It’s said getting wines listed in key restaurants is all about relationships, usually between the importer and sommelier or head of wine at any particular venue. But there are times when the usual rules of engagement go out of the window, particularly when you have the personalities of Martin Williams, chief executive of Rare Restaurants, that includes the Gaucho Group and M Restaurants, and Ken Forrester, founder of South Africa’s Ken Forrester Wines involved. They have formed a friendship as well as business relationship which has culminated in them working together on a bespoke wine that Forrester has made for Williams called ‘The Rare Barrel’ made from one of the few plots of Mourvèdre in South Africa.
They say you should not go back to previous roles where you have enjoyed great success before. The conditions that allowed you to thrive first time round can be very different when you return. Martin Williams, chief executive of the Gaucho group of premium Argentine-inspired restaurants, is proving to be an exception to that rule. Since he took over the failing chain as the head of a new private equity-funded hospitality group, Rare Restaurants, that also includes Williams’ own M Restaurants, it is going from strength to strength with new openings in Liverpool, Newcastle and from this month in Covent Garden, with Cardiff waiting in the wings. Richard Siddle catches up with Williams to find out what made him want to go back and to hear more about what he calls his vision for premium, event and occasion driven dining.
German wines are renowned for pairing well with food and to help prove it, Wines of Germany is hosting a series called #SommSessions – a masterclass in German wine exclusively for the on-trade and sommeliers from around the UK, hosted by acclaimed, award winning sommelier, Jan Konetzki, four times winner of ‘UK Sommelier of the Year’. Here, Helen Arnold sits in on the first #SommSession held recently at the Mei Ume restaurant in London’s Four Seasons Hotel which specialises in traditional Chinese and Japanese dishes. How did the German wines pair with its cuisine?
Victoria Sharples is a long way from her original home in Melbourne, but with her new Swains Wine Bar & Store she wants to bring a little bit of that Victorian vibe to the local community next to Hampstead Heath in north London. Sharples is well placed to know what makes a good wine bar for not only did she used to run venues in Melbourne, she was, for a number of years, wine director at London institution, St JOHN, and hopes all that experience can bear fruit at her first UK venue. Richard Siddle took a trip to Hampstead Heath to enjoy the Swains experience for himself.
The Jura is arguably one of the least well-known French wine regions, but independent restaurant Levan in London’s Peckham – winner of Special Jury prize in 2022 Star Wine List of the Year UK with The Buyer – is blazing a trail with a list which champions this largely overlooked area of the north-east of the country. Helen Arnold talks to co-owner and founder Mark Gurney.
As the clock ticks down to the final days to enter the UK Wine List of the Year competition, run by Star Wine List in partnership with The Buyer, we look back at one of last year’s big winners – The Vineyard at Stockcross. In all it picked up three wine list awards for California, Germany and New Zealand in the 2022 awards. Here Helen Arnold analyses its success in the New Zealand category and talks to director of wine, Romain Bourger, about how he puts the overall wine list together.
For many years California’s most prestigious and acclaimed wines struggled to get out of the state, never mind the rest of the United States, or reach the shores of the UK. Now it is a very different story with premium wine venues such as 67 Pall Mall offering a whole new platform for the best Californian wines to shine. Here we talk to 67’s head sommelier Federico Moccia about what opportunities he sees for California
in fine wine circles and how it is working with Californian producers Louis M. Martini and Orin Swift to promote its top wines to its members.
It’s a conundrum for any wine merchant, wine bar or restaurant business that is expanding well away from the initial sites and venues that helped make their name. How do you keep that culture and identity that made you popular in the first place? Well, here’s a new idea from Charlie Young and Brett Woonton, co-founders of Vinoteca, who have introduced a new mobile experience that allows you to “carry Brett and Charlie” around in your pocket, and ask them wine questions from your phone. It then uses breakthrough digital technology – dubbed as conversational commerce – to offer pre-recorded answers to cover the vast majority of questions that might come up. Make sense? Read on to find out more.
“Brand recognition, especially for California, is key. It’s not just about branding though; they’re all great wines and Orin Swift, in particular, has a great story to it.” Adam Kirkbride, wine buyer at the Secret Bottle Shop in Hereford, explains why he is so focused on Californian wines and has chosen to work so closely with the team at E&J Gallo to list a range of its premium producers and is one of the few operators in the country to list the full Orin Swift range of iconic wines.
Paz Levinson might have made her name and reputation as a world leading sommelier working outside her home country of Argentina, but she has always remained close to the wine scene there and how she can help promote the best wines that Argentina is producing. Which is why she has launched her new ‘Argentina Reloaded’ programme that hopes to showcase in key cities around the world the most exciting developments in Argentina’s burgeoning wine industry. Here she explains to Richard Siddle just what ‘Argentina Reloaded’ is all about.
Crowned Best Sommelier of the World, aged just 27, Marc Almert could easily have rested on his laurels. But his desire to learn and help others in the profession, plus the impact of Covid on both his job as chief sommelier at Zurich’s Baur au Lac and his tenure as world’s best, have seen his career take some unusual turns. Peter Dean caught up with him in Vienna to talk Austrian wine, life as the world’s best sommelier, the need to compete and how Covid has unexpectedly allowed him to be king for another year.
Wines of Germany is offering the UK wine trade a deep dive into German wines on June 22 when its live event, The Big G Trade Sessions, returns. Through a series of panel discussions, masterclasses and tutored tastings, members of the trade will be able discover the quality of German wine and learn all about the current trends. Here we talk to Jonathan Kleeman head sommelier at London’s two Michelin-starred Restaurant Story who is hosting one of the sessions about what he thinks of German wine.
As the clock ticks down for the start of the 31 Days of Riesling campaign for 2022 in July, The Buyer looks back on last year’s competition that attracted over independent wine merchants, bars and restaurants to take part, who brought German Riesling to life in their outlets and venues. Here Helen Arnold talks to the overall on-trade winner, Tessa and Elliott Lidstone of the Box-E restaurant in Bristol.
If you want to sell wine in the on-trade then here’s some new wine research you need to read, digest and take action on. KAM, the consumer research analysts that usually focus their attention on the pub, bar, and convenience store sectors, has produced its first dedicated study that looks to better understand exactly what it is the average consumer wants out of wine when they are going out for a drink. Produced in partnership with Hallgarten & Novum Wines it is based on interviews with 500 wine drinkers at the end of February and clearly identifies which wine styles and price points are most in demand, but also shows just how important good customer service is when selling wine and, in particular, the need for staff to make the whole wine buying experience more relaxed and not intimidating. As Colin Cameron, marketing director for Hallgarten & Novum Wines says: “The reward is too big for pubs, bars, and restaurants to let these customers slip away. Life maybe too short for bad wine, but, in the eye of the customer, it’s also too short for bad service and bad experiences. Good wine and good experiences, however, could be the key to a very long, and successful life, for our venues.” Get it right and there could be at least £500 a year per customer, per venue up for grabs. Read Richard Siddle’s analysis of the KAM study here.
No-one in hospitality needs telling how hard the past two years have been. The impact of COVID and its aftermath has had a devastating effect on businesses across the world. And that impact is still being felt. In order to raise money for sector-specific charity Hospitality Action UK, The Buyer’s Peter Dean is joining Bike to Care en Bourgogne’s bid to raise money for those hardest hit in the hotel and restaurant industries – people who are struggling with physical, financial, mental health and addiction problems.
The Lucky Penny Group should really call itself the Lucky Pounds, Shillings & Pence Group considering the number of different aspects there are to the business. At its heart it’s a thriving, ambitious Liverpool-based restaurant and bar company focused around two key brands, BoBo, an Iberian wine bar specialising in Spanish and Portuguese wine, and Abditory, that prides itself on offering classic spirits, cocktails and wines. But Lucky Penny also offer a wide range of hospitality consultancy services, from bar design to restaurant concepts and even has its own specialist outdoor clothing business. Richard Siddle catches up with managing director, Steven Burgess, to get his take on what Lucky Penny Group is all about.
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.
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?
“One thing we’re great at as an industry is collaboration, particularly over the course of the pandemic. People have really come together to create fresh ways of working and new partnerships – with great distress comes great creativity, and I think that’s something the sector has really proved this year.” That’s the way that Jillian MacLean, founder and chief executive of the Drake & Morgan pub group, describes what makes the drinks industry such a unique place to work. It is also one of the main reasons why she has become a trustee of The Drinks Trust and an opportunity for her to share some of her experience as a leader and major employer in the hospitality industry at a key time in the charity’s history.
The memory and influence of Gerard Basset OBE MW MS are encapsulated by the new series of Golden Vines scholarships that are being awarded as part of the Gerard Basset Wine Education Charitable Foundation in partnership with Liquid Icons. Two of the most prestigious scholarships are the The Golden Vines™ Masters of Wine and The Golden Vines™ Master Sommelier Scholarships which, in their inaugural year, have been awarded to Mags Jango, founder of the UK wine distribution business, MJ Wine Cellars, and Winnie Toh, a sommelier from Singapore, who is currently working at the Aman Hotel in Turks and Caicos. They will both receive £12,500 to cover the full costs of tuition, examination and tastings to take part in the two programmes, including the opportunity to take part in exclusive winery visits and study tours. In the first of two profiles on the winning students we talk to Winnie Toh about her career and what she hopes winning the Master Sommelier scholarship will do for her career.