Alex Glidewell is the Wine & Spirits Manager for Harvey Nichols wine department. He has worked in the trade from Scotland to New Zealand. He tells Eatnorth what its like running such a busy wine department in the centre of Leeds.
Q. So…you are the manager of Harvey Nichol’s Wine & Spirit department, what’s that like?
It’s great -what’s not to like about having the best looking space and the best range in the North?!
Q. What did you do before?
I’ve been in the trade for 16 years now -everything from a whisky specialist in Aberdeen to a boutique winery in Hawkes Bay New Zealand!
Q. Did you not want to be a train driver growing up?
No, but I’d have been happy with a combine harvester.
Q. Any particular countries/regions you specialise in?
We specialise in the excellent and the exciting, but our range of English wines, Japanese whiskies and in particular our huge gin selection has won us a lot of fans.
Q. What sells the best?
Whatever we’re most excited about -our team are so passionate about our products that customers tend to get swept along with our recommendations!
Q. What do your customers like the most when shopping here?
They certainly enjoy the complimentary cocktails at our regular Saturday bar takeovers and the knowledgeable but very friendly and approachable team.
Q. Do you sell to the restaurants and bars too?
We sell to everyone, but we have a few specialist products that attract the more creative bartenders in town and the odd visit from our Michelin-starred friends across the road!
Q. Is food and drink a big focus for you?
It’s everything we do.
Q. What’s the store’s USP?
Being able to walk in and get expert advice on choosing some of the rarest, most exciting and delicious food and drink in the world -no matter what your budget.
Q. How has 2017 gone for you so far?
It’s been fantastic -we’ve had a total refurbishment, opening the Bottle Room, with two new bars, an events space for tastings, and a vastly expanded range.
“The highlight for me was the store’s 21st birthday party, when we hosted Marc Kent from Boekenhoutskloof, South Africa -an amazing event with some very memorable wines.”
Q. Most challenging moments of the year?
Refurbishing without ever closing wasn’t easy, but we’re fortunate to have a brilliant support team behind the scenes here, who made it all happen.
Q. What are your big goals for the business for the rest of the year?
A very busy Christmas period, and selling out on our Champagne/caviar and Japanese Whisky events.
Q. How often are you out and about showcasing your wines to customers?
Not as often as we’d like, so it was great to be showcasing our wines at The Wine Gang event earlier this month.
Q. What do you see as being the big trends/ influences on your part of the industry for 2018?
Continued shift to quality over quantity in gin; non-Champagne sparkling wines from all over the world; fresher and lighter reds.
Q. What did you get up to on your summer holiday?
Some camping and a week in Sardinia.
Q. What did you read?
Adventures on the Wine Route by Kermit Lynch – highly recommended!
Q. What hidden gems did you find to eat and drink?
Plenty of Vermentino do Gallura DOCG wines from Sardinia and the best Sardinian speciality ‘music paper bread’ carta musica flatbread I’ve ever tasted – addictive!
Q. What are you drinking now in autumn/winter?
Weightier whites, such as the amazing Haan Grenache Blanc/Gris from BlankBottle, and choosing our fortified options for Christmas –we had some great options on our Wine Gang stand. Come and talk to us in store about them.
Q. Best autumn/winter song?
“Autumn Leaves” -I’d be happy with Billie Holiday or the Coldcut version.