Archive - February, 2010

New Wine Shopping Experience at Vinopolis London

Ever since I heard that Majestic would be moving out from under the arches at Bank End, the warren of brick tunnels between Borough Market and the Thames, home to Vinopolis, I wondered what would be happening there.

It was quickly announced that Laithwaites, one of the key retailing brands of the MASSIVE Direct Wines, the king of direct mail wine suppliers in this country, including The Sunday Times Wine Club and countless others, was to take over the space. I wondered how they would be using the opportunity. They already had a number of shops as well as their direct mail business, but this was a big change for them.

I was not disappointed by the effort they have made to make this a pleasant and welcoming shopping experience. Check it out yourself:

Although the Majestic shop that had been there was a bit of an institution, its warehouse style presentation, that works well in its shops around the country, didn’t quite fit the end of the Vinopolis experience. Much as I enjoy shopping in Majestic stores as a wine lover, they can be rather daunting to some, and moving from the Vinopolis Tour to a roomful of thousands of wines was a bit like getting someone to watch a single episode of The F Word then expecting them to run the kitchens at one of Gordon Ramsey’s restaurants.

The choice, presentation and decisions were rather overwhelming. Maybe even off-putting.

I hope Laithwaites apparent focus on the tasting table, and the space to explore around the displays, will be more welcoming for novice wine drinkers. I also hope they keep the range of wines available to taste as broad (and non-exclusive) as possible.

I didn’t have much time to look at the full range available. I did notice some well-known names from Australia, New Zealand, Spain and also a range of ‘Fine Wine’ (usually £20+ per bottle) but I wonder what regular consumers will make of the lack of the brands they are used to seeing in high street retailers for context?

In any case, let’s hope the site helps to welcome many more consumers to the enjoyment, variety and culture of wine.

The official opening is on February 19th (according to Tony Laithwaites blog) but you can already pop in today.

Disclaimer: in my professional role for wineries in Rioja, I am involved in supplying 1 wine to Laithwaites.

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The next 48 hrs’ content is brought to you by …

When I asked recently whether I should let you know about interesting opportunities and stories that emerged despite them being as a result of my work (in the wine business), the resounding response was yes, but please disclose it. So here’s the lowdown on the next couple of days.

I first met Fred Siriex, General Manager at Galvin at Windows, through twitter when he was one of the first top London restaurateurs to explore twitter. By coincidence I also began a commercial relationship with his restaurant when he listed the wines from Dinastia Vivanco not long after.

Fred is a mate and he happens to be an incredibly inquisitive guy, looking for new ideas and relationships, so we hit it off early on with LONG discussions about what social media could bring to restaurants and the wine business. We worked on a couple of projects involving food and wine bloggers, but we also discussed the idea of documenting more about the life of a restaurant.

Galvin organises occasional “inspiration trips” to beautiful places in the world to source new ideas for their now Michelin starred menu and restaurant, where the owner, Chris Galvin, chef Andre Garret and some customers have a brief, fun and inspiring road trip for a few days. I agreed to come the most recent trip, a journey to Champagne to visit Pommery, eat at Chateau Les Crayères and generally explore the region.

I hope to learn a little more about the food, wine and history of Champagne, but also understand what inspires Galvin and maybe inspire others to do something similar.

I trust you will enjoy the results, but I have always encouraged others to openness on their blogs, so I thought it worthwhile to make this clear.

Now, I’m off for my breakfast glass of Champagne. A bientot!

(5/2/10: edited for punctuation lost by posting it  from the iPhone orginally)