There are no hard or fast rules when it comes to buying wine for a restaurant wine list, but there are arguably more ways in which you can get it wrong, than if you play it safe with well known varieties from established regions and countries. To stand out in the new London Wine Fair Wine Buyers Awards you are going to have to do a lot more than that. One of the judges for the Restaurant and Wine Bar category, Martin Lam, explains what he thinks makes a good wine buyer.
The Côte de Beaune is still relatively under-rated compared to the Côte de Nuits, says Mentzendorff managing director Andrew Hawes, who argues that it is still possible to find great and specific terroir, coupled to availability, at prices that have not yet experienced the dramatic escalations experienced in the Côte de Nuits. Key signature wines continue to be in short supply, however, which forces buyers to explore the region looking for an alternative which, in turn, leads to lesser known appellations deservedly receiving more attention.
As there is no formal training or professional qualification for wine buying it can be hard to know if you are actually any good at it. Yes, you might have a wine list that seems to do the business, but how good are you compared to the wine buyer working for the restaurant group, wholesaler or wine merchant across the road. That’s what the new London Wine Fair Wine Buyer Awards are all about. The chance to go toe to toe with your peers to find out who actually is tippety top of the wine buying world. Christine Parkinson, so long the head of wine at the worldwide Hakkasan restaurant group, is pretty well placed to know what makes a good wine buyer or not. It’s why she is one of the judges in the Restaurant and Wine Bar category, sponsored by The Buyer. Here she explains what she thinks it takes to be a good – and award-winning wine buyer.
While demand for the classics and the upper tier of Burgundy remains as strong as ever – often outstripping supply – it is the bread-and-butter wines that consumers open every day that is key to the region’s success argues Bibendum Burgundy buyer Robert Mathias. In the on-trade the by-the-glass offering is key with top quality Bourgogne Aligoté or Mâcon Villages from serious addresses being behind this success. Bibendum is concentrating its tasting efforts on its on-trade customers this year which is why it will also be showing 2017s at events.
A little bit of stardust at an affordable price, an entry point to a quite prestigious domaine, a little extra ‘plus’ if the wines are hand-sold to an engaged customer – these are just some of the benefits of buying Bourgogne wines from Bourgogne and Mâcon appellations plus a Geographical Denomination – in this case the Bourgogne Hautes Côtes de Beaune and Bourgogne Hautes Côtes de Nuits. Many more good tips from Fields Morris & Verdin in this fifth part of a series in which The Buyer is interviewing a number of leading fine wine merchants to get their feel on how this vital region is doing and what the 2018 vintage has in store when the annual Bourgogne campaign comes to a head with Bourgogne Week.
Better quality and consistency, great QPR, an introduction to a grower’s style… a bottle at this level will encourage customers to try wines further up the scale; these are the wines to be drunk while waiting for the grander ones to come round says Sebastian Thomas at Howard Ripley. This, and many more good tips about Régionales wines + a Geographical Denomination in this fourth part of a series in which The Buyer is interviewing a number of leading fine wine merchants to get their take on how this vital region is doing and what the 2018 vintage has in store when the annual Bourgogne campaign comes to a head this week with Bourgogne Week.
Roger and Sue Jones are always full of surprises with their latest amazing scheme to wow the trade and guests alike with another wonderful food and wine experience at their multi-award winning restaurant, The Harrow at Little Bedwyn. But they have kept their biggest surprise for the end, at least for the future of The Harrow, as they have announced they are to close their much-loved, and highly respected restaurant in order to move into the slightly less stressful world of consultancy, wine judging – and (hopefully) writing for The Buyer.
Kingsland Drinks has been willing to cast its wine buying net out far and wide over the last 12 months in order to find wines it believes can have genuine stand out on shelf or on a back bar. It has taken its buying controller, Adam Marshall, as far as India and Moldova as he has looked to add even more value and interest to the range of European wines he mostly looks after. Here in our latest look back on 2019 we ask him to share his Buying Year.
“Innovation, and pushing boundaries, asking different questions of both the buyer and consumer is what we need. Standing still is walking backwards and I find that tricky at my age.” As a business strategy it’s hard to argue with such a straightforward approach as Danny Spencer has for his growing East Street Wine Co distribution business. Well known in the trade for his many years with Boutinot, Spencer is now well on the way to establishing a wine import business that is 100% a reflection of his friendly, infectious personality. Here he looks back on his buying year for 2019 and what he expects to happen in 2020.
We continue our series of articles interviewing leading buyers for key importers for the premium on-trade with a look behind the scenes at the buying criteria used by Matthew Cooper at Ellis Wines when taking on new producers. We also ask him to look back on 2019 and pick out his highs and lows from his Buying Year, which was a good one for regional Spain and Sicily, but less exciting for Chile. He also looks ahead to 2020 and why he has high hopes for Swartland-style wines from Australia and New Zealand.
Buying wine for the ever-growing Lanchester Wines is a little more complicated than the average wine supplier, for as well as looking to source the best quality wine at the right price, there is also a need to look at the type of packaging formats the wine could be used for, be it in a keg, bag in box, a can, or straightforward bottle. We continue our look back at 2019 by asking Lanchester’s director of purchasing, Lesley Cook, to share her buying year.
The high street is full of restaurant chains that look like they have been created by committee with their quickly forgettable, formulaic offers that makes you wonder how they ever got to be opened in the first place. Then there are restaurateurs like Martin Williams. The man who after a successful career making his name at Gaucho, set up his new vision for premium restaurants, the multi faceted M Restaurants that is part premium steak restaurant, part cocktail, wine bar, part events space and part private dining club. He has now been brought in as the new chief executive of Gaucho with the mission of re-launching a famous, and once much loved restaurant brand that had fallen so badly off the rails that it even slipped into administration late year. Here, in his first major business interview since unveiling his new look for Gaucho at the re-opened and re-designed Charlotte Street branch in London, Williams sits down with Richard Siddle to take him through his vision for Gaucho and how he wants it to re-gain its crown as not just the best premium steak restaurant chain in the country, but an inspirational place to work and further your career in hospitality.
As owner and founder of the European airline, Wizz Air, József Váradi knows how to build a successful international business. He’s now bringing those skills to the wine sector with the Juliet Victor Winery which he hopes can help showcase the very best of what Hungary can offer, particularly with Furmint and Tokaj wines. Ahead of next month’s Furmint February tasting, Váradi explains his approach to quality winemaking and how he hopes to takes his wines around the world, starting in the UK.
There are few banks that understand agriculture as well as Crédit Agricole – the world’s largest cooperative financial institution which was founded on and has continued to flourish through its relationship with farming. Its fine wine arm CA Grands Crus appointed a new managing director this summer, Anne Le Naour, a trained oenologist who set our her vision at a trade lunch in London which includes making considerable changes to the vineyards of their key three properties Châteaux Grand-Puy Ducasse, Meyney and Santenay, selling two other chateaux as well as purchasing more vineyards in Burgundy. Geoffrey Dean was there to pop the questions.
When Australian wine started to lose its mojo 15-20 years ago, Neil McGuigan, who has just departed as CEO of Australian Vintage Ltd, decided to do something about it. He felt that going back to basics and over-delivering at every price point was the route forwards – and using the size of the company to its advantage. Every year, for example, he holds back 500-1000 cases of many of his wines so he can deliver them to the trade ready-aged, the company has a major innovation programme and sees international awards as a key component. Geoffrey Dean caught up with McGuigan over a tasting of four vintages each of the McGuigan Shortlist Riesling and McGuigan Bin 9000 Semillon
“We think differently from our competitors,” is how Edouard Baijot MW sums up E&J Gallo’s commitment to transforming its super premium wine portfolio that has seen it spend over $1bn in the last five years alone on acquiring new wineries and brands. The key for Gallo when it comes to super premium wines is control. Which means being able to manage every step of the winemaking process – from grape to glass. It now means at last 70% of its revenue now comes from brands that did not exist in Gallo 15 years ago and 40% with brands it did not have 10 years ago. Here Baijot sets out the strategy that has redefined its super premium wine offer.
A fortnight on from its awards banquet at the Guildhall in London, the International Wine & Spirit competition is open for entries again for next year’s event as it announces a series of changes to its judging process and line-up of key judges, including the news that Steven Spurrier is to be honorary chair of the IWSC. Richard Siddle looks into what other big steps the IWSC is taking to shake up and improve further how it awards and picks out its winning wines and spirits.
Look for a good grower, look for a top vintage and look out especially for Bourgogne Côte d’Or and Bourgogne Hautes Côtes de Nuits as they offer impressive value for money, says Flint Wines. Many more good tipsin this second part of a series in which The Buyer is interviewing a number of leading fine wine merchants to get their feel on how this vital region is doing and what the 2020 has in store when the annual Bourgogne campaign comes to a head with Bourgogne Week.
Here’s a wine fact for you: the grape variety, Furmint, is actually the half-sibling of Riesling and Chardonnay via its parent Gouais Blanc (aka Heunisch Weiss). Well it is according to Master of Wine Caroline Gilby who also just happens to be not only a big fan, but one of the world’s leading expert on how and why Furmint is becoming a real quality benchmark for Hungarian wine. You can find out for yourself at the second Furmint February tasting being held on January 29 2020. Before then here’s Gilby’s personal assessment of why we should be paying more attention to Furmint.
In the lead up to Hallgarten & Novum’s 2019 portfolio tasting, portfolio director Jim Wilson kindly granted a brief interview to the annoying oeno-eco-warrior that is Mike Turner. Turner was keen to understand more about the changing shape of Hallgarten & Novum’s portfolio, and whether the move towards a more sustainable future was central to their plans. Turner also wanted to know what, if anything, was being done with the company’s 190 wine producers to offer more eco-friendly products.