There must be times as a leading sommelier that you are as much in demand as all the latest movie stars sitting on Graham Norton’s sofa. Be it in the restaurant and the time needed to work behind the scenes to have the right wines for customers to buy, and then the time to get out, taste, discover and find new things to list. Which is why The Buyer’s new Sommelier Workshop concept is designed to give sommeliers an insight into a key emerging country in 90 minutes. Which is what we would look to deliver with our journey into the wines of Hungary and what varieties, styles and price points are right for premium UK restaurants.
You would think with so much competition for every single possible space on restaurant, pub and bar wine lists that a national drinks distributor can’t afford to turn down any business that might come its way. Particularly in the current climate where wine lists are being squeezed, and margins raised as the mainstream and premium on-trade looks to find any way possible to use its wine and drinks list to help offset the rising business, wage and food costs that have hit the sector so hard over the last few years. But for Boutinot the key to its success is having the discipline to say no to any potential business that it feels is not in its long term interest. Which, as it increasingly spreads its net away from its northern stronghold and, in particular, into London and the south east becomes harder by the month. Richard Siddle talks to Kevin Pollard, who heads up Boutinot’s growing London office, about the challenges it faces, but also the huge opportunities it still has to build its profile, presence and influence in wider areas of the UK’s premium on-trade scene.
When it comes to tasting competitions the wine trade has its own version of the adage of not working with animals or children on live TV – don’t allow the general public to be involved. Until now. The People’s Choice Wine Awards is very much as it sounds and is a very different, and welcome to the competition calendar in that it gets both wine trade professionals and keen amateurs to taste and judge together. It’s an event The Buyer is also very pleased to support as media partner. Here is the shortlist of finalists for the 2019 awards.
TV’s Jack Whitehall and his father have done more for the Moldovan wine industry than any number of government marketing campaigns could have. The scale of Moldovan wine is fast getting appreciated (it has the highest number of vines per capita worldwide) and the former Soviet state has every right to become a major world wine player if it plays its cards right – and that means bringing much-needed quality control to its wines, both international and a plethora of ‘native’ grapes.
Next year sees the return of a major international conference to assess how the global wine industry is tackling climate change. The Climate Change Leadership event in Porto in March 2019 will be an opportunity to put the issue back on top of the world agenda as well as give an opportunity for major producers, viticulturists and climate experts to share their experiences on what steps are being done and need to be followed in the future. Here Richard Siddle assesses the challenge and what producers are doing to make their mark on climate change.
Which country’s wines feature most prominently on global wine lists, what varietals are most in demand, and what trends are likely to emerge in the next two years? A Sopexa survey of nearly 800 wine trade professionals in six key global markets, all at the sharp end of the industry, including importers, retailers, wholesalers and agents, gives a fascinating insight into what is really being bought, listed and sold around the world, finds Helen Arnold.
The French reasserted their position as the dominant force in sparkling wine last night as Champagne’s Louis Roederer was the standout winner at the Champagne & Sparkling World Wine Championships awards dinner. The event is only one of its kind in the world and is also an opportunity for the leading producers and influencers in Champagne and sparkling wine to come together and celebrate their sector.
On November 7 The Buyer and Wines of Hungary are teaming up to host a dedicated workshop to help give sommeliers the commercial insights into how to best make the use of any Hungarian wines they may have, or choose to buy, for their wine lists. They will get the chance to hear directly from fellow sommeliers about what they are doing to make the most of this fast emerging Old/New wine country. To set the scene we have spoken to three major importers and distributors about the Hungarian wines they have in their range, why they have listed those particular producers, and the advice they would give to sell them in the premium on-trade.
Taking the equivalent of a football team of sommeliers, buyers, wine importers and critics on a tour of London restaurants is not your average way to spend an afternoon. But that is exactly what The Buyer did last week as it teamed up with the Syndicat des Vignerons de L’AOC Vouvray, to re-introduce key trade members to the different styles of Vouvray, meet some of its producers and take them to the kinds of restaurants that the average customer might drink their wines in.
If you are looking to enter the second edition of the London Wine Competition then you can make big savings by putting your wines in now and take advantage of early bird rates. But you will need to act quickly as the deadline for early bird rates runs out on October 30. This is the event that looks to reward wines that everyday wine drinkers can relate to as they are assessed not just on their quality, but what they look like, what they stand for, how much they cost, and, arguably the most important criteria for all – how drinkable they are.
Japan may have been making wine for nearly a 100 years, but unlike so many of its other home grown products, very little of it has ever had much success in potential key export markets. But with the number of serious, premium wine producers now reaching critical mass the time has come for Wines of Japan to have a concerted effort in bringing its wines to key markets like the UK. Like its main London tasting taking place next week on October 23. To help set the scene The Buyer joined the recent benchmark tasting session, led by Wines of Japan’s UK ambassador, Sarah Abbott MW, to assess what key restaurant wine buyers think of the wines and the best ways they might succeed in the premium on-trade.
Sales are up, wine tourists are increasing, new international markets are being tapped into, Rioja is on a roll right now. But what’s behind the sudden increase? Is it the changes in regulations governing barrel ageing? Single vineyard wines? Using almost extinct grape varieties? They all help for sure, in streamlining and clarifying Rioja’s message to the world but when it comes down to making a major impact on a targeted mainstream wine consumer you have to doff your cap to the marketing team at Rioja’s governing body, the Consejo Regulador, for sponsoring a Blind Date-style US reality TV show.
Is there a more misunderstood wine category than Prosecco? It might top all the best selling charts, but it is too often dismissed or taken seriously by some professional wine buyers. To help get to know not only the beautiful region of Conegliano Valdobbiadene, but to explore the different quality tiers of Prosecco and the potential they have in the premium on-trade, The Buyer teamed up with leading Prosecco brand, Mionetto, and its UK partner Copestick Murray, to host a study tour with key buyers and influencers of the area and the city where Prosecco truly comes to life – Venice.
It might seem strange to talk about confidence when it comes to winemaking – have you ever met a winemaker who does not think they make good wine? But when it comes to a country’s collective confidence about the wines they make then that’s a different story. Particularly in South Africa. A country whose recent political and social history means as a nation it is still very much on the back foot. Take its wine industry, which for most of the last 20 plus years has been too quick to accept the pricing demands of the international market which has meant it has been its bulk, mass volume rather than its premium wines that it has become globally famous for. Not any more. South Africa is now producing quality, world class wines at all price points to suit all tastes, and, whisper it gently, is finding the confidence, the identity and the belief to demand the right prices for them.
Over the last 18 months wine harvests has been in the news for all the wrong reasons as newspaper headlines seized on the worst grape harvest in Europe since the early 1960s with headlines of “devastation” and “disaster” for all involved. There was even concerns there would not be enough wine to fill our supermarket shelves. The reality saw buyers switch their areas of supply and turn to those who had got grapes, which meant a big boost for East European wine producers who for some time have been knocking on the door for their wines to be taken more seriously. But with major European harvests on course to return to average what will happen to the wineries that helped plug the gaps?
There really is no other wine producing country like South Africa. Its unique political and recent social history means this is not a country that makes wine just because it can. It does so to also help the viability, the prosperity and the future of all those who work in it with a series of world leading sustainability and ethical trading codes that truly sets its apart. Richard Siddle reports back from last week’s Cape Wine where that message sang out loud and clear.
The wine purist might not like to admit it, but the wine industry would not be an industry at all if it was not for bulk wine. Be it moving grapes from growers to producers, or between wineries in the same country, or shipping vast containers to all corners of the world, bulk wine is the blood supply that keeps the wine sector alive. Here Helen Arnold explores the global bulk wine trends that will set the agenda for this November’s 10th World Bulk Wine Exhibition.
For years China has been a country wine producers the world over have wanted to do business in, but have been put off by the bureaucracy and impenetrable supply chains that have made it so hard to do business there. All that is now set to change thanks to the scale, power and reach of the country’s major online retail giants, like Alibaba and JD.com that can source, sell and distribute producers’ wines to all corners of the country. Their influence is so large that they are also now attracting the world’s biggest international retailers looking to sell their products in China as well, reports Richard Siddle.
Whatever industry you focus on it’s the same old story. Women are paid less than men, their bonuses are smaller, their career prospects are more limited, they are less likely to get promoted, and have less faith in their abilities to reach the top. Which is why Helen Arnold was intrigued to find out what steps could be taken in the wine and spirits sector, and to hear directly from business leaders looking to improve matters and directly address gender equality at work, at the recent Women of the Vine & Spirits conference held in London.
After a year in which producers were in the unusual position of giving ‘take it or leave it prices’ for their grapes on the back of 2017’s bad European harvest, the roles are once again reversed as buyers find themselves once again calling all the shots as forecasts predict strong crops across the main wine producing powerhouses of Europe. Richard Siddle examines what that means for grape prices.