As the on-trade has effectively shut down across large parts of Europe, South America and now the United States, in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak, it has left thousands of restaurant staff, sommeliers, and bartenders in limbo and stuck at home. The latest online Real Business of Wine Forum talked to senior sommelier figures to see what advice they had to keep their colleagues active, occupied, or, better still, to help find new ways to make money.
Peter Ranscombe goes back to school during four masterclasses in London to learn why California’s wide variety of terroirs and blending options allows it to produce competitively priced wines below the £50 mark without compromising on quality. From larger American Viticulture Areas like the Central Coast and Sonoma County through to pockets including the Alexander Valley, Carneros and Mendocino, the sheer scale of The Golden State allows suppliers to find wine-by-the-glass candidates that won’t break the bank.
We have heard a lot about the so-named New Old World in recent years. Which is usually used to talk about emerging wine countries from Eastern Europe and the Baltic States. But there are also good examples of ‘New” worlds being created in classic old wine countries like Spain. The New Spain movement being driven by charismatic and influential winemakers like Raúl Pérez who has made his home in Bierzo. Anton Moissenko travelled to meet and share his story.
In this first in a series of reports from Prague, drinks consultant Harry Crowther finds that if you scratch beneath the surface of ‘Stag Party central’ you will find a buzzing drinks scene with awesome bars and a new wine scene heavily influenced by Austrian and Hungarian vignerons. In this post, Crowther meets up with Milos Danihelka bartender from the L’Fleur whose love of Champagne has started his very own grower revolution. Listed as one of the world’s Top 50 Discovery bars, L’Fleur has an exciting range of cocktails but it is the wine list that now boasts 120 Champagnes with over 70 lines coming from the grower circuit, that has really got tongues wagging, and helped him set up his own on-trade importing business Terroirs Champagne.
As Romania’s largest wine exporter Cramele Recas, with customers in most major wine markets around the world, is well placed to be able to assess what impact the Covid-19 outbreak is having on the global supply and movement of wine. Here its owner, Philip Cox, gives an open and frank account of how hard business has become and what it’s like just trying to get wine moved from what is a landlocked country to his key global customers.
Saturday night saw the final service at The Harrow at Little Bedwyn, the Wiltshire-based restaurant run by Roger and Sue Jones for 21 years, which had become a favourite haunt for the wine industry – tickets for final sittings were selling faster than hand sanitiser. One of the final lunches was a classic, hosted by Vranken Pommery, keen to pair its top cuvées from the 2002 vintage with Jones’ faultless eye for culinary detail. David Kermode was there for The Buyer who reports that even with the disaster of the Coronavirus looming ever closer, it could not detract from a meal of truly epic proportions.
Greek wine is on a surge of popularity in the UK right now – sommeliers can’t get enough, it seems, of Assyrtiko, Xinomavro, Mavrodaphne, Malagousia, Moschofiliero and Agiorgitiko – in many cases quite literally. There is a shortage in supply of quality Greek wine in the UK, writes Justin Keay, with most large importers not yet on the bandwagon. There are a couple of exceptions with Cava Spiliadis being the most notable. At its second UK tasting, this New York-based importer showed over 100 quality wines with the least well known being the most popular.
As the Covid-19 situation escalates across the UK on-trade and hospitality sectors, and more restaurants and bars are forced to close, the industry’s senior figures are calling out for more urgent action to be taken by the government to protect jobs and help all businesses including the suppliers that help keep those outlets going. Here Enotria’s Troy Christensen and Hallgarten’s Andrew Bewes explain the measures they are taking and what support they want to see from the government.
Silicon Valley entrepreneur Michael Baum is a self-avowed disruptor, and a biodynamic evangelist, who sees sommeliers as key to the success of Château Pommard, the prestigious Burgundy estate he acquired six years ago. At an exclusive lunch he tells Victor Smart how he intends to get from a direct-sales model to 25% of production channelled through restaurants and bars. As well as opens the latest releases including the sought-after ‘Simone’ which has a trade price of a cool £300 a bottle.
While Cabernet Sauvignon and Riesling may continue to grab all the headlines, Syrah was Peter Ranscombe’s pick at last week’s ‘Unsung Heroes’ tasting, hosted by Washington State Wine. He finds out that – thanks to its complex mix of soils, warm summers and cooler autumns – the state can produce wines that have the ripe fruit flavours of the new world alongside the structure and the freshness of the old world. Apart from reporting on the two Jamie Goode masterclasses, Ranscombe also picks his Top 10 Syrahs from the tasting.