There’s personalised, and then there is Personalised. Champagne Warehouse (CW) was founded by Tony Stones in 2000, as a specialist supplier of ‘grower fizz’.
The term 'grower fizz' refers to hand-crafted, artisan wines made by family-owned vineyards, producing terroir-driven champagne. Which sits perfectly in our organic, locally sourced, ethically fair traded, modern world.
Tony has recently diversified his offering to include Champagne by You, a service in which the customer gets to create their own brand of champagne by choosing their favourite style and blend, and designing their own hand-finished aluminium label. I got 'personal' with Tony to find out how it works.
So Tony, how did a former IT geek (my words!) end up becoming a champagne entrepreneur?
After a really enjoyable road trip to the Champagne region over 15 years ago, I came back to the UK and tried to get hold of some of the amazing champagnes I had enjoyed – all from small producers. At that time, no-one was bringing them in and so I felt that there was a gap in the market for people who enjoy truly artisan champagne made from families rather than factories. I have been building the business year-on-year, ever since. To come back to your ‘geek’ reference, myself and my team are avid fizz geeks, which is something our customers love.
That all sounds great, but the internet has come a long way in a short time with things like social media. How do you keep abreast of the competition?
We are always looking to evolve in terms of the products we offer (such as Champagne by You) and the channels we use for engaging with the market place. We always have new ideas in the pipeline and via a strong mix of social media, face-to-face customer events, corporate, on-trade, off-trade and website sales, we have just had our most successful financial year to date.
Champagne by You sounds a good idea, especially the tasting! But how does a relative novice like me know if I’m picking the right style?
Well, we have made sure that the Champagne by You tasting case contains six of the classic champagne styles, including a Vintage, Grand Cru, Blanc de Blancs, Blanc de Noirs, Rosé and a Grande Reserve Brut. We always stress to our customers that taste is subjective, so the fun bit is trying all these different styles and quite simply, picking the one (for your unique label) that you like the best. They are all of the highest quality, chosen from two of our small grower houses and there is no right or wrong style.
I’m not a rich man Tony. Is this an affordable option?
In relative terms, for the quality of the Champagnes from our artisan producers, together with the hand-finished aluminium label which our designer helps our clients create, you are getting what you pay for. However, it is a luxury product, so the price point is higher than if you were paying for any old blend, without a unique label.
Finally, I want a special bottle of champagne (no supermarket stocked brands) to celebrate a special anniversary with my wife. What would you recommend?
From our tasting case, I would recommend the Grand Cru Blanc de Noirs. This is 100% Pinot Noir grapes, from one of the best villages (Grand Cru). A great option for both white and red wine drinkers as this champagne is complex and elegant. Sip and enjoy notes of brioche, honey, fruit and floral elements - a very fine wine, for a special occasion.
Thank you Tony. Let's hope my meagre budget can stretch to this!