Once a staple of the tasting calendar, the Comité Interprofessionnel du vin de Champagne annual London tasting has been something of a moveable feast in recent years, as the CIVC has experimented with new locations and formats. After last year’s event at the London Wine Fair fell a bit flat, it was time to think again. Stepping into the gap, a communications guru and a new, more commercial, approach for Taste Champagne London 2019. So did it fizz? Chris Wilson went along for The Buyer to deliver his report card.
If you are looking forward to your summer holiday and putting your feet up for a while, then spare a thought for all the Masters of Wine students around the world who have just gone through the final series of exams for the wine industry’s equivalent of the Olympics. Only it is a lot easier to win a gold medal than it is to get the highly coveted MW letters after your name. Here we wind the clock back a year to last June when Richard Siddle analysed just what it means to be an MW in the pressurised world of the wine industry. It is one thing having the knowledge, but how good are you applying it to the hard commercial realities of doing business and buying and selling wine.
Sales of sweet wine began dipping about 20 years ago, just at the wrong time for the wines of Tokaj. This famed wine producing region of Hungary used to provide wines to grace the tables of the kings and queens of Europe, reputedly a favourite of the Sun King himself, Louis XIV. Next year will mark 100 years since the damaging Treaty of Trianon, followed by a 20th century of political strife, but the wines themselves are increasingly consistent and top class. Seeing first hand the labour, time, and effort that go into each bottle, Mike Turner believes that these wines deserve a place on wine lists across the country and current prices are a steal for such a quality product.
As Australia looks back on one of the hottest summers in its history, Giles Cooke MW says it should be a clarion call to all of the country’s wine industry to seriously wake up to the climate change challenge. Whilst he and other smaller winemakers are busy introducing more climate-friendly, robust grape varieties, like Nero d’Avolo at Thistledown Wines he set up with Alliance Wine’s Fergal Tynan MW in the Riverland, most of the major producers are burying their heads in the sands and carrying on regardless with water guzzling varieties like Chardonnay and Shiraz. The time, he says, for action and change has come.
The Languedoc means many things to different people. One of the world’s largest wine regions, with 23 different appellations and 19 PGIs, the Languedoc has been questioning its own identity of late. Two years ago it was changing its name to Occitanie, but that hasn’t taken root, instead some of the appellations such as Sommières are going the opposite direction and lobbying hard to remove the word Languedoc completely – in much the same way that Coteaux du Languedoc changed itself to AOC Terrasses Du Larzac, and managed to start increasing its prices. Victor Smart, travelled the region and discovered success stories and improving quality, with the Far East picking up on Languedoc’s strengths, and a heavy emphasis on more sustainable viticulture.
Anyone who has ever met Mike Turner will know he is no stranger to using three words when one will do. When it comes to his passion for sustainable, organic, and biodynamic winemaking, however, he’s more than happy for the on-trade to group these together with terms that show off an ethos to the wine buyers of the UK. Bibendum’s “Mindful Winemaking” push is welcome and timely and, he argues, makes our lives so much easier in promoting a more ethically sound product that there are no excuses not to get involved anymore.
Building a community online is now crucial if you are looking to sell wine or spirits direct to consumers. In fact it is important even if you are relying on traditional routes to market. Consumers are increasingly looking to get closer to the brands, retailers and services they trust and believe in. Jeremy Thomson, founder of Common Collective,
explains how brands and operators can use effective social media and content to create a community online that can eventually become your customer base and biggest fans.
Talk to a major drinks buyer, be it for a big supermarket chain, restaurant group or pub chain, and ask them what the biggest bugbear they have about their suppliers and the chances are they will talk about the skills of some of the account managers they have to work with and, in particular, how good they are at getting the right deal and contract for their business. It might seem a strange thing to actually complain about, but for any partnership or contract to work then you need both sides to be working together for mutual benefit, according to business training expert, Nicole Soames. Here’s her top seven tips on how to improve your negotiating skills.
There has been countless words and reports already written about the 2018 harvest in Bordeaux and what wines we can expect from this vintage. But if you really want to know what is going on then go and ask an independent winemaker producing his own wine in Bordeaux, with no axes to grind or PR to spin. Like Gavin Quinney of Château Bauduc who also happens to be one of the leading and most respected commentators on the overall Bordeaux wine scene. Here are his main takeaways from what looks like being a very good year.
UB40’s song ‘Red, Red Wine’ has been a part of all our lives since 1983 – whether we wanted it or not. Played at discos, parties, weddings, conferences, and even funerals. It’s the song that made the band world famous. Fast forward to 2019 and the original UB40 has split up but lives on with two of its original members, UB40 with Ali (Campbell) and Astro. So when the chance came for them to turn what had always been an interest in wine into actually making a wine, they jumped at the chance. Alistair Morrell explains how it happened and why it is far more than just a celebrity wine brand.
The Majestic Wine saga continues to throw up twists and turns as chief executive, Rowan Gormley, looks to reshape and rebrand as a strong and sustainable Naked Wines business into the new financial year. Discussions will be ongoing and the future will likely be uncertain for employees up until, and even potentially after, the investor presentation on June 13. Mike Turner experienced first hand during his days in the City the plight as an employee seeing his livelihood discussed and deliberated in the press, and offers some well meant advice to Gormley and Naked Wines about how it handles its communications and support to its staff during this time of uncertainty.
The global phenomenon of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc continues to sell huge quantities around the world. The winegrowers, however, are not content to rest on their laurels and continue to experiment and discuss the next steps for this global wine brand. Mike Turner recently attended the 2019 Sauvignon Blanc Conference in Blenheim to hear all about these next steps and came away with his own opinions on what’s needed in the coming years – looking at site selection, experiments in the cellar, climate change and making lower alcohol wines.
So you have your business plan all sorted, know who your target audience is and think you have a product or service that they are going to love. But how do you make them even know you exist, never mind part with money to buy what you have? In part two of his series of articles on how to get on top of your marketing, Jeremy Thomson of the Common Collective, looks at the different marketing channels that are available and picks out the ones that are most likely to be relevant to you.
The trickle of wineries that are converting to organics has become a steady stream in the last few years as both producers and consumers change their view on the quality and trading potential of this segment of industry. One subset of these conversions is those wineries pushing into the world of biodynamics. Despite being often misunderstood, and occasionally treated with flippant disdain, Mike Turner argues that says more about the commentator than the practices themselves, and hopes more wineries follow the lead of the brilliant Millton Vineyard and take the plunge in the coming years.
Ever stopped and wondered what makes you buy one shampoo or conditioner brand over another? Or what toothpaste you trust for your teeth? A large part of that decision making will come down to the power that brand has over you in terms of the messages and values it stands for. Yet in wine the vast majority of products all look and feel the same. It does not have to be that way, says advertising consultant Alex Ririe, who has helped a raft of major drinks brands stand out from the competition.
With an absence of a generic Champagne tasting event in the UK this year, the gap is being filled by a variety of privately-run events. Cue The Wine Gang’s Champagne and Sparkling Wine Festival which takes place on April 25 in Central London in which, for the first time, the four wine experts will be pitting Champagne against all manner of other sparklers – including fizz from Croatia and Japan. Anthony Rose, one of the original members of The Wine Gang, explains the thinking behind the event and what makes these four ‘Mousse-keteers’ such a special group of wine experts.
Remember the closing scene from Rocky? When he has his showdown with Apollo? As humans we love stories, especially ones with symbolic meanings like Rocky. Stories don’t just activate the “language processing” left side of our brain, but the right side too, which triggers feelings and emotions. Sudhir Kumar, marketing director from Origin, discusses why storytelling is important in brand marketing, and what drinks businesses can learn from the cult boxing film Rocky.
For Silvano Brescianini, head of the Franciacorta Consortium, the rise of Prosecco has been a good thing because it has introduced a whole new demographic to Italian sparkling wine. But quality will out, he believes, and that can only be good news for Franciacorta and its quest to firmly establish itself in the premium on-trade. Victor Smart tasted the bubbles at London’s HIDE restaurant.
Chile has historically only had a small number of iconic wines but that is all set to change argues Geoffrey Dean. Fresh from two weeks of travelling through the country, he reports that there is a second tier of wine producers who are all vying for the equivalent of a ‘Champion’s League’ spot and making legitimate claims to be the ‘next big thing’. Dean meets the winemakers and tastes the wines – highlighting those that he thinks should be on every sommelier’s radar.
With the rise of our homegrown fizz making such a big splash, our very own globe-trotting Chef Editor, who is also the Ambassador for The Champagne and Sparkling Wine World Championships takes a global look at the Sparkling Wine industry. The use of the term Non Vintage, pricing, the disregard for Cava and MCC, the rise of ‘new’ countries like India and China, and where Champagne sits… all this and much more in an insightful report from a man who used to drink Dom Perignon while his rugby teammates were drinking pints.