If you are an experienced wine buyer, specialising in a particular country have you ever thought of making the most of your expertise by going it alone? It’s what James Hocking did when he moved on from The Vineyard Cellars, the business where he made his name, importing Californian wine for The Vineyard in Berkshire, at the beginning of 2019. Here he shares what’s its been like starting his own business and then having to deal with Covid-19.
We continue our Onwards & Upwards series, that is looking to help anyone in the drinks, retail and hospitality sectors looking for a new role, with an interview with senior grocery wine buyer, Michelle Smith, formerly of Sainsbury’s, who is moving on from her role as head of wine at South African supermarket chain, Pick n Pay. The Covid-19 crisis continues to impact all our lives, right around the world, but it is also shaking up the status quo and opening up new opportunities for people. Here we talk to Michelle Smith about her career to date and the skills she believes she can offer in her next role.
Like the rest of the drinks industry, Corney & Barrow had the proverbial rug pulled from under its collective feet with the outbreak of Covid-19 and subsequent lockdown that saw the on-trade close and with it a large chunk of its daily business. But thankfully having its eggs placed in a number of different trading channels has meant Corney & Barrow has been able to adapt, divert resources and find new and innovative ways of selling and distributing its range of wines. As Tim Wheeldon, on-trade sales manager, explains.
Wine journalist – and regular Buyer writer – Chris Wilson has added another string to his bow as he launches his own urban winery in the heart of Cambridge this autumn. In this instalment of his column for The Buyer he goes into more detail about the type of wines he’d like to make this year and unravels some of the red tape involved in setting up a winery from scratch.
No matter how bad your nightmares might have been in recent weeks they would have to be pretty awful to beat the living drama we are all having to go through with the impact of Covid-19 on all our working lives, and – as we have been reminded of so bluntly by the shenanigans in the House of Commons this week – the impending deadline of January 1 when the UK formally leaves the EU. It’s a situation that Miles Beale, chief executive of the Wine & Spirit Trade Association, summed up perfectly in the speech he gave yesterday to kick off the WSTA’s online summit. Here’s his take on the dangers that lie ahead and why as a sector we all need to be batting as one to get as good an outcome from Covid-19 and Brexit as we can.
Two of the big breakthroughs we have seen during the Covid-19 crisis have been the big swing by businesses to digital and the need for companies, and individuals, to collaborate more effectively with each other. Both of which were exemplified by the recent Le Grand Voyage project that saw Bordeaux producer, Château Malartic-Lagravière, team up with wine and brand communicators, Robert Joseph and Polly Hammond and the new The Wine Show Creative team, to create a series of three minute YouTube vignettes that each tell a different story about the history, culture, art, politics and food and drink of Bordeaux, hosted by Joe Fattorini. Here, in the latest The Buyer video interview, Richard Siddle talks to them all, including Severine Bonnie from Malartic-Lagravière, about how the project came together, what it wanted to achieve and why it potentially offers so much for other drinks producers and businesses to learn from, and why a creative team all pulling in the right direction can produce genuinely ground-breaking work.
As company statements go The Hidden Sea wine brand has got a lot to live up to: ‘One Wine. One Mission. To remove plastic from the oceans’. But by linking up with the ReSea environmental project, which was set up to trawl the oceans picking up plastic as it goes on behalf of sustainably focused businesses all over the world , it is helping to do exactly that. In 2019 Resea removed 426 ton of plastic from the sea and it has a goal to reach 3000 tons this year. Here Peter Fairclough and Jo Taylorson, of its UK importer Kingsland Drinks, explains how the brand lives up to its claims and also makes good quality, value Australian varietal wine.
Last week The Buyer launched its ‘Onwards & Upwards’ initiative to provide a platform for anyone in the drinks, retail and hospitality sectors who has lost their job, or is looking for a new start due to the impact of Covid-19. Today we introduce a new series that features a round up mini profiles from individuals who are keen to tell their story, share their experiences and explain what their next dream job would be.
2020 is the 40th vintage for Hamilton Russell Vineyards, the pioneers of the cool, maritime Hemel-en-Aarde Valley in South Africa’s Cape. But there will hardly have been a more challenging year than this one. The pandemic and the government’s response to it have hit the hospitality and wine businesses hard. In an in-depth and revealing interview Anthony Hamilton Russell opens out about the impact on his business, what strategies he is employing to help speed his own and the on-trade’s recovery and what he believes the coming months will bring, in this, his 30th year at the helm.
We might all be struggling to travel, visit and explore the best restaurants and wine lists in the world, but that does not mean they are not there for us to discover when we can. Which is why Star Wine List is continuing to roll out its new ‘Best of’ wine list guides for different countries and cities. Here we look at how it has pulled together the best wine restaurants in Barcelona and Bangkok and which outlets won Wine Lists of the Year in Denmark and Finland.
We are all having to find new ways of working to fit in with the social distancing rules, including the usually very hands on business of judging for major wine competitions. It has certainly thrown up fresh challenges to those tasked with putting such events on. Here Belinda Mercer, competition manager for the WineGB Awards, takes us behind the scenes to explain for how she and her team were able to put on this year’s awards thanks to the efforts of just three judges – Susan Barrie MW, Oz Clarke and Rebecca Palmer. We have now updated this article to include the highlights of the winners of the 2020 WineGB Awards.
Entering major international drinks competitions is an important part of any producer, importer or retailer’s marketing budget. But it’s going to be harder than ever to find the resources to enter your products with all the other costs and issues that Covid-19 has thrown up. Which is why The People’s Choice Wine Awards has introduced new bursaries, with the support of Wines of Portugal and Smurfit Kappa, to help with entries to three of the categories in its 2021 competition.
22 climats in Pouilly-Fuissé have just been given Premier Cru status. The wines of Pouilly and Fuissé have long been recognised as “first class,” in fact at the start of the Nineteenth Century scholars put the wines on a par with other great wine regions like Meursault and Montrachet. But, until this week’s decision, the Mâconnais was still the only region in Burgundy that did not have vineyard hierarchy. Before lockdown LM Archer travelled to the region to find out how the thirteen-year application for Premier Cru status was progressing for a number of climats, a process that had been temporarily closed down because of the virus.
Doesn’t time fly. We are now two months on from when restaurants, bars and pubs were able to re-open and allow customers back into their outlets across England, with Scotland and Wales following a little while after. So how has it been like for those tasked with working on restaurant floors? Here Mattia Scarpazza, head sommelier at Petersham Nurseries in Richmond, south London, shares not just his experiences over the last two months, but those of fellow sommeliers working at leading restaurants across London and the steps and changes they have had to make in order to keep everyone safe.
You don’t have to look very far to see what a difficult time this is for so many individuals, never mind businesses, in the hospitality sector and all the companies that supply it. There is an even bigger concern that the situation is going to get a whole lot worse once the stabilsers of the furlough system are taken away in the autumn. It’s why The Buyer is today starting a new series – ‘Onwards & Upwards’ – where we give a platform to those in the restaurant, bar, wine, and drinks industries, who are looking for a fresh start, to explain who they are, their background and what sort of opportunity they are looking for. First up is Jon Clement who is looking for a new challenge on leaving his position at The Big Table Group.
Of all the new entrants into the wine sector in recent years Wanderlust Wine has stood out as it came into the industry with a new business model. One focused on a technology and distribution solution that meant from day one it could offer same, or next day delivery, for direct to consumer, the off-trade and on-trade at the same time. It’s a model that has served it well during Covid-19 with a boom in online sales, where its range of eclectic and exclusive wines from experimental winemakers around the world, have been in high demand. For our latest video interview Richard Siddle talks to its founder Richard Ellison, and its new head of trade Françoise Mathis, who left Roberson Wine last month, about what they see as the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead for smaller, niche importers, and how new equity funding raised during lockdown will help Wanderlust take its digital first – ‘Vintech’ – business model to the next level.
Week after week we have seen new initiatives launched by our major drinks wholesalers, and their producer partners, to help their on-trade customers, in particular, cope with the on-going fall out of Covid-19. One of the most eye catching has been the pledge by Hallgarten & Novum Wines to provide £700,000 of free glasses of wine to as many of its on-trade customers as it can during September. Here managing director, Andrew Bewes, explains how the scheme is going to work and what impact he hopes it can have on the wider hospitality sector.
Making a carbon-neutral winery from cannabis sativa, that has been recognised as one of the most environmentally-friendly wineries in the world, is just one of the many achievements of Robert ‘Bertie’ Eden. The godfather of organic and biodynamic winemaking in the Languedoc, Eden is a British ex-pat whose 45 hectare domaine Château Maris has been making exciting terroir-driven wines since 1997. He is overseeing Invivo’s aims to become the largest supplier of organic grapes in France, as well as being one of the greatest advocates of the need for the wine industry to reduce its impact on the environment.
The impact of Covid-19 on the way the drinks, retail and hospitality sectors does business continues to be far reaching with a host of new initiatives and ways of working. Like this new approach by Wines of Germany to help support independent wine retailers, whilst also providing a new platform to promote and distribute its wines in the UK when retail buyers are less likely to be travelling and sourcing new wines for themselves. Nicky Forrest, head of Wines of Germany in the UK, explains how its new Retailer Partnership is going to work.
There is always something a little more special about a drinks business when the people behind it have followed a dream to give up the day job, switch careers and dive head first into making it happen. Which is very much the case for James and Susanna Forbes. Both will be well known by many in the drinks trade for they both started out – and met each other – on the shop floor at Oddbins. James progressed to senior buyer before really making his mark as head of Wines of Argentina in the UK and introducing Malbec to the great British public. Susanna switched from Oddbins to become a long standing, highly respected drinks journalist. They also, though, both hankered after starting their own craft drinks company and after much deliberation and planning are now really making strides and winning awards and accolades for their Little Pomona orchard and craft cider business in the heart of Herefordshire. Here they explain how it has all come together to Richard Siddle.