Critic’s Choice: Tanners, Shrewsbury

Joanna Simon sings the praises of one of our largest independent merchants which, despite its scale, has always retained its family feel

January 2021

Joanna Simon is an avid admirer of Tanners – for its skilled buying team to the detailed website and a lot of great things in between.

“I like the fact that they are incredibly comprehensive,” she says. “They do the classics, but you can also see that they are adventurous buyers. Their buying team travel a lot and they really do scour the world. So you can buy a bottle of Bâtard-Montrachet from them, but also wine from Slovakia, Armenia or Macedonia.

“It may sound corny when I say the business genuinely has a family feel about it, but it does. Yes, it is family owned, but they have about 100 staff and seven branches and yet they have managed to retain that feeling and identity. It must be because they are incredibly good with their employees, with training and so on.”

Chairman James Tanner (left) with sales director Robert Boutflower

A prime example would be Tom and Emma Holt who met while working at the Shrewsbury branch. The couple are now winemakers based in Somontano, Spain, and Tanners has, Joanna says, “supported them by doing events together and buying their wines”.

“They’ve been going since 1842, so they’ve certainly had long enough to build up really good supplier relationships – but they create new ones all the time,” she adds. “Their own-label wines are all sourced from great suppliers. They never seem to stand still.”

Now, more than ever before, e-commerce is key and Joanna explains why she thinks Tanners has got it so spot on.

“The website is absolutely packed with information if you want it, but if you just want to choose a wine it’s also incredibly immediate with a quick taste guide,” she says.

“If you want to go further and find out more about the region, you can: all that stuff is there but it doesn’t hit you in the face. It’s there to help you and serve you but it’s friendly and approachable, which is what you get when you meet the people. The website is a really good echo of the shops themselves, and vice versa.

“They’re good at social media without being shouty and yet they still come across as fun – never stuffy.”

Joanna Simon is the Editor of Waitrose & Partners Drinks magazine, the wine expert at Platinum magazine and a contributor to The World of Fine Wine and Decanter.

She is a member of The Wine Gang, and can be found at joannasimon.com

Tanners wins a bottle of Les Terasses Velles Vinyes, Álvaro Palacios 2018, courtesy of Bancroft Wines