This time 12 years ago, we were furiously packing shelves on a warm and sunny St. Patrick's Day, getting ready for the opening of our humble wine shop. Looking back now, we knew very little about retail or wine or the trials and tribulations involved when you combine the two.
We knew we were interested in wine and we sort of knew that we weren't the only ones. We felt intimidated going into old-school wine shops like Searsons and Mitchells (as they were back then) and the only other wine-only specialist was the newly opened Terroirs in Donnybrook. After that, we had to look for wine in the traditional off-licences such as McCabes and Redmonds - both great sources of wine. But what we wanted was a wine-only shop that was bright and airy and approachable that offered real quality at decent prices. We wanted to open a shop for people like us.
Since then, we have tried lots of things - we had a fully functioning online shop about 7 years too early, then changed it to a brochure site and we are now relaunching it as an online shop again. We opened a second shop in Booterstown, later franchised it out, only to see it suddenly close 2 years ago, leaving ourselves and some of our suppliers out of pocket. For almost ten years now, we have been importing many of our own wines, something that is now key to the business, giving us better wines at better prices, but also benefits in terms of credibility, interest and control.
We have made great contacts and friends in the wine business and it is a source of great pleasure to us to work in a business about which we are truly passionate. We look forward to coming into work every day and that counts for a huge amount - it even compensates for the poor financial return from the wine business! We get a great kick out of getting a great wine for a relatively low price. We have tasted many of the great wines of the world, but what gives us most pleasure is finding a wine that punches above its weight, a producer that is on the up or a hidden gem that is overlooked by the rest of the wine world. This is probably what gives our list its quirky nature, but it also keeps us interested and hopefully, we impart some of that passion to our customers.
The wine trade has had its ups and downs since we started, mostly up and with a slight contraction in the last few years. It is probably a futile exercise to try and predict what will happen, but a continuing concentration of volume through the supermarkets is probably the rather depressing trend over the coming years. There is little we can do to change that on a macro level, so all we can do is keep focussing on our customers. Everybody leaves the shop happy and nobody leaves with a bad bottle - that philosophy has to continue - not just for us but for all the independent trade. I firmly believe that a healthy independent trade is key to us all not just surviving, but prospering. We have to continue to fight the good fight for interesting, proper wine and keep consumers seeking out the good juice. Let the supermarkets race to the bottom with increasingly dubious industrial plonk - we need to nurture our 10-15% (?) of the market and try to keep people interested.
When we opened the shop, we really knew nothing. We didn't realise that 12 years on, we would know even less.
Keep drinking the good stuff.