Highest new entry winner for 2020 – placing 19
To say we are chuffed is an absolute understatement. The indie Harper’s list is a huge deal – not just because it is Harper’s Wine & Spirits behind it, but also due to the fact that it is an annual award where you are nominated by peers within the wine trade only. You cannot apply to be part of the nominations or pay a fee (not that we discredit those that choose to do that elsewhere). This is important to us as it means that those ‘in the know’ have seen something in us that they feel we are doing right; it’s truly a confidence booster.
We’ve been open for 15 years and the business has, as you would expect, evolved along the way. Hannah opened our little gem in 2005 and everything has been built from the ground up – literally. She even hand laid tiles on the floor! As the years have gone by, we have expanded the range of wines we stock (over 1500, including weird and wonderful grapes, and rare, fine wines) and we even make our own products – you may have heard of G (our gin) colloquially dubbed ‘Sherborne Gin’ to our locals. In usual non-Covid times, we also transformed into a ‘hybrid shop’ with an extensive drink in menu and themed pop-up foodie nights!
To be recognised by Harper’s in 2020 – the most challenging year to date for many businesses I am sure – during a pandemic, was quite frankly mind-blowing. You see, the charm of a great indie wine merchant is the personal service and second to none knowledge of wine. As cheesy as it sounds, we see ourselves as ‘storytellers of wine’. We obsessively source every product we stock ourselves, and do so in a ‘blind tasting’ fashion in order to remove pre-conceived ideas. The difference between shopping with us and a large supermarket is the dialogue about the bottle and the interesting range that we have on our shelves. That’s what was rather terrifying about heading into lockdown as a business owner. How do we still ‘reach out’ and tell the story behind each bottle…
Well, we can now say that being an indie in some ways allowed us to be more flexible and change our business model relatively quickly to the new context. Harper’s were impressed with our ‘fierce social media campaigns’ and our live virtual tastings on instagram. The live tastings took on a world of their own. We hosted winemakers from across the world on our sessions (something that we wouldn’t be able to do in usual times so frequently) and we even made it into national newspapers. Our tastings reached up to 900 viewers.
In addition to this, we used our mailing list, which was already established, to communicate themed wine cases, mystery selections and to continue telling the stories from our shelves. This, combined with a new collection and delivery service – including nationwide delivery- meant that we could still be there for those who needed.
Harper’s said we are a ‘small business where you get a lot of bang for your buck.’ We are absolutely delighted. Before you ask, lots of fizz was consumed to celebrate!
When you look at the businesses we are brushing shoulders with on the list, it’s hard to be anything but proud as punch! Next year, we want to be on the list and hopefully, climbing it a little too…