Brighton's L'Atelier du Vin extends into retail for first time

L’Atelier du Vin, the Brighton-based wine and cocktail-bar concept, is making its first foray into the retail sector.

The company, which already has two wine bars in the city and a third venue which is a collaboration with Una Hotel in Brighton’s Regency Square, is joining forces with GB Charcuterie to open a new venue in the former La Cave a Fromage shop in neighbouring Hove.

The off-trade outlet will operate as a delicatessen (Curds & Whey), run by GB Charcuterie, and a hybrid wine shop and bar (Cases by L’Atelier du Vin).

L’Atelier du Vin owner, Steve Pineau, who trained under the late Gerard Basset at Hotel du Vin, told DRN: “I think to be just a shop for me would be a good thing but then I also like my wine bars as well and the bar concept works well in Brighton, so it made sense to also have a drink-in element for this venue and luckily we were able to secure both licences.

“Unlike our other venues there is no wine list as such, but we have a ‘by the glass’ list for our drink-in customers.

“So on the retail side we will have about 400 bottles of wine for sale and I want the selection of wine to change often. I think this is important for the customers’ sake but also for the staff, as it keeps it interesting. What you see is what we have got, and when it’s gone it might be gone for good.”

Like its wine bar siblings, Cases will focus on the prestige end of the market, with entry-level wines priced from around £15-19. The shop will have a strong focus on wines from Burgundy and Bordeaux, with the majority of wines from these regions priced around £35 a bottle. There will also be a focus on English Sparkling Wines, with more from this category – up to 50 in total - than from Champagne or Prosecco.

Pineau said: “I want to push on this and I think there is a market for this and I believe the quality is getting higher and higher. English sparkling winemakers are really passionate about their products and I feel happy that focusing on these wines is the right thing to do. I am also pleased I am regarded by these wineries as a place where they want their wines to be stocked, because many of them want the outlets for their wines to be premium to maintain the standards of their brand, and also they have limited stocks.

“It also works well with the delicatessen side of the business because there will be a lot of high-quality English wines and also English cheese and other food products. These will also be available as small snack dishes for people who want to drink in.

“In time I aim to present a mixed case of wines and cheeses, which will change on a regular basis. So the case you see displayed when you walk in the shop might have English wines and some black Cheddar, or perhaps some local gin. I want to mix up the cases and we want to make it interesting.”

The venue itself had been empty for a number of months, following the closure of La Cave a Fromage, a business which had been operating there for nearly ten years. L’Atelier has taken on a number of ex-employees from the closed cheese retailer, and they are now being trained by the company’s master sommelier Dimitri Mesnard to understand the wine arm of the new shop.

“The staff we have retained from La Cave a Fromage are fantastic and they have a great knowledge of the cheese side of the business while also being very keen to learn about wine. We will need staff to work evenings as there are lots of restaurants here and we have pushed to ensure the store will be open until midnight so that people can come here to have a drink before or after going out for a meal in the area. We think that will work for us.

“We will have wines from Burgundy and Bordeaux but these will be some of the more unusual ones or old vintages.

“It’s hard for me to compete on price with retailers like Waitrose so as an independent shop I have to work on things that are unique and different. I plan to get some Croatian wine to try, and I will explore other Eastern European regions. Some Malvasia wines are really good and people need to see some value for money. Not everyone can spend £80 on a bottle of wine so we want to have a good range.

“We will do a lot of cheese and wine evenings, and those were popular in the old La Cave a Fromage shop, so hopefully ours will attract the same customers and more.”

The new venue had a soft launch opening earlier this month and is due to fully open on February 28.

Pineau said the company would consider opening one more venue in the area under the L’Atelier brand and maybe another under the Cases retail format, but, he said, the latter will be elsewhere in Sussex, “somewhere like Tunbridge Wells, if we can find the right spot”.

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