Boasting 74 wines from 11 producers the Fields, Morris & Verdin South African tasting was an opportunity for those lucky enough to have gone to Cape Wine 2018, to re-taste the wines and see if they matched up to first impressions. Dubbed the ‘Back to the Future’ tasting, this was also an opportunity for those who did not attend Cape Wine to see what all the fuss was about. Chris Wilson put his tasting glass to good effect and comes up with 12 wines you simply have to try.
We might as a country import more wine from Australia than anywhere else in the world (24.5m 9 litre cases in 2016 vs the US second at 15m cases and France third at 15m. Source: Vinexpo/IWSR), but the vast majority of that comes in bulk and is sold off a supermarket shelf. To really understand and fully appreciate the style of wines Australia is producing at the premium end, then you have to jump on a plane, do the long hours and find out for yourself as it is a completely different picture. As Richard Siddle found out on a recent visit in the first of a series of reports that will explore what is happening in different regions. First of all, though, he gives this overview of what is happening Down Under.
Many producers of sparkling wine in the towns of Asolo, Congliano, and Valdobbiadene, that make up the heartland of old Prosecco, are thinking of dropping the name ‘Prosecco’ from their wine labels – such is the negative impact being felt by the fizz coming from the cheap and nasty industrial flatlands. Mike Turner takes to the road, panini in hand, to find out more about Asolo and what gives their Prosecco a unique selling point on a wine list.
Now here’s a quote to stop you in your tracks: “Sadly, our industry does not like the rebels, the misfits and those who see things differently. Nevertheless, offer inspiration, seek your own direction, be honest and true to yourself, fearless and above all, follow your ambition.” Powerful stuff and the kind of words you might expect to hear from a leading politician, musician or actor. But no. This is the business – and life – philosophy of Stuart McCloskey who has what he believes quite a unique approach to running a wine retail business. One that includes paying all his producers up front, months before a bottle of wine is sold through his store and the price he has for his wines is the same for the trade as they are for private customers. A business model that he says is based on being entirely self funded and independent. So how does he do it? Sorcha Holloway, founder of #ukwinehour caught up with him at his store in deepest, darkest Kent.
The Armagh is described by Peter Barry as an “elephant in ballerina shoes” and there’s no denying that this Clare Valley Shiraz is big, but it is the freshness and ‘laid back’ style that brings it balance, argues Justin Keay. Meeting Barry in London for a tasting of the new 2013 Armagh vintage, Keay hears how Jim Barry Wines is still very much a family affair and how a well-timed holiday to Santorini paid enormous dividends.
We only have to look at our Google Analytics or Twitter and Instagram feeds to see how popular articles on alternative grape varieties and what you might call the old but new emerging wine producing countries are with sommeliers and premium on-trade buyers. It’s why we have created our dedicated Grape Unknown newsletter and place such a focus on bringing those type of articles to you. Clearly one of the most interesting and exciting of those countries is Hungary. Its new generation of wines and winemakers have really caught the imagination of the trade. But it is one thing being interested about the country, it’s quite another to go ahead and list its wines. Which is why The Buyer teamed up with Wines of Hungary to host the first of our new 90 minute format Sommelier Workshop sessions to give buyers, producers and importers the chance to share their experiences in an open debate and tasting format.
2017 was a year to forget for most wine producing countries, but particularly in Italy where frosts and rain did so much damage to many of its iconic regions. Like Soave. But thankfully conditions are back to normal in 2018 and the region is back on the front foot driving not only a quality agenda, but putting the focus firmly on biodiversity and working on the long term future of its vines, as Aldo Lorenzoni, director of the Consorzio di Soave explains.
Given that Hugel was founded in 1639, its Schoelhammer Riesling is a very new addition to the story. It was first launched just three years ago in 2015 when the 2007 vintage came out and has already become a classic Alsatian Grand Cru Riesling. Chris Wilson attended the launch of the new 2009 vintage where Marc Hugel and his nephew Jean-Frédéric brought along the first two vintages for comparison, plus some extraordinary wines from their personal library.
For the past 10 years February has been the month when winemakers and local communities in Hungary come together to celebrate Furmint, one of its most famous indigenous white grape varieties. Next year Wines of Hungary wants to bring a flavour of those celebrations to the UK with its very own Furmint February promotion, including on January 30 and the day when it claims a record number of Furmint wines and producers (over 20 producers and 60 wines) will come together at London’s 67 Pall Mall to show UK buyers and sommeliers what these wines can potentially do for their wine lists.
Coldplay, Strictly, Crispy Pancakes… we all have our ‘guilty pleasures’. For drinks expert and restaurateur Mike Turner, his is Asti Spumante – a drink that, when he first discovered it, he drank with almost everything, much to the dismay of Italian sommeliers. But, despite the derision this precursor to Prosecco often gets, Mike argues it’s a serious drink with masses of skill in the making of. He visits the winemakers of Piedmont and the growers who supply the fruit and has his belief re-confirmed… Asti Spumante is a fizz that seriously needs your re-appraisal.
With wine on sale from virtually any country that makes it, the UK has to be one of the biggest and most democratic markets for wine anywhere in the world. If your wine is good enough and affordable enough there are a whole host of channels and sectors to sell your wine into. But where do you start? To help the Soul Wines group of Douro wine producers that are looking to find distributors and importers in the UK, The Buyer brought together a panel of trade experts, influencers, distributors and buyers to give their advice on how best to crack the UK market.
The Buyer hits the road again and this time it’s destination Cyprus as Geoffrey Dean returns to the island three years on to discover how Cypriot wine is becoming premiumised. The bad old days of bulk wine exports to the Soviet Bloc have long since gone and now a new breed of internationally-sussed winemakers are using a mix of international and indigenous grape varieties to make fabulous wines with great sommelier appeal.
On the one hand English whisky is one of the most exciting, fast moving spirits categories you can find on the back bar. On the other it is still very much in its infancy, with vastly different products and no real identity about what the category is all about. Stephen Russell, co-founder of the Copper Rivet Distillery in Kent, believes English whisky needs its own charter, its own standards and benchmarks to help create a standalone industry in its own right. Here he explains why.
Working with three different a la carte menus, including one where the customer chooses the wine first and then the kitchen adapts the food to match, can be a lot of fun. For young Swedish sommelier Emma Ziemann it still allows time to compete in major sommelier competitions – and time to win them. Crowned Best Swedish Sommelier for 2018, Ziemann talks to Peter Dean in detail about life at Gothenburg’s Michelin-starred restaurant Thörnströms Kök and what the challenges are of sourcing and buying wine in a market where the monopoly rules.
When you’ve been making wine for eight centuries you can get away with speaking confidently. For Lamberto Frescobaldi, head of the winemaking dynasty, 2018 is set to be a cracking vintage in Tuscany, and the 2015 vintage of wines from his new estate Tenuta Perano also delivers. Victor Smart was there at the launch of Frescobaldi’s seventh estate, tasted the two new wines and heard how Tenuta Perano is one of their most significant acquisitions to date.
If you are going to invest in a winery in Hungary then you are giving yourself every chance of success by doing so in Eger, widely recognised as one of the country’s most premium winemaking regions. It is known locally as the ‘Hungarian Burgundy’ and even has its own Grand Cru and Premier Cru classification vineyards producing a range of international and local varieties including Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet Franc and Furmint and Kékfrankos. The Buyer talks to Nimród Kovács, owner of the Kovács Nimród Winery.
To try to unravel and understand Chile’s position in the premium on-trade, The Buyer teamed up with Ellis Wines and its Chilean producer partner, Chono Wines, to bring
together a group of senior wine trade professionals, buyers and sommeliers to debate what are the opportunities and challenges for Chile as a whole. It was the chance for these leading figures to share their experiences with Chilean wines in their restaurants and businesses and look at the kinds of wines from Chile that they are looking to source and select for their wine lists.
Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley used to be mentioned more in the International news pages than in wine columns but that is all changing thanks to the likes of Domaine des Tourelles and Château Ksara. In continuing to search for the ‘grape unknown’, our intrepid explorer and consultant editor, Roger Jones, catches up with George K Sara, co-owner of Lebanese wine producer Ksara, firstly at a private lunch at The Harrow at Little Bedwyn and then at a press tasting and lunch hosted at the splendid Hovarda restaurant in London to hear his remarkable story and taste through the range of wines.
It is difficult when making drinks-based TV shows to get the right balance between ‘broad appeal’ and entertaining ‘those in the know’. Critics of The Wine Show complained about it not going deep enough, while those behind the show defended its entertainment-first approach. Amazon Prime has just started airing The Three Drinkers Do Scotch – a three-part series that aims to cover the entire world of Scottish whisky in just three 30 minute episodes. Mike Turner, who is a close friend of the three presenters, reckons they’ve got it just about right.
With five restaurants across Hertfordshire bearing his name, and with plans to open a sixth in the near future, Andrei Lussman is a busy man. But one thing he doesn’t have to worry about is his wine supplier, thanks to a long-standing relationship with Corney & Barrow which stretches back to the 1990’s when he worked in the company’s wine bars at the time. Here he talks to Helen Arnold about how he works with C&B to select the right wines for his restaurants and the challenge of persuading customers to get out of their wine comfort zones.