As countries all over the world go into lockdown as a result of the Covid-19 lockdown, wine producers are having to turn to social media and online even more than normal in order to talk and tell their stories to their customers, both in the trade and their end consumers. It’s giving those winemakers who have already built up a strong social media profile a head start, like Derek Mossman of Garage Wine Company in Chile, who has more people following him on Instagram than the cases of wine he sells.
With the cancellation of the En Primeur campaign and a recent cold snap that included snow, Bordeaux is having its fair share of issues right now, quite apart from the Covid-19 tragedy being played out across France. From her Lockdowned base, world Bordeaux expert Jane Anson speaks to The Buyer at length about the current climate as well as the scope of her new, eagerly-awaited book Inside Bordeaux which, clocking in at 700 pages with 60-plus maps, many of them gate-fold, is one of the most comprehensive books ever written on the region. What makes Bordeaux tick; the under-the-radar estates that sommeliers should make a beeline for … plenty of terrific insight in this revealing, in-depth interview.
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The situation surrounding the impact and spread of Covid-19 in the UK and around the world is changing so fast The Buyer has set up this rolling updates service to keep you abreast of the latest official guidelines and recommendations from the government, but also the individual steps that businesses are taking to keep trading and help their customers do the same. Today we look at how wine distributors Berkmann, Corney & Barrow and The Vintner are looking to help them and their customers, the chance to enjoy some #Socialdistancing ads, and the latest in online tastings.
Hands up who comes out in a cold sweat every time the phrase ‘bulk wine’ is mentioned, but immediately perks up when they hear about wines being made with basket presses and open top fermenters? Well, have we got news for you. The two worlds are actually intertwined with each other, particularly for those who know what they are doing, and where to get their hands on the sort of high volume, low priced grapes that they know are going to be ideal to help them embark on the kind of winemaking experiments they simply could not afford to do with their main, primary fruit. Winemaker Oliver Styles lifts the lid on bulk wine, but not as we know it – the other secondary market.
If ProWein had gone ahead this year one of the many highlights would have been the presentation of the 12 most exceptional wines from Alsace as judged by an august group of experts, Steven Spurrier, Rebecca Palmer, Kelly Stevenson and our own roving editor in chief Roger Jones. 120 wines were tasted over the course of two days in Alsace, the focus being on Crémant, Gewürtztraminer and Riesling – the style and varieties which are currently the focus of the Alsace wine body’s marketing campaign for 2020. In this, the first of two parts, Jones sets up the tasting and reveals which 12 wines were unanimously judged to be Alsace’s finest.
There are many circuitous routes into the wine trade, many of which include a stint working at either Majestic or Oddbins. It was during her time working in a Majestic store that convinced Lauren Brewer that wine could be the career for her. In the first of a series of articles profiling students from Plumpton College, the UK’s main viticultural and wine business education centre, she explains what her course entailed and how it has set her on the way as a winemaker.
It is reassuring to hear someone say “we can see the light at the end of the tunnel” during the Coronavirus catastrophe, especially when they are based in Italy. Jgor Marini, regional manager for Castello Banfi says that unofficially the government is saying that lockdown will be partially lifted there on May 4. So how has Banfi been operating under strict lockdown, how will it continue to do so and what lessons has it learned about making and selling wine during a pandemic?
It does not matter how many “How to succeed in…business…or life” books you’ve read, no one knows what is going to happen to the drinks, retail and hospitality sectors we all rely on for our careers and livelihoods in the weeks and months that lie ahead of us. But what we can do is try and remain positive and, according to brand consultant Illy Jaffar, make sure any new habits, changes in behaviour and ways of working all prepare us for how to do business when we come out the other side.
The actions you take now as a brand, retailer or drinks business will have a long term impact on how you are regarded as a company to trust by your customers, according to the latest findings in the highly respected global Edelman Trust Barometer report. It asked 12,000 consumers in 12 key markets to assess their attitudes and responses to what steps brands and companies are taking to tackle the coronavirus pandemic. It makes for fascinating reading. How does your business stand up to what consumers might expect from you?
The on-trade is in a cash flow crisis right now and banks and insurance companies need to alleviate the pressure by turning on the taps immediately, writes restaurateur Mike Turner. A co-owner of French restaurant La Ferme in London’s Primrose Hill, Turner shows how the devil is in the detail of recent financial promises – both by the government and by financial institutions. Although he is optimistic that his business is eligible for financial aid, there is plenty of room for pessimism – the rateable value ceiling of £51k, banks looking for personal guarantees, and insurance companies trying to default on technicalities, is detracting from where our real focus should be, which is on helping people cope with the virus.
The impact of the Covid-19 virus continues to wreak havoc across the drinks and hospitality sectors as 1000s of individuals and 100s of companies have seen their world turned upside down in a matter of weeks, if not days. To help those most in financial need The Drinks Trust has set up an emergency Covid-19 relief fund. Here’s how you can help by donating money, how the scheme is going to work and what individuals can do to apply to receive grants from April 6.
Held in London just as the travel ban started to take effect in Northern Italy, but just prior to full lockdown, Armit’s Italian tasting displayed many of the crown jewels of the Italian wine scene, even though many winemakers could not make the trip. Armit’s new managing director Brett Fleming is bullish about the company’s future, aiming to take it from £20m to £30m turnover over the next few years, and he sees the Italian wines as key to this growth along with boosting the importer’s profitability. As well as the on-trade, Fleming will be looking to prioritise the private client and off-trade side of the business, seeing opportunities for some of Armit’s premium producers. Justin Keay was there for The Buyer who tasted his way round the room and picked eight producers that shone on the day.
“We have become a net exporter of talent because the market here is so competitive.” That’s the view of Michelle Brampton, managing director of Treasury Wine Estates not just for the UK, but also for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Her predecessor, Tom King, is now heading up Treasury’s business in Asia. Here in the first part of an extensive interview, conducted before the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak hit Europe, Brampton explains to Richard Siddle the demands there are on her role to manage Treasury’s major power brands across multiple markets and how as a business it is also focused on improving, challenging and building the skills sets of its people.
Most readers of The Buyer will have a pretty good idea of the basics of wine-pairing. It’s a skill isn’t it, picking the right colour, variety, style, producer (even vintage) to go with a variety of dishes… in the hands of the right sommelier it is almost an art form. But put aside for a minute the fresh goat’s cheese salad, rib-eye and poached rhubarb crumble, how good are you at picking the right wine to go with what you only just managed to find at the back of the decimated supermarket shelves during lockdown? So what wine do you think sir or madam would like to complement the delicious umami succulence of their Chicken and Mushroom Pot Noodles?
With the news that Gordon Ramsay laid off 500 staff this week, we thought it would be a good time to re-run this gem of a feature. Because he’s game for a laugh, our drinks editor Peter Dean decided to apply to be a contestant on ITV ‘s Culinary Genius, the new Gordon Ramsay cookery show. Six weeks after learning how to do almost anything with a knife, the big day arrived and our intrepid chef headed to ITV Studios for his chance to show he could do much more than just put a Pop Tart into the toaster. We couldn’t possibly comment on how Ramsay treats his staff but the way contestants on Culinary Genius were treated left a lot to be desired.
For all the efforts everyone in the drinks industry is taking to do what they can to keep sales going and products flowing they all rely on the smooth running of the global drinks distribution business. With so many lockdowns in countries across the world, the situation is becoming more complex to keep on top. To provide the trade with the latest information, global logistics provider, Hillebrand has released the latest data on the supply chain conditions in all the main countries around the world.
A who’s who of the UK sommelier scene showed up for the Flint portfolio tasting, one of the last to be held before lockdown. The reason? The day had been specially curated with the sommelier in mind – wines that are just right for the on-trade, and a set of masterclasses that offered genuine practical help. The one compered by Ronan Rayburn MS and Stefan Neumann MS on blind tasting was the best masterclass that Mike Turner has ever attended, and he has attended a few let us tell you. Other subjects covered included the cutting edge of sustainable practices in Europe and America, and an in-depth look at the white wines of Italy. In addition to reporting on the day Turner also picks 6 of the Best – the pick of the wines which he thinks will work best for sommeliers.
As the on-trade has effectively shut down across large parts of Europe, South America and now the United States, in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak, it has left thousands of restaurant staff, sommeliers, and bartenders in limbo and stuck at home. The latest online Real Business of Wine Forum talked to senior sommelier figures to see what advice they had to keep their colleagues active, occupied, or, better still, to help find new ways to make money.
Peter Ranscombe goes back to school during four masterclasses in London to learn why California’s wide variety of terroirs and blending options allows it to produce competitively priced wines below the £50 mark without compromising on quality. From larger American Viticulture Areas like the Central Coast and Sonoma County through to pockets including the Alexander Valley, Carneros and Mendocino, the sheer scale of The Golden State allows suppliers to find wine-by-the-glass candidates that won’t break the bank.