‘Legend’ is not a term that should be used lightly but Steve Daniel is a legend in terms of the UK licensed retail wine sector. This is the man, who through Oddbins, broke the mould of wine buying and wine drinking in the UK.
Henry Jeffreys wrote on the Master of Malt blog: “Before Oddbins, wine was stuffy, class-ridden and largely French. Afterwards, wine became normal: it could be enjoyed in front of the telly, it might not be French, it might not even come in a bottle! The chain, still existing but now in a much diminished form, dates back to the 1960s but had its heyday in the 1980s and ‘90s. Steve Daniel, who joined the firm as a trainee buyer in 1987, was there for the glory years.
By contrast, Oddbins shops were scruffy, unpretentious and stacked full of interesting wine, especially from the New World. “It was a chance to bring in Australian wines in a big way for the first time,” Daniel said. Latterly Daniel championed Greek wines, hitherto unknown in the UK.
Steve Daniel is now head of wine buying at Hallgarten & Novum Wines, one of the UK’s leading specialist wine merchants, with more than 89 years’ experience importing wines from producers around the world and supplying the premium on-trade and off-trade. Family-owned and renowned for supplying premium wines to the finest restaurants, hotels, pubs and bars throughout the country.
So, does H&N list English and/or Welsh Wines?
Yes, we currently have 25 English wines in our portfolio from across the south of the country.
If yes, which ones?
We list the wines from Sugrue South Downs, Simpsons Wine Estate, New Hall Wine Estate, Blackbook Winery and the Goring label from Wiston Estate.
What are you looking for when considering new wines to list?
We are looking across the UK at various regions and what grape varieties they can offer. We are also looking for wines that represent value for money – customers don’t mind spending a premium price, as long as they feel they are getting value for money.
What do you expect a supplier/producer to supply to you in advance?
We expect a clear outline of pricing, current distribution and volumes available, and a willingness to grant exclusivity of supply to Hallgarten.
Do you have a minimum drop for a listing?
No. It is all dealt with on a case-by-case basis.
Broadly, what do you think of English/Welsh wines?
I think the English wine sector has moved from a hobbyist industry to a professional one. I still believe that in many cases the quality of some wines needs to improve in order to justify the price points demanded.
What are English and Welsh producers doing well?
Making better wines and improving their packaging.
Conversely, what aren’t they doing well – what should they be considering/thinking/doing?
Producers need to be more regimented in their approach to their market, and need better managed marketing and sales strategies.
What trends do you discern in wine sales and is there anything that English and Welsh viticulturists, and vinifers should be addressing, going forward?
There is a move to lower alcohol, fresher wines, and this is exactly the style UK vintners can produce. Consumers are also looking more at food and wine miles, and UK wineries are perfectly poised to embrace this movement.
Is there anything you would like to say to English and Welsh winemakers and producers?
Keep up the good work and keep improving wine quality! Watch the rest of Europe when setting prices – UK wines are pitched well above average consumer spending levels, and above some classic French wines, so are in danger of pricing themselves out of the market. There will be a squeeze on wine spending in the next year, and there are a lot of vineyards in the ground in the UK and in the pipeline now.
- Oddbins: 1987 to 2003
- Novum Wines: 2003 to 2010
- Hallgarten & Novum Wines: 2010 to present.
How did you become a wine buyer?
I applied for a job as trainee buyer with Oddbins and the rest is history.
What style, type, country’s wine, do you personally enjoy?
Wines that reflect their origin and the vineyard’s terroir. Predominantly Greek wines.
Hallgarten & Novum Wines is one of the UK’s leading specialist wine merchants, with more than 89 years’ experience importing wines from producers around the world. Hallgarten were named both On-Trade Supporter of the Year by the International Wine Challenge and On-Trade Supplier of the Year by The Drinks Business in 2021, thanks to the focus on service and support for customers.
Its experienced buying team includes some of the UK’s most respected palates in Steve Daniel, and master of wine Beverly Tabbron, who have together constructed a diverse and award-winning portfolio of over 1,000 wines, blending some of the world’s greatest producers from the classic wine growing regions together with innovative, up-and-coming wineries and winemakers from the emerging winemaking world.
What is the profile of your customers?
We work closely with partners across the on and off trade, from premium restaurants, hotels and pub groups to independent wine merchants and high street retailers.