How to become a Wine Merchant

  • Price: £5.99
  • Published: July 2016
  • Type: Business Opportunity Profile
  • Format: PDF
  • What qualifications and skills are required?
  • Key market issues and trends
  • Trading, commercial and legal issues
  • Legislation
  • Further information

Independent wine merchants stock and supply a unique and extensive range of fine, vintage and rare wines, including fortified wines and champagne, for consumption off the premises. They differ from conventional off-licences by offering a higher level of specialist knowledge about wine and by offering additional services such as gift cases of wine, glass hire, cellaring and wine-tasting tutorials. Some also specialise in the supply of spirits and cigars.

Customer groups include individual consumers, some of whom may be purchasing wine for investment or collecting it as a hobby, and also commercial buyers such as restaurants, hotels, gastro pubs, wedding planners and corporate organisations. Wine merchants typically trade from small warehouse premises or retail outlets, by mail order and online, and employ staff with specialist product knowledge. They may import wine directly themselves from small 'boutique' wineries abroad or source it from specialist importers. Many store imported wine in their own 'bonded' warehouse before it is sold.

It is a legal requirement for all wine merchants in the UK to hold the relevant licences before they start trading. Licensing requirements differ depending on whether the business premises are located in England and Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland.

There are strict rules surrounding the sale of alcohol and tobacco, and the drinks trade has been particularly affected in recent years by health and social policies aimed at cutting smoking and alcohol consumption, as well as by competition from supermarkets and off-licence chains.

This profile provides information about starting up and trading as an independent wine merchant. It describes the skills required, the training available, the current market trends and the key trading issues. It also explains the main legislation that must be complied with and provides sources of further information and support.

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