04 Vine Trail VT30 gripa 17
Bernard Gripa and Brooksy circa 2003



22 January, 2020


Nick Brookes, JR Barris, Raphaël Rodriguez

From Nick being self-employed, using a bedroom as an office and the dining room as a wine-store to employing 11 people and renting an office and store room from Aardman Animations, we’ve grown steadily and solidly. All the time we’ve been self-financed putting profits back into Vine Trail - becoming a big business has never enticed us, what we do is on a human scale that works well for customers, growers and staff.

Right from the outset VT offered something different, we’ve never spent any time looking over our shoulders, following what others do. We have a track record of anticipating trends and are never afraid to focus on regions ignored by others. Quality has always been the first and foremost requisite, as we have looked to find the best wines in every region whilst always trying to offer value for money. Since day one we have done our own independent work as well as research, and made selections based on our own palate.

The list has grown from 28 wines to 418 today. Three of those original 28 wines are still listed, as well as 24 of the 128 wines listed 20 years ago, which underlines the constant process of evolution at VT. We will never stand still and always look to the future.

“We’ve built some very strong relationships with growers, working for over 25 years with vignerons like Pierre Gonon and Laurent Charvin, 20 years with Jacques Puffeney, the Labets, Marcel Lapierre and Jérôme Prévost and 15 years with Richard Leroy, Cécile Tremblay and Cyril Fhal.”
VT Vine Trail Marcel Lapierre 3x5 Marcel Lapierre c. 2006
VT Vine Trail Pierre Gonon
Jean Gonon c. 2004

We recently introduced wines from Northern Spain, and one new estate from Sicily (the result of holidaying on the island since 2000), but specialising in French wines has been a constant – 92% of our wines still emanate from France – and has enabled us to dig ever deeper in all the regions we cover. We’ve built some very strong relationships with growers, working for over 25 years with vignerons like Pierre Gonon and Laurent Charvin, 20 years with Jacques Puffeney, the Labets, Marcel Lapierre and Jérôme Prévost and 15 years with Richard Leroy, Cécile Tremblay and Cyril Fhal.

Over the last two years Raphaël, Jean-Rémi and Nick have hit the road hard, digging ever deeper in the regions that we love, refreshing and enhancing our selections. We enjoy putting our boots on and getting out into the vineyards to see first-hand the work of the vignerons – we are great adherents to the idea that good wines can only be made by dint of good viticulture.

When we first started, there were only a handful of producers practising organic or biodynamic farming. They were very much at the fringe, considered as sects by some – there were only five biodynamic growers in the whole of Burgundy in 1990 (Jean-Claude Rateau was the first!). We have championed their wines along the way – they tend to taste better! – and now they are on the verge of becoming mainstream.

Chemical intervention and more machinery in the vineyard to lower production costs were the norm 30 years ago. Most domaines wanted to become bigger – very few vignerons produced wines from tiny holdings. By contrast, in recent years there has been an explosion of growers trying to make the best wine possible from their micro-holdings, doing the majority of work by hand, helped out by horses, turning the clock back almost 100 years.

VT Vine Trail Richard Leroy
Richard Leroy c. 2005
VT Vine Trail Julien Labet
Julien Labet c. 2008

Similarly many fads and trends in the wine world have come and gone, or turned full circle – a love of oaky wines, over-concentrated Parkerised wines has thankfully now passed by, a reverence for Bordeaux has been replaced by something close to derision (with thankfully a few isolated outposts of excellence), Beaujolais has boomed then bust then come back into fashion again, Jura has enjoyed a phoenix-like renaissance, Savoie has emerged, a quiet revolution is taking place in Alsace, over-expensive white burgundies that prematurely oxidised have been replaced by massively over sulphured expensive white burgundies that still premox, growers champagne has well and truly taken a hold, red burgundy prices have boomed, fashions for cement, stainless steel, small barrels, foudres, older or younger oak come and go, every grower seems to be carrying out trials with amphoras or skin contact, natural wines as well as low/no sulphur use are currently obsessed over by winemakers, importers and drinkers alike. And everybody now wants Cornas!

Who knows what changes and fashions the wine world will bring over the next 30 years? It’s fun to have a stab at making predictions, so for what it is worth our money is on wines produced along the Pyrénées foothills from Irouleguy to Roussillon gaining a deserved share of the spotlight; in the cellar, a growing understanding and appreciation of wines made oxidatively and/or under flor; regarding viticulture, a move back towards wild vineyards (trained on trees?) with permaculture and the teachings of Masanobu Fukuoka becoming more widely practised.

Evolution and the capacity to embrace change have defined VT over the years. They will continue to drive us into the future whilst never losing sight of the fundamental qualities of good wines.

VT Vine Trail Fabrice Bernard Gripa
Fabrice & Bernard Gripa c. 2003
VT Vine Trail Jerome Prevost
Jérôme Prévost c. 2004