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.
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.
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.
Milan Wine Week 2020 is not quite what founder Federico Gordini had in mind as he closed the successful 2019 event a little over nine months ago. A repeat of 300,000-plus attendees is clearly no longer on the cards. But a little thing like a global pandemic wasn’t going to stop this Milanese entrepreneur and, as Mike Turner found out recently, the plans in place look set to lay a benchmark for the weeks and months to come across the global wine trade.
With the South African government banning all domestic sales of alcohol for a second time, what was already a tough lockdown has become even harder. There have been numerous charity drives and initiatives worldwide to encourage people to buy South African wine – to give wine producers a financial lifeline. The latest move sees CAPREO backing the Eat Out Restaurant Relief Fund that is, in turn, helping restaurants get back on their feet.
When was the last time you went out of your way to order, buy or drink a Dolcetto wine? With so much competition from other Italian classic grape varieties it has plummeted down the popularity stakes for many years, overtaken in its homeland of Piedmonte by Nebbiolo, in particular, and the Barolo and Barbaresco wines it makes. But sommelier Mattia Scarpazza believes the best quality Dolcetto wines, made from the DOCG vines, are very much worth a second look.
Greta Thunberg is too young to drink, of course, but when she does she’ll probably reach for a bottle of Portuguese wine imported by Xisto Wines. For while reducing carbon emissions is high on the agenda of most respecting drinks companies, Bristol-based Xisto has taken it one step further. Part of its Circle of Zero Waste philosophy is to sail artisanal wines in traditional cargo ships from Porto to Bristol in barrels, bottle them using re-purposed Espumante bottles and deliver without using plastic or fossil fuel. Peter Dean caught up with Xisto after its first voyage into London Docks.
The 4th July has taken on a new meaning in 2020. The on-trade and the vast supply chain that supports it have spent the past few weeks all gearing up for how they can re-open their doors to a new ‘normal’ of eating and drinking out. The hit during Covid-19 has been sudden and upsetting. Sadly, for some, it has been devastating and they won’t be able to join the rest of the trade in even trying to re-open. But for those who are bouncing back, what measures and protocols are being put in place to ensure they are on the right side of the ever changing government guidelines. Here Harry Crowther talks to Martin Williams, chief executive of Rare Restaurants (Gaucho and M Restaurants) to find out what he and his team have been up to behind the scenes during lockdown, and Andrew Maidment, the man who is heading up the exciting changes that have taken place to Gaucho’s new-look wine list, which were very much at the heart of its pre-lockdown re-launch and will be key to how it returns from July 4.
“There are no right or wrong answers for us when it comes to wine.” That’s the refreshing attitude that Mike Boyne has brought to his BinTwo wine bar and merchants business in Padstow, Cornwall that has made it such a success over a small period of time both with his customers and the suppliers who are happy to travel to meet him and show him ever more adventurous wines. Here he talks about what life has been like in lockdown in one of Cornwall’s most famous tourist towns, but most of all he shares his uplifting views on what wine means to him and the kind of service he wants to give his customers.
Pubs come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and can cater for all our needs on a night out. From the good ol local that is the hub of the community, to destination gourmet pubs that are more like fine dining restaurants. The Red Lion & Sun in Highgate village, north London, probably sits somewhere in the middle. A pub that has a wine list that would be the envy of any master sommelier, and you’re likely to bump into Liam Gallagher ordering another pint of Guinness. Whilst 1000s of pubs have been shut over the last three moths, the Red Lion & Sun has really come into its own thanks to the drive and imagination of its larger than life owner, Heath Ball, who has made it the go to place for Highgate locals looking for fine food and wine to deliver or collect and enjoy an escape from lockdown.
If you are going to win an award for being the best at what you do it might seem a bit bizarre to receive it at a time when you can’t actually do the job you are being congratulated for doing. It that at all makes sense. But that’s the situation that Mark Quick, head of wine at Hawksmoor, found himself in last month on finding out he had been named Restaurant Buyer of the Year in the inaugural London Wine Fair Wine Buyers Awards. It was, though, a massive boost for him whilst he tries to keep himself busy whilst, like thousands of others, he is currently on furlough due to the Covid-19 outbreak. Here he explains to Richard Siddle some of the ideas that helped him come away with the top prize.
“You may be closed but you are not forgotten”. That is the key message behind a series of A-list producer webinars set up by Armit’s buyer Nicolas Clerc MS aimed exclusively at sommeliers and those in the on-trade. The six events feature rarely-accessed wine estates such as Sassicaia, Chateau Latour and today’s destination Chateau Lafleur. Peter Dean caught up with Clerc to find out more.
It might be over a year since Gerard Basset OBE MW MS, arguably the world’s best ever and certainly most well known and charismatic sommelier, died at the age of 61. But his memory is still so fresh – and refreshing – with not just the people in the trade who knew him well, but for those who he inspired, either to follow in his footsteps to become a sommelier, or just the desire to live life to the full and share what you know with passion and a smile. Thankfully he was able to share his life’s experiences in the autobiography he wrote over his last few months. Here’s just one chapter from a typically captivating book.
There’s probably no such thing as an easy sell in the premium on-trade, but when the customer clearly knows exactly what they want, even without opening the wine list, it makes the life of a sommelier just that little bit easier. But what about encouraging customers to pick a wine that they know absolutely nothing about? This was the subject of an entertaining webinar yesterday afternoon that had London’s Mandarin Oriental head of wine, Stefan Neumann MS, explaining how we would sell five Italian wines from Banfi, including one whose variety he had never heard of and another which he hadn’t tried.
In early January, when the world was a very different place, Mattia Scarpazza, head sommelier at Petersham Nurseries, spent a week in Chile with fellow sommeliers, Sara Rossi head sommelier at Trinity and Noemi Farvart, sommelier at Le Gavroche, who were also his team mates who helped them win the Wine Bar War competition, hosted by Wines of Chile, that allowed them to go on the trip in the first place. Here he looks back on a week that took in 13 wineries, the chance to taste just under 200 wines, whilst travelling over 700km of this ever changing country.
In this first in a series of reports from Prague, drinks consultant Harry Crowther finds that if you scratch beneath the surface of ‘Stag Party central’ you will find a buzzing drinks scene with awesome bars and a new wine scene heavily influenced by Austrian and Hungarian vignerons. In this post, Crowther meets up with Milos Danihelka bartender from the L’Fleur whose love of Champagne has started his very own grower revolution. Listed as one of the world’s Top 50 Discovery bars, L’Fleur has an exciting range of cocktails but it is the wine list that now boasts 120 Champagnes with over 70 lines coming from the grower circuit, that has really got tongues wagging, and helped him set up his own on-trade importing business Terroirs Champagne.
Saturday night saw the final service at The Harrow at Little Bedwyn, the Wiltshire-based restaurant run by Roger and Sue Jones for 21 years, which had become a favourite haunt for the wine industry – tickets for final sittings were selling faster than hand sanitiser. One of the final lunches was a classic, hosted by Vranken Pommery, keen to pair its top cuvées from the 2002 vintage with Jones’ faultless eye for culinary detail. David Kermode was there for The Buyer who reports that even with the disaster of the Coronavirus looming ever closer, it could not detract from a meal of truly epic proportions.
“The rituals of eating and drinking together are at the heart of our civilisation, of our very humanity, yet now they are what make us all most vulnerable.” In just one sentence Kate Hawkings, a former restaurant owner herself, captures the dilemma we are now faced with. The desire on one hand to support our local on-trade, but the knowledge we might be putting each other risk if we do go out eating and drinking. Here she shares her personal feelings towards coping with Covid-19 and talks to her contacts and friends in the restaurant trade about what impact it is having on their businesses.
As we named this platform The Buyer, clearly what goes into being a good drinks buyer is a topic very close to our hearts. Which is why we not only welcomed the new Wine Buyers Awards from the London Wine Fair but were very pleased to be the media partner for its Restaurant and Wine Bar category. Now the judging has been completed it’s time to announce the shortlist in each of the categories. The winners will be announced on May 19 at a special session at the London Wine Fair itself.
There are no hard or fast rules when it comes to buying wine for a restaurant wine list, but there are arguably more ways in which you can get it wrong, than if you play it safe with well known varieties from established regions and countries. To stand out in the new London Wine Fair Wine Buyers Awards you are going to have to do a lot more than that. One of the judges for the Restaurant and Wine Bar category, Martin Lam, explains what he thinks makes a good wine buyer.