For years it was the US that was at the heart of the craft beer revolution, but times are changing and slowly the UK is being seen by brewers as the place to showcase and sell their craft beer. Which is good news for the London Craft Beer Festival, an event that has built such a reputation since it started six years ago that its organisers, Daniel Sylvester and Greg Wells, personally invite the brewers that are able to attend.
Whisper it gently but natural and orange wines are slowly establishing themselves in their own segment of the mainstream wine market and appearing on more premium and Michelin star wine lists. Albeit in the same way that Echo and the Bunnymen always looked a little out of place on Top of the Pops. Here Doug Wregg, one of the initial driving forces behind the rise in natural wine in his role at Les Caves de Pyrene, examines its recent success and looks to explain, re-define and assess its unique place in the overall wine market and why natural wines still continue to inspire him.
What happens when a famous producer of sought-after, fine reds turns to making skin-fermented whites? Anne Krebiehl MW meets Gernot & Heike Heinrich in Austria’s Burgenland whose conversion to biodynamics 12 years ago set off a series of changes. First, they became much more aware of their terroir and its potential and then they started falling in love with skin-fermented white wines – a combination that has changed their entire approach to winemaking and made them feel like starting over again.
Walk into any high end bar and you can be pretty much guaranteed the bar staff can tell you anything you want to know about the 100s of bottles of spirits they have on their back bar. How they are made, where they are made and which combinations work best together. But ask them about wine and the conversation is likely to be a little shorter. Which is why wine consultant, Harry Crowther, is staring a new wine training course to help even the best bar staff get more knowledgeable and excited about wine.
It’s nice talking about and throwing the spotlight on new wine regions and emerging styles of wine and little known grape varieties, but at these times of the year restaurant and bar customers are looking for the classics and the tried and tested. Which is why for our latest major debate we teamed up with Jackson Family Wines to look at what leading wine buyers, sommeliers, distributors and merchants think about Californian Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
Organising a wine tasting where all your guests are sitting in one place can prove to be a challenge at times, so you can imagine the potential for things to wrong if you then invited those guests to go on a tour of restaurants and bars around London, tasting different wines, matched to each outlet’s food along the way. It certainly made for a very different, fun, highly informative and memorable day for wineries from Sonoma County Vintners and our panel of “tour-ists” willing to go on the adventure with us.
Outside of the natural wine debate is there a more contentious issue than the one that surrounds the type of closure you have in your bottle of wine? To assess what leading on-trade buyers and sommeliers now think about closures we teamed up with Vinventions, one of the biggest suppliers of all types of closure from cork to screwcap, to make the issue of closures the latest topic in our Buyer Debate series.
Every wine as soon as it is made puts its self up for judgement. Be it the end consumer who wants to drink it with their dinner, or the trade buyers and wine critics looking to score, assess and adjudicate on whether it is suitable for listing in the first place. But nothing ventured, nothing gained and Castelnau Wine Agencies was happy to put its range of wines from producers all over the world up to the test in our latest Buyer’s Case project with leading on-trade buyers and influencers in the trade.
The Buyer has been set up to help drinks producers and leading on-trade buyers better understand their needs and where possible work closer together. This is best demonstrated by The Buyer’s Case initiative where we link up with a wine producer or importer and ask leading buyers to taste, assess and offer professional feedback on their wines. Here we turn to the Languedoc-Roussillon and present wines from leading producer, Cave de Vignerons de Saint-Chinian to leading on-trade decision makers.
France might be the best selling country in the UK on-trade, but that does not mean it could not sell. To help better understand the opportunities and challenges facing French wine in the premium on-trade, The Buyer linked up with Les Vignobles Foncalieu and leading buyers from the different types of operator, including high end restaurants, independent wine merchants and national wholesalers all working the French category in the north west of the country.
New Zealand’s enormous success in the UK off-trade, where its Sauvignon Blanc has created a category of its own, has not always been reflected in how many of its wines are on premium on-trade wine lists. The Buyer teamed up with Villa Maria, and its UK partners, Hatch Mansfield, to ask a panel of leading UK buyers to set out the challenges and opportunities for New Zealand in the premium on-trade
The Buyer’s Case is a new initiative that gives producers the chance to show specific drinks to key buyers in target channels of the on-trade. For our first Buyer’s Case we teamed up with Les Vignerons Foncalieu and selected key buyers in its main distribution areas in the UK on-trade to show their wines. Here are the results.
The Buyer teamed up with Virginia Wine and some of its key producers to help them better understand the needs of the UK premium on-trade and how buyers might relate to their wines with both a business roundtable debate with key players and a study tour of leading London restaurants, wine bars and merchants to see the kind of offers they have and where their wines might fit in.