The Tuscan estate of Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona is producing some of the most renowned Brunello and Rosso di Montalcino wines, along with a number of other wines using international varieties. Its top Brunello from the 2015 vintage has just been awarded 100 points by James Suckling and well it might – it’s a beauty. At its UK launch winemaker Paolo Bianchini showed off all of his new wines to a select group of wine buyers, alongside those of another classic Brunello vintage, 2010, as well as divulge the incredible-but-true story of how his family came to own this historic estate.
With vines dating back to the 1930’s Biondi-Santi is one of the iconic Italian wineries and one of the most prestigious in the classic region of Montalcino. It’s also very much still in family hands that stretch right back to the mid 19th century. Here Tancredi Biondi-Santi, the latest generation to work with the estate’s famous vines, shares the history of the winery, but also looks ahead at the steps being taken to make it as relevant in the future as it has been for so many decades. You can meet him and taste their classic wines at the Sangiovese RESET tasting on March 3.
If sommeliers bought as much Washington State wine as they say they like them, then the lists of most premium wine restaurants would be full of different styles from this distinctive and still fast growing US wine region. As it is there is still enormous potential for Washington to build distribution, both first with UK importers and then to the restaurant customers they supply. Ahead of the Washington State Wines tasting in London on March 10 we start a series of interviews with participating winemakers with Tyler Williams of Kiona Vineyards.
As the international community struggles to contain the coronavirus, life in mainland China has changed beyond all recognition, writes Janet Wang. Social activities have dropped by 80-90% just after the Chinese New Year which, traditionally, is one of the most active periods for gathering and gifting. The impact on retail is colossal with Q1 being written off and a spate of bankruptcies predicted for Q2 as retailers try to cope with the stemming of cashflow. Wine trade professionals are estimating that 2020 will see a 20% downturn. But ‘Wei Ji’ the Chinese word for ‘crisis’ is made up of two words meaning ‘danger’ and ‘opportunities’. Wang also looks at the impact the virus is already having on online and a new ‘contactless delivery’ business that has sprung into action.
First mentioned by the Bard, and shipped back to Blighty by the boatload in the 16th Century, the wines of Tenerife have long been admired for their quality and individuality. Geoffrey Dean went there to discover the island’s 6,500 hectares under own-rootstock vine, its dozen local grape varieties, five DOs, half a dozen wineries that are pushing the envelope, and tasted and recommends the wines that are worth seeking out. Dean also finds that wine tourism is alive and well, particularly in the European winter months.
If you stop and ask a sommelier or a top wine buyer to pick out countries or regions where they are increasingly turning to both for interesting, eclectic wines, but also those that offer excellent value at all price points then time and again they will bring up the different regions of Portugal. What’s more it is also the local indigenous varieties that are becoming more popular with curious buyers. Which will be music to the ears of Sónia Vieira, marketing director of Wines of Portugal, who explains to Richard Siddle Wines of Portugal’s strategy to help grow Portuguese wines sales in the UK.
As recently as the year 2000, a seminal wine was produced that marked a dramatic shift in one of the most famous wine regions of the world. Istvan Szepsy’s now legendary Úrágya dry furmint is widely regarded as the first time a winemaker from Tokaj took the idea of producing a dry white wine seriously, and came up with a special result. 20 years on, Mike Turner attended the launch of Furmint February, a trade initiative to promote these dry Furmints from across Hungary, to hear all about the rapid shift in thinking and production.
OK before you read any further, it’s time to manage expectations. This report does not tell you what the next Prosecco or Pinot Grigio is going to be. But what it does do is provide the insight and the analysis into understanding the consumer and why wine sales in the on-trade were down a further 6% last year. It also explains in detail the steps needed to make wine less of a daunting drinks category for consumers to navigate and how the answer to reviving wine sales actually comes in how it is promoted, talked about, presented and served.
Never one to sit on its laurels, Louis Latour Agencies has been busy adding new wineries to its 15-agency strong portfolio that includes many new vintages, cuvées and, in one case, winemaker. Particularly interesting was how Maison Louis Latour under the direction of Louis-Fabrice Latour is increasing its spread of Pinot Noir outside of core Burgundy territory – in Beaujolais, Coteaux de l’Auxois and Provence – and how these wines are getting better vintage by vintage. There were on-trade exclusives here as well as a brand new ‘natural’ Beaujolais from Henry Fessy.
In March The Buyer, together with Sophie Jump and the WSTA, is looking to do something very different for the drinks industry. Hold a one day conference that is 100% focused not on the individual wine, beer and spirits categories and the specific product trends within them, but on the consumers that we might want to drink them. An event that is instead dedicated to the huge changes taking place to consumer behaviour and our potential attitudes to alcoholic drinks and the new smart, connected technology that is driving them. To give you a taste of what to expect here is James Harmer of Touch Design, the brand design and packaging agency, on the challenges and opportunities facing all brand owners, producers and retailers when it comes to making ever more sustainable, relevant, challenging and consumer friendly products that work from a manufacturing, design and packaging point of view. We might not all be able to hire George Clooney to then sell what we come up with, but we could all do with the sort of transformative packaging and design solution that Nespresso has done to the coffee market.
Connecting the worlds of B2B publishing and events with the end consumer is a difficult balancing act to get right. But the new London Drinks Guide hopes to do just that by combining the knowledge and expertise gained from running a series of wine and spirits events and drinks competitions with offering consumers advice on the best beers, wines and spirits to buy and then where to buy them, initially in London, and then in other key cities around the world.
By any stretch of the imagination Sassicaia 2017 is a remarkable achievement – born out of some of the hottest temperatures ever recorded in Tuscany and yet being a wine of great freshness, elegance and precision. They say that you should always follow a winemaker not a vintage and in the case of Tenuta San Guido, never was a truer word spoken as Peter Dean assesses the Sassicaia 2017 alongside the estate’s other two wines Guidalberto, 2018 and Le Difese 2018 in the company of Priscilla Incisa della Rochetta, the granddaughter of the estate’s visionary founder.
This week was the inaugural Barcelona Wine Week, a show designed to show off the very best in Spanish wine and clearly one that was ‘thinking big’ from the outset, says David Kermode. In this insightful piece, Kermode assesses the strengths and weaknesses of the show, talks to its chairperson Javier Pagés about the show’s ambition and selects 10 of his top wines from the event, ranging from a zero SO2 Garnaxta to a Cava that is the best one he has ever tried. Oh, and he may have had a few bits of tapas along the way.
It’s a shame that when we are in our school days we are always thinking up new ideas, new inventions that we think are going to change the world, yet when we enter our working lives all that imagination goes up in a puff of smoke as we follow the set path we have chosen. So here’s a chance to dream a little and pick out the three things in drinks you wish you had invented or been part of creating. Next up is David Gill MW business sector controller at Kingsland Drinks…
Considering it has only just got over 1% of the UK’s total Champagne market, Pol Roger must be one of the most successful of all the Champagne houses in terms of prestige and controlling its brand image. But that is also very much the key to its success, explains, president, Laurent D’ Harcourt, from both managing the supply of its grapes to carefully selecting the distributors it works with both in the UK but in all its key markets around the world. He talks through his international strategy with Richard Siddle.
Robert Mondavi is one of the new marquee signings by Bibendum, amongst a whole raft of producers from the Lebanon, Austria, Italy, Patagonia and France. What wines were they showing at Bibendum’s For The Love Of…. tasting? and which are the ones that deliver best value for the on-trade? Peter Dean braved the packs of sommeliers, was wowed by a number of wines on show and found that leaving the venue was a darned sight harder than arriving…
If you want to get the full Tuscan experience then touring the winding roads in and around the town of Radda in Chianti is a great place to start. For winemaker Sean O’Callaghan it has become his home for close to 30 years, predominantly at the Riecine winery and now with new producer, Tenuta di Carleone, where he has been able to make the natural expression of Sangiovese that he thinks are unique to the Radda area. You can meet him and taste his wines at the forthcoming Sangiovese RESET tasting in London.
Choosing the upper floors of the Science Museum as the venue for the annual generic tasting of Austrian wine in London said it all about the wines on show – bright, smart, modern, slick and inspiring. The Austrian wine body has also appointed a new chief to lead it into a new era, the audacity being that they’ve entrusted the role to a foreigner – a Brit, no less, in Chris Yorke. David Kermode caught up with him to find out how the post has been going and to highlight 10 wines that he thought best showed off where Austrian wine has been, where it is now and the exciting direction it is headed in.
The People’s Choice Wine Awards are unique. They are worth going to even if you are not up for an award. Where else can you go to a wine awards evening in the same clothes you were wearing in the day? Get the chance to sample all the finalists wines with a glass in one hand and a slice of pizza in the other. These are the awards for the people, organised by those who put having fun at the top of the agenda for a night out. But it’s also a chance to reward wines that have been tasted and voted for by the consumers who buy them.
The ghost of gonzo journalist Dr. Hunter S Thompson is never far away from the life of a spirits journalist. And this was certainly the case when Neil Hennessy-Vass traveled to Barbados to visit Foursquare Distillery with a copy of of the good doctor’s The Rum Diary under his arm. Producers of the Doorly’s range of aged rums, Foursquare is often referred to as the best rum producer in the world – well that’s what our hack thought when he was handed a glass and told to drink whatever he wanted to… What could possibly go wrong?