The last 15 months have polarised the on and off-trades like never before. Whilst retailers struggled to keep up with demand from customers holed up at home for much of the time, the on-trade has either been completely shut or operating on half measures, dictated to by the rule of six and social distancing rules. But rather than look enviously at what the off-trade has been able to do, Harry Crowther believes the best on-trade operators will be taking lessons, analysing what wines were actually sold and then use those findings in re-imagining the wine offers in their restaurants, bars and pubs. Here he explains why.
South American wine expert Amanda Barnes is in no doubt – Itata really does have it all. Incredible old vines, artisanal producers, ancient granite soils, unique grape varieties and a mild climate where dry farming and sustainable viticulture come with ease. It has old vines to rival the pre-phylloxera ‘ancestors’ of Barossa Valley in Australia, its revolution is just as notable as that of the Swartland in South Africa, and yet, Itata is still somewhat under the radar for most wine drinkers. Here’s why Barnes think that’s set to change.
Biodynamic farming is being damned by a group of Italian scientists who have started a petition, claiming that the practice is witchcraft. A leading senator backing the scientists has declared (somewhat unbelievably) “we risk giving legal recognition to flat-earthers who preach magic and witchcraft.” The aim of this petition, which has surpassed a staggering 31,000 signatories, is to overturn a bill which would put biodynamic farming on the same standing as organic farming, thereby allowing biodynamic practitioners to receive state aid. So puzzled about this state of affairs was wine consultant and restaurateur Mike Turner, that he decided to delve into the matter and ask some fundamental questions about all types of farming, talk to South African winemaker of the year Johan Reyneke, and generally put some positive PR out there for biodynamic farming.
Offering customers exactly what they want is a key aim of everyone in hospitality. But, in order to achieve that, we need to understand more fully how the brain works in its connection to the perception of flavour and eating behaviour argues Dr Qian Janice Wang who uses wine as the medium through which to study the human mind. Restaurateur, wine consultant and importer, Mike Turner, had an audience with Janice at the Somms’ Edition of the Spanish Wine Academy initiative operated by Ramon Bilbao. Here he learnt why people will pay more if they eat with heavier cutlery and why even the most hardened wine critic can still be fooled by fake rosé.
“Ask no questions, and you’ll be told no lies…” This now famous line line from Great Expectations by Charles Dickens also works very well when getting to the heart of good restaurant wine training and helping staff understand what is expected of them when trying to sell wine to a room full of customers, each with very different needs and tastes when it comes to buying wine. In his latest wine training column, Harry Crowther, looks at the importance of building an immediate rapport with customers by asking them the right questions.
For Mike Turner, restaurateur, consultant and wine writer, the latest Somms Edition was the best webinar he has been involved with to date. Fronted by El Bulli’s Ferran Centelles and including some of the world’s top sommeliers working in a variety of units, it featured different reopening strategies as hospitality looks to bounce back hard from the global pandemic. Andy Myers MS, Marie-Paule Herman, Roberto Duran, Arnaud Echalier and Roman Sosnovskiy examined staffing issues, how to build a post-lockdown team and changing trends and habits in a post-COVID world. The question was asked… does the industry need both a spiritual and an emotional overhaul?
If you are one of the many drinks companies that have gone online in the last year and started selling direct to consumer you might want to grab a coffee and read on. Here Tom Harvey, co-founder of the specialist drinks marketing agency, YesMore, gives what he says are the four key pieces of advice any brand, retailer or business selling anything DTC need to be 100% on top of if they are going to carry on with a successful e-commerce model.
Vaccines are boosting wine drinker’s confidence to go out eating and drinking again, but Harry Crowther questions whether all operators are playing up to that confidence in the wine ranges and choices they are offering. Here in his latest article looking at how best to train your staff with the most relevant on-trade wine skills he calls on restaurants and bars to be braver in the wine lists they are offering and makes the case for why now is the ideal time to introduce more diverse and adventurous wine lists.
In his swansong annual en primeur report Michael Schuster, the only UK-based wine critic to jump through all the necessary hoops to go and physically taste at the châteaux this year, examines Bordeaux 2020. Having covered Bordeaux en primeur for every campaign since 1982 (bar one), Schuster is better placed than most to place this exceptional but variable vintage into an historical context. In this extract from his 20,000-word World of Fine Wine report, Schuster looks at 10 headlines from the vintage, explores the changing ideals within Bordeaux and gives some recommendations on what we should be buying.
How do you market something that no one has heard of? Good question and one that Dan Hooper, co-founder of the YesMore drinks marketing agency looks to answer as he sets out the steps any new brand needs to take if you are looking to not only launch a new product, but start a new category as well. Be it Seedlip, Jagermeister or Aperol Spritz, the drinks sector is full of brands that have created very successful niches of their own through great products, but arguably even better marketing and promotion.
Sustainability in wine has long been an issue that the industry as a whole has skirted around, leaving it mostly to individual producers or generic bodies to take the lead. Well with Tobias Webb the sector might finally have the central figure, the driving force to bring so many of the world’s efforts to tackle sustainability together. It is also something he does in other sectors and believes he has the experience to know how to do that through his Sustainable Wine company, a new cross sector Sustainable Wine Roundtable and a conference next month – the Future of Wine Americas. He explains how he hopes he can drive the sustainability agenda forward.
Often neglected because of Furmint, its more famous parent, Hárslevelű is due its ‘time in the sun’, argues Hungarian wine world expert Caroline Gilby MW. Hárslevelű is blended into acidic Furmint to build the mid-palate, making the wine longer and deeper, but curiously the other way round and just a small percentage of Furmint will overwhelm Hárslevelű’s unique varietal character. Tokaj’s high percentage of women winemakers are also playing a strong part in building back Hárslevelű’s reputation and are responsible for many of the grape’s most exciting interpretations.
The Bordeaux 2020 en primeur campaign is underway and comparisons are already being drawn between 2018-20 and that other excellent trilogy of vintages 1988-90. Early indications are that it is a Right Bank year with Merlot, and the soils that dealt with fluctuating water tables, helping to produce the best wines. Here Corney & Barrow’s Bordeaux buyer Guy Seddon looks at the quality of the wines, the growing season, anticipates the pricing and gives a nice bit of insight into the psychology of the Bordelais.
Australia has had comparatively few human casualties from Covid but the financial impact has been immense. The loss of international cellar door trade plus the tariffs imposed by China – as an indirect result of the pandemic – have been keenly felt. Add to this the bushfires and floods and you understand why the Australian Grape and Wine Authority says as many as 30% of the country’s 2,600 wineries could go under. Justin Keay talks to three family-run wine estates to see how they are faring and what they are doing to plan for an uncertain future in the week when Wine Australia launches its new CONNECT digital platform to help bring its producers closer together with wine buyers around the world.
Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc is the wild garlic of the wine world. So says La Trompette’s head sommelier Donald Edwards who argues that both seem to be ‘one-note’ products that offer far more diversity than at first appears, and are only limited by how we approach them. Always one to take a new angle on wine, food and often radical wine pairings, we reproduce here another instalment of Donald’s excellent blog that looks at that most prolific of wild, free food – wild garlic.
Canned wine is a genuinely exciting new format and the predictions are that this will be the year when finally there is a real breakthrough. It raises a number of issues against bottles, however: sustainability, parity of quality, image, role in restaurants and format size in general. So what has Mike Turner learned from 12 months of selling canned wines to consumers?
It feels like just a few weeks ago that wine journalist Chris Wilson proposed setting up a new winery, Gutter & Stars, and suggested a monthly feature so that The Buyer could follow its progress. And already his first wine, ‘I Wanna Be Adored’ Bacchus 2020, is bottled and up for sale. In addition, Wilson has linked up with an urban brewer, making beer out of the fermented skins and is already thinking about this year’s harvest.
Remember the time when you had ‘heard’ of Facebook or Twitter but did not really know what they were about? Only to find a few weeks later you were spending countless hours on both. Well if you have not heard of the new social media phenomenon Clubhouse you have now. The only snag is you need to be invited to join. How anti-social is that? Stevie Kim, managing director of VinItaly, is one of the many 100s of wine and drinks industry professionals who are being ‘invited’ and joining Clubhouse by the day. Here’s her take on what you will find when your invitation does come…
As a trained sommelier Raul Diaz has many years of experience working directly with customers and chefs to draw up a mental list of which sort of dishes go with each major grape variety. A list he has now turned into a book, Wine & Recipes by Raul Diaz, that is aimed both at the drinks trade and consumers. Here in the first of a new series he shares the principles of food and wine pairing and highlights which styles of food are best matched with Pinot Noir.
Every time the issue of providing more information on wine labelling comes up, the industry has been quick to knock it back claiming it is not necessary or needed. But considering the level of ingredient data now available on most other products available in supermarkets, Ines Salpico believes time is running out and the sector needs to prepare itself for an effective new transparent labelling strategy or risk alienating a growing consumer base that is demanding more openness.