For the UK wine trade, January marks not only the start of a new year, but also when all our attention turns to Bourgogne Week and the chance for buyers, merchants, sommeliers and retailers to discover and taste the latest vintage available on the market. The encouraging news is that the 2018 vintage is one of those rare beasts in Bourgogne – good in both quality and quantity – which will allow the trade and consumers to experiment more with the ‘in-between’ appellations that offer great value for money but don’t always get the attention they deserve says Anne Moreau, Co-President of the communications commission for the Bourgogne Wine Board (BIVB).
“Innovation, and pushing boundaries, asking different questions of both the buyer and consumer is what we need. Standing still is walking backwards and I find that tricky at my age.” As a business strategy it’s hard to argue with such a straightforward approach as Danny Spencer has for his growing East Street Wine Co distribution business. Well known in the trade for his many years with Boutinot, Spencer is now well on the way to establishing a wine import business that is 100% a reflection of his friendly, infectious personality. Here he looks back on his buying year for 2019 and what he expects to happen in 2020.
Business is good in Burgundy, the first nine months of 2019 saw volume and value increase by 11% and 12% respectively and the 2018 vintage has managed to replenish stocks in the region. But life is never straightforward, especially for Louis-Fabrice Latour, one of the most powerful men in Burgundy, owner of Maison Louis Latour, VP of the French wine export association and co-president of Burgundy trade body the BIVB. The 25% US tariffs are already having an impact on French still wine, there is the possibility of this increasing to 100%, Brexit is looming and the result of the 2019 crop that is the smallest since 2003, is that prices look set to rise next year by at least 20%. In a candid interview Latour tells Peter Dean that it is the uncertainty of the US tariffs that is the biggest challenge as he spins a number if plates, including the final merger of Burgundy with Beaujolais.
This March’s breakthrough One Step Beyond conference hopes to tackle the most disruptive changes taking place in technology by assessing how they are changing every day consumer behaviour and, crucially, what the drinks industry needs to be doing to both understand what this new technology is all about, but which aspects of it are the most relevant and potentially impactful on our sector. But be careful not to rush into thinking simply applying the most disruptive elements of this new ‘biztech’ into your company will be the answer to all your problems, warns Joe Fattorini. Instead, he claims, in this thought provoking analysis, that what we really need to develop are new skills for thinking about technology, trends and innovations. That will be the key to really understanding what new technology is relevant to your business needs, but most of all how to introduce it in the most effective way possible.
We continue our series of articles interviewing leading buyers for key importers for the premium on-trade with a look behind the scenes at the buying criteria used by Matthew Cooper at Ellis Wines when taking on new producers. We also ask him to look back on 2019 and pick out his highs and lows from his Buying Year, which was a good one for regional Spain and Sicily, but less exciting for Chile. He also looks ahead to 2020 and why he has high hopes for Swartland-style wines from Australia and New Zealand.
There are a number of ways to assess your Top Wines of 2019 and, for The Buyer’s drinks editor Peter Dean, one of the key criteria is availability – the wines need to be best in class obviously but they also need to be newly released onto the market this year. After all, The Buyer is trying to encourage sommeliers and wine buyers everywhere to discover new wines and broaden their palates so that if you’re excited by the sound of a wine we write about and then you find it is home brew from Chave’s second cousin, four bottles made, then quite frankly what’s the point? Some familiar names, then, and some surprises in Peter’s Best Wines of 2019.
The New Year is understandably the time of the year when it feels right to assess your own life and look back at your achievements and what goals you have for the year ahead. But if that all sounds a bit overwhelming, why not celebrate and admire the successes of others which is very much the spirit of The Buyer’s new series: The 3 Things In Drinks I Wish I’d Been Part Of. Which is what Nicky Forrest, managing director of drinks PR agency, Phipps Relations, is happy to do here.
One of the highlights of the year at The Buyer was posting several pieces by Justin Keay that always managed to ‘feel the temper of our times’ – forever weaving his disgust at Britain’s political malaise into features about British Wine, which he had just started taking seriously and, well almost every other wine he was tasting! No surprise, then, to see one English wine here in his top 10 wines of the year plus, as you would expect of Justin, a fascinating mix of wines from Greece, Portugal, Austria and Virginia. And no, that wouldn’t be a wine from Mr Trump.
Following the very sad announcement today that the much loved and highly respected Hazel Murphy has died of cancer we pay tribute to the impact she had on the wine industry around the world, particularly during her time at Australian Wine Bureau in the 1990’s, when she did so much to promote and support what was then still an emerging wine country. So much so that Rosamund Barton of wine PR agency, R&R Teamwork, chose the work she did to take leading UK wine figures to Australia as the best campaign she has seen during her career in wine.
It’s certainly the time of the year – and decade – to look back on some of the key moments and changes that have taken place in our industry over the last 12 and 120 months. Which has also been our festive challenge for some key figures in the industry to pick out three things in drinks that they wish they could have had a part in. Be it making a particular wine, hosting an event, creating an advertising campaign, writing a book and so on. Next up to share his “3 Things” is Bibendum’s on-trade channel director, John Graves.
If you had told David Kermode at the beginning of the year that his top 10 wines of 2019 would have included a Cava, a Prosecco and a Pinot Grigio you might have seen him take a large sleeping pill and put the alarm on to wake him at the end of December. But such is the constant, often disarming, unexpectedness of being a professional wine expert that finding magnificence in the most obvious of mainstream places is one of the joys of the job. OK so there was a 1914 Pol Roger and a 2005 Harlan thrown in there as well but nobody can be perfect 😉
Buying wine for the ever-growing Lanchester Wines is a little more complicated than the average wine supplier, for as well as looking to source the best quality wine at the right price, there is also a need to look at the type of packaging formats the wine could be used for, be it in a keg, bag in box, a can, or straightforward bottle. We continue our look back at 2019 by asking Lanchester’s director of purchasing, Lesley Cook, to share her buying year.
The Pays d’Oc IGP label, which eschews restrictions and embraces diversity and freedom of expression, presents a wide range of styles through its annual wine Collection. Elizabeth Gabay MW, who was on the judging panel for 2019’s Collection, examines the variety of the wines chosen as ‘ambassadors’ for the region, shows how they reflect the mixture of cultural and historical influences and also how they demonstrate the diversity and quality of Pays d’Oc IGP.
We are always looking at The Buyer for new ideas to delve into the world of wine and spirits. So how about this new feature we are introducing to add to the festive cheer. We have asked some key figures in the industry to share some – well three – of the things they most admire in drinks that they wish they had played a part in. It could be a bottle of wine, an advertising campaign, a book, a restaurant or bar. The choice is theirs. First up we turn to the ever creative Joe Fattorini. What are the three things in the drinks industry he wishes he could have been involved in?
Anne Krebiehl MW finished the decade in style – releasing her first book, the excellent Wines of Germany, and travelling to all parts of the globe to judge Riesling competitions, visit wineries, discover little gems and have a quasi-supernatural experience on the Sonoma Coast. Here she reviews her year in wine, a year in which she uncovered some true, upcoming ‘artists’ in Germany as well as being treated to a Bollinger from 1918 and a Beaune from 1947.
As we head into the festive break our minds will soon to be turning to what is around the corner in 2020, but before we do there is still time to look back and reflect on the highs and lows of 2019 through the eyes of some of the sector’s top wine buyers. In the first of a series of buying reports where we ask major buyers from leading importers and distributors to assess the key trends and what impact the global wine market has had on the wines they have been able to buy and bring into the UK over the last 12 months we turn to Paul Braydon, buying controller for Australia, New Zealand and the US at Kingsland Drinks.
It starts with a Pet Nat and it ends with an ultra-premium Champagne, drunk from a plastic cup with scampi and chips on Brighton beach. Welcome to the Top 10 wines of 2019 as discovered by Harry Crowther, wine consultant, wine expert, journalist, publisher and contributor to The Buyer. Every day over the holidays we will be posting Top 10 wines from our panel of wine tasters – to pick up on some gems you may have missed in the hurly burly of the tasting calendar.
The high street is full of restaurant chains that look like they have been created by committee with their quickly forgettable, formulaic offers that makes you wonder how they ever got to be opened in the first place. Then there are restaurateurs like Martin Williams. The man who after a successful career making his name at Gaucho, set up his new vision for premium restaurants, the multi faceted M Restaurants that is part premium steak restaurant, part cocktail, wine bar, part events space and part private dining club. He has now been brought in as the new chief executive of Gaucho with the mission of re-launching a famous, and once much loved restaurant brand that had fallen so badly off the rails that it even slipped into administration late year. Here, in his first major business interview since unveiling his new look for Gaucho at the re-opened and re-designed Charlotte Street branch in London, Williams sits down with Richard Siddle to take him through his vision for Gaucho and how he wants it to re-gain its crown as not just the best premium steak restaurant chain in the country, but an inspirational place to work and further your career in hospitality.
New speakers and panellists have been added to the breakthrough new conference being held in March that looks to give the drinks industry a front row seat to better understand the most disruptive changes in consumer behaviour, driven by advances in smart technology, that are transforming the way we all behave as individuals and as consumers. The One Step Beyond event is being held on March 4 and is a joint project between The Buyer, Sophie Jump, the Wine & Spirit Trade Association and is supported by Emetry, the digital insights experts for the drinks sector.
His year started in Marlborough and it ended in Morgon, en route he visited Spain, Italy, the Rhône and Bordeaux… on more than one occasion. Welcome to the Top 12 wines of 2019 as discovered by Mike Turner, restaurateur, wine consultant, journalist, web geek and contributor to The Buyer. Every day over the holidays there will be more Top wines from 2019 as chosen by our panel of wine tasters – to pick up on some gems you may have missed in the year but also so you can pretend you’ve got some work on when the in-laws pop round.