Sad news from the wine retail world, via Huon Hooke and an email which just lobbed in:
One of Sydney’s finest independent wine retailers, Ultimo Wine Centre, has been sold to Coles and will become a Vintage Cellars store.
Ending months of speculation, owner and founder Jon Osbeiston has sold the shop, and the settlement was due to take place on April 8. He has joined the permanent staff of Vintage Cellars.
However, Sydney wine-lovers have probably seen the last of Osbeiston on a shop floor, as he’ll be working as a broker from an upstairs office at the Vintage Cellars Double Bay store.
He will continue to look after some of his special Ultimo clients. Coles will re-badge the shop, at 99 Jones Street, Ultimo, as a Vintage Cellars and it will continue as an up-market fine wine business, presumably continuing to specialise in boutique Australian and the finest imported wines, especially French and Italian.
Coles spokesman Jim Cooper said: “Obviously there will be some tweaks to the range, but we take the view that you don’t buy these places with their successful and established business, just to tear up what’s there and start again. The focus will remain on fine wine.”
“Tweaks to the range.” Sure. Fine wine? Absolutely, so long as you like Grange and Moet-Chandon. This site has never been a fan of Vintage Cellars, with its marked-up-to-mark-down corporate labels, its lousy “cellar share” scheme which long ago stopped giving credit for gin or giving subscribers anything decent to save up for, and its rude and parsimonious tastings policy. (The Leichhardt outlet lost the Prick’s custom after this site was told off, loudly, for pouring our own nip on a Saturday afternoon. Well, you should have had someone staffing the tasting bar then.)
And now this. One can only expect what “tweaks” are coming. Thumping music. Staff who think a “first growth” is what happens when you hit puberty. Chateau d’Yquem and Vieux Telegraph forced to buy shelf space to jockey with home-brand plonk.
What a low, dishonest decade this is turning out to be.