The UK wine trade is used to having the opportunity to take part in special wine tasting events. The world of wine is always keen to show what it can do to some of the planet’s most influential buyers. On November 1 the opportunity falls on Napa Valley to demonstrate how the style and diversity of Cabernet Sauvignon has evolved over the last 30 years with a special Perspective tasting that will allow producers to show how one wine has changed and adapted over three vintages. Here’s what you can look forward to.
Thankfully Liam Hirt and Danny Walker are not only close friends, but have become successful business partners in not one but two craft spirits businesses based in Bristol. First the Psychopomp Distillery, which is the result of what happens when you take a hobby that started out in a basement and open it up to the public. Its limited edition craft gins now sell out on demand. It is now looking to do the same with its grain and whisky concept, the Circumstance Distillery which is as much about combining flavours and ferments as it is about craft distilling. Richard Siddle caught up with this fascinating duo who have also created their own craft spirit cryptocurrency…as you do.
Fresh from a trip to Rioja, ex-Berry Bros buyer Simon Field MW had the right context in which to cast a critical eye over the latest 10X10 Rioja tasting. With new classifications being used, the ‘Saber quién eres’ generic streamline still in place and Tim Atkin MW and Sarah Jane Evans MW still curating a wonderful selection of 100 Riojas, there was plenty for Field to get his teeth into. Now into its fifth year, 10X10 had successfully moved across the river to the Tate Modern, where the latest wines were being shown across 10 categories. Field tasted through the range and also recommends 10 Riojas that you should be looking at getting on your list.
There are not many – if any – wine events like wine2wine. That’s the point. Now into its sixth year this two-day event in Verona, Italy has become a key event in the calendar for those serious about getting on top of the key business issues facing the global wine industry, looking specifically at the influence and importance of technology and communications. Described as a cross between a conference and a think-tank it attracts top speakers from around the world. This year The Buyer will be on hand as a media partner sharing the highlights and insights. Here’s what to expect.
Winemaking the world over is currently in a ‘less is more’ phase, where it is often more important what is being left out of the process than what is being left in. So, out goes trophy-hunting, overworked wines with high degrees of polish and in comes wines made with organic, biodynamic, minimal intervention and ‘natural’ winemaking principles – whatever that means. For Chakana winemaker Gabriel Bloise, the past seven years has been one of experimentation, as he has led the mission to improve the soils of his estate through biodynamics and also testing the waters with what is achievable in his bold portfolio of wines.
“The books that taught me about wine were as much about places and people as they were about the wines themselves, and those were the stories that stuck in my mind.” They are also the stories that acclaimed wine critic and writer himself, Steven Spurrier, wants to capture and celebrate with his new venture the Académie du Vin Library that will give the opportunity for journalists and writers to have new wine books published, as well as the chance to delve back in time and help re-publish old classics.
Not having gone to a Corney & Barrow tasting for a while, Justin Keay was expecting to find wines mainly from France and the wine buyers to be mainly wearing pin stripes. How wrong you can be. In selecting his ‘Seven Magnificent’ wines from the Autumn Portfolio tasting held at Mayfair’s Nobu restaurant, Keay found that none actually came from France instead they are from South Africa, Chile, Greece, Argentina, Portugal, Germany and Italy – reflecting the massive strides that the buying team at Corney & Barrow has made in diversifying its portfolio.
Famous for its historic Port production, it’s hard to believe that the Douro didn’t really make still wine until the end of the last century. Five producers changed all that – Quinta Vale D. Maria, Quinta do Vallado, Quinta do Crasto, Quinta do Vale Meão and Niepoort – and together they make up The Douro Boys. David Kermode, aka Mr Vinosaurus, flew to Porto to meet each of them as they get together to celebrate their 15th anniversary with a fund-raising auction which, this year, broke all records. He meets the characters, all of them very different, who have done so much to raise the profile of their region and highlights a few of his favourite wines.
If you are keen to learn more about the latest styles of Italian and Mediterranean wine and how they can particularly work with different types of cuisine in the premium on-trade then next month’s Bellavita Expo really is a must. For the two day show has put together a highly impressive range of wine seminars, masterclasses and panel debates featuring a roll call of top experts and Masters of Wine. Here’s our highlights of what is a packed agenda of talks.
If generic bodies like Wines of Argentina are going to get the message across to buyers and sommeliers across the country about how far their wines and styles are changing then it means putting the hard yards in. Which is what the autumn series of Barullo Sessions from Wines of Argentina is all about. The chance to take Argentine producers on the road and introduce them to key players both in and around London, but also in Scotland with a special event next week in Edinburgh. UK ambassador for Wines of Argentina, Phil Crozier, explains what they have in store.
Roger Jones used to think that Champagne Pommery was something of a one-trick pony. That is, until he was invited to a special cuvee tasting at Sketch in London, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Pommery’s prestige Cuvee Louise. Duly inspired by Cuvee Louise and Cuvee Louis and the way they paired with the complexity of Pierre Gagnaire’s cooking, Jones then decided to test the more modestly-priced Champagnes from the portfolio back at his top restaurant The Harrow at Little Bedwyn. He experimented with a variety of dishes before arriving at some stunning pairings to go with the Pommery Blanc de Blancs and the latest arrival the Louis Pommery English Sparkling NV.
We’ve all heard the talk about demand for wines in a can, but now that Greencroft Bottling, one of the UK’s biggest and most influential packing companies in the country has decided to invest over £2 million in installing the UK’s first canning line for wine, all that talk is turning into action. Greencroft has clearly seen and had enough demand from its customers, which stretch from major branded wine companies to the big supermarkets and on-trade groups, to take the step to have a dedicated canning facility. David Kermode looks at the opportunities that lie ahead for canned wine.
There are many special tastings in the world of wine and many special bottles – some of them with plenty of bottle age. But the tasting that took place three days ago in Epernay was in the realm of ‘I was there’. 119 years after its cellars collapsed Champagne Pol Roger opened the first two intact bottles it had managed to retrieve from the rubble of the 1900 catastrophe. So what would be inside the bottles? sludge? vinegar? surely not drinkable Champagne? Peter Dean was there to witness the preparation, painstaking disgorgement and taste the two wines, one most likely from 1897, the second from 1895 – the first vintage that was bought by Winston Churchill.
Putting more of a focus into a trade tasting pays dividends, according to Mike Turner who praises the learnings he gleaned from Fizzics – the fourth iteration of a sparkling-focused tasting from Bibendum. Fizzics included: Champagne Palmer’s ‘Does Size Matter?’ (ooh err) focus; hearing about how a group of producers in Spain’s Penedès region have moved away from the Cava label; Ridgeview and sustainability; and Gianluca Bisol’s top Prosecco. Turner soaked it all up – as well as a fair degree of sparkling, it has to be said.
As someone who was born and grown up in Canada’s Okanagan Valley, Jackie Fast is well placed to have seen how far it has grown and developed as a serious wine region in its own right over the last 20 plus years. As she says she has “watched first” hand to see how the quality of wine and the investment being made in the region has elevated the Okanagan to a level she believes can now give even the illustrious Napa Valley a run for its money.
In this report top chef and Buyer contributing editor Roger Jones explores the white wines of the Alto Adige region with a special focus on Gewürztraminer – so often tasting of ‘granny’s face powder’ but here in the most Northern part of Italy produced in a dry style wine with a delicate fragrance of lychees, crisp Turkish Delight, pink grapefruit, very fine perfume with a lovely fresh acidity. Jones also highlights wineries that had exceptional white wine and those making wines made from unusual varieties such as Solaris.
It’s a nice problem to have. Too many people, countries, importers, restaurants and sommeliers want to get more than the fair share of your wines. So how do you juggle who gets what in a situation where you are running out of land to make a lot more wine. That’s the situation that New Zealand now finds itself in as global demand is increasing so fast it is starting to struggle to keep up. Richard Siddle assesses the opportunities and challenges the country faces in the coming years.
Over the last few weeks The Buyer has been looking at what steps restaurants, wine buyers and sommeliers are taking to make their wine lists more sustainable. Be it the actual wines they are buying, through to the producers they work, the regions they come from. Is it time for the premium on-trade to be taking sustainable wine far more seriously? James Nathan at Pull The Cork certainly thinks so. In fact the business has been set up just to trade in sustainable wine. Here he explains what he means by sustainable wine and offers some advice and tips to buyers on how they might want to adapt how they source wine to put sustainability further up the buying agenda.
Setting aside its considerable range of Italian agencies was a bold move for Armit Wines at last week’s Autumn Portfolio tasting – and it worked, very well indeed. Showing just 80 wines the tasting was focused, showed off Armit’s international estates and also proved how contemporary many of the wines are. With new agencies Terroir Sense Fronteres and Château Maris present; new wines such as La Rioja Alta’s Viña Arana Gran Reserva there; and some interesting curios, this was a tasting where it was hard to overlook the strength and depth of the range. Peter Dean highlights a dozen wines that sommeliers should look out for.
One grape many aliases. In fact Kékfrankos or Blaufränkish goes by more names than a secret agent – in Germany it goes by the name Lemberger, in Austria Blaufränkisch, in Hungary Kékfrankos, then Frankovka Modrá, Burgund Mare and Modra Frankinia – the name changing with almost every bend of the Danube as it swings through Central and Eastern Europe. Elizabeth Gabay MW explores why this is one of Europe’s most important grapes and flags up Wines of Hungary’s Blue of the Danube tasting where you can discover first hand the quality and diversity of this ever-changing grape.