If you want to be taken seriously as a premium spirit brand then you have to be listed in all the key style bars in the country, that’s when you know you have a critical mass to take to the next stage. It’s so much harder in wine as there are simply too many alternatives in your category to choose from. But for English sparkling wine, which very much wants to play in those premium circles, being listed in all the right bars and restaurants is now very much a given, but few outlets take English wine quite as seriously as the Coral Room at the Bloomsbury hotel which, as Helen Arnold discovers, claims to have one of the largest – if not the largest – selection in the country, both by the glass and the bottle.
Whisper it quietly but German wines are very much back in vogue, or at least they are amongst the cooler, hip and happening ends of the wine market, particularly amongst younger wine drinkers not exposed to some of Germany’s less flattering exports in the 1970s and 1980s. In fact Germany is enjoying such a renaissance that it can put on a tasting featuring 51 producers (and their 150 plus wines) that are not currently represented in the UK. Producers that have been selected by a pre-tasting panel made up of UK buyers, merchants and sommeliers, some of whom have kindly shared what we can expect at next week’s Get It On tasting on October 25.
Describing someone as a ‘maverick’ is not normally something you would do to their face. It might be used to describe someone in a flattering way, but it essentially means someone who sits outside the ordinary and does everything but follow the norm, which can sometimes be misconstrued. But describe a winemaker as a maverick and they’ll probably be pretty pleased as it is more about the wines they make, than how they conduct themselves as a person. Which brings us to Wines of Argentina’s approach to wine events, which appropriately enough recently shone the light on its own country’s generation of maverick winemakers. Harry Crowther went along for the ride.
The process of choosing what wines end up on the list of a top London establishment can often look like a dark art. How do those brands, products and special wines end up there? Alistair Morrell lifts the lid on the Hakkasan Group’s, one of not just the city’s but world’s most high profile restaurant group’s, selection process, and talks to Christine Parkinson, its longstanding director of wine about how she goes about it and the role of her all important tasting panel.
It’s a well known saying in business – and in life – that you can only really appreciate success when you have been through disappointments and knock backs along the way. For Roger and Sue Jones, and their award winning team at The Harrow at Little Bedwyn, this week has been one of those that certainly fit into the knock back category. For after 12 years they lost their Michelin star. After the initial disappointment, Roger Jones reflects on what might have been the reasons for Michelin’s decision, and, in this frank, honest and brave account, looks ahead for what could be in store for him, his wife and business partner, Sue, and their team as they looks to expand and grow into new areas, take on different projects and prove there is very much life without a Michelin star.
When he’s not helping to source and sell wine to Bibendum’s premium on-trade accounts, its on-trade channel director, John Graves, likes nothing more than packing up his tent and bike and heading to France for his summer holidays. Here he shares his loves and hates about the long summer months and why he doesn’t travel far without PG Wodehouse, Miles Davis and some sardines for the BBQ.
With an ever growing portfolio of restaurants, bars and hotels it’s a wonder leading restaurateur Jason Myers has the time for a summer holiday at all. But he also loves spending time with his wife, and business partner, Shara, and his two kids, which this year means taking in some wine trips too, exploring new areas of France, and sitting down for some escapist fun with James Bond or Star Wars film.
Spend any time with restaurateur and wine writer Mike Turner and you’ll know what great company he is, but what does he like to get up to when he has some spare time in the summer? That’s if he manages to get any at all having just opened his new restaurant, La Ferme, in Primrose Hill. When he does he’ll be sitting down to old episodes of Red Dwarf and working out the rights and wrongs of kidnapping….if it’s all for a good cause.
So we’re into August, England are winning test matches, the sun is still shining and we’re all taking in turns to head off on holiday. In the first of a series of Q&As with leading figures in the trade we ask Greene King’s Andrew Ingham to kick things off by sharing what he’s up to this year along with what else he loves about the summer months.
We read about all the various wine promotions that go on throughout the year, but we rarely actually get to see what restaurants, bars and wine merchants have done to support them. Here Joan Torrents, well known in the trade for his buying and sourcing wine career, explains how and why he and his wife got so carried away by Wines of Germany’s 31 Days of Riesling promotion they sourced and listed 31 Rieslings for their London wine bar, Pantry & Co.
For years it was the US that was at the heart of the craft beer revolution, but times are changing and slowly the UK is being seen by brewers as the place to showcase and sell their craft beer. Which is good news for the London Craft Beer Festival, an event that has built such a reputation since it started six years ago that its organisers, Daniel Sylvester and Greg Wells, personally invite the brewers that are able to attend.
Walk into any high end bar and you can be pretty much guaranteed the bar staff can tell you anything you want to know about the 100s of bottles of spirits they have on their back bar. How they are made, where they are made and which combinations work best together. But ask them about wine and the conversation is likely to be a little shorter. Which is why wine consultant, Harry Crowther, is staring a new wine training course to help even the best bar staff get more knowledgeable and excited about wine.
Regardless of what type of industry you are in the challenge for any business is to be able say, or at least, claim what they are famous for. The key values, attributes or achievements your company, be it a drinks producer, distributor, retailer or restaurant have that mean your customers want to spend money or do business with you. Here leading hotelier, Geoff Andrews of WorldHotels, explains why good, genuine, relevant storytelling is vital to every one of its hotels’ success.
Andre’ Mannini, operations director for the M Restaurant Group, explains why he hopes its new ‘M-indful Days’ initiative will help its staff better manage their own stress and any potential mental health issues whilst working in what is the demanding environment of a high-end premium dining restaurant, whilst also giving them some time away from those daily pressures for the benefit of the team and their customers.
Sommeliers from some of the country’s top Michelin restaurants went palate to palate, spittoon to spittoon last week at the Bellavita Expo in London, dedicated to showcasing the best in Italian food and wine, in a competition to find the UK’s Best Sommelier with the greatest knowledge of Italian wine. To do so they needed to show their blind tasting, writing and service skills in a closely fought event…
If you stripped back any wine list to its core, best selling lines, then Italy would have to be one of the go to countries. Push a little further into Italy and then Tuscany would also come to the top. If you had to pick out a handful of producers within Tuscany, then the Frescobaldi family would come to the fore. Which is why the new Sommelier prize from the IWSC in partnership with Marchesi Frescobaldi is expected to be in big demand.
We are well and truly into awards season with seemingly gongs being handed out for everything from wines, to global song contests, to footballers of the year. Today it’s the turn of sommeliers and the finals of the Best UK Sommelier competition organised by, who else, the UK Sommelier Association in association with Villa Sandi. Leading sommeliers from all over the country will be competing to find out who is going to walk away with the overall crown.
How is it best to promote English and Welsh sparkling wine in a restaurant? Do you align it with champagne? Serve it as an alternative to prosecco? Are the prices seen as too high by the customer? All these questions and more are answered by Sue Jones co-owner of Michelin star restaurant The Harrow at Little Bedwyn, that has regularly won awards for its innovative and extensive wine list. In charge of the wine list and front-of-house team at The Harrow, Sue, together with husband and chef Roger, has been an early adopter of English and Welsh sparkling wine.
With the dust settling on the financial woes of Conviviality, it is back to business for both Bibendum and Matthew Clark, the latter unveiling its business goals in the on-trade cocktail market. Victor Smart witnessed the final of Stir It Up, a cocktail competition that, along with countryside workshops and an online advice portal is spearheading the company’s summer cocktail communications.
Richard Bigg is such a larger than life character that even his name could have been dreamt up by some Hollywood talent agency. Which is quite appropriate as his life would make for one of those cracking biopics, such are the wide and varied things he has done in what is still only a relatively short career. We might all know him as arguably kicking into life the whole Spanish and tapas dining scene in the UK, with his Camino group of restaurants, but, as Richard Siddle discovers there is so much more to who on the surface seems so quiet and unassuming.