Culling the cults


It perhaps began just before the Millenium. Many a big Champagne House cried foul that they would have to sell us 10% less bottles and by the way charge us 10% more for Champagne for the Millenium celebrations, 31st December 1999. Let me work out the maths on that for a minute.

In the last few years we have seen the prevalence of marketing over sales. Traditionally it was all about sales. A good quality Champagne or wine, how much does it cost, I'll have some of that thank you, it was that simple. Today however some cult names are increasing in price at the same rate as Kensington Town Houses did in 2004, 2005, 2006 pre the Lehman crisis. As a wine merchant how can I sell you a wine that we have sold for 20 to 30 years that is say £150 a bottle yet a couple of months later I would be compelled to ask you £200? Plus, rather than the usual dozen bottles you take, restrict you to say just 2-3 bottles. I don't propose to 'play that game'. It is like you coming to ask me to sell you a Rolls Royce and I say of course but only if you buy three Volvo Estates first.

As such we have taken the painful decision of deliberately ditching many a famous name. Some of this game playing emanates from the producer itself, and or some of it emanates from the importer. Add on to this the occasional targeting by hedge funders etc and what you are used to buying you can only continue now if you wish to parallel the inflation rate of a Latin American dictatorship! Sometimes this is pure pricing-led but other times it is upon absurdly reduced allocations, some of which is down to frost and hail but I believe far too much is still deliberately manufactured. In extremis one great Bourbon that we used to stock for many years, we were recently "allowed" just 2 bottles and seeing that this was shipped from Kentucky to Scotland and then up to London, I duly told them to "sling their hook". We used to have 5 to 6 regular customers for this Bourbon and they would typically take 5 to 12 bottles each over a period of time. Imagine now that I have to say to most of those customers, you can't have any bottles at all and to just 2 of those customers you can now have only 1 bottle? What a waste of time and a sheer embarrassment.

What this broadly dictates is that the £50 bottle of wine you used to buy is typically to start £120 + service in a restaurant as retailers are no longer being fed sufficient stock or even any stock. Having worked hard for years, or decades even to help promote these brands, many of these historic trade contacts no longer wish to sell to those former merchants and shops.

Other complications ensue but it sadly means that amongst others we are saying farewell to: 

Blanton's Gold (Kentucky Bourbon)

Jacques Selosse 

Bérêche & Fils

Pierre Peters 

Ulysse Colin

Cédric Bouchard Val Vilaine

Jérôme Prevost (La Closerie)


Vega Sicilia


Guado al Tasso

Tenuta di Trinoro


Dom Pérignon

Domaine de Trévallon

Domaine de la Grange des Pères...


The good news is that we have continued to seek out and source wines where the greatest merit lies inside the bottle and not on a manipulated cult name so we are fully confident that we can offer a wealth of world class wines at what I believe is the right price and not an inflated or changing one. Tomorrow for example I'll be trying several new Champagnes from the most hallowed turfs, Avize, Cramant, Le Mesnil sur Oger. One step back, two steps forward...