One of the most exciting things about a wine region ‘on a roll’ is the sheer explosion of talent. We were just getting used to the wines from winemaker stars at the vanguard of South Africa’s new wave – Mullineux, Sadie, Walser, Savage, O’Keefe etc – when a whole raft of new exciting winemakers comes onto the scene. Always canny at spotting new wines that will work for the on-trade, Chris Wilson clutched his hot ticket to New Wave South Africa, beat the queues (there was a way people!) and turns a spotlight on the fresh blood that is entering the scene. Read on for his Top 10 rising stars.
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It’s like a magic wand has been waved across the Californian wine industry. If you had held a debate with buyers, importers and sommeliers even five years ago about the opportunities for California in the premium on-trade then it would have been all about the reasons why they are not looking to bring those wines into the UK. Now it is a completely different story. Which was very much the tone of the recent debate hosted by The Buyer and California Wine Institute with key figures from across the importer, buyer, sommelier scene in the premium on-trade.
John Malkovich has worked across a number of different industries – film, theatre, fashion, restaurants, clubs – and brought to each his singular vision and modus operandi. At the UK launch of his new wine label Les Quelles de la Coste, it was clear that this idiosyncratic approach is also being applied to winemaking, planting Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir in the Luberon and blending the two grapes together – both varieties coming from the same five hectares. Peter Dean met Malkovich for a long lunch at which he didn’t eat or drink a thing but waxed lyrical about why this latest project is so close to his heart.
It’s not easy setting up a winemakers event at the best of times. But if you are based at the very tip of Cornwall, persuading a group of winemakers with busy schedules to make time for an entire weekend of events, and to get there in the first place, takes a very special kind of dedication. But for Ben Prior, whose restaurant Ben’s Cornish Kitchen is in Marazion and Portminster, the two events he’s organised this weekend – Riding the Third Wave and a winemakers dinner featuring five star chefs – are all part of his passion for South African wines. Fellow chef and wine expert Roger Jones talks to him about the weekend and how he has gone about expanding into online sales.
Now many people with a bit of character are often described as being ‘larger than life’. Well they have not met Australian winemaker Chester Osborn. He truly is a one off. A brilliant winemaker in his own right, but also a truly inspirational figure who has intertwined the worlds of conceptual and modern art with wine at his incredible Cube tasting facility – which is as much an art gallery as it is a place to discover d”Arenberg’s wines. Here we find out what we can expect when he takes part in the upcoming Wine Australia’s Redefined tasting in London on September 17.
The Central Otago ‘fruit bomb’ style of Pinot Noir has been largely replaced by wines of more elegance and restraint. That said, the differences between fruit-forward New Zealand Pinot and ones that are more about acidity and tannin structure is what informs A1 and A2, the two wines from Akitu. In only six vintages Akitu winemaker PJ Charteris and winery owner Andrew Donaldson have managed to fashion two completely different wines from the same 12 hectare vineyard that can only be described as “marginal”, writes Anne Krebiehl MW who met up with Donaldson at London’s Institute of Masters of Wine to taste the new 2017 vintage and get more detail on what sets these two remarkable wines apart.
Ranald Macdonald must be one of the best customers a wine or drinks supplier could have. For he is always looking to do something new and different at any of his four Boisdale restaurants across London. So if you are equally ambitious, creative and have a good idea to share then his door is always open. Which is how E&J Gallo has started to work with him and his restaurant group by introducing its super premium Californian Collection of producers and winemakers. Wines that are particularly well placed to not only work well with the classic British and Scottish Boisdale cuisine, but fit in so well with the adventurous spirit that Macdonald and his Boisdale group is all about.
For Gérard Bertrand, winning this year’s IWC ‘world’s best red wine’ award with his Château l’Hospitalet’s grand vin was further validation – if needed – of his entire winemaking philosophy. The largest and most influential independent winemaker in the Languedoc-Roussillon, Bertrand has always nailed his colours to the mast of biodynamics – convinced that this approach makes better wine, is better for the soil, the planet, and can help him when times are tough – like the massive heat wave the region experienced this summer. Peter Dean caught up with him to talk biodynamics, business strategy and whether the world is ready for a €190 Rosé from the Languedoc.
There are a whole stack of reasons why a by the glass range is now crucial for premium on-trade operators. They allow restaurants and sommeliers the chance to offer their customers different and more ambitious, interesting wines, they can help drive better margins and growth and they fit far more with our lifestyles where people are looking to drinks less and better, be it at lunchtime or the evening. Here John Graves, Bibendum’s on-trade channel director, explains why it has been running a by the glass promotion throughout the summer and into September.
A pattern is clearly developing. In our many recent reports on the current state of British wineries and British wine events, our writers are finding that English and Welsh sparkling wine is now showing exceptionally well (and proving how much has been learned in the past decade) but it is the quality of the still wines that are showing the greatest improvement. Wanting to check this out for himself our very own Phileas Fogg (aka top chef and wine expert Roger Jones) decided to pop into Chapel Down incognito as a wine tourist on a busy and sweltering Bank Holiday Monday. Our ‘mystery quaffer’ was hugely impressed and reports back on which of the latest vintages you should buy.
It’s a long way to come to London just to taste and share wines with your friends. But that is very much the spirit amongst South African winemakers, many of whom are close friends who love nothing more than just sitting back and enjoying each other’s wines. They also like showing them to buyers and sommeliers in the UK trade which is what Lukas Van Loggerenberg will be doing this week with a host of other winemakers at the third New Wave South Africa wine tasting.
The speed of growth within the UK wine industry really does take your breath away. Last year saw a staggering 13.2 million bottles produced, and a further 1.6m vines planted, on top of the 1m that went into the ground in 2017. Which means future production can only get significantly higher. All of which is great news for the overall UK wine industry providing it can find a market for all the wine it is making. Which is why this week’s Wine GB annual tasting is even more significant than normal, says marketing manager Julia Trustram Eve. The chance to show the trade and its buyers just how far the British wine sector has come and why importers, retailers, and restaurant and bar groups need to find more space for them on their lists.
When the first crew of Cotswolds Distillery showed up for work five years ago there were a few key things missing. Number one, apart from a couple, no-one had made whisky before. Number two, no distillery. And yet here we are five years down the line and this dynamic homegrown company has just picked up two IWSC gold medals for its Flagship and Founders Choice whiskies. Not only that but its gin has been building up a loyal following – on account of it going cloudy when you add tonic. For native New Yorker Daniel Szor, CEO of the company, it is the fulfilment of a dream – a dream that saw an ex-hedge fund manager who liked touring distilleries in Scotland set up his own in the Cotswolds. Geoffrey Dean visited Cotswolds Distillery and hears first hand how Szor and his team have managed such ‘overnight’ success.
Having concentrated on producing quality, traditional-method sparkling wine and getting that right, the British wine industry is now truly in a position of ascendancy, writes Justin Keay. Visiting Ridgeview, Bolney and Albourne, Keay gives a rundown on his favourite fizz but also discovers a whole raft of experimentation going on – both with grape varieties and styles of wine being made. What had for him been a summer of discontent, what with the Brexit shambles, had one ray of hope and that was British wine – now with the right quality, quantity and with the right expression of terroir to make the world sit up and listen.
“There’s nowhere in the world like it.” Which is reason enough for Ben Henshaw to keep going back to South Africa to find more dynamic, cutting edge winemakers to add to its already impressive portfolio of South African wines, a country he believes is leading the world in terms of innovation and new wines styles. You can meet all of Indigo Wine’s South African winemaker partners, alongside those from the four other importers involved in hosting what will be the third New Wave wine tasting in London on September 3.
Distill Ventures doesn’t have holding music when you call it up. It does not quite cut the image of the world’s first hip and happening spirits drinks accelerator company. But if it did then The Pet Shop Boys lyrics “I’ve got the brains, You’ve got the looks, Let’s make lots of money” would be perfect. For that, in a nutshell, is what Distill Ventures does. Admittedly with Diageo’s money. Founded in 2013 it finds start up drinks brands it believes have what it takes to make it on a global scale. If its partner, Diageo, agrees, then it gets the green light to use Diageo funding to help develop and build that brand up. To potentially the point when Diageo offers to make it part of its own portfolio. Like it already has done with the world’s first non-alcoholic spirits brand, Seedlip. But how does it work in practice? What makes a brand so unique and exciting that Distill Ventures would want to take it on? Co-founder Frank Lampen explains to Richard Siddle the step-by-step process it goes through before it’s prepared to share its “brains”, or “money” with any potential drinks entrepreneur.
One of our most popular summer features is re-posted here as part of our popular The Buyer Rewind series (well the Chief and Pete need to get to the beach at some point!). As soon as the hot weather hits us we all check to see how much rosé is in the fridge. Or head to the nearest bar to while away the evening in front of an ice bucket or two. But have you ever noticed how poor the rosé selection is on most wine lists? That has got to change says our resident MW Anne Krebiehl who looks at the skill required to manage rosé on wine lists. Too often rosé is subjected to tokenism on the average list, but by carefully choosing a wider range, and focusing on what customers are really looking for means that rosé could become a significant new revenue driver for a bar or restaurant.
It’s great for producers and winemakers that there are so many major international wine competitions that they can enter, but they all effectively live and die by the quality of the judges they have assessing the wines. It means there is enormous pressure on even such a prestigious event as the International Wine & Spirit Competition to not only attract the best judges it can, but to analyse how the judging is done to ensure the best wines are being awarded. Here in a new series of articles profiling key judges in the IWSC’s revamped competition we talk to two leading retail buyers, Ana Sapungiu MW from Oddbins and Sarah Knowles MW, one of the buyers at The Wine Society, about why they took part this year for the first time.
Warmer weather, vine ageing and better winemaking means more balanced wines for British wine – whose standout summer event is Fizz Fest, organised by Vineyards of Hampshire. The sun shone on the day itself as much as it has on the vines this summer, which looks like yielding a spectacular 2019 crop. Justin Keay found the eight wineries present in fine fettle but more interesting was the amount of experimentation going on – Madeleine Angevine, Schönburger, Auxerrois Blanc and Pinot Gris anyone? The innovative use of ‘completely different’ grape varieties was a real head-turner, as Keay elaborates.