The drinks industry has come up with some ingenious ways of coping with Covid. As far as awards judging goes, however, none was more extreme than the Champagne and Sparkling Wine World Championships which rented a country estate, complete with its own pub and on-site coronavirus testing team. Our man at the event, editor-at-large Roger Jones, sent back this behind-the-scenes report of how this Bubbly Bubble worked, (a presumably watered-down version of) what went on in the ‘Big Bubble House’, as well talking to CSWWC’s creator Tom Stevenson about the philosophy of the competition and the logistics of making it work.
The issues of diversity, equality and inclusion have never been more front of mind in the drinks and hospitality industry. This week’s online wine2wine event dedicated a number of sessions to allow a wide range of debates and conversations to take place. The key now is how does the fragmented world of drinks and hospitality come together to keep the momentum behind these issues going. This is very much where the Women of the Vine & Spirits organisation comes in as it has been offering a platform for women all over the world to come together and share and use its now wide range of resources and support tools for women. Here founder Deborah Brenner explains why she set the organisation up and how she is so pleased these issues are now getting the profile and publicity they need.
The pace at which the wine industry has had to respond to seismic change during 2020 and get online just to do business has been unprecedented. It has also stretched to breaking point many of the existing legacy management computer systems out there that aren’t flexible nor built for a digital era. Here Nick Martin, co-founder of Wine Owners, sets out what he sees as being the sector’s biggest technical challenges and how having a wine industry specific digital operating system running everything from your ordering, stock management, brokering through to e-commerce and other sales channels can be a real game changer.
When Roger and Sue Jones announced they were to close their much loved and celebrated restaurant, The Harrow at Little Bedwyn, there was a rush to book a table before their final service in March. In the end the outbreak of Covid-19 meant they had to close their doors before their final date. Rather than enjoy an early retirement, the couple have never been busier launching a series of initiatives to first cook and feed hundreds of vulnerable people in their local community, before switching to running a gourmet takeaway service which it is now using to raise money for a series of charities in December. For all their efforts during Covid-19 The Buyer salutes Roger and Sue and we’re sure you will join us in Raising A Glass to them.
Fiona McLaughlin has enjoyed a wide and impressive career that has seen her rise through the ranks at Majestic before switching over to the on-trade to head up sales in the south west for Enotria&Coe. She is now looking for her next role in the wine industry and hopes to be able to find the right company to share her experience, and passion for working with and developing teams.
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. In the latest instalment of his column for The Buyer he extols the virtues of doing the bare minimum in a white jacket and reveals the details of a guerrilla rosé that’s crept into his cellar. To geek or not to geek? That is the question he is asking himself this month as the cramped space limits what science he can apply on site, and the wines themselves start to take shape – in thrilling fashion.
There will be baited breath in the global wine community on November 18 when the winners of the Wine Producer Awards will be announced. The highest-achieving wine estates from the IWSC have made it into the shortlist across five categories: Sparkling Wine Producer, Fortified, Sweet, Red and White Wine Producer with English wineries well represented in the Sparkling Wine category. Unlike the Spirits awards where William Grant & Son could win for the third year in a row, the Wine Producer Awards will have a new winner as last year’s most Outstanding Wine Producer did not make the cut.
Now in its 29th year the ¡Salud! Oregon Pinot Noir Auction is a prime example of how a wine region can keep its key workers alive and well. Although the world sees many wine auctions, with exclusive cuvées and formats up for grabs in an auction setting, rarely is it tied into a free healthcare programme that is providing 2,500 vineyard workers and their families with the healthcare and outreach they need – especially important this year during the pandemic. LM Archer looks at this unique programme as well as picks out key wines from this year’s auction that is operating online until November 16 and gives a first look at the 2019 ‘throwback’ cool vintage.
The current high standard of wine communication has been made evident with the announcement of the 2020 shortlist of IWSC Wine Communicator of the Year. The four contenders – Nina Caplan, Elaine Chukan Brown, Anne Krebiehl MW and Melissa Monosoff MS – are wine professionals who, between them, have achieved an enviable array of achievements and qualifications that put them at the top of their game. Ahead of the announcement of the winner at the IWSC awards on November 18, we take a look at each of the contenders and discover what wine communication means to them.
“In the auction business we talk about the drivers for supply being death, debt, divorce,” so it’s not surprising for James Ritchie, head of wine and spirits auctions for Sotheby’s, to use that phrase when assessing the global auction market in 2020. But in this fascinating insight into what really goes on behind the scenes at the world’s famous auction house, Ritchie also shares who and where the biggest wine collectors are and how even Sotheby’s is having to break with traditions and go as digital and online as it can.
Covid-19 has tested the agility of many industries this year, none more so than hospitality. But through innovation and hard work hotel groups and restaurants have been experiencing a number of fillips, says Alan Montague-Dennis, director of prestige sales at Mentzendorff. Staycations, a new al fresco, fine dining at home and trading up on the wine list (when possible) have brought about some unexpected returns. In this insightful piece Alan explains how his role allows him to flex with changing needs and to stay nimble – literally – on his Brompton bike, a key part of the company’s approach to sustainability and mental wellbeing, and helping him keep a positive spin on things.
November 18 is the date for this year’s IWSC Spirit Producer Awards, an entirely black tie or dressing gown affair. While Covid-19 has meant that the gala night has had to go online for the first time, there is no doubting the excitement of who will be crowned best producers across eight different spirits categories. Top spirits prize of the evening will be awarded to one company which will waltz off with the coveted title of Outstanding Spirits Producer – and for one company that could well be three years in a row…
If there was a competition for the most leftfield way someone has got themselves into making wine then Tim Ford would have a fighting chance of picking up a medal. For whilst he has more than made his home making wine at Domaine Gayda that he set up from scratch in the heart of the Languedoc Roussillon, it is a long way from where he first started his career as a horticulturist running what turned into a multinational flower business from the heart of Africa. It’s already been quite an adventure but, when it comes to wine, Ford believes he is only now ready to really capitalise on the strong reputation he has built up and take Domaine Gayda to the next level, as he explains to Richard Siddle.
The pivotal World Bulk Wine Exhibition is the key time of the year for global wine producers and their most important international wine buyers to come together and do business. But with Covid-19 still preventing major trade fairs to take place this month’s show is going online with a new format – WBWE Connect – that will still allow producers to trade their bulk wine with the world’s most influential retail and on-trade wine buyers. Here’s how it is all going to work.
While winemakers the world over plant on higher ground for insurance against climate-change, Le Soula already made that move 20 years ago. The mixture of old vines grown at altitude on poor granitic soil in the harsh climate of the foothills of the Pyrenees was irresistible to Gérard Gauby, the Roussillon’s most respected vigneron; he suggested to his importers Roy Richards and Mark Walford that they farm it and in 2001 Le Soula was born. Peter Dean paid them a visit last month, met up with Wendy Paillé, the new (ish) estate manager and tasted through the new wines, just taken on by Thorman Hunt, a range with remarkable freshness and vitality.
As pubs, bars and restaurants across England prepare to close until at least December 2 here’s an uplifting story of how one north London restaurant, Top Cuvee, has already shown in the first national lockdown how it was able to set up an ecommerce model from scratch and even open up a separate Shop Cuvee retail store. It means its owners, Max Venning and Brodie Meah, are as well placed as they can be going into another four weeks of uncertainty. Harry Crowther paid them a visit and tells their story.
The fast changing wine market is putting even greater pressure on producers, importers and operators alike to find ever more cost effective and efficient ways of moving, listing and selling wine. Matthew Johnson and Alex Green have been at the forefront of the changes wine suppliers have made during their time at Copestick Murray and Freixenet Copestick, helping to source and create brands and exclusive wines for customers. They have now branched out on their own to set up their own business – Beyond Wines – which they believe has its own USP and, in doing so, can find its edge against steely competition.
The wine regions of New Mexico, Arizona, Texas and Colorado are the real frontier of American winemaking and a sommelier’s perfect new hunting ground. Although it wasn’t until the 1970s that the modern wine industry of the American Southwest was born it was in New Mexico that the first Vitis vinifera vines in the United States were planted. Talking about her latest book The Wines of Southwest USA, Jessica Dupuy tells Peter Dean about a fascinating region full of diverse terroirs, wines from over 700 wineries and indigenous grape varieties …Blanc Du Bois from Texas, or Chambourcin from Colorado anyone?
Even if you know someone well in the trade it’s only if they happened to come for an interview that you get to find out so much about their career, their past experiences and what they could potentially bring to your business. Which is what the Onwards & Upwards series is all about. Giving people a platform to share what they have done in their career. This week the vastly experienced sommelier and wine buyer Guillem Kerambrun talks about his life in hospitality working in some of the best restaurants in the world, experiences he now wants to share through his new consultancy business.
If there is a more respected and liked figure in the global wine industry than Laura Catena then I am yet to meet them. If her father, Nicolás, is widely regarded for putting Argentine wine on the world map, then Dr Laura Catena is more than ready to take it to the next generation. She has already established herself as a leading voice not just on Bodega Catena Zapata wines, but on exploring, investigating and finding the most sustainable and climate proof places to make wine for all producers across Argentina. Here in this wide ranging video interview Richard Siddle talks to her about her vision and plans for Catena, helping to raise the quality and prestige of Argentine wines internationally and managing a business through Covid-19.