March 17, 2017

Corney & Barrow: Integrity and provenance on a delicious journey

corney barrow

Established in 1780, Corney & Barrow is one of the longest established Independent Wine Merchants in the UK. The original shop, opened by Edward Bland Corney, was on Old Broad Street in the City of London, selling a small selection of Port, Sherry and Bordeaux. Our Head Office has remained City based ever since.

Still privately owned, Corney & Barrow has grown nationally and internationally, into every sector of the market. We have sales offices in London, Edinburgh, Northumberland and, most recently, Hong Kong. We also run shops in Newmarket and Ayr, having acquired the Scottish Merchants Whighams of Ayr in 1994.

Private Customer, Trade, On-trade (restaurant) and Corporate teams run out of the Edinburgh office and the London Head Office, which is shared by our sister company, Corney & Barrow Bars Ltd. The 14 Bars are also situated across the City of London, re-enforcing Corney & Barrow’s heritage as the City-based Wine Merchants.

Corney & Barrow aims to offer carefully-selected, h onestly-priced wines that not only deliver quality and value for money, but also a sense of place. We want to offer benchmark styles; wines which we believe to be the best examples of a wine style, country, region or sub-region, whether they are wines to drink immediately or wines to lay down.

Where possible, we aim to build exclusive relationships with suppliers, making our selection of wines unique. We work as closely with our suppliers as we do with our customers and it is particularly this which differentiates us as a wine merchant. We strongly believe in the benefits of doing this, most importantly it allows us to bring our unique selection of wines direct to you, the customer, with no intermediaries.

Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Château Pétrus, Domaine Bonneau du Martray, Comte Georges de Vogüé and Clos de Tart are some of the leading estates exclusive to Corney & Barrow. These wines are sold en primeur and through the secondary market where we are able to ensure impeccable provenance of the wine. Click here for the list of wines supplied exclusively by Corney & Barrow.

Our Heritage

Despite the limited selection of Port, Sherry and Bordeaux available at the first shop in Old Broad Street, the business flourished and in 1838 Edward’s son Thomas introduced his cousin Robert Barrow to the business. The Corney & Barrow name was born.

In 1912 John Barrow, Robert’s son, formed a Private Limited Liability Company with William Stevens as Managing Director and so the important ‘Stevens Dynasty’ was founded. Corney & Barrow has held a Royal Warrant since that date. Charles Stevens was MD throughout World War II, during which Corney & Barrow survived despite the loss of both family and wine. The latter included fine vintage Port and Cognac, destroyed when the main bonded cellar was firebombed. Most of the company’s historical records were also lost.

The Stevens family bought out the last Barrow in the 1920s, owning and running the company until 1961 when the family, led by William’s grandson Keith (then Chairman) sold Corney & Barrow to United Wine Traders (forerunner of International Distillers and Vintners and now Diageo.) United Wine Traders’ main objective was to own Corney & Barrow’s Scotch whisky stocks for their expanding brand of Scotch whiskys.

In 1969, Keith Stevens re-bought the company which once again became Corney & Barrow Independent Wine Merchants. This was done with the help of various City institutions and his friends, the families of which remain the current shareholders.

Keith remained Chairman until 1981 (he spent 46 years at Corney & Barrow) and during this time, Corney & Barrow bought several other City Wine Merchants, the largest being W. Coates & Co. in 1959. The company had been founded in 1820 and was the owner of two wine bars, one in Old Broad Street and the other in London Wall.

The purchase of W. Coates established the basis of today’s wine bars. W. Coates had run wine bars in the City since the second half of the 19th Century. These wine bars were deemed to have untapped potential and in the late 1970s, with increasing wine merchanting competition, it was decided to diversify into restaurants/wine bars. A top class restaurant, with minor wine bar facilities, was opened at 118 Moorgate, in Corney & Barrow’s name.

The restaurant was an immediate resounding success – the City was booming at the time – but it was the wine bars concept that proved most resilient in fluctuating economic climates. In 1985 Corney & Barrow Wine Bars Ltd was formed, which now has thirteen bars across the City of London.

The 1980s and ’90s saw the successful development of Corney & Barrow’s Scottish Operation and the purchase of Whighams of Ayr, Scotland’s oldest wine merchant. The Corney & Barrow shop in Ayr continues to run out of Whighams’ original cellars. New premises were also opened in Notting Hill Gate, Edinburgh and Newmarket. Corney & Barrow became the first traditional wine merchant to establish a wine broking operation, matching buyers’ and sellers’ requirements. Corney & Barrow (Broker Services) Ltd was granted the Queen’s Award for Export in 1998 and 1999; a unique achievement for an importing wine company. HRH The Prince of Wales visited Corney & Barrow personally to present the Award.

In 2003, having outgrown a beautiful old rectory on Helmet Row (City of London) where the company had remained for 25 years, Corney & Barrow Wine Merchants and Corney & Barrow Wine Bars moved to our current offices, an 1805 Grade II listed Custom’s House near St. Katharine Docks close to Tower Bridge in the City of London. The building forms part of the oldest dock offices in the world.

Our Royal Warrants

Corney & Barrow’s Royal Warrants date back to George V in 1912, when they were first introduced. Royal Warrants are a mark of recognition to individuals or companies who have supplied goods or services for at least five years to the Royal family. Warrants have always been regarded as demonstrating excellence and quality and are highly prized.

Corney & Barrow currently holds two Royal Warrants, as suppliers to HM Queen Elizabeth II and HRH The Prince of Wales. We are the only wine company to have held three Royal Warrants concurrently, as suppliers to HM Queen Elizabeth II, HRH The Prince of Wales and, formerly, the late HM Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother. Corney & Barrow is one of around 850 Royal Warrant Holders representing a huge cross-section of trade and industry. They range from traditional craftspeople to global and multinational firms operating at the cutting edge of technology. Warrants are granted to named individuals – Grantees – who must personally ensure the Warrant is correctly used.

As Warrant holders we may display the relevant Royal Arms and the legend ‘By Appointment’ on products, premises, stationery, vehicles and advertising. We are united by our commitment to the highest standards of service and excellence.


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