Top 5 London wine merchants: The classics

Fortnum & Mason

Founded: 1707
Locations: Flagship store at Piccadilly Street, London, including The Wine Bar. Hong Kong retail outlet, opened in November 2019.
Turnover: 2019 £138.4m vs. £126m in 2018 (up 10%)

Having traded for more than 300 years from its flagship store in Piccadilly, and as one of London’s oldest department store (with a stellar reputation for wine) Fortnum & Mason earns its spot on the classics list.

While recognising that wine is just one of the historic department store’s many products, (which should be noted in regard to its turnover) the retailer stocks more 1,300 wines and spirits, including an extensive ‘own label’ range that includes wines from Champagne, Bordeaux, Italy and South Africa. Its wine and spirits department has recorded positive growth for the past 5 years, while online sales of wine and spirits during the lockdown have increasing by 50% so far, according to Fortnum & Mason wine and spirits buyer Jamie Waugh.

We are fortunate as most producers would like to have their wine or spirit ranged with us, so we have a wonderful array of wine and spirits to choose from. Evidently, you cannot work with everyone, and we currently have 1450 wines and spirits listed. Of this we have 162 lines under the Fortnum & Mason label, which is a very significant part of our business. What we don’t range under the F&M label, we aim to have the best of the best at every price point. Our buy has to be our edit of the wine world, which is forever evolving.”

Innovation is a key part of Waugh’s buying approach, with plans to bottle several new wines under the Fortnum & Mason label in 2020, including an English Bacchus produced by Laneberg, an urban winery located in Gateshead, and a “very undiscovered Nebbiolo from the Italian Alps,” produced from the Valtellina Single Vineyard Ca Morei, Marco Fay, in Lombardy.

The names of the producers that bottle F&M’s own-label wines are, unusually for some retailers, featured on their back labels. Fortnum’s own-label Champagne is bottled exclusively for Fortnum’s by Louis Roederer, its Madeira is bottled by Barbeito, its Sherry by Bodegas Tradicion and its Port is produced by Niepoort.

Champagne and increasingly English sparkling wine, remains a key seller at Fortnum’s, however Waugh notes an increase in sales of still wines recently, especially since the lockdown, explaining: “We are selling more still wines to people buying for themselves. It might surprise people that we sell 12 wines under £11 under the F&M label, 5 of which are under £10, and hence, this area of treating yourself as much as others, is an area we want to grow going forward.”

One Response to “Top 5 London wine merchants: The classics”

  1. John Edwards says:

    Lea and Sandeman seems a glaring omission?

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