Pioneering Welsh bar & restaurant group and Spanish food importer Ultracomida has expanded on its wine retail offering – with investments in a new public-facing warehouse, wine subscription club, and the creation of a specialist high street wine shop in Aberystwyth.
The independent boutique operators are well known for bringing a casual dining style influenced by Northern Spain to Wales. But since the first lockdown, retail – both online and high street – has become a major focus for the Ultracomida group, as they look to serve customers who may be unable to visit their restaurants and delis and keep staff actively employed.
More than 4,500 sq ft of warehousing space has been acquired to support the move towards retail, resulting in a new employment opportunity for a dedicated site manager. The warehouse, at Glan Yr Afon Industrial Estate in Aberystwyth, is now open to the public and will offer up to 15 bottles of wine to taste at any time; wholesale customers will also be able to book in for guided tastings.
Hot on the heels of launching a subscribers wine club at the end of last year, a new national website (www.spanishwinesdirect.co.uk) has also been created to drive further online sales.
Meanwhile, £49,000 has been invested into turning the group’s 1,000 sq ft Aberystwyth premises (formerly a cosy deli-restaurant) into one of the largest collections of Spanish wines on the Welsh high-street. Whereas 50% of the floor space used to be reserved for sit-in customers, the refurb has opened up room to grow the variety of wines on show by up to 30%, with scope to expand the range further in the near future.
Whilst Ultracomida co-founders Paul Grimwood and Shumana Palit have needed to adapt to the constant challenges of the last year, they believe the demand for quality Spanish wines will remain consistent in the coming months and years.
“We saw our online wine sales increase by more than 50% last year, as people looked to drink better and more interesting wines at home. Our new website, Spanish Wines Direct, now really makes the most of our impressive range of vermouths, sherries and wines from Montilla-Moriles – which we expanded hugely throughout 2020.
We have also used the last few months to focus on our connections to winemakers who have challenged themselves to look for new ways of reviving traditional grapes, and of using low intervention methods of farming. We’re looking forward to sharing all of that with our customers too.”
“It feels strange for us to be focussing so heavily on retail, as we love the hospitality industry, but we’re all doing our best to adapt in the current climate.
We were a little nervous about revealing the Aberystwyth refurb to our locals and regulars, but luckily, they love it. It’s a great space, with photos of our winemakers on the walls and lots of room for social distancing so people can properly shop the wines now.
We can already imagine running tastings with a glass of wine and plate of cheese – something for us to look forward to in the not-so-distant future.”