Becky Glover and Sara Thake, childhood friends, have always been big wine fans, and then they discovered English wine. Now these two young women are uncovering an untapped younger audience – and offering a light-hearted, fun introduction to some seriously good wines. Vineyard finds out why they are so excited to have set up their dream business – the specialist online retailer Elizabeth Rose.

When did you discover English wine?

Becky used to be the biggest Francophile, would not touch anything outside of France, whilst Sara was on a mission to taste everything she’d never heard of. But then Becky was tempted by Nyetimber – Looks like Champagne, made like Champagne, but from England? We both agreed it had to be tasted and both fell head over heels for it.

When planning a girly holiday to Cornwall, Sara found Cornish Wine Tours. We started at Camel Valley and we were blown away by the beauty of the vineyard and the standard of the wines. We finished the tour at Trevibban, and they have this gorgeous Black Ram red, which is a deep, oaked, spicy red blend. We couldn’t believe what we were tasting. How did we not know about this before? So, we came home with a boot full of Cornish wine – very happy girls.

Back in Cambridge we found it difficult to buy six or twelve different English wines from one place. So, Sara asked, “Gap in the market?” And before she knew it, Becky – being the powerhouse businesswoman that she is – had set us up as a limited company and was looking for website designers.

What is different about Elizabeth Rose?

The main focus of the business is to make English and Welsh wine more accessible. We could not believe what we had been missing out on and we want to share our love with others. We post a lot about individual wines on our social media pages, and we feel this makes them really approachable. On our website, we make everything as easy to find as possible and write, to the point, tasting notes – we really try to remove all things stuffy about wine so that more people feel like they can just give it a go. We also give the customer a chance to read about the vineyard to start their connection with the families that are making the wine. 

How did you get the name?

We have actually had the name forever. When we were at school, we used to come up with future business ventures – the entrepreneurial spirit was always there. Our business name was always Elizabeth Rose because it’s both our middle names – so, that was it – done. It’s perfect. It has English connotations and it’s personal to us. 

Who are your main customers and target audience?

Our target audience initially was people like us who have an interest in wine, but maybe haven’t yet discovered English and Welsh wine. We have such a loyal following on Instagram who have been there from the start. Some of whom have genuinely tasted the whole range and demand to be the first to know when new wines come in, which is amazing. 

Our audience on social media is mainly female 25-35, but this doesn’t necessarily reflect in our actual customer base. We are big on sustainability, so we want to grow our local following here in Cambridge and Essex as well as the wider audience. 

How is the business going?

Our customer numbers and sales are increasing massively. We don’t think we can take full credit, as ‘the lockdowns’ have been good for us as an online store. We’ve managed to keep online engagement levels high. In February we ran a campaign which we called English Red Wine Month. We contacted all our red wine suppliers and said “Look, February’s historically rubbish. We’re not allowed to come and see you. Do you want to chat to us on Instagram Live and tell people about your beautiful red wines?” The response was incredible, and we were overbooked. We would have loved to feature everyone, but two or three times per week was as much as we could manage. It’s definitely something we’ll be repeating next year. Our red wine sales have gone through the roof this month and feedback has been amazing.

It’s all about social media

Social media has always been our main advertising tool. It’s a strange virtual world, but there is a real English and Welsh wine community on Instagram which is just fantastic to be a part of. There is nothing better than seeing someone post about how much they’re loving your wines – we consider all Elizabeth Rose Wines ‘our’ wines.

Can producers help you sell their wines?

There are so many ways that producers can help drive sales. Firstly, samples are super important. We can’t drink all the stock; we would go out of business. Send us samples every now and then and we will be able to better feature the wines across the social media channels and on the website.

Secondly vineyard visits. Wine tourism is really important to us, please invite us to come and visit and we will shout about why people should visit you. Thirdly, wine spec sheets and photographs as these are super useful and timesaving for us. And finally, joint events – use us to promote products, events and anything else exciting going on.

Decanter awards shortlist

We were really excited to be shortlisted for the Decanter retailer awards. We honestly thought we were too new and too small to get a look in. We know we work exceptionally hard to be the best in the industry, but to be recognised by Decanter is absolutely incredible. 

Best selling wines?

So far, in 2021, the most popular wine is White Castle Regent – a Welsh red wine! It’s a stunning wine, and it got a huge amount of attention after Alan Titchmarsh featured it on his Sunday programme. Our all-time best seller is the Winbirri Signature – another red wine. We love this wine because it’s a bargain at about £15, it’s deep, with a touch of oak, and perfectly balanced.

How do you balance day jobs with family and this business?

A lot of prioritising and to-do lists. It’s definitely not easy, but honestly, we make it work because we love it!

Becky has a high-pressure role within her day job as a Finance Director, Sara has a young family and works as an insurance underwriter. It’s tough, but the amazing wine and fantastic small businesses we work with make us love it.

What is your vision?

We want English and Welsh wines to be celebrated and enjoyed as much as other wine regions in the World. We want people to visit the vineyards, meet the families and fall in love with their wines, just like we did. We want people to understand where their wine comes from, and to choose a local, small batch wine over a mass-produced wine from across the globe. 

Favourite wine?

Gosh! That’s like choosing a favourite child! We honestly love everything we stock, and we enjoy different things at different times. 

Becky loves a deep red in the winter in front of the fire – The White Castle Harry is perfect for this. Whilst Sara would go for a lighter red – The Simpsons Rabbit Hole is a real favourite. In summer, Becky would always reach for a buttery Blanc de Blancs like the Trevibban, or a still Chardonnay like the Simpsons Roman Road. Sara prefers the tropical flavours in the Winbirri Bacchus or the gentle red berries of a Blanc de Noirs – a great example of this is the Ridgeview. 

Do you have any spare time?

Not much, we mostly use it to work on Elizabeth Rose. Otherwise, we both really enjoy a bit of running. We find it clears your head and gives you more energy throughout the day, oddly. Sara is kept on her toes with her baby, and Becky has two dogs to keep her busy.