As our headlines are dominated by the trials, tribulations, mergers and acquisitions amongst the largest businesses in the drinks industry, there is a whole new sector quietly emerging that could well be the successful trading model of the future. Alistair Morrell looks at the rise of the specialist wine importer and why being unique and different is going to be the key in the future rather than big and for everyone.
Whisper it gently but natural and orange wines are slowly establishing themselves in their own segment of the mainstream wine market and appearing on more premium and Michelin star wine lists. Albeit in the same way that Echo and the Bunnymen always looked a little out of place on Top of the Pops. Here Doug Wregg, one of the initial driving forces behind the rise in natural wine in his role at Les Caves de Pyrene, examines its recent success and looks to explain, re-define and assess its unique place in the overall wine market and why natural wines still continue to inspire him.
We are so used to talking about, promoting and selling fine wine, but how often do we actually stop and ask what a fine wine actually is? Look it up in a dictionary, or even a wine compendium, and you will not find an absolute definition, for fine wine is mostly in the eye of the beholder. Or is it? It was the subject of much debate at the recent Fine Minds 4 Fine Wines conference in Champagne. Cathy Huyghe was there to give her take on what fine wine can mean.
So why do we have an urge to order a Bloody Mary when on an aeroplane? Do you know when to stop when telling a story? Has 50 Shades of Grey changed your life as much as it has for Meininger magazine’s Felicity Carter? And where in the world can you sell five million mobile phones in five seconds? Questions that might not come immediately to mind, but are just an example of some of the illuminating facts, figures, debates and tastings that took place at last month’s MUST Fermenting Ideas conference in Portugal. Thankfully Sorcha Holloway was on hand to pick out the best bits…
If the world economy continues to be dominated by what trade deals different countries and continents can agree with each other then perhaps future wine and drinks events need to be organised not by which wine or spirit comes from which producer, but by trading blocs and what tariffs and costs are involved buying and importing that type of drink regardless of its quality. We are increasingly living in a world where trade deals will dictate what drinks brands and products end up being bought and sold.
The issue of mental health and stress within the workplace has quite rightly been high on the drinks and on-trade agenda over the last few months, particularly following the publicity around The Benevolent’s #NotAlone campaign. Martin Williams, the charismatic and innovative founder of M Restaurants, takes the debate a number of steps forward with a new practical initiative, driven by his operations director, Andre Mannini, that looks to really help their staff at M with a series of ‘M-indful’ days that give them the time, space and opportunity to take the foot of the pedal and look after themselves at key times of the year. It’s an industry-leading initiative for any business to follow.
If you spent thousands of pounds of your own money and years poring over research papers and taking part in endless hours of tasting, re-tasting and analysis of what’s in every glass of wine you drink, you would not imagine becoming a Master of Wine would then be your passport into becoming a major force in transforming the quality and credibility of mass market, high volume wine. But for an increasing number of Masters of Wine that’s exactly where they are making the biggest difference, says Richard Siddle.
As a wine writer and wine consultant Harry Crowther is usually drawn to the ins and outs and challenges that come with with the vagaries in winemaking. But at a specialist tasting hosted by Torres Chile into different styles of pisco, he discovered a drink that also relies enormously on the growing environment of the wine grape varieties that go into a pisco base spirit, that makes it such a fascinating style of drink to discover.
If you could create a caricature of an Australian winemaker then David Hohnen, the man behind the iconic Cape Mantelle, Cloudy Bay and McHenry Hohnen brands, would be pretty close to the mark. Blunt, to the point and by his own admission “grumpy looking” but with a sense of humour sharp enough to cut through any conversation. Joe Fattorini caught up with him last weekend on his Margaret River farm just a couple of days before it was announced he is to receive the Order of Australia.
The recent report on mental health issues within the drinks industry, and the seminar itself at the London Wine Fair where the results were unveiled, raise a number of key issues that need to be faced, understood and acted upon. But does it go far enough on what makes our industry unique – working with alcohol – and should this be singled out as a focus of Phase 2 of the campaign? Peter Dean read the report, attended the seminar and talked to the key protagonists after the event.