New Zealand

Crossroads Winemaker’s Selection Cabernet Franc, Gimblett Gravels, Hawke’s Bay 2010
(£15-£20, Mentzendorff)

Delta Wines Hatter’s Hill Pinot Noir, Marlborough 2009 (£22.99, Liberty Wines)

Sileni Estates The Triangle Merlot, Hawke’s Bay 2011 (£14.09, Boutinot)

 

Portugal

Aliança Vinhos de Portugal Aliança, Dão 2011 (£7.63, Boutinot)

Caves São João Porta dos Cavaleiros Reserva, Dão 2012 (£14.99, Marta Vine)

Quinta das Maias Maias Tinto, Dão 2011 (£9.99, Raymond Reynolds)

Quinta dos Murcas Assobio Tinto, Douro 2011 (£11.49, Barwell & Jones)

Quinto do Portal, Portal d’Ouro, Douro 2011 (£9.43, Awin Barratt Siegel Wine Agencies)

 

South Africa

Eikendal Classique, Stellenbosch 2010 (£18.99, Barwell & Jones)

 

Spain

Azul y Garanza Graciano, Navarra 2011 (£12, Vintage Roots)

Bodegas Borsao Selección Tinto, Campo de Borja 2013 (£7.48, Boutinot)

Capçanes Peraj Petita Montsant 2012 (£13, Rhône to Rioja)

Evohe Garnacha, Bajo Aragon 2013 (£11-£13, Rhône to Rioja)

Finca Moncloa Cabernet Syrah, Cádiz 2009 (£14.49, Gonzalez Byass UK)

Perelada Finca La Garriga, Empordà 2008 (£22.50, Barwell & Jones)

La Rioja Alta 904 Gran Reserva, Rioja 2001 (£35.99, Armit)

 

 

 

May edition: safety in numbers?

issue 25 front pageFrom time to time there are calls for independents to work together. Massive buying groups; a trade body that allows everyone to speak with one voice; a charter that defines all dealings with suppliers. All these things have been suggested and occasionally attempted.

It’s not hard to understand why these ideas spring up. Independents are dwarfed by the multiples, often misunderstood by suppliers, and frequently left out of the big conversations affecting the drinks industry.

Does that mean that independent merchants are clamouring to be part of a unified group that speaks for them all? It’s hard to find evidence for this claim. Although there are certainly those who believe there is strength in numbers, and that independents share broadly similar objectives and ambitions, there are many more who seem happier to plough their own furrow. It’s hardly surprising. They’re independents.

Independents have been conspicuous by their absence within the Wine & Spirit Trade Association. The organisation is now reaching out to the sector in the hope that more retailers can be persuaded to join its ranks and influence its lobbying effort. Details appear in the May edition of The Wine Merchant.

Persuading indies to show solidarity with the big brand owners they distrust and eschew, and the supermarkets that continue to wreck small retail businesses, is a task perhaps best suited to a United Nations envoy with experience of some of the world’s thornier battle zones. But who’s to say it isn’t worth a try?

The WSTA achieved a victory for spirits duty in the recent Budget. The beer industry has won tax concessions of its own. It would be defeatist to assume something similar couldn’t be achieved for wine.

At the very least, it’s worth listening to what the WSTA believes it can offer to independents. In turn, the organisation has pledged to offer a sympathetic ear to small retailers. It could lead to something progressive and interesting, or it might lead to nothing at all. Nobody can say it isn’t worth the conversation.

They came, they saw, they tasted

Ted Sandbach, Dafydd Morris and Julie Campbell

Ted Sandbach, Dafydd Morris and Julie Campbell

The judges have judged. Three hundred and fifty wines have been put through their paces by a crack team of independent wine merchants and the winners will be announced soon.

This year’s judging was more rigorous than ever. Every wine that reached the final stages of the competition will have been tasted at least six times, and in some cases by as many as 10 judges.

The competition is devoted to wines that are exclusive to independents, and we asked our judges (all independents themselves) to appraise wines in the same way as they would a wine fighting for space on their own shelves. The tasting was blind, though all judges had an indication of where a wine was from, the grapes it contained, and an idea of retail price.

 

All 50 winners will be unveiled at a pop-up tasting at the London Wine Fair on Tuesday, June 3. The wines will be profiled in a supplement to The Wine Merchant in the summer, along with all the highly commended wines that narrowly missed out on a Top 50 placing.

April edition now online

the wine merchant issue 24 front pageIt’s hard to remember what life was like before the Prosecco sales boom, and just as difficult to predict when it might start to tail off.

You couldn’t really design a wine that ticks more consumer boxes. It’s got bubbles. It’s moderate in alcohol. It’s not too dry. It’s got a name that’s not only pronounceable, but sounds classy. And, most crucially of all, it’s affordable – at least by comparison to the Champagnes that have been elbowed to one side at many a wedding.

In the final instalment of our reader survey analysis, we report that independents still have massive faith in Prosecco’s ability to deliver yet more sales growth. It ties in neatly with similar findings in consumer research carried out by Wine Intelligence.

But keep an eye on English wine. More than half the respondents in the survey say they expect to see it achieve a sales increase in their businesses this year – far more than those predicting growth for Champagne or Cava. The enthusiasm for English wine is reflected in a feature in the new issue in which independents discuss the success they’ve already achieved with domestic fizz – and also the increasingly credible selection of still wines.

Click here to view the issue in digital form.

Remembering Sue Whelan

Sue Whelan, the former sales msue whelananager at Seckford Agencies until her retirement in 2010, sadly lost her brief battle with pancreatic cancer on Saturday.      

Sue was a much valued and respected member of the Seckford Agencies team and previously worked for Vinoceros and Belloni.

Julie Maitland at Seckford says: “Sue always demonstrated the highest levels of professionalism and charm, qualities which have often been referred to in the many tributes we have received.”

The funeral takes place on Wednesday April 9 at 11.40 in the Kingswood Chapel, Worthing Crematorium, located at Findon on the A24 near Worthing. BN14 0RG.  The family have requested no flowers and no black.

Donations would be welcome to St Barnabas Hospice, Tintoretto Lane, Worthing BN12 6NZ.

Michael Cox memorial service

Everyone in the wine trade is aware of the sad death of Michael Cox. The tributes have poured in from all sides; The Wine Merchant published its own, written by David Williams, in the March edition.

Michael’s wife Lynne and twin brother David and his family have confirmed that everyone attending Michael’s memorial service at Southwark Cathedral on Thursday 10th April at 3.30 pm is welcome to join them for a glass of wine in The Great Halls at Vinopolis afterwards.