As Grant Burge releases its new 2018 vintage wines, chief winemaker Craig Stansborough explains how the style of winemaking is evolving through the years, what recent vintages have been like, which are the ones to put on your buying radar and how Barossa Valley, in general, is moving with the times – in the use of oak, whole bunch, yeasts and vineyard management. Full tasting notes including a ‘ripper’ 2016 Meshach and a museum 2012 release.
From a business point of view 2020 will be remembered as the year that we all went online both to do business and stay in business. Regardless of how well you had invested in digital and online solutions before Covid-19, the global lockdown and continued fall out from the pandemic has meant we have all had to learn fast how best to use technology to buy, sell, and keep on top of what has been such a fast changing situation. Today The Buyer starts a new regular series of updates looking at the latest steps and initiatives companies are taking in digital and the online trends that are shaping how we need to do business in the future.
Week after week we have seen new initiatives launched by our major drinks wholesalers, and their producer partners, to help their on-trade customers, in particular, cope with the on-going fall out of Covid-19. One of the most eye catching has been the pledge by Hallgarten & Novum Wines to provide £700,000 of free glasses of wine to as many of its on-trade customers as it can during September. Here managing director, Andrew Bewes, explains how the scheme is going to work and what impact he hopes it can have on the wider hospitality sector.
Making a carbon-neutral winery from cannabis sativa, that has been recognised as one of the most environmentally-friendly wineries in the world, is just one of the many achievements of Robert ‘Bertie’ Eden. The godfather of organic and biodynamic winemaking in the Languedoc, Eden is a British ex-pat whose 45 hectare domaine Château Maris has been making exciting terroir-driven wines since 1997. He is overseeing Invivo’s aims to become the largest supplier of organic grapes in France, as well as being one of the greatest advocates of the need for the wine industry to reduce its impact on the environment.
Anne Krebiehl MW knows a thing or two about Spätburgunder. The Wines of Germany author simply adores Pinot Noir and when she met Sebastian Fürst and his father Paul from Weingut Rudolf Fürst for a tasting of their new 2018 vintage, she simply declared that she may have tried Germany’s finest. Well known in Germany, but under the radar in the UK, these wines are the purest elegance in a glass.
Since ‘retiring’ from running his Michelin Star restaurant, The Harrow at Little Bedwyn, Roger and Sue Jones have been running a gastronomic ‘takeaway’ from their premises where customers can buy some of Jones’s signature dishes along with paired premium wines. Jones has also been a judge on three global wine competitions – judging wines from Alsace and three New World regions for the International Wine and Spirit Competition (IWSC), Australian wines for the Decanter World Wine Awards (DWWA) and next month working with the Champagne and Sparkling Wine World Championships (CSWWC). So what approach does a wine expert/ chef take to the judging process and how has the dreaded C-word affected things?
The impact of Covid-19 on the way the drinks, retail and hospitality sectors does business continues to be far reaching with a host of new initiatives and ways of working. Like this new approach by Wines of Germany to help support independent wine retailers, whilst also providing a new platform to promote and distribute its wines in the UK when retail buyers are less likely to be travelling and sourcing new wines for themselves. Nicky Forrest, head of Wines of Germany in the UK, explains how its new Retailer Partnership is going to work.
There is always something a little more special about a drinks business when the people behind it have followed a dream to give up the day job, switch careers and dive head first into making it happen. Which is very much the case for James and Susanna Forbes. Both will be well known by many in the drinks trade for they both started out – and met each other – on the shop floor at Oddbins. James progressed to senior buyer before really making his mark as head of Wines of Argentina in the UK and introducing Malbec to the great British public. Susanna switched from Oddbins to become a long standing, highly respected drinks journalist. They also, though, both hankered after starting their own craft drinks company and after much deliberation and planning are now really making strides and winning awards and accolades for their Little Pomona orchard and craft cider business in the heart of Herefordshire. Here they explain how it has all come together to Richard Siddle.
History of Booze author Henry Jeffreys has made spirits his area of expertise – writing the Masters of Malt blog during the day and conducting much fastidious drinks research by night. On the eve of the publication of his latest book, The Cocktail Dictionary, he chats to Peter Dean about the effect Covid and the Low/No generation will have on cocktails, as well as why a Palmetto would be the last drink he had on earth. We also include an exclusive extract from the book on how to make an Americano.
At the peak of lockdown retail analysts were claiming there had been more change in a few weeks in how consumers were shopping and buying food and drink than there had been in years – with clearly a massive shift to online. But how long term are those changes going to be? The new UK Channel Opportunities report from the IGD is a very good place to start. Richard Siddle picks out the highlights from this new key report.
Across the drinks and hospitality sectors we have seen so many people and businesses really step up and stand out during the Covid-19 crisis. Be it turning their business models on their head to go direct to consumer, to throwing all their resources behind keeping up with the seemingly insatiable demand from consumers to buy their wine online. But all of this would not have been possible if it was not for the efforts of London City Bond, that has literally been the glue that has kept the industry tied together during the last few unprecedented months. It’s why today The Buyer, on behalf of the wine and drinks companies it supports, ‘Raises a Glass To’ the management and team at LCB.
Wine journalist – and regular Buyer writer – Chris Wilson has added another string to his bow as he launches his own urban winery in the heart of Cambridge this autumn. With keys to the windmill-based winery received this week and equipment and grapes on their way he is penning an exclusive monthly column for The Buyer on the ups and downs of building a winery, and brand, from scratch. Part 1: what’s in a name?
With drinks producers finding a route to market harder following Covid-19, the International Wine and Spirit Competition believes that there is an increasing importance being given to IWSC awards as a way of getting new drinks in front of buyers. But making the global competition actually happen this year was a daunting logistical exercise that faced numerous challenges in overcoming each country’s lockdown restrictions. Panel member David Kermode finds out how it was done and what the changes will mean moving forwards.
On the face of it sommeliers and on-trade wine buyers are not natural bedfellows to the global bulk wine market. But in reality if restaurants, bars and pubs are sourcing wines from suppliers, particularly across the major varieties such as New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc or Argentine Malbec, then many of them will have been shipped in bulk and bottled in the UK. It’s the reason they are on people’s lists at price points that many customers are looking for. Here David Gill MW at Kingsland Drinks, one of the country’s biggest bulk suppliers, makes the case for why bulk wine is only going to become a more important part of the wines bought at all levels of the on-trade.
Disruptive online wine service Winebuyers was conceived and launched just over two years ago in response to the wine trade’s slow uptake of e-commerce. To say that they were in the right place at the right time during lockdown is an understatement: Sales have increased over 800%, new memberships are up 700% above forecast, average order values are up 38% and the company has onboarded 80 new suppliers who didn’t have a route to market. CEO Ben Revell looks here at what else the changes over the past five months have taught him about the nation’s changing drinking habits and what lessons there are to learn for the rest of the trade.
Finally after weeks of turmoil and damage across the South African drinks and wine industries, and all the retail and hospitality sectors they support, the government’s domestic ban on all alcohol sales has been lifted. For the last few months all those outside the country could do was show their support by promoting, buying, and in The Buyer’s case write and talk about South African wine. Which is what this week’s video interview is all about and the chance to talk to Jean Claude (JC) and Carolyn Martin, the charismatic and inspiring couple behind Creation Wines, who encapsulate the extraordinary efforts that producers have had to go to in order to keep innovating and selling their wines overseas, so that they could support their staff and local communities that rely on them for their livelihoods. In particular, they have shown the way forward with the number of virtual tastings and sampling packs they have created for their international markets. It’s why today The Buyer today ‘Raises a Glass To’ them – and all South African wine producers at this time.
A company that helped the government and the NHS track the outbreak of Covid-19 across the UK has switched its digital identity and blockchain expertise to set up a new dedicated track and trace system designed specifically for restaurants, pubs and bars to securely record and store details of their customers. Ian Gass, chief executive of AGITATE, talks through how its new InkPass system is going to work and how on-trade businesses can sign up to it.
Akitu has always had a very pure proposition – only producing two Pinot Noirs, Akitu A1 and Akitu A2, that show two sides of the same coin, namely the special terroir of the Wanaka end of Central Otago. So, when Andrew Donaldson and winemaker PJ Charteris decided to make a white wine it naturally enough had be a ‘Blanc de Noirs’, a wine that is as unusual as it is seductive, writes Anne Krebiehl MW. Here she reveals the full story behind Akitu Pinot Noir Blanc 2019 plus the new A1 and A2 from 2018, a vintage that created some serious challenges all of its own.
Post-Communism the Czech wine industry focussed on getting the basics right but since 2007 winemakers have started taking concepts like terroir, low intervention and organic more seriously. The landscape is varied, there’s an exciting diversity of styles and grape varieties, lower alcohol wine is a thing and there is a strong, concerted move to be producing Czech wines with a strong sense of place.
“Stories are important for us human beings, we’ve been painting them on cave walls ever since we had cave walls, and minimalism says nothing except a colour for the baby’s room.” Kevin Shaw, founder of Stranger & Stranger, is back with this brilliant analysis and take down of what he sees as inspirational drinks design…and, well, whatever the opposite is to that. If you want to know what good design is then read on and let Shaw tell you in his own inimitable way.