From the first moment we were introduced to The Grape Club, we knew this was a company with something special to give.
Cousins Anthony and Louisa Symington have taken their passion for wine, and dedication to providing a quality experience for a wine-drinking public.
Both elements entwined into their monthly Grape Drop service – quality wines hand-selected with love.
We were delighted to meet Anthony this week for a chat that took us from Portugal to the 70s, via so many wine-growing regions it will make your head spin. Enjoy.
Your passion for wine. Where did it come from?
We’re first cousins who grew up in the wine-growing region of the Douro Valley in Northern Portugal so wine has always been in our blood. It seemed natural to start a business in wine and help others drink good wine.
When did you feel Britain became a wine-drinking nation?
Britain has been a wine-drinking nation for hundreds if not thousands of years. But until relatively recently it was effectively a drink for the elite. The typical image we have of old men in gentleman’s clubs drinking claret wasn’t far from the truth.
During the 70s wines from New World countries such as Australia started becoming more readily available making wine more affordable for everyone. There used to be a problem with the quality of some of the cheaper examples of these new wines but with The Grape Club we find the affordable gems for you, so you don’t need to worry!
What were your first steps in setting up The Grape Club?
Well because we’re both part of our target market, we just looked at ourselves and asked “What do we want from a wine club”.
Friends have always complained about not knowing what wine to choose and after some market research we realised this is a common problem that people encounter. We could help teach them about wine in a non-pretentious manner. The idea for The Grape Club was born!
What are your deciding factors in sourcing your suppliers?
We select wines that have not been mass-produced; there are so many winemakers all over the world making top quality wine that the UK market just doesn’t know about.
People tend to think that you have to spend a lot of money to try these when in fact that’s not always the case. We choose good quality wine for an affordable price. One of our points is that we will never send out a wine that we wouldn’t drink ourselves.
What are your opinions of the British wine-production industry?
The British wine industry is improving all the time; there are some producers out there who are making great wines. However there is still a long way to go and vintages are extremely weather dependent, with a big quality variation between years.
Wine producers in Sussex have just applied for Protected Designation of Origin (PDO), which would give wines from the county the same protection as Champagne or Prosecco. This would be a huge step forward for British wine.
What are your own favourite wines?
We have so many and it really depends on the occasion. Louisa’s favourite wines at the moment are a white ‘Vinho Verde’ from Northern Portugal by – Anselmo Mendes, which is very refreshing on a hot summer’s day, and with a big meaty lunch a red from the Southern Rhone such as Lirac (less well known than Chateau-Neauf-du-Pape, but often just as good).
I’m partial to a German or Alsace Riesling similar to the Hugel we had in our January Grape Drop and is currently enjoying some delicious Tuscan Chiantis.
What varieties do you have your eye on in the coming year?
Picpoul is the trendy grape of the year. It comes from the lesser-known Languedoc region of Southern France. We’re excited to have one these in our March Grape Drop. It’s a delicious fresh and zingy white wine.
Not that we’re biased but we both adore wines from this indigenous grape variety from Portugal, Touriga Nacional. Portuguese wines are really making a name for themselves and we think 2015 will be a big year for them. Definitely worth trying if you haven’t already.
As a start-up business, how have you found setting up the business in the current climate?
People are still drinking wine, that hasn’t changed and with our boxes we send good quality wine that is affordable. People are looking for better value when buying their products and wine isn’t any different.
Any tips for any potential lifestyle business entrepreneurs?
Do something you are passionate about. It’s much easier to care about a product that you are genuinely into. Make sure you do a lot of market research before embarking on your project to make sure there is a genuine need for your service/product rather than purely acting on assumptions. Finally, rather than only talking about your idea, go and do it!
And any tips for all After Nyne’s wine drinking readers?
Don’t be fooled by supermarkets ‘discounts’. In most cases the wine should never have been sold for the previous higher price and so you aren’t actually getting a good deal at all.
Don’t be afraid to drink what you enjoy, we all have different palates so don’t let anyone tell you what you should drink. Make the discovery for yourself.
The Grape Club are offering After Nyne readers 15% off their first Grape Drop for one month only. Click here for details.