Improvements in Greek viticulture over the past 20 years and the UK’s thirst for the unusual and the authentic has led to a bona fide renaissance of the Greek wine scene. In the first of a two-part special Justin Keay shows how this Greek revival has started with white wines, selects six that are the most interesting wines available in the UK, and sheds some light onto the ‘new’ old varieties that we should be tuning into; most buyers will be familiar with Assyrtiko by now but how about Moscofilero, Vidiano, or a Robola from Kefalonia?
September is a notoriously busy time for the UK wine trade as buyers, merchants, and restaurants all hit the ground running from their summer holidays. Things will really get going on September 3 with the third New Wave tasting to celebrate the best, dynamic and exciting wine talent in South Africa. Once again five of the UK’s most interesting importers have come together to host one of the most popular tastings of the year. Here Richard Kelley MW of Dreyfus Ashby explains why he is involved and what we can expect.
The record breaking English wine harvest in 2018 was not just good news for the industry as a whole, but it also gave producers the opportunity to trial and experiment with new styles. Like the Albourne Estate in Sussex which has introduced what it claims is the first English Frizzante, another step in its own quest to innovate English winemaking. Here owner and founder Alison Nightingale explains why Frizzante and why now.
Ten years ago the missing link in the parentage of Merlot, the world’s second most planted grape, was discovered growing up the side of a house in south west France. It was on the verge of extinction but has thankfully been saved. Christina Rasmussen explains why this is important for the preservation of our heritage as well as being a source of genetic diversity in the future. After all, in 2012 the 20 most prominent grape varieties in France accounted for 91% of vineyard area whereas in 1958 the same 20 accounted for 53%. Would we want just 20 ingredients in our kitchen? Rasmussen argues quite clearly not.
Unilever’s new chief executive Alan Jope told the Cannes marketing conference recently that it “will dispose of brands that we feel are not able to stand for something more important than just making your hair shiny or your skin soft”. But Reka Haros warns so-called purpose marketing is not for all and could actually damage a company or brand’s reputation if not done properly and for the right reasons. Here she explains why.
Given the paucity of true statesmen or stateswomen in the British political spectrum, it is hard to imagine a Champagne house wanting to name its top cuvée after one of our Prime Ministers, let alone whether any have got the palate to discern true greatness. Sir Winston Churchill did, of course, and his love affair with Pol Roger is the thing of wine legend. Churchill is reputed to have drunk 42,000 bottles of Pol Roger in his life and he only discovered it aged 34. David Kermode was granted a rare behind-the-scenes visit to the House where he saw first hand the extent of this great relationship as well as how it is still impacting Pol Roger’s sales and market share in the UK.
The wines of Domaine Francois Raveneau continue to be some of the most sought-after and highly prized in the world. The Buyer was granted a rare audience with Isabelle Raveneau in November 1996 at the Chablis domaine, a visit that money simply can’t buy. Today just as in the 1940s, when the domaine was established, the humble vision remains the same – work hard in the vineyard and everything else slots into place. It’s all a question of attitude. At the time it was the 2015 vintage in barrel.
If you were writing a history of the premium on-trade and independent wine trade over the last 30 years then Les Caves de Pyrène would have to be at the heart it. For not only did it first introduce so many of the exciting, breakthrough and dynamic organic and natural wines that are now across the sector, it actually walked the walk and opened up its own successful wine bars and restaurants. So to save someone else the time, co-founder, Doug Wregg, who lives and breathes the company’s DNA, has written his own account of Les Caves and the wine word it has grown up in. Here he explains why he did it and shares one of the extracts from the book.
The debate and conversation about cannabis is changing. And changing fast. No doubt driven by what is happening in North America. First with the legalisation of cannabis use in Canada and the fact 10 US states have followed suit, including California. The UK has now agreed to legalise the medical use of cannabis and there are an increasing number of legal CBD cannabis products in the market, across health and beauty, oils, coffees and now soft drinks. So what, if anything, does all this mean for the drinks industry? Richard Siddle looks at the key factors and trends we all need to know about.
Wines of Chile took on Wines of Australia at a thrilling contest in the twelfth Tri Nations Wine Challenge. The challenge sees six wines from each country compete with one another, paired with food cooked by our contributing editor and chef at large Roger Jones of The Harrow at Little Bedwyn. Chile has been making giant strides recently in proving that its premium wines can sit comfortably on a fine wine list, but are they good enough to be judged better than Australia’s across six varietal categories – Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz?
Who has over a million social media followers and can claim tens of thousands of pounds for just one post, but you have never heard of them? Welcome to the world of social media influencers. Whether we like the idea of them, or want to work with any of them, we can’t ignore them. Particularly if you want to get your drinks brand in front of the right target audience. Jackie Fast gives her own personal take on what it is like to be seen as an influencer, thanks to her time on BBC’s The Apprentice, the challenges of becoming one and, in this frank account, gives her five top tips on how to work best and get the most out of social media influencers.
Pignoletto has so much going for it as a quality Italian sparkling wine that it makes its low profile in the UK on-trade somewhat baffling. The grape variety that is used to make the wine is superior to, more nuanced and cheaper than Glera, the Prosecco grape, and the wine comes in spumante, frizzante and still versions. Yet just 10% of the wine is exported and success in the UK has largely been solely with the major supermarkets. Justin Keay travels to Pignoletto’s home in Emilia-Romagna, tastes and recommends some of the more boutique labels, and talks to key figures both in Italy and the UK about what needs to be done to bring a bit of sparkle to Pignoletto’s fortunes.
If you were blown away by the excitement, dynamism, and buzz of the first two New Wave tastings, highlighting and celebrating some of the best winemaking talent in South Africa quality, then you really are in for a treat with its return to London on September 3. Robin Davis, co-founder of the New Wave tasting, explains why his own distribution business, Swig, is so keen to be involved again and why he believes it is going to be “easily be the best tasting yet”. In the first of a series of articles with each of the five importers involved, and some of their key winemakers, Richard Siddle talks to Davis about what we can expect. (Main picture: BlankBottle’s Pieter Weiser competing in the Vintners Surf Classic, picture by Thys Lombard).
Five years ago when Silicon Valley billionaire Michael Baum expressed an interest in buying Château de Pommard, his lawyers advised against it. But Baum liked the direct-to-consumer business model, the cellar master Emmanuel Sala and took quite a shine to this historic Burgundy estate. 90% of the current 100,000 bottle annual output is sold direct to consumer, but Baum is putting the building blocks in place to quadruple that. Geoffrey Dean travelled to Burgundy to meet Baum and his team, see their plans and, of course, to taste the wines.
Can the English wine industry do no wrong? The growth figures for the last few years have been staggering with 3m extra vines expected be planted in 2019, on top of the 1.6m in 2018 and 1m in 2017. This is on top of the boom in the number of bottles of English wine being sold, with a record 15.6m in 2018. But as well as the huge opportunities there are also a number of challenges for the industry as well. All of which came up for discussion at a recent trade panel debate organised by Bibendum. Richard Siddle was there to report on a discussion between major English industry wine figures that looked at what steps are being taken to widen the category to bring in the scale of customer the sector will need if it is to have a market for all the wine being produced.
Chile is now one of the two most innovative winemaking countries in the world, reckons Alistair Cooper MW, who delivered a perceptive, focussed masterclass at a recent Wines of Chile tasting – backed up by a tasting of 45 wines that Cooper picked to reflect Chile’s movement towards sommelier-driven styles. It is innovation, risk-taking, old vines and the resurgence of traditional varieties (made with a modern twist) that are working so well and Chris Wilson was there for The Buyer to further whittle these down to 10 that every sommelier should have on their radar.
When the Languedoc’s Domaine Gayda got some of the world’s top wine critics to blind-taste Syrah matured in 9 different vessels in London last month, it was a ground-breaking exercise in sharing a key facet of the winemaker’s craft – how does elevage in completely different vessels alter the wine? And which is more palatable? The results were as surprising as they were useful to winemaker Vincent Chansault and winery chief Tim Ford. So what effect will the learnings have on how they are going to blend future vintages of their flagship wine, the Syrah-based Chemin de Moscou, and how will it affect sales?
It’s the way they tell ’em! You don’t need to be a stand up comedian to tell a good story about your business, but you need to learn how to capture your audience and talk to them in ways they are going to respond to on emotional and personal basis if they are going to remember you beyond the time you spend together. Here business coach and executive training expert, Nicole Soames, chief executive of Diadem Performance gives her top five tips on storytelling.
If you have a good idea once, then there’s no harm in repeating it. Which is why we are pleased to take this week’s trip down memory lane to when we asked different leading figures in the wine PR industry to name the campaign they were most of, and the PR campaign they wish they had done. Here Rosamund (known as ‘Roza’ to one and all) Barton of R&R Teamwork looked back on the launch of Champagne Taittinger’s first foray into English wine and the announcement it has bought a vineyard in Kent and was going to make its own English sparkling wine. It ended up being a PR triumph. She also singled out Hazel Murphy for her groundbreaking Australian UK trade trip as the campaign she wished she’d done.
As the great carnival that is the Tour de France continues its trundle around Belgium and France so we turn back the clock to reprise a feature that shows how for the past six years Castelnau has been the official Champagne for the Tour de France, and why it decided to launch a new range of fizz called Hors Catégorie – that celebrates almost impossible mountain climbs that literally makes you reach for the skies. The second of the HC Champagnes is called CCF 2067 after the 2067 metre high Col de la Croix de Fer, so who better to review it and attend the launch than Stephen Vey a member of the Buyer team who has actually cycled the mountain and lived to tell the tale.