Nigel O’Sullivan is the man behind Fine Wines Direct UK, a Cardiff-based wholesaler that has expanded to sell directly to customers locally, and which has also developed a strong agency business that’s now going national.
Nigel previously built up a regional wholesale business called Cellar Wines Direct, and sold this to WaverleyTBS in 2005. He stayed on for a couple of years and then began again with RDM Wines, which trades as Fine Wines Direct UK.
His partners in the original business was the Martinez family, who are restaurateurs. They own a number of restaurants in the area, including the excellent Le Monde in the city centre. Since 2012, the owners have been the O’Sullivan family and also Greg Williams and Bastien Martinole.
I met with Nigel and his colleagues Greg Williams and Bastien Martinole at their shop and warehouse just out of the centre of Cardiff. As well as launching a new consumer-facing website, in the new year they will be launching a national wine agency business called RDM Wines, which will be fronted by Bastien.
They sell almost 800 wines, and 80% of these are exclusive to them. In the past, they’d have many agencies where they were limited to Wales, but increasingly – because of their strong sales – they are being given the agency for the UK. Their producers include Familia Fernández Rivera (including Pesquera), Thorn Clarke, Carrau (Uruguay), Allan Scott, Familia Fernández Rivera (Ribera del Duero), Escorihuela Gascón (Argentina) and the Marqués de Cáceres Excellence Range.
These are some wines from their range that I tasted through.
Bodega Juan Carrau Petit Manseng 2018 Uruguay
Complex and distinctive, with real Petit Manseng character. This is fresh with a rich textured mid-palate and some nice spiciness as well as rich pear fruit, with a bit of pithy bitterness. Lively stuff. 92/100
Chateau du Seuil Graves Blanc 2018 Bordeaux France
Lovely pear, lemon and grapefruit notes in this Semillon-heavy blanc with nice texture and freshness, as well as some mineral notes. Has a touch of elderflower. 91/100
El Vinculo Alejairén Crianza 2018 La Mancha, Spain
This is Airen from La Mancha, fermented and aged in American oak. It has nice intensity, with a lot of oak character. Savoury and smoky with some soy and miso character. It’s really unusual but it works, I think. 90/100
Bodega Escorihuela Gascon The Presidents Blend 2019 Valle de Uco, Argentina
This is fresh and focused with lovely floral black cherry fruit, and a touch of nice green, as well as a blackcurrant hint. Has some grippy structure under the fruit. 93/100
Thorn-Clarke Ron Thorn Flagship Shiraz 2016 Barossa, Australia
This is restrained and delicious at the same time. It’s slightly old school with some tar, spice and vanilla and mint, as well as ripe but balanced black cherry and blackberry fruit. Harmonious. 92/100
Thorn-Clarke Single Vineyard Selection Grenache 2018 Barossa, Australia
15.5% alcohol. This is from the old vine block in Saleyards Road. It’s sweetly fruited and aromatic with rich ripe cherry and berry fruit. Sleek and intense, and very expressive in a ripe style. 93/100
Thorn-Clarke Eden Valley Single Vineyard Selection Riesling 2019 Barossa, Australia
This is taut and fresh with a limey edge to the fresh citrus fruit. Lovely focus here with nice purity. Steely, fresh and limey. 92/100
Pesquera Millenium 2002 Ribera del Duero, Spain
This is concentrated and sweetly fruited with blackcurrant and blackberry notes, showing a rich texture and also some hints of gravel and spice. Drinking very well now. 94/100
Marqués De Cáceres Gaudium Reserva Especial 2015 Rioja, Spain (magnum)
14.5% alcohol. 18 months in new French oak. This is sleek, sweetly fruited and rich with supple black cherry and blackberry fruit. Fine and quite expressive, in a ripe, forward style. 94/100
Conflict of interest declaration: while in Cardiff I attended the Australia v Wales rugby game as a guest of Fine Wines Direct.