A world of choice

You could probably run a pretty impressive wine shop purely specialising in wines from New Zealand, Australia, Brazil, Hungary and Virginia.

The new issue of The Wine Merchant should whet the appetite of any merchant with an interest in any of those categories.

Wines of Brasil and New Zealand Winegrowers are launching two fantastic competitions to win trips to their vineyards – full details inside.

We also take a look at what Hungary is now offering, and it’s light years away from the stuff we tended to avoid 10 to 20 years ago. The Hungarians are really getting to grips with their native varieties and the wines our small group of indies tasted last month got glowing reviThe Wine Merchant issue 48ews.

Virginia, meanwhile, goes on making increasingly impressive Bordeaux blends as well as stunning Viognier, Cab Franc and Petit Verdot (to name just three of its hallmark varietals) and is expressing its terroir in a way that’s more European than North American, but without slavishly following an Old World template.

As for Australia … we all know it fell off its perch a while ago. But the best stuff is pretty damn impressive and there are independents who do great business with its wines. Just as England’s cricketers and rugby players will tell you: never underestimate the Aussies. They like nothing so much as winning.

French wine still out in front

Wine merchants are becoming ever-more experimental in their wine sourcing but some things don’t change.

France scooped a quarter of the prizes in this year’s Wine Merchant Top 100, despite competition from Spain, New Zealand, Italy and nine other nations who made the cut in this year’s contest.The Wine Merchant issue 47

We poured all 100 winners at last week’s London Wine Fair, to a great reception from the independents who stopped by to taste. We’re particularly pleased with this year’s line-up of winners – not only does it illustrate the breadth of what’s available in independent merchants, it recognises that quality and value can intersect at below £10, but also at £150.

The winners’ brochure will be published soon, with full details of all our Top 100. Meanwhile take a look at our May edition, which offers a good spring snapshot of the state of play in an independent trade that looks more vibrant, and more diverse, with each passing month.

Are you a shop? A wine bar? A café? Maybe all three …

The proportion of specialist independent wine merchants selling wine for consumption on the premises has jumped by 24% over the past year.

This year’s Wine Merchant reader survey found that 28.4% of retailers now offer wine for on-premise consumption, compared to 22.9% in the 2015 poll.
The survey found that 4.5% of respondents have started selling wine in this way in the past 12 months.

The trend towardThe Wine Merchant issue 46s a hybrid wine shop/wine bar model has been taking hold among independents in recent years, but the survey results make it clear that the concept does not work for everybody, often due to space constraints or a lack of enthusiasm for the extra work involved.

Indeed more than half of respondents insist that they have no plans for on-premise sales – though this figure has dropped markedly since last year’s survey.

Food is also playing an increasingly important role in independents’ businesses, with four in 10 now selling food of some description, up by 13% on last year’s figure.

The number of respondents saying they have no plans to offer food of any kind has fallen sharply to just under 45%.

• More survey coverage appears in the April edition.

The judges have judged

judging scene for webWell that went pretty smoothly. Our Wine Merchant Top 100 judges proved to be more efficient and rigorous than we had dared to hope as they put a record number of entries through their paces yesterday.

We split the 18 judges into nine teams of two and the morning session was devoted to singling out the best 200 wines in the competition. After lunch, we mixed up the teams and re-tasted every wine that had got that far. At this stage every wine was guaranteed a Highly Commended but the task was to drill down to the all-important Top 100.

The scores are being analysed as we speak, and competition director David Williams will be carrying out some final checks before we announce the winners at the London Wine Far on May 3.

Many thanks to all this year’s judges, all of whom gave up a day (and in some cases more) to leave their independent wine businesses and to help us select the winners.

They are: Philip Amps, Amps Fine Wines, Oundle; Nigel Pound, Totnes Wine Company, Devon; Tamsin Jones, Mission Wines, Polzeath; Rachel Gibson, Wine Utopia, Hampshire; Rupert Pritchett, Taurus Wines, Surrey; Dave Eglington, Wolseley Wine Loft, Stafford; Will Bentley, Bentleys Wine, Ludlow; Jacqueline Sugden, Grassington Wine Company, Skipton; Ed Wells, HarperWells, Norwich; Rachel Higgens, Corks of Bristol; Chris Bailey, Mr and Mrs Fine Wine, Southwell; Pip Gale, Gales of Llangollen, Denbighshire; Tom Fisher, The Square Wine Company, Warwick; Mo O’Toole, Carruthers & Kent, Newcastle; Chris Rackham, The Salusbury Wine Store, London; Laurence Hanison, Mill Hill Wines, London; Sophie Nicholls, Highbury Vintners, London; and Edouard Dautreix, Friarwood, London.