Our Heritage

CHOOSING BETTER WINE SINCE1883

The origins of Mr Wheeler date right back to Victorian times, when George Wheeler, the great-great-great-grandfather of our current Chairman Johnny Wheeler, first joined the wine industry – and the family business, supplying fine wine to a discerning clientele, began.

Early success led to expansion into larger premises on Colchester’s bustling High Street, which was to be occupied by the business – and for some time the Wheeler family – for more than a century, as the company went from strength to strength. In 1937, the purchase of a further building, in Culver Street, would allow further growth to meet the increasing demand for quality wine, with the new premises incorporating stabling for the firm’s dray horses, a bottling cellar, and storage for customers.

Wine increases in popularity

By the 1960s, the burgeoning interest in fine wine – plus the increasing number of centrally heated homes without cellars – led to a demand for cellarage services, which the company naturally began to offer, while the acquisition of Colchester’s largest drinks wholesaler led to significant expansion of the trade side of the business (and the subsequent opening of a purpose-built trade depot on the edge of the town). Then, just a few years later, came a pivotal moment in the firm’s history.

With great foresight, Richard Wheeler (Johnny’s father and predecessor) bought up stocks of some of Bordeaux’s finest wines while the market was depressed, and offered one of the top wine journalists of the day – Pamela Vandyke Price of The Times – a tasting of the outstanding 1961 vintage. It was the first time that a country wine merchant (rather than a London firm) had enjoyed almost a full page of coverage in such a prestigious publication, highlighting it out as one of the leading wine specialists in the country. And the ‘phone started ringing...

Leading wine specialists

The 1970s and 1980s saw the Wheeler family’s business establish itself as one of the foremost wine specialists in the country, catering for the affluent and discerning commuter market, and investing significantly in developing one of the UK's finest wine lists. Three shops were opened across Essex, while a pioneering approach to tasting events (including a special dinner at which leading author Hugh Johnson presented ‘Ten Great Vignerons’) and the opening of a purpose-built wine market – complete with a vaulted tasting cellar and dining room – set the firm apart from the other independents. Shortly afterwards, a pioneering mail order wine business was added to the company’s services, and immediately generated national interest.

Unsurprisingly, the business was soon recognised with a number of prestigious awards, including Joint Winner, National Wine Merchant of the Year in 1988; Wine List of the Year in 1990, 1994 and 1995; and in 1997 Independent Wine Merchant of the Year, Best Mail Order Merchant and Leading Burgundy Specialist.

Now with Johnny Wheeler at the helm, operations were expanded to include the acquisition of Howells of Bristol Bin Club, strengthening the international reach of the fine wine business, particularly among the global British expatriate community. This was closely followed in the years to come by the founding of Vinotheque, now the UK's second largest specialist fine wine warehouse, in Burton-upon-Trent. Three City wine bars were created and run over a fifteen year period, putting the Company on the map in the City of London. A phonecall from Georg Fromm to enter into a joint venture with him to produce outstanding pinot noir and chardonnay at the stunning Clayvin Vineyard in Malborough, New Zealand, proved too hard to resist. Clayvin was Marlborough's first hillside vineyard and is now widely recognised as Marlborough's finest.

We choose better wine

Fast forward to the present day, and Mr.Wheeler is the evolution of all this expertise and experience. Offering a carefully-chosen selection of outstanding wines – to suit a variety of pockets, and including wines perfect for drinking now or investment cases for laying down, all discovered and purchased at the click of a button, delivered direct to your home or our specialist reserves cellar – Mr.Wheeler is a new generation of independent wine specialist, with the heritage, expertise and attentive personal service of an old-style merchant, yet with the tech-savvy approach and grasp of contemporary lifestyle choices you’d expect from a 21st century online retailer.

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