If you work in the drinks industry there is a fair chance you would have got a book related to wine or spirits somewhere in your Christmas stocking. It’s hardly a novel present. But when Mike Robinson was given a book on gins and home-made tonic recipes one Christmas it was to change his life. For up to then he had been quite happy working in supply chain and logistics for Heinz. Now he is looking to make his way into the drinks industry with his own range of Jeffrey’s handcrafted cordials and tonic syrups.
2020 for the wine writer was a real game of two halves – tasting in the flesh whilst mingling round the spittoon, then tasting alone on Zoom, trying not to talk about Covid. But the drinks trade’s speed and ingenuity in facilitating online tastings meant that it was easy to appreciate how exceptional 2020 was for new wines, irrespective of how difficult life in hospitality had become. For The Buyer’s drinks editor, Peter Dean, 2020 was ‘the year of drinking differently’ – it was a year of discovery (virtual or not) with some interesting finds unearthed in his Top 10 wines of 2020.
As we finally say goodbye to 2020 there is still time to share the experiences and memories of a key member of the wine trade as we ask Mattia Scarpazza, head sommelier at Petersham Nurseries, what were his personal takeaways from such a turbulent year. It might have meant spending a lot more time away from the restaurant floor, but he has kept himself busy and creative launching his own wine podcast to great acclaim. Over to you Mattia…
As a former professional cricketer, wine expert Geoffrey Dean has been used to ‘rain stopping play’ on many an occasion. But, like the rest of us, he has never had to contend with Covid-19 sending everyone back into the pavilion. Before the pandemic prevented international travel, however, Dean visited South Africa and Australia where he made a number of key vinuous discoveries which he shares with us in his Top 10 wines of 2020.
Whilst 2020 will go down as the year, the world over, when we all went through the same emotions of lockdown and coming to terms of living in a global pandemic. But the impact of Covid-19 on ourselves as individuals has been very different. Here Victoria Sharples, wine buyer at St John Restaurant in London, shares what it has been like to have been on furlough for most of 2020, and how it is actually been a hugely rewarding time to stop and reflect and make the most of our unique circumstances.
International travel – the lifeblood for wine experts – was restricted this year, making it nigh-on impossible to visit wine regions and meet winemakers face-to-face. David Kermode, aka Mr Vinosaurus, was one of the lucky ones, managing to visit New Zealand, France, Greece and Italy which has greatly influenced the wines he has picked as his top 10 wines of the year. Kermode also attended a spectacular last hurrah at wine industry favourite haunt The Harrow at Little Bedwyn, with top marks to James Smith at Vranken Pommery for having the foresight to have booked what turned out to be the last big wine launch at Roger Jones’ restaurant. So what’s going to happen in 2021 James?!
As we emerge from our Christmas bubbles and our thoughts start to turn to New Year, we turn to Shane McHugh, wine buyer and head sommelier for the Goodman group of steak restaurants to share his thoughts on 2020, just what impact Covid-19 has had on him personally and the restaurant group, and what he is doing over the festive period to hopefully take some time to relax, reflect and look forward to the year ahead.
Themed webinars, ‘guessing games’ on Zoom, receiving full bottle samples of unaffordable super-premium cuvées – 2020 had some unexpected pleasures but, on the whole, it was a challenging year for Anne Krebiehl MW as much as it was for most in the wine trade. Here she reflects on a year that was full of exceptional bottles, including many outstanding Pinot Noir, Sekt, English fizz, Cabernet Franc and even Grüner Veltliner – but virtually all of them sipped in solitude.
2020 was a monumental year for wine writer Chris Wilson. This was the year that he opened his first winery Gutter & Stars – in fact Cambridge’s first urban winery – and started to practice what he preaches. While the inaugural vintage at Gutter & Stars is maturing nicely, Wilson reflects on what wines really caught his attention this year, from ones at physical tastings in the first few months of the year, through to others which came through the post for Zoom tastings. His Top 10 Wines of 2020 list also includes two that came from his cellar including the bottle of fizz that christened the new winery.
Radford Dale Thirst, Ministry of Clouds Grenache, Sean Thackrey Pleiades XXVII Old Vines, Offbeat Wines Skinny Dip, David Franz Long Gully Road Semillon
Professionally 2020 has been as frustrating for Anne Burchett as it has been for so many in the wine industry in her role as a freelance business consultant, but it has also given her the time and the opportunity to bring to life her novel that she has been sitting on for a number of years. The overwhelmingly positive response she has had to Tasting Notes – her fictional account of what life is like working in the wine industry – has been even more welcome than normal. Here she shares what 2020 has been like for her and what she is up to this Christmas.
Xinomavro is the Greek grape variety on everyone’s lips at the moment and that is not just a passing fad, argues Justin Keay. Greek wine is definitely one of THE wine trends that we can look forward to in 2021. Greek wine ticks most of the boxes for supplying the on and off-trade with well-made, contemporary wines: it’s made mainly with indigenous grapes; the terroirs are some of the best in the world and hugely varied; the climate supports widespread organic, traditional winemaking techniques; and the wines are stunning value. In a fascinating A-X of Greek wine, Keay picks out his top wines and producers, as well as talks to some of the UK’s key importers of Greek wine for their views on how to tap into one of next year’s big things.
2020 is going to be remembered for an awful lot of wrong reasons, but whatever the last few months has thrown at us we’ve all had to cope, react and do what we could to help ourselves – and those around us. It’s also been a year like no other for innovation and getting things done. Which is what our end of year interviews with leading figures in the drinks and hospitality sectors are all about. Individuals who have all responded to Covid-19 for the greater good. Who better to start with than Ross Carter, who in his role as chief executive of the Drinks Trust has been at the heart of how as an industry we have all come together to help as many people as possible through this crisis.
What is so notable about an exceptional single vineyard with great terroir is that it can make an outstanding wine every year irrespective of the vintage. Such is the case with Clos des Goisses the 5.83 hectare vineyard owned by Champagne Philipponnat, that can be compared with the best sites in Burgundy, and whose Champagne was the first-ever single vineyard Champagne released on the market. Anne Krebiehl MW tastes four Champagne Philipponnat Clos des Goisses wines including the super-premium Clos des Goisses L.V. 1995 Extra Brut which has had an astonishing 25 years on the lees.
There is the classic Michael McIntyre sketch where he asks us to take pity on the jar of Five Spice that sits in so many kitchen cupboards but is rarely taken out to be used. Now think about all those bottles of liqueurs and sweet and fortified wines that are waiting patiently on your back bar to be sold and promoted. It’s time we gave them a bit more love and attention. Here’s our round up of the best liqueurs and sweets and fortified that stood out in this year’s IWSC competition.
The often repeated mantra amongst wine producers the world over is if they can make it onto the most prestigious wine lists in the best UK restaurants and bars, particularly the top ones in London, then you can make it anywhere in the world. Even when the UK on-trade has had to be closed for so much of 2020, the impact of having your wines on the most influential lists, can have a halo effect in gaining listings in other key countries and cities. It’s why The Buyer is today teaming up with Star Wine List to launch the ‘UK Wine List of The Year’ with all category winners going through to the Global Wine List Final to be held in Vienna in May 2021. The UK awards will be handed out on February 22 so there is not much time to get your entries in. The winners will be selected by a panel made up of some of the most celebrated sommeliers in the world, including a number of former Best Sommeliers in the World. Here’s how the competition is going to how and how you can take part.
The newly-released Hine Bonneuil 2010 Cognac is the fourth in a continuing series of single-estate, single harvest Cognacs. Limited to just 18 casks for each vintage released, it is Hine’s attempt to bring a winemaking philosophy to Cognac which expresses its terroir and the specificity of a given (great) vintage. Peter Dean caught up with the team responsible and tasted all four vintages.
The Ritz, The Stafford, The Connaught Bar, Gleneagles, Roka, 45 Park Lane and Dukes Hotel are just some of the prestigious names represented on the judging panel for the 2021 London Spirits Competition. For any distiller, brand owner, producer or importer the competition is an opportunity to have your products assessed by the top premium on-trade spirits buyers in the country. Here’s how you can enter this year’s competition and who is doing the judging.
Let’s face it there is a lot resting on 2021. As we head into Christmas week our thoughts are starting to turn to what is in store for us in the next 12 months. It’s not surprising considering the tumultuous year we have all lived through that there are big hopes for next year and the opportunity for us all to get back to some sort of normality. Here Neil Anderson, retail brand marketing director of specialist spirits supplier, Quintessential Brands, shares the key trends he thinks will dictate the drinks industry in 2021.
Over the last couple of years some of the most exciting new spirits appearing in the best back bars in the world are from ever more surprising and diverse sources as the number of countries now producing quality whiskies, gins, vodkas, rums and more grows and grows. If you are looking for something a little different to give your drinks list a punch going into the new year then here is The Buyer’s selection of what we see as being amongst the most interesting spirits from some of the more non traditional spirit producing countries (with a few familiar countries thrown in).
It had to be a special project that brought all three branches of the Rothschild family together under one roof for the first time. And naturally enough it had to be in Champagne. When the family bought Maison Prieur in Versus in 2005 they set in motion a project which took them from gravel to chalk, from red wine to white, and the slow development of Champagne Barons de Rothschild. Acquiring 3 hectares of Grand Cru vineyard and concentrating on Chardonnay as the main varietal in its cuvées, the house has just released its new Blanc de Blancs, Champagne Barons de Rothschild – Rare Vintage 2010, a wine which Anne Krebiehl MW put to the test.