EXPLORA7ION

#3 DE BURGH WINES

WELCOME TO OUR THIRD EDITION OF EXPLORA7ION, SHOWCASING INTERVIEWS WITH SOME OF OUR DYNAMIC, CREATIVE AND ENTREPRENEURIAL CLIENTS.

In EXPLORA7ION #3, we’ve been talking to Tarquin de Burgh of de Burgh Wines, founded in 2013 and one of Scotland’s leading wine merchants.

READING TIME: 15 mins

EXPLORA7ION

#3 DE BURGH WINES

WELCOME TO OUR THIRD EDITION OF EXPLORA7ION, SHOWCASING INTERVIEWS WITH SOME OF OUR DYNAMIC, CREATIVE AND ENTREPRENEURIAL CLIENTS.

In EXPLORA7ION #3, we’ve been talking to Tarquin de Burgh of de Burgh Wines, founded in 2013 and one of Scotland’s leading wine merchants.

READING TIME: 15 mins

EXPLORA7ION

#3 DE BURGH WINES

WELCOME TO OUR THIRD EDITION OF EXPLORA7ION, SHOWCASING INTERVIEWS WITH SOME OF OUR DYNAMIC, CREATIVE AND ENTREPRENEURIAL CLIENTS.

In EXPLORA7ION #3, we’ve been talking to Tarquin de Burgh of de Burgh Wines, founded in 2013 and one of Scotland’s leading wine merchants.

READING TIME: 15 mins

“I used to walk into the cellar full of wooden boxes and sit there and find it all so fascinating.”

TARQUIN

JANE: Start up stories always intrigue me. You started from an empty barn, with no wine and a Land Rover 110, an interesting start to a wine business. Tell us more about how the whole conception came about?

TARQUIN: Ah well, I’ve been doing this for thirty years, and pretty much all the way through that thirty years, I’ve been working for other people.

I started off as a van driver of all things just because it was a job to do and then I ended up in a large wine retailer in Edinburgh, following that, I found myself on the road as a sales guy. I used to walk into the cellar full of wooden boxes and sit there and find it all so fascinating. The history, the stories, the growers and so on.

So, thirty years on, I had such a desire to do something on my own. I was getting tired of being told to sell a wine to a customer simply because there was more profit in it, or we needed to get the volumes up to keep the supplier happy. I wanted to offer a much more bespoke service where I could sell the wine I love to people I knew, and knew they would love too.

And so, in 2013, I turned around and said to Will Nicolson and my brother, ‘let’s do it’!

I had previously worked with Will so knew he was a bit bonkers but it was great to reconnect with my brother . There we were together, from a steady income to having zero, standing in this empty barn in the middle of the country, scratching our heads, thinking this is extraordinary. We had no computers, no customers, no telephones and a Land Rover Defender! We got one thing right in the beginning I guess.

And so, de Burgh was born and this huge warehouse slowly but surely started to fill up, our clients started to build and we started selling wines we were really proud of. The vision came alive!

JANE: Is coming to yours for a dinner party a really wonderful experience?

JAMES: Sounds like it would be!

TARQUIN: Yes, because my wife is a brilliant cook! I love to push the boat out when friends turn up and get the special wines out from the cellar. We go nuts sometimes but not when I am feeling poor and at the moment, I am feeling poor. I’ve been through two recessions and now this covid nightmare!

JANE: You hear of so many entrepreneurs like yourself, that haven’t gone to University and have just started from the ground up.

Our experience with you is that with de Burgh Wines it is personal. It isn’t corporate.

Tell me, what is the difference between buying a wine through you guys, compared to buying a bottle of wine from the shelves at Waitrose or Sainsbury’s… why would we come to you?

TARQUIN: Well, I think you have probably hit the nail on the head there. It is personal and we give good, honest advice. You don’t get much advice in the supermarkets.

The large nationals do buy some great wines from smaller producers, but they can only run them for about a month and then run out of them completely because the producer in question just can’t supply them with enough. So most of their wines are bought from really large producers in order to keep continuity going. The wines are pretty ok but possibly not as exciting as they could be.

We are not a massive business which means we can buy bespoke wines from smaller artisan producers. Quite often we work with really, really small wine makers who can only give us six or seven hundred cases of a wine, which we know will last us for the majority of a trading season.

For example, we have an awesome wine maker based in the Rhone, she makes great Crozes Hermitage. It’s really refined, glossy and super tasty, in fact, it is one of the most sought out red wines within our client base and we are the only merchant in the UK that have it.

“We are not a massive business which means we can buy bespoke wines from smaller artisan producers.”

TARQUIN

JAMES: How widespread is your client base?

TARQUIN: Oh, as far north as Orkney and as far south as Dover. Our client base is quite extraordinary. We started off working with private clients very much so in the beginning, as that’s what really started the business off. But we knew hotels and restaurants were the future and so have built that side of the business over the years, working with some amazing hotels and Michelin star restaurants.

And then Covid hit. We were galloping along, doing really quite well and then Covid stopped us in our tracks. Luckily we had invested in our website the year before, so in the last 12 months we have been putting all our effort into developing that, and getting ready to look after our trade clients once they are allowed to open.

When lockdown started, many competitors turned around and said there is a two week wait. A lot of our customers were stuck, at home, the weather was amazing and were looking for next day delivery, and it seemed no one could supply it. We were one of the very few wine merchants out there who could genuinely offer next day delivery UK wide. So now our private client base is everywhere, all over the UK.

JANE: That’s good to know when the emergency supply runs out!

A lot of people think that if you have a wine merchant delivering your wine, it’s going to be at least thirty pounds a bottle. But of course, it’s not. A lot of your wines are circa £10. I know that you managed to steer me away from Pino Grigio to that beautiful Gavi. So how do you buy your wines?

TARQUIN: We travel a lot to see our producers, or used to. We taste lots and lots of wines in the office too. Either new vintages from existing suppliers or samples we have asked for from wine makers we have heard of and think we want to work with. Sometimes we can have sixty wines to taste through, where we are specifically looking for something we can offer to our customers as a house wine or a nice easy glass of wine on a Friday afternoon. We’ll only buy it if it has aroma, texture, good flavour and offers value. You would be amazed at how many wines we have tasted and rejected, it’s a long, hugely educational, enjoyable and sometimes frustrating process.

“You’ve got to understand what they want to drink or need for their business.”

TARQUIN

JANE: I think the best things come out of the simplest plans and structures. One of the things that caught me about de Burgh Wine merchants, is your personality and the way that you build relationships.

You really get to know your customers, their taste and lifestyle and in doing so give them exactly what they want.

TARQUIN: Our job is to REALLY get to know them, that is first and foremost. You’ve got to understand what they want to drink or need for their business. You can’t just turn up with a one size fits all solution, it doesn’t work.

Wine is really simple at the end of the day and our job is to make it that way. Like the way we train hospitality teams with what wine goes with what food. It can really make your day when the front of house team of a restaurant offers you something delicious, which matches with your food and it’s a wine you’ve not heard of before and you find you love it. That enhances the whole experience. We want our customers and then their customers to walk away saying, gosh that was really good wine, and it was perfect with that steak!

JANE: When you do weddings and events, I’m assuming it’s exactly the same. You’re not just selling wine, you’re not just a provider of unique and specialist wines. You’re also looking at the food pairings.

TARQUIN: Yeah, we do all that. Sometimes you sit down with a menu and it has been completely recreated by the chef and the wine options you’ve turned up with that you think will work well, actually don’t and the one you thought wouldn’t does! That’s why that tasting session is so essential!

“We want our customers and then their customers to walk away saying, gosh that was really good wine.”

TARQUIN

“It’s important to me that we’re not coasting. We aren’t just saying, that’s fine.”

TARQUIN

JANE: With you and your team, there is no ego or arrogance. I’ve worked with people in the past that have both and it’s impossible. You’re all about making sure the customers – whether it’s a hotelier, a bride and groom or an individual, get what they need for their moment.

It’s not about profit base and trying to push what you have left in the warehouse. It is a unique, bespoke relationship that you build through fine wines.

Tell me a bit about your team. You mentioned working with family. How does that work for you?

TARQUIN: At the very beginning my twin brother told me he was with me for 2 years max. I loved working with him, there were stressful times and let’s say there were times where we really shouldn’t have said what we were thinking. We never fell out but I’m sure we were close to it a few times.

The thing is, like the rest of the guys as well, I know they’ve got my back. I know they’ll go the extra mile. They have been with me since we started, all of them. I know each and every one of us have our foibles, we all have our quirks, but they are passionate professionals through and through.

We are always tweaking and turning around saying that’s not good enough, or that’s good but what else can we do to improve it. It’s important to me that we’re not coasting. We aren’t just saying, that’s fine.

JANE: When you think of a team, what three words would you best use as a filter for bringing on new recruits?

TARQUIN: Well, there’s all the classic business speak. But for me it’s to be inquisitive, that is important. You’ve got to be energetic! We all have bad days but we just have to gather ourselves up and get on with it. And be decisive. You can’t stand around and say I didn’t know what to do. We’re all grown-ups. Make the decision and live by it.

JANE: That is brilliant. Inquisitive, energetic and decisive.

“That was one of those moments of my god, wow, where did these come from, who bought them, when, where?”

TARQUIN

JANE: You sell private wine collections for people. Tell me the most incredible one you’ve come across?

TARQUIN: There are quite a few scenarios. I think probably the most extraordinary one was a collection that needed valued in Scotland. I walked into this amazing country house, which had the most stunning cellar, as in everything you dream of. I was digging away through all the boxes and I thought that looks like Mouton Rothschild Anne de La Victoire. So, I carefully pulled the bottles out and they were 1945, in mint condition too. I knew straight away these are expensive… I think you’re looking at £15,000 each bottle these days!

That was one of those moments of my god, wow, where did these come from, who bought them, when, where? Bottles like this have history, they tell a story.

JANE: A 1945 wine at that price, what do you do with that, I mean you don’t want to drink it do you?! How long does a wine last for anyway?

TARQUIN: Well, it’s a good question. I think 1945 might be a wee bit on the old side. If it was me, I would probably put that into the open market and sell it because there’ll be someone that is a real collector who would love to have it in their collection. I’d rather use that money and spend it on something a bit younger and a little bit more drinkable.

JANE: I don’t know what the most expensive bottle of wine I’ve ever had, probably about £40 or something!

TARQUIN: Well then you have to come round for dinner.

JANE: Excellent. I was just waiting for the invite.

JANE: So, if you were on a desert island and a case of wine got washed up. What would you hope that that wine was?

TARQUIN: That’s really hard, really hard. There’s one white wine which sticks in my memory. I drank it with a great friend of mine who’s a winemaker, whenever we meet we tend to pull the cork on something pretty decent. Last time he stayed with me he took a bottle of 1985 Hermitage Blanc from Chave out of the cellar and asked with a wry smile if it would be ok to pull the cork on it. It was amazingly rich and deep with apricot, white fruits and a nutty note, with white pepper spice aromas and had extraordinary texture. I’d love a case of that please, although it is £385 a bottle so hope that’s ok?

JANE: At £385 a bottle. I think there will be only be one washed up on this island Tarquin, it’s hard times you know!


TARQUIN: Do I get a glass washed up too? I have to have a good glass to drink it out of, because you can’t drink it out of a shell.


JANE: We will see what we can do, although I like the shell idea!


A lot of people have newfound creative energy they’ve not had before, had covid not come around. Like you said at the very beginning. What have you discovered that has made a positive impact on your business that you will use as a stepping stone or a spring board, to do more of in the future?


TARQUIN: I think we became marketers overnight basically. Innovators of mixed cases, small special speciality packs. We have been very flexible. What we’ve done is we’ve not reinvented the wheel; we’ve just done it rather well and rather stylishly.


JANE: You have a club don’t you. You have monthly memberships.


TARQUIN: The wine club has been really successful. The lovely thing about it is that we haven’t turned around to people and said this is what you should have, we turn to them and said you can buy a case of wine every month and that can be anything you want, we will bespoke it just for you.


I’ve got customers that spend sixty pounds a month and get six bottles or customers that spend a lot more and get twelve. We phone up our clients and say what did you enjoy from the case last month and what would you like this month, alongside suggesting some of our new finds!


It’s properly personal, the same team member phones up the same client each month. It’s the only way we can really get to know what that customer wants and likes to drink.


JAMES: When I was eighteen, I was given a membership for the Wine Society and I didn’t have a clue where to start and what to look for. The benefit from your membership is you have that personal connection with the customers. It means they trust you more. With you, having a small team definitely reaps benefits for the customer as well.


TARQUIN: Yeah, it definitely does. When you speak to the team on the phone, you’re speaking to the team that buy the wine. We really do love what we buy and I like to think that what we send our customers is exactly what they will love to drink.


JANE: What are the costs for the membership, are there various levels for it?


TARQUIN: The beauty is it’s up to you to choose. It’s not set, we can have a suggestion of what it can be but at the end of the day it can be whatever you want. That is the beauty, it’s not set in stone. That’s what makes it different.


“At £385 a bottle. I think there will be only be one washed up on this island Tarquin, it’s hard times you know!”

JANE

JANE: You have a special wine that you are giving up as a prize to celebrate lockdown being over. Tell us more about that.

TARQUIN: Ah it’s a prize draw for a bottle of Louis Roederer Cristal 2012 Champagne; all you need to do is sign up to our mailing list on our new website, make sure you put ‘710’ in the comments section and we will put all the names in a hat and draw out the lucky winner.

JANE: Lovely! I’ll sign up. Finally, and back on the desert island with beautiful wine and shells, how will you open it if you don’t have a corkscrew?

TARQUIN: Have I got my shoes on?

JANE: Yes, you’re fully clothed.

TARQUIN: Thank goodness for that. I’d get a shoe and place the bottle inside the heel of the shoe so that it’s sitting in the heel section and bang it against something hard, and slowly but surely, the cork will come out.

But don’t do it with really good red wine so that you chuck all the gritty bits around.

JANE: Wow, you learn something new every day!

Find out more about de Burgh’s unique range of wine at de-burgh.com

“Have I got my shoes on?”

TARQUIN

“Yes, you’re fully clothed.”

JANE

PREVIOUS EDITIONS

#1 MARLOE WATCH COMPANY
#2 MONARCH TOURS

IF YOU’D LIKE TO RECEIVE THE NEXT ISSUE OF EXPLORA7ION AND OTHER UPDATES FROM ENGINE710, SIGN UP HERE.

PS. We only send two newsletters each month so we won’t bombard you.

SIGN UP TO NEWSLETTER

SERVICING & MOT

Please email CHRIS@ENGINE710.COM

REPAIRS & MAINTENANCE

Please email CHRIS@ENGINE710.COM

RESTORATION & MODIFICATIONS

Please email DOUG@ENGINE710.COM

SALES & BROKERAGE

Please email DOUG@ENGINE710.COM

THE MARINA / SOUTH QUEENSFERRY / EDINBURGH / UK / EH30 9SQ

THE MARINA
SOUTH QUEENSFERRY
EDINBURGH
UK
EH30 9SQ

T +44 (0) 131 331 2810