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.
When Janet Harrison launched the People’s Choice Wine Awards in 2017 she promised to bring fresh thinking to what was already a cluttered wine awards sector. By getting everyday actual wine drinkers involved in deciding which wines ended up with a medal it has lived up to its billing. Now she wants to do extend the collaborative approach of the awards to the trade with her new TAP – Trade Advisory Panel – initiative that has brought together a wide range of professional talent from all sectors of the industry who are willing to share their expertise by helping others bring new projects to life. Here’s how it is going to work.
One learning from lockdown could be that we think twice about ‘disposable’ international travel when Zoom or a webinar could suffice. But will this extend to visiting a wine region? Jess Lamb was a passenger on the first virtual press trip to the Lebanon and says that, despite being an advocate of physical press trips, her experience led her to think that in many cases this could work well as a substitute, especially with the reduced costs, time, travel commitments and carbon emissions.
“This change has to come from the top. You can’t just talk the talk, you also have to walk the walk. If you keep doing the same things, hiring the same people, using the same methodology, you will continue to get the same outcomes.” Hard but fair words from Kirsten MacLeod who examines the issue of racial diversity and inclusion in the wine industry and says it has a very long way to go and many lessons to learn, and actions to take.
The combination of strong winds coming in off the ocean, with quality soils helps the Wölffer Estate Vineyard produce its signature, balanced, elegant, and age-worthy wines – with a particular focus on making premium rosés. As we continue our series profiling leading New York State wineries we talk to Roman Roth, winemaker at the estate, about being able to make food-friendly, accessible wines that also have the ability to age and improve with time.
Exports play a huge role in New Zealand’s drinks industry and attracting wine tourists to visit the islands has been a mainstay of the country’s economy. Short of exporting clones of popular Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, how can the nation rebuild its economy following its short but strict coronavirus lockdown? Last night’s New Zealand Wine Diaries webinar explored the roles that grape varieties, emerging sub-regions and sustainability could play in the recovery, as Peter Ranscombe reports.
Jame Goode first visited New York State’s wine regions in 2018, and he was also able to go back again the following year. He quickly became impressed with the range and diversity of wines being made across its two main wine growing regions of the Finger Lakes and Long Island. It’s time, he says, that the evolution of these two regions needs to be told to a wider audience. So here are the 10 things that he thinks you should know about New York State wine.
The clock is well and truly ticking for the on-trade and the possibility pubs, bars and restaurants might be able to open their doors again in the coming weeks. As the wrangling continues over whether outlets will have to do so within 2 metres or less social distancing rules, all on-trade owners can do is plan for what they do know. Which will probably mean introducing some sort of contactless ordering and payment system. Here Richard Siddle explores some of the options and makes the claim that some of the new safety measures might actually help outlets offer a more personalised service than they have been able to do so in the past.
“Our main strength is the on-trade, so we have been through the wringer,” is how Giles Cooke MW, wine development director of Alliance Wine, looks back on the last three months of lockdown. But like so much of the wine industry it has been quick to adapt and push the majority of its resources into working with the strong independent wine merchant sector at this time. He also talks about how its diverse business model, that involves making wine and distributing it all around the world, is also proving invaluable in how it copes with Covid-19.
Releasing a futures campaign when the world economy is in deep purdah seems like a strange move, writes Nick Martin, founder of Wine Owners. The boss of the wine inventory management company believes that the Bordeaux 2019 en primeur campaign should have been put off until October, especially when there are other recent vintages that are still justifiably attracting interest and investment. For those chateaux that need to sell a large part of their harvest now, success, or otherwise, is going to come down to just one of the four marketing Ps… Price.
As a top designer of wine bottles and spirits Kevin Shaw gets more than his fair share of samples to keep him going, but up to recently there has been a gap not only in his drinking but in the projects that his agency, Stranger & Stranger, has pitched to work on. Until he rediscovered his love and interest in beer. He had for years fallen out of love with what he felt was all uninspiring lager. But now he has once again seen the light. Here’s why…
Anne Burchett will be well known to many people in the wine industry for her wide and experienced career that has seen her head up Castel in the UK, as well as the French PR agency Sopexa before setting out on her own as a freelance wine PR and marketing consultant. But for all her success, she has always had one ambition that she had not been able to achieve. Until now. That is to write and publish her own novel. Which she is now doing, during lockdown, as a serial, releasing the chapters weekly online of her debut novel, Tasting Notes, that charts the semi-autobiographical account of a female wine professional working in the UK wine trade. Why? Well, as she says: “I’ve always wanted to be is a writer.” Here we are pleased to publish her first chapter on The Buyer.
“A serious producer of fine Riesling – very impressive” is how Jancis Robinson MW has described the wines coming out of the Red Newt winery on the banks of the Seneca Lake in New York State. Which as accolades go is a pretty good one to have, particularly as it now starting to ramp up its efforts to be as recognised outside the United States as it is at home. Here winemaker, Kelby Russell, a self confessed Riesling obsessive, explains the styles of wine he is trying to make in the first of a new series looking at different producers and winemakers across New York State.
Down on ‘the other 45th parallel’, New Zealand’s cool maritime climate, long sunshine hours and varied soils are producing Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs that in one breath emulate Burgundy yet in another plough a furrow all of their own. In the second in a series of four webinars, trade body New Zealand Winegrowers brought together four master sommeliers to take a deep look at the two noble varieties. Can the grapes ever escape Sauvignon Blanc’s shadow – and would the sommeliers want them to?
You may not know Kevin Shaw personally, but you will know what he does – even if you don’t realise it. He and his team at Stranger & Stranger have designed some of the most iconic and influential wine and spirit bottles and label designs across the world’s biggest supermarket shelves and the hippest back bars in the world. Shaw also likes to disrupt, to shake things up, to borrow ideas from history, culture, music and the arts and use them to create something new that can stop people in their tracks and force them to pick up his latest bottle and label design. Here he throws down the gauntlet to the wine industry to look at a completely different category for inspiration and to help drive innovation and ideas – yes perfume. It is, as he explains, his Eureka moment for wine.
As the lockdown continues in South Africa, that prohibits the sale of any wine domestically, the impact on the country’s wine industry worsens by the day to the extent that 10s of producers are said to be close to collapse. But now that exports are allowed we can all do our bit to support South Africa at this time by simply drinking and promoting its wine. Next weekend sees two interlinked campaigns. On March 22 Wines of South Africa is urging us to get involved with its Spectacular South Africa campaign and then over the weekend Nik Darlington explains why he has created the ‘Great British Braai Off’ to help celebrate all that South Africa means to us, by doing what they do best – coming together over a braai with beers and bottles of wine.
“Covid-19 has given us all a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to stop, reflect, think, and reinvent.” That’s not the view of a wine or spirits producer, retailer, independent wine merchant, or restaurateur. But Richard Eagleton, chief executive of McQueens, that is usually creating floral displays for the Oscars, Royal weddings and the finest events of the year. His business too has been hit by the full force of Covid-19. But rather than lick his wounds he genuinely sees this as the time in all our lives to achieve what we never thought was possible before.
If there is one consolation from the Covid-19 lockdown it’s the fact we are all sharing the same experiences and finding ways to get used to what has quickly become the norm for both our working and family lives. Then for thousands of people in the wine, drinks and hospitality sectors there is no working life at all, as so many businesses have put their staff on furlough. The past few weeks have been particularly challenging for those restaurant and bar staff who spend so much of their time together, working as finely tuned teams running service, on their feet, for long hours, often six, if not seven days a week. Here Mattia Scarpazza, head sommelier at Petersham Nurseries, shares his experiences of life in lockdown and what he is doing to keep himself active, both in body and in mind.
David Baker, MD of Hermitage Cognacs, a specialist importer and distributor of single estate, unblended cognac, speaks out about his frustration at the lack of specialist cognac judges in spirits competitions. All too often, whisky judges are nominated instead. The key from Baker’s point of view is in the difference of source ingredients, production methods and therefore flavours of cognac versus more commonly encountered spirits such as whisky. All of this points, he believes, to a general lack of understanding about what makes a great cognac.
Few countries have such a strong tie to a single variety as New Zealand does to Sauvignon Blanc. From a standing start in the 1970s, the grape now accounts for 86% of the nation’s overseas sales. Last night, in the first in a series of webinars, trade body New Zealand Winegrowers asks if consumers and the trade can ‘get past the gooseberry’ to talk about the wine itself? With Jane Skilton MW in the chair and three master sommeliers John Szabo, David Keck and Ronan Sayburn making up the rest of the panel, this was a true masterclass, in the proper sense of the word, attended by 500 participants worldwide one of whom, Peter Ranscombe, has the story.