Pacta Now is run by Trevor Long and Judith Burns, whose long-term plan is to open 10 shops around the country specialising in the wines of central and eastern Europe.
It has opened as a stall in Brighton’s recently-refurbished Open Market, and Long said consumers’ response has been “phenomenal” – even though the shop’s pricing starts at £12 a bottle.
He told OLN: “We started off as a small import business selling high-end wines to the off and on-trade, and our wines are a real hand-sell.
“We realised that while we train staff in wine merchants and restaurants, and present masterclasses in our wines for wine societies and in restaurants and bars, we really needed to meet the customer one-to-one on a more regular basis to educate them and expand their knowledge.
“Central and eastern European wines are still found, predominantly, on that top shelf in a wine merchant called ‘rest of world’. We decided we would create a specialist shop to dedicate to all those wines that we import on an exclusive basis from central and eastern Europe.”
Pacta is Latin for “contract” or “agreement”, and Now is an acronym for natural and organic wines.
“It was also a play on words – we were Pacta previously as an importer and Pacta Now as a retailer,” says Burns.
Long and Burns both started out in the music business, where Long worked with The Stranglers and Duran Duran.
He said: “Importing wine needs the same sort of marketing input as the bands we worked with.
“A bottle of wine at our level is a luxury item, and in our music days a record was the same. There were so many to choose from it needed to stand out.
“Before a band became mainstream you had to help them become mainstream with the same hard work that we’ve had to inject into our winemakers. They don’t just become mainstream sitting on a shelf, so we’re always dreaming up different angles. That’s the challenge and we love it.”
The pair hope to open another shop by April, and are looking for sites in small towns rather than major cities.
“We have no particular locations earmarked,” said Long. “The place, the street and the building will have to feel right, and the demographics will have to be right too. We don’t sell to one particular group of people. We are targeting wine lovers looking for something different.”