The outbreak of Covid-19 has hit the drinks and wine industry the world over. None more so than in South Africa which is again going through a national lockdown of all domestic wine sales with potentially a devastating impact on the country’s wine network. It has also made wine businesses think and act differently, particularly with the boom in online sales. In keeping with that new spirit of innovation, creativity and collaboration, three South African wine producers – Bruce Jack of Bruce Jack Wines, Ross Sleet of Rascallion Wine and De Villiers Graaff of De Grendel wines – have come together to launch a new, and potentially unique direct to consumer concept for the wine industry. Together they have set up a non-for-profit platform called Mind Map Wine Company that they are launching in the UK to act not as a competitor to their usual retail and on-trade channels to market, but to be an active partner to them, helping to raise the awareness of their brands and connect directly and with consumers. They hope to sign up more like-minded producers from around the world to join them in the months ahead. In our latest The Buyer video interview Richard Siddle caught up with Bruce Jack and Ross Sleet to talk through the new DTC platform, but also assess the current state and impact of the South African domestic wine lockdown.
Bernhard Bredell was named Young Winemaker of the Year in Tim Atkin’s South Africa 2019 Special Report, a reflection of the amount of heads he’s turned since 2016 when he set up the Scions of Sinai label, and also down to the quality of the wines, in particular the single vineyard Swanesang which is made from the last standing bushvines of Syrah in the Helderberg district of Stellenbosch. Emerging Wine Writer of the Year, Malu Lambert, visited him after Lockdown and tasted through the range.
Greta Thunberg is too young to drink, of course, but when she does she’ll probably reach for a bottle of Portuguese wine imported by Xisto Wines. For while reducing carbon emissions is high on the agenda of most respecting drinks companies, Bristol-based Xisto has taken it one step further. Part of its Circle of Zero Waste philosophy is to sail artisanal wines in traditional cargo ships from Porto to Bristol in barrels, bottle them using re-purposed Espumante bottles and deliver without using plastic or fossil fuel. Peter Dean caught up with Xisto after its first voyage into London Docks.
As we all start to take serious steps of coming out of lockdown, The Buyer has switched its Covid-19 Hub updates service to a new weekly format to help the trade keep up to date with the very latest activity, trends and insights across the drinks, retail and hospitality sectors as momentum builds towards opening up more areas of business we will look to share more knowledge and tools to help you do that. This is Part Seven of The Buyer’s Covid-19 blog kicking off all the activity in what is going to be a vital month for the UK drinks and hospitality sectors.
If you’ve ventured out into social media this week then there’s really only been one wine story to bother yourself with. No, not how the wine industry is tackling this global pandemic, but rather the Twitter furore there has been over Hollywood A lister Cameron Diaz deciding this is the moment the world needs to know all about her new ‘clean wine’ brand – Avaline. Here Joe Fattorini – in his typically brilliant, biting and witty way – takes the Diaz naysayers to task and makes the case for why Diaz and her ‘clean wine’ is actually marketing genius.
We continue our series of profiles of key New York State wine producers with a behind the scenes tour of Dr Konstantin Frank Winery by Meaghan Frank, the fourth generation of the Frank family that first came to the United States from Ukraine in 1951. Over the years the family has been at the centre of the ‘Vinifera Revolution’ that has taken place in the state as producers trialled and tested which grape varieties were best suited to the harsh growing conditions of the Finger Lakes.
We might not be collectively travelling to many of the world’s most famous cities and eating and dining out in their finest restaurants at the moment, but that does not mean we can’t highlight the great talent that work in the kinds of outlet that allow the best wine producers and their wines to shine. Which is why it’s so timely that Star Wine List is taking its awards around the world to shine the spotlight on the best wine restaurants in key cities around the world. The Buyer is also delighted to be partnering with Star Wine List to establish a new Wine List awards in London. Here Krister Bengtsson, founder of Star Wine List, explains how it is going to work.
The Mamba Riedel Decanter Awards took its final bow after 15 years yesterday with Liberty Wines winning Best All-Time Importer and Leeuwin Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 Best Australian wine in a Grand Awards event at the Harrow at Little Bedwyn. The event was a ‘Champion of Champions’ affair with all of the day’s finalists previously being award winners, since the event started in 2006.
As much as the fine wine market was gradually going digital, Covid-19 has made all businesses realise they need to adopt new technology with some urgency if they are to take any advantage of the boom there has been in e-commerce wine sales during lockdown. The pace of change has been so fast that some large wine businesses have been able to implement two year software plans in as little as two months, says Nick Martin, co-founder of Wine Owners, the fine wine sector-specific business software platform. Here he examines what thinking companies should be bringing into their business software investment decision making to improve their back office, business management, and sales.
Those of a certain age with a long memory will recall Reggie Perrin conjuring up an image of a prancing hippopotamus every time there’s mention of his mother-in-law (they were different times). There will be many ambitious members of the drinks trade who will probably sympathise, after being faced with a boss who claims to “not get digital” or “social media” and prefers to carry on with the way things have always been done. Thanks to Covid-19 even these so called “Hippo” bosses have had to wake up to digital and finally start investing in an online strategy. Richard Siddle analyses what this might mean for the drinks and hospitality sectors.
Fresh from its success at this year’s Mundus Vini Biofach international organic wine fair, where it picked up the Best Organic Red Wine of France gong for its flagship wine Chemin de Moscou, Domaine Gayda is launching its Figure Libre range of wines in the UK with fresh distribution deals in place. Peter Dean picks up the story and tastes through the new wines.
Sparkling wine has enjoyed unprecedented success in the UK over the last 10 years, but where does French sparkling sit alongside the two powerhouses of everyday sparkling wine – Prosecco and Cava? To find out, The Buyer teamed up with Business France, to host an online Zoom panel debate with leading UK wine buyers of independent importers and merchants, who had the chance to chat live with three very different representatives of the French wine market covering sparkling, Champagne and Crémant.
It’s been 10 months since 18 year-old Yasmin Dean has had an alcoholic drink, before then she was rarely seen without one. Too many parties later she decided to quit, has never looked back and was a natural to taste through the range of Lyre’s non-alcoholic ‘spirits’ when they got sent to The Buyer. But drunk neat and in mocktails do they match up to the real thing? How do they compare to Seedlip? And which would she pick and feel happy drinking when she was out partying?
There are a fair few wine producers around the world who can lay claim to be the oldest in their respective country. In the United States, the Brotherhood Winery in New York State, can make that claim as it dates back to 1839. So it has had a fair bit of time to work out what sort of wines it should make, and the grape varieties to make them with. Here we look at how the winery works and why the UK is still a key target market for the business
The Bordeaux 2019 En Primeur campaign ticked many boxes: first, that it took place at all; second, that prices were down by an average of 21%; the critics loved it; and it developed an active secondary market. But 2019 EP was not all good news. In its latest extended report, Bordeaux 2019: The Magic is Back, Liv-ex also details a narrow campaign that was frustrating for buyers, with reduced volumes, and tactics that favoured the big cats and the top end wines. So, despite the magic, did the Bordelais miss a trick with buyers?
At one end of the retail spectrum we’re told the major supermarkets are not interested in any new product development as they are too busy making sure they get the day job right. Fair enough. Then at the other end of the drinks spectrum you have David Rowledge and Alchemy Wines who won’t take no for any sort of answer. He has not stopped thinking, innovating and creating in the lockdown to such an extent he has created a new charity drinks brand – Community.co – to stretch from waters, beers, wines and spirits. He’s also only managed to sign up cricket legend, Phil Tufnell, to be the brand ambassador.
Every sector of the drinks industry has had to face up to unique challenges during the Covid-19 lockdown around the world. The worlds of PR, tastings, conferences and live events were also all thrown up in the air when we could no longer meet up face to face. Here Katie Canfield of US PR and events business, O’Donnell Lane, explains how it has quickly adapted to such an extent that is now running a wide range of conferences, webinars, tastings via Zoom, not just to its usual audience in the US, but is able to connect the industry all over the world.
The new Bollinger PN VZ 15 was born from a challenge to his fellow three winemakers, when chef de cave Gilles Descôtes asked them to make a Blanc de Noirs across vintages and villages. The wine had to have affordability and as much volume as Grande Année so that keen consumers can actually get some. The result is “exquisitely beautiful” writes Anne Krebiehl MW, a real deep-dive into Champagne’s terroirs with Pinot Noir coming (interestingly) from Verzanay rather than Aÿ and 20% of the reserve wines coming from Bollinger’s réserves de magnum from 2009 and 2010.
Anne Burchett did not know Gerard Basset OBE MW MS very well, but as a fellow French citizen who had chosen not just to live in the UK, but the wine trade as a career, she certainly felt an attachment through their shared experiences of being on this side of the Channel. Which is why she was so keen to read his life story that he was able to capture in his book, Tasting Victory, that has been published a few months after his death last year.
In France 2010 is a vintage that produced so many sensational wines – Bordeaux, Burgundy, even North and South Rhône were on the same page, but in Champagne very few houses declared a vintage. The reason was that on August 15 and 16 the region had the equivalent of two months of rain. In a fascinating masterclass to mark the launch of Dom Pérignon 2010 chef de cave Vincent Chaperon explains how they took a massive gamble with the Pinot Noir – leaving 20% of their plots to ripen knowing they would lose most of it to botrytis.