Cellar SW4: promoting wine discovery in both on and off-trade

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Original version of this appeared on the-buyer.net.

A Movember tasting was the perfect opportunity for The Buyer to catch up with Greg Andrews, who has turned his wine bar Cellar SW4 and independent shop D Vine Cellars, into a treasure trove of small production, artisanal wines that are sustainable, organic or biodynamic. But how does he manage the operation of on-trade with off trade and what are his inspirations?

Try before you buy, enomatics, on and off trade, small batch production and more. Greg Andrews on how he runs his hugely popular wine bar Cellar SW4, and shop D Vine Cellars.

Having lived in this part of South London last year, Cellar SW4 and D Vine Cellars were my local haunts. I had my birthday there, and drank some amazing wines – the highlight being Testalonga’s El Bandito Mangaliza (100% Harslevelu) out of magnum.

My friends were fairly gobsmacked to learn that a wine like this exists, but this is what Andrews is all about: highlighting unique and amazing wines, promoting discovery, broadening consumer perceptions, and giving everyone a little bit of new-found knowledge to take away with them.

The bar has one of the best wine lists in London, and D Vine Cellars provides this area with a much-needed independent wine shop. It is arguably one of the best London indies in my opinion.

Not only does Andrews champion small production, artisan wines that are sustainable, organic or biodynamic, but he also has many options for every price point and wines from pretty much every corner of the globe. It’s a real treasure trove, and impossible to leave without something interesting.

I had a chat with Greg.

When did you move over from Australia, and what brought you to wine?    

12 March 1998. My passion for wine started as a university student working as a waiter and carried from there.

Having enjoyed geography at school, I had a basic understanding of climate, geology, topography and places, which goes a long way to understanding wine…. In some ways it was always going to happen.

In 2010 I started running a market stall on weekends selling wine, and in 2012 resigned from the day job selling software to open a shop.

When did Dvine and Cellar open, and how did you find the spaces?

D Vine Cellars opened on the 1st of August 2012. There was a For Lease sign at the end of my street and after looking at several other overpriced places it just seemed right. Cellar opened on the 17th of June 2015 – I know the leaseholder and took over the lease.

How many suppliers do you buy from now?    

20 but there are probably 6-10 core suppliers. We also buy directly.

How do you decide which wines to list at Cellar? How often does the list change? 

It changes dynamically and constantly. We find something we like from either wine tastings, supplier introductions or we just come across stuff we like and we list it.

Given so many of the wines we list are small-batch, we will often only be able to serve something for two months before the UK allocation runs out. For instance, El Bandito “I wish I was a Ninja” sold out after six weeks!

But we pushed it and people had loads of fun drinking it.

What’s been the biggest success, and the biggest struggle of having a wine bar and wine shop?

The biggest success is seeing the smile on somebody’s face when you serve them something they enjoy!

The biggest struggle is that you cannot be in two, three or four places at once.

Where do you get your enomatic machines from? Do they help sales?

It was my most expensive Ebay purchase from a pub that didn’t want them and the manufacturer serviced them prior. Once a wine finishes we put something else in for our customers to taste. Allowing customers to try before they buy is a big plus and helps sales.

What about beer and spirits, and the food?

We do craft beers mainly from local breweries and small batch spirits. Gin and vodka from small London producers. In regards to the food, at D Vine Cellars we work with Brindisa for cheese and charcuterie. At Cellar, we work with Cannon & Cannon, The Charcuterie Board, Androuet and Brindisa.

Finally, for yourself… If you could pick just three wines from the wine list at Cellar, what would they be?

Only three?

At the moment:

Castagna Adam’s Rib Nebbiolo or Castagna Vermouth

Pyramid Valley Rose Vineyard Riesling

Mark Haisma Gevrey Chambertin

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