Because the First Growths didn’t knock his socks off in 2016, Bordeaux expert Joss Fowler didn’t initially think that 2016 was as great a vintage as, say, 2005, 2009 and 2010. But what is interesting in returning to the vintage some years on, and re-tasting 267 wines, is how close are the ‘chasing pack’ of Second Growths; St Julien and Pauillac in particular were standout in 2016 with many estates producing their most memorable wine ever, which is surely a mark of a great vintage. Of all of these it was the Grand-Puy-Lacoste which was the wine that continued to haunt Fowler, weeks after the tasting in February. So how does it rate alongside the other 20 or so vintages?
The situation surrounding the impact and spread of Covid-19 in the UK and around the world is changing so fast The Buyer has set up this rolling updates service to keep you abreast of the latest official guidelines and recommendations from the government, but also the individual steps that businesses are taking to keep trading and help their customers do the same. This is Part One of our Covid-19 blog that records the events and trade reaction over the days in March leading up to the closing of all bars and restaurants and subsequent national lockdown in the UK
“Covid-19 has given us all a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to stop, reflect, think, and reinvent.” That’s not the view of a wine or spirits producer, retailer, independent wine merchant, or restaurateur. But Richard Eagleton, chief executive of McQueens, that is usually creating floral displays for the Oscars, Royal weddings and the finest events of the year. His business too has been hit by the full force of Covid-19. But rather than lick his wounds he genuinely sees this as the time in all our lives to achieve what we never thought was possible before.
It has never been more important for importers and distributors to be working with their winery partners around the world, helping to keep them informed about what is happening in their key sales markets, as well as making sure their buyers and customers know what is happening in those wineries. Here we talk to two of Seckford Agencies’ South African producers – Glenelly Estate and Kanonkop – about what impact their country’s lockdown has had on them.
Faouzi Issa would prefer life in Lebanon if it was wartime rather than its current dire straits. And he should know. As winemaker and owner of Domaines des Tourelles whose vineyards are in the Bekaa Valley, he has lived through a number of wars. But trying to make wine whilst fighting the invisible enemy of Covid-19 against the backdrop of an impending revolution in Lebanon, is about as tough as it sounds. Peter Dean caught up with him on the UK launch of his new wine – an old vine Carignan – to see how he is coping.
South Africa stands alone in the world with the unwanted burden of being the only major wine producing country that has had to cope with the complete halt in any domestic wine sales, and for weeks a ban on movement of wine that stopped global exports too. Wine might now once again, at least, be leaving its ports, but what short and long term damage has the Covid-19 lockdown already had on its wine industry? Major South African wine figures came together to openly discuss their futures as part of a recent Real Business of Wine online debate. Richard Siddle listened in.
The cellars at Krug are a stark reminder of how this ancient house has weathered many a previous storm – villagers from Rheims sheltering in the cellars while the city was pounded by the German guns in 1918. At the launch of the Krug Grande Cuvée 168th Edition, Olivier Krug referred to previous storms saying that Champagne was readying itself to start shipping again, that the Champenois work together and that “Champagne shows how strong we are” – even though this is the first time in his career he doesn’t have a plane ticket on his desk. It was also a tasting with some other firsts – the first one presided over by new chef de cave Julie Cavil and the first one conducted online. Anne Krebiehl MW stayed home, saved lives and sipped Krug.
It might be over a year since Gerard Basset OBE MW MS, arguably the world’s best ever and certainly most well known and charismatic sommelier, died at the age of 61. But his memory is still so fresh – and refreshing – with not just the people in the trade who knew him well, but for those who he inspired, either to follow in his footsteps to become a sommelier, or just the desire to live life to the full and share what you know with passion and a smile. Thankfully he was able to share his life’s experiences in the autobiography he wrote over his last few months. Here’s just one chapter from a typically captivating book.
What do you do when you have a surplus of viticultural data and don’t know what to do with it?… Develop a technological tool that supports everyday decision-making, with regular guidance on treatments and optimum harvest dates, and also assists long-term strategic change… that’s what. This is what lies behind PICA, a fascinating web-based tool and app developed by Cavit, one of Italy’s largest co-operatives based in Trentino. It represents 4,500 individual grower members, 10 wineries and a team of 14 agronomists overseeing 5,400 hectares of vineyards, the majority of which are relatively small plots in the hills around Trento. David Kermode was there before Lockdown to see how it is revolutionising viticulture in the region.
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If there is one consolation from the Covid-19 lockdown it’s the fact we are all sharing the same experiences and finding ways to get used to what has quickly become the norm for both our working and family lives. Then for thousands of people in the wine, drinks and hospitality sectors there is no working life at all, as so many businesses have put their staff on furlough. The past few weeks have been particularly challenging for those restaurant and bar staff who spend so much of their time together, working as finely tuned teams running service, on their feet, for long hours, often six, if not seven days a week. Here Mattia Scarpazza, head sommelier at Petersham Nurseries, shares his experiences of life in lockdown and what he is doing to keep himself active, both in body and in mind.
AIX Rosé feels like a Provencal brand with a long tradition. And yet it was just 12 years ago that Dutch marketeer Eric Kurver bought 75 hectare Domaine de la Grande Seouve, turning it from an unprofitable estate making red and white wine into one of France’s top rosé producers. The gall of going for the name AIX and successfully registering it under the noses of the French and a belief in larger formats are just two facets of its success – that sophistication comes from keeping it simple. Peter Dean got the story.
Anyone who knows anything about the Lanchester Group, which includes the wine bottling business, Greencroft Bottling and wine merchant Lanchester Wines, will not be surprised it has been all hands to the helm with staff moving, where necessary, between teams and divisions in order to keep the whole company going and helping out where it is most needed.
David Baker, MD of Hermitage Cognacs, a specialist importer and distributor of single estate, unblended cognac, speaks out about his frustration at the lack of specialist cognac judges in spirits competitions. All too often, whisky judges are nominated instead. The key from Baker’s point of view is in the difference of source ingredients, production methods and therefore flavours of cognac versus more commonly encountered spirits such as whisky. All of this points, he believes, to a general lack of understanding about what makes a great cognac.
Few countries have such a strong tie to a single variety as New Zealand does to Sauvignon Blanc. From a standing start in the 1970s, the grape now accounts for 86% of the nation’s overseas sales. Last night, in the first in a series of webinars, trade body New Zealand Winegrowers asks if consumers and the trade can ‘get past the gooseberry’ to talk about the wine itself? With Jane Skilton MW in the chair and three master sommeliers John Szabo, David Keck and Ronan Sayburn making up the rest of the panel, this was a true masterclass, in the proper sense of the word, attended by 500 participants worldwide one of whom, Peter Ranscombe, has the story.
Whilst the Covid-19 lockdown has seen the off-trade enjoy week after week of Christmas-like sales, the on-trade, and all the drinks companies that supply it, are facing catastrophe with every week that passes. It is forcing many businesses to make decisions they would never do in usual times. Like turning themselves into retailers and going direct to consumer. Richard Siddle argues it is the one aspect of this crisis that is actually a real force for good and could help transform the long term fortunes and futures of those companies that are the quickest to act and switch to DTC and home delivery. The genie is out of the bottle.
When it comes to the cork industry’s challenge to win the closures battle, one enormous boost has come in the findings of a Lifecycle Assessment study by Ernst & Young, which shows as scientific fact how cork stoppers can reduce by a quarter the total carbon footprint of an average bottle of still table wine and by almost half that of a bottle of sparkling wine. Mike Turner talks to world-leading cork supplier Amorim, which commissioned the study, and suggests that for an industry that has often been forced into owning a narrative, the carbon footprint argument sits neatly with an already impressive record of sustainability and biodiversity.
South African winemaker Bruce Jack prides himself of doing things differently. He wants to make wines that make you think as much as you enjoy drinking them. So when he had an idea of producing his own wine publication he wanted to push the boundaries and produce a magazine like nothing that has come before it. With his Jacks Journal he has not only achieved that, but has arguably created a completely new style of magazine that lives and breathes the philosophy and vision of the man behind it. Here he explains how it came together.
Once Roger Jones, Steven Spurrier, Rebecca Palmer and Kelly Stevenson had finished their judging to find the 12 best wines of Alsace, the quartet visited Josmeyer, Zind-Humbrecht and Dirler-Cadé as well as put the wines into a gastronomic context with Sipp Mack and Cave de Turckheim. In this second part of this special insight into why the wines of Alsace are so special, celebrated chef and Buyer contributing editor, Jones, tries a number of food pairings (some, like foie gras more than once just to be sure ;)), experiences a once-in-a-lifetime ‘speed tasting’ as well as many of the winemakers’ very special aged bottles.
As we continue to live our lives from day to day, with no idea of what is going to come next, it can be hard to make any real sense of what is happening in the industry around us. We know how Covid-19 is hitting our own business, but what about the overall wine and hospitality sectors? That’s why The Buyer has teamed up with on-trade drinks analysts, CGA, to provide a new free Wine Trade Bulletin to help you keep on top of the situation. It includes detailed analysis tracking the consumer response to this crisis and their attitude and behaviour changes towards buying wine taken from CGA’s real time consumer surveys. It also includes highlights from The Buyer’s rolling Covid-19 Live Hub with key comments from our industry leaders on how they are reacting and changing their business strategy to keep on top of what is still such a fast changing situation we all find ourselves in.