Armit Wine has one of the most enviable portfolio lists in the business. MD Brett Fleming celebrates three years in charge this November, and its Autumn Portfolio Tasting gave the team (and those producers that could get away from harvest duties) the chance to showcase their wares to an expectant client base of private clients, restaurants, and well-heeled independents. We sent Mike Turner along to get a taste of what Armit has to offer.
“Pinotage is emblematic of our country and the region of Stellenbosch. As a variety it is also just at the beginning of its own journey.” That’s how South African wine academic Jonathan Steyn describes just how important Pinotage is not just to Stellenbosch but to the country as a whole. A grape variety that has long been misunderstood outside of South Africa, but is now gaining the respect it arguably deserves. Richard Siddle talks to some of the most influential Pinotage producers to find out just where they want to take Pinotage next.
Aiming to be fully-sustainable as a business is all well and good but how do you do it in the wine business exactly? Alliance Wine drew its line in the sand in September 2021 and since then has aligned its business practices with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals from work in the vineyard through to how finished wines are delivered – even picking a ‘no waste’ restaurant in which to hold its ‘In Our Nature’ tasting. Robert Mason was suitably impressed with what he saw at the tasting and picks 10 wines that all have their art in the right place.
“Now is the time to value old vines, in every sense. And the sessions have been developed to show why. To value old vines is not to hanker sentimentally for ye olde days of the hoe…we want to highlight how old vine fruit inspires and engages winemakers.” That’s the rallying call from Sarah Abbott MW, co-organiser and founder of the Old Vine Conference that holds its first in person event next month as part of its worldwide ambition to bring producers, winemakers and commentators together to discuss and analyse how collectively the wine industry can work with, protect and use old vines to make the wines of the future.
In part one of our buyers debate with the Bordeaux Wines we focused on what different operators felt the opportunities and challenges were for Bordeaux Wines overall in the UK. In part two we look at three case studies from producers operating in different appellations – Médoc, Côtes de Bordeaux and Bordeaux & Bordeaux Supérieur – who are looking to embrace the modern Bordeaux and look at their vines through fresh eyes. The buyers had the chance to taste their wines and assess the styles they felt are the most suitable and relevant for the UK market.
In part two of The Buyer’s debate, in partnership with Raventós Codorníu and Raimat, the panel of leading buyers had the opportunity to taste through a selection of Cavas to examine the quality and the step changes at differences price points and to examine where they might sit in the UK market. It was also an opportunity to examine the sustainability steps being taken with Cava and how important sustainability now is in the buying decisions being made by the panel of buyers.
So, how well do you know Cava? When was the last time you spent 90 minutes delving into every nook and cranny of what different styles of Cava can potentially offer the UK wine trade? That was the task – and opportunity – for our latest panel of leading UK wine buyers who teamed up with the team at Raventós Codorníu, and its Raimat wine brand, to explore what role modern, premium Cava styles have and, the growing importance of viticulture, organic and sustainable winemaking on the region. It was also the chance to taste through a number of different Cava styles to see what potential they have across the specialist on and off-trades. Here is the first of our two part report on the Codorniu Cava Debate.
In Part One of our sommelier panel debate with Wynns Coonawarra Estate it was clear there is a lot of love, respect and potential support for Coonawarra as a wine region. The challenge is getting enough wines in to the UK market for sommeliers to be able to list and support them and what efforts are being made to promote Coonawarra’s unique story to wine drinkers and enthusiasts. In Part Two the sommeliers share their views on the Wynns range of premium wines, assess their place in the UK market and also examine the opportunities and challenges for premium Australian wine in their restaurants and venues.
It has long been the mission for Australian wine producers to sell more of their premium wines in leading restaurants around the world. But are wine buyers and sommeliers listening? To assess the potential for premium Australia in the UK market, The Buyer teamed up with Wynns Coonawarra Estate, part of Treasury Wine Estates, to show a range of its wines, and ask leading sommeliers what they see as the key opportunities and challenges for premium Australian wines in their venues. It was also the chance to shine the spotlight on the region of Coonawarra, home for Wynns and other leading family producers in Australia, and explore the distinct styles of Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz it is producing, and the influence and impact of its unique terra rossa soils.
In the first part of our New York Pitch project in partnership with the New York Grape & Wine Foundation we helped to bring producers looking to export to the UK together with leading buyers from key importers and the chance to hear about their wines. Here we dig a little deeper into what New York State can offer by picking out the wine styles that the buyers think have the most potential to do well in the UK and why the region has so much to offer in terms of cool climate, fresh, pure fruit forward, acid driven wines with low alcohols.
The first part of our Ribera del Duero debate with a panel of influential buyers and wine consultants showed how much natural interest there is in the region, but also uncovered how fast its winemaking potential is growing and why it is a European wine region to watch and what opportunities there are for UK buyers to list more wines. In the second part of our report, we look at individual Ribera del Duero wines styles and ask our expert panel to give their assessment and pick out the wines best suited to the UK market.
On the face of it, Ribera del Duero is a largely straightforward wine region known for making high quality, full bodied red wines. But dig below the surface and you will discover a highly diverse landscape made up of multiple soil types, contrasting altitudes and a myriad of different wine styles, that make it a complex wine region to get to grips with. To help unpick some of its mysteries The Buyer teamed up with the Consejo Regulador de la Denominación de Origen Ribera del Duero to give a panel of leading buyers, wine merchants, importers and commentators the chance to discuss the region’s potential in the UK. It was also an opportunity to hear from Tim Atkin MW, who has fast become the UK’s leading independent critic on the region, and taste some of the wines from his recently unveiled Ribera Del Duero Top 100 2021/2022 Selection.
Part One of our special Campania report covered the thoughts of leading importers, merchants and sommeliers on the wines of southern Italy in general, and then specifically the white and red wines of Campania and why they are so different. Here we focus specifically in on the range of wines from our debate partners and independent local producer, Donna Elvira Wines, to highlight what our buyers think of the potential of Greco, Fiano, Falanghina, and Aglianico .
Campania may not have the profile and prestige as other wine regions in Italy but it can match, if not better, many of them when it comes to packing a punch in terms of wine, food and tourist appeal. For this stretch of south west Italy is famous for its stunning Amalfi coastline, bursting with pride for its amazing cuisine, and the beating heart of Naples that encapsulates the excitement of the region. But how well known are its wines amongst leading UK wine buyers? To find out The Buyer teamed up with local and fiercely independent wine producer, Donna Elvira Wines, to invite a panel of leading wine buyers, importers, wine merchants and sommeliers to talk through the region’s potential and taste wines that hopefully capture what Campania is all about.
With nine DOCs, each with their own unique climate and soil conditions, it is important to taste across a wide range of wines from Lisboa in order to fully understand its potential in the UK. Which is why in Part 2 of The Buyer report, in partnership with CVR Lisboa, we share the insights from our sommelier and importer panel as they taste and discuss wines that demonstrate the diversity of what Lisboa can offer and how it is using both international and indigenous grape varieties in an increasing number of blends.
There has never been greater interest and demand amongst world travellers to visit Portugal with the country named as the Best World Destination and Best Tourist Destination in Europe between 2017-2020 (World Travel Awards). High on the list of places is the capital city of Lisbon with its historic tram-filled streets packed with tourists. Yet the city’s wine region – Lisboa – is not as well-known as other Portuguese areas even though it covers nine quality DOCs. To help better understand the different styles of wine being made in Lisboa and their opportunities in the UK, The Buyer teamed up with CVR Lisboa, the region’s wine Regulatory Council, to host a panel debate with a leading panel of sommeliers and specialist UK wine importers who were able to share their insights on Lisboa, together with two of the region’s key producers, as well as taste a selection of wines that represent what the region can do.
With a legacy of quality wine production in the region dating back centuries, it’s unsurprising the Bordelais like to take their time when it comes to making big strategic changes in the way their wines are made and brought to market. In the second part of The Buyer’s online debate between Bordeaux producers and key UK importers, buyers and independent wine merchants, in partnership with the CIVB, we continue our exploration of Bordeaux’s modern reds, where these fit into the region’s long-term strategy and why the panel are particularly excited to see the emergence of so many quality, commercially focused single varietal wines and where they might work best in the premium UK on and off-trade.
On the face of it Bordeaux has everything going for it. It is one of the most famous, respected and influential wine regions in the world. Yet when it comes to debates around modern winemaking, new viticultural techniques and what’s new in the world of wine, due to its classic reputation, it is often overlooked as a place you look for innovation. But that is not the real picture of what is actually happening in the region. Far from it. To help analyse the emerging trends in Bordeaux, The Buyer teamed up with the CIVB (Bordeaux Wine Council) to bring together key trade players, including UK buyers, importers and sommeliers, and Bordeaux producers to examine just what “Modern Bordeaux” is, how well understood it is and what aspects are best communicated to the wider trade and wine consumers at large.
It is arguably in its white and red wines that the Luberon really starts to show its Rhône credentials with both wine styles made from a wide selection of varieties where the emphasis is very much on bringing out the freshness, acidity and balance in the wines. In part two of The Buyer debate, in partnership with Wines of Luberon, we ask wine buyers, sommeliers and importers to taste and assess a selection of white and red wines and give their overall impression of where they see the opportunities for Luberon in the UK.
Ask the average UK wine buyer to give their views on the Rhône and they could probably spend a couple of minutes talking about the region and why its various styles of wines taste the way they do. But could they do the same for the wines of Luberon, made in the south eastern extreme of the region? To help widen buyers’ knowledge of Luberon wines and what they could offer the UK, The Buyer teamed up with Wines of Luberon to bring together a panel of sommeliers, wine importers and merchants to taste and assess the opportunities for the region in the premium UK wine market. In part one of our two part report the buyer’s shared their first impressions of the region and then focused in on Luberon’s rosé wines and the opportunities for them in the UK. Part two will examine the region’s red and white 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.
When The Buyer came together with Sophie Jump to organise and hold the inaugural One Step Beyond Conference in early March the focus was 100% on analysing the most disruptive changes in consumer behaviour and technology. Little did we know that just over two months on so many of those changes have now been put on fast forward because of the Covid-19 outbreak. Here is the full report from what was a breakthrough conference for the drinks, retail and hospitality sectors. A day that brought experts from outside the industry’s comfort zone and gave them the platform to set out what we can all expect from consumers and technology in the future. Predictions that are already being seen in how fast businesses and consumers alike are responding to the challenges of Covid-19.
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.
Having the opportunity to go to California and meet over 100 producers in an intense five days of tasting doesn’t come around too often. But it proved to be an invaluable exercise for the group of leading wine buyers from both the UK and Irish on and off-trade markets. In Part One of our report we looked at their general feedback on why they wanted to go on such a trip. Here in Part Two we drill down into what they really thought of the wines and the opportunities of giving them a chance in the markets over here.
If you are a wine buyer for a leading importer, restaurant group, or independent merchant then there are times of the year when you are no doubt spoilt for choice with invitations to go and visit different regions and countries. But which are ones are going to be the most useful, effective and important to your buying needs? It’s what made the recent California Wine Institute event for leading UK and Irish buyers so different. And relevant. Rather than take a group of buyers on a bus around a select group of producers, the Institute brought the producers to the buyers for a series of back to back tastings hosted in the same venue. It meant the busy buyers were able to see over 100 wineries across five days of intensive tasting and take a deep dive into the kind of wines being made across the state. What’s more the producers did not currently have distribution in the UK or Ireland, or both, and had to have wines, with volume, that could the hit the main commercial to mid premium price points. The Buyer’s Richard Siddle, who helped to identify and recruit some of the buyers invited, was also there to get an insider’s take on how it all came together.
Here’s a conundrum for you. How do you get nine of the UK’s leading wine buyers to meet 18 winemakers in four restaurants in different parts of London in under five hours? Well, throw two Land Rovers into the mix and you are half way home. It’s certainly how The Buyer teamed up with Wines of South Africa to take a group of top buyers on a tour of London restaurants, and the chance to meet some of South Africa’s best winemakers at the same time. Eating, tasting, chatting along the way. Buckle up and join us on the ride…
In part one of The Buyer’s debate, alongside Business France, between leading importers, merchants, restaurants and wine producers from most regions of France, we focused on the rise in and importance of organic wines. The tasting and discussion also looked at how different styles of sparkling wine are now really coming to the fore, and how Crémant, in particular, is presenting a real premium alternative, ideal for promoting and driving in the premium on-trade.
For the latest The Buyer Debate we teamed up with Business France to bring producers from different regions of France together with key buyers from across the premium on-trade to look at two key growth areas not only for French wine, but the premium wine category as a whole: organics and sparkling wine. It was an opportunity to meet, taste the wines and then explore why French winemakers are increasingly turning to organics and sparkling wine production. Whilst assessing just what it is leading UK wine distributors, merchants and restaurant and bar owners are looking for when taking on a new French wine supplier. There was a lot to cover. So much so that we have broken down the report into two parts. First up we look at the rise in organics and both the opportunities and the challenges there are in making and selling organic wine.
It’s one thing tasting wine professionally it is quite another to go on an eating and tasting tour of top London restaurants to experience food and wine in the same way your customers do. Which is what The Buyer’s most recent restaurant tour was all about as we were able to introduce different styles of Vouvray wine to a tour of buyers covering wine merchants, sommeliers, importers, consultants and journalists. As we publish our full report from the event, Richard Siddle picks out the highlights.
Even for a wine region that is as relatively small as Spain’s Ribera del Duero it’s important to taste as many wines as possible if you are going to truly understand, experience and enjoy its enormous diversity, says wine writer and critic, Tim Atkin MW. To help do just that, but also debate and share what leading UK buyers think of Ribera del Duero, The Buyer teamed up with the region’s generic body, a panel of top wine merchants and Atkin himself to see what opportunities there are in the burgeoning independent retail and wholesale sector.
“There is a deliciousness to these red wines. I am hugely impressed by them. The quality has blown me away.” Just the kind of review any wine producer would want for their wines, particularly if it comes from such as senior a figure as John Graves, on-trade channel director at Bibendum Wine. But Graves was not the only UK panelist in our debate with the Douro Valley’s Soul Wine producers to be impressed with what they saw and tasted. In part two of our report on the wide ranging debate we assess the opportunity for Douro’s wines in the premium on-trade and what steps producers need to take to make the most of them.
To try to unravel and understand Chile’s position in the premium on-trade, The Buyer teamed up with Ellis Wines and its Chilean producer partner, Chono Wines, to bring
together a group of senior wine trade professionals, buyers and sommeliers to debate what are the opportunities and challenges for Chile as a whole. It was the chance for these leading figures to share their experiences with Chilean wines in their restaurants and businesses and look at the kinds of wines from Chile that they are looking to source and select for their wine lists.
Is there a more misunderstood wine category than Prosecco? It might top all the best selling charts, but it is too often dismissed or taken seriously by some professional wine buyers. To help get to know not only the beautiful region of Conegliano Valdobbiadene, but to explore the different quality tiers of Prosecco and the potential they have in the premium on-trade, The Buyer teamed up with leading Prosecco brand, Mionetto, and its UK partner Copestick Murray, to host a study tour with key buyers and influencers of the area and the city where Prosecco truly comes to life – Venice.
It’s nice talking about and throwing the spotlight on new wine regions and emerging styles of wine and little known grape varieties, but at these times of the year restaurant and bar customers are looking for the classics and the tried and tested. Which is why for our latest major debate we teamed up with Jackson Family Wines to look at what leading wine buyers, sommeliers, distributors and merchants think about Californian Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.