Five restaurant wine specialists now offering UK home deliveryBy Patrick Schmitt
If you thought that the coronavirus lockdown meant missing out on rarified wines only found in restaurants, you’d be wrong – and to prove it we’ve rounded up five restaurant wine specialists now offering home delivery to drinkers in the UK, including some very special offers for db readers.
With news currently focused on the surge in wine sales from retailers as UK consumers are holed up indoors, it should be remembered that there is a whole sector of the drinks trade that is doing barely any business at all – and this concerns those who supply restaurants, all of which are closed to diners, even if some are offering take-away.
As those who love wine and eat out regularly will know, the drinks available in restaurants tend to be different from those on offer in retailers, with restaurant wines selected by sommeliers to offer diners something unusual, often chosen to follow a theme, while remaining complementary to the type of cuisine being served.
So, with the lockdown preventing wine lovers from going out and trying new drops in restaurants, it is easy to get stuck in a vinous rut at home, and end up consuming the same few wine types night after night.
Now, while there is of course great variation in the wine offered by specialist retailers, particularly the UK’s great wine merchants – such as Berry Bros and Justerinis – or the country’s diverse set of independent wine shops, there are still plenty of wines not on their lists.
Such wines are in fact only found in restaurants, a deliberate choice by the dining establishments and often the producers too. And, as a result, a set of UK importers and distributors have been set up specifically to bring in such wines and sell them to restaurants and bars only.
But with Covid-19 causing an end to all dining in the UK, these wine suppliers have no one to sell their wares too – and these are often a brilliant, specialist selection.
Thankfully, some of these businesses have, in an impressively rapid move, changed their operations to serve consumers during the lockdown.
This means that you – the home-based wine lover – can, from the comfort of your sofa, enjoy the sort of uncommon and delicious drinks normally only served in restaurants. And, in doing so, help keep the UK’s restaurant wine suppliers in business, and the wine estates they import in production.
Now, with such trade-only businesses unknown to the vast majority of wine drinkers, it’s hard for them to find a customer, so, in a bid to help them, we’ve listed five great options for you to try, allowing you to bring some of the restaurant wine experience into your lockdown life.
Highly respected Master Sommelier Matt Wilkin co-founded H2Vin 10 years ago to supply great wines to fine restaurants in the UK, especially London.
However, as he tells db with disarming honesty, he’s lost 95% of his business due to the UK lockdown, exacerbated by the fact that many independent restaurants and large catering groups have told Matt that they won’t be paying their outstanding invoices (some dating back as far as November/December last year) until the lockdown is lifted.
To keep the business going, and so he can pay his wine-producing suppliers, H2Vin is providing home delivery for consumers during the Covid-19 lockdown with a range of mixed-case offers.
Operating out of LCB Tilbury, which is acting as H2Vin’s ‘retail’ outlet, Matt says the company has launched a new H2Vin website last week, which you can visit here.
While it’s not an e-commerce site, it does have several offer links on the scrolling image section: such as special ‘Mixed Case Deals’; a ‘Reduced Prices Fine Wine Offer’, and a ‘Domaine Philippe Alliet Chinon Offer’.
In terms of the ‘Mixed Case Deals’, there are six different £100 mixed cases (12 x 75cl bottles), along with ‘Wine Survival Pack’ offers, and six different £125 ‘Boosted’ mixed cases (12 x 75cl bottles), as well as a £115.00 Italian Fine Wine pack (6 x 75cl bottles). Each case consists of a range of wines.
Matt told db about the wines being sold for delivery to consumers at home, “All offer cracking value for money, punching well above their weight, and are ready for drinking now!”
An enticing offer has been made for all home-based wine drinkers by on-trade specialist merchant Jascots, and it’s this: UK consumers who order during the lockdown will get wine at wholesale prices now and for life.
This means that any UK resident enduring the Covid-induced house-bound state can buy wine from Jascots at the same trade prices that the likes of Michelin star restaurants usually receive, and this applies to all of the supplier’s exclusive wines from smaller producers around the world.
There is a minimum order of 12 bottles, but free delivery within M25, and £10 for elsewhere – and to take advantage of the offer, or find out more, email email@example.com or call +44 (0)20 8965 2000
Miles MacInnes, who is the managing partner at the merchant, told db, “We, Jascots, are an on-trade specialist wine merchant and our sales went from 85% of normal on Friday 13th March to zero on Tuesday 17th with our beloved customers facing the heart-breaking necessity to close their doors.”
Continuing, he said, “From zero sales on that Tuesday we turned home-delivery wine merchant overnight, offering our normal trade prices to isolated wine lovers and we had 45 orders to deliver on the Friday – with the support of friends, family and self-isolating customers we have since seen private client sales rise to contribute almost a quarter of our normal sales.”
He added, “These sales are unlikely to make up more than half of our usual work but if we keep going like we are we stand a good chance of retaining all 35 of our team (100% full-time above London Living Wage) and coming out the other side ready to help the on-trade get back on its feet.”
Finally, explaining the deal mentioned above, he said, “We will give anyone who places an order over this period of isolation exclusive access to our wines at trade prices for life as a small gesture of gratitude for their support to us in this most difficult time.”
3. The Little Fine Wine Company
It should be said immediately that this online wine business is an outlier in this list, as it has always existed to serve consumers, and has since its foundation offered next day delivery to homes across the UK.
However, it is a new company – created by Master of Wine Vicki Stephens-Clarkson just over two years ago – and specialises in a format almost exclusively found in restaurants: half-bottles.
With an unrivalled range of these diminutive formats on offer via its website, it allows you to drink like you’re dining out – and that is enjoying a half-bottle on your own (perfect for those who are self-isolating and single), or, for couples, beginning a meal with a half bottle of one wine type and finishing it with another.
In essence, it encourages you to experiment with wine, even within a single evening, in a way one would normally only do when eating out.
2. Berkmann Wine Cellars
As previously featured on db.com, Berkmann Wine Cellars is a famous and major supplier of fine bottles to the UK restaurant trade that is now offering consumers a selection of some wonderful and rare wines that were destined for great dining establishments now sadly shuttered up due to Covid-19.
And, by ordering through Berkmann for home delivery, you will also be raising much-needed funds for two charities: The Drinks Trust and Hospitality Action.
A full list of the wines of offer right now for consumers in the UK can be viewed here, or a db selection of 10 great labels from the site can be viewed here.
Among these is a brilliant food-friendly pink Champagne from Drappier, because you don’t need good times to drink great fizz, and a lovely refreshing dry sherry, because it offers so much flavour for so little cash.
1. The Modest Merchant
Not unlike The Little Fine Wine Company featured earlier, The Modest Merchant is a newcomer to the UK wine scene, and also a very small operation. However, it differs from the aforementioned half-bottle specialist in that The Modest Merchant was launched to supply wine to the restaurant sector.
Set up by Alex Percy in late 2018, who had worked at Lea & Sandeman and Albion Wine Shippers, The Modest Merchant was created to sell wine to the trade, that was, until Covid-19 destroyed that business.
Explaining all, Alex told db, “Up until about six weeks ago I had been selling almost exclusively to the restaurant trade (the likes of Scully’s, Ikoyi, Smokestak, Llewlyn’s, The Quality Chophouse). When all the restaurants closed, I accelerated the building of my website and developed a web shop where I now sell every one of my 130 or so exclusive wines, delivering them nationwide.”
He added, “Spain is where I hang my hat, with 17 or so regions represented, along with a good Northern Italian selection and domaines in Burgundy, Alsace and the Loire making their first ever vintages. I have a growing selection of mixed cases from £155 and am pleased to have over 100 artisanal wines under £25.”
Alex is offering locked down db readers a 10% off their first order with the discount code: THMMXTHEDB