Quaff Fine Wine Merchant was founded in 2005 as the brainchild of Toby Peirce. Toby’s early adulthood was spent playing professional cricket, and this took him to Stellenbosch in South Africa in the English winters. Here he played cricket, coached schoolchildren, met his wife, and drank an intemperate amount of wine with the sporting sons of local producers and growers. This inevitably led to a career in wine when cricket finished, and Toby worked for a UK-based agent for a leading Champagne house, selling to the likes of everyone from Gordon Ramsay to Tesco. Having gleaned enough from this experience to set out on his own, he opened the first Quaff in Portland Road, Hove in 2005. The second shop was opened in early 2010 in partnership with Ronnie Janssen who has been immersed in the wine trade since he turned 18, having worked for the likes of Moet et Chandon, Lanson, Penfolds, and Lapostolle where he currently works.
Nowadays we supply our customers with wines, mostly from small producers, that they won’t find in other shops. We don’t have a regional speciality. We don’t try to be overtly organic or biodynamic, although we find that a lot of our wines by coincidence tend to be made with less intervention in the winemaking process, and are thus more ‘natural’. Our aim is that regardless of style, region, colour or price point, we are offering you the best product available. We taste hard and often to ensure this is so. Each wine should be an archetype of that style; typical of the region, the vintage and showing the passion of the producer. We offer what we consider to be benchmark examples so that you are safe in the knowledge that what you are drinking is as it should be. The vast majority of our work is done by listening carefully to you, the customer, and making a recommendation accordingly, and we take this skill as seriously as selecting the wines themselves.
Come and try us out.
It’s all his idea. If you have an issue with anything at Quaff, please complain to Toby@quaffwine.com. He will listen carefully and then most likely pass it smoothly on to Fabien or Matt to fix.
Fabien has a highly skilled background of a decade’s experience spent as Head Sommelier at such luminary Michelin-starred establishments as Hakkasan and Gary Rhodes’ restaurants. He eventually became worn down by the hours, moved south to the coast, and joined us way back in 2008. Fab’s foodie background means that if you are in need of a recommendation to match with your meal, he will tell you not just the wine you need, but will also lecture you on the method and temperature of serving, and what’s missing from your recipe.
Matt joined us in the summer of 2013 having previously spent a couple of years at the mighty Hedonism wine shop in London, and another London-based wholesaler. He then left us a year or two later to try his luck in Taiwan, rejoined us six months after that, and is seemingly now settled back in his hometown. Matt’s our resident lifelong B&H Albion fan, meaning that a North Stand Chat page can usually be found open at all times on one or other of the screens at the shop.
Sarah also joined us in the summer of 2013. After finishing a design degree here in Brighton, she decided the wine trade sounded much more fun so spent time in various parts or the country working in wine merchants and wholesalers. She latterly spent time managing people in hotels and restaurants, which is never a good idea, so she’s back to her roots now with us. Her design skills still come in handy for all the sign writing and calligraphy that needs to be done. As a Scot, Sarah knows more than most about the whisky section, and she debunks a few stereotypes by being the healthiest person we know in the wine trade, with all her vegetariansim and active lifestyle shtick. So much for deep fried Mars bars and Buckfast then…
Dan came along in 2014 as our latest part-timer from Plumpton college. We loved having him here, because he was always there to do all the rubbish shifts no one else wants to do. However, once he graduated with his winemaking degree, he simply never left, and thus we had to find something more permanent for him to do. A secret love of brewing surfaced in his background, and thus we created Lost Pier Brewing as a star vehicle to showcase Dan’s talents. These days he spends almost all his time with Lost Pier, but if you’re lucky you will still catch him at Fiveways.
Tom joined us in the summer of 2017, returning home after nearly twenty years spent in Scotland at a couple of independent wine merchants. His expertise in whisky rivals that of Sarah, but having been in the trade as long as any of us, his knowledge of all wines and spirist is not to be sniffed at.
Tamasin has been with us for a couple of years; she’s lovely, but also works hard on the Winemaking course at Plumpton, so you won’t see her around in the shops more than a day or two a week.
Gabby joined us just this year, more or less straight from school, which we think makes her our youngest ever employee. Regardless, she’s taken to it like a duck to water and is very helpful, filling in at Portland Road at weekends. She’s studying the Wine Business course at Plumpton.
Romilly joined us very recently from a merchant up in Surrey. His ‘day job’ is as a photographer; he has asked to take some pics of the bottles for the website. As soon as we get organised, we’ll let him!