Nebbiolo has been an integral part of the history of the Piemonte region in north west Italy ever since the Romans were picking the grapes. As part of our countdown to the second Nebbiolo Day tasting taking place in London on March 5 we talk to one of the producers taking part, Paolo Rovellotti, whose family have been making wines in the region for over 400 years. He explains why Nebbiolo is very much part of his and the region’s DNA.
Ask most wine buyers what would make their lives easier and somewhere near the top of their wish list would be able to work with fewer suppliers who could meet more of their needs. Which is very much what Famille Helfrich, the independent merchant and on-trade division of the Les Grands Chais de France group, wants to offer. It’s a message that Chris Davies and his team will be getting across to restaurant buyers, sommeliers and wine merchants at the company’s first standalone trade tasting later this month. Here he explains what else is going on at the group, including more wines from around the world and an exclusive new on-trade wine range from Calvet.
As we look ahead to next month’s second Nebbiolo Day tasting The Buyer will be profiling and talking to some of the key producers taking part in the event to find out how they are each working with this key grape variety that is attracting such interest around the world. We start with Franco Massolino, who with his Massolino Vigna Rionda wines is the fourth generation winemaker to make wines in the estate.
After the success of the inaugural Nebbiolo Day in 2018, it’s back in 2019 with a bigger tasting and focus on these ever intriguing and popular styles of Italian wine that are the beating heart of the Barolos and Barbarescos so loved by buyers and sommeliers alike. Who better to explain what is in store for this year’s event, and to give his own personal take on why he thinks Nebbiolo deserves such focused attention, than Italian wine specialist and founder of Nebbiolo Day, Walter Speller.
2018 was an incredibly busy year for Ben Walgate, winemaker and co-founder of Tillingham. They launched their first wines onto the UK market, planted 10,000 vines by hand at their farm in Peasmarsh near Rye in East Sussex (the fruits of which will see the light of day in 2021), took part in the biggest and best harvest probably in UK history, and began work on converting the farm outbuildings into a fully functioning winery, rooms, restaurant and shop (amongst other things). Here Doug Wregg from its UK distributor, Les Caves de Pyrene, reports from his latest visit to the winery.
The whole movement towards premium Prosecco got a shot in the arm three years ago when Canevel Spumanti sold 60% of the company to Valpolicella giants Masi Agricola. The joint venture is a smart commercial move in that it enables useful synergies for both parties but it has also led to an impressive array of innovative production techniques from two companies that are renowned for making quality wines with maximum respect for the land the grapes come from. With the release of three of Canevel’s wines into the market three months ago, Peter Dean caught up with Carlo Caramel, chief executive of Canevel, and Andrea Dal Cin, technical director and winemaker of Masi, to find out what’s happening in the hills of Valdobbiadene and how the JV is faring now it’s had time to bed down.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Allan Sichel, head of Bordeaux’s Wine Bureau Conseil Interprofessionnel du Vin de Bordeaux (CIVB) admits he is a “relieved” man after the region’s 2018 harvest has returned to near normality after last year’s horror show when yields across France plummeted to their lowest levels for 50 years, thanks to a late spring frost which saw Bordeaux’s yields drop by nearly 40%. Helen Arnold caught up with him on one of his flying visits to London to talk about the 2018 vintage and Bordeaux’s export markets.
Santa Rita Estates is prepared to go to extraordinary lengths to make sure its brands and wines are relevant for its customers. Even if it means making over 20 videos with its winemakers for just one Irish convenience store chain. Its consumer and market driven strategy actually starts in the vineyard and adapting the styles of wine it is making to ensure they are right for whichever international market they are being made for. Richard Siddle talks to Santa Rita’s marketing chief, Jaime de la Barra, to assess just how a market first wine strategy actually works.
Rueda has been undergoing massive change for the past decade as major producers such as Ramon Bilbao set up shop – finding the right soil for the right clone of Verdejo and increasingly Sauvignon Blanc. Victor Smart took to the road to visit Ramon Bilbao as well as a number of other producers to see first hand what changes are happening as well as tasting some of the exciting new styles of Verdejo along the way.
We might like the idea of lower alcohol wines, but few, if any, have really cracked the challenge of naturally lowering abv levels whilst maintaining the quality of the wine. New Zealand winemaker, Dr John Forrest, believes he has found a way. Over the last 10 years and more he has been carefully developing techniques in the vineyard that allows him to control the alcohol levels in the grapes ensuring they are picked at just the right time to make his range of Doctor’s wines that only have an alcohol level of 9.5% – and crucially still taste like wine. Richard Siddle finds out how…
Hampshire-based wine producers Hattingley Valley has just secured a deal with the multiple grocery retailer Wholefoods, making it the first English sparkling wine to be available nationwide in the US, as one of only nine wines selected to be part of its Holiday Wine Programme. Helen Arnold caught up with commercial director, Gareth Maxwell, to talk about his plans for building up the Hattingley brand at a time when its production has almost tripled in only 12 months, from 180,000 bottles in 2017 to 500,000 this year.
Inspired by an episode of A Place in the Sun, Jayne and Paul Bayliss decided to jack in their media jobs in the UK and head to the Languedoc where they set up a craft beer brewery in the heart of wine country… not knowing a thing about making beer. Brasserie du Quercorb is almost 10 years old and has reached capacity – supplying the French on-trade with a range of award-winning ales, through their on-site brasserie and also off sales. Peter Dean met up with them just as they opened a new brewery that will triple production and see them able to supply a range of new export markets – including the UK.
The Bock winery from Villany in Hungary has many stories to tell, none more so than how, like so many Hungarian hard-working families, it has prospered in the wake of the Communist regime. It all started when the Bock family, with only half a hectare of vines, was able to kickstart and restore viticulture to the Villany region. Today the Bock winery has expanded to 80 hectares and its wines are known across the country. Its next challenge is to build its profile and reputation overseas at trade and consumer tastings and hopefully on restaurant wine lists.
The wines of Dönnhoff hold a special place in the hearts and minds of great wine lovers worldwide. This 20-hectare estate in Germany’s Nahe wine region has been making wine since the mid-18th century but it wasn’t until 1971 when Helmut Dönnhoff took over the helm that the winery took on superstar status thanks to Helmut’s commitment to quality and skill as a winemaker. With Helmut now passing much of the day-to-day running of the estate to his son Cornelius, Helmut spent a warm summer’s evening with Christina Rasmussen to explain why he thinks ‘higher’ can be good with global warming, how the rise of dry Riesling is a sommelier-driven thing and why every vineyard has a special ‘natural talent.’ The winemaker’s job is to harness it.