When a country or wine region is renowned for doing something well, there is often very little motivation to do things differently. The consistent and value-driven wines were out in force at the 2019 Wines of Chile tasting in London last week. There was also a fair smattering of the premium-led wines that have been grabbing headlines of late. But in terms of envelope pushing, for Sarah McCleery, the wines from Loncomilla, La Ronciere and Viña Laurent were the ones that piqued her interest most. Using a range of ancient varietals, vinification formats and techniques these estates are currently pushing the limits of what is possible in the country, both philosophically and geographically.
This month’s Bellavita exhibition gives UK wine buyers the chance to explore and discover wines and food from across Italy and the Mediterranean at an event dedicated to bringing the full restaurant experience together under one roof. So rather than just have an event purely for wine, and another for food, Bellavita is very much about bringing the two sides together. The Buyer will be hoping to do that too as part of a wine trade debate on November 7 that will ask major importers and merchants to assess where Italian and Mediterranean wines are going in the premium on-trade.
Ahead of this month’s Wines of Georgia trade tastings in London (October 2) and Manchester (October 8), Peter Ranscombe highlights six wineries that stood out for him on a visit last week to the former Soviet state. With a two-year waiting list for winemakers wanting to buy the nation’s iconic qvevri clay vessels for fermentation and ageing, production of higher-quality wines is poised to expand, creating more opportunities for UK merchants and restaurants looking to tap into the growing consumer curiosity surrounding amber wines.
Crémant de Loire goes from strength to strength, quadrupling sales to the UK in just four years. Saumur Brut, on the other hand, is treading water largely held afloat by a small number of massive sellers on the French supermarket scene. Peter Dean travels to Saumur and visits Ackerman and Langlois-Chateau, the biggest players in the Crémant de Loire scene, and discovers why they still have a strong presence in the market two hundred years on from first producing ‘Saumur Champagne’ – and how their rich heritage bodes well for their increasingly firm footing in exports.
For understandable reasons the majority of drinks companies, particularly those producing household wine brands, like to keep their political feelings to themselves and instead rely on their respective trade association bodies to do any direct lobbying for them. Until now. The seemingly endless strategy of any government to continue to increase duty on alcohol is forcing drinks companies to take action. When the wine industry was singled out for a tax increase in last year’s Budget it was seen as a bridge too far. It resulted in the launch of the Wine Drinkers UK campaign, a wine industry-backed campaign, that calls for wine to be treated the same as any other drinks category. Richard Siddle talks to two of its biggest members, Michelle Brampton of Treasury Wine Estates and Simon Doyle of Concha y Toro about what they hope it can achieve.
Having dispatched the USA rugby team in the morning at the Rugby World Cup, it was England’s turn in the afternoon to be shown the sheer power and majesty of the US – or the Californian wine scene to be more precise. Two of the hottest wine tasting events in London were being held at the US Embassy – Collectible California and Covetable Napa – and our man with the ‘golden tickets’, David Kermode, braved apocalyptic weather conditions to get there. Once inside he discovered a treasure trove of wines, including 14 of Napa’s most iconic wine estates each showing two vintages, a decade apart.
In the first part of our review of the recent debate held by Jascots Wine Merchants into how restaurants can run more sustainable wine lists we looked at the different ways operators are looking to tackle sustainability in their venues and how open they were to extending successful existing schemes into wine. Here in our second part we look at some of the more practical steps that restaurants are taking and, in particular, which sustainable packaging formats are most suitable and most likely to succeed in the on-trade.
Arguably the biggest achilles heel of the drinks industry, and particularly the complex category of wine, is keeping on top of consumer trends, changes in behaviour and the power of the new technologies that are driving them. Today The Buyer is linking up with the Wine & Spirit Trade Association and Jump Start to launch a new conference that will focus on the disruptive and essential trends, innovations and technology that the drinks industry needs to be on top of for future sales, marketing, branding and communications. The 2020 – One Step Beyond conference will look to provide a platform for trends and technology experts outside the industry to share their insights with key decision makers across beers, wines and spirits. The event, which takes place in March 2020, will also give drinks businesses, retailers, and on-trade operators of all sizes practical steps and ideas they can introduce in their own businesses. Here’s what to expect.
Anthazographobia is the fear of being left behind, ignored or forgotten. Martin Scorsese’s anti-hero Travis Bickle had it in Taxi Driver and Justin Keay reckons he’s a sufferer too. Aussie maverick winemaker Chester Osborn had a cat that was exactly the same which is why he named a wine after it called The Anthazographobic Cat. But there is no chance that the iconic wines from the other of Australia’s First Families of Wine will suffer this fate. At a monumental tasting called AFFW Unlocked, which was a highlight of last week’s Australia Redefined event, an embarrassment of riches from Australia’s finest winemakers had a point to prove – and that was that ‘Australia does premium wine’ – ones that really will leave a legacy on the world of fine wine.
Copenhagen Sparkling Tea, a Bolé Spumante from Italy’s newest DOC, a range called Ulterior of amphora-vinified wines from one of Spain’s hottest new winemakers in La Mancha, egg-fermented Savvy Blanc from Yealands, a new Dry Pink Pepper Gin and a terrific new range of wines from Swinney in Western Australia, all these and more fresh ideas gave the Enotria&Coe Autumn tasting a real buzz this year. Peter Dean reports
Ashes & Diamonds sounds like a long lost album that’s just been discovered from David Bowie, which is perhaps not too surprising as it is the name of the winery and wines made by Kashy Khaledi, who spent the first half of his career working first as an influential US music journalist, before becoming a major record producer and executive at the likes of Capital Records and MTV. He’s now looking to list what he sees as classic 60’s style Californian-style wines in premium UK restaurants through his importer Nekter Wines. Richard Siddle shares the story of one of California’s more colourful wine producers.
“All of which leaves the trade with one conclusion – that government doesn’t understand the value of the UK wine industry.” A pretty damning statement to make at any time, but particularly so when that same industry faces up to what are the widely accepted disastrous consequences of a no deal Brexit. But that was just one of a series of accusations and punches thrown by Miles Beale, chief executive of the Wine & Spirit Trade Association at its annual summit in London last week. Richard Siddle was there to hear Beale in blistering form as he ripped up the usual diplomatic trade association rule book and came out firing at the potential damage the current government is doing to the wine and spirits industry.
Armand de Brignac is a Champagne brand that everyone has a view about – irrespective of whether it has been tasted or not. The juxtaposition between the humble Pinot-driven Cattier family and owner Shawn Carter (Jay-Z) is a fascinating one; there is the ostentatious packaging, the stratospheric price tags and the flamboyance and technical mastery of the 30-litre format. Which all leads to the same question – is this a Champagne House that has the Midas touch or not? So who better to answer that question than Simon Field MW, ex-Champagne buyer for Berry Bros & Rudd, who accepted The Buyer’s invitation to a first tasting of the third assemblage of its prestigious cuvée Blanc de Noirs A3 alongside all of the other new releases.
We might all be a little burnt from the concept of asking “the people” for their opinion when it comes to making big decisions. But let’s leave Strictly Come Dancing to one side for a moment. When it comes to wine judging the norm is only ever to ask trained professionals to assess how a particular wine is compared to another. Not the People’s Choice Wine Awards. It lives up to its name by involving everyday wine drinkers in deciding which wines should be awarded the top prizes. Admittedly with a little help from the professionals. As the deadline for entries into this year’s award approaches on September 30, Janet Harrison, its founder, looks back at the impact the event has had, and what new partnerships she has made for this year’s competition and why it is increasingly more relevant for the on-trade.
While the white wines of Alto Adige are all about their floral notes and complexity, the reds are a different proposition altogether. Made largely from Lagrein and Schiava the reds have muscular tannins and sometimes-searing acidity. They are, however, very much in vogue and requiring the assistance of good sommeliers to explain their undoubted benefits to on-trade customers. In this unique corner of North Italy for the biennial Alto Adige/Süd Tirol wine summit, David Kermode gets to grips with these wines and also recommends his top 6 Alto Adige reds.
As he waits for his Irish passport application to be considered, and works on his Australian accent, a Brexit-battered Justin Keay crawled out from under his sofa to visit the Wine GB tasting last week. At first scoffing on how we can promote ourselves as ‘Unapologetically British’ Keay spent the day at the tasting and came round to the belief that this was a watershed tasting – that the breadth and depth of English and Welsh wine had never before been showing so strongly. Keay picks out six wineries that he thought stood out particularly well at the tasting and gives his reasons why, as well as giving special mention to the other wines that he felt were just starting to bring back some British pride to his deflated self.
Last time Richelle van Gemert travelled to South Africa it was with a group of fellow sommeliers in the search for good food, great wine and to discover for themselves what the fuss is all about South African wines. She has this weekend come out top in the latest Wines of South Africa Sommelier Cup competition that has been taking place this week in Cape Wine. Having won the UK competition she was there to represent the country against other finalists from around the world. Here we look back on this interview we ran in the summer where she explains what she was most looking forward to returning to South Africa and taking part in the Sommelier Cup.
The Caley is only into its third vintage but with the launch of The Caley 2014, Yalumba is proving that it justifies rubbing shoulders with Grange and the other new super-premium Aussie blends that have recently taken the stage. To launch the wine, Yalumba boss Robert Hill Smith drafted in pal Bruce Tyrrell, booked a Royal Family hangout, shipped over a load of new and old beauties – including a Maurice O’Shea Hermitage 1942, amongst many others. Jancis Robinson MW, Steven Spurrier, Matthew Jukes and our man at the table Roger Jones were suitably wowed. Warning – this feature contains a fair degree of smugness.
Considering the world of winemaking has a gravitational pull towards France it’s a wonder that Paris has not been seen as the ideal host for wine events and exhibitions. OK, it does not make wine itself, but it is one of the most important and influential markets and who does not like the opportunity to go to Paris? It was therefore no surprise that when Wine Paris was launched earlier this year it was an immediate success. The time has come to start to prepare for the second Wine Paris that takes place in February 2020 with an even bigger focus on organic and environmental wines. Here’s what to expect.
The crusty old farts in red trousers are a dying breed, argues Kate Hawkings, who welcomes the smart, engaging wine merchants who have replaced them and are keen to interact in the wine marketplace with different formats, new style events and who are even, God forbid, willing to take a wine tasting down the M4 to Bristol. Such was the case with Berkmann’s ‘Wine Lab’ event which had innovative themes to mix up the styles of wine, keep everyone on their toes and look at well known labels with an entirely new perspective. There was a much sought-after Tignanello-vertical masterclass in which Hawkings learned that our PM is a big fan, although he wasn’t there – he seemed to have a little bit of business elsewhere.