For a long time I have been close to despair about the wines a great many UK consumers buy, where they buy them and how they are offered for sale. Nowadays the majority of wine is bought from supermarkets and in the main the ranges are pretty dull and reflect what sells rather than a desire to lead and excite the customer.
Well, perhaps there is the beginnings of hope that this could change. The demise of Thresher/First Quench two years ago was both a blow to the independent wine sector and a huge opportunity, which coupled with Oddbin’s double collapse could well transform the landscape of wine retailing in this country.
Thresher’s end meant that there were hundreds of places all around the country that were no longer served by a dedicated wine shop – of any quality. This was then exacerbated by Oddbins also going under which left Majestic as the sole multiple independent. However, many of the people who worked in these stores had a real passion for wine which it seems they want to share with the British wine buying public.
A huge number of truly independent wine shops are opening up to fill the gap left by the former multiples and it seems that many of them are run by former Thresher people. These vary in size from small groups, like the new Wine Rack to one off stand alone stores. Some of them are fine wine specialists, some specialise in specific regions, some have an interesting angle and some are good traditional general wine shops.
There might be something wonderfully perverse and British in dozens of people working for a company that falls in ruins around them and when they come out the other side think – I know what I’ll do, I’ll open a wine shop. Hope over experience? Let’s hope not.
I will report further on some more of these places soon, but thought I would start with my new local wine shop. One of the owners used to work for Threshers Wine Rack and the original plan had been to revitalise one of their sites, but life brought them to Worcester Park in Surrey where there had never been a Thresher or a Wine Rack, so they had to start from scratch.