As life starts to return to normal for many countries, and the world begins to emerge from the pandemic, The Buyer is running a series of interviews with key, influential winemakers about the impact of Covid-19 on making wine. Most of the wine news in the past 18 months has been about output, distribution and consumption trends during the pandemic. We want to know from the people who actually make the wine how has their life been? what challenges they’ve faced as winemakers? and how they are having to adapt moving forwards? In this latest piece we talk to Ornelaia estate director Axel Heinz.
Representing over 80 vineyards and 110 members from as far afield as the Scilly islands to the large vine growing areas of Cornwall, Devon, Somerset, Gloucestershire, Worcestershire, Herefordshire and Shropshire WineGB West has some clout when it comes to setting trends, and having a voice for what is happening in the overall Great Britain winemaking sector. Here we talk to the body’s chairman, Guy Smith, who also runs his own English winery, Smith & Evans, about the work it does and also highlights from its recent WineGB West Annual Competition.
“I often refer to our division of Les Grands Chais de France as our best kept secret, hopefully that’s about to change.” That’s how Chris Davies, head of Famille Helfrich in the UK describes a business that can exclusively supply on-trade buyers and independent wine merchants an extensive range of wines from all from France and increasingly the rest of the world. Here Davies explains the important role that Famille Helfrich plays within the wider Les Grands Chais group and what buyers can expect from the two portfolio tastings it is hosting in Manchester and London in October.
Agustin Trapero has enjoyed a wide and varied career as a sommelier that has taken him from three star Michelin restaurants to running the entire beverage offer at the new Four Seasons Hotel in Madrid. Here he looks back on his career and reflects on what he thinks it takes to be a top sommelier and what are the vital ingredients needed in order to create the right wine list for the right venue.
Born to be on stage Tom Sandham and Ben McFarland – aka The Thinking Drinkers – have been twirling rather more of their thumbs than they would have liked over the last 18 months. But it has also given them time to write. A lot. They have pulled together a new live show – the Thinking Drinkers Quiz Show – that kicks off tonight in Lincoln and will travel around the country for the next eight months. They have also written The Thinking Drinkers Almanac, their own tribute to the wonderful world and history of alcoholic drinks, which also shows they do do actually know quite a lot about the drinks they have fun with on stage. Here Tom Sandham explains what it is all about.
Fischer’s at Baslow Hall in Derbyshire won yesterday’s Gosset Matchmakers Final 2021, with its young sommelier and chef team judged to have made the perfect two dishes to match Gosset’s Grande Blanc de Blancs and Grande Reserve. Our drinks editor Peter Dean had a ringside seat to capture the rising tension as five of the UK’s best up-coming teams battled it out to see who had the chops when it came to pairing with Champagne. And who knew that caramelised celeriac was the perfect foil for a Blanc de Blancs?
When it comes to managing costs and stock levels in a busy restaurant or bar then keeping on top of your wine wastage is paramount as sommeliers and managers battle with ways of keeping opened bottles of wine fresh between service. Well here’s a new idea that, for less than £5, claims it can potentially transform how you manage your wine programme. Sayv is a new wine preservation system that uses argon gas to keep wine fresh. Here its founder David Parrot explains how it works and why he hopes it can make a big difference to on-trade operators.
For a business executive who cut her teeth, and made her reputation, working for internet start ups, deciding to join Lay & Wheeler, one of the UK’s oldest and most traditional wine merchants, would not have been the most obvious career choice. But for Katy Keating it was a unique opportunity to help re-set an established, successful business with some of the energy and new ways of teamwork and thinking she had learnt whilst working with digital start ups in the United States and the UK. In this wide ranging interview she explains her management philosophy that is focused on creating a working environment and culture that hopefully fosters a strong team spirit and togetherness whilst giving individuals the opportunity to reach their full potential.
To reflect the big changes that are taking place in Bordeaux The Buyer has teamed up with Les Vins du Médoc to introduce a new series of articles – Medoc: The Next Generation Interviews – where we highlight the work being done by new, exciting, innovative winemakers and producers in the region and invite a breakout young wine writer to talk to them about their life in wine, their winemaking philosophy and why they think the Médoc is such a special place to make wine. First up we shine the light on Anaïs Bernard of Château Gadet-Terrefort who shares her story with Jess Lamb.
As the grapes go through veraison in Chianti-shire, we find Querciabella’s South African winemaker Manfred Ing in contemplative mode – looking back at the pandemic that devastated Tuscany and looking forwards at what the future holds for one of Italy’s leading wine estates. The 2021 harvest looks like being of very high quality although springtime frosts means that quantities will be down for the second time in five years. Ing is upbeat, however, about how his wines are being handled in the UK and about future investments.
“The pandemic has switched all our client external comms dials from important to critical. We are now a more valued part of their teams than before with one client telling us that our work had not only been critical in increasing sales but was responsible for saving jobs. That’s different from before.” This is how Nicky Forrest, managing director of leading drinks PR company, Phipps Relations, describes the impact that Covid-19 has had on its business and how it now works with its clients. She also explains why she is so pleased to be one of the Drinks Trust’s new trustees.
Portugal was considered safe to travel to and then almost overnight was put on Britain’s amber list, a problem compounded by the added cost and bureaucracy of Brexit. For Sandra Tavares who, with her husband Jorge Serôdio Borges runs Wine & Soul in the Duoro, these are just some of the issues facing a small, independent wine producer as they enter the ‘new normal’ of a post-pandemic world. Peter Dean got the lowdown.
Bordeaux Day 2021 has been organised by Vins de Bordeaux to give UK buyers as big a chance as possible to taste the modern styles of wine now being made in the region with two standalone tastings taking place next week – in London on September 8 and Manchester on September 9. Here we turn the spotlight on one of the producers – Chateau du Seuil – whose wines will be available to taste as Nicola Allison explains why she gave up a career as a doctor to take over the family’s property in Graves with her husband Sean to make modern-style organic Bordeaux wines.
“Street food has become so fashionable – perhaps because it reflects the authentic soul of a given region. I was inspired to cook this recipe after enjoying delicious lamb meatballs on the streets of Athens.” This is how Raul Diaz introduces his latest food and wine recipe matching meatballs to the classic Greek wine variety Agiorgitiko in the latest of his monthly food and wine pairing series.
Until two weeks ago, life for winemaker Simon Waghorn in New Zealand’s Astrolabe was more normal compared to his counterparts in any other country. Jacinda Ardern’s hardline stance and the Kiwis’ natural geographical isolation meant that Covid had had little direct impact on the country. If anything the pros probably outweighed the cons. But recent outbreaks have given the country a harsh reality check. Writing for The Buyer, Waghorn explains what effect the pandemic has had on a Marlborough-based wine estate and how he is adjusting to the ‘new normal’.
There’s so much more to being a chief winemaker than tending vines and fermenting grapes – ask Patricio Celedón, chief winemaker at Chile’s Viu Manent. As he reflects on the pandemic, that hit Chile later than a lot of countries, Celedón tells us how his biggest challenges are logistical, with bottles, cardboard and wooden boxes all in short supply; as is agricultural labour – a side effect of the government’s aid bonds scheme. But it’s not all doom and gloom, Viu Manent has made some fundamental changes to the way it produces wine as well as advanced a new wine project that was on the back burner – but pulled it forwards thanks to the unexpected downtime.
It seems only yesterday that wine scribe Chris Wilson decided to put his money where his mouth is and make his own wine, setting up what has become Cambridge’s first ever winery, Gutter&Stars. After the rave success of his inaugural wine ‘I Wanna Be Adored’ Bacchus 2020, Wilson launches his second wine, ‘Hope is a Good Swimmer’ Pinot Noir 2020 which also harps back to his days as a music journalist. With orders to fulfil, fruit to check and sun to pray for, what else is on his To Do list? A TV interview and, weirdly, this is the thing that concerns him most.
Bordeaux Day 2021 offers two days of trade tastings divided between London and Manchester – on September 8 and September 9 respectively – to give as many buyers as possible the chance to take part in what is being billed as an “unique insight into modern Bordeaux, showcasing the quality, diversity and fantastic value that the region and its wines have to offer”. To help get you in the mood here we talk to Jonathan Ducourt, of Vignobles Ducourt, one of the region’s oldest producers about how it is more than moving with the times with its switch to organic production and working with with newly approved grape varieties in the region.
September 7 will be an important date for the British wine industry as it will be the first opportunity the sector has had to come together and celebrate not only the latest wines, styles and innovation across the domestic wine scene, but also, for many, it will be their first formal tasting since March 2020. Here WineGB’s head of marketing, Julia Trustram Eve, looks back at an eventful year behind the scenes across the British wine industry and just why everyone in the sector is so excited about being able to show what they are doing at RHS Lindley Hall on September 7.
For too long considered merely an adjunct to the Languedoc, Roussillon has over the past 20 years uncoupled itself and started celebrating its true identity. With a very different climate, topography and culture to the Languedoc, the wines of Roussillon have started truly celebrating this uniqueness – benefitting from the shift to increased production of dry table wines, and an influx of winemakers from outside the region. President of the Circle of Wine Writers, and a world expert on the region, Rosemary George MW, opens up on what fascinates her about these wines and what gems wine buyers can discover both from the long-standing talent and the new generation of vignerons.