Sicily’s renaissance as a wine region has its roots in the mid-1970s when Diego Planeta’s influence started to be felt. In the past 20 years the seeds he sowed have borne fruit, with a massive increase of outside investment in new estates, improved facilities and a passion for maintaining and re-discovering Sicily’s viticultural heritage – just last month 6 new grape varieties being re-discovered. Stefano Girelli is a part of this new wave with his two organic estates Santa Tresa and Cortese producing wines of outstanding quality and value, using local varieties – Catarratto, Grillo, Fiano, Frapatto, Nero Mascalese and Nero d’Avola – and a mix of modern viticulture and ‘old style’ winemaking.
The Drinks Trust is on course to have helped up to 5,000 extra people during 2020 who have fallen into serious difficulties because of the impact of Covid-19. The stark reality is that we are faced with months of yet more uncertainty, disruption, anxiety and job losses as businesses, and, in turn, their staff are hit by the continued fallout of the pandemic. It’s why the Drinks Trust has stepped up its efforts to offer as many people in the sector an even wider range of emotional, mental and physical support measures and services to help them as best they can, as Nicola Burston, the Trust’s operations and services manager, explains.
Restless River is one of a growing number of producers in South Africa which has sprung up in the past 20 years – challenging the old order and helping to define the country as a genuine fine wine region and not just a ‘value option’. Six years since discovering the wines at a craft fair in Constantia, and helping set up its import into the UK, our roving editor Roger Jones was re-united with Restless River’s owner and winemaker Craig Wessels. They taste through a number of vintages of Wessels’ wines as well as catch up on some of his winemaking techniques and separate the fact from the fiction – like ‘the one’ about him learning winemaking from a 2-day weekend course.
This time last year and the US bulk wine market was in a bad way. You might expect things to look even worse after Covid-19, the largest bush fires in history in California, and the ongoing trade war with China. But according to Greg Livengood, partner of global wine broker Ciatti, the bulk market has managed a 180 degrees shift in the past 12 months, as he explains to Robert Joseph as part of the online debates he is hosting for WBWE Connect.
Since leaving Plumpton College in 2014 with a degree in oenology, Sergio Verrillo and his wife Lynsey have taken a different path to most winemakers in England and Wales. At their winery Blackbook they make very little sparkling wine and, instead, focus on making still Burgundian wines, along with some ‘weird beardy’ blends. And they do this all in the heart of London. Fresh into urban winemaking himself, wine scribe and fellow Plumpton graduate Chris Wilson put Blackbook’s wines through their paces.
In our second deep dive into the highlights of the recent One Step Beyond webinar, organised by The Buyer and Sophie Jump, we turn the focus on voice search and the power of our own voices in how we live our lives – and run our businesses. James Poulter, co-founder of specialist voice and conversational AI agency, Vixen Labs, explains how Covid-19, lockdowns, switch to online and desire for touch free retailing has seen the demand for voice search fast forward the equivalent of years in roll out.
Hot on the heels of her Bordeaux red blend, The Mentors Orchestra 2018, winning the Veritas Vertex award for best South African wine, winemaker Izele van Blerk takes Victor Smart through the entire The Mentors range, with a selection of cheeses to match. The KWV winemaker is allowed a free rein on how she makes the company’s prestige wines and which she picks as the varietal that takes the top premium spot – with this vintage the accolade going to a Petite Sirah of which only 1000 bottles have been made.
There is something delightfully English about calling your retail business The Good Wine Shop. It expresses a certain level of confidence that you know what you are doing, without being over the top and brash about it. But it also encapsulates the friendly, easy going, but also highly professional nature and personality of its founder, Mark Wrigglesworth. Over the last 15 years he has quietly built his business up into a small chain of four much loved, neighbourhood wine merchants in leafy areas of south London all built around the premise of selling “good wine, from real people with great stories”. Richard Siddle paid him a visit at his store in Richmond Hill to find out just how good his wine shops really are.
The drinks industry has come up with some ingenious ways of coping with Covid. As far as awards judging goes, however, none was more extreme than the Champagne and Sparkling Wine World Championships which rented a country estate, complete with its own pub and on-site coronavirus testing team. Our man at the event, editor-at-large Roger Jones, sent back this behind-the-scenes report of how this Bubbly Bubble worked, (a presumably watered-down version of) what went on in the ‘Big Bubble House’, as well talking to CSWWC’s creator Tom Stevenson about the philosophy of the competition and the logistics of making it work.
The issues of diversity, equality and inclusion have never been more front of mind in the drinks and hospitality industry. This week’s online wine2wine event dedicated a number of sessions to allow a wide range of debates and conversations to take place. The key now is how does the fragmented world of drinks and hospitality come together to keep the momentum behind these issues going. This is very much where the Women of the Vine & Spirits organisation comes in as it has been offering a platform for women all over the world to come together and share and use its now wide range of resources and support tools for women. Here founder Deborah Brenner explains why she set the organisation up and how she is so pleased these issues are now getting the profile and publicity they need.
As climate change takes its toll on many traditional winemaking areas, so the fresh, natural acidity to be found in the wines of cool climate regions such as Tasmania will become greater prized. Speaking direct from Australia’s island state, Rebecca Duffy from Holm Oak, Jeremy Dineen from Josef Chromy and Peter Caldwell from Dalrymple attempt to define what makes Tasmanian Pinot Noir so unique and demonstrate it through six wines from the 2017 and 2018 harvests.
The London Wine Competition goes into its 4th year stronger than ever on the back of record entries for the 2020 awards and a new dedicated website, The London Drinks Guide, that has been launched to help promote and tell the stories of the wineries, producers and wines that end up coming out top in the competition. For winning a medal is one thing, getting the chance to promote it directly to consumers is a real point of difference.
Even if Tom Cruise and his Mission Impossible team had been available I’m not sure even they could have solved the challenge of “How To Future Proof the South African Wine Industry” in the hour debate that was held online earlier this month as part of Wines of South Africa’s Insider Sessions designed to throw the spotlight on different challenges and opportunities facing its industry. Here Richard Siddle, who helped chair the session, summaries the key solutions of the panel of leading South African winemakers and producers.
While human intervention can correct all manner of issues in a vineyard, the one that is increasingly having the greatest impact is climate change. That cannot be combatted… or can it? Wine expert Michelle Williams spoke to growers in Australia, Spain, Austria, and the USA to learn about their efforts to do just that, through vineyard biodiversity. From grape variety selection, cover crop practices, biodynamic farming and encouraging Mycorrhizal fungi, winemakers are finding that when you are faced with a complex problem – using complexity does help.
The percentage of sustainable wineries in Bordeaux has nearly doubled in the last six years as more producers see both the environmental, but also commercial advantages in switching their production. The region is now on course to have 100% of its wineries running some sort of certified sustainable scheme by 2030. For a region that is so often celebrated more for how well its different appellations are performing this is a case of individual steps for collective gain, as Jessica Broadbent finds out in this analysis of what other steps Bordeaux is taking to safeguard and grow its future.
The world’s best spirits will once again be battling it out and vying for attention in the London Spirits Competition, which goes into its fourth year on the back of record entries for the 2020 event, increased recognition around the world and a new consumer website, The London Drinks Guide, that has been launched by its organisers to help promote the brands, distillers and their importers who pick up medals and trophies in the event.
The pace at which the wine industry has had to respond to seismic change during 2020 and get online just to do business has been unprecedented. It has also stretched to breaking point many of the existing legacy management computer systems out there that aren’t flexible nor built for a digital era. Here Nick Martin, co-founder of Wine Owners, sets out what he sees as being the sector’s biggest technical challenges and how having a wine industry specific digital operating system running everything from your ordering, stock management, brokering through to e-commerce and other sales channels can be a real game changer.
Bodegas Barbadillo is one of the founders of the modern sherry business, with important historical claims throughout history. It was the first producer to name a Manzanilla, the first to bottle it, and the first to pioneer ‘en rama’ as a modern sherry category. Jessica Broadbent heard from Barbadillo’s Tim Holt about the real importance of the bodega design, the stories behind five of its sherries plus a remarkable discovery that has led to a new sherry-based vermouth being released that is like a ready-made negroni.
With a background that covers diversity and inclusion, behaviour change and various forms of regulation, chartered accountant and chief financial officer Tom Lewis, who also writes about wine as The Cambridge Wine Blogger, outlines how to take the discussion around industry representation and behaviour standards forward with some practical steps, particularly around sanction and reward, that have worked in other sectors.
2020 will not go down as a year for anyone to be doing much celebrating, but it has not dampened the spirits of the Champagne and sparkling wine world with a record number of entries into this year’s Champagne & Sparkling Wine World Championships with producers from up to 30 countries competing for the event’s top awards. Today The Buyer reveals the winners of what are a total of 128 Gold and 237 Silver medal winners with the trophy results to be released next month.