Borough Wines ramps up wholesale focus

Borough Wines is ramping up its focus on wholesale as it bids to become a leading supplier of wines on tap.

The business began as a stall in London’s Borough Market back in 2002 and it now has seven outlets spread across the capital, with an eighth store in Hastings, East Sussex.

There are no further plans to grow the retail estate and it will now aim to establish itself as a dynamic supplier to the on-trade.

Sales director Nick Beck told DRN: “Traditionally we are a retailer, and from our retail business grew our wholesale business. We started selling mainly to independents and smaller businesses.

“From there, as we have developed our wine-on-tap systems, we have taken them into the on-trade and that has allowed us to get a foot in the door. They list tap wines and from there we can complement the list with bottled wines as well.

“The wholesale business is starting to pull itself up to 50/50 with the retail business. We will keep the eight shops and we aren’t going to open any more. The wholesale side of the business is coming up and we really want to expand in the wholesale market.”

Borough Wines, the current Independent Drinks Retailer of the Year in our Drinks Retailing Awards, launched a bottle refill system for shoppers at the initial stall in 2002.

“We’ve been championing wine on tap ever since,” said founder Muriel Chatel. “After 15 years in the on-tap business, we launched Borough Wines Imports to share our expertise with operators in the on-trade, where the environmental, economic and efficiency benefits are even more significant.”

It sources wines from around the world, ships them to its facility in east London then puts them into kegs for distribution. The team drops these kegs off to customers and, when they are empty, picks them up, refills them and brings them back.

It recently expanded its keg portfolio to 24 wines. New additions include a vegan and organic Xarel-lo from Catalonia, an organic Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and a Vinho Verde.

Borough Wines has enjoyed early success with casual dining groups such as Pizza Pilgrims. It is passionate about repositioning wine on tap, not just as a house pour, but as a vessel for quality wines, so the portfolio is divided into two tiers: House and Premium.

Chatel added: “Following years of investment, research and development, we are confident in the quality and consistency offered by the system. We also believe it to be one of the most sustainable wine service methods currently available. This is something we constantly seek to improve and the launch of the return and refill system for kegs is an important recent development for us.

“We have put wine on tap at the very centre of our wholesale business. It feels like a real turning point and it’s heartening to see so many respected restaurants, bars and venues embracing the format.

“The next step is to showcase the versatility that is possible and to get more producers behind the format. The new, expanded range seeks to demonstrate that wine on tap can be more than a reliable and high-quality house pour, but also performs well when a more premium or specialist wine option is required.”

Borough Wines says that wine on tap is better for the planet, better for the wine, better for business and better for the consumer, resulting in less packaging, fresh and consistent wines served at the ideal temperature, greater flexibility and better margins.

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