For the second year in a row, The House of Townend, based on the outskirts of Hull, has been awarded the prestigious title of Regional Merchant of the Year for North East England by The International Wine Challenge. At this point, I must point out that, although I am a panel chair for the Challenge, I don’t have any influence over the Merchant Awards. My involvement is to judge the wines, all totally blind and to help award medals to the best of the wines. The Merchant Awards are selected by a group of co-chairmen, including several Masters of Wine and the results were as much a pleasant surprise to me on the night as they were to the winners.
So with that in mind, I was delighted when the name of The House of Townend was read out at the Awards dinner in London last week, particularly because this is the company which supplies wine to The Yorkshire Post Wine Club.
Established over 100 years ago, The House of Townend is still a family-run firm, but a move from the centre of Hull to the Melton West Business Park just 18 months ago has boosted business tremendously, despite the recession.
“We have found that many customers are not eating out quite so much and instead of paying restaurant prices for a wine, they can drink better wines at home for the same money”, said John Townend, managing director of the company.
To help them choose what to drink the light airy shop, known as The Cellar Door, in Melton has a separate tasting area where there are always 30 or so wines kept under inert gas to keep them fresh.
“Customers really like this facility, since they quite often come in to buy a specific wine, but also get tempted by something they have tried in the shop”, said John “Tasting before they buy takes the risk out of trying something new”.
While they are in the shop there is a straight view through to some of the air-conditioned storage areas where fine wines are kept at the ideal temperature to mature.
“Now that we have this facility on site, and customer can actually come and see their wine in store in our private stock room, our sales of en primeur Bordeaux and other wines has increased tremendously. Many customers who used to buy from London merchants now prefer to have their wine down the road where they can come and see it.”
With a small demonstration kitchen on site and restaurant facilities Melton is also the venue for an extensive programme of winemaker dinners and tastings.
Upcoming events include a Vintage Port tasting, a Cloudy Bay seafood event and the big Christmas Tasting. Check the programme on the website www.houseoftownend.com.
The House of Townend has been involved in The Yorkshire Post Wine Club from the start providing quality wines at great prices, precisely because it has considerable buying power across a wine range of suppliers from around the world.
This month’s selection, The Italian Case, contains some excellent wines for autumn drinking, and because this wine club is operated by a local merchant it is possible to slightly change the selection in the box if you prefer. The best way to find out how good these wines are is to ring the order line (01482 638888) and talk to one of the sales team.,
The Cellar Door is open from 9am to 6.30pm Monday to Friday and from 9.30am to 4.30pm on Saturdays, and there is parking right outside. Behind the counter you will find Stuart, Vicky and Mike, who together have racked up dozens of years in the wine trade and who can help you find what you are looking for and maybe encourage you to try something different.
Top choices from House of Townend: Sauvignon Blanc Turi 2011 £5.99. Rioja Vega Tempranillo 2010 at £7. Vetriano Prosecco at £8.99 (currently in The Yorkshire Post Wine Club Italian Case)
Encouraging his customers to try something different is also the aim of Sean Welsh of Flourish and Prosper in Howden which was on the shortlist for North East regional Wine Merchant of the Year. After a long career selling wine to the trade, Sean decided to put down roots and establish a wine shop and delicatessen in the middle of this lovely East Yorkshire village. Now just two and a half years later the project has grown and includes a wine bar/ bistro known as The Bridge which operates as a wine bar in the early part of the week and a bistro at weekends. This is where Sean has a range of wines served by the glass and this provides the opportunity for customers to try something different. Not all the wines in the shop are available in the Bistro but if a customer wants to try a particular wine with supper then Sean is happy to pull the cork and pour a glass.
Sean also runs a regular programme of tastings, known as the Howden Sipping Society and his annual tasting is legendary. The Flourish and Prosper wine shop and delicatessen is on Bridgegate, close to Howden Minster and is open 6 days a week. Ring 01430 430006 or check the website www.flourish-and-prosper.com to check the list of wines.
Top choices from Flourish and Prosper: Bodegas Borsao Tinto Garnacha 2010 £5.99. Soave Azienda Agricola Pra 2011, £10.99. Champagne Lallier Grande Cru, Brut £25.99
Le Bon Vin which was also shortlisted for Loire Specialist Merchant of the Year as well as North East Merchant is based on the outskirts of Sheffield and operates mainly as a supplier to trade customers although they have a growing internet business (www.lebonvin.co.uk). The company is run by Frenchman Patrick Jouan, who has lived in Yorkshire long enough to have some Yorkshire vowels scattered through his delightful French accent and his speciality is to buy from single estates, which means that he brings a fresh selection of wines that cannot be found elsewhere. He also has stocks of Sullivan Cove, a whisky from Tasmania, made by a former Sheffield resident.
Top choices from Le Bon Vin: Cabernet Sauvignon Linaje Estate 2011, Chile, £6.79. Mission Estate sauvignon Blanc 2011, New Zealand £10.99
Madiran, Blason des Croises 2009, £10.50.