Most wine businesses came out of lockdown looking and acting very differently to when they went into the pandemic. But not many can look back on such a transformative performance as Armit Wines. In the year to September 30 2021, and in the height of the pandemic, it saw turnover increase 7% increase to £22 million, a swing in net profit of £2m taking the business into the black to just over £1.3m and gross profits up 25.4% from 22.7%. But what were the key decisions made by managing director, Brett Fleming, and his management team that made the difference? To help us unravel the numbers and take us behind the scenes at Armit Wines we talk to head of sales Fraser Currie.
Leona De Pasquale grew up in Taiwan at a time when drinking wine was very much frowned up and not something a “good girl” should be getting up to. Fast forward to 2022 and she is now making her name as one of the most respected wine educators and writers to come out of not only Taiwan, but across Asia. Here she explains what it was that finally got her into wine, and how she is now smitten with all the wine world can offer as part of our Onwards & Upwards series that shines the light on people moving on in their careers.
Santorini may be a small Greek island but its reputation for producing world class wines is immense. Its unique soil supports some of the oldest vines on the planet and gives the wines of PDO Santorini naturally high acidity and a strong sense of minerality. Ancient and ingenious viticulture mixed with modern winemaking techniques helps winemakers on Santorini produce wines that are fresh, elegant, complex and intense. Sarah McCleery talks with some key advocates of Santorini’s wines and looks at how the island is pushing boundaries and exploring greater potential of its unique and diverse wines.
In June this year the Venetian wine estate, Villa Bogdano 1880, hit the wine headlines by becoming a major sponsor of the Old Vine Conference, a UK non-profit company for the support of historic vineyards. The inclusion of their Lison Classico 2019 in the Old Vine Masterclass line-up at the London Wine Fair, also held this summer, sealed their place amongst global producers that endeavour to enhance and give recognition to heritage vineyards as a new commercial category, sharing vineyard best practices, management and marketing strategies. Earlier this year, at VinItaly, The Buyer’s Mike Turner sat down with Villa Bogdano 1880 owner Domenico Veronese to try the wines for himself and discover more about the ethos behind the estate.
In the first of our articles taken from the special Stellenbosch Business Report, produced by The Buyer for Stellenbosch Wine Routes, Richard Siddle gives a personal perspective on the main themes, issues and trends that are influencing and having the biggest long term impact on the region. He also examines the role of the Stellenbosch Wine Routes in capturing all the changes and innovations taking place in this still hugely influential wine region not just in South Africa but around the world.
In the US the growth of mead as a category is starting to resemble the craft beer market, with one of the world’s simplest and oldest alcoholic drinks diversifying into a wide range of styles. In the UK, mead is also undergoing a revolution with a new bar opening in London that aims to show the breadth and complexity of this honey-based drink by serving seven meads on draught and 20 different in can. We take a look at how mead is transforming itself with one foot in its legendary past and the other striving towards a thoroughly modern reinvention.
The Only a Pavement Away charity does extraordinary work, largely behind the scenes, looking to help the homeless and those in need get back on their feet and where possible offer them the practical and financial support to get themselves back into work. It is also working very closely with the drinks and hospitality sectors to see what they can do to give people a second chance. Here Chris Seale, managing director of Speciality Brands, and Greg Mangham, chief executive of Only A Pavement Away, explain how they are working together to help people find suitable future employment.
If there is one wine region that captures the majesty, the beauty, the innovation and the fast pace of change that is taking place in the quality of winemaking in South Africa then it is Stellenbosch. The country’s oldest and most famous wine region has, by the admission of one of its most senior producers, been given a “big kick up the arse” by what has been happening elsewhere in the Cape in recent years and had to more than respond in kind. To mark just what has been going on in Stellenbosch in recent years The Buyer has teamed up with Stellenbosch Wine Routes to produce this comprehensive Stellenbosch Business Report that is available in a downloadable PDF. A report based on personal interviews, tastings, seminars and masterclasses conducted by The Buyer’s Richard Siddle during a recent visit to the region.
Ruinart used the launch of its new hotly-anticipated Ruinart 2010 Blanc de Blancs to re-emphasise its commitment to sustainability and biodiversity from its far-reaching vitiforestry project at its historic Tassy vineyards to its position on prestige packaging. Sarah McCleery travelled to Reims to meet the team, see first-hand many of its projects and to taste the new prestige cuvée.
As the entry process for the 2023 London Wine Competition gets underway we look back at the best performing wines from the 2022 awards by picking out the wines that scored the most points, and came top in the individual quality, value and packaging and design categories. The London Wine Competition prides itself on judging wines in the same way that consumer do – what they taste like, how much they cost and what they look like.
Sake is not just a drink, it’s a world all of its own. For wine and spirits lovers, especially in recent years as exports have increased, it is providing another frontier of production techniques, styles, history, and culture for us to all to “geek out on” whilst enjoying a truly iconic set of products. We sent sake newbie, Mike Turner, to a recent Gunma Sake event in London to find out for himself.
Has the wine industry ever had so many entrepreneurs come in from other sectors looking to find their niche and route to market that has not been done before? The team behind When in Rome is certainly trying to do that with a business model based first on only bag-in-box wines and now a breakthrough paper-based bottle that takes its sustainability credentials to another level. Rob Malin, one of When in Rome’s three co-founders, has given up a lucrative career trading currencies in the hope of making a market for sustainably packaged wines. He explains why to Richard Siddle.
Industry icon Tor Kenward has been making wine in Napa since the early days when the valley was filled with just cowboys, dreamers and a handful of vines. After 27 years working for Beringer, learning from some of the biggest names in wine and setting up TOR Wines, Kenward has opened up in his memoir Reflections of a Vintner. Victor Smart met him in Quo Vadis where he tasted the latest vintages of Tor’s boutique brand of Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux blends and gassed about the effects of Parker, Bottle Shock and much more.
Magali Bernard talks to Libby Zietsman-Brodie about how Domaine du Clos du Roi benefits from the unique wine growing and climate conditions of Coulanges-la-Vineuse as part of our Hidden Gems series with the Bourgogne Wine Board (BIVB) to look at the role its different AOCs play in producing a diverse range of wines from Bourgogne. She also explains how she works with old indigenous varietals such as César.
Sophia Longhi travels to Sopron, Hungary’s oldest wine region, a place that shares a border, language, culture and key grape variety with Austria – Blaufränkisch or Kékfrankos, which accounts for two thirds of Sopron’s plantings. The region used to be used exclusively for making white wines but now there is a growing tradition of sparkling, rosé and reds of which Kékfrankos is one of many. Longhi discovers how it is the sub-Alpine climate and unique schist-based soils that make the wines worth seeking out and gives pointers as which wineries you should start with.
Sales director UK on-trade and independents
“Crete has grape varieties that nowhere else on Earth has. It has altitude and it has great limestone soils. This is a fantastic combination that gives the island such unique characteristics.” That’s the view of Steve Daniel, head wine buyer at Hallgarten & Novum Wines, who has arguably been the UK’s biggest champion, supporter, buyer and importer of Greek, as well as Crete wines. Here Justin Keay gives his take on an island that is attracting serious wine buyers as well as thousands of tourists.
As our tagline says The Buyer is very much about “connecting the premium on-trade” and sharing stories and insights on how producers and buyers are working together to sell wines into busy sommeliers and wine merchants. Here we tell the story of how Richard Ellison, founder & managing director of Wanderlust Wine, was able to use a California Wine Institute buying trip to tie a new distribution partnership to bring in some of the late Jim Clendenen’s rarest wines from Santa Barbara into the UK.
Crowned Best Sommelier of the World, aged just 27, Marc Almert could easily have rested on his laurels. But his desire to learn and help others in the profession, plus the impact of Covid on both his job as chief sommelier at Zurich’s Baur au Lac and his tenure as world’s best, have seen his career take some unusual turns. Peter Dean caught up with him in Vienna to talk Austrian wine, life as the world’s best sommelier, the need to compete and how Covid has unexpectedly allowed him to be king for another year.
“It’s no longer all about the product – this is what my customers want, this is where I’ll grow brands, be different and be proud to be a retailer; rather buyers are challenged to get a return per square metre of shelf, and with the opportunity of substantial listing fees, the choice on which brands are stocked is a pure commercial choice.” That’s just one of the consequences of what Nick Gillett, managing director of leading spirits distributor, Mangrove Global, sees as the result of increasing consolidation across the drinks industry that is allowing big drinks producers and major retailers to get bigger, but at what cost to the sector’s imagination and innovation?