Go to virtually any major city in the world and there will be a thriving, if small, natural wine scene going on. But what about China? Has natural wine been able to make its mark in such a vast, fragmented country where it’s hard for even multinational wine brands to make their mark? Nichole Mao, partner at Nimbility, the Asian-based drinks brand development agency, investigates the natural wine scene in China to see what sort of grip, if any, it has taken on the still growing overall wine market.
Some of the best and most evocative journalist stories come straight from the front line when intrepid reporters are willing to embed themselves in the military and head straight into a battle zone in order to tell it as it really is. Well, here’s a drinks journalist alternative to all that derring-do. Richard Siddle reports back from the heart of Bavaria where he has returned from a trade mission, embedded as part of the Hofmeister team, to see for himself what the brewing heartland of Bavaria is really like and go behind the scenes at the traditional Bavarian brewery responsible for making the new revamped, multi award-winning Hofmeister Helles lager.
Rosé is a wine category that is much-maligned, according to world expert Elizabeth Gabay MW, who says that even erudite critics fall into the trap of labelling it ‘sexy’ or ‘seductive’. Many buyers don’t taste but make decisions based on colour alone, while the on-trade is missing a massive opportunity by only listing one or two choices compared to a long list of reds and whites. Gabay has made it her mission to set the record straight by applying the same set of critical criteria as she would to any other wine. On the eve of the publication of her new book, which takes an unprecedented approach to the pink wine across Provence, Bandol, the Rhône valley and Languedoc-Roussillon, she opens out to The Buyer about why she is ‘still banging on about rosé’.
For the past two decades German wine has been on a roll with the country housing one of Europe’s most vibrant, creative and progressive wine industries. And yet the wines of Germany are some of the most misunderstood on the planet. In an in-depth and wide-ranging interview German wine expert Anne Krebiehl MW explains about the full trajectory of the German wine industry – early success, then doldrums, its current state of health and its direction – and why now is the right time for re-evaluation. She explains why there is currently an unprecedented density of quality production and a new generation of winemakers who are re-defining what German wine can be in the 21st century. Grape varieties have changed as have wine styles – with grace and elegance favoured over power – all the result of a new-found, more self-confident identity that was almost obliterated by two world wars and the disastrous legal framework of the 1970s. A Buyer Rewind feature – re-posted from its 2020 ‘publication’.
“UK demand for tequila has recently grown at around 8%, but even more interesting is the growth for premium (21% growth) and super-premium (13% growth) brands. A lot of brands, ambassadors and bartenders have worked hard on tequila’s image in recent years to get to this point – and it’s clearly working. But what might lead to a bigger tipping point?” That’s the question that Dan Hooper, co-founder of the YesMore drinks marketing agency, looks to answer as he examines just what it is that has made tequila both the go to drink for A list movie stars and the great drinking public.
In the US the growth of mead as a category is starting to resemble the craft beer market, with one of the world’s simplest and oldest alcoholic drinks diversifying into a wide range of styles. In the UK, mead is also undergoing a revolution with a new bar opening in London that aims to show the breadth and complexity of this honey-based drink by serving seven meads on draught and 20 different in can. We take a look at how mead is transforming itself with one foot in its legendary past and the other striving towards a thoroughly modern reinvention.
“It’s no longer all about the product – this is what my customers want, this is where I’ll grow brands, be different and be proud to be a retailer; rather buyers are challenged to get a return per square metre of shelf, and with the opportunity of substantial listing fees, the choice on which brands are stocked is a pure commercial choice.” That’s just one of the consequences of what Nick Gillett, managing director of leading spirits distributor, Mangrove Global, sees as the result of increasing consolidation across the drinks industry that is allowing big drinks producers and major retailers to get bigger, but at what cost to the sector’s imagination and innovation?
“Wine lovers sometimes dismiss DOCG as ‘just another Prosecco’. They are very wrong to do so,” says Matteo Montone, Master Sommelier and one of the five IWSC judges who travelled to Veneto, Italy to help taste, assess and come up with the winning line up of DOCG Proseccos for the 2022 awards from across the Conegliano Valdobbiadene DOCG. Here we reveal the results, plus the producers that scored over 93 points.
“Packaging, branding, and design matter. Pouring a whisky – getting your favourite glass out…remembering who you last shared it with, or who bought it for you. The label, the selection. The clink of the bottle on the glass. They’re all part of the process,” says Dan Hooper, co-founder of Yes More the drinks brand marketing agency. So how do big brands take the plunge and switch to more sustainable packaging, and even introduce refillable schemes? Hooper looks at what attempts are being made to transform drinks packaging and whether consumers actually like what they are being offered.
So, how well do you know Cava? When was the last time you spent 90 minutes delving into every nook and cranny of what different styles of Cava can potentially offer the UK wine trade? That was the task – and opportunity – for our latest panel of leading UK wine buyers who teamed up with the team at Raventós Codorníu, and its Raimat wine brand, to explore what role modern, premium Cava styles have and, the growing importance of viticulture, organic and sustainable winemaking on the region. It was also the chance to taste through a number of different Cava styles to see what potential they have across the specialist on and off-trades. Here is the first of our two part report on the Codorniu Cava Debate.
The London Wine Fair is back! After a three year forced absence the London Wine Fair team can finally re-open the doors to London Olympia and welcome the UK and international wine industry once again. Here Richard Siddle explains why it is so important for the UK drinks industry as a whole that we have a healthy and thriving trade fair that can provide the platform for us all to get back to doing business together face to face. Whether you are an exhibitor or a visitor let’s look forward to a great show.
There has been much debate in the wine industry in recent times about how it can become more diverse and inclusive. But what steps are really being taken to make sure every wine business, big or small, is doing what it can? As we get ready to come together as a sector after so long at next week’s London Wine Fair we go back to this article written in March 2021 by wine writer and commentator, Sophia Longhi, who looks to champion women through her Skin & Pulp brand, and her work across social media and in the trade. Here she sets out why having a more diverse and inclusive workplace would actually make for a stronger, more secure industry as a whole.
“The secret of great e-commerce is not technology. It’s not the best platform or even the most complex algorithms. The secret is ‘digitizing the human experience’.” At least that’s what the team at Pix, the new online wine discovery and search platform, is striving to achieve with its new platform that uses machine learning algorithms to give its customers an increasingly tailored and personalised experience. But it also uses humans too as there are just some things that computers – at least up to now – can’t do.
The challenge during the pandemic was to have a website capable of keeping up with the surge in demand from people looking to buy what they might usually do in person online. Most websites did not have to work too hard to see a huge rise in sales. Now things are back to normal, all online players are seeing a dip in sales – including Amazon. So how do you keep the consumers who suddenly came to you during Covid? Online consultant and former wine merchant, Simon Huntington shares his advice and says it all comes down to understanding what it is they want and need.
It was Bordeaux winemaker Gavin Quinney of Chateau Bauduc who once coined the phrase “Twitter is for show, but email is for dough,” when talking about how to build up an online wine retail business. It is very much the approach that Eamon FitzGerald has taken in setting up his own e-commerce platform, WineSpark, which has borrowed a few tips and techniques from his days at Naked Wines to build up a strong email database that is now driving his move into online wine retailing.
“Rather than have cellars full of wine ageing quietly in barrels, that tell you the plot, varieties, blend and vintage, why not bring them to life and include the name and a QR link to the back story of the customer or customers that have invested in it and become part of that producer and winemaker’s success.” That’s a vision of a genuinely consumer-first driven wine businesss that your customers are being offered – and are increasingly demanding – from the brands and companies they invest in. Richard Siddle explains why drinks producers need to wake up to the fact they no longer own the brands they produce – their target consumers do. And if they don’t those drinkers will vote with their feet and buy into brands that believe in them.
“2021 might not be a natural successor to the three warm vintages preceding it but the early indications are that there will be plenty to like.” So says Guy Seddon, Corney & Barrow’s senior fine wine buyer, as he and his team prepare to hit Bordeaux for the en primeurs, the first campaign in the flesh since the 2018 vintage. Much was made of the difficulty of the 2021 harvest but how will the wines shape up and which vintages will 2021 most be like?
There’s only thing that can match receiving a well thought out gift – sending one. But promoting brands as a potential gift is a difficult balance to get right for drinks producers and retailers alike. Here Tom Harvey, co-founder of the YesMore Drinks Marketing Agency, shares the five steps any brand, website or retailer can take to make sure they get their drinks gift marketing right and don’t look like they are trying to exploit a commercial opportunity.
Wine buyers have arguably never had more choice who they work with to help fill their lists. Whether they are a sommelier buying wine for an independent restaurant, or a major chain looking to refresh their offer there are now so many wine importers to go to. Harry Crowther should know in his role as UK wine buyer for online wine site, Good Pair Days. Here he celebrates that diversity and raises a glass to all the smaller importers, many of whom were at the recent SITT tasting, who are now giving him and his fellow buyers so many interesting wines to discover.
As Romania’s biggest wine exporter who supplies wine to countries all over the world and deals with arguably more customers, across more channels in the UK than any other wine producer in the world, Philip Cox, co-founder of Cramele Recas knows what he is talking about. So when he sits down to write a highly charged opinion piece that, in his words, effectively warns of an “apocalyptic storm” taking place across all areas of wine packaging – from glass, to labels, screwcaps and cardboard – then it’s wise to sit up, take notice and start planning.