The decision to sell has been taken to pay off debts and get some liquidity back into the business – but it also gives Imbibe readers a unique opportunity to stock up their depleted stores with great wines at rock bottom prices from one of the on-trade’s top palates
Sager, who owns three restaurants across London, has a justified reputation for his ability to put together genuinely interesting wine lists, but has taken the difficult decision to launch the ‘Cellar Raid’ to free up cash.
'The cool thing about this is that we're doing this at cost prices,’ he told Imbibe, ‘meaning the prices you find on there are what you would pay on Wine Searcher.’
Sager cites the example of Domaine Comtes Lafon Meursault. ‘The cost price now would be £70 ex-vat, so in a shop that would be around £120. But we’re not doing that. We’re selling it at trade price plus vat.
‘If people want to buy wines in bond, they can do that. [For] a lot of these the duty hasn’t been paid.’
Delivery is free for orders over £500, otherwise there is a £12.50 charge.
Michael Sager picks his top somm-friendly bargains from the Cellar Raid
Yvon Metras, Fleurie
One of the most important producers in Beaujolais, crafting wines of Burgundian elegance yet with that extra nerve you only get on granitic soils.
Jean-Marc Roulot, Meursault
The shining star of white Burgundy, responsible for some of the most mineral and piercing Chardonnays in the world. We have been buying his wines directly for years and are now releasing our back vintages at super affordable prices.
We are releasing some back vintages of this very sought after orange wine, one of the most iconic in the world. Drinking an orange wine at close to 20 years of maturity is a mind-blowing and very rare experience.
Pierre Overnoy, Jura
A now unobtainable and legendary tiny producer in Arbois, making wines of incredible purity and 100% naturally. To find these wines with age is normally impossible which is why we are sharing some of ours.
Jean-Michel Stephan, Cote-Rotie
Hands down my favourite producer of Syrah, working naturally both in his vineyards and the winery. This is Cote-Rotie from another time: crunchy, mineral and simply fucking delicious.
In total there are around 600 different bins for sale, though the amounts of each vary, from a handful of bottles to one case. Sager has admitted that he’s keeping a couple of bottles of his favourites back for himself.
'I don't drink fancy wine myself. I'm always looking for something new and exciting that's affordable for myself and the businesses,’ he says. The sale includes Jura reds and whites, aged Beaujolais, and lots of Syrah.
Sager has taken the difficult decision to offload years’ worth of work in order to face up to the new reality of life post-covid, to pay off debts and get some liquidity back into his business.
'Suppliers are calling in their credit,’ he explains. ‘They're saying "you've run overdue on your invoices" which is true. But that's only because we don't have the means to continually pay off and trade. They're asking for payment up front, whereas I'm clearing the retro-active debt.
'No-one will sell me good wine on credit, so this is being used to buy cash on delivery. [Also] the lease agreements are still there and accruing interest, so we're not magically going to have that money in July. This is to help us weather the storm.’
Early reaction from customers – both diners and trade – has been enthusiastic. So much so that the website crashed when the scheme launched a couple of days ago.
‘What I didn't know what just how much brand equity I have,’ says Sager. ‘I had no idea. We've been selling a lot of wine. The margins are low, but I want to get all the money in to pay all my suppliers off and be able to order wine again when we reopen.
‘The wineries don't have any money either. And if I can help by selling off my cellar then so be it.’
And maybe have an added wine merchant and broking business to go alongside the three venues?
‘That’s what I’m hoping,’ says Sager. ‘It’d be cool!’
Head to sagerandwilde.com/cellar-raid, or Imbibe readers can email Sager directly on firstname.lastname@example.org