Last orders for Eddy Coghlan - Sheffield’s off-licence pioneer

Eddy Coghlan.
Eddy Coghlan.
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GLASSES have been raised in tribute to Eddy Coghlan, the popular connoisseur and businessman who founded Sheffield’s first independent off-licence, Wine Schoppen, in 1979.

Eddy died in the Northern General Hospital last week after a heart attack, aged 75.

His funeral took place at Our Lady and St Thomas RC Church, Meadowhead, followed by private burial and a celebration of his life at the Platinum Suite, Bramall Lane, on Thursday.

Eddy was born in the Azores but moved to London when his father became a decoder in the War Office. For 30 years he was a manager for Heinz Foods and his responsibilities included introducing the brand to Germany.

During this time, Eddy and his wife Ann developed an appreciation of German wines, which were very popular during the 1970s. On their return to Sheffield they began importing them and selling the odd case from the garage of their home in Dore.

“All of a sudden there was more wine than we could handle from a garage, so we decided to open a shop in Abbeydale Road and everything grew quite quickly into a successful business,” recalls his elder son, Andrew.

“It was a time when Blue Nun and Liebfraumilch were the height of sophistication and more or less the only wines available on the supermarket shelves.”

The Wine Schoppen opened in 1981, specialising not only in German wines, but also in select, independent stock from all over the world.

Eddy knew his subject and took pleasure in seeking out unusual stock – one prize find was seven cases of 1940 Massandra White Muscat from Tsar Nicholas II’s collection, picked up at a Sothebys auction.

In 1991, under his guidance, Wine Schoppen won the coveted German Specialist of the Year award from the Which? Wine Guide.

The business continued to expand and in 1990 Barrels & Bottles was opened in a vault beneath the Wicker Arches. Eddy retained his reputation as a pioneer: the new warehouse boasted a tasting room, white light and spittoon, giving customers a chance to sample their wines before buying.

In 1994 the original shop moved to larger premises in Oak Street, Heeley, and two years later the internet business was launched. In 2002 Coghlans Cookery School opened its doors at a former restaurant in Millthorpe.

The entire company is now united under one roof at purpose-built premises in Sheepbridge, between Sheffield and Chesterfield – an impressive legacy for Eddy Coghlan, who continued to run the company until ill health forced him to retire.

Andrew said: “My dad was a true gentleman and a real people person, wine fanatic and bon viveur.

“Spending time with him was always a pleasure and he enhanced the city of Sheffield with his passion for food and wine.

“It’s a loss for the city.”