Yard's wine lounge is a hit with customers
THE first wine lounge to open in the South West has had a successful first two months as its boss says Plymouth is learning to love "le vin".
Le Vignoble – French for The Vineyard – opened in August in a 1,050sq ft unit in the Royal William Yard's New Cooperage building.
And it's already proving a hit with bon viveurs who are buying bottles of wine right across the price range, from under £10 to more than £100.
And the £150,000 independent business, the brainchild of Frenchman Yannick Loué, has already seen more than 350 people take one of its "wine cards".
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The cards are free but can be topped up with cash, and then used to sample any of 16 wines displayed on the business' famous Enomatic Enoround Elite wine dispensing machine – the only one in the UK outside London.
Wine lovers can use it to taste small samples of the wines.
Or they can try a full glass, and, if they want, then buy the bottle.
Mr Loué changes the wines in the machine every two weeks. Its technology keeps it fresh for 21 days and he , plans to eventually have included all 150 different wines he sells.
And these brands are unlikely to be found in supermarkets.
"The idea is to bring in boutique wines, not mass produced," he said.
And he and his sales assistant Naomi Elder are on hand to give novice wine drinkers advice about which drink will suit their palate.
"People feel they can talk to us," he said. "I ask what country they like, what their palate likes, and then direct them.
"People can discover different wines and grapes they have not heard of before."
Mr Loué explained how the wines he sells have more flavour than the mass-produced; they are made to be savoured, perhaps over as long as 30 minutes a glass.
It can mean a slight cultural shift for some British people, perhaps more used to the quick hit of a glugged glassful.
Mr Loué said spending more on a bottle actually means buying quality.
He explained that if someone spends £5 on a bottle of wine, 11p actually goes towards producing the wine juice.
"Whereas on a £10 bottle the amount of money dedicated to the wine juice increases twenty five fold," he said.
"If I could be part of changing that I would be very happy," Mr Loué added. "In France we say a good night out is good company, good food and good wine. They go together."
But he insists: "Quality does not have to be pricey; we have some cheaper quality wines as well."
Mr Loué is only 30 but has worked in the hospitality industry in the UK for the past 11 years since coming from France.
Previously food and beverage manager at St Mellion International Resort, Mr Loué said he'd had the idea for the business for some time but when he saw the Royal William Yard he knew it was the ideal site.
"The location made it," he said. "I thought 'this is something different'.
"A lot of people are afraid to start a business," he said. "But why not?"
And Mr Loué is already planning for the future and has just extended opening times to 11.30pm on weekdays, and midnight on Fridays and Saturdays, and targeting the corporate market.
"I will probably buy more machines," he said. "I want to be the place where you can buy 40 different wines by the glass."