Red Squirrel and Knotted Vine merge

Two specialist UK wine importers, Red Squirrel and The Knotted Vine have announced a merger to become a brand new company – Graft Wine.

David Knott and Nik Darlington

Founded within six weeks of each other in 2012, Red Squirrel by Nik Darlington and The Knotted Vine by David Knott, their combined portfolios more than 400 wines from 80 producers in England, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Austria, Germany, Turkey, Canada, the USA, Argentina, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.

Speaking of the merger, Darlington said: “In the grand scheme of things, we may have occasionally punched above our weights but both Red Squirrel and The Knotted Vine were really small businesses.

“The Graft Wine Company obviously makes us a bit bigger, but we’re still a very small business with the same fast-paced, quirky ethos as before. However being small shouldn’t mean we can’t aspire to offer similar service levels and resources to much bigger players.

“I’m not saying we’re reinventing the wheel, but I do come back to this idea of thinking small and acting big. Graft gives us the extra bit of scale to act bigger in terms of the service and resources we can offer to customers, and still think small in terms of our personal relationships with customers and winemakers and naturally the types of wines we have too.

“So sure, all in all, it’s a bold move but not at all against the grain for Red Squirrel or The Knotted Vine because we’ve always dared to be different.”

Knott added that customers of the two companies should not expect to see any of their favourite wines disappear as a result of the merger.

He said: “We’ll be keeping existing portfolios largely as they are and creating something Nik and I believe will be very exciting and compelling for each other’s existing customers across the country, and buyers of companies who may not have considered us before.

“We want to be able to offer a broad but concise portfolio that delivers quality across the range, so if you are looking to work with us you can explore the list in the comfort that all the wines have been selected with great care, have true regional and varietal character and have been made by knowledgeable winemakers producing the best minimal intervention wines out there.

“We have big aspirations for the portfolio and we have been rigorous about only taking the best wines we can get our hands on so I hope this makes it an exciting list to work with from a customer angle.”

Red Squirrel will not disappear entirely, the online shop will continue at offering a small outlet for the newly combined portfolio – especially as The Knotted Vine’s was entirely on-trade focused before.

Darlingotn said: “It shall be operated as we had always done when we were just Red Squirrel, that is aiming not to undercut our trade customers with online pricing, very light touch in terms of promotion or advertising. We are retaining the site because it remains the case that the majority of our wines, especially now we are taking on the Knotted Vine’s predominantly on-trade focused portfolio, are only available in restaurants so it provides an outlet for customers to find them.”

Many of the existing staff from both founding companies will continue in their current roles.

From Red Squirrel, Miranda Fong will be company buyer, Clara Rubin head of engagement – leading team training and the creation of a smartphone app – Robert Woodhead, Lisanna Tammsalu and Chris McDiarmid continue as company sales team and Darlington will oversee regional sales outside London.

Anna Bernia from The Knotted Vine continues as sales support and operations manager and Greta Codyre in sales and marketing support.

The first portfolio tastings will take place in London on 10 September, Edinburgh on 16 September and Manchester on 18 September.

Graft will also be at the Out the Box tasting on 1 October along with Swig, Maltby & Greek, Carte Blanche, 266 Wines, Uncharted and Roland Wines.

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