Keeping things local

13 July, 2007

Vineyards of Bordeaux is an unlikely stockist of excellent English wines. Christine Boggis reports

At one end of a small parade of shops, in the middle of a

housing estate in Plymouth, lies an English wine specialist with the unlikely name Vineyards of Bordeaux. Former hotel sommelier Ian Curzon-Berners keeps his selection of English wines, and some French, in one half of a big shop here - the other half is a travel agency run by his wife Sandra.

Do you ever get people coming in to buy a holiday and walking out with a bottle of wine?

They do promotions and we do promotions, but people don't really know a great deal about the shop. If they have phoned up about the travel agen cy, they won't realise there is a wine shop on site as well and vice versa. The shop is owned by my father-in-law who bought the two franchises five years ago, and said:

"You know about the wines, away you go and do what you want with that part."

How did you come to specialise in English wines?

We've got so many vineyards within a

25- mile radius, so I tried out some English wine.

As soon as it came in to the shop it went straight back out again

and since then I've never looked back. English wines

have been something of an eye-opener for us

- we've done extremely well . It is one of the things people wanted .


and tourists have been

asking us to get more English wines in,

so that is wh at we are


And what about your French range?

We have still got a good selection of Bordeaux wines, but as soon as the French goes, what we've got left of it, we are replacing it with English wine . At the moment an awful lot of people are buying English wines. We've got the Bordeaux wines here


they will improve with age, but when they do

sell we will replace them with English


Has there been any confusion about the name?

The franchise was called Vineyards of Bordeaux to start with. The majority of our customers look at the shop window and come in for a bottle of Bordeaux.

If you've come in for a bottle of Bordeaux that's fine, but

if they ask about the English wines

we'll give a brief description .

Nine times out of 10 if they have

£20 in their pocket they 're happy to walk away with two bottles of English wine rather than one bottle of Bordeaux.

How do you encourage your customers to buy English wine?

What I would say to people is, if they have never tried English wines before, try

them now. A lot of people

are interested in the English wines, but think they're too expensive.

We try and keep the wines in the shop

the same as th ose the vineyards themselves are selling, and we try to keep the English wines

under the £10 barrier. We don't make huge mark-ups because we want people to try

the wines and see what they think of

them. A lot of people try

them and come back and buy more . Until you try

the wines you don't know anything about


Do you sell anything other than wine?

We have

sold cider

for some time now and

have ventured into beer . The

beer we sell includes th ose from the Teignworthy brewery in Newton Abbot, based underneath Tuckers Maltings. We are doing it by trial and error - we've tried beers and they do tend to sell, but

they're not

fast movers.

Ciders are extremely good for

business and the wines speak for themselves.

Among the ciders we stock is Cornish Orchards

which is extremely good. I went into Asda to do my weekly shop

and I saw they have

Wassail there

- which we

sell in the shop as well. If you do see something in another shop you 're pretty much guaranteed it's going to be cheaper than it is in here - but for a change theirs was


and we sell ours

for £4. So you might see me going round slapping my backside and saying I've saved some money - it is not often we can beat the supermarkets, but for a change we actually have.

What are your customers like?

It 's a very strange area down here. In front you have got a council estate, behind us is a private housing estate

and if you carry on

down the road towards Tamerton Foliot you've got the good estate

- the millionaire bracket. We are slap -bang in the middle

and we

tend to get

people from all walks of life coming through the door. We also do shows

which attract tourists

and we are doing the Tavistock Food Festival for the first time on July



have our own wine club

at the local health club - Cannons - which we do on a quarterly basis. We get an awful lot of business from that and it

open s

people's eyes.

What is your turnover?

It varies, at the moment we are looking at about £60,000 a year.

So have you thought about changing the name of the shop?

We have been asked to change th e name. Everyone still thinks: "Vineyards of Bordeaux

- why on earth are you

selling English wines?" But

we have had it for such a long time, do we completely rebrand the whole lot and

confuse people

When I

send e-mails now I

sign off as VOB rather than Vineyards of Bordeaux ,

so we might change it, but then again we might not.

A snapshot of the range

1 Sharpham Dart Valley Reserve (11.5 per cent abv) £8

2 Old Walls Chapel White (11.5 per cent abv) £7.70

3 Old Walls Father John's Elderberry Wine 2006 (11.5 per cent abv) £7.70

4 Carr Taylor Vessel IV Estate Selection £8.50

5 Cornish Black & Gold still dry cider (6.2% abv) £2.50/50cl

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