A wine for all seasons in Braughing

PUBLISHED: 11:22 15 February 2010 | UPDATED: 15:21 20 February 2013

Ben Stephens

Ben Stephens

Internet marketing is proving a best seller for a Braughing-based husband and wife team. Richard Cawthorne reports

HUSBAND and wife Ben and Alison Stephens caught the wine bug early in life strongly enough to inspire them to lay down their own stock built up from travels in France, where Alison used to live and work, Australia and New Zealand. When they began drinking some of it, they realised, in Alison's words, that they had made 'some quite good choices' and decided to let others in on the secret.

The result was wine2laydown.com, which they launched last September from their home in Braughing for people like them interested in exploring wine not available in supermarkets but not in the super-rich league either.

Alison explains, 'There was a real gap in the market for people looking for good quality that was affordable and more accessible than that sold by the super-specialists. Our range runs from 5 to 35 a bottle and you don't have to buy 12 bottles at a time - you can buy just one if you want.'

The Stephens have clearly struck a chord. An early breakthrough came when Good Housekeeping magazine named the company in its Top 50 Christmas Gifts list and other coverage has focused on the idea of good quality wine as ideal for those 'difficult' people, usually men, for whom buying presents can be a nightmare.

'We are delighted with the way it is going,' says Alison. 'We had a good Christmas and more and more people understand now that it is fine to buy on the internet. The website is the core of the business and obviously we have invested heavily in it. We also attend trade fairs and gift fairs and there is already a lot of word-of-mouth recommendation.'

As an online business, wine2laydown.com does not have a retail shop but is run by the Stephens from home and a warehouse in Hertford. Despite the name, the wine stock, currently about 100 strong, can be drunk now, although much is designed to be laid down for anything between one and 30 years. Each wine comes with tasting and storage notes and most orders are delivered the next working day. Customers can also elect to store wine in their own 'virtual cellar' in the climatically controlled warehouse.

With business growing all the time, Alison says some of the most popular products at the moment are christening and wedding presents. A popular gift for weddings is a case of six bottles of wine that can be laid down for five, 10, 15, 20, 25 and 30 years for drinking on the appropriate anniversaries. The company is also selling a lot of vintage port that can be laid down for 18-plus years, and makes a christening present either for drinking at the appropriate age or for an investment.

Even if you're not buying at the moment, the wine2laydown.com website is a mine of information for enthusiasts. You can learn about vintages and how to store, and if you didn't know the Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Domaine Juliette Avril 2005 is a rich and smooth blend with notes of herbs and has great potential to develop over the next six to nine years, you do now.


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