If you were blown away by the excitement, dynamism, and buzz of the first two New Wave tastings, highlighting and celebrating some of the best winemaking talent in South Africa quality, then you really are in for a treat with its return to London on September 3. Robin Davis, co-founder of the New Wave tasting, explains why his own distribution business, Swig, is so keen to be involved again and why he believes it is going to be “easily be the best tasting yet”. In the first of a series of articles with each of the five importers involved, and some of their key winemakers, Richard Siddle talks to Davis about what we can expect. (Main picture: BlankBottle’s Pieter Weiser competing in the Vintners Surf Classic, picture by Thys Lombard).
Five years ago when Silicon Valley billionaire Michael Baum expressed an interest in buying Château de Pommard, his lawyers advised against it. But Baum liked the direct-to-consumer business model, the cellar master Emmanuel Sala and took quite a shine to this historic Burgundy estate. 90% of the current 250,000 bottle annual output is sold direct to consumer, but Baum is putting the building blocks in place to quadruple that. Geoffrey Dean travelled to Burgundy to meet Baum and his team, see their plans and, of course, to taste the wines.
When the Languedoc’s Domaine Gayda got some of the world’s top wine critics to blind-taste Syrah matured in 9 different vessels in London last month, it was a ground-breaking exercise in sharing a key facet of the winemaker’s craft – how does elevage in completely different vessels alter the wine? And which is more palatable? The results were as surprising as they were useful to winemaker Vincent Chansault and winery chief Tim Ford. So what effect will the learnings have on how they are going to blend future vintages of their flagship wine, the Syrah-based Chemin de Moscou, and how will it affect sales?
A man of many hats, The Buyer contributing editor and chef at large, Roger Jones was once again a judge at the Champagne Taittinger UK Sommelier of the Year 2019 finals. Jones was sitting on a panel that included previous winners of the award such as Clement Robert MS, Kathrine Larsen, Laura Rhys MS, Xavier Rousset MS and Ronan Rayburn MS, and saw Vineyard Hotel head sommelier Romain Bourger deliver a faultless display to land himself the crown of Champagne Taittinger UK Sommelier of the Year award on his sixth time of asking. For the Vineyard Hotel this is the fourth winner that they have nurtured.
With so many wine competitions and award initiatives around the world it can be hard for any event to stand out even if, like the International Wine & Spirit Competition, you are celebrating your 50th anniversary. Christelle Guibert, the new chief executive of for fine wines and spirits at The Conversion Group, owners of the IWSC, explains some of the radical steps she has taken to shake up the event and make it as relevant as possible to wine producers around the world and buyers in different channels of the professional wine industry.
‘Think small but act big!’ is the philosophy behind newly-formed Graft Wine, the UK importer formed by the merging together of two of our most innovative specialist importers, Red Squirrel and The Knotted Vine. In an exclusive Buyer interview Graft’s two chiefs, Nik Darlington and David Knott, talked to Chris Wilson about the reasons behind the move, where the efficiencies lie, what new wine producers they will be taking on, and also why the current economic climate both in the wine trade and broader UK economy demanded a bold step. From the off new producers will include Matthew van Heerden, Polperro, Bodegas Nekeas, Andreas Gsellmann, Domaine du Vieux Pressoir, Corvers-Kauter and Vigneti Cenci.
Before Michael Saunders goes on to explain what steps he has taken to help turnaround the Bibendum drinks distribution business, he was keen to set out exactly what he was not there to do and that’s become “a pastiche of what it was before”. “I am not here to re-write history, but do something great to help this business,” he says. Just over 12 months on from returning to the company he had spent the previous 35 years at, it looks like he is well on course to do just that. But most of all he has been able to restore the company’s reputation and win back the support of its suppliers and all important customers. Richard Siddle sat down with him to see where he now wants to take the business in the future.
As Europe reels from some of the highest temperatures it has seen in recorded history, so the impact of climate change moves higher and higher up everybody’s agenda. Familia Torres, which is 150 years old next year, has already been setting and meeting some ambitious targets in terms of reducing CO2 commissions and investing in alternative energies to help try and play a part in combatting climate change. Part of this strategy is also to start planting vines on higher ground – its latest acquired sites in Catalonia are at least five degrees cooler at 500-750m high as Miguel Torres Maczassek explains to Peter Dean.
Unless you are part of the close knit South African wine community you may not know Professor Eben Archer. But if you have enjoyed watching and experiencing how South African wines have emerged and developed over the last 20 years then you will have experienced the impact that he has had on new generation of South African winemakers during his nearly 20 years teaching wine and viticulture at the Stellenbosch University. Following his death this week we pay tribute to Professor Archer with his thoughts on South African wine that he shared with Richard Siddle during a dinner last September. Our very best go to his family, friend and the South African wine community.
With a history dating back to 1270, Frapin Cognac might not seem the most obvious candidate for a cutting edge re-invention of the cocktail but, thanks to a pioneering partnership with an importer of fine teas, that’s just what’s taking shape at the world-famous Brown’s Hotel in London’s Mayfair. ‘Aperi-TEAvo’ is a new initiative from Frapin’s importer Louis Latour Agencies with Lalani and Co, supported by an elegant tasting menu. Cognac fan and cocktail lover David Kermode, aka Mr Vinosaurus, took a tea for the team.
Liam Manton, one of the founders of Didsbury Gin, has a key bit of advice for any other brand owner or entrepreneur looking to break through in their respective channel of the drinks industry. Yes, you need to have a unique product and be 100% passionate about it, but you also need to be willing and able to walk up what he calls the “financial staircase” in order to attract the right level of investment for your business at each stage of its growth. As he explains it can, at times, be quite a steep staircase to climb.
Business entrepreneur Jackie Fast has a strong track record on working with major brands to get their key messages across and open up new markets for their products. Particularly in her days running an international sponsorship business. She is now looking to apply those same skills to her own new brand. REBEL Pi. A premium Canadian ice wine made from Roussanne. Here she explains the steps any brand, or business, should look to take when looking to open up new markets.
When Peckham-based duo Tom Bishop and Jack Vereker decided to launch their new tequila El Rayo in May it was to occupy the middle ground of the market. The UK is the fifth largest importer of tequila and yet they believe the drink is either positioned as a quick way to get drunk or else so aloof as to feel unobtainable. El Rayo’s positioning is to be an alternative to gin, based on a belief that with gin market saturation will come drinkers looking for new experiences. Bettina Hepburn caught up with them to find out whether they can seriously challenge the G&T with their T&T?
Yesterday’s memorial for Gerard Basset was a fitting tribute to one of the most legendary figures in the world of wine. It was a day of 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, with over 600 people flying in from all over the world to pay their respects. 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, 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 UK wine market has long been trying to push the average price of major wine brands up and away from the £5 to £6 price bracket. E&J Gallo went further than most when in 2010 it introduced Dark Horse to push £10. Nearly 10 years on Helen Arnold talks to head winemaker behind the brand, Beth Liston, about how it has grown, what she has brought to the label and how Gallo hopes new varieties such as Malbec can help grow not only Dark Horse’s own position, but branded wines in general.
Now there are enough famous faces that have turned their skills to winemaking to run a major event just with their wines. There are also some household names that have made a nice tidy sum from the world of spirits too. Here’s the latest. Adam Woodyatt. Better known to the public as Ian Beale, one of the original cast members in BBC’s long running soap opera, Eastenders. Here he explains to Alistair Morrell how he decided to go into the drinks industry and the ultra competitive world of gin.
Valentin Radosav at Gymkhana, Ana Maria Martinez Terol of TerraVina, Tamas Czinki and Adam Pawlowski MS of The Northcote, Lionel Periner at La Trompette, Stefan Neumann MS then at The Fat Duck, Sara Bachiorri of The Glasshouse and Romain Henry of Hibiscus all have one thing in common. They are past winners of the Sud de France Sommelier Competition. If you think you have what it take to be this year’s UK winner and go on to take part in the global competition next year, then here’s what you have to do to take part.
Of all the 1,000s of new drinkers products that are launched into the market every year, what is it about the ones that catch the eye of buyers and end up on retail shelves or drinks lists in restaurants? To find out we talked to some of the leading drinks buyers who helped judge the recent London Wine, Beer and Spirit Competitions about what they look for in a new product and how important price, value, packaging and design is in their final decision making.
The philosophy behind new Mexican bar, Hacha in London’s Dalston district is simple and brave – less is more. Don Julio brand ambassador Deano Moncrieffe who has just made Hacha one of London’s trendiest new openings believes that
customers are bewildered by the choice on offer with a well-stocked back bar, so he is offering them just 25 spirits… and they are all agave-based. Moncrieffe also believes that people still do not know how to drink tequila and mezcal properly, which is why Hacha pairs these spirits with the most amazing combinations – tequila served with homemade agave-smoked bacon and mezcal and seaweed. Bettina Hepburn caught up with Moncrieffe to learn more about what is on his exciting drinks list, and what is in store for Hacha.
“It’s fantastic. What I am living now is like a dream.” That’s how Laurent Delaunay describes the opportunity he has had to buy back his family’s estate in the heart of Burgundy and to once again make fine Burgundian wine under the Edouard Delaunay name. Here he talks to Richard Siddle about why he has decided to return to Burgundy and what he hopes to achieve now that he has his father’s estate back under family control.