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.
The London Wine Fair is back! After a three year forced absence the London Wine Fair team can finally re-open the doors to London Olympia and welcome the UK and international wine industry once again. Here Richard Siddle explains why it is so important for the UK drinks industry as a whole that we have a healthy and thriving trade fair that can provide the platform for us all to get back to doing business together face to face. Whether you are an exhibitor or a visitor let’s look forward to a great show.
There has been much debate in the wine industry in recent times about how it can become more diverse and inclusive. But what steps are really being taken to make sure every wine business, big or small, is doing what it can? As we get ready to come together as a sector after so long at next week’s London Wine Fair we go back to this article written in March 2021 by wine writer and commentator, Sophia Longhi, who looks to champion women through her Skin & Pulp brand, and her work across social media and in the trade. Here she sets out why having a more diverse and inclusive workplace would actually make for a stronger, more secure industry as a whole.
“The secret of great e-commerce is not technology. It’s not the best platform or even the most complex algorithms. The secret is ‘digitizing the human experience’.” At least that’s what the team at Pix, the new online wine discovery and search platform, is striving to achieve with its new platform that uses machine learning algorithms to give its customers an increasingly tailored and personalised experience. But it also uses humans too as there are just some things that computers – at least up to now – can’t do.
The challenge during the pandemic was to have a website capable of keeping up with the surge in demand from people looking to buy what they might usually do in person online. Most websites did not have to work too hard to see a huge rise in sales. Now things are back to normal, all online players are seeing a dip in sales – including Amazon. So how do you keep the consumers who suddenly came to you during Covid? Online consultant and former wine merchant, Simon Huntington shares his advice and says it all comes down to understanding what it is they want and need.
It was Bordeaux winemaker Gavin Quinney of Chateau Bauduc who once coined the phrase “Twitter is for show, but email is for dough,” when talking about how to build up an online wine retail business. It is very much the approach that Eamon FitzGerald has taken in setting up his own e-commerce platform, WineSpark, which has borrowed a few tips and techniques from his days at Naked Wines to build up a strong email database that is now driving his move into online wine retailing.
“Rather than have cellars full of wine ageing quietly in barrels, that tell you the plot, varieties, blend and vintage, why not bring them to life and include the name and a QR link to the back story of the customer or customers that have invested in it and become part of that producer and winemaker’s success.” That’s a vision of a genuinely consumer-first driven wine businesss that your customers are being offered – and are increasingly demanding – from the brands and companies they invest in. Richard Siddle explains why drinks producers need to wake up to the fact they no longer own the brands they produce – their target consumers do. And if they don’t those drinkers will vote with their feet and buy into brands that believe in them.
“2021 might not be a natural successor to the three warm vintages preceding it but the early indications are that there will be plenty to like.” So says Guy Seddon, Corney & Barrow’s senior fine wine buyer, as he and his team prepare to hit Bordeaux for the en primeurs, the first campaign in the flesh since the 2018 vintage. Much was made of the difficulty of the 2021 harvest but how will the wines shape up and which vintages will 2021 most be like?
There’s only thing that can match receiving a well thought out gift – sending one. But promoting brands as a potential gift is a difficult balance to get right for drinks producers and retailers alike. Here Tom Harvey, co-founder of the YesMore Drinks Marketing Agency, shares the five steps any brand, website or retailer can take to make sure they get their drinks gift marketing right and don’t look like they are trying to exploit a commercial opportunity.
Wine buyers have arguably never had more choice who they work with to help fill their lists. Whether they are a sommelier buying wine for an independent restaurant, or a major chain looking to refresh their offer there are now so many wine importers to go to. Harry Crowther should know in his role as UK wine buyer for online wine site, Good Pair Days. Here he celebrates that diversity and raises a glass to all the smaller importers, many of whom were at the recent SITT tasting, who are now giving him and his fellow buyers so many interesting wines to discover.
As Romania’s biggest wine exporter who supplies wine to countries all over the world and deals with arguably more customers, across more channels in the UK than any other wine producer in the world, Philip Cox, co-founder of Cramele Recas knows what he is talking about. So when he sits down to write a highly charged opinion piece that, in his words, effectively warns of an “apocalyptic storm” taking place across all areas of wine packaging – from glass, to labels, screwcaps and cardboard – then it’s wise to sit up, take notice and start planning.
“When every brief we get includes sustainable credentials…and when corporations and countries are shouting their green targets from the rooftops, we should probably be wary of supporting a medium until it’s cleaned up its act.” That’s the typically straight to the point view of Kevin Shaw, founder of world leading drinks design agency, Stranger & Stranger, about the rise in NFTs and how this currently unregulated world of new technology is bad for the environment, and is so full of scams and fraud that any wise businesses should keep well away.
If you deal in fine wine and are constantly walking the tightrope of whether what you are buying or selling might be fake or fraudulent then you really need to be taking the world of blockchains and smart protective digital technology seriously. Here technology entrepreneur, Max Kantelia and founder of blockchain business, Zilliqa makes the case for what blockchains can do and why they are so in tune with the unique needs of the wine and drinks industry.
Dry January is now a ‘thing’ for a growing band of people that don’t just see it as a one off opportunity to get over their festive excesses, but very much part of their desire to follow a healthy lifestyle and a month to look forward to rather than dread. Dry January has also become a big marketing fest for big and small drinks companies. Here Tom Harvey, co-founder of the YesMore drinks marketing agency, picks out his winners and losers from the marketing campaigns that hoped to catch our attention in January 2022.
English Whisky is on a roll right now with attention from specialist retailers, clubs and media all increasing by the day. English distillers are currently not restricted by the same level of regulation and charter that those North of the border are, meaning that they have the bandwidth to use different techniques to create very different liquids, argues Stephen Russell, founder of Chatham-based Copper Rivet Distillery. One example of this freedom is that English distillers have the scope to use different types of stills to create whiskies’ flavours without having to rely on seasoned wood to create variety.
With Bourgogne Week concluded and importers now busy selling en primeur, our drinks editor Peter Dean reflects on the seven tastings of Burgundy 2020 that were held in London – including Thorman Hunt, Flint, Liberty and Charles Taylor. It may have been the hottest vintage on record and the driest for 75 years but how were the wines showing? What were the key characteristics of the vintage? How did the whites compare to the reds? And which are the wines to have on your radar?
While some producers and importers have shied away from saying whether Burgundy 2020 is a ‘white vintage’ or a ‘red vintage’, Armit Wines’ brand manager Nicolas Clerc MS has come down firmly on the side of the white wines. The whites he says have “tension and precision balanced by generosity. Many will be delicious in their youth, especially across the Bourgogne and Village appellations.” The reds will need to have more time in the bottle for a proper evaluation. Here he gives us his insight with contributions from Christophe Roumier, Domaine de Montille and Domaine Bart.
“We need to break out the defibrillator on our digital skills,” is how Simon Huntington describes the need for the drinks industry, across all channels, to really take digital marketing seriously and understand it is now a vital part of how any company should now be operating. But what exactly is digital marketing and what do you need to concentrate on to get it right? Here Huntington sets out his vision for effective drinks digital marketing.
It’s rare for one of the UK’s biggest national newspapers to go into the intricate details of how the British drinks industry is taxed outside of a debate about a potential duty hike in the annual Budget. So when the Sunday Times unleashed a full blown analysis into what could be fundamental changes to how our still and sparkling wines could be taxed in the future – with a big push for English wines in particular – it was received with some surprise by the drinks industry at large. Here Miles Beale, chief executive of the Wine & Spirits Trade Association, responds and sets out what he thinks could – and could not – be in any proposed alcohol reform strategy.
“Buying into a brand that ‘gives back’ is a powerful thing. A key element to a modern, profitable wine list now needs to be seeking out this type of producer.” So says Harry Crowther who believes restaurants and bars should be thinking about putting truly sustainable wines on their lists, even in favour of organic wines, as consumers are now far more interested in ‘buying into’ brands that are putting sustainability first which makes them feel good to support them.