We continue our Onwards & Upwards series featuring key figures in the drinks and hospitality sectors that are now embarking on new roles and opportunities in the industry with the highly experienced sales director, Tom Surgey. Most recently at Ridgeview and with live presenting gigs for BBC Good Food and Three Wine Men coming out of his ears, Tom’s work came to a crashing halt with the pandemic. Here he talks about how he coped and then hooked up with Tristram Coates –devising a new style agency called Glass Half Full, that aims to bring an innovative approach to the industry.
“The last 10 months have not been the cocktail- and cigar-fuelled haven I had planned, but rather a psychological assault course that has left all of us in this industry battered…and some of us already broken.” This is the deeply personal, and at times harrowing account, of what it has been like as a South African winemaker, producer and employer of 100s of desperate employees during the Covid-19 pandemic in a country that continues to ban the sale of any alcohol to devastating effect. We implore you to read Bruce Jack’s unique take on not just the impact of Covid-19, but what it means for the long term future of our wine industry, and us as individuals and human beings.
Villages like Saint-Romain and Saint-Aubin, Maranges and Marsannay were never that high up on the ‘must-have’ list of most self-respecting Burgundy buyers in the past, but how times are changing, argues Sebastian Thomas, director and buyer of Howard Ripley. These wines from more humble locations, and those from the Hautes-Côtes, can be quite brilliant and as generous and balanced as Premier Cru wines were 30 years ago. There are even signs that the hierarchy of classification is threatened, he says.
Against all the odds, a solitary one-man Armit team has been visiting its vignerons to bring us insight direct from Burgundy. Nicolas Clerc MS was in the fortuitous position of holidaying in France and, by a stroke of luck and timing, was able to make that crucial diversion to the Route des Grands Crus. Having tasted a comprehensive range of Burgundy 2019, Clerc brings us the inside view into what is proving to be one of the most singular vintages that Burgundy has experienced in recent decades.
In a nutshell, Burgundy 2019 is a vintage of considerable quality with reduced quantity. The detail is understandably far more complex, as Guy Seddon, Corney & Barrow’s senior fine wine buyer explains. Ahead of next week’s Bourgogne Week 2021, which runs from 11th-15th January, Seddon goes through the growing season in detail, explaining the background to the wines and then draws out key points about the wines themselves – their substance, richness, freshness and terroir-expressiveness – everything, in fact, that you need to help you make your buying decisions.
Let’s face it there is a lot resting on 2021. As we head into Christmas week our thoughts are starting to turn to what is in store for us in the next 12 months. It’s not surprising considering the tumultuous year we have all lived through that there are big hopes for next year and the opportunity for us all to get back to some sort of normality. Here Neil Anderson, retail brand marketing director of specialist spirits supplier, Quintessential Brands, shares the key trends he thinks will dictate the drinks industry in 2021.
With live events out of the picture this year, Rioja Wine UK developed a series of interactive Rioja Wine Academy Bootcamp online webinars to keep the region alive for the wine trade this autumn. Hosted by Tim Atkin MW and Sarah Jane Evans MW, these ‘voyages of discovery’ were created to offer an accessible and refreshing way of learning about Spain’s leading wine region and also shine a light on the Rioja Wine Academy resource – a free online educational platform dedicated to Rioja for trade and consumers alike. Mike Turner attended one of the Bootcamps and explains what the Rioja Wine Academy has in store for us.
With a background that covers diversity and inclusion, behaviour change and various forms of regulation, chartered accountant and chief financial officer Tom Lewis, who also writes about wine as The Cambridge Wine Blogger, outlines how to take the discussion around industry representation and behaviour standards forward with some practical steps, particularly around sanction and reward, that have worked in other sectors.
Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Bay used to be regularly consumed in the Dean household, with a 12-bottle case bought every vintage. But in 15 years not a bottle has been purchased. So what changed? And what would the new vintage Cloudy Bay 2020 taste like in the company of winemaker Daniel Sorrell? Despite the problems associated with running a winery in a pandemic, the harvest was thankfully spectacularly good and all the signs pointed to the new wine being a corker, but would that end up in the glass?
Tomorrow’s IWSC awards ceremony will be like nothing we have seen, or experienced, before. Rather than put on our Sunday best and head to London’s grand Guildhall we are all invited to instead slip into something a bit more comfortable and enjoy the presentation online. The Buyer’s David Kermode – aka Mr Vinosaurus – was chosen to co-present the ceremony alongside spirits writer Joel Harrison, with the ambitious virtual ceremony directed by experienced film and documentary maker, Matt Longfellow, with a full film crew, at Ridgeview, the acclaimed English winery in East Sussex. Here Kermode gives us a tour behind the scenes of what the filming was like and what we can expect.
In this agenda setting thought piece Amelia Singer, wine educator and co-presenter of The Wine Show, examines some of the flaws lying at the heart of the drinks industry that have led to increasing calls for decisive action to be taken to improve both diversity and inclusion in the sector. When it comes to solutions, she highlights the need for organisations to work together, promote greater diversity in leadership roles within the industry, and for best practice ideas to be shared between drinks sectors around the world.
“There is a wave of outpouring that is screaming out for change. Enough of the turning a blind eye, ignored sexism, racism, bullying, or pretence it’s not happening where you work. It’s time to call time out on these behaviours.” In just one sentence Kirsten MacLeod encapsulates what has been months of hurt and rising tensions across the wine, hospitality and drinks sectors that has reached a crisis point in recent weeks. Those tensions, however, have been there below the surface for decades and although they have reached breaking point in recent weeks, the overriding issues of diversity, and inclusion in the wine and drinks industry, and the treatment of women and people of colour, are long overdue serious debate… and action. In this cutting article MacLeod sets out why she thinks it is now up to the trade, the industry as a whole, to step up and take real, meaningful wider action and not just leave it to individuals to bravely speak out.
The last two times Justin Keay visited Georgia he was travelling by Soviet helicopter to interview controversial President Mikheil Saakashvilli, then tasting amber wines in sheds and basements with RAW Wine founder Isabelle Legeron MW. This year he travelled back (by Zoom naturally) and ‘visited’ four of the wineries that are making great strides in bringing Georgian wine up to date – successfully blending tradition and innovation – especially when it comes to using the country’s plethora of indigenous grapes. So, after 15 years estrangement, how did Keay find the wines of Vachnadziani, Dakishvili, Tbilvino and Teliani Valley? What do they tell him about how successful Georgia currently is at making attractive, well-priced wines that are commercial, appeal to a Western audience and yet stay distinctly Georgian?
“I still suffer from Imposter Syndrome. I often wonder why this is? I have a great job and get great feedback from guests and colleagues alike. I know that I have worked hard and deserve to be where I am. Yet I realise that I am not, and never will be, part of the inner club of wine – the boys’ club – that still dominates the wine industry.” This is just one of a number of hard hitting, and thought provoking sentences in this must read article from sommelier Amber Gardner who shares what it is like being a woman working in what she experiences as being very much a man’s world. She also questions what is being done to foster the talent and the hard earned skills being learnt by sommeliers and hospitality staff when they want to move on from the restaurant floor. Where can they go? What can the industry do as a whole to help not just women feel more comfortable, respected and wanted in this sector, but what opportunities are available for their male counterparts too that can keep them all in the drinks and hospitality sectors they have given so much time to.
Any student of economics would be well served by analysing the ups, downs and dynamics of the fine wine market over the last 40 years, for it is a classic case of how supply and demand works, and how too much of the latter means the traditional ways of doing business are thrown up in the air. It’s an area that Nick Martin, founder of Wine Owners, is particularly fascinated by because of how his industry specific business software manages different approaches to independent wine retailing. Here he makes the case for why the fine wine retail market is changing so fast.
Wine in cans is becoming increasingly popular and could be a significant segment of the future wine market – both off-trade and on trade – so long as we don’t throw away the opportunity, argues Mike Turner. Overcoming prejudice amongst wine drinkers will not happen, though, unless we start putting better wine in cans and not just marketing it as ‘party wine’. Aside from listing companies that are starting to import quality canned wine, Turner looks at the benefits and pitfalls of cans as a format for selling wine in.
From Iron Maiden to Chivas Regal, Illy Jaffar has been at the forefront of developing new marketing and communications strategies for some of the world’s biggest names, be they brands, individuals – or rock stars. He says the impact Covid-19 has had on how we all now live our lives has been so deep rooted we need a fundamental ‘reset’ in how we now think about still making our drinks brands relevant and exciting, but with very different ways of marketing and bringing them to life. Here he shares some of his ideas.
For the final instalment in its current webinar series, trade body New Zealand Winegrowers explored the role that organic, biodynamic, sustainable, and natural wines could play in the future of the industry. While consumers already have a favourable view of New Zealand as a “green” land, panellists acknowledged the progress made by other nations, including Chile and Spain. But some radical ideas were discussed to capitalise on consumers’ growing interest in transparency, as Peter Ranscombe explains.
Hands up who has heard of Patreon? Keep them up if you have a few Patreon subscription accounts? If Patreon is something new to you then think back to when you first heard about Spotfiy and how much of a part of your life it is now. Patreon is essentially the new digital subscription model that an increasing number of businesses and individuals are using to raise money by building up a community of ‘users’ who are happy to pay them a small chunk of money a month for the content or services they are providing. It is also the model that Richard Hemming and Olly Smith are now using for their successful ‘A Glass With’ podcast series. Here Hemming explains why Patreon could be the breakthrough business model of our times.
Last night Anne Krebiehl MW won the prestigious International Wine Book of the Year award for The Wines of Germany at the Louis Roederer International Wine Writers Awards, her definitive and much-needed book on German wine. Here we re-run an interview she did with The Buyer when the book was launched. To buy a copy there is a hot link at the end of the feature.
For the past two decades German wine has been on a roll with the country housing one of Europe’s most vibrant, creative and progressive wine industries. And yet the wines of Germany are some of the most misunderstood on the planet. In an in-depth and wide-ranging interview German wine expert Anne Krebiehl MW explains about the full trajectory of the German wine industry – early success, then doldrums, its current state of health and its direction – and why now is the right time for re-evaluation. She explains why there is currently an unprecedented density of quality production and a new generation of winemakers who are re-defining what German wine can be in the 21st century. Grape varieties have changed as have wine styles – with grace and elegance favoured over power – all the result of a new-found, more self-confident identity that was almost obliterated by two world wars and the disastrous legal framework of the 1970s.