Thursday 26 May 2016

The Sediment guide to wine merchants

With so many different ways of selling wine nowadays, what one needs is a knowledgeable, insider’s guide to the various types of wine merchants and outlets trading today. In the absence of that, you will have to make do with Sediment’s.

Quaff & Floggit
Proudly tracing a heritage back to the eighteenth century, their staff not only sell ’61 Lafite, but remember what it tasted like en primeur. Their ampersand defines them as retailers who aspire to the status of solicitors. Staff are trained to dissuade paupers from entering their store, by voicing withering offers of help in a public school accent. However, given the number who enter simply to gawp at the prices, they are considering reclassifying their store as a Fine Wine Museum, and charging an admission fee.

Nude has a unique business model. Customers become “investors” (or, as the company terms them, “mugs”). They then pay for independent winemakers to buy themselves clothes. Once they feel responsible for clothing the otherwise “nude” winemakers, customers feel obliged to purchase their wines.

Volary’s was once one of the grandest wine merchants in England. However, they now specialise in wines made by the former employees, near neighbours and distant relatives of the great names in which they once traded. Their customers are bombarded with offers of wines whose descriptions attempt to connect them, through either geography or genealogy, to some you might actually have heard of.

A chain of discount supermarkets originating in Germany – or perhaps two indistinguishable chains of discount supermarkets originating in Germany. These outlets became known for their “discount” labels, which no-one had ever heard of. In a moment of retail genius, they realised that no-one had ever heard of 99% of wine labels either. Such strangely-named wine is now sold at rock-bottom prices, alongside inflatable dinghies, power tools and random cold meats, but to avoid customer confusion is shelved away from cleaning products.

Under its charismatic boss, Richard Pickle, Vestal has put its name to record stores, bridal wear, cosmetics, financial services, telecommunications and transport, and so why not wine? They have recently recovered from difficulties when customers responded to their slogan, “Because life’s too short for dull wine”, by deciding that life was also too short to wait in for deliveries. Vestal has become known for the way it responds to customers with its friendly “V sign”.

Once an innovator in bringing unusual and little-known wines to the UK – hence that wacky name!! Their stores now sell spirits, beers and even smokes and nibbles, in a nostalgic throwback to the old-fashioned “offie”. Compared to some of the weird stuff sold in supermarkets nowadays, few of their wines seem particularly strange.

Abusive Wines
“Oi, you! Baldy! That stuff you’re drinking is rubbish! Buy some of our bloody wine instead!” This “refreshingly direct” approach has propelled Abusive Wines to a distant corner of the wine trade. They are suffering online, where they cannot be anywhere near as Abusive as some comments.

Back in the Sixties, Terry Waite (no relation!) drove his battered van around France, bringing back to England the wines he discovered. When the van finally broke down, he decided it would be easier to build a multi-million pound company instead, using his colossal savings on petrol. He founded a business which now sells wine directly to customers under a multitude of names, although the most popular remains “wine”.

Pioneers in selling nice wine in nasty environments. In distant, harshly-lit giant sheds, containing towering piles of boxes and pallets, customers are persuaded that they must be getting a bargain, because so little has been spent on the store. In recent years, minimum purchase quantity has fallen from twelve bottles to six to one. It is rumoured that soon they will give you a bottle if you’re prepared to enter.


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