Read about the Wine Merchant Top 100 winners

This monWM Top 100 page 1th’s Wine Merchant mailing includes a free supplement containing details of all winners in The Wine Merchant Top 100 competition.

Every wine is described and detailed by David Williams, based on the comments and feedback provided by our independent judges.

You can access the digital version here. Congratulations again to all winners – these are wines that do the independent sector proud.

Issue 38: the story behind Roberson’s store closure

Cliff Roberson has always been a man worth listening to. He’s one of the British wine trade’s original thinkers and mavericks – and while there’s no doubt that he knows his wine, his real skill is as a businessmen.

When rumours reached us a month or so ago that the iconic store in Kensington was closing, the first instinct was raise a sceptical eyebrow. The shop was at the heart of the Roberson machine “and always will be”, the website declared – until the wording was chanPage 38 page 1ged quite recently. The rumour turned out to have substance.

The Wine Merchant was granted a rare (and exclusive) interview with the man himself, which is reported in a three-page feature in the July edition. It’s illuminating stuff. Roberson admits that the closure is emotionally challenging, but he’s allowing his business brain to dominate. Commercially, it makes no sense to persist with such expensive infrastructure, especially as the contribution it’s making to the business is diminishing. Roberson is itching for new challenges (including building up the wholesale side of the company) and is keen to point out that his decision to pull out of retail does not represent a lack of faith in bricks-and-mortar wine retailing per se.

As always, we’re publishing the online edition on the 15th of the month, which is the date by when printed copies usually arrive. There was a glitch this month with the printers, so the mailing happened on the 14th, a few days later than we’d normally expect, and most copies will be arriving tomorrow.

Roberson quits retail to focus on ‘new ideas’

roberson frontRoberson is closing its iconic shop in High Street Kensington but insists its faith in independent wine retailing is as strong as ever.

The decision was partly driven by escalating costs but managing director Cliff Roberson says the time is right to steer the business, founded in 1991, in a new direction. This includes the creation of a dedicated off-trade wholesaling division, led by current shop manager Jack Green, offering independents a bespoke range.

The intention is to provide a specialist selection, focusing largely on Californian and French wines. The company also intends to put extra resources behind its online activities, which have started to overtake sales in the shop. But Roberson himself is keen to see the business move into new territory, as it did when it launched the London Cru urban winery.

Speaking to The Wine Merchant, he said: “We have younger people getting involved in the business and they see the future in a different way. Which is fair enough – I’m very happy with that. I would sooner that happens than say ‘oh yes, we’ll carry on the same as we’ve always done’. What’s the point of that?”

The shop – which attracts business rates of £45,000 a year, has no parking facilities and was due for a rent review – will close at the end of August. Roberson himself expects to scale down his involvement with the business over the next five to 10 years “or maybe even before”, but continues to work full-time from the west London headquarters which are soon to be extended. • An exclusive Cliff Roberson interview appears in the next edition of The Wine Merchant, which will appear online on July 15.