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North London wine shop continues ‘hybrid retail’ trend

A new wine shop in Islington, North London, has added to the growing trend towards “hybridisation” in wine retail, offering around 70 cheeses in addition to its wine range.

Provisions is part of a growing trend towards creating 'hybrid' wine retail ventures (Photo: Provisions)
Provisions is part of a growing trend towards creating ‘hybrid’ wine retail ventures (Photo: Provisions)

Called Provisions, the wine shop on Holloway Road, Islington, opened its doors on 9 November. As well as sourcing around 100 wines from artisanal producers, owners Ben Proctor and Hugo Meyer Esquerré have put together a range of around 70 cheeses from France, Italy and UK, with an emphasis on small-scale farmers who use raw milk.

“The aim is to put wine and cheese side by side,” Proctor said. “Not especially because they’re easy to match – they’re often quite tricky – but to show the similarities between the two and the huge variety in both: how the type of grape or milk, where they are produced, and how the person looking after them contribute to something unique.”

The pair, former colleagues at Borough Wines, will be importing most of the wines and cheeses themselves. The wines, mainly from France and Italy, have been sourced from growers who champion indigenous grape varieties. The shop also provides a range of craft beers.

“Hugo and I met at Borough Wines many moons ago and went our separate ways for a while – Hugo in cheese, me in wine,” Proctor said.

“We started talking about importing wine together and began Totem Wines, a wholesaler working with a handful of France and Italy’s finest. We will be selling many of these at Provisions, but we’re also working with some great UK suppliers for other wines, craft beers and breads.

“We’ve spent the last six months going to France and Italy to meet producers, so we can better understand what they’re doing and we want to be able to bring their story to London for others to discover too,” Proctor said.

Provisions is part of a growing trend of ‘hybridisation’ in wine retail, with businesses seeking to offer something more than simply ‘bottles on shelves’. As reported in the drinks business, Borough Wines recently opened an outlet in Hastings selling books alongside its usual wine offering, while ventures such as Jason Atherton’s Social Wine and Tapas and Vinoteca combine dining with wine off-sales.

Proctor believed that putting wine and cheese on equal footing was uncharted territory. “There are some fantastic cheese shops in UK with a few shelves of wine, and equally superb wine shops with a small cheese fridge. We really want to offer people an excellent range of both,” he said.

“We want the shop to be somewhere locals can pop by regularly to try things, so we’ll always have wines by the glass and a new cheese on the board. In the evening, there will be space for people to sit around the central work table and we’ll be inviting producers to host tastings, as well as running collaborative events with other wine, beer and cheese suppliers.”

The wines Proctor and Meyer Esquerré have sourced are from growers from the “undervalued parts of France and Italy”, Proctor said “and also a few who are making their voice heard within the traditional regions of wine production”.

“Many of these are eschewing their classification and this is often where we find the most exciting winemaking,” he added.

Provisions will also be operating a wine refill system allowing customers to choose between two reds and two whites, priced at £6. Proctor said there would also be “plenty” of bottles in the sub-£10 range.

The shop will also be drink and eat-in options, with a “happy meal” deal on a bottle of wine, a cheese and bread which changes each week. “As our cheeses are imported too, we’ve managed to make these quite affordable,” Proctor said.

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