There is a lot spoken and written about the wine industry’s inability to truly connect with more consumers about what wine is all about and why there is so much to discover if only people took the time to look. But why should they? Are they ever going to change the habits of a lifetime and not just see wine for what essentially it is. An alcoholic drink to enjoy with friends or on your own. That’s where Paul Mabray start his conversations about wine. If wine is truly going to connect with its target audience it needs to really understand what consumers do care about and that means getting deep, down and digital. Which is the message he delivered to great effect at this summer’s MUST Fermenting conference in Portugal.
With bumper harvests over the last year in most top bulk wine producing regions, like California, southern France, and New Zealand, global wine production is up and the flow of wine to various export markets is more fluid than ever. As a result, producers are looking for new ways to deal with the glut and off an on-trade accounts are looking to take advantage of the situation by maximising margins. Hence the rise in private label all over the world. Katie Canfield reports back from the recent International Bulk Wine & Spirits Show in San Francisco where private label, central to any producer’s bulk wine strategy, was one of the key themes of the event.
Given the comparative sizes of the Washington and Oregon wine regions, it is surprising that Washington wines are so hard to get hold of in the UK. Washington is the US’s second largest wine region, home to 1,000 winemakers producing 18 million cases of wine a year, and yet we seem to know more about Oregon and find their wines easier to get hold of – when they are a fraction of the size. David Kermode travels to Washington and talks to the leading winemakers there to try and uncover why such good wines are failing to make an inroad in the UK. One thing that importers here in the UK are recommending, is that Washington should take a leaf out of California’s book and look to invest in building a global brand; that and address the prices, which is also an issue.
2017 was a long, protracted nightmare for so much of the world of wine. Circumstances came together so that both the northern and southern hemispheres both endured bad harvests in most of the major wine producing countries. Whilst conditions were much better in 2018, with strong wine volumes back in the market, the impact and ramifications from 2017 are still being felt, according to the latest global trends report from IWSR. Richard Siddle picks out the highlights, and, yes, also the lowlights.
Now it might have been some time ago that you bought your last bag-in-box wine – unless you are just back from a summer music festival – but when you did one of the greatest things about it was the fact it was like a wine gift that kept on giving. Just when you thought it was empty there was another couple of glasses to eek out. That’s still the case, but the difference now is the quality of wine you can find in bag-in-box has been transformed in recent years as producers, brand owners and importers all respond to the consumer’s call for more sustainable packaging. Here Janet Harrison explains why she loves bag-in-box wines so much she has made it a key feature of her breakthrough People’s Choice Wine Awards.
Today a major new campaign is launched to try and get the wine industry better, fairer, treatment from the government when it comes to tax hikes and duty rates. It follows last year’s move by the Chancellor to single out wine for its annual inflationary duty rise whilst at the same time freezing them for spirits and beer. A line in the sand had been crossed. Why was wine being singled out? Rather than sit back and take further blows, the wine industry has said enough is enough and is today launching its Wine Drinkers UK, Cut Back Wine Tax campaign. Its principle aim is to get across to MPs, the government, the national and local media, how much damage the current tax regime is having on the future of the wine industry and why its treatment compared to other drinks categories is not only unfair, but makes no economic sense. But in the last two weeks a new body, The UK Spirits Alliance, has been set up with its own agenda. To first freeze spirits duty in the next Budget, but then “reform” overall drinks tax legislation. Richard Siddle examines what the two new campaigns are all about and what impact they are going to have.
Tannat is a grape variety that will not be here in 20 years time. That is the shocking view of the head of one of France’s key cooperatives, Plaimont Producteurs. Last year they struggled to produce Tannat below 16% ABV – how they are managing in 2019 is anyone’s guess. The answer? Revive an ancient French grape, Manseng Noir, that is related to and similar to Tannat but can end up being 11% ABV. Peter Dean visited Gascogny to see first hand the amazing work that is being done with Manseng Noir and to taste the first 100% Manseng Noir produced since… the mid-Nineteenth Century
If you think all the fanfare and noise about the rise in direct to consumer brands and marketing is over the top then try this exercise. Take a look at your last bank statement and count up the number of subscription services you have signed up to. Be it Netflix, Amazon Prime, Spotify, Hello Fresh, your favourite wine merchant, football or rugby team, local florist…the list goes on. All of these brands and services have a direct, personal relationship with you, online. Need more convincing? Then allow Richard Siddle to take you into the world of DTC.
Xinomavro might not be the grape variety that’s the easiest to pronounce, but it is the one that has clearly got the X factor in the continuing renaissance of the Greek wine industry. Described as ‘the bastard son of Nebbiolo and Pinot Noir’ Xinomavro wines have been showing double digit growth with some importers, as much as a 100% year-on-year increase in one case. In the second part of a special focus on the Greek wine renaissance, Justin Keay examines what it is about the wine that makes it so appealing and such good value and recommends five (plus one Mavrotragano) that serious buyers should have on their radar.
Ask 10 people in the wine trade where they are spending their summer holiday and chances are at least one or two will be heading to Croatia. It is one of the most sought-after holiday destinations of the year. Chances are they will also come back raving about the wines… as well as the food, scenery and historic towns and cities. For those in the know are quietly securing their allocations of Croatian wine – they really do taste just as good at home as they do in your holiday villa. Kate Hawkings was certainly blown away on a recent visit.
If you look back at all the articles and bits of content, Tweets, Instagram posts and videos you have seen on social media over the last week then chances are a large number of them will have come from brands or drinks companies looking to promote themselves in ever more innovative ways. The days of just taking out an advert are long gone, now drinks brands have to act and behave like publishers in their own right. Richard Siddle looks at the different steps being taken and what opportunities there are now for brands to stand out.
The debate and conversation about cannabis is changing. And changing fast. No doubt driven by what is happening in North America. First with the legalisation of cannabis use in Canada and the fact 10 US states have followed suit, including California. The UK has now agreed to legalise the medical use of cannabis and there are an increasing number of legal CBD cannabis products in the market, across health and beauty, oils, coffees and now soft drinks. So what, if anything, does all this mean for the drinks industry? Richard Siddle looks at the key factors and trends we all need to know about.
Pignoletto has so much going for it as a quality Italian sparkling wine that it makes its low profile in the UK on-trade somewhat baffling. The grape variety that is used to make the wine is superior to, more nuanced and cheaper than Glera, the Prosecco grape, and the wine comes in spumante, frizzante and still versions. Yet just 10% of the wine is exported and success in the UK has largely been solely with the major supermarkets. Justin Keay travels to Pignoletto’s home in Emilia-Romagna, tastes and recommends some of the more boutique labels, and talks to key figures both in Italy and the UK about what needs to be done to bring a bit of sparkle to Pignoletto’s fortunes.
Can the English wine industry do no wrong? The growth figures for the last few years have been staggering with 3m extra vines expected be planted in 2019, on top of the 1.6m in 2018 and 1m in 2017. This is on top of the boom in the number of bottles of English wine being sold, with a record 15.6m in 2018. But as well as the huge opportunities there are also a number of challenges for the industry as well. All of which came up for discussion at a recent trade panel debate organised by Bibendum. Richard Siddle was there to report on a discussion between major English industry wine figures that looked at what steps are being taken to widen the category to bring in the scale of customer the sector will need if it is to have a market for all the wine being produced.
Considering how much of the wine market natural wines actually account for then they arguably get more than their fair share of air time. But for those that make, support and promote natural wine that is well, only, natural as these are the wines that allow winemakers to make wine in the most responsible, environmentally-friendly way possible. Factors that now mean so much more to consumers. At least that was the argument made at the recent MUST Fermenting Wine conference in Portugal, as Richard Siddle reports.
Arguably one of the most dynamic and exciting trends happening in the global wine market is the emergence, or the re-emergence, of indigenous varieties from traditional winemaking regions and countries. It is a trend the International Wine & Spirit Competition wants to promote by holding specific tastings and panels for wines from these countries. Here we share some of the highlights from the judging carried out just looking at wines from Eastern Europe.
As an industry we are never going to get very far if we simply operate within our own little bubbles and fight our own individual battles. Big change only comes if we can find common causes and issues that everyone in a sector can get behind. Which is what the MUST Fermenting Ideas conference is all about. In the first of a series of articles from the event, Richard Siddle explores the big themes that were discussed before going on to look at some of the more specific debates.
Before Michael Saunders goes on to explain what steps he has taken to help turnaround the Bibendum drinks distribution business, he was keen to set out exactly what he was not there to do and that’s become “a pastiche of what it was before”. “I am not here to re-write history, but do something great to help this business,” he says. Just over 12 months on from returning to the company he had spent the previous 35 years at, it looks like he is well on course to do just that. But most of all he has been able to restore the company’s reputation and win back the support of its suppliers and all important customers. Richard Siddle sat down with him to see where he now wants to take the business in the future.
Consumers are prepared to walk away from a brand unless it delivers the goods on going green – it may be expensive to be serious about sustainability but it will cost more in the long term if you get it wrong. So argues David Kermode who hears from Concha y Toro, the world’s fifth largest wine brand, on why it put sustainability at the very heart of its business and has a different outlook – it sees it as an opportunity not a cost. Kermode also talks to the company’s suppliers about how they go about meeting the ambitious targets set to help reduce the impact on the planet.
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.