Trade counts the cost of no-deal Brexit

With the prospect of a no-deal Brexit looking increasingly likely, independent wine merchants are braced for disruption – and potentially increased costs – during their busiest trading period after October 31.

The government has pledged a 12-month suspension of World Trade Organisation tariffs on wine in the event of no deal. These tariffs could eventually add up to 7p-10p on a bottle of still wine and 21p on a bottle of sparkling.

But Whitehall has given no such reassurance on the introduction of VI-1 forms – the paperwork accompanying wines imported into the EU, which include mandatory laboratory analysis of each wine.

Borough Wines sold for just £60,000

Borough Wines, which collapsed into administration at the end of May with debts of almost £1.3m, has been bought in a pre-pack sale for just under £60,000.

Administrator Mazars said there had been “no reasonable prospect of rescuing the group in its existing form as a going concern” and that the deal, secured with Borough founder Muriel Chatel and a French backer, represented a better outcome for creditors than liquidation.

The biggest chunk of debt (£779,000) was actually to Expression du Terroir Ltd, a business within the Borough group which sourced and supplied stock.

Many of Borough’s other creditors included small French wine producers, some UK brewers and distillers and a number of logistics companies. Armit was owed £4,867, Ehrmanns £4,720, Boutinot £3,058 and Sipsmith £3,652.

Mazars reported that Borough Wines, which started on a stall at Borough Market in 2002, had expanded to nine units but recently closed six sites “as a result of declining turnover and increasing losses”.

The sale of the business to Spirits of Borough, owned by Muriel Chatel and Arthur de Chalus, includes £43,760 of stock and all equipment, along with goodwill, intellectual property and customer records. The company has secured an initial three-month lease at the Stoke Newington branch.

Chatel said that rent demands had been “like a hoop around our neck”.

She added: “It’s been tough but what I would say is that at least we were extremely proactive and we took control while we could. We didn’t wait for the landlord to fold the company because we couldn’t keep up with the payments on empty shops for the next 20 years.

“We are doing everything by the book. We had to send out letters to people we work with in order to keep the trading name, to inform people that the previous company had to go into administration, but that Borough Wines was still very much trading.

“We have a French investor backing us, which requires faith in the current climate. They are an extremely serious investment company who invest in all sorts of businesses and they decided that our project was extremely strong if we managed to get out of retail and keep the strategy towards wholesale. They love the idea of the franchises and of wine on tap.”

Chatel said that relationships with some creditors had been maintained.

“We haven’t been able to write cheques left, right and centre straight away but we are trying to find solutions to maintain relationships with those who have been supportive of us for many years and will hopefully be part of the next chapter.

“In some ways what we are doing and putting together with the Borough Wines franchise is more interesting than the few shops we closed.”

More AWRS fun

A merchant recently raised an interesting point with us. What happens when an independent takes advantage of some crazy discounting in a supermarket to stock up on spirits or Champagne at prices that beat those of regular wholesalers?

There’s nothing illegal about this kind of activity. It’s happened on and off for decades. Except that things have changed: merchants are now only allowed to buy from UK suppliers who are accredited under the Alcohol Wholesaler Registration Scheme.

So could independents face fines, impounded stock and licences if they continue to load up at Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons when they spot a chance for some extra margin? The answer isn’t quite as straightforward as you might think, as we try to explain in the July edition of The Wine Merchant.

Wine and book shops in sync

The number of independent wine merchants and independent book shops appears to be settling into some sort of correlation, after years of growth in one sector and decline in the other.

According to The Booksellers Association, there are 883 independent book shops. The Wine Merchant calculates there are 912 specialist independent wine retailers, many of which thrive in the sort of locations that also sustain small book shops.

In 1995 there were 1,894 independent book shops, according to the BA, a figure that had almost halved, to 987, by 2013. But since 2015 numbers have seen a modest recovery, and the trade body is confident that the industry has stabilised despite an “increasingly challenging landscape” characterised by “unequal business rates, unfair competition from online retailers and post-Brexit uncertainty”.

It is calling for the Government to “take the steps needed to protect the future of book shops and their high streets”.

Meanwhile the number of independent record shops is also on the rise, according to the Entertainment Retailers Association.

It reports that store numbers now stand at 425, with the Record Store Day initiative having a positive effect on the sector.

This article appears in the June edition of The Wine Merchant.

Our Top 100 winners unveiled

The waiting is over and we can now reveal this year’s winning wines in our Wine Merchant Top 100 2019.

All 100 are available to taste on our stand at this year’s London Wine Fair, adjacent to the Esoterica zone upstairs at Olympia. Please come and try them and say hello to the Wine Merchant team.

Our forthcoming supplement will offer more details about why each wine won. We’ll also be celebrating this year’s Highly Commended wines, which just missed out on a Top 100 place but still impressed our judges.

Well done to this year’s winners, who were faced with a lot of stiff competition in our biggest-ever entry.

White wines

  • Viña Cobos, Felino Chardonnay, Luján De Cuyo & Valle De Uco, Mendoza, Argentina 2017 (£15.49, Alliance Wine)
  • Lowboi Riesling, Porongurup, Great Southern, Australia 2018 (£26.50, The Knotted Vine)
  • Magpie Estate, Rag ‘n’ Bone Riesling, Eden Valley, South Australia, Australia 2018 (£12.99, Boutinot)
  • Helfrich Familly Muscadet Sèvre Et Maine Sur Lie, Loire, France 2017 (£11, Les Grands Chais de France)
  • Helfrich Family O Sauvion, Haut Poitou, Loire, France 2018 (£10.60, Les Grands Chais de France)
  • Louis Jadot Pernand-Vergelesses Blanc, Burgundy, France 2013 (£32.30. Hatch Mansfield)
  • Domaine Ferret Pouilly-Fuissé, Burgundy, France 2016 (£33.50, Hatch Mansfield)
  • Domaine Belleville Rully 1er Cru La Pucelle, Burgundy, France 2017 (£30.99, Vindependents)
  • Gérard Bertrand Château Sauvageonne Grand Vin Blanc, Coteaux du Languedoc, France 2016 (£29.49, Hallgarten & Novum Wines)
  • Domaine De Saint Cosme Les Deux Albion IGP Vaucluse Principauté D’Orange Blanc, France 2017 (£10.63, Walker & Wodehouse)
  • Domaine Bott-Geyl Pinot Gris Les Eléments, Alsace, France 2016 (£19.99, Vindependents)
  • Domaine Bott-Geyl Gewurztraminer Grand Cru Sonnenglanz, Alsace, France 2011 (£32.99, Vindependents)
  • Peth Wetz Unfiltered Riesling Rheinhessen, Germany 2017 (£9.72, Walker & Wodehouse)
  • *Weingut Dönnhoff, Oberhäuser Brücke Riesling Spätlese, Nahe, Germany 2013 (£39.80, ABS)
  • Diamantakis Assyrtiko, Kato Asites, Dafnes, Crete, Greece 2018 (£13.99, Vindependents)
  • Diamantakis Winery Diamantopetra White, Dafnes, Crete, Greece 2018 (£16.50, Vindependents) – Trophy Winner: Best White
  • Avantis Estate Winery, Lenga, Evia, Greece 2018 (Avantis Estate Winery)
  • Cantine Colomba Bianca Società Cooperativa Agricola Lumari Catarratto – Insolia, Terre Siciliane, Italy 2018 (Hallgarten & Novum Wines)
  • Planeta Chardonnay, Menfi, Sicily, Italy 2017 (£28.50, Enotria&Coe)
  • Leftfield Albariño, Gisborne, New Zealand 2018 (£14.80, Hatch Mansfield)
  • *Framingham Noble Riesling, Marlborough, New Zealand 2018 (£17.99, Liberty Wines)
  • Casa De Vila Nova Alvarinho, Minho, Portugal 2018 (£11.49, Boutinot) – Trophy Winner: Best Value White
  • Waterkloof Circumstance Sauvignon Blanc, Stellenbosch, South Africa 2017 (£12.99, Boutinot)
  • Boutinot The Tea Leaf, Wo Piekenierskloof, Olifants River, South Africa 2017 (£13.99, Boutinot)
  • Bodegas Adria Vega Montan Godello, Bierzo, Spain 2018 (£13.50, Vindependents)
  • Bodegas Viñátigo Vijariego Blanco, Tenerife, Islas Canarias, Spain 2017 (£23.99, Hallgarten & Novum Wines)
  • Talbott Vineyards Sleepy Hollow Chardonnay, Santa Lucia Highlands, California, USA 2016 (£30, Vindependents)

* denotes sweet wine.

Rosé Wines

  • Domaine Gavoty Cuvée Clarendon Rosé, Provence, France 2018 (£18.95, Laytons) – Trophy Winner: Best Rosé
  • Domaine De Grandpré Favorite Rosé, Côtes de Provence, France 2018 (£13.50, Vindependents)
  • Vidal-Fleury Côtes du Rhône Rosé, Côtes du Rhône, France 2018 (£13.99, Louis Latour)
  • Caves Languedoc Roussillon Rosé des Plages Premium, Languedoc Roussillon, France 2018 (£11.99, Vindependents) – Trophy Winner: Best Value Rosé

Red Wines

  • Bodega Bressia Bressia Monteagrelo Cabernet Franc, Mendoza, Argentina 2016 (£17.99, Boutinot)
  • Bodegas Melipal Supernova I, Mendoza, Argentina 2015 (£18.95, Laytons)
  • Trapiche Perfiles Malbec Calcareo, Mendoza, Argentina 2015 (£17.50, Enotria&Coe)
  • Viña Cobos, Felino Malbec, Luján De Cuyo & Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina 2017 (£15.49, Alliance Wine)
  • Amalaya Malbec, Calchaqui Valley, Salta, Argentina 2017 (£12.99, Liberty Wine)
  • Mitolo Wines Jester Cabernet Sauvignon, McLaren Vale, Australia 2016 (£15.99, Liberty Wines)
  • Flametree Wines Embers Cabernet Sauvignon, Margaret River, Western Australia, Australia 2017 (£15.99, Vindependents)
  • Grant Burge Holy Trinity, Barossa Valley, South Australia, Australia 2012 (£25.99, Fine Wine Partners)
  • Grant Burge Miamba Shiraz, Barossa Valley, South Australia, Australia 2016 (£19.99, Fine Wine Partners)
  • Grant Burge Filsell Shiraz, Barossa Valley, South Australia, Australia 2015 (£24.99, Fine Wine Partners)
  • Henschke Mount Edelstone Shiraz, Eden Valley, South Australia, Australia 2013 (£122.50, Enotria&Coe)
  • Espinos y Cardos Santa Macarena Pinot Noir, Central Valley, Chile 2017 (£10.99, Alliance Wine)
  • Viña Echeverria Carmenère Reserva, Curico Valley, Chile 2016 (£9.99, Hallgarten & Novum Wines)
  • Château De Belleverne Le Cru Des Amoureux, St-Amour, Beaujolais, France 2018 (£19.49, Boutinot)
  • Château De Grand Pré, Fleurie, Beaujolais, France 2017 (£13.41, Hallgarten & Novum Wines)
  • Domaine Thierry Amirault ‘Clos Des Quarterons’ St-Nicolas de Bourgueil, Loire, France 2016 (£19.95, Richmond Wine Agencies)
  • Domaine Henri & Gilles Remoriquet, Nuits-Saint-Georges, Burgundy, France 2017 (£37.99, Vindependents)
  • Domaine Henri & Gilles Remoriquet 1er Cru ‘Les Bousselots’, Nuits-Saint-Georges, Burgundy, France 2017 (£56.99, Vindependents)
  • Brice Vergez Château Grandis, Haut-Médoc, Bordeaux, France 2010 (£19.99, Vindependents)
  • Château De Rouillac, Pessac-Leognan, Bordeaux, France 2012 (£34.99, Hallgarten & Novum Wines)
  • Georges Vigouroux Château de Haute-Serre, Cahors, France (£27.50, Enotria&Coe)
  • Vidal-Fleury, St-Joseph, Rhône, France 2015 (£26.99, Louis Latour Agencies)
  • Domaine Cazes Clos des Paulilles Red, Collioure, Roussillon, France 2017 (£16.95, Enotria&Coe)
  • Weingut Rainer Schnaitmann Simonroth Spätburgunder Trocken, Württemberg, Germany 2016 (£40.70, ABS)
  • Kovacs Nimrod Winery Monopole Blues Kekfrankos, Eger, Hungary 2015 (£16.99, Boutinot)
  • Vylyan Franc, Villanyi, Hungary 2015 (£19.50, Laytons)
  • Cà Dei Maghi Valpolicella Classico, Veneto, Italy 2017 (£16.50, Vindependents)
  • Azienda Agricola Il Cascinone Crocera Barbera D’Asti Superiore, Piemonte, Italy 2016 (£9.99, Boutinot)
  • Azienda Agricola Il Cascinone Rive Barbera D’Asti Superiore, Piemonte, Italy 2016 (£15.99, Boutinot)
  • Castelli Dei Rampolla Chianti Classico, Tuscany, Italy 2016 (£24.95, Laytons)
  • Fattoria Ormanni Chianti Classico, Tuscany, Italy 2016 (£18.50, Vindependents)
  • Castello Di Nipozzano Frescobaldi, Chianti Rúfina Riserva Vecchie Viti, Tuscany, Italy 2015 (£29.49, Hallgarten & Novum Wines)
  • Castelgiocondo Frescobaldi Brunello Di Montalcino, Tuscany, Italy 2012 (£52, Hallgarten & Novum Wines)
  • Fèlsina Berardenga ‘Fontalloro’ Toscana IGT, Tuscany 2016 (£52.99, Liberty Wines) – Trophy Winner: Best Red
  • Rocca Di Frassinello Sughere Di Frassinello, Maremma, Tuscany, Italy 2015 (£12.82, Walker & Wodehouse)
  • Masseria Setteporte Etna Rosso, Etna, Sicily 2016 (£19.99, Vindependents)
  • Feudo Maccari Saia Nero D’Avola, Sicily 2015 (£22.99, Boutinot)
  • Boccantino Susumaniello Salento IGT, Puglia, Italy 2016 (£10.50, Buckingham Schenk)
  • San Marzano Primitivo Di Manduria Riserva ‘Anniversario 62’ 2015 (£26.99, Hallgarten & Novum Wines)
  • San Marzano Collezione 50′ Vino Rosso D’Italia, Italy NV (£21.99, Hallgarten & Novum Wines)
  • Domaine Des Tourelles Vielles Vignes Cinsault, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon 2017 (£17.99, Boutinot)
  • Hunter’s Pinot Noir, Marlborough, New Zealand 2016 (£15.99, Laytons)
  • Mount Edward Ted Pinot Noir, Central Otago, New Zealand 2017 (£22.99, Alliance Wine)
  • Wild Earth Pinot Noir, Bannockburn, Central Otago, New Zealand 2016 (£24.99, Liberty Wines)
  • Akarua Rua Pinot Noir, Central Otago, New Zealand 2017 (£19.99, Liberty Wines)
  • Burn Cottage Moonlight Race Pinot Noir, Central Otago, New Zealand 2015 (£34.99, Liberty Wines)
  • Hartenberg Wine Estate The Stork, Stellenbosch, South Africa 2015 (£33.50, Hartenberg Estate)
  • Post House Penny Black, Stellenbosch, South Africa 2016 (£27.50, ABS)
  • Holden Manz Vernissage, Franschhoek, Western Cape, South Africa 2015 (£13.50, Vindependents)
  • Neil Ellis Piekenierskloof Grenache, Piekenierskloof, South Africa 2015 (£20, Gonzalez Byass UK)
  • Bodegas Hispano+Suizas Bassus Finca Casilla Herrera, Valencia, Spain 2015 (£25.99, Boutinot)
  • Brisa De Verano Garnacha Tinta, Catalunya, Spain 2017 (£9.49, Boutinot) – Trophy Winner: Best Value Red
  • Uvas Felices El Hombre Bala Old Vine Garnacha, Madrid, Spain 2016 (£23.49, Boutinot)
  • Navajas Reserva Tinto, Rioja, Spain 2011 (£13.41, Walker & Wodehouse)
  • La Rioja Alta Viña Ardanza Reserva, Rioja, Spain 2010 (£31, Armit)
  • Bardos Romantica Crianza, Fuentemolinos, Ribera del Duero, Spain 2016 (£13.99, Vindependents)
  • Raymond Vineyards Collection Cabernet Sauvignon, California, USA 2016 (£19.99, Hallgarten & Novum Wines)
  • Ironstone Old Vine Zinfandel, Lodi, California, USA 2016 (£8.24, Walker & Wodehouse)

Fortified Wines

  • Bodegas Hidalgo Manzanilla en Rama, Sanlúcar De Barrameda, Jerez, Spain NV (£18, Mentzendorff)
  • Henriques & Henriques 10 Year Old Bual, Madeira, Portugal, NV (£20.75, Mentzendorff) – Trophy Winner: Best Fortified
  • Fonseca Terra Prima Organic Port, Douro, Portugal NV (£18, Mentzendorff)
  • Fonseca Unfiltered Late Bottled Vintage Port, Douro, Portugal 2012 (£16.50, Mentzendorff) – Trophy Winner: Best Value Fortified

Sparkling Wines

  • Gusbourne Brut Reserve, Kent, England 2014 (£39, Gusbourne)
  • Oedoria Crémant De Bourgogne, Burgundy, France NV (£18.95, Daniel Lambert)
  • Champagne Delavenne Grand Cru Brut Reserve, Champagne, France NV (£39.99, Vindependents)
  • Charles Heidsieck Rosé Réserve, Champagne, France NV (£67.99, Liberty Wines) – Trophy Winner: Best Sparkling
  • Hunter’s Miru Miru Rosé, Marlborough, New Zealand NV (£21.95, Laytons)
  • KWV Laborie Blanc de Blancs Method Cap Classique, Western Cape, South Africa 2011 (£14.99, North South Wines) – Trophy Winner: Best Value Sparkling
  • CVNE Roger Goulart Gran Cuvée Gran Reserva Cava, Spain 2011 (£20.40, Hatch Mansfield)