Bethnal Green wine shop takes Beaujolais gamble with safe-cracking stunt

Beaujolais Nouveau is forbidden to be in the possession of any customer before the third Thursday of November. Pic: Top Cuvée

A Bethnal Green wine shop is offering customers the chance to win their entire business in a publicity stunt promoting a seasonal French wine.

In a ‘modern day sword in stone’ move, Top Cuvée has installed safes containing samples of Beaujolais Nouveau, a French wine made from Gamay grapes that is historically made to celebrate the end of the year’s harvest. It had been sent early to the UK due to Brexit-related time restraints.

The catch? Beaujolais Nouveau is forbidden under French law to be sold before the third Thursday of November and the wine in the safe is under strict embargo. 

Unless of course, a lucky customer guesses the code to unlock the safe and comes into possession of the Beaujolais Nouveau samples, thus rendering Top Cuvee liable in committing a criminal offence, and having to face a lifetime ban from the sale of wines and spirits.

The game is predicting the combination to the safes, which are in both shops under its ownership – Cave Cuvée on Bethnal Green Road and Top Cuvée on Blackstock Road – until November 18, 2021, when the wine can be legally sold.

Co-owner of Top Cuvée, Brodie Meah dreamt up this risky stunt, explaining that last year’s promotion of the wine was easier as people were in lockdown and was thus easier to virtually market.

The 33-year old said: “We were thinking about how we could draw attention to Beaujolais Nouveau this year. A lot of people don’t know what it is, or what it even means. And since you can’t get your hands on the wine yet, we thought OK, how do we transform that into a thing that people can get involved with?” 

Beaujolais Nouveau is made from the Gamay grape in the Beaujolais region in South France. It is bottled 6-8 weeks after harvesting and is generally categorised as a fresh and fruit-forward wine with low tannins. 

According to Meah, customers are always intrigued by the flashing light on the safe and will often enquire about it.

“It’s fun. People like it. And it’s doing the job of raising awareness for Beaujolais Nouveau,” he said.

Co-owners of Top Cuvee, Meah and Max Venning, opened the first Top Cuvee in early 2019, a neighbourhood small-plates restaurant and natural wine bar in Highbury. Its online following grew when lockdown happened and they turned into a natural wine supplier, offering a wine subscription and courier service that exponentially hyped the business. So much so that they opened a physical Shop Cuvee right round the corner from their original shop in mid 2020 – billed as a ‘natural wine off-license’.

Meah and Venning’s latest project, the Bethnal Green-based Shop Cuvée + Cave Cuvée, launched in mid-2021 and is one of the venues with the Beaujolais Nouveau safe. The above ground wine shop and underground Parisian-inspired wine bar serves a curated list of natural wines and craft cocktails.

All customers get one try at the safe, but those who don’t succeed in unlocking it can enter a raffle for a free Beaujolais Nouveau dinner at one of their venues, where food from neighbouring Lyon will be served along with the celebratory drink of Beaujolais Nouveau.

Meah is absolutely serious about the consequences of somebody opening the safe. 

He said: “We’ll give them the keys. Straight away on the day, on the spot. And then we’ll have to contact our lawyers to do the transfer of the business and company. Hopefully it doesn’t happen.”

Top Cuvée is no stranger to publicity stunts. Just last year, they were intent on giving everyone in Britain a free bottle of Chin Chin, a Portuguese white wine that has gained a cult following since it was released in 2018. Any customer who bought something from their shop would take a bottle home as a free gift.

“We gave away almost a thousand. We were aiming for 6.5 million but not everyone took us up on it.” Meah said.

He added that they were considering this promotion again this coming January.

“We want to convert everyone in Britain to be a natural wine fan.”

You can try your luck opening the safe at their two stores: Shop Cuvée+ Cave Cuvée at 250A Bethnal Green Rd, E2 and Top Cuvée at 177B Blackstock Road, N5 from Oct 25 – Nov 18.

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