If you were writing a history of the premium on-trade and independent wine trade over the last 30 years then Les Caves de Pyrène would have to be at the heart it. For not only did it first introduce so many of the exciting, breakthrough and dynamic organic and natural wines that are now across the sector, it actually walked the walk and opened up its own successful wine bars and restaurants. So to save someone else the time, co-founder, Doug Wregg, who lives and breathes the company’s DNA, has written his own account of Les Caves and the wine word it has grown up in. Here he explains why he did it and shares one of the extracts from the book.
The debate and conversation about cannabis is changing. And changing fast. No doubt driven by what is happening in North America. First with the legalisation of cannabis use in Canada and the fact 10 US states have followed suit, including California. The UK has now agreed to legalise the medical use of cannabis and there are an increasing number of legal CBD cannabis products in the market, across health and beauty, oils, coffees and now soft drinks. So what, if anything, does all this mean for the drinks industry? Richard Siddle looks at the key factors and trends we all need to know about.
Wines of Chile took on Wines of Australia at a thrilling contest in the twelfth Tri Nations Wine Challenge. The challenge sees six wines from each country compete with one another, paired with food cooked by our contributing editor and chef at large Roger Jones of The Harrow at Little Bedwyn. Chile has been making giant strides recently in proving that its premium wines can sit comfortably on a fine wine list, but are they good enough to be judged better than Australia’s across six varietal categories – Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz?
Who has over a million social media followers and can claim tens of thousands of pounds for just one post, but you have never heard of them? Welcome to the world of social media influencers. Whether we like the idea of them, or want to work with any of them, we can’t ignore them. Particularly if you want to get your drinks brand in front of the right target audience. Jackie Fast gives her own personal take on what it is like to be seen as an influencer, thanks to her time on BBC’s The Apprentice, the challenges of becoming one and, in this frank account, gives her five top tips on how to work best and get the most out of social media influencers.
Pignoletto has so much going for it as a quality Italian sparkling wine that it makes its low profile in the UK on-trade somewhat baffling. The grape variety that is used to make the wine is superior to, more nuanced and cheaper than Glera, the Prosecco grape, and the wine comes in spumante, frizzante and still versions. Yet just 10% of the wine is exported and success in the UK has largely been solely with the major supermarkets. Justin Keay travels to Pignoletto’s home in Emilia-Romagna, tastes and recommends some of the more boutique labels, and talks to key figures both in Italy and the UK about what needs to be done to bring a bit of sparkle to Pignoletto’s fortunes.
If you were blown away by the excitement, dynamism, and buzz of the first two New Wave tastings, highlighting and celebrating some of the best winemaking talent in South Africa quality, then you really are in for a treat with its return to London on September 3. Robin Davis, co-founder of the New Wave tasting, explains why his own distribution business, Swig, is so keen to be involved again and why he believes it is going to be “easily be the best tasting yet”. In the first of a series of articles with each of the five importers involved, and some of their key winemakers, Richard Siddle talks to Davis about what we can expect. (Main picture: BlankBottle’s Pieter Weiser competing in the Vintners Surf Classic, picture by Thys Lombard).
Five years ago when Silicon Valley billionaire Michael Baum expressed an interest in buying Château de Pommard, his lawyers advised against it. But Baum liked the direct-to-consumer business model, the cellar master Emmanuel Sala and took quite a shine to this historic Burgundy estate. 90% of the current 100,000 bottle annual output is sold direct to consumer, but Baum is putting the building blocks in place to quadruple that. Geoffrey Dean travelled to Burgundy to meet Baum and his team, see their plans and, of course, to taste the wines.
Can the English wine industry do no wrong? The growth figures for the last few years have been staggering with 3m extra vines expected be planted in 2019, on top of the 1.6m in 2018 and 1m in 2017. This is on top of the boom in the number of bottles of English wine being sold, with a record 15.6m in 2018. But as well as the huge opportunities there are also a number of challenges for the industry as well. All of which came up for discussion at a recent trade panel debate organised by Bibendum. Richard Siddle was there to report on a discussion between major English industry wine figures that looked at what steps are being taken to widen the category to bring in the scale of customer the sector will need if it is to have a market for all the wine being produced.
Chile is now one of the two most innovative winemaking countries in the world, reckons Alistair Cooper MW, who delivered a perceptive, focussed masterclass at a recent Wines of Chile tasting – backed up by a tasting of 45 wines that Cooper picked to reflect Chile’s movement towards sommelier-driven styles. It is innovation, risk-taking, old vines and the resurgence of traditional varieties (made with a modern twist) that are working so well and Chris Wilson was there for The Buyer to further whittle these down to 10 that every sommelier should have on their radar.
When the Languedoc’s Domaine Gayda got some of the world’s top wine critics to blind-taste Syrah matured in 9 different vessels in London last month, it was a ground-breaking exercise in sharing a key facet of the winemaker’s craft – how does elevage in completely different vessels alter the wine? And which is more palatable? The results were as surprising as they were useful to winemaker Vincent Chansault and winery chief Tim Ford. So what effect will the learnings have on how they are going to blend future vintages of their flagship wine, the Syrah-based Chemin de Moscou, and how will it affect sales?
It’s the way they tell ’em! You don’t need to be a stand up comedian to tell a good story about your business, but you need to learn how to capture your audience and talk to them in ways they are going to respond to on emotional and personal basis if they are going to remember you beyond the time you spend together. Here business coach and executive training expert, Nicole Soames, chief executive of Diadem Performance gives her top five tips on storytelling.
If you have a good idea once, then there’s no harm in repeating it. Which is why we are pleased to take this week’s trip down memory lane to when we asked different leading figures in the wine PR industry to name the campaign they were most of, and the PR campaign they wish they had done. Here Rosamund (known as ‘Roza’ to one and all) Barton of R&R Teamwork looked back on the launch of Champagne Taittinger’s first foray into English wine and the announcement it has bought a vineyard in Kent and was going to make its own English sparkling wine. It ended up being a PR triumph. She also singled out Hazel Murphy for her groundbreaking Australian UK trade trip as the campaign she wished she’d done.
As the great carnival that is the Tour de France continues its trundle around Belgium and France so we turn back the clock to reprise a feature that shows how for the past six years Castelnau has been the official Champagne for the Tour de France, and why it decided to launch a new range of fizz called Hors Catégorie – that celebrates almost impossible mountain climbs that literally makes you reach for the skies. The second of the HC Champagnes is called CCF 2067 after the 2067 metre high Col de la Croix de Fer, so who better to review it and attend the launch than Stephen Vey a member of the Buyer team who has actually cycled the mountain and lived to tell the tale.
Considering how much of the wine market natural wines actually account for then they arguably get more than their fair share of air time. But for those that make, support and promote natural wine that is well, only, natural as these are the wines that allow winemakers to make wine in the most responsible, environmentally-friendly way possible. Factors that now mean so much more to consumers. At least that was the argument made at the recent MUST Fermenting Wine conference in Portugal, as Richard Siddle reports.
A man of many hats, The Buyer contributing editor and chef at large, Roger Jones was once again a judge at the Champagne Taittinger UK Sommelier of the Year 2019 finals. Jones was sitting on a panel that included previous winners of the award such as Clement Robert MS, Kathrine Larsen, Laura Rhys MS, Xavier Rousset MS and Ronan Rayburn MS, and saw Vineyard Hotel head sommelier Romain Bourger deliver a faultless display to land himself the crown of Champagne Taittinger UK Sommelier of the Year award on his sixth time of asking. For the Vineyard Hotel this is the fourth winner that they have nurtured.
With so many wine competitions and award initiatives around the world it can be hard for any event to stand out even if, like the International Wine & Spirit Competition, you are celebrating your 50th anniversary. Christelle Guibert, the new chief executive of for fine wines and spirits at The Conversion Group, owners of the IWSC, explains some of the radical steps she has taken to shake up the event and make it as relevant as possible to wine producers around the world and buyers in different channels of the professional wine industry.
If you thought that all Albariño is pretty much the same and that nothing much changes in Rias Baixas then you haven’t met Paula Fandiño, chief winemaker at Mar de Frades. Her innovations include the region’s first sparkling Albariño, a successful three vintages of Godello, not forgetting the estate’s blue bottles with temperature-sensitive labels. While tasting through the new range, David Kermode also hears about a granite tank and a new scheme to pay grape growers according to the level of acidity in the grapes – all to keep things nice and fresh.
With so many websites, magazines, newsletters and daily emails it can be more of a case of news overload when it comes to keeping up with what is happening in the world of wine. But how much of it is relevant or interesting to you? Inspired by weekly wrap-style podcasts from other sectors, MW students, Katie Canfield and Matthew Gaughan, have decided to offer a similar service for the wine industry with their new Wined Up Weekly podcast which is a short 10 to 15 minute round up of the stories, issues and debates they think are the most important. Here’s how they bring it all together.
‘Think small but act big!’ is the philosophy behind newly-formed Graft Wine, the UK importer formed by the merging together of two of our most innovative specialist importers, Red Squirrel and The Knotted Vine. In an exclusive Buyer interview Graft’s two chiefs, Nik Darlington and David Knott, talked to Chris Wilson about the reasons behind the move, where the efficiencies lie, what new wine producers they will be taking on, and also why the current economic climate both in the wine trade and broader UK economy demanded a bold step. From the off new producers will include Matthew van Heerden, Polperro, Bodegas Nekeas, Andreas Gsellmann, Domaine du Vieux Pressoir, Corvers-Kauter and Vigneti Cenci.
Fresh from delivering his ‘100 best Australian Wines’ report, wine critic Matthew Jukes put on another tasting, this time with author Tyson Stelzer called the Great Australian Red. This event, held at London’s 67 Pall Mall, focussed on Aussie Cabernet-Shiraz blends. Harry Crowther was there and picked out his favourite seven wines, some of them the latest releases and others from library stock.