There are no hard or fast rules when it comes to buying wine for a restaurant wine list, but there are arguably more ways in which you can get it wrong, than if you play it safe with well known varieties from established regions and countries. To stand out in the new London Wine Fair Wine Buyers Awards you are going to have to do a lot more than that. One of the judges for the Restaurant and Wine Bar category, Martin Lam, explains what he thinks makes a good wine buyer.
The Vignerons’ Lunch at St. JOHN Restaurant is an annual tasting of the group’s wine range – available to trade and consumer – including its own label wines blended by the wine team, its own Languedoc winery Boulevard Napoléon, and a group of vignerons that St. JOHN works with, either on its own label wines or with specific and bespoke cuvées. It is also an excuse to praise at the high altar of British cooking, with St. JOHN co-founders Fergus Henderson and Trevor Gulliver. In a somewhat messy fashion.
Well, that’s a headline to get the heart rate going, particularly in a market that is already having to come to terms with a steady decline. But forewarned is forearmed which makes the latest CGA report such an important and fascinating read. It looks to dig behind the headlines and crunch the numbers to identify what are the other drinks categories that are the real clear and present dangers to overall wine sales in the on-trade. Here are the top line findings.
The Côte de Beaune is still relatively under-rated compared to the Côte de Nuits, says Mentzendorff managing director Andrew Hawes, who argues that it is still possible to find great and specific terroir, coupled to availability, at prices that have not yet experienced the dramatic escalations experienced in the Côte de Nuits. Key signature wines continue to be in short supply, however, which forces buyers to explore the region looking for an alternative which, in turn, leads to lesser known appellations deservedly receiving more attention.
It’s hard enough knowing what is going on in one on-trade market, never mind being able to assess wider trends across different countries around the world, but once you can it opens up a whole new way of looking at what styles of wine are selling in serious numbers and the impact that is going to have on wine sales in the future. That’s where Wine Business Solutions comes in and its ability to be able to analyse wine lists and restaurant wine sales across the main global wine markets. Here the head of WBS, Peter McAtamney, shares some of the worldwide trends it sees developing that are going to dictate what are going to be on our wine lists in the future.
In advance of Armit’s en primeur tasting on January 15th Burgundy buyer Nicolas Clerc MS explains how a range rationalisation was an important part of increasing sales of Burgundy 2017 – concentrating efforts on the producers that they think are a better fit for their customers. Wines will be positioned in the market differently according to producer, price point, scarcity, vintage quality, as well as the wider conversations Armit has with their suppliers.
As there is no formal training or professional qualification for wine buying it can be hard to know if you are actually any good at it. Yes, you might have a wine list that seems to do the business, but how good are you compared to the wine buyer working for the restaurant group, wholesaler or wine merchant across the road. That’s what the new London Wine Fair Wine Buyer Awards are all about. The chance to go toe to toe with your peers to find out who actually is tippety top of the wine buying world. Christine Parkinson, so long the head of wine at the worldwide Hakkasan restaurant group, is pretty well placed to know what makes a good wine buyer or not. It’s why she is one of the judges in the Restaurant and Wine Bar category, sponsored by The Buyer. Here she explains what she thinks it takes to be a good – and award-winning wine buyer.
While demand for the classics and the upper tier of Burgundy remains as strong as ever – often outstripping supply – it is the bread-and-butter wines that consumers open every day that is key to the region’s success argues Bibendum Burgundy buyer Robert Mathias. In the on-trade the by-the-glass offering is key with top quality Bourgogne Aligoté or Mâcon Villages from serious addresses being behind this success. Bibendum is concentrating its tasting efforts on its on-trade customers this year which is why it will also be showing 2017s at events.
When the London Wine Competition launched in 2017 it was the first global event of its kind to not just judge the wines on their quality, but also how much they cost, and what they looked like. It was soon followed by similar events to cover beers and spirits to create a full drinks awards programme. Here’s details on how to enter the separate competitions for this year and the added benefits for doing so with publicity, partnerships and coverage at major trade fairs in Europe and the US.
A little bit of stardust at an affordable price, an entry point to a quite prestigious domaine, a little extra ‘plus’ if the wines are hand-sold to an engaged customer – these are just some of the benefits of buying Bourgogne wines from Bourgogne and Mâcon appellations plus a Geographical Denomination – in this case the Bourgogne Hautes Côtes de Beaune and Bourgogne Hautes Côtes de Nuits. Many more good tips from Fields Morris & Verdin in this fifth part of a series in which The Buyer is interviewing a number of leading fine wine merchants to get their feel on how this vital region is doing and what the 2018 vintage has in store when the annual Bourgogne campaign comes to a head with Bourgogne Week.