When Australian wine started to lose its mojo 15-20 years ago, Neil McGuigan, who has just departed as CEO of Australian Vintage Ltd, decided to do something about it. He felt that going back to basics and over-delivering at every price point was the route forwards – and using the size of the company to its advantage. Every year, for example, he holds back 500-1000 cases of many of his wines so he can deliver them to the trade ready-aged, the company has a major innovation programme and sees international awards as a key component. Geoffrey Dean caught up with McGuigan over a tasting of four vintages each of the McGuigan Shortlist Riesling and McGuigan Bin 9000 Semillon
“We think differently from our competitors,” is how Edouard Baijot MW sums up E&J Gallo’s commitment to transforming its super premium wine portfolio that has seen it spend over $1bn in the last five years alone on acquiring new wineries and brands. The key for Gallo when it comes to super premium wines is control. Which means being able to manage every step of the winemaking process – from grape to glass. It now means at last 70% of its revenue now comes from brands that did not exist in Gallo 15 years ago and 40% with brands it did not have 10 years ago. Here Baijot sets out the strategy that has redefined its super premium wine offer.
A fortnight on from its awards banquet at the Guildhall in London, the International Wine & Spirit competition is open for entries again for next year’s event as it announces a series of changes to its judging process and line-up of key judges, including the news that Steven Spurrier is to be honorary chair of the IWSC. Richard Siddle looks into what other big steps the IWSC is taking to shake up and improve further how it awards and picks out its winning wines and spirits.
Look for a good grower, look for a top vintage and look out especially for Bourgogne Côte d’Or and Bourgogne Hautes Côtes de Nuits as they offer impressive value for money, says Flint Wines. Many more good tipsin this second part of a series in which The Buyer is interviewing a number of leading fine wine merchants to get their feel on how this vital region is doing and what the 2020 has in store when the annual Bourgogne campaign comes to a head with Bourgogne Week.
Here’s a wine fact for you: the grape variety, Furmint, is actually the half-sibling of Riesling and Chardonnay via its parent Gouais Blanc (aka Heunisch Weiss). Well it is according to Master of Wine Caroline Gilby who also just happens to be not only a big fan, but one of the world’s leading expert on how and why Furmint is becoming a real quality benchmark for Hungarian wine. You can find out for yourself at the second Furmint February tasting being held on January 29 2020. Before then here’s Gilby’s personal assessment of why we should be paying more attention to Furmint.
In the lead up to Hallgarten & Novum’s 2019 portfolio tasting, portfolio director Jim Wilson kindly granted a brief interview to the annoying oeno-eco-warrior that is Mike Turner. Turner was keen to understand more about the changing shape of Hallgarten & Novum’s portfolio, and whether the move towards a more sustainable future was central to their plans. Turner also wanted to know what, if anything, was being done with the company’s 190 wine producers to offer more eco-friendly products.
When Brut Elite Cuvee 1501 was adjudged to be Australia’s finest sparkling wine at this year’s Champagne & Sparkling Wine World Championships, it was yet another gong in a long list of awards that Tasmania-based winery House of Arras has racked up in the past 25 years. Arras winemaker Ed Carr could be forgiven for resting on his laurels, but far from it, as Geoffrey Dean found out when he met up with him for a one-on-one tasting in London. Since Carlyle Group’s purchase of Accolade Wines last year, the moves are being made for Arras to become a truly global brand, with production to increase by as much as 50% in the mid-term future.
Mike Turner sat down with fellow wine writer and all round drinks industry rising star, Harry Crowther to ask him about Buckingham Schenk, which has recently acquired Crowther’s services to help launch its new look portfolio for next year. With Buckingham Schenk opting for a Taste of the Mediterranean-style tasting Turner wanted to know the inside track on which were the essential three wines from the portfolio…
There may well be the vital festive trading period ahead of us, but for those in the fine wine world, there is arguably an even bigger yearly event just a few weeks away and the annual Bourgogne campaign, which comes to a head with Bourgogne Week. Over the next few weeks The Buyer will be interviewing a number of leading fine wine merchants to get their feel on how this vital region is doing and what the 2020 campaign has in store. First up is Montrachet Fine Wine Merchants.
As well as celebrating some of the world’s current leading players in wine and spirits at last night’s International Wine & Spirit Competition awards night it was also an opportunity to look to the next generation of business talent with the announcement of the IWSC’s first Future 50 Awards list, in partnership with the WSET, to recognise those individuals around the world that they believe will be helping to shape the drinks industry in the years to come. Here are the highlights from both the IWSC awards and the Future 50 list.
Italy is so blessed with different styles of fine wine it can be hard to stand out even if you make as prestigious and world famous wines as Amarone. It’s part of the reason why the Famiglie Storiche group of premium producers was set up. To both promote, but also to protect the reputation and prestige of these unique wines from Valpolicella in the Veneto region of north-eastern Italy. This week, to mark the groups’s 10th anniversary, it is hosting a special walk around tasting in London featuring wines from all its crus and styles. Here Alberto Zenato, president of the group, explains what Famiglie Storiche is all about and what we can expect at the tasting.
The first barrel sample that Peter Sisseck ever tasted was a 1982 Mouton Rothschild. It became a benchmark of quality for the impressionable young Danish winemaker who left Bordeaux for Ribera del Duero and Pingus where he makes some of Spain’s greatest wines. Sisseck returned to Saint-Émilion a decade ago with the intention of making old school terroir-driven claret that relies on its limestone soils rather than over-extraction or over-barrelling for its power and individuality. In the intervening years, however, he believes Bordeaux has suffered from a standardisation that is making many of the wines taste the same. So how has he set out his stall differently? And, most importantly, are the wines of Château Rocheyron displaying those changes?
With so many different parts and aspects of the wine and spirits industry it’s only right we should grasp the opportunity to reward and shine the light on those individuals who are going the extra mile in whatever sector they are in. Which is what the Julian Brind MW trophy at the International Wine & Spirit Competition looks to do. Here we profile two more of the finalists for this year’s prize: PR manager, Sula Richardson of Phipps Relations and wine educator from Tasmania, Curly Haslam-Coates.
“It’s not a world we know – it’s unchartered territory”. But that does not mean the team at Origin Wine is not determined to make a success of their new venture into the premium on-trade with Origin Vineyards. An opportunity for Origin’s founder, Bernard Fontannaz, to take his considerable commercial experience working with the world’s biggest supermarkets and bring a more market, consumer-focused approach to his range of initially South African and Argentine wines for premium quality restaurants.
The English wine industry continues to surprise and surpass all expectations as production, quality and respect all around the world increases with every vintage. One of the leading players responsible for those changes is Ridgeview in East Sussex. It therefore feels very timely that a key member of its team, Tom Surgey, who heads up its sales and business development, should be shortlisted for this year’s IWSC Julian Brand Memorial Trophy to recognise one of the rising new talents of the wine industry.
Simon Robinson has an unique perspective on the British wine industry. He has fingers in a lot of pies – as chairman of both Hampshire-based winery Hattingley Valley and industry association WineGB. And he is bullish about the future of both. He has grown his estate from empty chalk hills to being one of the UK’s biggest wine exporters, his award-winning winemaker Emma Rice is set to make their first still Chardonnay and he believes that Brexit and a weaker pound will help the maturing industry secure distribution abroad. Justin Keay talks to the Hattingley team as well as tastes through their new releases.
Simpsons Wine Estate was set up in Barham, Kent six years ago with the intention of making English sparkling wine. The news that its Chalklands Classic Cuvee has just won a major gong at the CSWW awards with its first ever release is an indication that their young operation is producing sparkling wine at the right level of quality. But a third of its output is English still wine, a category that they believe holds the secret to their long term success. Peter Dean met them on the eve of their 2019 harvest to find out how they intend to take English still wine into quality levels it has so far failed to reach.
We hear a lot about the importance of long term relationships when it comes to restaurants, hotels, bars and their drinks suppliers. Which is why it is particularly refreshing to see one such partnership blossoming as well as the one between Corney & Barrow and premium Lake District hotel, The Forest Side, thanks, in part, to the close personal relations its general manager Alasdair Elwick has forged with C&B over his career. Here Richard Siddle talks to Elwick to find out what aspects of that relationship are so important.
The UK wine trade is used to having the opportunity to take part in special wine tasting events. The world of wine is always keen to show what it can do to some of the planet’s most influential buyers. On November 1 the opportunity falls on Napa Valley to demonstrate how the style and diversity of Cabernet Sauvignon has evolved over the last 30 years with a special Perspective tasting that will allow producers to show how one wine has changed and adapted over three vintages. Here’s what you can look forward to.
Thankfully Liam Hirt and Danny Walker are not only close friends, but have become successful business partners in not one but two craft spirits businesses based in Bristol. First the Psychopomp Distillery, which is the result of what happens when you take a hobby that started out in a basement and open it up to the public. Its limited edition craft gins now sell out on demand. It is now looking to do the same with its grain and whisky concept, the Circumstance Distillery which is as much about combining flavours and ferments as it is about craft distilling. Richard Siddle caught up with this fascinating duo who have also created their own craft spirit cryptocurrency…as you do.