Once upon a time, Charles Lea and Patrick Sandeman set out to challenge London’s older wine merchants with a refreshingly individual offer. They decided to sell wines designed for drinking, so you would “have a bottle and feel like more” as they put it (giving not a fig for political correctness). It may seem odd but at the time this was rather an original notion.
The wine trade was polarising: at the top end, distinguished old merchants and brokers, listing notable chateaux and big trophy wines, often as investments for well-heeled collectors; at the other end, national chains (especially supermarkets) selling big brands of everyday wine, increasingly from the New World, to a new generation. Lea & Sandeman took a less travelled road, to seek winemakers in classic wine regions who were themselves challenging the old guard. They found well-crafted, individual wines, affordable at every level, that could never be confused with bland mass brands, over-extracted trophy wines, or indeed the ancien régime.
Thereafter, they squeezed out a living from what we call a “love job”, selling wines which they enjoyed drinking themselves. For instance they admitted, frank and contrary to the last: “We didn’t do much New World because we didn’t like the wines”. Happily there were enough customers on the streets of London who shared their enthusiasm for an individual, drinkable bottle (or two). With independent spirit and irreverent wit, Lea & Sandeman flourished into a micro-chain, as a classic challenger brand (though its founders might not recognise either description).
As the business grew, on high street and on line, the proprietors saw the need to pull together its presentation to the world. One of their oldest customers happened to be the founder of brandstory and he agreed to help. From their vaults were exhumed boxes of unanimous plaudits from wine writers, themselves fed up with big brands and old world wine snobbery. So the story of Lea & Sandeman flowed forth quite naturally, unfiltered one might say. A story of individuality, from founder to producer, from vineyard to customer. Or, as one formidable critic defined it: “One of Britain’s best and most original wine merchants”.
Lea & Sandeman, reminded of their original brand story, celebrated their 21st anniversary with a new visual identity – from eco-shopping bag to website and a brand new wine shop – and with appropriate originality. (see www.leaandsandeman.co.uk)
And from a respectful distance, brandstory enjoys the fruits of its labours on behalf of these “most original wine merchants”.