The smell of fresh paint isn’t what you expect when you walk into a wine shop, but when that shop has only been open a few hours then its the most natural smell in the world. Bin21 wines opened its doors in Hexham this morning, filling a gap that was left when the Wine Rack closed 2 years ago, and owner Paddy Eyres was on hand to oversee the birth of his new venture.
The opening coincided with Hexham’s busy Christmas market which was the perfect excuse to revisit the town even though I’ve been shopping there twice in the last month already. The store is in Market Place, next door to the old Wine Rack premises (now a betting shop) and a prime location for anyone coming to the market town – Paddy has picked well. There were 3 other staff with Paddy (one on loan from Morpeth and two completely new employees learning the ropes on their first day) although routinely there should be just two on hand for service and advice – Paddy expects that he’ll spend most of his time for the next few months at the Hexham branch until things are steady, then split his time between the two.
I’ve never managed to see the original Morpeth shop that opened in 2010 but Paddy explained the Hexham layout is on a similar theme, with central islands of the “quaffing” wines and wall racks organised in columns by grape and rows by region. Although there isn’t a bank vault housing the Fine Wine section (the Morpeth store is the old Lloyds branch) a back alcove has been created with the Burgundy, Bordeaux and other great and good (including Chateau Musar) stacked laying down.
I had a good browse of the shelves, bumping into fellow NEWT Richard Whinney who was as enthusiastic as I about a dedicated wine retailer being in Hexham again. I saw a few wines I’ll be back for in the future (German Riesling, Australian Viognier, some Alsace offerings) but for today I went for two of the wines I’d enjoyed at the recent Bin21 tasting at Morpeth Rugby Club; the Torres Celeste 2008 Crianza from Ribera del Duero and Domaine de la Rochette‘s 2010 Fleur de Printemps Touraine Sauvignon Blanc.
In just over 1 year Paddy Eyres has started a wine shop in one Northumberland town, made a success of it and expanded into another. Although not quite (yet) Empire building it’s a clear sign that there’s still room on North East high streets for Independent Wine merchants offering an alternative choice to the supermarkets.
This was my first visit to Bin21 Hexham, it certainly will not be my last!