The colour of retailing

Keep it simple is more than a motto for the creators of the über user-friendly Six Wines Eight. Laura Clark tests it out

By stocking only 48 wines that are categori sed by price and style, Six Wines Eight sets itself firmly apart from other

retailers. Each style is described in three words and given a colour, with a sticker

on each bottle to make it instantly

visible. Within each style there are six wines graded by price, meaning all customers have to do is select what flavours they like and how much money they want to part with.

"We do all the hard work, like taste hundreds of wines, and then present the best in an easy-to-understand, easy-to-navigate system," says joint owner Phelim McGroarty. The concept

was created with business partner

Hadyn Petricevich

- both wanted to simplify the process of buying wine .

Every four months new wines replace the old stock, although previous selections

are stocked in their

warehouse . The new wines match their predecessors in style, but may be from entirely different grape varieties or countries.

Six Wines Eight began life in July 2007 as a website and has since

expanded to include a shop on Tower Bridge Road in Bermondsey. OLN met the duo to

discover more about the concept.

Why do you divide

wine by style rather than country or grape variety?

HP: We wanted to make wine buying easy. I'm a winemaker and Phelim's background was in the trade. We both love wine but we don't take it too seriously. We got tired of the tedious nature of wine retailing so we put ourselves in the consumer's shoes and did some focus groups. People want a little bit more than most supermarkets and wine shops can offer. They walk into a traditional wine shop and wines bombard them, we wanted to be able to direct people to what they like.

PM: For us it's all about

doing away with the wall of wine. Supermarkets and independents offer good wine but it's slightly intimidating. Most people want a little bit of wine knowledge, but they don't want to be experts .

Did you ever think it could fail?

HP: We spent maybe 18 months to two years researching

different independents and doing a critique of them . We went to Barcelona, Paris and Amsterdam to look at their specialist wine retailers. They all looked great and are great to visit, but they don't seem to be doing anything different in the way they sell wine. They're like museums that showcase the wines.

We've spent a fair bit of money getting the look right. We want to make wine cool, like what Golf Punk has done for golf.

Do you fear losing sales by stocking only 48 brands

HP: Not at all. We realised from

our research

that there's no point in having 800 lines of bottles

and you don't know anything about them. We know all the wines individually

- if a customer wants to be quick, a transaction can take as little as 20 seconds, or we can tell them about every wine in the shop if they have time.

PM: It means people can get the wine they want. They know what they like and they ask for that colour .

Who is your target market?

PM: The demographic is varied, but it's mostly young professionals and lot of people under the age of 30. Fifty per cent of what we sell is under £10.

HP: When we said we were targeting 21-year-olds, people looked at us like we were selling crack to babies. This industry needs to

educate young people . They shouldn't be perplexed by wine.

How do you make the shop appealing to customers?

PM: We got a lot of inspiration from the Bar Show at Earls Court and couldn't believe the difference between it and the London International Wine Fair. It had a whole different vibe, there was something exciting and cool about it.

We've also develop ed South Park-style video blogs where we are shown giving tasting notes on the wines. We've used Tim Welburn, a young short film-maker,

to create the animation. We're not taking the mickey, we're saying wine should be fun and put a smile on people's faces.

HP: You go to some traditional shops and you can't swing a cat in them, in Six Wines Eight mothers with pushchairs have loads of space. We play lively clubbing music on a Friday to create ambience.

How do you select


PM: On one hand, we're the same as most other independents - for us it's all about small interesting producers

who are passionate and make good quality wine. But

the wine has also got to have something else going for it in terms of innovation, like an eye-catching label, or the fact that it's made by a young winemaker.

HP: We select wines that are drinking well now. We didn't want wines that need ageing. People don't have the time to age wine, or the space or the knowledge.

Is food and wine matching good?

HP: Yes, but it needs to be wines matched to things people eat every day. Wine

is not the domain of a person sitting

down to a four-course meal. We have a section online where you can say what food you like and what occasion it's for, and we eliminate the wines that won't match . We have guide online

to help customers

choose wines to match their occasion.

What's the most popular style

PM: Red [juicy, round, easy] is a constant, purple [spicy, peppery, warming] is slowing down because of the hot weather and green [crisp, aromatic, vibrant] is very good. Yellow [pure, delicate, neutral] seems to be improving.

The styles of Six Wines Eight

Brown: celebrate, bubble, pop eg: Giustino B. Prosecco Extra Dry £17

Yellow: pure, delicate, neutral eg. 2006 Sarotto Gavi de Gavi DOCG £10

Green: crisp, aromoatic, vibrant eg. 2006 Chateau Poyet Muscadet Sur Lie £7

Pink: light, simple, fresh eg. 2007 Campo Nuevo Garnacha Rosé £6

Purple: spicy, peppery, warming eg. 2004 Tantalus Cabernet/Shiraz/Malbec £11

Blue: intense, complex, elegant eg. 2000 Château Chantealouette £28