“The rituals of eating and drinking together are at the heart of our civilisation, of our very humanity, yet now they are what make us all most vulnerable.” In just one sentence Kate Hawkings, a former restaurant owner herself, captures the dilemma we are now faced with. The desire on one hand to support our local on-trade, but the knowledge we might be putting each other risk if we do go out eating and drinking. Here she shares her personal feelings towards coping with Covid-19 and talks to her contacts and friends in the restaurant trade about what impact it is having on their businesses.
As we all come to terms with what impact Covid-19 is going to have on our personal lives as much as our work and business, we can only learn from those who are already having to live directly with the outbreak of this virus. Like Reka Haros and her husband, Pier, and young children, who have been cut off from normal life at their Italian winery, Sfriso, in Veneto in northern Italy. Here she shares what life really is like when you have to go into lockdown.
With wine events getting cancelled every day it was refreshing to see Daniel Lambert Wines’ portfolio tasting still going ahead last week. Despite Covid-19 and uncertainty over Brexit, Lambert is reporting 12% growth this year with his portfolio getting stronger every year, focussing as it does on family producers. That’s certainly what David Kermode thought who tasted the wines for the first time and was impressed with a number, particularly a sparkling from Montgomery Vineyard (lead picture) which is the UK’s highest vineyard near Powys and is made of 95 percent Seyval Blanc with the remainder early ripening Pinot Noir Précoce. Kermode lists his Top 10 wines from the tasting.
As we all come to terms with the enormity of the coronavirus outbreak around the world, The Buyer is looking to play its part by sharing practical information about what the drinks, retail and hospitality sectors are being asked to do, along with individual stories of what businesses are doing to support each other through what are going to be come increasingly difficult times. Here’s our update on the latest situation and what steps businesses are taking now and could do in the future.
With the Bordeaux en primeurs cancelled the Grand Circle des Vins de Bordeaux’s London tasting last Thursday was the first and only glimpse at Bordeaux 2019 for the foreseeable future. 2019 was a vintage which was all about the hot dry summer and the resulting high pHs – which led some châteaux to acidify. The whites are great, the reds mixed between good and very good, depending upon how much Merlot was in the blend – the Merlot ripening early and the Cabernet Sauvignon caught out at some estates by a lot of October rain. Geoffrey Dean tasted through the wines, talked to Grand Cercle’s Alain Reynaud and the winemakers about how 2019 compares with other vintages of the 21st Century.
In the first part of our report on the debate The Buyer held to discuss what leading wine buyers, merchants and restaurateurs think about the possibilities for Prosecco DOCG in the premium on-trade, we looked at how and why more outlets might list different styles of Prosecco Superiore. Here we give the time and space for those buyers to go into more detail and share their thoughts on how sparkling wine is performing in general and the opportunities they think that Prosecco DOCG has on restaurant wine lists in the future.
Following Nebbiolo Day, which turned the spotlight on Italy’s noblest grape, Sangiovese Reset was a day-long event in London last week which just beat the country’s lockdown and attempted to set the record straight about Italy’s workhorse grape variety. Assembled by the same events team, ‘Reset’ showed how Sangiovese is going in the right direction with producers eschewing new oak in order to bring out the best in the variety and also try and tame its often uncompromising tannins. Justin Keay was there for The Buyer, and highlights the 10 producers he thought shone the most on the day from Montalcino, Chianti Classico, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Umbria and many more regions.
Although still somewhat immature as a wine category, German rosé has almost doubled in production over the past decade – up to 12% of all German wine production. Because German Pinot Noir is the third highest planting of the variety worldwide we can expect to see a lot more of German rosé, writes Simon Field MW, especially with so many quality winemakers making both high-end and commercial, populist styles. On a press trip entitled Think Pink! Field was introduced to a plethora of wines that showed many of the issues facing German rosé – most notably name and style – as it strives to forge its own identity in this fascinating category.
We’ve all been there. You arrive in a foreign city for the first time on business and you are looking for somewhere to go for a drink and something good to eat. Ideally somewhere that has an interesting and good value wine list. But where do you start? Well, that’s where Star Wine List comes in. Devised by Krister Bengtsson it works with sommeliers and local wine trade experts to compile lists of the best places to go and enjoy wine in any particular city. Here he explains how it all works.
The hardest job for any wine producer, no matter how prestigious or respected, is getting their wines in front of the right buyers who can ultimately make the difference in getting their wines on to the lists of the restaurants and bars that really matter. That’s what The Buyer’s Case project does. Link producers looking to build distribution in the premium on-trade and specialist retail sector with key buyers in those channels. Here’s how major French producer, Boisset FGV worked with The Buyer on its own Buyer’s Case initiative.
It was a first for Moët & Chandon. A tasting in which, to demonstrate in detail how its rosé Champagnes are made, it presented to the press every style of red wine it uses in the various cuvées. Anne Krebiehl MW hears from Benoît Gouez, chef de cave, why rosé used to only be available as a vintage wine and how, through thermovinification, Moët & Chandon has not only managed to reduce the amount of red wines needed in its rosés, but has allowed the house to achieve tender, aperitif-like rosé Champagne. Krebiehl analyses the red wines, and tastes the current release of Rosé Imperial NV to see why it has relatively recently become the market leader.
The wines being made in Portugal have changed in just the last few years, and they are really hot right now. To celebrate the dynamic changes taking place there trade body Wines of Portugal took the theme of Taste A World of Difference for its annual portfolio tasting. They changed the venue, the style of the tasting, drafted in Three Wine Men for the evening consumer event, and have put even more oomph behind their already-impressive education programmes, Organics section and focus on the excellent white wines coming out of the country.
The inaugural One Step Beyond conference, organised by The Buyer and Sophie Jump, was an event designed to take the drinks industry outside its comfort zone and expose it to the big changes in consumer behaviour that are taking place in all our other areas of life and the huge advances in smart technology that are driving them. To help delegates really get to grips with the changes that are the most relevant to them and their businesses, the conference combined keynote talks from experts in the most transformative areas, such as ecommerce, voice search, digital, design and packaging, with the personal experiences of leading figures within the drinks industry who have a track record of succeeding in tackling these changes head on in their own companies. Ahead of a full report from the conference, run in partnership with the WSTA, here are the top line highlights from what was a breakthrough day.
The cancellation of next week’s ProWein has thrown the international wine trade up in the air. Whilst the decision not to run the event due to the impact of the coronavirus was clearly the right one, it does not make it any easier for the wine producers and buyers who were relying on the show to do business. But where there is adversity, the wine trade so often finds a way to get things done. It is in that spirt that respected wine consultant, André Ribeirinho, is next week going to host a two day online Portugal Wine Week and give producers the chance to still pitch their wineries and their wines to buyers – through live streams on the internet. Here he explains how it is going to work.
It was one of the hottest tickets in town – the inaugural tasting event run by OenoTrade, a wine investment company embarking upon a journey into premium on-trade both as a supplier and as owner of a proposed chain of wine bars. Screaming Eagle 2016, Latour 1982 and one wine whose release price for the 2015 vintage was a cool €30,000 a bottle – making it the world’s most expensive wine; there were some serious wines being popped. Justin Keay went there for The Buyer and reports back including recommendations of the Top 10 wines from the backbone of the OenoTrade portfolio.
This coming week’s launch of a new €150 red wine from China’s Château Change Moser XV shows just how far the Chinese wine industry has come, notwithstanding the direct and indirect impact of the coronavirus. Although the release of Purple Air Comes From the East has had to be scaled back in size it is still a significant moment in the history of Chinese wine, an industry that has been growing at a fantastic pace and improving in quality year-on-year. Mike Turner talks to Lenz Moser about his joint venture winery, about managing the tannins of the region, and coping with some of the quirks that inevitably come with making wine in such a distinctive and individual country.
Laura Clay jumped at the chance of attending a tasting – organised by Famille Helfrich the specialist on-trade arm of Les Grands Chais de France – that was just 10 minutes up the road from where she lives in Edgabaston in Birmingham. Even though she admits she went in two minds about how good the wines would be on show. A full day later she was blown away by the quality and diversity of wines not just from France but across Europe and around the world. Here’s why she would “clear her diary” for the next time Famille Helfrich is in town.
There has never been a better time for Washington State wines around the world with exports at a record high and a real and growing demand from the premium wine buying community in the UK. Ahead of next week’s ‘Unsung Heroes’ tasting we talk to Doug Marshall, senior international marketing manager, about Washington State Wine’s export strategy and the styles of wine that are now finding themselves onto lists in all the right restaurants and bars.
The new vintage of Pol Roger Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill is always a hotly-anticipated release and 2009 vintage is no exception. Hubert de Billy, 5th generation family member and director of Champagne Pol Roger, explains to Anne Krebiehl MW the thinking behind the new wine, and how if 2008 was aimed at collectors then 2009 is aimed at drinkers. De Billy says that the House still tries to anticipate what Churchill would have said on each new release to keep it true to form – “Burgundy with bubbles” effectively – and how the wine is all about Pinot Noir and long ageing. In her tasting notes Krebiehl describes the wine as having “opulence and freshness that destines it to be a party wine.” Looks like it’s all round to Anne’s place!
“The global appetite for quality writing has probably never been higher than it is now and yet the vocation finds itself in a rut.” That’s the conundrum that faces Paul Caputo as he looks to make his mark as a wine writer at a time when the demand for quality writing is being challenged by the rush to follow the latest influencer on Instagram. It’s a delicate balancing act, particularly when it comes to making money from wine writing, but it’s a vocation he is determined to find his own way.