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.
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.
In a night of high drama Matteo Furlan from The Ritz was crowned the Best Sommelier UK of the year last night, organised by the UK Sommelier Association, narrowly pipping MASH’s Salvatore Caetano and the Dorchester’s Noemie Favart to the post in a tightly-fought contest. Peter Dean was a judge at Le Meridien Hotel Picadilly and had a ringside seat as all the drama unfolded – with each finalist having to perform seven taxing tasks in just 30 minutes. Luckily the spirits tasting was not in the running order before decanting the 1985 Lynch Bages.
If you look around the world of sport and entertainment then there are a whole host of individuals who have achieved all their goals and targets in life before they have even turned 30. Bjorn Borg retired at only 26, fellow tennis star, Justine Henin, was even younger at 25. Now can we introduce Marc Almert. Who at the age of 28 has already reached the peak of his career as the ASI’s Best Sommelier of the World 2019. Here he explains how he has achieved so much so young and why winning Wines of South Africa’s Sommelier Cup was key to his future success story and why he is so happy to be part of the final judging session in September.
“Winemaking is undergoing a quiet revolution in Argentina, and this vintage exemplifies this better than any other I have experienced.” A strong statement in itself, but coming from Phil Crozier, one of the most respected trade figures for his knowledge and experience of Argentine wine, then that really is something. Here he explains, in his new role as Europe and UK ambassador for Wines of Argentina, just what is happening in Argentina and why he is particularly excited about its latest Barullo Session that is all about shining the light on its new wave of lighter, brighter, fresher wines that are ideal for its Summer Solstice tasting.
The entry process for the Best Sommelier UK competition is nearing its close as the deadline ticks down to the finals on June 3. Here Andrea Rinaldi, president of the UK Sommelier Association, explains how the competition, now in its fifth year came about, and why just being selected to take part in the final competition is an achievement in itself. He also explains how the competition works and what it is looking for in the winning candidate.
As a South African Gareth Ferreira, head sommelier at Core by Clare Smyth, is understandably proud of how far his country’s wines have come in the last 10 years. Here he explains why he is therefore so pleased to be involved in the finals of the judging of this year’s Wines of South Africa’s Sommelier Cup competition in South Africa in September. He also gives his advice on what sommeliers need to do to stand out from the rest and stand a chance of winning such a prestigious event.
Wines of South Africa’s Sommelier Cup competition is not just an opportunity for leading sommeliers around the world to showcase their skills and their knowledge of South African wine, it has proven to be a melting pot of sommelier talent that has helped them hone their skills, as many of the past winners and finalists have gone on to become their own country’s national sommelier winners with the overall 2016 winner, Marc Almert, going on to become the ASI Best Sommelier of the World 2019. Here’s how you can get involved in this year’s competition.
When it comes to really understanding and being able to explain the differences and nuances in an emerging country’s wine styles, then it helps if you happen to have been born and bred there. Which is why Zsofi Kiss is so enjoying being able to share her experience and love of Hungarian wines, the country where she grew up, to the adventurous and inquisitive customers at 67 Pall Mall. Here she looks back on her career to date and her first year at London’s most prestigious private club for wine.
How come when a couple go out for the night it’s the man who is always given the wine list? How come less than 15% of Master Sommeliers are women? How come women winemakers are not given the same spotlight as men? These are some of the questions asked by Carole Bryon, owner and manager of London’s hot new wine bar and eatery Lady of the Grapes. Bryon has made her focus women winemakers and the approach is paying off, as Peter Dean found out.
“We like to offer things that go beyond the usual suspects. We’re led more by what tastes lovely in the glass than ticking the grape variety boxes.” Welcome to the wine buying strategy – and philosophy – of bar owner and wine buyer, Kate Hawkings, who has helped pioneer and drive the wine scene in Bristol with first, Bell’s Diner where she helped shape the wine list and then Bellita, which only champions female winemakers. Hawkings has a fresh, straight forward approach to wine buying which is 100% focused on putting wines she knows her customers will want to have in their glasses.
When it comes to Hungarian wine February is all about celebrating Furmint and Wines of Hungary’s Furmint February promotion as the flag bearer for the country’s wine and, in particular, its journey into the UK market. But there are clearly so many more wine styles and varieties to discover. Here we talk to Hungary’s award winning and champion sommelier Szik Matyás about why he thinks Hungarian wines can be such a success on wine lists across the premium on-trade.
The beauty of working in such a unique restaurant as China Tang is that it attracts everyone from A list film stars, political leaders, the Royal family, through to loyal guests of the Dorchester Hotel above it. Which, in turn, gives head of wine Igor Sotric such an open playing field on which to source and sell interesting wines from all over the world. Here he explains what wines sell best and why iconic producers such as California’s Orin Swift are as much in demand as the classic names from Bordeaux and Burgundy.
Last month we were able to take an in-depth look at just how seriously Bibendum PLB takes training, learning and development within the group, not only for its own staff, but particularly when offering added value services to its customers. Here we take a look on the other side of the fence and talk to Johanna Wimmer, head of training and development at The Ivy Collection, about the challenges it faces in training its own staff and how it works closely with Bibendum to offer specialised drinks and wine training and education.
As one of the country’s oldest and most influential wine wholesalers, Davy’s Wine Merchants is very well placed to plot a route for the rest of the industry for the year ahead. Ahead of its annual portfolio tasting next month, operations and purchasing director, Andrew Chudley not only looks at what buyers can expect to taste from its range, including
a number of new producers, but also looks at the opportunities and challenges the on-trade faces in the year ahead and the role suppliers and wholesalers have in addressing them.
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…
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.