Argentina, and South America in general, may not be currently top in the cyclical world of football, but it seems their wines are very much back on the agenda for international wine buyers looking for the best value to quality ratio they can get for their retail and restaurant businesses. Paul Schaafsma, founder of new UK importer and agency business, Benchmark Drinks, explains why he believes Argentina, in particular, is so well placed to benefit in the months and years to come and why he is so pleased to have signed an exclusive deal with to bring the wines of leading producer, Fecovita to the UK.
Keynote speakers like Paul Mabray are right to point to consumer trends and mining customer data as a way forward for the wine industry in a digital age. The industry would do well to really embrace social media. But with so much emphasis in the wine industry now being put on being at the forefront of the digital media and e-marketing world, Mike Turner argues it’s worth remembering that easy wins can be had by finally bringing more of the reluctant members of the trade into the ‘dizzy sphere’ of the World Wide Web. On a recent press visit to the Médoc, half of the 36 producers visited don’t have websites and six didn’t have email addresses.
There is a lot spoken and written about the wine industry’s inability to truly connect with more consumers about what wine is all about and why there is so much to discover if only people took the time to look. But why should they? Are they ever going to change the habits of a lifetime and not just see wine for what essentially it is. An alcoholic drink to enjoy with friends or on your own. That’s where Paul Mabray start his conversations about wine. If wine is truly going to connect with its target audience it needs to really understand what consumers do care about and that means getting deep, down and digital. Which is the message he delivered to great effect at this summer’s MUST Fermenting conference in Portugal.
With bumper harvests over the last year in most top bulk wine producing regions, like California, southern France, and New Zealand, global wine production is up and the flow of wine to various export markets is more fluid than ever. As a result, producers are looking for new ways to deal with the glut and off an on-trade accounts are looking to take advantage of the situation by maximising margins. Hence the rise in private label all over the world. Katie Canfield reports back from the recent International Bulk Wine & Spirits Show in San Francisco where private label, central to any producer’s bulk wine strategy, was one of the key themes of the event.
In the news this week for all the wrong reasons, one Michelin-Star The Kitchin in Leith was the restaurant chosen by our drinks editor Peter Dean to test out the skills of the sommelier and see what he came up with in matching a complex mystery tasting menu. One of the delights of spending a week at the Edinburgh Fringe each year is not only the unrivalled fun and madness of the Fringe but an excuse to sample Scotland’s finest cuisine, writes Dean. With his pocket money dutifully saved, he was knocked out by the bravura of what was happening in the kitchen but also some very unusual choices by the head somm.
There are very few winemakers who would readily admit that in the early days they were literally making it up as they went along. But that’s very much the approach that self-taught winemaker, Tim Wildman MW, took when he first had a go making pet nat wines in Australia. Now on the verge of his fifth vintage he is really beginning to make a name for himself Down Under and can claim to be the biggest importer of pet nat wines into the UK. He tells Richard Siddle what started out as a dare has resulted in him completely changing his wine career to become a bona fide winemaker in his own right.
Given the comparative sizes of the Washington and Oregon wine regions, it is surprising that Washington wines are so hard to get hold of in the UK. Washington is the US’s second largest wine region, home to 1,000 winemakers producing 18 million cases of wine a year, and yet we seem to know more about Oregon and find their wines easier to get hold of – when they are a fraction of the size. David Kermode travels to Washington and talks to the leading winemakers there to try and uncover why such good wines are failing to make an inroad in the UK. One thing that importers here in the UK are recommending, is that Washington should take a leaf out of California’s book and look to invest in building a global brand; that and address the prices, which is also an issue.
Wines from Washington State – the US’s second largest wine producer – can be hard to come by which is a shame, argues David Kermode aka Mr Vinosaurus. The climate, unique mix of soils and 70 different grape varieties, not forgetting the skill of the 1,000-odd winemakers, makes for an Aladdin’s cave for the wine aficionado. Fresh from a trip to the Evergreen State, Kermode selects the 10 best Washington wines that should be on your buying radar and, most importantly, where you can find them.
The New Wave South Africa tasting may be organised by five leading UK importers, but it would not be possible without the quality of wines they have to offer from the dynamic South African wine scene. So all credit must go to the collective recruitment and buying talents at Swig, Dreyfus Ashby, Indigo Wine, New Generation Wines and Fields Morris & Verdin for finding the right producers to work with. Like Kiara Scott of Brookdale Estate who is working with Indigo Wine to promote and push her wines into the UK.
2017 was a long, protracted nightmare for so much of the world of wine. Circumstances came together so that both the northern and southern hemispheres both endured bad harvests in most of the major wine producing countries. Whilst conditions were much better in 2018, with strong wine volumes back in the market, the impact and ramifications from 2017 are still being felt, according to the latest global trends report from IWSR. Richard Siddle picks out the highlights, and, yes, also the lowlights.
South Africa’s Swartland used to be the region responsible for producing unremarkable ‘Cape blends’ and always in the shadow of Stellenbosch. That is until a bunch of visionary winemakers decided to make this ‘hot as hell’ region into one of the ‘coolest’ viticultural places on the planet. It was fitting that, on the hottest day ever recorded in Britain, Harry Crowther met up with David and Nadia Sadie to taste through their 2018 single vineyard range of Chenins and a seven year vertical of red blend Elzpidios. Crowther picks out three of each colour that he thinks deserves a place on your list.
Now it might have been some time ago that you bought your last bag-in-box wine – unless you are just back from a summer music festival – but when you did one of the greatest things about it was the fact it was like a wine gift that kept on giving. Just when you thought it was empty there was another couple of glasses to eek out. That’s still the case, but the difference now is the quality of wine you can find in bag-in-box has been transformed in recent years as producers, brand owners and importers all respond to the consumer’s call for more sustainable packaging. Here Janet Harrison explains why she loves bag-in-box wines so much she has made it a key feature of her breakthrough People’s Choice Wine Awards.
We are so used to drinking a different wine with each course in a restaurant – and rarely buy one bottle that will work with a starter just as well as the dessert. So it was a fascinating decision for Champagne Palmer to launch its new cuvée Grands Terroirs 2003 at London’s La Dame de Pic – pairing just the one wine with a succession of elaborate and contrasting dishes, all in different shaped glasses – to bring out the different facets of this extraordinary wine. Anne Krebiehl MW reports.
Today a major new campaign is launched to try and get the wine industry better, fairer, treatment from the government when it comes to tax hikes and duty rates. It follows last year’s move by the Chancellor to single out wine for its annual inflationary duty rise whilst at the same time freezing them for spirits and beer. A line in the sand had been crossed. Why was wine being singled out? Rather than sit back and take further blows, the wine industry has said enough is enough and is today launching its Wine Drinkers UK, Cut Back Wine Tax campaign. Its principle aim is to get across to MPs, the government, the national and local media, how much damage the current tax regime is having on the future of the wine industry and why its treatment compared to other drinks categories is not only unfair, but makes no economic sense. But in the last two weeks a new body, The UK Spirits Alliance, has been set up with its own agenda. To first freeze spirits duty in the next Budget, but then “reform” overall drinks tax legislation. Richard Siddle examines what the two new campaigns are all about and what impact they are going to have.
It’s been a tough two to three years for Enotria&Coe as it arguably could not have chosen a worse time to buy and integrate the spirits business, Coe Vintners, into the company. But following what it says has been record-breaking growth over the last 12 months, and turnover up to £200m a year, compared to £128m in 2015, it looks like all the hard work and pain has been worth it. Richard Siddle catches up with chief executive, Troy Christensen, and chief operating officer, Jon Pepper MW, to get their inside line on what have been the key factors in the turnaround, and how balancing a larger share of national accounts, with a burgeoning regional and independent customer base is what is giving it the platform to deliver its strong wine and spirits portfolio.
Tannat is a grape variety that will not be here in 20 years time. That is the shocking view of the head of one of France’s key cooperatives, Plaimont Producteurs. Last year they struggled to produce Tannat below 16% ABV – how they are managing in 2019 is anyone’s guess. The answer? Revive an ancient French grape, Manseng Noir, that is related to and similar to Tannat but can end up being 11% ABV. Peter Dean visited Gascogny to see first hand the amazing work that is being done with Manseng Noir and to taste the first 100% Manseng Noir produced since… the mid-Nineteenth Century
Plumpton College is looking to add to its award winning and successful wine training and management team. Plumpton College, the UK’s centre of excellence in wine education, training and research are recruiting for a Viticulture Lecturer and Wine Skills Extension Programme Manager to join the highly successful and growing wine division. For more details and job descriptions […]
With the first Ashes test defeat still such a fresh wound, our contributing editor and chef extraordinaire Roger Jones kept conversation away from the Welsh and English team’s performance when sat next to Australian cricket legend Mark Taylor. Very much on the menu, however, was the full range of the wines of Jim Barry that were paired with premium Japanese food, including the best crab dish that Jones reckons he has ever tried.
It can be a daunting prospect putting on a trade tasting. It’s the ultimate test in how popular your wines really are and how much your customers want to spend time with you. So why do it yourself when you can spread the pain, and share the love with others. Which is what the New Wave South Africa tasting is all about. In fact it is has proven so popular that September 3 will be the third time the event has happened. To tell us what to expect we talk to one of the five specialist importers that have come together to host the event, Matt Smith, South African wine buyer at Fields Morris & Verdin.
“Starting with no budget, I knew that the quality would be the only way of protecting the business as it grew.” That’s the approach that Hannah Rhodes has taken in starting her own craft brewery business from scratch. On her own. But with Hiver Beers she is also trying to have a distinctive voice of her own and push and promote a growing new category to the beer market – honey beers – made using urban and rural honey. Here she explains how she got into brewing and why she hopes Hiver Beers can make a difference.