Wine is and always has been made from grapes. It’s just a fact of life. But does that have to be the case for ever more? Alistair Morrell certainly doesn’t think so and he has his history books out to show that over the centuries, and in different parts of the world, that wine, and the sum of its parts has not always just had a vine and a bunch of grapes to play with. As the pressure mounts on the wine industry to find new ways to attract consumers might different ways of making wine be part of the solution, he asks.
“The DNA of your company should dictate how you approach the market…The key to China is to get your strategy right and it takes a lot of work and time.” That’s how Marcus Ford, head of Wines of South Africa in China, believes is the right way forward for any producer looking to have serious long-term success in what the most well placed consultants believe will become the biggest wine market in the world. Richard Siddle takes a deep dive into the different options producers can take to build a sustainable and profitable business in China.
Unusual to get tasting notes that include references to Frazzles and “that savoury taste you get a few hours after being punched in the nose,” especially when the wines are at a tasting called Wines with a Conscience. What did Ellis Wines’ new concept tasting all mean? And did the idea stack up? We sent Chris Wilson to 67 Pall Mall to find out, and he was pleasantly pleased with this 50-strong range of Organic, Biodynamic and Sustainable wines, one of which actually uses the winery’s self-produced bee pollen yeast.
After watching and listening to much of the political debate that has taken part in the UK over the last couple of years then you might question the theory that “it’s good to talk”. It certainly helps if the people you are talking to are actually listening and open to what you are saying. Which is what makes next week’s wine2wine conference in Verona particularly exciting as it really does promise to be a meeting of minds of people wanting to shake up, disrupt and challenge the wine industry to do even more in tackling some of its biggest issues. Richard Siddle looks at what is on offer.
The ‘New Old World’ of Central and Eastern Europe is producing some extraordinary and exciting wines right now. Pay particular attention to wines involving the Blue grape, says Justin Keay, whether it’s known as Blaufränkisch, Kekfrankos, Lemberger or one of the many other names it adopts as it follows the winding Danube down to the Black Sea. The grape was part of a landmark tasting in London which had a Hungarian focus but also had wines from Romania, Bulgaria, Austria and even Australia – vinified as a single varietal but also, perhaps most successfully as a blending component.
Italy is so blessed with different styles of fine wine it can be hard to stand out even if you make as prestigious and world famous wines as Amarone. It’s part of the reason why the Famiglie Storiche group of premium producers was set up. To both promote, but also to protect the reputation and prestige of these unique wines from Valpolicella in the Veneto region of north-eastern Italy. This week, to mark the groups’s 10th anniversary, it is hosting a special walk around tasting in London featuring wines from all its crus and styles. Here Alberto Zenato, president of the group, explains what Famiglie Storiche is all about and what we can expect at the tasting.
One of the bugbears of Peter Finlayson is that wines are drunk way too young. In order to prove a point he assembled a gaggle of wine experts, including our own Anne Krebiehl MW, and showed them a flight of his Galpin Peak Pinot Noirs that he makes in South Africa’s Hemel-en-Aarde valley. Finlayson has always taken his cues from Burgundy, his winery Bouchard Finlayson is a joint project with the late Paul Bouchard, of the Beaune négociant Bouchard Aîné & Fils; and the Pinot he makes is always made to be laid down. Krebiehl takes up the story.
If you are a wine buyer for a leading importer, restaurant group, or independent merchant then there are times of the year when you are no doubt spoilt for choice with invitations to go and visit different regions and countries. But which are ones are going to be the most useful, effective and important to your buying needs? It’s what made the recent California Wine Institute event for leading UK and Irish buyers so different. And relevant. Rather than take a group of buyers on a bus around a select group of producers, the Institute brought the producers to the buyers for a series of back to back tastings hosted in the same venue. It meant the busy buyers were able to see over 100 wineries across five days of intensive tasting and take a deep dive into the kind of wines being made across the state. What’s more the producers did not currently have distribution in the UK or Ireland, or both, and had to have wines, with volume, that could the hit the main commercial to mid premium price points. The Buyer’s Richard Siddle, who helped to identify and recruit some of the buyers invited, was also there to get an insider’s take on how it all came together.
The first barrel sample that Peter Sisseck ever tasted was a 1982 Mouton Rothschild. It became a benchmark of quality for the impressionable young Danish winemaker who left Bordeaux for Ribera del Duero and Pingus where he makes some of Spain’s greatest wines. Sisseck returned to Saint-Émilion a decade ago with the intention of making old school terroir-driven claret that relies on its limestone soils rather than over-extraction or over-barrelling for its power and individuality. In the intervening years, however, he believes Bordeaux has suffered from a standardisation that is making many of the wines taste the same. So how has he set out his stall differently? And, most importantly, are the wines of Château Rocheyron displaying those changes?
It was an advert for a cleaning product that ‘kills 99% of all known living germs’ that led former drinks inventor David Gluckman to come up with the idea of Red Chardonnay. He asked himself what happens to the other 1% ? Because, if wine law stipulates that only 75% of a wine has to be Chardonnay to be called Chardonnay then what about the other 25% ? So Gluckman decided to add 25% of a red wine to Chardonnay and call it Red Chardonnay. The year was 2001 and (unbelievably) this actually happened. Read on to find out what came next.
Here’s a conundrum for you. How do you get nine of the UK’s leading wine buyers to meet 18 winemakers in four restaurants in different parts of London in under five hours? Well, throw two Land Rovers into the mix and you are half way home. It’s certainly how The Buyer teamed up with Wines of South Africa to take a group of top buyers on a tour of London restaurants, and the chance to meet some of South Africa’s best winemakers at the same time. Eating, tasting, chatting along the way. Buckle up and join us on the ride…
British wine consumers and buyers are a tad obsessed with the ageability of wines – Cabernet Sauvignon in particular – a hangover perhaps from all that collecting Claret. But while tasting aged Bordeaux is not uncommon in the trade, getting the opportunity to see how well Napa Cabernet ages is a much rarer beast. This much was in evidence as Napa Valley Vintners’ annual ’A Perspective on Vintages’ tasting made its London debut to a packed crowd of wine experts, including our very own David Kermode. The tasting showed off 16 different vintages, allowing Kermode to assess the part played by vintage variation and the consistency of style of the winemakers present.
With so many different parts and aspects of the wine and spirits industry it’s only right we should grasp the opportunity to reward and shine the light on those individuals who are going the extra mile in whatever sector they are in. Which is what the Julian Brind MW trophy at the International Wine & Spirit Competition looks to do. Here we profile two more of the finalists for this year’s prize: PR manager, Sula Richardson of Phipps Relations and wine educator from Tasmania, Curly Haslam-Coates.
Phylloxera. Just saying the word out loud will send winemakers running to the hills. Whilst it might be a thing of the past in Europe, phylloxera is a clear and present danger in Australia with every region fearful of an outbreak. The tiny insect that devastated Europe’s vineyards in the 19th century, reached, for example, the Yarra Valley in Australia in 2006. The only way of beating the plant-killing louse is to graft European vines onto resistant American rootstock, an expensive solution but one that presents opportunities for grape growers, as Peter Ranscombe found out during a recent visit.
Ruinart was the first Champagne house to make a rosé way back in 1764 and they are still going strong. Correction. They are going from strength to strength argues Anne Krebiehl MW who confesses to being taken aback at how good the new vintage Dom Ruinart Rosé 2007 is, as well as the wines shown alongside it – the 2007 Blanc de Blancs and two other vintage Rosés. Ruinart has always made Chardonnay the backbone of its wines, a philosophy that helps achieve one of its prime goals – to be able to drink it from 9am one day to 9am the next.
The success that the craft beer scene has had in the last few years in nothing short of remarkable, not just in terms of the number of brands now available, but the impact it has had on the overall drinks category and number of average drinkers who now think craft beer first when out for a drink. So what do competing drinks do about it? Here brand consultant, Neil Anderson, former marketing director at Kingsland Drinks, sets out five key lessons any wine producer, supplier or retailer can learn from craft beer.
After the success of Trilogy 2015 which was Cabernet Sauvignon dominant, Warwick Wine Estate’s new cellar master JD Pretorius decided to make Warwick Estate Trilogy 2016 Cabernet Franc dominant, making it one of the very few Bordeaux blends in the Cape to have this style of blend. Geoffrey Dean caught up with Pretorius at the launch of the 2016 to find out the challenges of growing Cab Franc in the Cape, why the blend is as it is and to taste the previous vintages of 2012, 2008, 2005 and 1997 to compare and contrast the new wine.
It’s a little unusual to find yourself being constantly stopped by fellow visitors at a wine trade show and being asked why you are asking questions to the producers showing their wines. When you reply you are a journalist wanting to find out why and how they are working in China, the same visitors are only then too keen to share their experiences, explain how they buy and sell wine and exactly what they think of the wines they are tasting. It is just like nowhere else you might visit. It is the Chinese wine market that, for my first visit, was exciting, dynamic and a breath of fresh air. In the first of two reports from the inaugural Vinexpo Shanghai, The Buyer examines the key trends, opportunities and challenges facing producers looking to succeed in the Chinese wine industry.
In just over a decade Elephant Hill has become one of Hawke’s Bay’s most prestigious estates, situated as it is on the coast at Te Awanga that, even by New Zealand standards, is jaw-droppingly beautiful. The winery has vineyards in three distinct districts: Te Awanga, Bridge Pa and Gimblett Gravels each of which have their own microclimate and soils and, together, make Elephant Hill a ‘complete’ Hawke’s Bay producer. For head winemaker Steve Skinner the challenge is to create wines that convey their sense of place and which can deliver even when the climate conspires against them. Skinner was in London to showcase his new ‘Element’ single vineyard wine series and ‘Icon’ blends – and to reflect on how far the winery has come in the 12 years that he has been making wines there.
Always asking questions, always pushing boundaries, that’s the philosophy of Daniel Sorrell who has been the winemaker at Cloudy Bay for the past four years. As the winery celebrates its 35th anniversary Chris Wilson met up with Sorrell to taste the new vintage Cloudy Bay 2019, where he also found out what made 2019 a nerve-wracking season, why Sorrell thinks Cloudy Bay has become one of the iconic white wines of the world, how the estate is seeking a ‘nervous’ quality in the wine and how it is trying to avoid the thiol-heavy style that seems to be going out of fashion.