Whisper it gently but California has become “sexy” again for UK wine buyers. What’s more it is becoming particularly relevant for importers, distributors, merchants and sommeliers looking for something a little different, a bit more premium, but also with the bang for buck they need to make those wines work in premium restaurants, bars and hotels. Earlier this month The Buyer and the Wine Institute of California came together to hold a debate with leading buyers from across the on-trade. Here are the key highlights from this discussion.
For all those who have been either directly, or indirectly, involved in how the C&C Group has helped transform the fortunes of Bibendum and Matthew Clark over the last year would not be surprised to hear chief executive, Stephen Glancey, describe the last 12 months as “being very intense for all involved”. But he would also be quick to point to the work done by the respective teams and, in particular, the role of the senior executives who returned to the two companies to help spearhead the turnaround. Michael Saunders at Bibendum and Steve Thompson at Matthew Clark. Here in the first of a two part analysis, Richard Siddle looks at what steps were taken to get Bibendum back on track, much to the relief of their suppliers and customers.
Apart from producing some of the finest wines in the world, the Loire Valley is a wine region that is hugely complex, diverse and actually quite confusing! Following the course of France’s longest river, the Loire as a wine region covers five major regions, 95 appellations with countless communes, grape varieties, styles of wines and soil types. Of all the regions Central-Loire is arguably the least clearly delineated. It is set apart from Loire Valley wines in more ways than one, includes Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé amongst its more revered seven appellations, and yet the ‘lesser ones’ fly right under the radar of most UK wine buyers even though they produce good, full-flavoured, terroir-specific wines that offer incredibly good value for money. Peter Dean visited Central-Loire and tries to make sense of this wine region that lies at the very heart of France.
Every time you think there is not enough room in the world’s wine calendar for another major event, another one pops up, usually in a new city or different part of the world. In the last couple of years alone we have seen new shows appear in Paris, New York, San Francisco, Tokyo, Singapore or Shanghai, to name just a few. But how do these exhibition organisers decide where to go? Well, it seems they need to get two things right. The size and growth opportunity within the local market, be it the host city, or country as a whole, and how attractive that region is to international producers and, therefore, potential exhibitors. So if you want to predict where the next new markets for wine are going to come from then follow where the world’s biggest wine shows are opening up new fairs, says Richard Siddle.
In part one of The Buyer’s debate, alongside Business France, between leading importers, merchants, restaurants and wine producers from most regions of France, we focused on the rise in and importance of organic wines. The tasting and discussion also looked at how different styles of sparkling wine are now really coming to the fore, and how Crémant, in particular, is presenting a real premium alternative, ideal for promoting and driving in the premium on-trade.
If you are looking to enter the London Wine Competition 2020 then you can make big savings by putting your wines in now and take advantage of super early bird rates. But you will need to act quickly as the deadline for these rates runs out on June 20. The LWC is now into its third year and 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, how much they cost, and what value they offer. Here’s how to enter the 2020 competition.
It might sound counter productive, but one of the biggest opportunities there now is in the drinks industry is not actually making products with any alcohol in them. Or if you do, make sure it has the lowest abv possible. Yes, the rise in low and non-alcohol drinks has gone from the fringes of the sector, to being arguably one of the most dynamic, fast changing and important of all the new beers, wines and spirits we see on back bars and on drinks lists. Richard Siddle analyses what this means for the traditional drinks categories and how wine, in particular, is in danger of falling behind.
For his swansong, the outgoing chief of Austria’s wine board Willi Klinger decided to realise a life’s ambition, leading a tour to tell the extraordinary story of the country’s border wine regions – with Hungary, Slovenia and Slovakia – torn apart by conflict, but now working together in quite remarkable ways. David Kermode sees first hand how the Second World War, the Iron Curtain and the growth of the European Union has affected Austrian winemaking and what is being done now to encourage the regeneration of ‘winemaking without borders’ in these areas.
For the latest The Buyer Debate we teamed up with Business France to bring producers from different regions of France together with key buyers from across the premium on-trade to look at two key growth areas not only for French wine, but the premium wine category as a whole: organics and sparkling wine. It was an opportunity to meet, taste the wines and then explore why French winemakers are increasingly turning to organics and sparkling wine production. Whilst assessing just what it is leading UK wine distributors, merchants and restaurant and bar owners are looking for when taking on a new French wine supplier. There was a lot to cover. So much so that we have broken down the report into two parts. First up we look at the rise in organics and both the opportunities and the challenges there are in making and selling organic wine.
It’s the scale of the Decanter World Wine Awards that makes any wine that stands out from the close to 17,000 that are entered really worth taking notice of. Now into its 16th year, the awards attracted entries from 57 countries demonstrating not only its significance in the world of wine, but just how far and wide quality wine is now being produced globally. France was again the star performer in terms of Best in Show medals, closely followed by Spain and Australia. Here are the highlights of this year’s awards with links to the full medal winners.
As rising prices puts Pinot Noir from Burgundy out of the reach of many consumers, so Germany is ready to fill that void, argues David Kermode. Germany is the world’s third largest producer of Pinot, its prices give a lot of ‘bang for the buck’ and it now has a unique style that is no longer an imitation of Burgundian Pinot. Rubbing shoulders with top Pinot producers from across the globe, Kermode attends Hotspot Pinot, a conference held in the Baden region of Germany, to hear about the importance of soil, genetics and winemaking style as German Pinot continues to define itself.
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.
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.
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.
In the 17 years since Sauvignon Blanc became New Zealand’s number one wine and helped facilitate a worldwide love-in for the grape, things have been changing back at its spiritual home in Central-Loire. It is not just the appellations of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé that are producing better quality Sauvignon in a variety of styles – Menetou-Salon, Coteaux du Giennois and Reuilly are appellations that can produce outstanding Sauvignon as well be amazing good value for wine buyers. In a tour of the region and 10 different domaines, Peter Dean discovers great Gamay, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir as well as catches up with how the region is projecting its image on the outside world, the 2018 harvest, exports and more.
Pinot Noir may have been the grape that helped Oregon gain international recognition, attract large scale investment and, arguably, punch well above its weight. But almost half of the state’s output are from 71 other different varieties. David Kermode, aka Mr Vinosaurus, travelled to Portland, Oregon and discovered a thriving ‘garagiste’ winemaker scene, intent on proving that Oregon is no varietal monoculture – making small batch cuvées from dry farmed, own rooted, hand harvested ancestral varieties that trace back to the state’s earliest viticultural pioneers.
There was one very noticeable absence on the recent Wine Institute of California’s UK trade trip. Robert Parker. Not the great man himself. He wouldn’t have qualified. But his all pervading influence which normally dominates any debate about premium Californian wine. On my last trade trip to California some years ago much of the conversation amongst the UK visitors was about alcohol levels and wood. Not this time. California has moved on. This time the key theme was all around sustainability and the many initiatives, programmes and guidelines there are now to help growers and producers certify their vines and make wine in a sustainable way. Which, in turn, has encouraged, if not forced, producers to turn their focus away from their shiny wineries to what is happening in the vineyards.
The results of the second London Wine Competition are in and they are a resounding success for Australia, which picked up a staggering 31% of all the medals that were handed out. What’s even more impressive is that the bar was raised significantly in the awards’ second year with more entries, more medals and more judges taking part. The awards were introduced to represent how consumers buy wines, based not just on their quality, but what they look like on shelf, and what value for money they offer.
With so many spirits brands competing for space any premium back bar how do you choose one vodka, or gin, or whisky, or mezcal over another. Well the medal winner in the second London Spirits Competition could be the place to look for not only is it judged by leading bar tenders and managers, but it judges products for their quality, what they look like and, vitally, for their value for money. Here are all the highlights from the 415 medals awarded in the 2019 competition.
The Okanagan Valley. The name alone certainly has a ring to it. Jump on a plane (or two) to get there and you won’t be disappointed. At least not according to Janet Harrison, founder of the People’s Choice Wine Awards, who not only enjoyed a memorable trip to Canada’s British Columbia, home of the Okanagan Valley, but has come back keen to get as many people in the trade to go and discover its beauty and exciting and dynamic winemakers for themselves.