Easter lamb roasts require something a little special in the wine department. From the sample rack a bottle of Harvey Nichols Margaux 2009 seemed appropriate. It sports a retail price of £25, not an everyday wine (at least in my house) but something a little special for a special day. How does it taste? Well I was blown away. I’ve not sampled many Bordeaux recently but this wine was simply gorgeous – more ripe, complex, fruit than I was expecting, coupled with a tickle of tannin and a marvellous mouth-feel Harvey Nichols have a stunner on their shelves. Not at all what one would expect from a ‘humble’ own label. But then HN isn’t really ‘just’ a wine shop.
Did I mention the packaging? Simple, understated but very classy. The wine left me intrigued. Just how does an upmarket department store create an own label range (there are 22 wines in the range), one that fits in with the style and ethos of one of the premier retailers? And how do they ‘fit’ with the 1,000 or so wines that the company stocks? I wheeled off a few questions:
From the outstanding 2009 vintage, the grapes for this wine were hand harvested from low yielding 35 year old vines to create a traditional cuvée of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot together with a dash of Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot that add freshness and spice to the blend. The wine is then aged for a period of 12 months in French oak before being bottled. Deep crimson in colour, this classically styled wine displays rich aromas of assorted dark berry fruits with hints of chocolate and vanilla. Elegant and supple on the palate, this medium bodied wine displays further notes of blackcurrant, liquorice and spice supported with soft silky tannins and leading to a long and satisfying finish. Drinking beautifully now, our 2009 Margaux is a perfect partner to a variety of roast red meat and game dishes and will continue to age gracefully over the next 4-5 years. – Harvey Nichols
1) What is the reasoning behind having a Harvey Nichols Own Label range and how do they fit in with the ‘normal’ range?
The Own Label range is to provide the customer, especially those new to Harvey Nichols, with the comfort of choice whilst delivering the very best quality of wine for its type and true value. In addition, the Own Label range serves to build brand awareness in the wider market and introduce customers to the wider range of wines and spirits through both our Wine Shops and hospitality offer.
2) Can you give some idea of the process that goes into selecting the wines for the own label range… do the producers change each year or is there a long running working relationship with each? What goes into the selection process for each wine?
Choice of wine: we look to select a wine style that we feel is on-trend, has customer appeal, offers good value and which we are confident adding our own label ‘endorsement’. The popularity of some wines is a given, like Chablis, Sancerre, Rosé etc. but others we have sought to raise the profile as styles that we, the Buying team, enjoy and deserve wider appreciation – Australian Riesling, Barbera, Douro red for example.
Choice of producer: we look to work with producers that we consider to be the best producers of the individual wines we wish to add our name to. The profile of such needs to reflect our own ethos and are therefore small, independent, artisanal-type producers that are happy to work with us closely to deliver the consistency and quality with each vintage and develop a long and mutually beneficial relationship. We view these relationships as a partnership and we are proud to confirm the name on our labels and marketing material.
Selection process: once the style of the wine to be introduced is decided, we consult with our suppliers and review further recommendations in order to draw up a list of potential wines. We then call in samples (often from more than 50 different producers) and taste blind on an elimination process until we find the wine we wish to list.
3) How much involvement do you have in the production – do you specify the blend, or select the grapes, or ??
It’s both; with some winemakers we work to achieve a particular style or flavour profile, with others, the wine may be an existing proprietary wine that we purchase a parcel of and repackage in our own unique way.
4) Lovely packaging – was this done in house or with an external agency?
The initial idea of the icon was created in house by the Buying team to reflect the personality of the wine, be it the place of origin, the winemaker or estate where the wine is produced. We then pass our ideas to an external design agency to create the artwork and realise the concept. The icon is simply featured on the front label to arouse interest amongst customers, with the back label providing technical information and, moreover, delivering the ‘story’ particular to each wine. This enables the staff, whether in a Wine Shop environment or restaurant setting, to engage with the customer and bring the personality of the wine alive.
Also in the Harvey Nichols Own Label Wine range is a deliciously juicy Beaujolais-Villages 2012 made by Philippe Vermorel at Domaine de Rochemure (£12.50) and a vibrant, peach-scented Valdobbiandene Prosecco (£15). A half bottle of Sauternes 2010 (£15) is about to be opened to accompany a rendition of Nigel Slater’s Orange and Lemon Parfait. It is after all a spring bank holiday.
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