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?
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.
“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.
Entrepreneurs Henry Connell and Alex Thraves shook up the English wine industry when in 2018 they launched The Uncommon, the first ever English sparkling wine in a can. Their Bacchus, with grapes sourced from Denbies in Surrey, sold out at Selfridges within six months. The Uncommon has this year landed a distribution deal with Jascots Wine Merchants, shifting the focus to the on-trade. Here, as English Wine Week begins, The Buyer speaks with co-founder Henry Connell about how The Uncommon is opening up new audiences for English sparkling wines, and premium canned wines.
Robert Wessman was once dubbed the Viking Boss for how he transformed the pharmaceutical business in Iceland. Now he has his sights set on the premium end of the wine business, buying Bergerac estate Château Saint-Cernin, and employing global wine consultant Michel Rolland and his team to oversee the cellar and winemaking. He is already making waves with the red Château Saint-Cernin already outscoring Cheval Blanc and Harlan Estate in a critics’ blind tasting. Geoffrey Dean was whisked to Bergerac in a private jet, tasted the wines and quizzed Wessman about his best route to market in the UK.
At the launch of #SauvBlancDay Dr Jamie Goode included one of the Sauvignon Blancs of Denis Jamain from Domaine de Reuilly in a blind tasting, extolling the virtues of both the wine as great value, and of the winemaker as one of the grape’s early pioneers. Reuilly ofter gets overlooked in favour of its more illustrious Central Loire neighbours Sancerre and Pouilly Fumé and yet it is producing world class wines at amazingly good value. Peter Dean visited Denis Jamain and was equally impressed by what he tasted.
No matter how crowded the spirits market is there is always room for true innovation to find its place on the back bar. Which is what the founders of Aluna Coconut rum hope they have achieved with what they claim is one of the first authentic, all-natural toasted coconut blended rums, in this case sourced from Guatemala and the Caribbean. The Buyer catches up with one of the brains behind the new rum, Guy Ritchie, who explains why he thinks this can be a new breakthrough brand.
For the past 12 years Rollo Gabb has been running the 100 hectare Stellenbosch winery Journey’s End with innovation as one of the key drivers. As Rollo sets about rethinking his three tiers of wines – to make them reflect better the quirkiness of the brand – he talks to Peter Dean about how the 2019 vintage is shaping up after years of drought, how the weather in South Africa is challenging the winemaker in unexpected ways, how South African wine can take its place alongside other international premium wines, and why Journey’s End is still, in his mind, one of the most experimental wineries in South Africa today.
We’ve all watched Dragon’s Den and wondered quite what the businesses that win the backing do with their money. For Liam Manton and Mark Smallwood, founders of local craft gin producers, Didsbury Gin, it has helped them push a brand that was only launched in January 2017 onto the next level with listings first in Harvey Nichols and then a partnership with the UK’s biggest pub chain Wetherspoons. Helen Arnold talks to the duo about how they have managed to make such a success of their gin brand in less than two and a half years.
Whilst mainstream Prosecco sales in the UK appear to have reached their maximum growth levels, the good news for the overall category is that the focus is finally turning towards the more premium and foodie styles of Prosecco – from the Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco DOCG – that are so common in the restaurants of Venice and increasingly finer restaurants and bars in the UK. It might only still be a tiny segment of the total Prosecco market, but it’s the one that deserves most of our attention.
Getting to know and understand any style of wine or spirits takes dedication and commitment. But if Katie Canfield was to really get to grips with mezcal and find out what makes it tick she was going to have to find out the hard way – and that meant long, hard, off road drives into the heart of Mexico. But it was clearly well worth it as she reports directly back from visiting some of the most influential mezcaleros at their palenques (distilleries) who are producing some the mezcals we can find on the back bars of the most stylish cocktails bars in the world.
Burgundy’s Arnoux-Lachaux (and Robert Arnoux as the estate was called previously) has always had a reputation of making very good, solid, dependable fruit-driven Pinot. But since Charles Lachaux took over the reins in 2015 the recent vintages have soared out of sight. With massive changes in the vineyard and winery Charles is now delivering first class, hedonistic wines with real focus and precision – so much so that Corney & Barrow are singling the estate out for special focus. The 2017 vintage is the closest yet to Charles’s vision and are wines that almost all now use 100% whole bunch and restrained use of new oak – wines that are putting the winery on the cusp of true greatness.
BRXTN GREEN, England’s first cannabis-infused sparkling wine gets launched today at the Harrow, Little Bedwyn, the Wiltshire-based restaurant run by Sue and Roger Jones, which is introducing it initially as part of a new sharing menu, before rolling it out to more on-trade venues. Controversially using THC rather than CBD, Jones claims that BRXTN GREEN is also the world’s first Blanc de Verts.
“Our family estates couldn’t be anything but organic. These are our family values and they’re not negotiable.” So says the straight talking Claude Vialade, owner and founder of Domaine Auriol in the heart of the Languedoc Roussillon, who is not only driving organic winemaking on her own estate, but offering financial support to local growers willing to move their own production over to organics and will then pay a premium for their grapes. Now that really is walking the walk.
Whitehaven’s first vintage of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc sold a total of 5,000 cases in the United States. It was the first in a 14-year relationship with E&J Gallo that has seen it become America’s top-selling by-the-glass Sauvignon Blanc with sales for the 2018 vintage up to a tidy 350,000 cases. So what is the secret of its success? What flavours are Whitehaven going for? How does it achieve year-on-year consistency and how does a Marlborough-based estate manage growth from not owning any winery or land in 2000 to being one of the biggest players in the US? Peter Dean met up with Whitehaven chief winemaker, Sam Smail to get the lowdown.
The equivalent of 1.4 million punnets of fresh table grapes are discarded in the global supply chain each year – a significant waste that is being addressed by the launch of HYKE a new premium English gin. HYKE is produced by Foxhole Spirits, which three years ago launched a gin made from by-products from the English wine harvest, and is being launched on March 18 – Global Recycling Day. Emma Diggory went to the launch at Spring in Somerset House and reports back on what makes HYKE so unique.
Although kombucha has been around for centuries, the fermented tea drink is on trend having managed to break out from its health food origins and into the mainstream. A welcome addition into the non-alcoholic category, kombucha ticks a number of boxes: it is naturally sparkling, healthy, soft, made from tea, has a variety of serves and is steeped in the mysticism of the Orient – which is why sales predictions are stratospheric aided by PepsiCo’s acquisition of kombucha producer KeVita. One of the new British producers is Wild Fizz whose founder, Gina Geoghegan, started small and now has a brewing facility in North London. Peter Dean sits down with her to get the lowdown on this new ‘booch.
Let’s face it with so many major wine tastings taking place every week it can be had to find and justify the time to go to even the most worthy. So how do you stand out from the crowd, even if you are much sought after wine region such as California? Well the answer is to put yourself into the minds of your target buyers and customers, says California Wine Institute UK and Ireland’s Damien Jackman and Justine McGovern, and that means having an event that really is Essential to attend. Which is why its March 12 tasting is focused entirely on wines that cost up to £50.