Argentina, and South America in general, may not be currently top in the cyclical world of football, but it seems their wines are very much back on the agenda for international wine buyers looking for the best value to quality ratio they can get for their retail and restaurant businesses. Paul Schaafsma, founder of new UK importer and agency business, Benchmark Drinks, explains why he believes Argentina, in particular, is so well placed to benefit in the months and years to come and why he is so pleased to have signed an exclusive deal with to bring the wines of leading producer, Fecovita to the UK.
Keynote speakers like Paul Mabray are right to point to consumer trends and mining customer data as a way forward for the wine industry in a digital age. The industry would do well to really embrace social media. But with so much emphasis in the wine industry now being put on being at the forefront of the digital media and e-marketing world, Mike Turner argues it’s worth remembering that easy wins can be had by finally bringing more of the reluctant members of the trade into the ‘dizzy sphere’ of the World Wide Web. On a recent press visit to the Médoc, half of the 36 producers visited don’t have websites and six didn’t have email addresses.
There is a lot spoken and written about the wine industry’s inability to truly connect with more consumers about what wine is all about and why there is so much to discover if only people took the time to look. But why should they? Are they ever going to change the habits of a lifetime and not just see wine for what essentially it is. An alcoholic drink to enjoy with friends or on your own. That’s where Paul Mabray start his conversations about wine. If wine is truly going to connect with its target audience it needs to really understand what consumers do care about and that means getting deep, down and digital. Which is the message he delivered to great effect at this summer’s MUST Fermenting conference in Portugal.
With bumper harvests over the last year in most top bulk wine producing regions, like California, southern France, and New Zealand, global wine production is up and the flow of wine to various export markets is more fluid than ever. As a result, producers are looking for new ways to deal with the glut and off an on-trade accounts are looking to take advantage of the situation by maximising margins. Hence the rise in private label all over the world. Katie Canfield reports back from the recent International Bulk Wine & Spirits Show in San Francisco where private label, central to any producer’s bulk wine strategy, was one of the key themes of the event.
In the news this week for all the wrong reasons, one Michelin-Star The Kitchin in Leith was the restaurant chosen by our drinks editor Peter Dean to test out the skills of the sommelier and see what he came up with in matching a complex mystery tasting menu. One of the delights of spending a week at the Edinburgh Fringe each year is not only the unrivalled fun and madness of the Fringe but an excuse to sample Scotland’s finest cuisine, writes Dean. With his pocket money dutifully saved, he was knocked out by the bravura of what was happening in the kitchen but also some very unusual choices by the head somm.
There are very few winemakers who would readily admit that in the early days they were literally making it up as they went along. But that’s very much the approach that self-taught winemaker, Tim Wildman MW, took when he first had a go making pet nat wines in Australia. Now on the verge of his fifth vintage he is really beginning to make a name for himself Down Under and can claim to be the biggest importer of pet nat wines into the UK. He tells Richard Siddle what started out as a dare has resulted in him completely changing his wine career to become a bona fide winemaker in his own right.
Given the comparative sizes of the Washington and Oregon wine regions, it is surprising that Washington wines are so hard to get hold of in the UK. Washington is the US’s second largest wine region, home to 1,000 winemakers producing 18 million cases of wine a year, and yet we seem to know more about Oregon and find their wines easier to get hold of – when they are a fraction of the size. David Kermode travels to Washington and talks to the leading winemakers there to try and uncover why such good wines are failing to make an inroad in the UK. One thing that importers here in the UK are recommending, is that Washington should take a leaf out of California’s book and look to invest in building a global brand; that and address the prices, which is also an issue.
Wines from Washington State – the US’s second largest wine producer – can be hard to come by which is a shame, argues David Kermode aka Mr Vinosaurus. The climate, unique mix of soils and 70 different grape varieties, not forgetting the skill of the 1,000-odd winemakers, makes for an Aladdin’s cave for the wine aficionado. Fresh from a trip to the Evergreen State, Kermode selects the 10 best Washington wines that should be on your buying radar and, most importantly, where you can find them.
The New Wave South Africa tasting may be organised by five leading UK importers, but it would not be possible without the quality of wines they have to offer from the dynamic South African wine scene. So all credit must go to the collective recruitment and buying talents at Swig, Dreyfus Ashby, Indigo Wine, New Generation Wines and Fields Morris & Verdin for finding the right producers to work with. Like Kiara Scott of Brookdale Estate who is working with Indigo Wine to promote and push her wines into the UK.
2017 was a long, protracted nightmare for so much of the world of wine. Circumstances came together so that both the northern and southern hemispheres both endured bad harvests in most of the major wine producing countries. Whilst conditions were much better in 2018, with strong wine volumes back in the market, the impact and ramifications from 2017 are still being felt, according to the latest global trends report from IWSR. Richard Siddle picks out the highlights, and, yes, also the lowlights.