Issue: 34 / Sunday 29 July, 2018
Gaucho & Cau chain falls into administration
Written by Stuart McCloskey
The excellent Argentinian-themed chain, Gaucho which operates 13 restaurants in the UK and three overseas in Hong Kong, Dubai and Buenos Aires called in the Big Four firm as administrators following a significant decrease in sales across its Cau brand in particular. Deloitte reported that Cau, which is made up of 22 UK outlets, will close immediately while Gaucho, which is the more upmarket restaurant brand in the group, will continue to trade while the administrators look for a buyer. Gaucho had considered several ways to restructure but it owed a tax bill of over £1m, which was due to be paid last Friday. The group also owe its banks £50m.
Sadly, the 540 people employed by Cau will now lose their jobs while the remaining 765 employees who work across the Gaucho outlets and the group’s head office will also risk losing their jobs if a buyer cannot be found. The closure is part of a recent trend of restaurant chains shutting outlets, including Prezzo, Carluccio’s, Byron, and Jamie’s Italian and longstanding Soho haunt The Gay Hussar, which has also been closed down.
Gaucho is renowned in the UK not just for its focus on steak but also as leading restaurants for the promotion of Argentine wine. Its closure could very well have a knock-on effect for Argentine wines in the UK.
Clearly, this is gloomy news however, and in my opinion, the fragile balance between wine supplier(s) and restaurant(s) is financially dangerous with many UK wine merchants needing to carefully way-up the reward of selling their wine versus the obvious risk of exposure. Personally, I believe the viewpoint of many merchants and restaurants is outdated, which has led to the demise of some cracking merchants. Moreover, some of the UK’s largest, most powerful wine suppliers are either operating with staggering losses or their level of retained profit after taxation compared to the sheer enormity of their operation and turnover, highlights the fact that something is seriously wrong.
Four of the UK’s leading, long-established wine suppliers, and all multi award winners in their specialist sectors reported sales (last filed, full accounts) of £369 million, which is an impressive figure however, and when you study the retained profits, one company made a loss of £6 million, one a profit of £385,245 against a turnover of £50 million, the third with a profit of close to £1.9 million against sales of £54 million and the fourth reporting a profit of £2.5 million aganist turnover of £100 million, which are far from flattering and highlight the need for change.
We do not actively seek to sell our wine to restaurants. Why you may ask? In short, we are not prepared to offer the ridiculous credit terms which the majority of restaurants seek. Terms of 120 days, regularly rising to 180 days is, for me not commercially functional and complete madness. Granted, there are many global wine producers who love to see their wines sitting on some of the finest, Michelin Star restaurant lists in the UK. In some cases, producers will enforce restaurants sales over selling to independent wine merchants, which is now becoming the norm.
It is widely acknowledged the more Michelin Stars you gain, the harder it is to make a profit, which in turn heightens the risk of the restaurants falling into liquidation and the wine merchant(s) collecting a penny in the pound.
The matter of restaurant wine margins is a sore one with the general rule of thumb for pricing wine in the ‘on-trade’ being to charge three times the retail price and add VAT. For arguments sake, call it a margin of 70% but many ‘top’ restaurants are charging much more. Today, many restaurants struggle to sell their wines as, and thankfully, the sensible general public is fed-up with paying extortionate prices. In turn, this leaves many great wines sitting on lists with only a handful of bottles being sold. Ergo, what is the point for the producer? The sheer vanity of being seen on an expensive wine list? Surely, they are producing wine to be enjoyed? Clearly not in so many cases as vanity wins over.
We adopt an entirely different financial and sales philosophy, and by the admission of many of the UK largest wine suppliers, we stand firmly alone. We pay each producer we work with 100% of the value of our order before we commence shipping. The work that our smaller, artisan producers put into their craft is colossal therefore, at least we can pay them for their wine. We offer no credit terms whatsoever and respectfully, do not care for the lure of a Michelin wine list. We have sold wines to several Michelin restaurants however, we never ship our wine before we have received payment. This tact causes many of the sommeliers to put in a disgruntled call or email concerning our unacceptable terms however, I simply highlight the fact that they would never dream of pouring a bottle of wine, allowing the customer to enjoy and walk out the door with a promise to return in three to four months to pay and not file for bankruptcy in the meantime.
It's seriously time for a wake-up call for our great industry as the continued cycle of failures is now becoming monthly news. Where is the harm in paying your suppliers for their wine? If you onward sold your wine with payment prior to delivery, then you would have the funds to do so, rather than adopting a ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’ strategy. Yes, you may lose a few restaurant listings however, consider the upside of effectively not part-funding their business. The costs of employing staff to continually chase debt and not having the money in your bank account versus the nominal gross profit margins which cannot be argued with, makes no commercial sense. I must also add that there are many restaurants who do respect payment terms but, 120 days is simply too long for a business to operate correctly.
I am not suggesting that we are perfect however, we make as much and in some cases more profit than companies twenty-times the scale of The Vinorium. We attract more and more producers who love the element of receiving payment (in advance) for their wine and above all, customers will physically enjoy what they have produced, which and after all, is the point of putting wine into a bottle.
1944 was an auspicious year for the wine industry in Kumeu, Western Auckland. This is when the Brajkovich family of Croatian extraction bought their eponymous estate, which now makes the most outstanding chardonnays to leave New Zealand, let alone the North Island.
A real family affair, all of the founder’s children are involved in some aspect of the business, but winemaking is in the charge of Michael Brajkovich who also has the distinguished achievement of becoming New Zealand’s first Master of Wine. Since taking control of this function in 1982, he has set a benchmark that is yet to be surpassed with five unique expressions of chardonnay that are relatively cheap when compared to Burgundian offerings. These wines are true bargains!
The impressive entry-level Kumeu River Village Chardonnay is Chablis-like in its build with a citrus and green apple flavour profile that is fresh, mineral and breathtaking in its delivery. Fermentation in stainless steel tanks with a small proportion in French barriques giving polish to a wine that would otherwise be ordinary and ‘samey’.
The Estate Chardonnay has more richness and toast owing to barrel fermentation, barrel ageing and complete malolactic fermentation. Coming from six different parcels in the entire estate holdings, Michael’s mastery in blending shines through in an effort that over-performs year on year.
The jewels in the portfolio, though are the single vineyard wines, Coddington, Hunting Hill and Maté’s Vineyard. Coddington comes generously oaked with a small production limited to between 600-700 cases annually since its inception in 2006. It differs from Hunting Hill, which has more power, persistence and acidity framed by gentle oak. Seen as the flagship wine, Maté’s Vineyard is the product of a single vineyard in the immediate confines of the winery. It is the top offering rendering a wine that is long aged, structured and laden with beguiling depths supported by rich, pear, fig and peach intensity.
Kumeu River Estate produces world class wines with a strong sense of place pointing to New Zealand.
Kumeu Village Chardonnay 2016
18 Points - Raymond Chan "Bright straw-yellow colour with some depth, lighter on the edge. The nose is softly full and gently up-front and voluminous with aromas of yellow stonefruits in an amalgam with white peaches and a subtle mealy and nutty overlay. Medium-full bodied, the palate is stylishly up-front with flavours of ripe yellow stonefruits and peaches with nutty and savoury mineral interest. The mouthfeel has fruit richness lending rounded textures and plenty of presence. The wine flows positively along a fine phenolic line leading to a lingering dry finish of stonefruits, nuts and mealy detail. This is an elegantly rich, up-front Chardonnay with ripe stonefruit, nutty and mealy flavours with good weight, a rounded mouthfeel and a dry finish. Match with poultry, pork and veal over the next 3+ years. Hand-picked Kumeu fruit, WBP and indigenous yeast fermented, 75% in tank and 25% in seasoned oak to 13.5% alc., the wine given extended lees aging, undergoing 100% MLF."
£11.95 per bottle
Hunting Hill Chardonnay 2015
95 Points - James Suckling.com "Very citrus-focused nose with overtly minerally crushed stony notes. Some sweet fermentation-derived leesy florals, too. An extremely distinctive wine in the set of single site Kumeu chardonnays. The palate continues the flinty, mineral theme, with chiselled shape and pithy grapefruit bitterness that really smacks the finish into place. Drink now."
95 Points - Lisa Perrotti-Brown "The 2015 Hunting Hill Chardonnay displays a youthful restraint, yet nonetheless delivers an exciting array of stone fruit, pink grapefruit, ginger and marzipan notes with subtle hints of orange blossoms, crushed stones and lightly buttered toast. Medium bodied and tightly woven, is has a lively backbone supporting the generous flavor layers, finishing with great length and depth.
As usual - just gorgeous."
17.5 Points - Jancis Robinson "Intense and smoky. Very dense and juicy.
So captivating immediately."
£29.00 per bottle
Also available in Magnums
Coddington Vineyard Chardonnay 2015
94 Points - James Suckling.com "Peach fruit aromas are at their seductive best here. The warmth of sweetly spicy and toasty oak adds plenty of interest, too. Masses of fleshy, palate-soaking presence in the mouth, while acid zips around below like an underground rail network, unseen and yet essential to everything working. The phenolics are spot on. Lemon cream finish. Drink now."
91+ Points - Lisa Perrotti-Brown "The 2015 Coddington Chardonnay is youthfully muted with subtle suggestions of lemon curd, lime leaves and grapefruit peel plus a yeasty, toasty, cedary waft. Light to medium-bodied, fine, fresh and delicate in the mouth, it delivers good citrus and yeasty notes."
17 Points - Jancis Robinson "Actually quite savoury on the nose. Then broad and almost rich. Still quite tight and minerally. Maybe not the densest. Dry finish."
£25.95 per bottle
Estate Chardonnay 2015
93 Points - James Suckling.com "A blend of six parcels this wine embodies the signature style of rich, ripe peach fruits and toasty oak warmth on the nose (20% new). The palate fuses ripe citrus and stone fruits together in a powerful, fresh and balanced mode. This is a trademark of Brajkovich – he embraces chardonnay's richness and delivers energy and flavor. Drink now."
92 Points - Lisa Perrotti-Brown "The 2015 Estate Chardonnay is more open-knit and less taut than the single vineyard wines, with an expressive nose of ripe nectarines, pink grapefruit and guava, plus underlying notes of baking bread and ginger. Medium-bodied, it offers richness and good depth in the mouth with a an approachable, refreshing backbone and great harmony."
17 Points - Jancis Robinson "Pear and tight and tense. Still very youthful. Tense and tight. Lively. Still very youthful."
£20.00 per bottle
A brilliantly crafted blend of 40% Hunting Hill Pinot Noir, 60% Chardonnay with base wine coming from their superb 2006 Estate Chardonnay. Exuberantly aromatic with a distinct Kumeu nose. Mouth-filling yet delicate, salt-tinged, bright juicy lemon, green apple with bags of charm. I expect this to evolve nicely in bottle (2-3 years). Bottled August 2013 and disgorged May 2016 with 12% alcohol.
94 Points - Sam Kim "As with all other Kumeu River wines, this is impeccably composed and elegantly expressed, showing nectarine, acacia, lemon peel and yeasty notes on the nose. The palate is superfine and beautifully weighted with creamy mouthfeel and elegant fruit intensity, wonderfully enhanced by subtle savoury nuances and perfectly pitched acidity. Very long and engaging, and hugely appealing. Grapes were hand harvested, whole bunch pressed, fermented using indigenous yeasts; then secondary fermentation in the bottle with 30 months on lees; disgorged by hand."
£26.95 per bottle
Hunting Hill Pinot Noir 2013
The first release of Pinot Noir exclusively from their Hunting Hill vineyard, the 2013 has beautiful aromas of ripe cherries and spice and displays a lovely purity. The palate is lively and fresh with firm tannins which are expected to mellow with bottle age.
£23.00 per bottle
Weingut Keller Riesling Von der Fels 2015
96 Points - Stuart McCloskey
“The 2015 is just starting to reveal itself with wonderful purity and precision. The nose offers smoked slate, minerals and fresh apple. The palate is highly elegant whilst retaining the energy of a young, supremely tensioned Riesling. Von der Fels is one of the best examples of dry German Riesling available at any price point. The grapes which form Von der Fels come from the younger (20-25 year) old vines of Klaus-Peter’s Grosses Gewächs (Great Growth / Grand Cru) parcels, which are the sites that produce the very top dry wines of Germany. Grosses Gewächs' start around £120 with his top G-Max wines selling globally around £2,200 per bottle. This is a real gem with exquisite precision, refinement and crystalline minerals. Although quantities are strictly limited, this wine is a must purchase if you are a Riesling lover."
Our best selling
wine of this week goes to
MIP Rosé... no surprise
Domaine Sainte Lucie
MIP Premium Rosé 2016
16.5 Points - Jancis Robinson "Rose petal, redcurrant - good generosity of fruit, and a clear step up from their basic cuvée. Good persistence too. Worth the premium."
The Domaine Sainte Lucie Made in Provence (MIP) Premium Rosé 2016 is delicately pale pink in colour and packed full of berry fruit on the nose. Flavours of sour cherry, strawberry, pear drops are intermixed with hints of herbs and earth. The texture here is satiny and luscious yet the overall effect is buoyant and infectiously juicy. Outstanding on all accounts, and just what you're looking for when you need a dry rosé for a
hot summers day...
A message and photograph from Deep Woods:
“Wishing all Vinorium customers a great summer”
We are open next Saturday
4 August 10am - 4pm
Why not pop in and say hello...
The Vinorium, Ashmill House,
Ashmill Business Park, Ashford Road, Lenham, ME17 2GQ