There may well be the vital festive trading period ahead of us, but for those in the fine wine world, there is arguably an even bigger yearly event just a few weeks away and the annual Bourgogne campaign, which comes to a head with Bourgogne Week. Over the next few weeks The Buyer will be interviewing a number of leading fine wine merchants to get their feel on how this vital region is doing and what the 2020 campaign has in store. First up is Montrachet Fine Wine Merchants.
It seems everyone you meet in the wine industry has an opinion about Vinexpo. And these opinions vary considerably – often down to the experience they have just had at one of the many other international wine fairs being held globally. Vinexpo has a legacy and an international footprint, however, its image over the last couple of years has taken a bit of a battering, particularly around last year’s show in Bordeaux. Which is around the time that its new chief executive, Rodolphe Lameyse, joined the business. Seven months on and he is more than ready to meet the challenge of turning around this global brand. Here he shares his new vision for Vinexpo with Richard Siddle, which is effectively going back to its roots by offering leading buyers the best quality, most effective trade exhibition for premium wine and spirits, with an experience they will look forward to going back to the following year.
As well as celebrating some of the world’s current leading players in wine and spirits at last night’s International Wine & Spirit Competition awards night it was also an opportunity to look to the next generation of business talent with the announcement of the IWSC’s first Future 50 Awards list, in partnership with the WSET, to recognise those individuals around the world that they believe will be helping to shape the drinks industry in the years to come. Here are the highlights from both the IWSC awards and the Future 50 list.
It’s easy to forget how recent a wine Amarone is; there are currently 350 producers of Amarone in Italy, but just 60 years ago there were seven, in fact the category didn’t officially start until 1989. Although climate change is now making it increasingly hard for these estates to keep the alcohol levels down, Justin Keay found many examples of both commercial Amarone and Valpolicella at the Le Famiglie Storiche di Amarone e Valpolicella tasting that show how producers are following a course that will make for better wines both now and in the future. Keay also picks out the top wines that should be on your buying radar.
It’s a case of ‘one step forward two steps back’ for Bulgaria and its wine producers, believes Justin Keay. After the huge success of the previous two years, this year’s new vintage tasting in London was lacking some of the best producers, many of the indigenous varieties and a lot of the imaginative winemaking so evident in 2018. Talking to key buyers, Keay discovers that price is an issue, consumers’ lack of knowledge and also an inward-looking focus that smacks of a lack of understanding of the global wine market.
Tasting the new releases from Vega-Sicilia is up there with ‘DRC day’ in January. But when that tasting is behind the hallowed doors of the wine estate itself then tasting Unico 2010, Valbuena 5° 2015, Alion 2016 and Unico, Reserva Especial 2020 takes on an added frisson of excitement. Spain’s ‘first growth’ and arguably its most prestigious winery is notoriously difficult to gain access to, but Peter Dean did and posts this account of what it’s like to sample Unico 2010 in the hushed drawing room of the Nineteenth Century villa that serves as its headquarters.
Having the opportunity to go to California and meet over 100 producers in an intense five days of tasting doesn’t come around too often. But it proved to be an invaluable exercise for the group of leading wine buyers from both the UK and Irish on and off-trade markets. In Part One of our report we looked at their general feedback on why they wanted to go on such a trip. Here in Part Two we drill down into what they really thought of the wines and the opportunities of giving them a chance in the markets over here.
Bulk wine is a sector that you cannot afford to ignore, representing an ever-increasing proportion of all the wine traded and shipped around the globe and is now a category worth an annual £3.5bn a year. Which is why next week’s World Bulk Wine Exhibition is for some the two most important days of the year. A time when the majority of bulk wine is traded, contacts are made and contracts are placed. It will once again bring a part of the wine industry together that for some operates in parallel universe to the world of premium wine. But one that is increasingly having an influence on how wine buyers source their wine. It is, as Helen Arnold, explains also the chance for insiders to get a 360-degree vision of what the bulk wine industry has to offer.
The London Wine Competition looks to assess and reward wines based on how consumers judge them. What they look like, how much they cost and what they taste like. Now into its third year of competition the event has proven to be a new platform for producers all over the world to show their wines not just to the trade, but to use any medals and awards won to then promote their wines direct to their customers and consumers. If you want to take part in this year’s competition you can now take advantage of new pre-Christmas entry prices providing you enter by December 18.
As a restaurateur Roger Jones has found that his customers are more at ease when ordering wines and grape varieties that they can pronounce. So how were they going to fare with Vachnadziani, Rkatsitelli and Karmrahyut – three varietals from Georgia and Armenia, that are part of Hallgarten’s 80 new-wine refresh of its portfolio, embracing Ancient Wines? Jones tasted through the range, recommends his stand-out wines, which are best value, and which ones stood up to the Old and New World wines which, for Jones stole the show.
With wine being made in virtually every region of Italy there is certainly plenty of choice for professional buyers to choose from. But what are the grape varieties, styles and regions that are selling the most on wine lists across the country? That was the theme up for debate as top importers and wine merchants came together at the recent Bellavita Expo in London to not just assess the merits of Italian wine, but what opportunities there are to source wine from both the established and emerging countries right across the Mediterranean. Richard Siddle looks back on the key issues and conclusions made by the buyers.
The ‘black wines’ of Cahors in France’s South-West are still suffering in the UK from a reputation of being too challenging – both cerebrally and on account of their sometimes ferocious tannins – sad given the fact that in the 14th Century half of all wine imported into Britain was from Cahors. At the UK launch of its new cuvée Lucter, Château de Haute-Serre owner Bertrand-Gabriel Vigouroux shows Simon Field MW how he has made it his mission to manage the tannins in Cahors without sacrificing the essence of the wine and its key points of difference.
Ever since he vacated the chef de cave seat at Piper-Heidsieck, Regis Camus has devoted his attention between making premium sake and top Champagne cuvée Rare. In London to show off the new vintage, Rare 2006, to Anne Krebiehl MW, he explains why this cuvée is a ‘sunny’ one rather than ‘iconic’ or ‘radiant’; why most of the Chardonnay in the blend comes from the Montagne de Reims rather than the Côte des Blancs; why it is only the ninth white Rare since 1976; and why making Champagne of this calibre requires the maker to have a ‘photograph’ in their mind of each vintage.
Wine is and always has been made from grapes. It’s just a fact of life. But does that have to be the case for ever more? Alistair Morrell certainly doesn’t think so and he has his history books out to show that over the centuries, and in different parts of the world, that wine, and the sum of its parts has not always just had a vine and a bunch of grapes to play with. As the pressure mounts on the wine industry to find new ways to attract consumers might different ways of making wine be part of the solution, he asks.
“The DNA of your company should dictate how you approach the market…The key to China is to get your strategy right and it takes a lot of work and time.” That’s how Marcus Ford, head of Wines of South Africa in China, believes is the right way forward for any producer looking to have serious long-term success in what the most well placed consultants believe will become the biggest wine market in the world. Richard Siddle takes a deep dive into the different options producers can take to build a sustainable and profitable business in China.
Unusual to get tasting notes that include references to Frazzles and “that savoury taste you get a few hours after being punched in the nose,” especially when the wines are at a tasting called Wines with a Conscience. What did Ellis Wines’ new concept tasting all mean? And did the idea stack up? We sent Chris Wilson to 67 Pall Mall to find out, and he was pleasantly pleased with this 50-strong range of Organic, Biodynamic and Sustainable wines, one of which actually uses the winery’s self-produced bee pollen yeast.
After watching and listening to much of the political debate that has taken part in the UK over the last couple of years then you might question the theory that “it’s good to talk”. It certainly helps if the people you are talking to are actually listening and open to what you are saying. Which is what makes next week’s wine2wine conference in Verona particularly exciting as it really does promise to be a meeting of minds of people wanting to shake up, disrupt and challenge the wine industry to do even more in tackling some of its biggest issues. Richard Siddle looks at what is on offer.
The ‘New Old World’ of Central and Eastern Europe is producing some extraordinary and exciting wines right now. Pay particular attention to wines involving the Blue grape, says Justin Keay, whether it’s known as Blaufränkisch, Kekfrankos, Lemberger or one of the many other names it adopts as it follows the winding Danube down to the Black Sea. The grape was part of a landmark tasting in London which had a Hungarian focus but also had wines from Romania, Bulgaria, Austria and even Australia – vinified as a single varietal but also, perhaps most successfully as a blending component.
Italy is so blessed with different styles of fine wine it can be hard to stand out even if you make as prestigious and world famous wines as Amarone. It’s part of the reason why the Famiglie Storiche group of premium producers was set up. To both promote, but also to protect the reputation and prestige of these unique wines from Valpolicella in the Veneto region of north-eastern Italy. This week, to mark the groups’s 10th anniversary, it is hosting a special walk around tasting in London featuring wines from all its crus and styles. Here Alberto Zenato, president of the group, explains what Famiglie Storiche is all about and what we can expect at the tasting.
One of the bugbears of Peter Finlayson is that wines are drunk way too young. In order to prove a point he assembled a gaggle of wine experts, including our own Anne Krebiehl MW, and showed them a flight of his Galpin Peak Pinot Noirs that he makes in South Africa’s Hemel-en-Aarde valley. Finlayson has always taken his cues from Burgundy, his winery Bouchard Finlayson is a joint project with the late Paul Bouchard, of the Beaune négociant Bouchard Aîné & Fils; and the Pinot he makes is always made to be laid down. Krebiehl takes up the story.