With the news that Gordon Ramsay laid off 500 staff this week, we thought it would be a good time to re-run this gem of a feature. Because he’s game for a laugh, our drinks editor Peter Dean decided to apply to be a contestant on ITV ‘s Culinary Genius, the new Gordon Ramsay cookery show. Six weeks after learning how to do almost anything with a knife, the big day arrived and our intrepid chef headed to ITV Studios for his chance to show he could do much more than just put a Pop Tart into the toaster. We couldn’t possibly comment on how Ramsay treats his staff but the way contestants on Culinary Genius were treated left a lot to be desired.
The situation surrounding the impact and spread of Covid-19 in the UK and around the world is changing so fast The Buyer has set up this rolling updates service to keep you abreast of the latest official guidelines and recommendations from the government, but also the individual steps that businesses are taking to keep trading and help their customers do the same. Today’s round-up includes last minute reprieve for South African harvest; Pernod Ricard’s major Drinks Trust donation; full furlough guidelines confirmed; Star Wine List’s offer to sommeliers.
For all the efforts everyone in the drinks industry is taking to do what they can to keep sales going and products flowing they all rely on the smooth running of the global drinks distribution business. With so many lockdowns in countries across the world, the situation is becoming more complex to keep on top. To provide the trade with the latest information, global logistics provider, Hillebrand has released the latest data on the supply chain conditions in all the main countries around the world.
A who’s who of the UK sommelier scene showed up for the Flint portfolio tasting, one of the last to be held before lockdown. The reason? The day had been specially curated with the sommelier in mind – wines that are just right for the on-trade, and a set of masterclasses that offered genuine practical help. The one compered by Ronan Rayburn MS and Stefan Neumann MS on blind tasting was the best masterclass that Mike Turner has ever attended, and he has attended a few let us tell you. Other subjects covered included the cutting edge of sustainable practices in Europe and America, and an in-depth look at the white wines of Italy. In addition to reporting on the day Turner also picks 6 of the Best – the pick of the wines which he thinks will work best for sommeliers.
As the on-trade has effectively shut down across large parts of Europe, South America and now the United States, in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak, it has left thousands of restaurant staff, sommeliers, and bartenders in limbo and stuck at home. The latest online Real Business of Wine Forum talked to senior sommelier figures to see what advice they had to keep their colleagues active, occupied, or, better still, to help find new ways to make money.
Peter Ranscombe goes back to school during four masterclasses in London to learn why California’s wide variety of terroirs and blending options allows it to produce competitively priced wines below the £50 mark without compromising on quality. From larger American Viticulture Areas like the Central Coast and Sonoma County through to pockets including the Alexander Valley, Carneros and Mendocino, the sheer scale of The Golden State allows suppliers to find wine-by-the-glass candidates that won’t break the bank.
We have heard a lot about the so-named New Old World in recent years. Which is usually used to talk about emerging wine countries from Eastern Europe and the Baltic States. But there are also good examples of ‘New” worlds being created in classic old wine countries like Spain. The New Spain movement being driven by charismatic and influential winemakers like Raúl Pérez who has made his home in Bierzo. Anton Moissenko travelled to meet and share his story.
In this first in a series of reports from Prague, drinks consultant Harry Crowther finds that if you scratch beneath the surface of ‘Stag Party central’ you will find a buzzing drinks scene with awesome bars and a new wine scene heavily influenced by Austrian and Hungarian vignerons. In this post, Crowther meets up with Milos Danihelka bartender from the L’Fleur whose love of Champagne has started his very own grower revolution. Listed as one of the world’s Top 50 Discovery bars, L’Fleur has an exciting range of cocktails but it is the wine list that now boasts 120 Champagnes with over 70 lines coming from the grower circuit, that has really got tongues wagging, and helped him set up his own on-trade importing business Terroirs Champagne.
As Romania’s largest wine exporter Cramele Recas, with customers in most major wine markets around the world, is well placed to be able to assess what impact the Covid-19 outbreak is having on the global supply and movement of wine. Here its owner, Philip Cox, gives an open and frank account of how hard business has become and what it’s like just trying to get wine moved from what is a landlocked country to his key global customers.
Saturday night saw the final service at The Harrow at Little Bedwyn, the Wiltshire-based restaurant run by Roger and Sue Jones for 21 years, which had become a favourite haunt for the wine industry – tickets for final sittings were selling faster than hand sanitiser. One of the final lunches was a classic, hosted by Vranken Pommery, keen to pair its top cuvées from the 2002 vintage with Jones’ faultless eye for culinary detail. David Kermode was there for The Buyer who reports that even with the disaster of the Coronavirus looming ever closer, it could not detract from a meal of truly epic proportions.
Greek wine is on a surge of popularity in the UK right now – sommeliers can’t get enough, it seems, of Assyrtiko, Xinomavro, Mavrodaphne, Malagousia, Moschofiliero and Agiorgitiko – in many cases quite literally. There is a shortage in supply of quality Greek wine in the UK, writes Justin Keay, with most large importers not yet on the bandwagon. There are a couple of exceptions with Cava Spiliadis being the most notable. At its second UK tasting, this New York-based importer showed over 100 quality wines with the least well known being the most popular.
As the Covid-19 situation escalates across the UK on-trade and hospitality sectors, and more restaurants and bars are forced to close, the industry’s senior figures are calling out for more urgent action to be taken by the government to protect jobs and help all businesses including the suppliers that help keep those outlets going. Here Enotria’s Troy Christensen and Hallgarten’s Andrew Bewes explain the measures they are taking and what support they want to see from the government.
Silicon Valley entrepreneur Michael Baum is a self-avowed disruptor, and a biodynamic evangelist, who sees sommeliers as key to the success of Château Pommard, the prestigious Burgundy estate he acquired six years ago. At an exclusive lunch he tells Victor Smart how he intends to get from a direct-sales model to 25% of production channelled through restaurants and bars. As well as opens the latest releases including the sought-after ‘Simone’ which has a trade price of a cool £300 a bottle.
While Cabernet Sauvignon and Riesling may continue to grab all the headlines, Syrah was Peter Ranscombe’s pick at last week’s ‘Unsung Heroes’ tasting, hosted by Washington State Wine. He finds out that – thanks to its complex mix of soils, warm summers and cooler autumns – the state can produce wines that have the ripe fruit flavours of the new world alongside the structure and the freshness of the old world. Apart from reporting on the two Jamie Goode masterclasses, Ranscombe also picks his Top 10 Syrahs from the tasting.
“The rituals of eating and drinking together are at the heart of our civilisation, of our very humanity, yet now they are what make us all most vulnerable.” In just one sentence Kate Hawkings, a former restaurant owner herself, captures the dilemma we are now faced with. The desire on one hand to support our local on-trade, but the knowledge we might be putting each other risk if we do go out eating and drinking. Here she shares her personal feelings towards coping with Covid-19 and talks to her contacts and friends in the restaurant trade about what impact it is having on their businesses.
As we all come to terms with what impact Covid-19 is going to have on our personal lives as much as our work and business, we can only learn from those who are already having to live directly with the outbreak of this virus. Like Reka Haros and her husband, Pier, and young children, who have been cut off from normal life at their Italian winery, Sfriso, in Veneto in northern Italy. Here she shares what life really is like when you have to go into lockdown.
With wine events getting cancelled every day it was refreshing to see Daniel Lambert Wines’ portfolio tasting still going ahead last week. Despite Covid-19 and uncertainty over Brexit, Lambert is reporting 12% growth this year with his portfolio getting stronger every year, focussing as it does on family producers. That’s certainly what David Kermode thought who tasted the wines for the first time and was impressed with a number, particularly a sparkling from Montgomery Vineyard (lead picture) which is the UK’s highest vineyard near Powys and is made of 95 percent Seyval Blanc with the remainder early ripening Pinot Noir Précoce. Kermode lists his Top 10 wines from the tasting.
As we all come to terms with the enormity of the coronavirus outbreak around the world, The Buyer is looking to play its part by sharing practical information about what the drinks, retail and hospitality sectors are being asked to do, along with individual stories of what businesses are doing to support each other through what are going to be come increasingly difficult times. Here’s our update on the latest situation and what steps businesses are taking now and could do in the future.
With the Bordeaux en primeurs cancelled the Grand Circle des Vins de Bordeaux’s London tasting last Thursday was the first and only glimpse at Bordeaux 2019 for the foreseeable future. 2019 was a vintage which was all about the hot dry summer and the resulting high pHs – which led some châteaux to acidify. The whites are great, the reds mixed between good and very good, depending upon how much Merlot was in the blend – the Merlot ripening early and the Cabernet Sauvignon caught out at some estates by a lot of October rain. Geoffrey Dean tasted through the wines, talked to Grand Cercle’s Alain Reynaud and the winemakers about how 2019 compares with other vintages of the 21st Century.
In the first part of our report on the debate The Buyer held to discuss what leading wine buyers, merchants and restaurateurs think about the possibilities for Prosecco DOCG in the premium on-trade, we looked at how and why more outlets might list different styles of Prosecco Superiore. Here we give the time and space for those buyers to go into more detail and share their thoughts on how sparkling wine is performing in general and the opportunities they think that Prosecco DOCG has on restaurant wine lists in the future.