Famille Helfrich is as well placed as anyone to know what wines are best suited for premium restaurants and bars as it was set up to do exactly that as the dedicated premium on-trade and independent wine merchants’ arm of Les Grands Chais de France (GCF). Next week buyers from all over the country are invited to come to Birmingham and take part in its two-day annual portfolio tasting and the chance to taste over 300 wines from across France, but also GCF’s growing international range. Here Chris Davies, Famille Helfrich’s head of sales in the UK, marks your card for what to expect.
There won’t be much action on the cricket ground at Edgbaston next week, but there will be plenty in the stands as Famille Helfrich waits to welcome buyers from across the Midlands and the rest of the country to its portfolio tasting on March 2-3.
You are holding your second two day portfolio tasting in Birmingham on March 2-3. Can you tell us how the first one went and why you are doing it again?
The inaugural tasting last year was a great success and we had lots of very positive feedback and resulting business so we’re now going to make it an annual event for the on-trade and independents.
It is quite ambitious to do a tasting over two days – why are you doing that?
Holding the tasting over two days gives our customers the flexibility to plan their week. It’s not always easy for independents and sommeliers to come to day time tastings, so this way we ensure our tasting is open to as many interested parties as possible.
It’s good to see a tasting of this scale taking place outside London, why are you holding it in Birmingham?
We’re a UK supplier and Birmingham is in the middle of the UK with great transport links for both visitors and our winemakers. There are too many tasting events in London and we want to provide an opportunity to taste the Famille Helfrich portfolio to new and existing customers from a wider catchment area.
What can buyers expect in terms of wines to taste?
We will have over 300 wines to taste, including our own properties, our exclusive partner wines and our brands from our dedicated on-trade and Independent’s collection from all key regions of France. There will also be Crémant from all Crémant producing regions, a range of low and no alcohol wines and spirits.
Will you have winemakers over?
Yes, we will have winemakers from the Loire, Alsace, Burgundy and the Rhône as well as our French regional experts.
Any masterclasses to look forward to?
Not this year as we want to place all our focus on ensuring the tasting responds in the best possible way to the needs of our customers and attracts potential new ones.
You also have wines from outside of France?
Yes we will be showing wines from our new property in Spain, Bodega Castillo de Aresan, which covers more than 160 hectares of vines in Castilla La Mancha.
As well as this we will be showing our wines from Chile, Hungary, Germany, New Zealand, Australia, Austria, US, South Africa and a new Pinot Grigio from Italy.
How important are non-French wines to the group and is this growing?
They are an integral part of our on-trade business and our winemaker Nick Butler who is our in-house specialist on non-French wines will be at the tasting to discuss where GCF is now moving internationally with its winemaking.
Who are you hoping will attend the tasting and who is it aimed at?
The tasting is for new and existing on-trade and independent customers, but basically I’d like anyone who has heard the name “Famille Helfrich” but doesn’t know quite what we do, to visit the tasting to satisfy their curiosity and come and see if for themselves and discover the diverse and interesting range of wines we now offer.
How is the business going overall in the UK?
Our mix of premium wines has rocketed as we are constantly adding new and varied wines to our list.
Any key highlights over the last year in terms of introducing new wines/ working with new channels?
Over the last 12 months our Burgundy range has really sky rocketed with new and exciting Domaines being purchased by GCF’s owner, Joseph Helfrich.
It has catapulted us to be one of the top two negociants in the region. We have two in-house Burgundy specialists who will be on-hand at this year’s tasting to explain over 70 wines from this region alone.
We will also be showing wines from a couple of our other acquisitions over the last 12 months in Bordeaux; Château Bastor-Lamontagne, located in Preignac, one of the five communes in the Sauternes appellation. It’s 52 hectares of vineyards in a single block on gravel soil produce rich, vigorous wines, and although it’s our newest purchase, it’s one of our oldest wineries dating back to 1711.
Our other Bordeaux acquisition is Château Saint Robert which dates back to 1686 and has around 33 hectares of vines almost entirely in AOC Graves.
How do you see the year ahead and the final countdown to Brexit?
It’s hard to call, but the wine trade just wants to continue to do business and we want to carry on sharing great French wine, it’s the politicians that’ll potentially be throwing spanners.
You were at the recent Wine Paris event – how was that for you?
Busy! Wine Paris being new we had a slightly smaller stand in comparison to ProWein, but it was extremely busy so I’m sure we’ll continue to invest.
A final word on the tasting?
We want to present the extent of our offering to the on-trade and independents, and also make them aware of our flexibility regarding the size of order, showing them that we are the ideal supplier for both these sectors of the trade.
- Famille Helfrich portfolio tasting takes place onMarch 2-3, 2020 from 10am-5pm at Edgbaston Stadium in Birmingham. To register please contact Chris Davies on firstname.lastname@example.org.