Harper’s Top 50 Independent Wine Merchants

Congratulations to the following Sussex wine merchants who appeared in the Harper’s Top 50 Indies, together with the judges’ comments:


This two-store merchant is as independently minded as they come. The Butlers team buy what they like, when they like, currently with a strong focus on Portugal and California, and sell on the tickets of big enthusiasm and fun. Equally impressive, though, is how deeply rooted this merchant is in the community, with its engaging social-media-backed presence complemented by charity work that has gone above and beyond in supporting NHS workers and local food banks. A true local indie, but with increasingly national recognition.


At 25 sits a two-branch Sussex merchant that is much immersed in buying from, selling to and working closely with local and regional producers. It also folds in a broader, complementary retail and wholesale operation that supplies regional pubs, restaurants and hotels. All of this has been tied together in what South Downs Cellars describes as 360-degree “shop front mentality”, which allows an holistic relationship with all customers. Driving both retail and online sales up – the latter by 1,251% – during the pandemic, this has been achieved by putting the customer at the heart of all this indie does.


With more than 60 years’ experience under its belt, this third-generation family business has never stood still. Hennings has steadily been adding to its two-shop strength as a traditional retailer with an incredibly healthy and still growing wholesale side that has for a while now led the business. There’s a fantastic breadth to the portfolio here, with many wines brought in direct. Add in much emphasis on high levels of customer service that carried over into the recent growth of online, and this merchant remains a regional star.