Issue: 48 / Sunday 18 November, 2018
Q&A with Stu
Owner and Founder of The Vinorium…
Each team member prepared and posed five questions to the boss – We thought we would share Stu’s responses over the course of the next month. He was under instruction to answer candidly!
How did you end up an Australian specialist? and was this always the company’s goal from day one?
Fundamentally, yes. It was inevitable as I have been personally buying Australian wines since the age of eighteen. In fact, for the past twenty-eight years, I have amassed thousands of bottles of Australian wines and can recall where each bottle or case was purchased. My personal collection houses wines which disappeared from our shores many years ago, which is something I wanted to change. Slowly but surely, The Vinorium is bringing some great names back which I find incredibly nostalgic. Many of the wine producers remain owned by the same families, some have sold to large, global corporations and some are no longer producing wine. Clearly, there is a tangible and ‘real’ link between me and many producers we now represent. Call it an honesty born out of deep respect and appreciation for these great wines, which I know many equally respect. In the UK, we are guardians of history and are now playing an important part in these wines’ future, which is something we take very seriously. We are also part-responsible for a path that some of our younger winemakers will be taking as they find our counsel precious, ultimately safeguarding their bright futures, which is certainly a journey we are humbled to share with them.
What frustrates you about the wine industry?
Sadly, and perhaps I am showing my age, but far too much frustrates me – perhaps the reason why we lock ourselves away in a small corner of the Kent countryside and rarely venture across the county border. The level of hypocrisy in our industry is appalling and something I would love to see change. The wine press is predictable, extraordinarily lazy and are often simply out of touch. Insular maybe but their bias is unquestionable. Their lack of objectivity and editorial honesty is something I will never understand and I often find their published trivia galling to read. I acknowledge, The Vinorium is different. In fact, and an opinion shared by many of my respected colleagues and global wine producers, we are genuinely one of a kind, but we are clearly a little too ‘special’ for the ordinary mention. One editorial policy starts with “We aim to be a source of information, inspiration and conversation for independent wine retailers” which is utter twaddle. The Vinorium is a stimulating and inspirational independent wine merchant who does not follow the norm and that is the reason why we have become so effective. We chose to seek true independence and represent producers exclusively, we are highly profitable, have no borrowings, zero debt and created (in 2013) a retail start-up which now has an annual turnover of four million. A journey we are willing to share. What an inspiring story to share with the other eight-hundred or so independent wine merchants in the UK, many of which struggle. Well, one would think so but our avant-garde approach clashes with their sponsorship which in turn highlights the hypocrisy. Instead, we will continue to read about wine merchants who simply troll through the many UK wine lists, choose some wines and declare themselves a successful specialist.
How do you see the wine industry changing over the coming 6-12 months with Brexit looming?
Brexit is a shambles and will affect our industry enormously. Inevitably, the sterling will fall against global currencies resulting in significant price increases over the coming one to two years. To alleviate the expected downturn, we have prepared for a ‘hard-Brexit’ and forward ordered and paid for as much stock as we can physically manage. At this point, it’s all conjecture however, I predict that several of the UK’s largest wine importers may well go into liquidation with the sad loss of hundreds of jobs.
I previously reported that 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, 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 against turnover of £100 million, which are far from flattering. Many of these rely on the restaurant trade who will also suffer, should we see a seismic shift in the culture of dining out which will be compounded if the London based, financial sector ups-sticks or downsizes. The majority of restaurants require anywhere from sixty to one hundred- & twenty-days payment terms with the majority of wine merchants seeking at least thirty days. Big suppliers are not paying their producers for the same, extended term and everyone is effectively borrowing from each other. It does not take much for the chain to be broken should one link cease to trade which will happen.
Imports may well decrease but this is solely reliant of the currency situation. Conversely, exports will increase as any desirable wine stocks in the UK will be hunted out by savvy, foreign money. This could be the catalyst to propel the English winemaking scene onto the world stage. A reported bumper crop and excellent 2018 harvest may attract buyers from far afield. I wish them well as this could be the positive from what is going to be a very tough time for many.
As for The Vinorium – We are now positioned to ride out a ‘hard-Brexit’ with confidence and to some degree, comfort. Effectively, we now have sufficient stocks (and all paid for) to generate the same level of business we have enjoyed this year.
What piece of advice would you give a younger Stu starting out in the wine business?
There will be many bumps along the journey however, it is important to stay true to yourself. Immerse yourself and seek as much knowledge from those around you as ultimately wine is a subject to share. Above all, do not be afraid to make mistakes or to voice your opinion. Enjoy your time as this is a truly wonderful industry to be a part of.
You sell both to private clients and the trade, how do you balance these two and do you favour one over the other?
That’s a naughty and slightly controversial question! The balancing act is much simpler to explain – I, predominantly work with our global trade clients however, I do oversee several private clients too. Trade clients are integral to the overall success of The Vinorium as they generate more revenue than our private clients even though our private clients outweigh our trade customers by 3:1. There is no balance when it comes to finances or prices as we are uniquely different; both trade and private clients pay the same price for our wines and no credit / payment terms are given, which enables a fluid financial operation. I will confess, I do prefer working with private customers over our trade clients as, fundamentally, I love wine and sharing knowledge, my thoughts, views and experiences are what get me out of bed every day. The trade always know best and rarely seeks to communicate about wine on a personal level. I imagine bravado or the sense of being undermined comes into play a lot which is rather sad.
UK Exclusivity for The Vinorium
Sleepy Hollow Chardonnay 2016
97 Points - Stuart McCloskey "By far, the standout wine from the Talbott samples which I received. The nose unfolds with some aeration but retains its tight, mineral and steely fresh character – a nutty character unfolds after a while. The palate offers a degree of richness but has a tight and elegant core which is most attractive. Buttered citrus, stone fruits and tropical layers in abundance with touches of toast and oak. The mouthfeel and textural grip are impressive which support the wine’s overall harmonious balance. Lovely acidity and vitality which contrasts beautifully with the ripe fruit and toasty, mealy flavours. This is just beginning to show its full potential and will comfortably cellar for 5+ years. Excellent and served using Zalto Bordeaux glassware."
Jeb Dunnuck updates his scores for two of our Rhone wines…
Domaine de la Janasse Chateauneuf du Pape
Cuvee Chaupin 2016
99 Points - Jeb Dunnuck
Bottled end of February/early in March, the 2016 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Chaupin is incredible stuff, and while I suspect it’s the best vintage to date, it’s going to be great comparing it to bottles of the 2005, 2007, 2010, and 2015 over the coming 15+ years. This beauty offers a thrilling blend of kirsch, blackberries, smoked earth, graphite, and licorice on the nose. It's full-bodied, deep, pure, ultra-fine, and powerful on the palate and flirts with perfection. It’s a tour de force in Grenache that readers need to snatch up!
£64.00 per bottle
Domaine de la Janasse Chateauneuf du Pape
Cuvee Tradition 2016
95 Points - Jeb Dunnuck
Moving to the Châteauneuf-du-Pape from bottle, the 2016 vintage was described as having the power of 2010 and similar to yet fresher than 2007. The 2016 Châteauneuf-du-Pape offers a great bouquet of black raspberries, tapenade, crushed violets, and spring flowers, and shares lots of similarities to the Chaupin cuvée (and it’s less expensive!). Full-bodied, incredibly elegant and seamless, it might be the finest traditional cuvée ever produced from this estate.
£37.95 per bottle
£160.00 per case (6x75cl) IB
“What can we say about the 2017s?” Says Nigel Greening, winemaker at Felton Road…
“There’s not much of it is the first thing. A shame, because they are rather exciting, to put it mildly. Low yields have given us concentration, but the vintage itself, with its cooler more mixed weather, leaves a stamp of freshness and purity. That last word: pure, is the watchword of the vintage. These aren’t hefty, despite the serious concentration. They aren’t so much multidimensional wines; rather they are infused with a transparency, a clarity which I find very exciting and will appeal to those who revere the ability of Pinot to show purity. Make no mistake, this is going to be a very fine vintage. The best yet? Way too early to say, but it’s a contender.
Last of all, we were somewhat shocked to have Drinks International move us into the top 10 most admired wine brands on earth. A pretty outrageous statement for a small family winery in the middle of nowhere. To be sitting immediately above Guigal and Chateau D’Yquem is surreal. The fact that we were voted into 9th place by 200 wine professionals around the world is humbling.
No pressure then! I feel confident that the 2017 vintage; our 21st, is as worthy of such trust as anything we have made to date.”
Felton Road Block 3 Pinot Noir 2017
99 Points - Bob Campbell
This a terrific example of one of the country's consistently best wines. I find the silken, seamless texture totally seductive. It's challenging to identify individual flavours because there are so many of them, this wine defines complexity. Floral, herb, berry fruit and an array of hard-to-describe savoury elements suggesting baked earth, wood smoke and the sort of scents you might encounter in sniffing distance of a Turkish spice stall.
£60.50 per bottle
Felton Road Cornish Point
Pinot Noir 2017
97 Points - Bob Campbell
Delicious pinot noir, with a sumptuous texture and floral, plum, dark cherry and Oriental spice flavours. Supple, elegant wine with impressive underlying power - the flavours linger long after the wine has been swallowed (or spat in my case). An accessible wine in a very
£45.95 per bottle
Felton Road Bannockburn
Pinot Noir 2017
95 Points - Bob Campbell
Aromatic pinot noir with spice, plum and violet aromas that are joined by liquorice, prune and subtle nutty oak on the palate. Dense, intense wine with strong sweet fruit restrained by subtle tannins. A rich, almost chewy wine, with impressive underlying power. Best served slightly chilled to temper fruit sweetness.
£36.50 per bottle
Felton Road Calvert
Pinot Noir 2017
An intensely perfumed nose that’s dominated by floral notes in the typical Calvert expression. Rose and violet give way to underlying blueberry and plum with background hints of leather and polished wood. The power of the fruit is considerable but the overall mouthfeel is characteristically refined, precise and detailed. The linear nature of the tannins brings a pleasing tautness and purpose. As accurate and fulfilling as we could ever imagine it to be.
£42.95 per bottle
We've re-stocked the shelves
Senior Winemakers Stuart Blackwell (right) & Toby Barlow (left)
Representing ‘Classic’ Barossa
Throughout the 70 year history there have been a few unerring constants in St Hallett’s philosophy: an absolute dedication to the Barossa, a love of Shiraz and a promise to ‘do it once, do it right'. The first vintage of Old Block Shiraz was released in 1980 and it is celebrated ever since. Only a decade later, Old Block Shiraz was limited to only 3 bottles per customer and the winery itself became one of the must-visits for anyone
travelling to Barossa.
Famed for its elegance and refinement, The Old Block Shiraz is a blend of fruit coming from ancient vines of Barossa Valley (average vine age is close to 90 years) and fruit from the cooler, high altitude vineyards of Eden Valley. The results are simply stunning with wonderful textures, seamless tannins and ethereal perfume - wine of the highest class and sheer elegance.
As with wines of iconic status, the world pricing doesn’t budge below £49.00 per bottle (without hesitation, worth every penny) however, as we have embarked upon the long-term relationship with Australia’s Fine Wine Partners supporting such iconic brands, our customers benefit from our special price of £32.50 per bottle.
St Hallett Old Block Shiraz 2014
97 Points - James Halliday "Average vine age 88 years, hand-picked, a combination of open and tank fermentation, some whole bunches included, matured in French oak. A masterpiece created from ancient vines and the continuing skilled winemaking team at St Hallett. This is elegance of the highest degree, with medium-bodied, supple red and black fruits flowing along the prodigiously long palate and aftertaste, the use of French
oak the key."
£32.50 per bottle
£149.55 per case (6x75cl) In Bond
St Hallett Blackwell Shiraz 2015
95 Points - James Halliday "From Ebenezer, Seppeltsfield and Greenock vineyards, fermented on skins for 8-12 days, matured in American oak. I assume Stuart Blackwell kept a close watch on the grape selection and vinification of this wine, and claim responsibility for its quality. Black fruits in profusion embrace the scaffold of ripe tannins and American oak to display their wares."
£20.50 per bottle
£89.55 per case (6x75cl) In Bond
Christmas Domestic (UK) Delivery
Schedule from our HQ
• We are advising all our customers to place their orders before
4.30pm on Wednesday 19th December to ensure delivery before Christmas.
• We will be despatching all orders placed before 4.30pm on Thursday 20th December on the same day but please note that these are not guaranteed to arrive pre-Christmas.
• We will be extending our same day despatch promise until 4.30pm from
Monday 10th December.
• All orders placed after 4.30pm on Thursday 20th December will be despatched on Thursday 3rd January.
Domestic (UK) Delivery
Schedule from our UK Bond
• We are advising all our customers to place their orders before
12pm on Wednesday 20th December to ensure delivery before Christmas.
• Orders for the following postcodes must be placed by:
HS, KA, KW, PA, ZE
AB, BT, DD, DG, FK, IV, KA, KY, PH, TD
EH, FK, G, LD, ML, PA
European Delivery Schedule
• European delivery cut offs are yet to be confirmed.
Our Office and Shop Christmas Hours
• The shop will be open Monday to Thursday from 9am-5pm and Friday from 9am-3pm (extended until 5pm on Friday 14th and 21st)
1st December – 10am-4pm
8th December – 10am-5pm
15th, 22nd and 23rd December – 9am-6pm
The shop will be closed on Christmas eve
• Our office will close on Friday 21st December at 5pm
and re-open on Thursday 3rd January.