Paul Schaafsma likes being in the wine limelight. But in his new role as head of Benchmark Drinks he has had to get used to sharing the centre stage with a roll call of major international stars that know far more about how to get our attention. Here, in this extensive interview with Richard Siddle, he shares what it has been like setting up a new wine business from scratch and how he has made celebrity wine brands not only highly fashionable, but enormously successful with Kylie Minogue hitting number one again, this time for her rosé wine brand which is part of a range that has sold over 5 million bottles in just two years. He also takes on some of the major issues facing the wine industry, how wine suppliers need to start finding better solutions for the customers they work with and why being relevant to an ever changing and demanding consumer is what drives him and his team every day.
The UK is already the region’s most important foreign market for Gavi DOCG with an amazing 40% of Piedmont’s great white wine exported to these shores. In its first ever generic tasting in London, the Consorzio was clear in its message – that it is focused on quality not quantity and keen to build on this success by educating particularly on-trade buyers on the wine’s complexity and little-known ability to age into a wine with many hidden depths.
The 2023 London Wine Competition is open for entries with any producer, importer, wine supplier or retailer entering their wines before August 31 able to qualify for Super Early Bird pricing. This remains one of the only global wine competitions that looks to identify the wines that consumers will most want to pick up off a shelf as they are judged on what they taste like, how much they cost and crucially what they look like.
Over the last few years Pol Roger Portfolio has quietly, carefully, and diligently built up an impressive portfolio of premium Californian wine producers that means it now has one of the most comprehensive offers available in the UK. Richard Siddle sits down with Will Dennison, Pol Roger’s head of fine wine, to talk through its range, how it has selected the producers it is now working with and what potential it sees for Californian wine in the premium on-trade and specialist retail sectors.
When wine expert and winemaker Chris Wilson was invited to taste through a decade’s worth of Château du Moulin-à-Vent he jumped at the chance. Not just because it’s a rare occasion to sample a vertical of top Beaujolais, but also because it is an opportunity to see a progression in the wines, a story being told of a period of time, with every vintage adding something to the overall story… in much the same way as listening to a music album from start to finish.
On the one hand the wine industry is, arguably quite rightly, falling over itself to become more sustainable, both in the vineyard and also at the point of sale with more environmentally friendly packaging, yet it’s also clear the consumer is not as ready to buy into alternative packaging, or even see heavy glass bottles on shelf and on restaurant lists as being a problem. That was the conundrum being discussed at the recent Vinexposium ‘Act For Change’ Symposium in Bordeaux, as Richard Siddle reports.
Earlier this month Bancroft Wines welcomed its ever-expanding network of clients and press for a full 2022 portfolio tasting. Taking place at the impressive Royal Institute of British Architects, this was the first chance in a long time for guests, including The Buyer’s Mike Turner, to taste through the nearly 500 wines on show. With so many fabulous and diverse wines on show, it was still (arguably) the European classics that really shone through.
“Packaging, branding, and design matter. Pouring a whisky – getting your favourite glass out…remembering who you last shared it with, or who bought it for you. The label, the selection. The clink of the bottle on the glass. They’re all part of the process,” says Dan Hooper, co-founder of Yes More the drinks brand marketing agency. So how do big brands take the plunge and switch to more sustainable packaging, and even introduce refillable schemes? Hooper looks at what attempts are being made to transform drinks packaging and whether consumers actually like what they are being offered.
Decanted Hungary was a small, focused tasting aimed at giving a snapshot of where Hungarian wine currently is at – as seen through the lens of the recent Decanter World Wine Awards. Wines on show were only ones which had won Best in Show, Platinum and Gold medals with Caroline Gilby MW explaining the rationale and David Kermode picking his 10 favourites from the range.
No matter how well you know the wine industry and established you are in your role it is always a leap of faith, and risk, to move one from position to another. Particularly when you have been in your previous role for over nine years. But when the opportunity came up to be trade director for Jeroboams wholesale division Lucie Parker jumped at the chance. Here she talks to Richard Siddle about how excited she is about this new opportunity.
You can have all the zooms in the world but when it comes to discussing, analysing and digesting some of the biggest issues facing the global wine industry nothing quite beats having those debates face to face. Which is why last week’s Symposium ‘Act for Change’, organised by Vinexposium, at the Cité du Vin in Bordeaux, was so welcome and turned out to be an important opportunity for both the industry’s leading establishment figures and new disruptors in the sector to come together and plot a path for the rest of the sector to follow. Be it with the major issues such as sustainability, climate change, global economics, supply chain, or the the actual nitty gritty of sourcing, distributing and selling wine, be it through traditional retail routes, or increasingly through ever more personalised and recommendation based wine e-commerce platforms. That’s where our first analysis from the Symposium is focused. Just what does the boom in e-commerce mean for the wine industry and how well equipped is it to make the most of it?
Although Victoria is Australia’s second smallest state it has more wine regions and individual wineries than any other; and there is such a diversity of climates here that every imaginable grape variety can be grown and almost every style of wine made. Australian wine expert Roger Jones gets under the skin of the many wine regions and highlights some of the many excellent producers and wines that you can discover here.
If you want to build a successful brand or consumer facing drinks business you need to get your digital and social media strategy right. At least that’s what all the management consultants will tell you. But what does that actually mean in reality and how much money does it cost to build a brand online, and which social media platform should you be investing in. The next One Step Beyond webinar, hosted by The Buyer and Sophie Jump, looks to bring together digital and brand experts from both inside and outside the drinks industry to give an insiders view on what it takes to succeed in the digital world.
The oft-maligned grape variety Pinotage, is slowly regaining the recognition it deserves. Much of that change in perspective is down to the work of Kanonkop and its winemaker Abrie Beeslaar who visited London last month to present 13 vintages of its outstanding Kanonkop Black Label Pinotage from the years 2006 through to the current vintage of 2019. Chef and wine expert Roger Jones caught up with Beeslaar, the Krige brothers and tasted through the wines.
The 2022 vintage of Wirra Wirra’s Church Block will be its 50th – quite a remarkable success story for a wine that has become McLaren Vale’s top selling wine. Justin Keay looks at the wine and the winery’s appeal, tastes through the range of new wines, and sees how Wirra Wirra is defined by its past as it has all eyes set on the future.
In part two of The Buyer’s debate, in partnership with Raventós Codorníu and Raimat, the panel of leading buyers had the opportunity to taste through a selection of Cavas to examine the quality and the step changes at differences price points and to examine where they might sit in the UK market. It was also an opportunity to examine the sustainability steps being taken with Cava and how important sustainability now is in the buying decisions being made by the panel of buyers.
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We continue our series, in partnership with the Bourgogne Wine Board, exploring the ‘Hidden Gems’ of the region by taking a close at the Bourgogne Côte d’Or which stretches across 40 villages offering a diverse range of quality red and white wines. Here Libby Zietsman-Brodie talks to Frédéric Barnier, head winemaker at Louis Jadot, one of the most influential producers for all the region, about what he thinks it is about the Bourgogne Côte d’Or that makes such special wines.
Geoffrey Dean spent four days travelling throughout the Loire – visiting estates and tasting Loire wines from Vouvray, Saumur-Champigny, Muscadet, Touraine, Anjou and many more regions. Here he picks out the domaines and wines that impressed him the most as well as discover how the Loire is making great strides both in organic viticulture and sustainability. Despite a 31% drop in volume for the 2021 harvest, the quality is excellent, and exports have risen from France’s third largest French AOP wine region.
Star Wine List held the International final of Star Wine List of the Year in London last week and the chance for sommeliers and restaurateurs to travel from all over the world to take part in the first live international final since the pandemic. Hosted by Star Wine List founder, Krister Bengtsson and ambassador manager Liora Levi, it was a chance to find out who had come out top from the winners of the previous seven competitions in separate countries in Europe and Australia. The Buyer partnered with Star Wine List for the UK Wine List awards in February.