Merchant's Taste: The Vineking

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Eunice Murrison reviews the offer at the Vineking, in Reigate.

After 11 years of honing his trade with the likes of Laytons, La Réserve and Charles Taylor Wines, Erik Laan branched out with his own retail business in 2003. Working from a one-bed flat in Earlsfield proved tricky, but The Vineking still turned over just under £225,000 in its first year, before Laan moved to his hometown of Reigate, Surrey, to set up shop in 2005.

Encouraged by success in a familiar community, Laan, 39, opened another shop just two years later in Weybridge’s St George’s Hill area, confident the “über-rich” community wouldn't fail him. Always itching to have a project on the go, he’s just set up a new Enoteca wine bar in-store where people can enjoy a glass of wine. A multi-functional space, it will be available for private tastings of six to 16 people.

Turnover hit £775,000 in 2008 and levelled out this year. But, with the help of a new experienced addition to the team, Laan expects the figure to be over a million next year. Charles Whittington, formerly of Imbribos and “one of the old boys from Réserve”, joins on November 2. He will head up a new side to the business: wine portfolio management for investments and cellar planning. “It’s going to raise our profile and augment the already successful retail side of our business,” adds Laan.

Philosophy: “We buy good wines that stand up on their own, but I think the concept of having a philosophy of wine buying is a little over the top, a bit David Brent. I’m only buying wine, I’m not solving world poverty,” says Laan

Pricing: Starts at £5, with some 2 for £10 deals, to over £600 per bottle.

Range: Just over 1000 lines, which includes a broker list.

Bestseller: “We don’t generally deal with big brands – I call them turkey twizzlers, artificial wines – but Vergelegen from south Africa is fantastic and one of our top sellers,” says Laan. Rioja is also popular.


Specialisms: There no conscious preference, but France is his biggest section, “mainly because I think it offers the best diversified range”, says Laan. There is also a healthy selection from Italy, Austria, Spain, Germany and the New World, but Laan says it’s a matter of striking a balance between what he loves and what will sell.

Strategy and recession survival plan: “It’s tough out there, and we’ve just got to try harder. We’ve tailored the range down with more exciting wines for under £10. We’ve also some new marketing emphasising great wine, great advice and great value,” says Laan. Most of all, he aims to be aware of what customers want, whether it's an everyday wine, a cellar plan or a bit of banter.

The Vineking
4 West Road
Surrey RH2 7JT
01737 248 833

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