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.
What a difference a year makes! Last year buyers were left wondering where their supplies were going to come from, as a ‘perfect storm’ of poor global harvests engulfed them. This year the market is ‘awash with wine’, as David Kermode, aka Mr Vinosaurus, found at the tenth annual World Bulk Wine Exhibition in Amsterdam
If you are looking to enter the London Wine Competition 2019 then it makes sense to act now and take advantage of early bird pricing for entries that runs out on December 14. The competition, now into its second year, looks to reward wines that are really connecting with consumers through the quality of the wine, but also how they stand out on shelf. Six leading MWs have also now joined the already impressive line up of professional judges including many leading sommeliers.
For his first ever job in wine, Orin Swift’s Dave Phinney turned up for the interview for the position of ‘Temporary harvest worker’ in a suit and tie. He can still hear the laughter many years on. Phinney has never looked back, however. A true iconoclast, Phinney went about setting up Orin Swift, one of the most exciting new wave wineries in California and has been making wine in a style entirely of his own making – dividing the critics with his striking Californian blends that can have controversial images on their ‘surfer dude’ labels. Chris Wilson hooked up with him in London for an in-depth chat about where American winemaking style is at right now, how he fits into the business of wine and how the E&J Gallo buyout got him out of a very tight corner.
In the first of a series of quick fire Q&A interviews with leading wine buyers, sommeliers, importers and distributors on how they work, what sort of wines they are looking to buy and the opportunities and challenges they face in their respective businesses we start with Nik Darlington, founder of Red Squirrel Wine, that even in its short time of importing wine has built up a strong reputation for being one of the most astute and innovative distributors in the UK where alternative varieties are very much to the fore. Here’s how he sees the world through Red Squirrel’s eyes.
You might remember him as the poster boy of Accolade Wines or you might simply have heard about Bruce Jack Wines and wonder whether they are any good or not. Whatever’s the case, there is no denying that when Bruce Jack makes a splash, people sit up and notice. After last week’s launch of Jack’s new wine venture, Roger Jones assesses the strategy behind the three-tier portfolio, tastes through the range and comes up with his recommendations.
Allan Sichel, head of Bordeaux’s Wine Bureau Conseil Interprofessionnel du Vin de Bordeaux (CIVB) admits he is a “relieved” man after the region’s 2018 harvest has returned to near normality after last year’s horror show when yields across France plummeted to their lowest levels for 50 years, thanks to a late spring frost which saw Bordeaux’s yields drop by nearly 40%. Helen Arnold caught up with him on one of his flying visits to London to talk about the 2018 vintage and Bordeaux’s export markets.
If you are making Chablis you will probably have several generations of the family to consult and 1000s of different expressions to try, across different terroirs, altitudes and in different vintages. For Felton Road’s Blair Walter, making Chardonnay in Central Otago has no such history. Unfairly overlooked, because of Otago’s excellence in making Pinot Noir, the region is slowly developing its own distinctive style, argues Anne Krebiehl MW.
Santa Rita Estates is prepared to go to extraordinary lengths to make sure its brands and wines are relevant for its customers. Even if it means making over 20 videos with its winemakers for just one Irish convenience store chain. Its consumer and market driven strategy actually starts in the vineyard and adapting the styles of wine it is making to ensure they are right for whichever international market they are being made for. Richard Siddle talks to Santa Rita’s marketing chief, Jaime de la Barra, to assess just how a market first wine strategy actually works.
The clock is well and truly ticking on whether or not the UK is ever going to agree a deal with the European Union on how it is actually formally going to leave come March 29, 2019. But for UK drinks buyers, retailers, distributors, importers and wine merchants the alarm bells are already going off as decisions need to be made now, or in the coming weeks, about what wines, beers and spirits they are going to be buying to make sure they don’t run out of stocks if the doomsday scenarios about major chaos and traffic jams at ports become a reality. Richard Siddle looks at how they are effectively having to make decisions in the dark.
Bottling in market is not entirely new – Viña Pomal was once so popular in the UK in the post-war years that bottling used to take place in Charing Cross. It was also, apparently, Winston Churchill’s favourite Spanish wine. Winemaker Alejandro Lopez and the rest of the Viña Pomal team were back in London, this time to launch their new wine Compromiso 2015. A five-variety Rioja blend, it is the Maturana Tinta that gives the wine its point of difference, says Geoffrey Dean, who tasted the new wine along with the rest of the new vintages of the rest of the range.
Rueda has been undergoing massive change for the past decade as major producers such as Ramon Bilbao set up shop – finding the right soil for the right clone of Verdejo and increasingly Sauvignon Blanc. Victor Smart took to the road to visit Ramon Bilbao as well as a number of other producers to see first hand what changes are happening as well as tasting some of the exciting new styles of Verdejo along the way.
We might like the idea of lower alcohol wines, but few, if any, have really cracked the challenge of naturally lowering abv levels whilst maintaining the quality of the wine. New Zealand winemaker, Dr John Forrest, believes he has found a way. Over the last 10 years and more he has been carefully developing techniques in the vineyard that allows him to control the alcohol levels in the grapes ensuring they are picked at just the right time to make his range of Doctor’s wines that only have an alcohol level of 9.5% – and crucially still taste like wine. Richard Siddle finds out how…
From amphora-fermented Chardonnay to sparkling wines made in a bat cave, it feels that there are no rules in Bulgarian winemaking these days. Which is a good thing. Bulgarian wine is in a state of flux right now with a new wave of winemakers mixing the modern and the traditional and making some very exciting wines in the process. Justin Keay tasted through the portfolios of 23 producers and picks out eight you need to have on your buying radar.
The alternative and natural wine scene in Australia is not just for cool cat hipsters, it’s good news for the country’s overall wine industry. Not in terms of the overall sales, share of the total market and putting money in the bank. Far from it. But in terms of how the drive to make wines that are as true to the place they come from, with as little intervention from the winemaker as possible, using different grape varieties that are more suited to the hot, harsh or cool climate growing conditions where they are made and then drunk. That’s the view of leading Australian wine writer, critic and wine merchant, Mike Bennie as he helps set the scene for the key trends driving the Australian wine sector and what we can increasingly expect to see in the coming years in the UK.
The wines of Chile have suffered in recent years through the giant strides being made in winemaking in other areas of the globe. But for winemakers like De Martino it is about getting the balance right between scale and individual cuvées that illustrate how remarkable Chilean terroir can be. This is one of the reasons that Berry Bros. & Rudd has picked up the De Martino wines for distribution, as Geoffrey Dean explains.
If you know her from the BBC’s Apprentice then you will know Jackie Fast is going places. In fact having sold her sports sponsorship for an undisclosed sum before even stepping into Lord Sugar’s boardroom she has arguably already achieved more businesses success than most of us will achieve in our careers. She also certainly lives up to her name and is already trying to pin down prestigious listings in major on-trade accounts and luxury retailers for her premium Canadian ice wine brand, REBEL Pi, within a few weeks of its launch. Richard Siddle caught up with her to find out how she hopes to now crack the notoriously difficult UK premium wine market.
Roving contributing editor Roger Jones has an audience with Keith and Clare Mugford from Moss Wood, focussing not only on their aged fine wines from Margaret River in Western Australia but also discussing the Semillon Gris mutation of Semillon and whether it affects the wines. With Moss Wood celebrating its 50th anniversary next year and Keith also marking 40 years as head winemaker, this was a perfect occasion to consider the enduring appeal of the wines and how they age.
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