Don’t usually do interviews but yesterday gave one to Graham Holter of the excellent Wine Merchant Magazine. This august journal is read closely by nearly all independent Wine Merchants in Britain and is specifically written with them in mind.
Having worked in this industry for many years and despite keeping most of it at arm’s length these days, I am aware that we do things differently to the other guys.
Sometimes we take this for granted though. Its just what we do. But many of our retail customers will be unaware of just how differently we work. All they see is decent wine offered locally and unless they regularly roam other Merchants around the country they won’t perhaps see the contrast. It often takes a visiting-Felixstowe wine buff who habitually trawls whichever Merchant is handy to come in and be blown away by the rarity and interestingness of our products.
Most “independents” aren’t. Independent that is. They buy all their wine from bigger Merchants. We even supply some and would like to supply more. Some have even grouped together to ship jointly – amusingly, they call themselves the Vindependents.
Nineteen of the wineries with whom we work are exclusive to us and a further five supply just a single other small importer. We have bothered to travel to find them (albeit sometimes a show in London does the trick). We have regularly sent large sums of money abroad to sure-they-must-exist-we’ve-tasted-the-samples wineries to pay in advance for wines that would otherwise remain unavailable in the UK. We regularly take chances on interesting and unusual styles for which no pre-existing demand is identifiable.
And okay, we do use an agent or two for Australia, South Africa and New Zealand but only because we don’t have the budget to do the required travel yet. And we really don’t major on these wines.
Graham has intimate knowledge of a great many of the UK’s smaller Merchants and has just sent me a message including;
…….it’s great to come away from one of these visits thinking that you’ve been discussing a business that’s totally unique. I think the approach to the wine range is so clever and I’m really interested to see how things evolve in the next few years……
Cheers Graham. And to the rest of you; thanks for supporting someone doing it differently.