The on-trade is in a cash flow crisis right now and banks and insurance companies need to alleviate the pressure by turning on the taps immediately, writes restaurateur Mike Turner. A co-owner of French restaurant La Ferme in London’s Primrose Hill, Turner shows how the devil is in the detail of recent financial promises – both by the government and by financial institutions. Although he is optimistic that his business is eligible for financial aid, there is plenty of room for pessimism – the rateable value ceiling of £51k, banks looking for personal guarantees, and insurance companies trying to default on technicalities, is detracting from where our real focus should be, which is on helping people cope with the virus.
As recently as the year 2000, a seminal wine was produced that marked a dramatic shift in one of the most famous wine regions of the world. Istvan Szepsy’s now legendary Úrágya dry furmint is widely regarded as the first time a winemaker from Tokaj took the idea of producing a dry white wine seriously, and came up with a special result. 20 years on, Mike Turner attended the launch of Furmint February, a trade initiative to promote these dry Furmints from across Hungary, to hear all about the rapid shift in thinking and production.
His year started in Marlborough and it ended in Morgon, en route he visited Spain, Italy, the Rhône and Bordeaux… on more than one occasion. Welcome to the Top 12 wines of 2019 as discovered by Mike Turner, restaurateur, wine consultant, journalist, web geek and contributor to The Buyer. Every day over the holidays there will be more Top wines from 2019 as chosen by our panel of wine tasters – to pick up on some gems you may have missed in the year but also so you can pretend you’ve got some work on when the in-laws pop round.
The Majestic Wine saga continues to throw up twists and turns as chief executive, Rowan Gormley, looks to reshape and rebrand as a strong and sustainable Naked Wines business into the new financial year. Discussions will be ongoing and the future will likely be uncertain for employees up until, and even potentially after, the investor presentation on June 13. Mike Turner experienced first hand during his days in the City the plight as an employee seeing his livelihood discussed and deliberated in the press, and offers some well meant advice to Gormley and Naked Wines about how it handles its communications and support to its staff during this time of uncertainty.
Coldplay, Strictly, Crispy Pancakes… we all have our ‘guilty pleasures’. For drinks expert and restaurateur Mike Turner, his is Asti Spumante – a drink that, when he first discovered it, he drank with almost everything, much to the dismay of Italian sommeliers. But, despite the derision this precursor to Prosecco often gets, Mike argues it’s a serious drink with masses of skill in the making of. He visits the winemakers of Piedmont and the growers who supply the fruit and has his belief re-confirmed… Asti Spumante is a fizz that seriously needs your re-appraisal.
When Mike Turner opened his first restaurant, little did he think about the spirits shelf – the “every other alcoholic drink in the world in a quarter of a piece of A4” shelf. Mike had just about got used to being a professional wine buyer (and he knows a lot about wine) so how was he going to catch up with his spirits knowledge against the clock? He seeks help from Colin Hampden White who steers him firmly towards whisky as the first category to get on top of. But that is not such a straight path.
Spend any time with restaurateur and wine writer Mike Turner and you’ll know what great company he is, but what does he like to get up to when he has some spare time in the summer? That’s if he manages to get any at all having just opened his new restaurant, La Ferme, in Primrose Hill. When he does he’ll be sitting down to old episodes of Red Dwarf and working out the rights and wrongs of kidnapping….if it’s all for a good cause.
Ventoux is a region of the Southern Rhône that is best known for its towering mountain – a Holy Grail for cyclists and a climb that claimed the life of the first British world cycling champion Tom Simpson. It is also an important wine producing region, representing over 1,300 wineries across 51 communes. Previously known for making high alcohol ‘rustic’ table wines, things have been changing there and the quality has been improving as Mike Turner discovered when he went along to a Ventoux AOC tasting.
“I can’t help but wish I was sitting in a village café in the South of France with a bottle of glorious salmon pink wine, a bowl of bouillabaisse, the mistral rustling through the trees, and Marion Cotillard sat just…” Well we can all but dream and thankfully for us Mike Turner has put his wishful thinking about all things South of France and most of all Provence rosé to paper, with this open love letter to a style of wine that, well, he simply can’t do without. Which is a sentiment shared not just by him, but the customers in his north London restaurant and millions of others around the country.
Too often seen as an easy-going afternoon summer drink, Vinho Verde is a serious and complex wine – both red and white – that is perfect for food matching of many kinds. So says Mike Turner, who reaffirms his love with the Northern Portuguese wine a year after his Damascene moment – although he didn’t quite expect to have to put his money where his (motor) mouth is when the Vinho Verde publicity team gave him a call…