The final figure is still being calculated but all the signs are that Spain is set to have enjoyed its biggest wine harvest in five years and is a welcome return to form not just for the country’s wine producers, but is a big boost for the overall global wine market that relies so much on Spain to provide the large volumes of bulk wines for the world to buy. Richard Siddle looks at what impact the bumper Spanish harvest is likely to have on the price of not just its own grapes, but those of other countries around the world.
Ruinart’s cellar master Frédéric Panaïotis came to London last week to launch his latest vintage release, Dom Ruinart Blanc De Blancs 2007, which arrives in the UK early next year. David Kermode, aka Mr Vinosaurus, was there to taste it, alongside a non-vintage Blanc de Blancs and the established 2006 vintage.
It’s not just supermarkets that have the challenge of bringing their wall of wine more to life for consumers to understand and better engage with. It’s as much a challenge for major pub groups like All Bar One and all the other fascias in the Mitchells & Butlers pub and bar group. Alistair Morrell talks to Lydia Worsey about how the group is looking at new ways to promote and push wines, starting with its flagship wine outlet, All Bar One.
With Beaujolais shrunk back to the acreage it was before the heyday of Beaujolais Nouveau, and more artisanal producers helping to bring back the serious appreciation of this vin primeur, this Thursday’s celebrations of Beaujolais Nouveau Day are still delicately poised between winning wine lovers over and losing them for good. Peter Dean visited the region and talked to winemakers, negociants and regulators about the wine we used to love but then turned our back on.
English sparkling wine producers Hattingley Valley in Hampshire has just harvested their best ever vintage and are well on track to achieving their target of producing one million bottles a year within five years
It does not seem to fit South Africa’s image as a still young, emerging wine country when you get the opportunity to go and celebrate the 100 year anniversary of one of its oldest and still most influential wine companies – KWV. This is a business that has helped create and develop the South African wine industry for the rest of the world to enjoy. But as Harry Crowther discovered, during a special night to mark its 100 year anniversary, its best years probably still lie ahead.
The wonders of aged Tyrrell’s Vat 1 Semillon is a wine trade secret, of course; stunning quality that is still so modestly priced. To celebrate 160 years of the winery, Chris Tyrrell was in London with a flight of Vat 1 Semillon (2017-1998), a flight of the Johnno’s plus some amazing Shiraz. Our roaming contributing editor Roger Jones was on hand to pick out his favourite vintages.
Inspired by an episode of A Place in the Sun, Jayne and Paul Bayliss decided to jack in their media jobs in the UK and head to the Languedoc where they set up a craft beer brewery in the heart of wine country… not knowing a thing about making beer. Brasserie du Quercorb is almost 10 years old and has reached capacity – supplying the French on-trade with a range of award-winning ales, through their on-site brasserie and also off sales. Peter Dean met up with them just as they opened a new brewery that will triple production and see them able to supply a range of new export markets – including the UK.
South Africa might, in comparison to other wine producing countries, be a relatively newcomer on the international wine market, but it has vines that date back decades. But they are in ever decreasing numbers as they are have been systematically ripped out over the years to be replaced by new vines as producers and the major co-ops look to keep ahead of world demand by planting more global varieties than local ones. But now thanks to the Old Vine Project and the pioneering work of respected viticulturist, Rosa Kruger, more and more older vines are being protected, saved and brought back to life. Vines that potentially give winemakers the opportunity to produce styles of wine that are the true identity of South Africa and have learnt how to live through at least 35 years – the age at which they are deemed to be ‘old’ – and become part of the Old Vine Project. Richard Siddle explores what the project means in reality, and how it is still a slow, but very important process in convincing growers and the major co-operatives to identify where the old vines are and help bring them back to life.
‘Plaimont Producteurs and the Sale of the Golden Barrels’ sounds like a story JK Rowling could have dreamt up, beret pulled down over her eyes after necking a bottle of solid Madiran in the rolling hills of Gascogne. It is, however, an annual auction held on November 5th where the finest barrels of Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh (or Barriques d’Or) are sold to the on-trade – a chance to assess the latest harvest, get first dibs on the best of the best, and also to come together and celebrate as one winemaking community – just before the grapes are picked for the next vintage. Peter Dean travelled there to take part in the festivities and on no account to come home with 228 litres of sticky.
There must be times as a leading sommelier that you are as much in demand as all the latest movie stars sitting on Graham Norton’s sofa. Be it in the restaurant and the time needed to work behind the scenes to have the right wines for customers to buy, and then the time to get out, taste, discover and find new things to list. Which is why The Buyer’s new Sommelier Workshop concept is designed to give sommeliers an insight into a key emerging country in 90 minutes. Which is what we would look to deliver with our journey into the wines of Hungary and what varieties, styles and price points are right for premium UK restaurants.
South Africa is winning plaudits left, right and centre for the quality of its wines, from reds, to whites, to sparkling and anything in between. But for Ross Sleet and the new Rascallion wine brand it is the country’s blended wines that are truly world class. It’s why the Rascallion wine range has been created using only blends, using both traditional combinations and more left field option from across South Africa. Richard Siddle went on a road trip with him to track down the right ‘ingredients’ for his next blends.
On a recent tasting visit of the Saint-Péray AOC in the Rhône, Bart Feys is excited by the quality of the current crop of white wines and their potential to develop into complex ageworthy wines. Recent years have also seen the resurgence of sparkling Saint-Péray, a unique wine with a long history. With a string of recent successful vintages, now seems the ideal time to explore this little forgotten corner of the Northern Rhône.
The Bock winery from Villany in Hungary has many stories to tell, none more so than how, like so many Hungarian hard-working families, it has prospered in the wake of the Communist regime. It all started when the Bock family, with only half a hectare of vines, was able to kickstart and restore viticulture to the Villany region. Today the Bock winery has expanded to 80 hectares and its wines are known across the country. Its next challenge is to build its profile and reputation overseas at trade and consumer tastings and hopefully on restaurant wine lists.
The world of wine is full of conundrums. Just how do you define natural wine? What exactly is minerality, why do Americans love Yellow Tail so much and just who is Peter Stafford-Bow? Yes, this mysterious figure suddenly appeared out of nowhere with a top selling book, Corkscrew, detailing the apparently fictitious, yet also so very accurate, lives of supermarket wine buyers and the producers and distributors that supply them. He is now back with his second book, Brut Force, that picks up the adventures of his hero Felix Hart. The Buyer managed to track him down – admittedly via email and not face to face – to try and reveal just a little more about who the real Peter Stafford-Bow really is.
The wines of Dönnhoff hold a special place in the hearts and minds of great wine lovers worldwide. This 20-hectare estate in Germany’s Nahe wine region has been making wine since the mid-18th century but it wasn’t until 1971 when Helmut Dönnhoff took over the helm that the winery took on superstar status thanks to Helmut’s commitment to quality and skill as a winemaker. With Helmut now passing much of the day-to-day running of the estate to his son Cornelius, Helmut spent a warm summer’s evening with Christina Rasmussen to explain why he thinks ‘higher’ can be good with global warming, how the rise of dry Riesling is a sommelier-driven thing and why every vineyard has a special ‘natural talent.’ The winemaker’s job is to harness it.
You would think with so much competition for every single possible space on restaurant, pub and bar wine lists that a national drinks distributor can’t afford to turn down any business that might come its way. Particularly in the current climate where wine lists are being squeezed, and margins raised as the mainstream and premium on-trade looks to find any way possible to use its wine and drinks list to help offset the rising business, wage and food costs that have hit the sector so hard over the last few years. But for Boutinot the key to its success is having the discipline to say no to any potential business that it feels is not in its long term interest. Which, as it increasingly spreads its net away from its northern stronghold and, in particular, into London and the south east becomes harder by the month. Richard Siddle talks to Kevin Pollard, who heads up Boutinot’s growing London office, about the challenges it faces, but also the huge opportunities it still has to build its profile, presence and influence in wider areas of the UK’s premium on-trade scene.
One of Sicily’s organic pioneers, Stefano Girelli has won critical acclaim for his Feudo Di Santa Tresa wines. Now he’s expanding his reach, having taken on another ancient vineyard that had fallen on hard times. As he prepares to launch his ‘Cortese’ wines into the UK market next month, he tells organic nut David Kermode, aka MrVinosaurus, why he was keen to take on another punishing project, how he believes the future of wine is all about getting back to basics, and why the island is “grape heaven”.
Bollinger La Grande Année 2007, Bollinger R.D 2004 the one-off cuvée ‘2003 by Bollinger’ and more are taste-tested with HIDE’s cuisine by Buyer contributing editor Roger Jones, as chef de caves Gilles Descôtes waxes lyrical about what the 2018 vintage has in store. But not all the food pairings got two thumbs up by Jones.
We saw yesterday how the People’s Choice Wine Awards has already carved its own highly relevant and much needed mark on wine competitions with an event that allows everyday wine drinkers to have a say in the wines they think should be picking up trophies and medals. Here wine communicator, Sorcha Holloway, and already very much a voice for average wine consumers with her weekly #ukwinehour Twitter show, explains what it was like to be involved from a so-called ‘expert’s’ point of view.