The news yesterday that Gerard Basset had died after his short illness with cancer was met with great sadness, but also an outpouring of admiration, memories and tributes to one of the most respected, influential and clearly loved wine figures in the world. He was also one of the most decorated and unique in being able to have MW, MS, MBA and even an OBE after his name. Here, in our own personal tribute to Gerard, we share the interview we did with him in the late summer of 2017 that at the time marked 10 years since he and his wife, Nina, opened Hotel TerraVina. We also looked back over such a memorable life that touched and influenced so many people. Here’s to you Gerard…You’ll Never Walk Alone.
The Zsirai Winery covers three of the most important wine regions in Hungary: Tokaj, Somló and Villány. Each region has its own winemaking teams producing authentic wines from that area. Founded in 2005 by the late Csaba Zsirai it is now run by his daughters Petra and Kata and a small team who want to carry on and bring to life his dream of producing wines from indigenous Hungarian wine varieties. Here Mate Csanaky, export director, how they are going about it.
Miren de Lorgeril is blazing a trail as the first female president of the CIVL, the Languedoc wine region’s generic body. As chief executive and co-owner of the family estate, Maison Lorgeril, she is well placed to oversee the ongoing development of the Languedoc, France’s largest wine producing region, as well as the world’s biggest centre of organic wine production. Passionate about sustainability and the further development of organic production, she tells Helen Arnold about her plans for the region.
As a former managing director of Bargain Booze Keith Webb knows how to promote and sell beer. He also knows a good business opportunity when he sees one. So when he had the chance to ask a question at a Q&A session with his favourite band, Wolf Alice, he asked if they would like to come on a tour of the local Manchester craft brewery, Seven Bro7hers that he is helping to advise. When they said they “yes” it was the start of a relationship that has seen the launch of Wolf Alice’s very own craft lager – Yuk Brew. Here Keith explains how it all came together…
For the UK wine trade, January marks not only the start of a new year, but when all our attention turns to Bourgogne Week and the chance for buyers, merchants, sommeliers and retailers to discover and taste the latest vintage available on the market. After a disappointing 2016 harvest in volume, the double good news for all buyers is that production levels for 2017 were much better and, just as importantly, quality levels are good, says the Bourgogne Wine Board’s (BIVB) François Labet.
Premium Belgium beer has long been a go to category for beer aficionados, in fact, they have arguably played an important role in creating demand for the boom in craft beers that we have seen from so many different countries. But for Duvel Moortgat the challenge is to keep pushing the boundaries on what Belgium beer can offer, and in particular for its two flagship brands, Duvel and Vedett. Here John Wood, UK managing director, assesses the premium beer opportunity.
Has Sir Ian Botham ever done anything half-heartedly? In some ways it is not a surprise that the first range of wines he has produced under his own name are already selling out on allocation. But then this is not a celebrity putting their name to a collection of pre-ordained wines. It’s a hobby that has potentially morphed into what he hopes could be a career that he becomes equally if not more well known and respected for what he did with a cricket bat and ball. As its the New Year we thought we would revisit this interview Richard Siddle had with Botham where he shares his passion for wine that has seen 40 years of friendships and relationships with winemakers turn into what he can proudly call the Botham Wines series.
It’s been an exciting 2018 for Jonathan Kleeman. With already bags of sommelier experience under his belt working at The Ritz, Social Eating House and the two Michelin starred Quattro Passi, this was the year that Kleeman joined two start up business, initially at new Japanese fusion restaurant, Four Degree in London, before being signed up as head of buying for a new wine merchants business in Bishops Stortford, Twisted Cellar. It’s a wonder he found time to take a break for Christmas at all…
It has been an eventful year for wine writer and communicator Sorcha Holloway. Her breakthrough Twitter forum #ukwinehour has gone from strength to strength and has brought wine conversation and debate to a huge international audience. Hear she shares the highs and lows of the last 12 months and also looks back on an important week for her close family and how they all spent Christmas together.
Giles Cooke has had a busy 2018, dividing his time between his growing Australian wine business, Thistledown Wines, and the UK wine importing and distribution business, Alliance Wine, that he is probably more well known in the drinks trade for. So spending time at home in Edinburgh with his family is even more special, particularly for Christmas. Here he shares what he got up to this year as well as looking back on what has been an eventful 2018.
There are many ways to spend Christmas Day, we will all have our own traditions and ways of doing things and our own personal guilty pleasures, but most of all it is a time to hopefully take a collective deep breath and enjoy great food, wine, spirits and friends and family. In the first of our festive Q&As we ask Richard Ellison, founder of Wanderlust Wine, to share what he will be up to on Christmas Day, and some of his own personal festive favourites, which means spending time with an alternative Royal family.
Step forward anyone who can give a two minute talk on exactly what blockchain technology is all about, and why it has been heralded as the next big thing in business? Thankfully there are specialist blockchain experts out there to do that for us. Like the new team behind start up blockchain business, Chac, that believes blockchain technology could have major benefits for the drinks industry. James Aufenast, one of the four partners in the business, and a former drinks journalist with his own specialist knowledge of the drinks industry, explains why we should all take notice of what blockchains can do for our own companies.
Is a wine list really credible and going to be taken seriously if it does not have Côtes du Rhône wines on there? You would think not, but to help restaurants and wine merchants bring a new focus to their Côtes du Rhône range, the region’s generic body ran a promotional campaign in October calling on key operators to work with their suppliers to take on extra wines and do whatever they could to highlight the different styles of Côtes du Rhône and Côtes du Rhône Villages be it through tastings, special events and their social media channels. Here’s how leading wine merchants, Tanners and the specialist Chelsea Creperie got behind the campaign.
Now here’s a quote to stop you in your tracks: “Sadly, our industry does not like the rebels, the misfits and those who see things differently. Nevertheless, offer inspiration, seek your own direction, be honest and true to yourself, fearless and above all, follow your ambition.” Powerful stuff and the kind of words you might expect to hear from a leading politician, musician or actor. But no. This is the business – and life – philosophy of Stuart McCloskey who has what he believes quite a unique approach to running a wine retail business. One that includes paying all his producers up front, months before a bottle of wine is sold through his store and the price he has for his wines is the same for the trade as they are for private customers. A business model that he says is based on being entirely self funded and independent. So how does he do it? Sorcha Holloway, founder of #ukwinehour caught up with him at his store in deepest, darkest Kent.
We only have to look at our Google Analytics or Twitter and Instagram feeds to see how popular articles on alternative grape varieties and what you might call the old but new emerging wine producing countries are with sommeliers and premium on-trade buyers. It’s why we have created our dedicated Grape Unknown newsletter and place such a focus on bringing those type of articles to you. Clearly one of the most interesting and exciting of those countries is Hungary. Its new generation of wines and winemakers have really caught the imagination of the trade. But it is one thing being interested about the country, it’s quite another to go ahead and list its wines. Which is why The Buyer teamed up with Wines of Hungary to host the first of our new 90 minute format Sommelier Workshop sessions to give buyers, producers and importers the chance to share their experiences in an open debate and tasting format.
2017 was a year to forget for most wine producing countries, but particularly in Italy where frosts and rain did so much damage to many of its iconic regions. Like Soave. But thankfully conditions are back to normal in 2018 and the region is back on the front foot driving not only a quality agenda, but putting the focus firmly on biodiversity and working on the long term future of its vines, as Aldo Lorenzoni, director of the Consorzio di Soave explains.
If you are going to invest in a winery in Hungary then you are giving yourself every chance of success by doing so in Eger, widely recognised as one of the country’s most premium winemaking regions. It is known locally as the ‘Hungarian Burgundy’ and even has its own Grand Cru and Premier Cru classification vineyards producing a range of international and local varieties including Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet Franc and Furmint and Kékfrankos. The Buyer talks to Nimród Kovács, owner of the Kovács Nimród Winery.
To try to unravel and understand Chile’s position in the premium on-trade, The Buyer teamed up with Ellis Wines and its Chilean producer partner, Chono Wines, to bring
together a group of senior wine trade professionals, buyers and sommeliers to debate what are the opportunities and challenges for Chile as a whole. It was the chance for these leading figures to share their experiences with Chilean wines in their restaurants and businesses and look at the kinds of wines from Chile that they are looking to source and select for their wine lists.
For his first ever job in wine, Orin Swift’s Dave Phinney turned up for the interview for the position of ‘Temporary harvest worker’ in a suit and tie. He can still hear the laughter many years on. Phinney has never looked back, however. A true iconoclast, Phinney went about setting up Orin Swift, one of the most exciting new wave wineries in California and has been making wine in a style entirely of his own making – dividing the critics with his striking Californian blends that can have controversial images on their ‘surfer dude’ labels. Chris Wilson hooked up with him in London for an in-depth chat about where American winemaking style is at right now, how he fits into the business of wine and how the E&J Gallo buyout got him out of a very tight corner.
In the first of a series of quick fire Q&A interviews with leading wine buyers, sommeliers, importers and distributors on how they work, what sort of wines they are looking to buy and the opportunities and challenges they face in their respective businesses we start with Nik Darlington, founder of Red Squirrel Wine, that even in its short time of importing wine has built up a strong reputation for being one of the most astute and innovative distributors in the UK where alternative varieties are very much to the fore. Here’s how he sees the world through Red Squirrel’s eyes.