Family-run Hoults Wine and Spirits Merchant in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire have over 600 wines, spirits and beers from around-the-world; therefore, unless you are really fussy there will be a wine to suit every palate and every price range. It’s a traditional shop that holds regular tastings and offers expert advice to its customers. Owner Rob Hoult, whose wife runs a brewery and whose father in 1983 “thought wine was way more fun than cat food,” now runs the merchants. Eatnorth went to find out more…
Q. So… you’re the owner of Hoults Wine? What’s that like?
Mostly enjoyable, occasionally stressful (I’m running a business at the end of the day) with the opportunity to meet very interesting people, drink superb wines and every now and then visit beautiful countries and eat amazing food, Tough gig really.
Q. The store was opened in 1983, why Huddersfield and why wine?
The shop was born out of a very traditional ‘open all hours’ style corner shop by my father and he quite simply decided that wine was more fun than cat food and so created a wine shop. The shop has changed a lot since then but Huddersfield is where we live and we’ve never liked to travel too far to work.
Q. What did you do before?
“I made maps of pre-war sewers. It was an interesting job but the aromas in this job are preferable.”
Q. Did you not want to be a train driver growing up?
I wanted to be an estate agent. I think…. I still do actually. I like selling things and a house is the biggest thing to sell.
Q. Any particular countries/regions you specialise in?
No particular country but there is definitely an old world bias.
Q. What sells the best?
Individually it’s whatever I’m in the mood for, other than that it’s back to that old world influence. So…. France, Spain and Italy.
Q. What do your customers like the most when shopping here?
I would hope that it’s the broad range of wines and the very relaxed, sometimes a little too relaxed, atmosphere.
Q. Do you sell to the on-trade (restaurants, bars) too?
Yes, it’s an important part of the business but I will always be a retailer first and foremost.
Q. I see you have your own labels on some wines? Do you want to tell us more?
No, not really but as you are being persistent. We experimented with own labels on some entry level wines, working with in Huddersfield. Although they were entry level they still had to have quality!
We worked with Concha y Torro on a Chilean Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc. Despite their size Concha y Torro still provides quality. We also worked with French producer Les Vignobles Foncalieu to offer a French Merlot.
But the labels were too bold for me, I was not comfortable with my name being so big. So, A.N.D Studio have toned the labels down a little. We also provide a label service to our catering customers if they want exclusive wines from us. But, I am not sure if we will continue to do it next year.
Q. And you have your own magazine?
It’s important to always been in the customer’s mind, so again, I worked with A.N.D Studio to produce a printed magazine that promoted seasonal offers, events and tell the stories behind products sold in the shop. It was important that the tone reflected the friendly and personal service experienced at Hoults
Q. Is food and drink a big focus for you?
I eat and I drink and I enjoy both but I wouldn’t say I’m a gastronome.
Q. What’s the store’s USP?
Me, and that’s not bigheadedness, it should be the same answer for any independent wine merchant. It’s nice but it also makes it hard to not be here.
Q. How has 2017 gone for you so far?
A very good year so far and now we’ll just see if that momentum remains through Christmas.
Q. What have been the best moments of the year so far?
Getting married to Bridget! She is the operations and finance director of Northern Monk Brewery in Leeds. There had to be a booze connection there somewhere.
Q. Most challenging moments of the year?
Q. What are your big goals for the business for the rest of the year?
Selling as much wine as possible…
Q. How often are you out and about showcasing your wines to customers?
Not very often, we have a huge shop so I’d much rather be here showcasing our wines, where people can actually buy them.
Q. What do you see as being the big trends/ influences on your part of the industry for 2018?
I have absolutely no idea. Despite 25 years doing this job I still don’t really have a clue what is going on from one day to the next let alone seeing into the future.
Q. What did you get up to on your summer holiday?
Camping in the Yorkshire Dales and then Cornwall in the autumn.
Q. What did you read?
The Other Hand by Chris Cleave, a book I would highly recommend to anyone.
Q. What hidden gems did you find to eat and drink?
The Courtyard Dairy just outside Settle. They’ve relocated to purpose built premises and if you like cheese then it is well worth a visit.
Q. What are you drinking now in autumn/winter?
A different wine every day but no rhythm nor season to it.
Q. Best autumn/winter song?
The Last Polar Bear by O’Hooley & Tidow, a beautiful winter song by a terrific and local folk duo. They’ve got beautiful voices, great song-writing ability, a sense of humour and they like great wine too.
Look out for the promotion EatSpainDrinkSpain at the store this month.
HOULTS WINE MERCHANTS
Castlegate retail park
01484 510 700