The Sampler: From a venture capitalist to an award winning wine merchant
A co-owner of a popular wine shop in Islington Jamie Hutchinson isn’t just another wine seller.
When he and his partner Dawn Mannis finally opened The Sampler in December 2006 after long planning they set out to be an independent shop. Jamie sees it as a key to stay unbiased.
The secret of success
Being free from any commercialized restrictions from a big chain is the main reason for an unprecedented success of this small wine shop. Jamie said: “For us it is important not to be brand centric and be quality driven as well as offering good personalised service.” Not like many commercial merchants who should be more interested in wines and have a more personal approach to their customers.
The individual approach was rewarded by winning the Enomatic wine dispensersReaders Choice Small Wine Merchant of the Year 2009 and many other awards. Although Jamie treasures the readers choice the most as they are his customers.
Want a sip of Chateau la Tour?
What distinguishes The Sampler from the majority of sellers is that you can taste the wine before you actually buy it! What a wonderful idea saving you from disappointment and waste of money. Wines can be pricey and Jamie with his team knows it. He said: ” The idea is to get people comfortable or to try different wines. They can experiment and hopefully find the wine they enjoy because they would not have otherwise even found it.”
That is why the shop is equipped with the Enomatic wine dispensers enabling sampling of smaller amounts of variety of wines. There are 80 dispensers and wines are being changed regularly so you will never get bored by The Sampler. This system originated in Italy where Jamie had seen it for the first time while visiting the Tuscan village Greve in Chianti.
You may ponder about how the wines stay fresh and do not oxidise after opening. The smart Enomatic system solves this problem as it keeps wines under nitrogenium environment preserving them for up to three weeks from oxidation. So you can get to taste such treasures like Chateau La Tour. The most expensive bottle The Sampler has ever put to taste cost £1500 and Jamie nods that it was not a £15 per sip deal.
How sampling actually works? You buy a prepaid card and then just stick it into the reader on the dispenser with the wine you wish to taste, and then just pour the wine into a glass provided in the shop. Easy. You can spend as little as 30p but you can get to £100 if you want to get something special. Furthermore, if you want to taste more you can choose the multiple dispensation and assure yourself that this is really the wine you want to buy.
You may be tempted to visit The Sampler to get a couple of glasses, but this is not the point. Jamie stressed: “We are not at all a bar. We do not provide much seating so people realise that our main thing is to sell wine. We don’t charge enough for the glass to cover the cost. Nevertheless, we give customers an opportunity to know beforehand what they are buying. Nearly all people buy at least a bottle after sampling.”
Variety of regions
The wines are organised by the grape variety and the country they are from making your choice easier. The worldwide selection isn’t just a matter of variety. Jamie had been exploring wine countries since he was a child which contributed to his excellent knowledge about wine. From all the regions he has visited he liked the Douro Valley in Portugal the most. He said: “Concretely the central part of the Douro is incredibly beautiful. Looking from the river up to the steep vineyards is an unforgettable experience.”
Bubbles in Britain
Getting back on Earth from our daydreaming we discussed today’s trends in Britain. Jamie sees significant potential in sparkling wines in the British wine industry. With global temperatures rising some areas such as Rioja in Spain will benefit and Jamie recognises the similarity between the Champagne region in France and Southern UK.
“A responsible brand”
The popularity of organic products gets along with The Sampler’s vision. Jamie said: “I like to see it on the label as it shows the effort and care the winemaker put into his wine.”
Charity became also part of The Sampler. Movember, a charitable organisation helping men with prostate problems, touched hearts of the team as they appeal to their customers to contribute to a good cause.
You can not only sample and buy wine plus get professional advice at The Sampler but also you can attend one of their tasting events. The earliest one takes place this Sunday from 1- 6pm and is in the spirit of Christmas. Jamie disclosed to me the wine selection and I must just add you should not miss it. Although I won’t tell you what you will taste as it is good to be surprised sometimes.
The Sampler is located on 266 Upper Street in Islington, London and is open daily.
Thanks Radka! Really great way to buy wine. Looking forward to finding something at The Sampler.
Yes, it is great as you can taste before you buy. I wonder if Berry Bros & Rudd ever move to using these enomatic dipensers as well?