Vinotopia opened the doors to its Cotswolds Wine Barn in September with the aim of expanding its product offering and adopting a hybrid retail operation. Managing director Andy Cole talks to Rachel Badham about sustainable drinks, in-store events and the retailer’s growing low/no range 

The Wine Barn was our original plan for our retail offering. We started off in our wine shop in Tetbury but we outgrew the space. The plan was always to move down to Nailsworth and have a larger retail space, but our initial planning application was declined so we moved into the Wine Box – which was two shipping containers put together – while we worked on resubmitting our application. 

We’ve got around 800 products now. They range from the usual French wine offerings to some more obscure wines alongside a nice range of spirits, soft drinks and alcohol-free options, which we are working to build. We also have an Enomatic wine dispensing machine which has been a big hit with customers as it allows them to try before they buy.  

Whenever we seek a new product, we’re looking for its sustainability credentials. In wine, we’re on the hunt for some new Chianti at the moment, so we’re looking at producers who are certified organic or are farming sustainably. We do a lot of work with Sapling Spirits, which plants a tree for every bottle it sells. It also provides us with bag-in-box gin and vodka, so we’ve been able to set up a spirits refilling station.

I think it’s a misconception that more sustainable drinks will always have a higher price point. If you’re looking for a sustainable house wine then the price might be slightly higher than a house wine without those credentials, but when you’re looking at the sweet spot of around £10-15, it’s actually very easy to find those more sustainable products. And as we see people buying less but upgrading their purchases, lots of those wines have sustainability credentials. We’re also trying to fulfil that want for sustainability across our entire price range.

We wanted to create more than just a retail destination, so we set up a drink-in zone. We wanted people to be able to come in, have a glass of wine and relax by the fire, and the space was designed so that we can host wine tastings, birthday parties and corporate events. We’re also looking at doing more food/wine pairing events as the upcoming Italian dinner we’re hosting has had such an uptake that we’ve added a second date. The majority of our team come from a hospitality background, so we really have a passion to create a destination where people can come and enjoy something a bit different. 

Looking ahead to next year, we’re going to have a big focus on low/no drinks. We always embrace Dry January, and we’re currently looking at some low/no wines and spirits from new suppliers to potentially add to our range. We’re trying to make sure that we’re looking after our customers, so if they want to moderate their drinking, we can offer them products that they can do that with.