Issue 7: welcome to the autumn, and to better things

OK, let’s admit it: August was bloody awful. NobodyImage in the wine trade is saying any different. The population of Great Britain hid indoors, watched the Olympics on TV, and apparently got its alcoholic kicks by fermenting old fruit and bits of carpet. No one was buying any wine, that’s for sure.

But the wine trade is populated by optimists and we enter the autumn months safe in the knowledge that the track and field event in Newham is over, it’s no longer possible to be disappointed by the weather, and wine racks up and down the land are running perilously close to empty. Sometime soon people are going to be pressing their noses against wine shop windows once more, and drooling.

Where do we fit in? Well, it just so happens that issue seven is now with us, and it’s determined to pretend that August never happened. Positive vibes fairly ooze out of every page.

As usual there’s too much going on to summarise here in detail. You know the score: talking points galore, new shop openings, wine reviews, diary dates, that David Williams guy, updates from indie-loving suppliers and business building advice.

Our merchant profile is No2 Pound Street, a superb young business in Buckinghamshire that combines delicatessen and wine sales in a concept its owners like to call “social shopping”. We’ve also got features on South Africa, which is making some of the most exciting white wines, and Croatia – touted by many as the next big thing.

Forget the recession. Stop watching Newsnight. Autumn is here and Britain is thirsty. Places, everyone!

Graham Holter

Editor and Head of Propaganda

Issue six: heavy going

Apologies to anyone whose cat or toddler was injured by the arrival of the latest edition of The Wine Merchant. It is a bit weightier than usual. In fact it’s our biggest-ever issue.

Oh, we realise we’re not in the same back-straining territory as Decanter or The World of Fine Wine, but we’re quite chuffed with our 32 hand-crafted pages, even if there is a gigantic mistake in the David Williams article on Champagne. Yes, we know, the article stops two-thirds of the way through and goes back to the beginning again, so you can stop calling now. The person responsible (not David) has been ordered to take a good, long look at themselves and charged with bringing the game into disrepute.

The digital version has no such technical glitches, and won’t cause muscular-skeletal pain. Read it here, with our compliments. You don’t have to be over 18, a UK resident, or sign up to any terms and conditions.

What’s inside? Too much to mention here. The results of our exclusive survey about online wine sales in the indie sector; news from Borough Wines, new Birmingham specialist Loki, Market Row in Brixton, Buon Vino in Settle and HarperWells in Norwich; wine reviews; and diary dates a-plenty.

There’s a three-page special on sherry, two pages on The Wine Pantry in Borough Market, an interview with Steve Daniel, seven pages of updates from the best suppliers to the independent sector, and – thrillingly – an in-depth investigation into alternatives to polystyrene packaging. If we ever win an award, it will be for that.

Thanks for reading, for supporting, and for being you.

Graham Holter, Editor

Fizzy logic

A decline in Champagne’s fortunes has been greeted with some churlish sneering. But the Champenois obsession with luxury-good status isn’t particularly endearing, either. By David Williams

Scarlett Johansson relaxes after a hard day of pruning and canopy management

WHAT IS IT about Champagne that brings out, in the modern parlance, the haters? The recent news, via market researchers Mintel, that, by the end of this year, UK sales of the world’s greatest fizz™ will have lost a third of their value since the start of the recession in 2007 – and that rival sparklers such as Prosecco and Cava will have grown 55% over the same period, overtaking total sales of Champagne for the first time in the process – was greeted by a chorus of approval on the places where haters gather, the Twitternetosphere.

Looking at the below-the-line responses to the story across the web reveals a startling level of hostility to Champagne, a sense that it is, in the words of one commenter on the Guardian, “vastly overrated. Well done to the French for managing to make people believe that it was worth paying the premium price for all these years. That’s a good lesson in marketing”.

Continue reading “Fizzy logic”

Free wines from the Loire

Loire Ambassadors 2011There is still time – just about – to claim some free Sauvignon Blanc, courtesy of our friends at InterLoire.

All 18 wines in the latest Sauvignon Blanc de Loire Ambassadors project have been made available. Simply pick the three that appeal to you the most, email your choices to, and we’ll do our best to send you two bottles of each of the wines you’ve requested, for no fee.

If any of your choices are no longer available, due to high demand, we’ll substitute it for another one of the Sauvignons in the selection.

The offer is only available to UK-based independent wine retailers, so please make sure you include your shop name and address in your email.

The line-up

IGP/Vin de Pays du Val de Loire

1 Brumes de Loire, Caves du Haut Poitou  2 Ackerman, Domaine Ackerman  3 Petit Bourgeois, Domaine Henri Bourgeois  4 EARL, Château du Fresne  5 Jean de la Roche, SA Les Vins Drouet  Frères  6 La Marinière, SAS Les Vignerons de la Vallée du Cher  7 SCEV, Vignoble Cogné

AOP/AOC Touraine

8 Domaine de la Croix Bouquie, Alpha Loire Domaines  9 Pointes d’agrumes, Complices de Loire  10 L’Expression, Domaine de la Renne  11 Domaine de la Renaudie  12 Domaine des Corbillières  13 L’EléganteDomaine Pré Baron  14 AOC Touraine Sauvignon Blanc, Domaine Pré Baron  15 AOC Touraine Sauvignon Blanc, Domaine Joël Delaunay  16 Prestige d’Octavie, Domaine Octavie  17 Villebois Prestige, Domaine Villebois  18 Domaine Guenault, SA Bougrier

This is an InterLoire promotion through Sopexa UK. Information supplied will only be shared with the wine producers of the three wines selected and not with other third parties.

Visit and for further information.

Living with Majestic

Majestic's new Canterbury branch

What happens when the UK’s biggest specialist wine chain opens one of its warehouses on your doorstep? Five independent merchants discuss how Majestic has affected their businesses. By Graham Holter

LOVE THY NEIGHBOUR is not an easy commandment to obey if the neighbour happens to be a £280m retail giant with a razor-sharp marketing department and its sights trained on your customers. For many independents, the prospect of a Majestic opening nearby sounds an understandable note of terror.

The problem is that Majestic just keeps on growing. It now has 181 UK branches, opening a record 16 stores in its most recent financial year. Its customer base grew by 11% to 568,000 over that period. Sales to business customers increased by 7% and now account for almost a quarter of Majestic’s trade.

Continue reading “Living with Majestic”