It’s not just the products and brands that enter the 2023 London Spirits Competition that are stars of the show, but the panel of judges that have been lined up to assess them and hand out the medals. Only drinks professionals with direct bar, restaurant, retail or spirits background are invited to take part with a line-up of talent that includes some of the most influential names in the world of spirits. Here’s who is taking part.
If you are looking forward to getting a new tasting diary in your Christmas stocking here’s a new date and event to look forward to, which also won’t take up too much space as it is only three letters long: VIN. A new tasting event being organised by Business France on February 2 that promises to be a one stop shop opportunity to explore and discover gems from all regions of France from producers already in the UK and many who are looking to sell their wines here for the first time. Here’s what to expect.
Over the last few weeks panels of every day wine drinkers and wine trade professionals have been analysing, checking, tasting and scoring flights of wines and spirits as part of the judging for both what is the sixth People’s’ Choice Wine Awards and the third People’s Choice Spirits Awards. Judging sessions were held in both Manchester and London to get a more diverse set of judges from different backgrounds. Here Janet Harrison, founder of both competitions, explains how the judging went, announces the shortlists and picks out some highlights for how the 2023 awards are going to be run.
Over the last 18 month Distill Ventures has extended its investment programme to support new start-up drinks brands, by starting a Pre Accelerator programme aimed at identifying and then backing new brand launches from entrepreneurs from marginalised communities. To date it has been able to invest $5 million in a wide range of brands and is now starting its investment programme for 2023. Here we talk to Ara Carvallo, portfolio and I&D Director at Distill Ventures about how it works.
You’ve tasted the wine, now visit the region, says Linda Galloway after a visit to Tokaj, Hungary’s oldest wine region. There are miles of wine caves to explore, new state-of-the-art tasting rooms, historic estates plus a range of gastronomy and hospitality to indulge yourself in. Galloway points out some of the key wineries, plus gives a range of contacts for when you visit Tokaj.
“We look to Burgundy as the global benchmark of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, we are not trying to replicate their wines.” Instead Brendan Hawker says he is looking to pin point which blocks and parcels of vines are going to make the right styles of wine that truly reflect the terroir of Australia’s Yarra Valley in his role as head winemaker at Yering Station. He also looks at how its winemaking has evolved to become focused on the fruit and bringing together complex blends of its key varieties.
To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Balfour Winery, and the launch of its new Archive Collection, owner and founder Richard Balfour-Lynn held a remarkable vertical tasting of its English sparkling wine, Balfour Brut Rosé, in London this month. Launching the new range is a late-disgorged Brut Rosé from 2008, which is the first wine of its type in the UK, and which gets two thumbs up from our expert at the tasting, Master of Wine and fizz aficionado Anne Krebiehl MW.
Winemakers are faced with making 100s of decisions every month about what they should be doing in the vineyard, with their vines and in the cellars. But how many would be brave enough to give the power for making those decisions over to their potential customers? Well that’s the exact concept behind the Not Named Wine Co and a new form of community winemaking which allows people to sign up to become members and then work with the winemakers to decide what wines to make. Co-founder Alex Brogan explains how it all works.
If you really want to fast track your knowledge about the global wine industry and what is really going on then book yourselves into two days at the World Bulk Wine Exhibition. It’s like the wine fair equivalent of Tinder where buyers will swipe left, or right, depending on who they want to do business with. Across the two days of the show I was not offered one wine to try. My name badge may have had ‘The Buyer’ on it, but as soon as the producer realised I was not actually there to physically buy wine, but talk about it, they wanted to keep their limited tasting stocks back for the ‘buyers’ who really matter. Last week’s fair was like no other that has gone before it. The ramifications of Covid, problems in the supply chain and seemingly quarterly increases in dry good, packaging and bottling costs, along with a global shortage in glass bottles meant the actual price of wine was actually the last thing people needed to negotiate about. All of which is ripping up the traditional way that producers and buyers do business together with once sacrosanct yearly contracts being thrown up in the air. Richard Siddle was there to see the new rules of trading being written before his eyes.
To mark the sad passing of rugby legend Doddie Weir OBE yesterday we repost the inspirational story of Doddie’5 Red Blend 2019, a unique South African red blend which has many parts to it but one purpose – to raise money for Weir’s Motor Neurone Disease foundation. Weir wore the No.5 shirt for Scotland while Schalk Burger, who made the wine with his son Tiaan, wore the No.5 for the Springboks. In another homage to the wine’s sporting provenance the blend is made of five grape varieties with £5 from every bottle sale donated to Weir’s MND charity and Burger constructing the wine as if it were a team of legends. Wine and sports writer Geoffrey Dean got the story and the wine is still available to buy – details at the end of the article.
Spain has led the way in building world class, high end-designed bodegas. With the unveiling of its new winery in Empordà, however, the Perelada Group has gone one better. Not only is the winery at the cutting edge of technological and functional advancements in winemaking, and sporting an avant-garde design, but it has also been driven from the very start by a total commitment to sustainability. So much so that it is the first European winery to be certified LEED Gold – the world’s highest sustainable building certificate. Largely built underground the winery mixes futuristic design, sustainability and oenotourism with winemaking. The Buyer’s Marina Ray was one of the first visitors, talked to winemaker Delphí Sanahuja about how it has affected his winemaking capabilities and tastes through a range of Perelada wines.
Communicating about wine is so much more than putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and telling a story. It’s a narrative woven through words, pricing, positioning and placement. It’s about being in the right place at the right time and in front of the right people and then and only then, will you succeed. Over two days of talks, seminars and discussions, wine2wine 2022 put this complex puzzle under the microscope, calling on leaders from all corners of the wine industry to share their expertise. Caroline Tanner reports back for The Buyer.
The New Zealand new releases tasting in London last week may not have had the scale of recent years, being held in the 67 Pall Mall club, but it was just as insightful. Apart from a slew of first rate wines from the 2019, 2020 and 2021 vintages, New Zealand Winegrowers decided to show how these wines can age. A masterclass, hosted by Peter McCombie MW, showed Sauvignon Blancs from as far back as 2003 and Pinot from 2008 onwards. It was a real eye-opening, transcendent affair, as David Kermode reports.
For many years California’s most prestigious and acclaimed wines struggled to get out of the state, never mind the rest of the United States, or reach the shores of the UK. Now it is a very different story with premium wine venues such as 67 Pall Mall offering a whole new platform for the best Californian wines to shine. Here we talk to 67’s head sommelier Federico Moccia about what opportunities he sees for California
in fine wine circles and how it is working with Californian producers Louis M. Martini and Orin Swift to promote its top wines to its members.
Five years ago, almost to the day, the New Wave South African tasting in London blew so many of us away. Wave? The amount of new exciting talent coming out of the country was more like a tsunami. Many of those producers, Duncan Savage, BLANKbottle, AA Badenhorst and Restless River are working with Swig in the UK, while some emerging talent like The Vineyard Party are also breaking onto the scene. Winemaker Chris Wilson was The Buyer’s man at the tasting and picks out a dozen wines that you need to be aware of including AA Badenhorst’s Palomino, a wine everyone’s talking about.
Successfully released in France two years ago, four Mumm RSRV Champagnes are hitting the UK shores this week. RSRV is the shorthand Mumm used to use for Grands Crus-only cuvées that were set aside for family and friends and the four cuvées that launch the brand all meet the approval of Anne Krebiehl MW who tastes and rates them as well as talking to Mumm’s cellar master Laurent Fresnet about their history and provenance.
Despite its name, Oldenburg is actually one of South Africa’s new generation of wine producers having been in place from 2003, when it was taken over by Western Cape entrepreneur, Adrian Vanderspuy, who set the ground work for what has become one of the country’s fast emerging producers. Richard Siddle talks to head winemaker, Nic van Aarde, about how he is helping lead the direction of its range of premium wines that look to best reflect the stunning Banghoek Valley in Stellenbosch where the majority of its replanted vines are.
If you asked 100 people in the wine trade if they have heard of Costières de Nîmes then the chances are the vast majority, if not all, would say they have. But if you then gave them a pin and asked them to place it somewhere in the AOC of Costières de Nîmes on a map of France that number might fall considerably. How many could then go and tell you what styles of wine the area is famous for? Those were some of the questions up for debate in the latest The Buyer panel session with leading buyers, importers and wine merchants who had the opportunity to come together, taste wines that best represent Costières de Nîmes and assess what opportunities there are for these Rhône Valley wines in the UK.
Rhône wines expert Matt Walls says that the wines of Ventoux AOC have gone from ‘zero to hero’. Once considered to be the ‘Clark Kent’ of the Rhône Valley, premiumisation is fast leading to superhero status for Ventoux wines. At a fascinating London tasting, Walls and Ventoux AOC president, Frédéric Chaudiere, demonstrated how Ventoux’s unique topography and climate, coupled with ‘freedom’ for winemakers is pushing the quality envelope. Robert Mason was there and picks four premium wines that punch well above their weight.
As the world’s leaders gathered at the COP27 conference this month, calls have grown louder for the wine industry to do their bit for climate change by tackling the elephant in the (tasting) room – the use of glass bottles. Last week more than 50 wine professionals from across the UK wine sector wrote an open letter to James Cartlidge MP, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, calling for tax breaks for non-glass packaging and offering support to the Wine Traders for Alternative Formats. Has the time for alternative packaging formats for wine come at last? Kate Hawkings examines the issue.