Vino Vero, Leigh-on-Sea
Buying a business lock, stock and barrel can also include the personnel. When Jaime and Holly Fernandez bought Vino Vero they were more than happy to keep on Ollie and a just over a year on, they are extremely pleased they did.
“He’d been working there about two years before we took over so we knew him as we were regular customers,” says Jaime. “We are so glad he stayed. He’s got a scary depth of information about all wines and spirits. I don’t know how he retains all that detail – but he does!”
Jaime admits that without Ollie’s involvement they would not have been able to develop the new part of the business, which has so far seen them direct import a range of wines from four new producers.
“He’s been the shop manager for quite a while now,” he adds, “and that has enabled us to work on the importing side of the business. We trust him in any decision-making and wine buying; all that sort of thing.
“He’s been really on board with the new wines we’ve brought in to sell and he’s always really keen to learn about wines in general, new regions, styles and winemaking techniques.
“We have very similar tastes in wine, and we work very well together. We’re very lucky, he’s a perfect fit for our business.”
The Hungarian part of Ollie’s name is courtesy of his wife. “We are both very big fans of Hungarian wines,” says Ollie, “but unfortunately for me, her favourite thing is also white Burgundy, so if I bring a bottle home I have to split it 50-50. There’s no sneaking little bits of Puligny-Montrachet into the house and hoping she won’t notice!”
We really want people to have loads of fun picking their wine and chatting with us about it, whether they have a tenner to spend on one bottle or several hundred to spend on a case
The bar is almost back to operating at its pre-Covid peak. “People have been delighted to be back in the store talking to us,” Ollie says. “It’s what separates us from online-only retailers – you can buy the wine but you can’t have that interaction. We really want people to have loads of fun picking their wine and chatting with us about it, whether they have a tenner to spend on one bottle or several hundred to spend on a case.
“It frustrates us how many people seem to feel put off from shopping in specialist wine retailers because they think they are expected to have bottomless pockets or already know loads about wine.
“If people feel that way, we as an industry are to blame for that by failing to nurture a more inclusive and welcoming culture. Not all of us by any stretch of the imagination, but there are sectors that still seem keen to engender a feeling of exclusivity that makes people happier picking their wine from a supermarket where they feel they won’t be judged on their choices, or have someone roll their eyes if they mispronounce Riesling.”
There is a calendar full of customer tastings ahead. “People get super excited about those and it’s a great way of showcasing a lot of the wines we really love,” Ollie says. “We’re doing a whole tasting with all our own imports and that’s really exciting. We’ve got some fantastic wines made from Godello and Mencia from Galicia so there’s loads to talk about there.
“The interesting thing is that, once you’ve tried the wines, there is a remarkable degree of familiarity to them. It does give you that lovely moment where you can share that serendipity with a customer when they are discovering something for the first time.
“One of the reasons I’m having such a great time working with Jaime is the constant drive to challenge the business and move it in different directions. He always embraces new ideas so there is that feeling of creativity around the business that he does a lot to nurture – not just with me but with everyone else on the staff too.”