NEILS Dubro is just back from a wine-buying trip to the Loire Valley with a host of exciting tipples for his hundreds of customers.
Over the past seven years he has built up an impressive wealth of knowledge with which he helps around 600 regular customers choose the perfect wines.
He explains he set up his venture as a wine merchant, Street Wines, having been made redundant from his job in a specialist off-license in Colchester where he had already built up an impressive level of knowledge.
“When I was young I went to catering college but it turned out I wasn’t that much of a chef but on a holiday to Italy I discovered wine and so afterwards I got a job with Oddbins.
“It was a brilliant and unusual wine company where we were sent on courses and even to wine regions but during the recession the shop closed and I was made redundant,” explains Neils.
He then took a leap of faith - investing the sum he had been given, which was around £4,000 on good wines he had learned about, from his work and from buying up every wine book he could find in charity shops, putting them on a list and heading out on the street.
“That is why I called it Street Wines because that is literally what I was doing, going out and trying to build up my clientele.
“I just wanted to also do something that was not too caught up with the sensibilities of it. It is about getting good quality wines that taste great and people can enjoy.
“I don’t hold up with all this ‘you can’t drink it with that’ and you have to swirl it round and look at it in the glass.
“Obviously there are foods that are complimented by certain wines and I get asked that a huge amount and it is something I can really help with,” he says.
Neils says around 60 per cent of the business is supplying to the bars, restaurants and clubs in the town, alongside his loyal customers - many of whom followed him after the closure of the shop he had been working in.
“We don’t have a royal warrant to sell to the Queen and we don’t have a long heritage but I have really passion for it.
“I love meeting people and talking to them about the different wines.
“There is a lot of terrible wine out there and I feel passionate about making sure people are drinking good quality ones.
“I am about helping the customer who just wants to treat themselves to one nice bottle of wine alongside the person living in the largest house in the village who will buy a case.
“There is no minimum order and I deliver. I recently got a van which has been a really big deal and has really helped with the day to day supplying.
“At the moment it is just me but I am so passionate about making things work and growing as much as we can,” says Neils.
Part of his job involves him heading out to vineyards across the world, including those from his trip to France.
“The thing about buyers in France is they tend to focus on their own region but in Britain buyers cover all of the country.
“I really like that open attitude and I really feel it is a privilege to visit the vineyards myself.
“It has been a really steep learning curve because you have to think about all the bureaucracy that goes with it, the tax, inland revenue and VAT.”
One of the biggest events of the year for Neils and Street Wines is without a doubt the Colchester Food and Drink Festival which will again take place in Castle Park at the end of next month.
“It is probably the most important weekend of the year for me because I get to see some of my regular customers and also chat and help new ones.
“That is why I have been there every year since we launched in 2010,” he explains.
This year he will also be bringing along the award-winning South African gin, which he has recently added to his repertoire.
“I had not been supplying spirits but there seemed to be more and call for it and I had been looking for a really good one for a while.
“So this is a recent addition but it has been doing really really well and then last week it picked up a Gold Award at the World Spirits Awards.
“It is made with truffles, which is something really different, it’s from the Kalahari Desert and it comes in a bottle with a leather top. It’s got a bit of an earthy flavour as well and I am hoping to offer a deal for customers at the festival.
“It is actually nice on its own with a big ice cube and lemon but is worth trying with tonic and a slice of grapefruit to experience it at its best,” adds Neils.
He also expects to be giving out a bit of advice to customers on what wines they should be enjoying as the weather warms up and the summer finally arrives.
“I expect people to be moving into the cool white wines about this time of year, something like a Sancerre, Sauvignon Blanc and Pouilly Fume is always great in the summer.”
Cruxland Truffle Gin, along with Neils specially selecteed wines, will be available to try and buy at the festival which this year will be celebrating the 125th anniversary of the park which is hosting it with a special bake-off competition.
A Whole host of exhibitors from across Essex and beyond along with chef demonstrators and live music will set up at the venue on Saturday 24 and Sunday 25 of June from 10.30am to 5pm when entry will be free for children up to 14 and £4 for adults.
- Go to foodand drinkfestivalsuk.co.uk for entry to the cake competition.Visit streetwines.co.uk for details on Neils’ latest offers.
Gin Colchester has a long and illustrious connection with the history of the production of gin.
So it is fitting the spirit will play a large part in the town’s annual Food and Drink Festival in Colchester’s Castle Park on June 25 and 25.
Festival director Don Quinn explains in 1812 Messrs Bawtree and Savill invested £40,000 in a distillery in Colchester in what is now known as Distillery Lane.
“It would be the equivalent of millions today, a huge sum. It fast became one of the biggest gin distilleries in Britain and it is estimated that Colchester produced 50,000 gallons of gin every year. “The distillery got its water from a sweet water spring which still exists. “Distillery Pond is the last surviving part of this chapter in Colchester’s history,” he adds.
And the festival will be celebrating that history with lots of different examples of the drink which will be represented with a gin bar serving new gin cocktails.
Don adds the festival has an impressive past in the world of gin including launching the now famous Hendricks gin, which has a unique cucumber taste, in 2000.
“We have gins from as far away as South Africa and as close to home as Witham.
“You can just sip some wonderful sipping gin such as multi-award winning Cruxland Truffle Gin. “There will also be locally produced gins for you to try and buy and our amazing gin bar is not just good to drink in but will also be good to look at.