The Tuscan estate of Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona is producing some of the most renowned Brunello and Rosso di Montalcino wines, along with a number of other wines using international varieties. Its top Brunello from the 2015 vintage has just been awarded 100 points by James Suckling and well it might – it’s a beauty. At its UK launch winemaker Paolo Bianchini showed off all of his new wines to a select group of wine buyers, alongside those of another classic Brunello vintage, 2010, as well as divulge the incredible-but-true story of how his family came to own this historic estate.
With vines dating back to the 1930’s Biondi-Santi is one of the iconic Italian wineries and one of the most prestigious in the classic region of Montalcino. It’s also very much still in family hands that stretch right back to the mid 19th century. Here Tancredi Biondi-Santi, the latest generation to work with the estate’s famous vines, shares the history of the winery, but also looks ahead at the steps being taken to make it as relevant in the future as it has been for so many decades. You can meet him and taste their classic wines at the Sangiovese RESET tasting on March 3.
If sommeliers bought as much Washington State wine as they say they like them, then the lists of most premium wine restaurants would be full of different styles from this distinctive and still fast growing US wine region. As it is there is still enormous potential for Washington to build distribution, both first with UK importers and then to the restaurant customers they supply. Ahead of the Washington State Wines tasting in London on March 10 we start a series of interviews with participating winemakers with Tyler Williams of Kiona Vineyards.
As the international community struggles to contain the coronavirus, life in mainland China has changed beyond all recognition, writes Janet Wang. Social activities have dropped by 80-90% just after the Chinese New Year which, traditionally, is one of the most active periods for gathering and gifting. The impact on retail is colossal with Q1 being written off and a spate of bankruptcies predicted for Q2 as retailers try to cope with the stemming of cashflow. Wine trade professionals are estimating that 2020 will see a 20% downturn. But ‘Wei Ji’ the Chinese word for ‘crisis’ is made up of two words meaning ‘danger’ and ‘opportunities’. Wang also looks at the impact the virus is already having on online and a new ‘contactless delivery’ business that has sprung into action.
First mentioned by the Bard, and shipped back to Blighty by the boatload in the 16th Century, the wines of Tenerife have long been admired for their quality and individuality. Geoffrey Dean went there to discover the island’s 6,500 hectares under own-rootstock vine, its dozen local grape varieties, five DOs, half a dozen wineries that are pushing the envelope, and tasted and recommends the wines that are worth seeking out. Dean also finds that wine tourism is alive and well, particularly in the European winter months.
If you stop and ask a sommelier or a top wine buyer to pick out countries or regions where they are increasingly turning to both for interesting, eclectic wines, but also those that offer excellent value at all price points then time and again they will bring up the different regions of Portugal. What’s more it is also the local indigenous varieties that are becoming more popular with curious buyers. Which will be music to the ears of Sónia Vieira, marketing director of Wines of Portugal, who explains to Richard Siddle Wines of Portugal’s strategy to help grow Portuguese wines sales in the UK.
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.
OK before you read any further, it’s time to manage expectations. This report does not tell you what the next Prosecco or Pinot Grigio is going to be. But what it does do is provide the insight and the analysis into understanding the consumer and why wine sales in the on-trade were down a further 6% last year. It also explains in detail the steps needed to make wine less of a daunting drinks category for consumers to navigate and how the answer to reviving wine sales actually comes in how it is promoted, talked about, presented and served.
Never one to sit on its laurels, Louis Latour Agencies has been busy adding new wineries to its 15-agency strong portfolio that includes many new vintages, cuvées and, in one case, winemaker. Particularly interesting was how Maison Louis Latour under the direction of Louis-Fabrice Latour is increasing its spread of Pinot Noir outside of core Burgundy territory – in Beaujolais, Coteaux de l’Auxois and Provence – and how these wines are getting better vintage by vintage. There were on-trade exclusives here as well as a brand new ‘natural’ Beaujolais from Henry Fessy.
In March The Buyer, together with Sophie Jump and the WSTA, is looking to do something very different for the drinks industry. Hold a one day conference that is 100% focused not on the individual wine, beer and spirits categories and the specific product trends within them, but on the consumers that we might want to drink them. An event that is instead dedicated to the huge changes taking place to consumer behaviour and our potential attitudes to alcoholic drinks and the new smart, connected technology that is driving them. To give you a taste of what to expect here is James Harmer of Touch Design, the brand design and packaging agency, on the challenges and opportunities facing all brand owners, producers and retailers when it comes to making ever more sustainable, relevant, challenging and consumer friendly products that work from a manufacturing, design and packaging point of view. We might not all be able to hire George Clooney to then sell what we come up with, but we could all do with the sort of transformative packaging and design solution that Nespresso has done to the coffee market.