Set up by former Chivas Brothers’ Laurent Lacassagne and Patrick Venning the Brixton Distillery Company is setting out to capture some of the boutique end of the premium spirits market. Its inaugural release is Market Row Rum which adds botanicals and spices to a Caribbean rum blend – all of which come from nearby Brixton Market. Victor Smart put on his most colourful shirt, adjusted his extensions and turned the Eddy Grant to 11.
If there was a competition for the most leftfield way someone has got themselves into making wine then Tim Ford would have a fighting chance of picking up a medal. For whilst he has more than made his home making wine at Domaine Gayda that he set up from scratch in the heart of the Languedoc Roussillon, it is a long way from where he first started his career as a horticulturist running what turned into a multinational flower business from the heart of Africa. It’s already been quite an adventure but, when it comes to wine, Ford believes he is only now ready to really capitalise on the strong reputation he has built up and take Domaine Gayda to the next level, as he explains to Richard Siddle.
Petaluma showcased its new Yellow Label releases and a couple of older wines on a recent Zoom tasting and our Australian wine lover and editor at large Roger Jones takes time out of his culinary escapades to rule over these wines. Accolade eschewed the customary miniature sample bottles and instead sent Roger, and other wine experts, full bottles plus one magnum of an aged museum release. Petaluma chief winemaker Mike Mudge led proceedings with his usual banter and the wines themselves were on very fine form.
The pivotal World Bulk Wine Exhibition is the key time of the year for global wine producers and their most important international wine buyers to come together and do business. But with Covid-19 still preventing major trade fairs to take place this month’s show is going online with a new format – WBWE Connect – that will still allow producers to trade their bulk wine with the world’s most influential retail and on-trade wine buyers. Here’s how it is all going to work.
If there is one wine event best suited to going online in 2020 it’s wine2wine, the annual show dedicated to sharing best practice around digital marketing and communications and how producers, distributors and operators alike can collectively raise their game when it comes to how they create and promote content online. So rather than head to Verona in north Italy later in November anyone interested in digital marketing can go online and join what is expected to be a global audience.
While winemakers the world over plant on higher ground for insurance against climate-change, Le Soula already made that move 20 years ago. The mixture of old vines grown at altitude on poor granitic soil in the harsh climate of the foothills of the Pyrenees was irresistible to Gérard Gauby, the Roussillon’s most respected vigneron; he suggested to his importers Roy Richards and Mark Walford that they farm it and in 2001 Le Soula was born. Peter Dean paid them a visit last month, met up with Wendy Paillé, the new (ish) estate manager and tasted through the new wines, just taken on by Thorman Hunt, a range with remarkable freshness and vitality.
If we did not appreciate China’s influence on the global wine market before 2020 then Covid-19 has changed all that. As it was the first country to be struck with the virus, it was also the first to close its borders and go into a nationwide lockdown sending ripples across the international wine trade as producers suddenly had mass volumes of wine they needed to find a home for. Thankfully China was also the first major nation to seemingly get a grip of Covid-19 and is now in a fast recovery mode. But what is the real situation on the ground and what impact has it had on imports? Jessica Broadbent tuned into the recent online Vinexpo Shanghai debates to find out.
Not one to shirk a challenge, Suntory decided to launch its new world travel retail brand Ao during a global pandemic, when international travel is at an all-time low. The spirit itself was also quite a feat, being a blend of whiskies from the five countries where Suntory owns distilleries – Scotland, Ireland, United States, Canada and Japan – with the concept behind it being a whisky that is all things to all whisky lovers the world over. How could it possibly succeed? Suntory’s Mike Miyamoto, whose brainchild Ao is, explained to Geoffrey Dean the thinking behind the brand which involved an ingenious tasting of different components to illustrate what each country’s whisky brings to the party.
As pubs, bars and restaurants across England prepare to close until at least December 2 here’s an uplifting story of how one north London restaurant, Top Cuvee, has already shown in the first national lockdown how it was able to set up an ecommerce model from scratch and even open up a separate Shop Cuvee retail store. It means its owners, Max Venning and Brodie Meah, are as well placed as they can be going into another four weeks of uncertainty. Harry Crowther paid them a visit and tells their story.
The fast changing wine market is putting even greater pressure on producers, importers and operators alike to find ever more cost effective and efficient ways of moving, listing and selling wine. Matthew Johnson and Alex Green have been at the forefront of the changes wine suppliers have made during their time at Copestick Murray and Freixenet Copestick, helping to source and create brands and exclusive wines for customers. They have now branched out on their own to set up their own business – Beyond Wines – which they believe has its own USP and, in doing so, can find its edge against steely competition.
Three new gins from Norwich-based boutique distiller Gyre & Gimble are genuinely rather strange. But then seeing as they were inspired by the imagination and works of Lewis Carroll, use the look and feel of a craft beer and were conceived and made during the first national Lockdown, that is hardly surprising – one uses sea water as a dilutant while another is infused twice with fresh cherries. But these gins are also rather good as Peter Dean discovered when he tasted a Coastal Gin, Cherry Gin and excellent London Dry with the distillery’s co-creator Craig Allison.
“There is a wave of outpouring that is screaming out for change. Enough of the turning a blind eye, ignored sexism, racism, bullying, or pretence it’s not happening where you work. It’s time to call time out on these behaviours.” In just one sentence Kirsten MacLeod encapsulates what has been months of hurt and rising tensions across the wine, hospitality and drinks sectors that has reached a crisis point in recent weeks. Those tensions, however, have been there below the surface for decades and although they have reached breaking point in recent weeks, the overriding issues of diversity, and inclusion in the wine and drinks industry, and the treatment of women and people of colour, are long overdue serious debate… and action. In this cutting article MacLeod sets out why she thinks it is now up to the trade, the industry as a whole, to step up and take real, meaningful wider action and not just leave it to individuals to bravely speak out.
The wine regions of New Mexico, Arizona, Texas and Colorado are the real frontier of American winemaking and a sommelier’s perfect new hunting ground. Although it wasn’t until the 1970s that the modern wine industry of the American Southwest was born it was in New Mexico that the first Vitis vinifera vines in the United States were planted. Talking about her latest book The Wines of Southwest USA, Jessica Dupuy tells Peter Dean about a fascinating region full of diverse terroirs, wines from over 700 wineries and indigenous grape varieties …Blanc Du Bois from Texas, or Chambourcin from Colorado anyone?
We’ve seen wine businesses enjoy incredible success online during Covid-19 as wine drinkers stuck at home had no choice but to turn to Google to find the wines they like. But how much of that increase in sales was down to luck and how much of it was due to the digital expertise of the individual wine companies involved? Digital marketing consultant, Brooke Herron sets out five areas where wineries in particular, but any drinks business looking to sell online, need to get right in order to make the most of their ecommerce opportunity.
The last two times Justin Keay visited Georgia he was travelling by Soviet helicopter to interview controversial President Mikheil Saakashvilli, then tasting amber wines in sheds and basements with RAW Wine founder Isabelle Legeron MW. This year he travelled back (by Zoom naturally) and ‘visited’ four of the wineries that are making great strides in bringing Georgian wine up to date – successfully blending tradition and innovation – especially when it comes to using the country’s plethora of indigenous grapes. So, after 15 years estrangement, how did Keay find the wines of Vachnadziani, Dakishvili, Tbilvino and Teliani Valley? What do they tell him about how successful Georgia currently is at making attractive, well-priced wines that are commercial, appeal to a Western audience and yet stay distinctly Georgian?
Even if you know someone well in the trade it’s only if they happened to come for an interview that you get to find out so much about their career, their past experiences and what they could potentially bring to your business. Which is what the Onwards & Upwards series is all about. Giving people a platform to share what they have done in their career. This week the vastly experienced sommelier and wine buyer Guillem Kerambrun talks about his life in hospitality working in some of the best restaurants in the world, experiences he now wants to share through his new consultancy business.
Wines from Central & Eastern European countries are starting to get the international recognition they deserve, which is surprising given that some of these regions are the cradle of viticulture. Although countries like Romania, Greece and Moldova produce many excellent wines from international grape varieties it is with indigenous grapes that winemakers in those countries really come into their own – an exciting mix of tradition and innovation. At a recent IWSC tasting these are the 13 Central & Eastern European white wines that really stood out.
If you look at any consumer or drinks analyst report for 2020 they will all talk about the trends that were rife pre Covid-19 have all accelerated during it. But it’s not just industry trends we need to be on top of, but also our personal ones, with issues around wellness, diversity and inclusivity coming to the fore during lockdown. That’s why The Drinks Trust, the charity that has done so much to help individuals across the drinks industry during Covid-19, is conducting its first national industry survey so that it can assess just what it needs to be doing and investing its resources in so that it can help drinks people in the future.
No elbows were needed at this year’s annual Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux (UGC) tasting in London, and the Leoville Barton didn’t run out – the new tasting environment for the assessment of the Bordeaux 2018 vintage was seated, took five hours with 130 wines tasted. Our man at the tasting, Geoffrey Dean, selects the best wines, appellation by appellation as well as gets the views from 13 of the top châteaux owners on where lies the strengths and weaknesses of Bordeaux 2018.
The big challenge put to international drinks competitions from the producers they want to enter is what do they do to help promote the products that pick up medals and trophies in their awards? With so many global drinks competitions how does my end consumer even know which products have done well? That is why the London Drinks Competition (covering wine, beers and spirits) has launched the online London Drinks Guide platform to help promote the drinks and producers that win and the venues selling them.