English wine has been an incredible success story over the last decade. There are now almost 900 vineyards in England with production set to double in the next 2 years. England's winemakers produce world-beating sparkling wines and their still white, rosé and red wines are increasingly winning awards at international competitions with an emerging, unique, ‘English style’ of wine. Paul Andrews went to meet Simon and James Hawkins who have set up in business together selling English wines exclusively.
Not all siblings find it easy to work side by side but this is clearly not the case for Simon and James who have worked together for many years on different projects and now have come together again and are building their business and their brand very successfully.
They started out as publicans together, running a pub called The Halfway Bridge in Sussex for about 16 years before going their separate ways and then coming back together to set up Hawkins Bros in 2015.
James has always been interested in wine and his passion for English wine began in Petworth when a neighbour planted a small vineyard. “I was interested in the vineyard and the prospect of vines growing in Sussex so started helping out in the vineyard, and then three years later the first harvest came and after five years the first wine produced won an international gold medal,” explains James, “and that’s when I really caught the bug for English wines.”
His interest was at the time that many other English wine producers were growing their presence and making strides into the international arena, many of them family owned like Nyetimber and Ridgeview for example. The English wine revolution was starting.
The sector continued to grow and back in 2013 a friend suggested that an English wine shop should be created, and one duly opened in Cowdray Park. James was hooked, developing the business at a great location which ran successfully for a couple of years.
Throughout the same time, Simon had maintained his interest in running pubs but when he sold the last pub in 2015 the brothers decided that it was time to join forces once more and Hawkins Bros was established.
They set up their English wine shop at Secrett’s Farm Shop just outside Guildford in The Surrey Hills and offer free local delivery of their selection of beautifully curated English wines across Surrey, and free next day delivery to the rest of the UK.
As Simon continues, “We specialise in small boutique vineyards, we personally know all our winemakers and their stories. We've tasted, and love, all the wines that we sell and our journey continues. We have just opened a second shop in Petersfield and run an English wine pub, The Cricketers in Steep too. Our journey continues but English wine is at the very heart of all that we do.”
The brothers work well together with complimentary skills but at the heart of their success is their shared purpose and love for English wines. They saw the potential of what is now a globally, recognised force in wine production and created a real niche for the business, something that has served them well. As well as working with vineyards across the country to list their wines in store, they have also worked with vineyards to create their own range too, now selling five wines under the Hawkins Bros label.
Simon and James have a vision of growth and a business that is underpinned by a strong set of values – curiosity, championing local producers and integrity. They are an integral part of the community in which the businesses are based and the relationships are evident for all to see as soon as a customer enters the shop. “We have a role in the community that does go beyond being just a wine merchants,” adds Simon.
“We chat to our customers and spend time with each and every one of them, listening to the things that are important in their daily lives and at the same time helping them with their choices by sharing the story behind the wines. Each vineyard has a story so there is integrity and authenticity behind each bottle of wine that we stock and it is great to be able to share these stories with our customers too.”
The business is all about the wine and the stories that define them. It is clear listening to Simon and James that wine is what they are all about and the stories are an intrinsic part of the brand that they have created too. They really are on the same page, working in harmony to build a business and to shout about English wine for all to hear.
As James concludes, “Whilst there isn’t a Hawkins winery, yet, who knows what the future holds!”
One thing is for sure, there is a pride, passion and focus on what they do and this is a story to be told. We look forward to the next chapter in what has already been an exciting journey for the eponymous brothers.
Visit www.hawkinsbros.co.uk to find out more.