My local Chinese Take-Away sells Chinese food. This may seem rather an obvious thing to say, but my point is that they know their market and they stick to what they are good at doing. You wouldn’t dream of going in there and asking whether they sell pizzas. Based on our experience I bet someone has though! The festive season does seem to generate some odd requests for retailers and I guess Wine Merchants cannot expect to be immune from these. People seem to think we are the likely source of all sorts of interesting stuff...
I suppose it’s only reasonable that customers should ask, because many retailers do add to their product ranges at this time of year so unexpected items do crop up in unusual places. After all, garden centres sell beer. Supermarkets sell insurance and the latest statement from our bank came with a wine offer enclosed (thanks chaps...).
We always keep a mental note of requests for things we don’t stock (a) because you never know, we might be missing a trick (b) for our own amusement and (c) to give a quiet nod of approval to the most unusual request by the end of the year.
Currently the all time winner is a request, a few years ago now, for soap powder. To this day we are still confused by that one. There was a rather touching request for cocktail cherries from a dear old chap one Christmas who had clearly spent days scouring the town for some. They were evidently a specific request from his wife and, being an attentive husband, he was determined to find some. He struggled up our steps, wheezed his way into the shop, and popped the question. We explained that sadly this was not a line we sold. A good-natured “Bugger!” was his only response though we did point him to a local supermarket where we felt he may find success. He passed the shop again on his way home giving a cheery “thumbs up” having presumably secured his prize elsewhere.
We are frequently mistaken for an Off Licence and enquiries for cold beers (in the summer) and tobacco are not uncommon. We don’t really want to sell either. Advocat anyone? No... I thought not. Yes, I know we sell olive oil, but wine and olive oil go hand in hand from the land they’re grown on and through production. Frequently they are made by the same people, so it sort of makes sense.
Way out in front this year are three requests for mead, all in the last fortnight (so no demand outside the festive season then). Sorry chaps, it’s a bit off our plot, try your local castle (no, seriously, it’s the sort of stuff English Heritage sell next to ye olde plastic knights helmets and the wooden arrows with the little rubber suckers on the end). Wine is our thing you see; we love it. Can’t get enough of it. Would stock more lines but there isn’t room. However, we do add a bit to our range at Christmastime, specifically with Christmas menus in mind.
We’ve already flagged up the Mourat wines (some of the Pinot Noir will hopefully be coming my way for the Christmas table) but here’s another new find which would be the perfect partner for those who prefer a fuller red with their turkey, chicken or goose. Valpolicella Ripasso, a generous red with richness and a bit of oak nicely balanced by fresh red cherry fruit. It’s on the website now, along with the other 450+ lines we have currently available.
I’ll finish with an account of possibly the most frustrating request we have ever had. A chap came in the other day saying “I’ve looked at your website and can see that you have a fantastic range of over 400 wines, all individually tasted and selected by you.” (well spotted, full marks so far Sir...) “I wonder... can you get Blossom Hill?”...