Hannah Wilkins (pictured right) opened Vineyards in Sherborne in 2005. In 2021, she and her wife and business partner Sadie moved premises to a former car mechanic’s on the edge of town, giving themselves space to host in-store events and stock even more wine.
This year, they scooped Drinks Retailing Awards’ Independent Wine Retailer of the Year. Hannah tells Lucy Britner they are still on cloud nine
It hasn’t sunk in. Sadie did an amazing job on social media and we have been inundated with customers coming in with cards and flowers, even bottles of wine – English wines we’ve not tried, which is lovely. We’ve also had new customers, and returning customers who haven’t experienced our new location yet.
Winning the award has helped us negotiate. We were able to do a better deal with a supplier because it wanted us to stock its wines. Mind you, I’ve also had a lot more cold calls.
I’m celebrating 25 years in the industry this year. I never put myself forward for anything because my comfort zone is in the shop. But we’ve been doing some great things, the team deserve recognition so we put ourselves out there to be judged. We never thought we would win and the reaction from Sherborne has been incredible. It feels like a win not only for our team, but for the whole town.
I always wanted a tasting room. By moving, we were able to put in a mezzanine wine lounge for customers, and we open late on Friday and Saturdays. It’s a way to get indie wine into people’s hands. We also do pop-ups – we had our friend and Masterchef winner Mat Follas here recently. We’ve also added 250 wines.
We are bringing back our wine and spirits festivals this year. They will be bigger and better. Though we hero wine, we’re a spirits shop as well. The split is about 80/20 in favour of wine – we have about 1,800 wines and about 350 spirits. We actually make our own spirits. We started with a gin and have some new products in the pipeline, but I can’t say more at the moment.
Rum, whisky, tequila and mezcal are current hits. I think the gin boom made people more adventurous with spirits and we try to stock what people can’t find in the supermarkets. I also think brandies are in for a resurgence – there’s a local one made by Julian Temperley that I’ve championed for years.
Spanish and Portuguese wine will be big for us this year. They offer fantastic value for money and oodles of native grape varieties that give drinkers a sense of place. The biggest problem for Portugal is that the grapes are unpronounceable, so we work hard to make folk feel comfortable in being adventurous with the ‘unknown’. Spain is also producing some really good value organic wines at the moment.
The industry is facing tough times. I don’t know how anyone can say they love the industry and then promote wine for £3.49. All we can do is find amazing products, made by fascinating people, and sell them for the best value we can.