Red Squirrel aims to lead in wine-on-tap

Red Squirrel Wine is targeting hybrid retailers with a growing portfolio of wine-on-tap offerings as it aims to become the go-to supplier for this format.

It has just added three new producers from South Africa to an on-tap portfolio that includes still and sparkling wines from France, New Zealand and Italy.

Founder Nik Darlington told DRN: “We want to be known as one of the companies people think of when they consider wine on tap. We think this format is really exciting and it can work well for independent retailers too, because a lot have on-premise as well.

“Aside from that we are continuing to do what we set out to do when we started, which is looking for wines that are native or alternative. We seek out native grapes and ones that are not very well known, or are endangered or dying out. Originally it was a way of saving those but now we have broadened out a little.

“We have Australia’s first Prosecco producers and we have people doing Italian varieties. We have the sorts of wines which larger commercial wine importers would steer away from.

“Indies are very much part or are endangered or dying out. Originally it was a way of saving those but now we have broadened out a little of what we do and currently they account for 40% of our customers, spanning from Cornwall to the east coast of Scotland. We have proved that you can be the wine merchant people think of as a bit different or quirky but can still appeal to a broad range, so we are able to bridge the gap between generalist and specialist retailers.”

Red Squirrel hosted a London tasting this month, showcasing a number of newcomers to the range. Darlington said: “We have just added our first Californian wines [Lockhart and Crosby] via a new partnership with an importer in New York.

“In terms of native grape varieties we have just taken on a new Etna producer [Filippo Ayunta]. It has amazing vineyards and some of the vines are 200 years old. We have added the classic Mascalese but also some of the old varieties. Sicily is very exciting right now.

“We have new grapes varieties from Turkey [Sultaniye, Sidalan, Yapincak, Calkarasi], which are now available in the UK for the first time. The range is quite large for a company of our size.”

English wine producer Black Chalk launched in April and recently joined Red Squirrel’s portfolio. Director Jacob Leadley said: “We want to move away from traditional Champagne or English wine. We needed to look like a premium product but with a fresh, modern English feel so we went with our current design. We have also moved away from French cues, so we call it Wild Rose instead of rosé, for example.

“The first time I met Nik, he was really positive about our product and he had been wanting to add an English wine to his portfolio. We did talk to a couple of others but this company made sense because, like us, it is slightly unusual, the companies are both young, plus the size of the portfolio felt right.”

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