If you didn’t know that Burnley Miners’ Social Club is the world’s largest consumer of Bénédictine, then you obviously haven’t read That’s the Spirit! the latest book by Jonathan Ray, the drinks editor for The Spectator. In the book Ray looks at how some of the world’s most famous spirits brands came into being but also sheds some light on some of the more obscure beverages such as Tuaca, Bobby’s Schiedam Jenever, Ki No Bi Kyoto Dry Gin and Spirit of Hven Organic Summer Spirit – and also throws in some obscure morsels like the ‘Burnley Benedictine conundrum’ and how it came into being.
Hundreds of delegates gathered in Marseille for the 5th annual International Rosé Symposium. Celebrating sales success, the industry is dominated by Provence with its world-famous light pink wines, but there are clouds on the horizon, with climate change and water shortages forcing producers to embrace change, as David Kermode reports.
Three years after its inaugural international conference to celebrate its staple grape, Sauvignon Blanc, the New Zealand Wine initiative Sauvignon 2019 opened yesterday in Blenheim with two contrasting views as to the direction of its future – should it ape the Champagne model of blending with added single site expressions or look to Rioja or the Rhône for its inspiration?
As a younger wine drinking generation starts to move away from the wines their parents used to drink – in the search for quality and value – so the wines of the New Old World like Hungary and Bulgaria, plus wines from new emerging regions such as India and Uruguay, are ready to take up the slack. Justin Keay, a specialist in these ‘Grape Unknown’ wines, argues that it is not only the UK on-trade that is already benefitting but also the larger importers who are muscling in on the trend – indicating that this is going to be more than just a passing fad.
Flavours of New Zealand, the trade and consumer showcase for New Zealand wine, picked Marlborough, Hawke’s Bay and Central Otago as three key focal regions – with organisers New Zealand Winegrowers keen to stress that New Zealand wine is no ‘one-trick’ pony. The events held in both London and Dublin demonstrated that New Zealand is a wine-producing country that is both diverse in region and varietal – and is capable of far more than producing one style of Sauvignon Blanc. Peter Dean reports.
Launching a new drinks brand can be hard: identifying a need in the market, and meeting it with a product that fills a gap to the right demographic… then it’s matching the branding to the proposition. And that’s just for starters. For drinks inventor David Gluckman, the man who put The Singleton and Baileys on the map, a new drinks brand cannot be all things to all people, it needs an edge – something that eliminates a large part of the population to focus a clearly-defined offering on a select few. That’s brave and that’s what will ultimately make a successful new brand… that sells.
Chinese restaurants are not incentivised to take a chance on new Chinese wines – because near zero historical demand means they are more interested in improving their crispy duck recipe than their wine list. That, combined with massive domestic consumption, and the difficulty of competing price-wise with the rest of the world has meant that we in the West know little or nothing about Chinese wine. Author Janet Wang hopes to change all that with her new book The Chinese Wine Renaissance, that explains why the Chinese wine industry has to be seen in its cultural context. Wang also picks her top 6 Chinese wines available in the UK and which are the top producers for us to keep an eye on.
Paul Mabray is one of the most important and influential voices we have in the wine and drinks industry. Primarily because he stands with one foot firmly outside the sector as a technology and consumer trends expert looking to offer services and solutions as an observer and analyst of what is going in the wine industry rather than be involved in producing or directly selling any wine himself. Here is his take on what the big challenges and opportunities facing all those in the wine and drinks sectors are in 2019 and why being able to sell directly to consumers at home is going to be the real game changer.
A new winemaking style, new cuvees, new brand marketing, a new look, new HQ, new faces – there is hardly anything about Nicolas Feuillatte that has stayed the same in recent months. Number one Champagne brand in France, number three in the world and unbelievably a company that is still only 40 years old, Peter Dean was granted a rare audience with the key movers and shakers who are set to make a significant impact on the UK on-trade
After the big structure of the reds in 2015 and 2016, Burgundy 2017 will be noted for the round, silky tannins of the Pinots, the fact that producers didn’t over-crop and that, after a couple of warmer vintages, 2017 was a return to a more classic style of red Burgundy. The whites – from Chablis to the Côte d’Or – have a nice balance between ripeness and tension. Here’s Bibendum’s wine buyer Robert Mathias’ take on the 2017 vintage.
Finally Burgundy gets a bit of good fortune with a new vintage that is good in both quality and quantity. Corney & Barrow’s Burgundy buyer Guy Seddon talks through how the 2017 vintage developed over the year for all the producers whose wines they are offering in this new release. He also highlights two trends – how a lightness of touch is the watchword for tannin extraction in red wines, and also the greater proliferation of whole bunch, or whole-cluster vinification for reds in 2017.
Although Chablis was hit by frost again and Beaujolais suffered bad weather in a number of appelations, Burgundy in 2017 got away pretty much scot-free weather-wise. To make matters even better volumes ranged from normal to generous and the quality is looking promising particularly with the whites. But it could all have been so different. For some producers another weather-ravaged harvest could have meant curtains. Thankfully 2017 has been followed by a bumper harvest in 2018 so finally we can all start getting our hands on Burgundy again – and there is no sign of any price increases… just yet!
When it comes to knowledge about Burgundy, especially in a commercial context, there are few if any higher authorities than Jasper Morris MW. His annual report which you can find on Inside Burgundy.com is the bible for many wine buyers. In an exclusive extract Morris gives wine buyers the lowdown on Burgundy 2017, a vintage that has seen volumes come back to near normal at no expense of quality. With both red and whites, Morris lays out his buying strategy, looks at the sweet spots with both and when he feels the wines will be drinking best.
Now if you ever succumb to the lure of stopping by the pie stand on the way home from work, you’ll probably feel a little guilty as you take your first bite. Naughty but nice. But, for Bruce Jack, his love of pies growing up also taught him arguably the most important business lesson he was ever going to learn. For, as in the wine industry, there are so many pies to choose from, but which one is going to catch your eye, and why? Understand that, he says, and you have got a good chance of understanding how to run your business. Here’s Bruce’s pie business sermon…
We can all appreciate a great wine list, or identify when the sommelier just isn’t firing on all cylinders. In the case of The Vineyard Hotel in Berkshire, their wine-pairing evenings take the wine list into unchartered territory, argues Mike Turner, who says that the way the Old World wines are matched in pairs against Californian wines is a lesson for all budding sommeliers to do something extra with a wine experience – and give customers something that will live long in the memory.
Many producers of sparkling wine in the towns of Asolo, Congliano, and Valdobbiadene, that make up the heartland of old Prosecco, are thinking of dropping the name ‘Prosecco’ from their wine labels – such is the negative impact being felt by the fizz coming from the cheap and nasty industrial flatlands. Mike Turner takes to the road, panini in hand, to find out more about Asolo and what gives their Prosecco a unique selling point on a wine list.
Coldplay, Strictly, Crispy Pancakes… we all have our ‘guilty pleasures’. For drinks expert and restaurateur Mike Turner, his is Asti Spumante – a drink that, when he first discovered it, he drank with almost everything, much to the dismay of Italian sommeliers. But, despite the derision this precursor to Prosecco often gets, Mike argues it’s a serious drink with masses of skill in the making of. He visits the winemakers of Piedmont and the growers who supply the fruit and has his belief re-confirmed… Asti Spumante is a fizz that seriously needs your re-appraisal.
On the one hand English whisky is one of the most exciting, fast moving spirits categories you can find on the back bar. On the other it is still very much in its infancy, with vastly different products and no real identity about what the category is all about. Stephen Russell, co-founder of the Copper Rivet Distillery in Kent, believes English whisky needs its own charter, its own standards and benchmarks to help create a standalone industry in its own right. Here he explains why.
It is difficult when making drinks-based TV shows to get the right balance between ‘broad appeal’ and entertaining ‘those in the know’. Critics of The Wine Show complained about it not going deep enough, while those behind the show defended its entertainment-first approach. Amazon Prime has just started airing The Three Drinkers Do Scotch – a three-part series that aims to cover the entire world of Scottish whisky in just three 30 minute episodes. Mike Turner, who is a close friend of the three presenters, reckons they’ve got it just about right.
With five restaurants across Hertfordshire bearing his name, and with plans to open a sixth in the near future, Andrei Lussman is a busy man. But one thing he doesn’t have to worry about is his wine supplier, thanks to a long-standing relationship with Corney & Barrow which stretches back to the 1990’s when he worked in the company’s wine bars at the time. Here he talks to Helen Arnold about how he works with C&B to select the right wines for his restaurants and the challenge of persuading customers to get out of their wine comfort zones.