Entrepreneurs Henry Connell and Alex Thraves shook up the English wine industry when in 2018 they launched The Uncommon, the first ever English sparkling wine in a can. Their Bacchus, with grapes sourced from Denbies in Surrey, sold out at Selfridges within six months. The Uncommon has this year landed a distribution deal with Jascots Wine Merchants, shifting the focus to the on-trade. Here, as English Wine Week begins, The Buyer speaks with co-founder Henry Connell about how The Uncommon is opening up new audiences for English sparkling wines, and premium canned wines.
Jonothan Davey might still be relatively new to the wine industry, but he is making the most of his management consultancy training to make the biggest impact for his specialist wine importing business, Nekter Wines. Here the focus is on working with a small community of mostly minimal intervention winemakers which has seen him target in on California as one of the most exciting, and dynamic winemaking regions for producers with the wines to shake up the premium and independent on-trade.
The International Wine & Spirit Competition (IWSC) has kicked off its 50th year anniversary by announcing the medal winners from the northern hemisphere at this week’s London Wine Fair. The results were particularly good news for Canadian, Chinese and English wine producers who were the star performers in this stage of the competition. Every wine and spirit entered in the IWSC is blind tasted and assessed both on its own merit and then within the context of its class or category. Here are the highlights from the northern hemisphere judging.
Whisked off to Madrid for an experiental launch of the new Ramón Bilbao Mirto 2014, David Kermode started getting horrid flashbacks of a BBC managers role-playing awayday… from which he was asked to leave for taking the piss. The launch, more like a spirits roll-out than a new wine, was in keeping with Ramón Bilbao’s sense of imagination, and also its focus on its founder Don Ramón and his vision to make wines that have a sense of place, and then take you on a journey. Thankfully, the wine was not obscured by the theatrics and Kermode assesses it alongside a vertical of past Mirto vintages.
It has been said that Hungarians are so canny they can enter a revolving door behind you and somehow emerge in front. True to form, in next to no time the Hungarian wine industry has managed to throw off the shackles of Communism and a decade of uncertainty, and show the world just how good their wines can be. Working with single native varieties like white Furmint, Harslevelu and Juhfark as well as the increasingly popular Kekfrankos, they have also proven adept with blends, most notably putting Egri Bikaver’s image-battered past behind it, and working with international blends. Oz Clarke picked his top 50 wines from Hungary, so we sent Justin Keay along to taste them and further whittle them down into the seven essential wines for your list.
The entry process for the UK Best Sommelier competition is nearing its close as the deadline ticks down to the finals on June 3. Here Andrea Rinaldi, president of the UK Sommelier Association, explains how the competition, now in its fifth year came about, and why just being selected to take part in the final competition is an achievement in itself. He also explains how the competition works and what it is looking for in the winning candidate.
Every two years the professional trade body representing Rhône valley vineyards, Inter Rhône, showcases the diversity of wines from across the Rhône valley during a 4-day Découvertes en Vallée du Rhône tasting and masterclass extravaganza in various towns following the Rhône river spine, from the North in Ampuis to the South in Avignon. At a State of the Nation address Michel Chapoutier, President of Inter Rhône, delivered his vision for the future of Rhône valley vineyards – how it will cope with an increase in premium sales, a shift away from red wine towards more white and rosé, sparkling and tapping into Millennials’ buying habits. The Buyer sent Bart Feys to find out what the second largest French AOC wine region has been up to and how it is future-proofing itself for what lies ahead.
As a South African Gareth Ferreira, head sommelier at Core by Clare Smyth, is understandably proud of how far his country’s wines have come in the last 10 years. Here he explains why he is therefore so pleased to be involved in the finals of the judging of this year’s Wines of South Africa’s Sommelier Cup competition in South Africa in September. He also gives his advice on what sommeliers need to do to stand out from the rest and stand a chance of winning such a prestigious event.
The biggest news to come out of Vinexpo 2019 was not what was happening in Bordeaux last week, but what it intends to do in the future to keep it fresh, relevant and dynamic for ever demanding producers, brands owners and buyers. Based on the reduced size of its latest Bordeaux edition it is going to be a long process. But the announcement it is to merge and hold a joint fair with Wine Paris in February, rather than sticking with doing one on its own, was warmly welcomed as the first step in the right direction. Richard Siddle reports back from Vinexpo on why its new chief executive Rudolphe Lameyse was in bullish mood and confident about its future.
Robert Wessman was once dubbed the Viking Boss for how he transformed the pharmaceutical business in Iceland. Now he has his sights set on the premium end of the wine business, buying Bergerac estate Château Saint-Cernin, and employing global wine consultant Michel Rolland and his team to oversee the cellar and winemaking. He is already making waves with the red Château Saint-Cernin already outscoring Cheval Blanc and Harlan Estate in a critics’ blind tasting. Geoffrey Dean was whisked to Bergerac in a private jet, tasted the wines and quizzed Wessman about his best route to market in the UK.