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.