Simon Thorpe MW could not have chosen a better time to take the reins at WineGB as its new chief executive officer – other than the not so insignificant factor of being in the middle of a global pandemic. A quick look at any stat or fact about English wine and the numbers are all going up – and fast. Be it the number of total vineyards, vines being planted, or bottles being sold both in the UK and around the world, then WineGB is on a roll. So no pressure then. As this year’s English Wine Week celebrations and promotions are in full swing he sits down with Richard Siddle to set out the body’s main objectives and targets for an industry that is as diverse and varied as it has ever been, with tens of new wineries coming on board, joining the long list of trail brazing producers that have done so much to lay the foundations on which Thorpe and his team hope to build on.
The Buyer continues its series looking at wine suppliers and importers that are finding their own added value way to introduce new wines and producers to different channels of the wine market by asking Guy Smith and Stuart Bowman-Hood to put their heads above the parapet to explain how their producer first approach works at Frederick’s Wine Company in securing key, long term, contracts with major retailers, and on-trade operators.
Wine snobbery is one of the reasons that rosé is still not taken seriously as a wine, argues Elizabeth Gabay MW. She confesses to initially keeping her distance but then a work assignment grew and grew until she has now become one of the world’s leading specialists in the field. In order to fill the void created by cancellation of wine shows she has just launched a ‘Buyer’s Guide to the Rosés of Southern France’ in which she blind-tastes over 1,000 rosés from over 35 different grape varieties. In an in-depth interview she tells Peter Dean the thinking behind the guide, which are the estates and grape varieties to keep an eye on, plus gives The Buyer readers a special discount.
Anyone who has ever put on a wine tasting or drinks exhibition will have had sleepless nights that no buyers actually turn up. That was actually the case for Pascal Fernand when he first started what has gone on to become the successful APVSA – Association for the Promotion of Wines and Spirits in North America. Here he shares the story of how he built the organisation event by event, one grower and buyer at a time, to the point where it is now hosting events all over Canada and the US including a new series of virtual fairs during Covid-19 and what he has in store for the upcoming digital wine and spirits fair being held between June 28-30 which he hopes will attract buyers from all over the world.
It’s been a rollercoaster 15 months for any drinks business, but few have been hit, pulled, stretched, and then literally brought back from the dead like Jascots Wine Merchants. A business that pre-Covid-19 had a successful business model as a 100% dedicated on-trade supplier. A strategy that was ripped up from under its feet once the pandemic struck. Managing partner, Miles MacInnes, explains in candid detail just how close it came to going to the wall, and how it has been transformed in a matter of months under the ownership of Freixenet Copestick.
It was Sod’s Law that Tim Atkin MW had to taste the Argentina 2019 vintage in Wimbledon rather than in the country itself. 2019, a “cool, elegant and historic” vintage in Atkin’s words, had been heralded as potentially the greatest ever, and so it proved. Not only was the long, cool harvest conditions perfect for making stand-out wines, but the weather complemented the brighter, fresher styles that many of the best bodegas are producing these days. Atkin lists the top 10 wines from 2019 that he would have on his wine list, as well as explains his thinking behind awarding a wine in South America a 100-point score for the very first time.
Entering any drinks competition is ultimately about trying to win a Gold medal for your brand, but to be then told that your product is not just of gold standard but the best out of all other products entered in your category from around the world really is something else. It means the team at Ramsbury Brewery & Distillery are still reeling from being named Best Spirit of the Year in the 2021 London Spirits Competition for its Ramsbury Single Estate Vodka.
It’s a very nice compliment to be known as the London’s “best kept secret” by some of your customers, but it also suggests you might be missing out on more business from restaurants and bars if more knew what you can do. Here Christopher and Jon Carson open up on just what it is about Carson & Carnevale that some in the trade don’t want you to know about. It could, for example, be the fact it can offer minimum six bottle orders, six days a week in London. Richard Siddle finds out the full behind the scenes story…
Raul Diaz continues his monthly series analysing different grape varieties and then breaking them down to analyse what styles of food and recipes you can follow that make the most of their unique characteristics. This time around he turns his attention on Garnacha and makes the case for why this is one of the most versatile grape varieties for any cook to work with, from big meat dishes, to fish soups, and never better expressed than when paired with chickpeas and chorizo.
It seems every city has their own gin these days, but the team behind York Gin set themselves a high bar when they looked to create a gin that would live up to the history and traditions of York, one of England’s oldest and most famous cities, and be a gin the city could be proud of. Three years on and the founding team, who first came up with the idea in their local pub, can look back on a brand that has picked up gold medals and expanded into different flavours and styles.
“Women are having more and more of a say whether it is in viticulture, winemaking, tasting, sommelier. It may be necessary one day to have a parity policy – otherwise there will only be women.” Corinne Chevrier is proud and excited by the changes she has seen in the role, respect and influence female winemakers and growers now have in the traditional world of Bordeaux producers. Here she shares her experiences working in wine and how she has helped to put her mark on Bordeaux winemaking with the wines she makes at Château Bel-Air La Royère.
We’ve seen a number of drinks retailers and suppliers introduce a variety of schemes that help wine drinkers pre-determine the kinds of wines they will like based on their tasting preferences. Well here’s a similar concept from the world of coffee and how Piqant uses artificial intelligence technology to help coffee lovers identify the styles, flavours and tastes they want in their coffee and then select a range of coffees for them to trial at home. Co-founder Rosanna Nibbs Senise explains how it works and what lessons we can learn from it in the drinks industry.
There are some ideas for a new business that seem so obvious you can’t believe someone has not thought of it before. Like Still In Cask. A business model based on the idea of having a blockchain powered website on which distilleries from all over the world can put up casks of aged spirits for people to buy individual cask shares worth one bottle each for as little as £20. Be it a whisky, rum, tequila or whatever aged spirit a distiller might want to offer. It hopes to open up spirit investment to the everyday spirits lover and, in particular, attract a new younger generation of spirits drinkers, and give distilleries the chance to get much needed cash into their business. It’s all the idea of the team behind craft distiller, Circumstance Distillery, Liam Hart and Danny Walker who are working in partnership with Illy Jaffar, managing director of Kinetic and formerly of Pernod Ricard, and entrepreneur Zak Hirt, to what they call “democratise” the ownership of cask spirits whilst creating and bringing together a community of spirits lovers online. Richard Siddle hear’s how it is all going to work and how the the idea first came out of The Buyer’s first One Step Beyond innovation conference last March.
Chris Wilson always felt that his Bacchus 2020 – the first wine he has ever made – would be a popular choice, but in just a few days the entire allocation had sold out. Wine scribe-turned-winemaker, Wilson describes the first day of letting ‘strangers’ into his tiny windmill winery, Gutter & Stars; the power of media; some cute marketing ploys and the ‘2nd album syndrome’ – the old music industry fear that it is all well and good charting with your debut album, but what are you going to follow it up with?
When Wine Unify was set up in the US in 2020 it did so to both give a voice to ethnic and underrepresented minorities in the wine industry, but to also help individuals get a foothold and grow in the sector through training, mentoring and support. The Buyer has teamed up with Wine Unify to help promote the work it is doing and the people it is helping through its Alumni Ambassador programme. Today we share the story of one of its alumni, Natasha Lorick, and how is she looking for opportunities in the sector.
There is no doubt the big winners from the nation being locked down for the best part of the last year have been the established online players who were able to capitalise the most on people switching their buying habits to e-commerce. Naked Wines was very much part of that success story. But, as wine director, Ray O’Connor MW explains, it has also looked to use some of those increased revenues to support wine businesses both in the UK and around the world who have been the hardest hit by the pandemic and, in particular, the on-trade being closed down.
Michael Palij MW has been like a caged tiger for the last year chomping at the bit to get out and visit the producers across Europe that have grown to become personal friends during their time working together through Winetraders, the wine importer and distribution business he set up in 1997. The company is most associated with Italy, and Palij is widely respected as a leading voice on the country’s wine, but, as he explains to Richard Siddle, Winetraders is now taking its footprint around the world.
We have become used over the last year to have just about anything delivered to our doors. But a carefully crafted classic cocktail made by a top Italian mixologist? Well, why not thanks to the team behind NIO Cocktails that are not only pushing premium drinks through our letter box but have come up with unique packaging that makes it possible. Richard Siddle finds out how from founder Luca Quagliano
The last year of lockdowns and restrictions across the hospitality sector has been brutal for so many companies that have gone out of business through no fault of their own. Yet, amidst the decimation, some have innovated and risen, as Braden Saunders at Doghouse Distillery beautifully describes, like a phoenix from the ashes. Battersea-based Doghouse Distillery has worked hard to keep innovating and make sure it has the right brands and spirits to come out the other side. It has even found time to launch its own whisky. To get the finer details Jessica Broadbent caught up with Saunders, Doghouse Head Hydrator who founded the distillery with his wife Katherine in 2018.
Having just published An Opinionated Guide to London Pubs, with a second book – Modern British Beer – in the works, it’s safe to say Matthew Curtis knows a thing or two about what makes a good pub, and the kind of beer it should be selling. Fiona Holland talks to the freelance writer and photographer, who by day is busy putting together his drinks website, Pellicle, about what long term impact he sees Covid-19 having on the British pub and beer industries.