“Brixton is a million things to a million people. That’s what makes it special.” So says Andrew Murray-Watson and Calandra Smith, the partners and team behind Brixton’s very own gin brand. Appropriately named Brixton Gin. It is also a brave call to be the ones to try and encapsulate all that Brixton stands for in your own gin brand. But Murray-Watson is as well placed as anyone to give it a go having lived in Brixton since 2004 and started his own deli and drinks shop, Guzzl, in 2017. Here he talks to Richard Siddle about what why he thinks Brixton Gin truly captures the spirit of this unique part of London.
Mateja Gravner and her son Gregor have taken over the running of the Gravner estate, split across Italy’s Northeastern border with Slovenia, after the tragic death of her brother 12 years ago. Mateja’s father Josko is widely regarded as one of the pioneers of Orange wine in Western winemaking, continuing the Collio/Brda tradition of skin contact Ribolla wines, and pushing it further with months-long macerations, fermenting in qvevri, biodynamic viticulture and, most recently, with a total conversion to whole bunch fermentation in 2017. Mateja spoke to the Buyer in the summer about how she has been coping during the pandemic.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
Throughout this new series of interviews with some of the world’s top winemakers we have heard differing stories of how vignerons have coped during the pandemic – the lessons learned and what changes they are implementing as they face the future. But what of winemakers in China? What has been the experience in the country where the virus started? For Emma Gao, winemaker at Silver Heights, she has helped the winery’s expansion both at home and abroad, experimented with new cuvées including her first Pet Nat and taken home some fundamental truths about wine’s place in the grand scheme of things.
South African wine producers have been particularly badly hit by Covid and by actions taken by their government. Although one of many alcohol bans has recently been lifted, restrictions on hospitality are still in place and slowing the pace of recovery. As part of our ongoing series on winemakers emerging from the pandemic, Anthony Hamilton Russell of Hemel-en-Aarde pioneers Hamilton Russell Vineyards, explains how he has been running his operation, and how the ‘new normal’ will see him re-focus his wine portfolio, and benefit from improvements made during the past 18 months in distribution, communication the cellar and vineyards.
When AYALA closed its cellar for a month in March last year, it was the first time that this had happened since the winegrower revolt in Champagne in 1911. For the House’s chef de cave, Caroline Latrive, the pandemic has forced many changes upon her and her team, as it has on winemakers right across the globe. In this latest instalment of The Buyer’s series, Adjusting to the New Normal, we find out how AYALA is moving onwards and upwards as the world adapts to the changes wrought by Covid-19, both from a winemaking perspective but also how the commercial team has fared, as director general Hadrien Mouflard paints a picture of how he has met some of the many challenges.
Describing himself humbly as a ‘single vineyard vigneron’, others in the wine trade might call Tapanappa’s Brian Croser ‘a vine and wine visionary’ or ‘innovator’. In a career that has spanned more than 50 years he has arguably done more than anyone to shape the Australian wine industry – a true trailblazer, mentor and industry leader. Writing for The Buyer from his home at the Tiers Vineyard in the Piccadilly Valley, the first vineyard he planted, he describes what winemaking in the COVID environment has been like for him and how the future is shaping up. This is the second instalment in our Adjusting to the New Normal series in which we discuss the impact of COVID with winemakers around the world. We want to know from the people who actually make the wine how has their life been in the past 18 months? What additional challenges have they faced as winemakers? And how are they adapting to the new normal?
Elvira Maria Bortolomiol has a big job on her hands. As the new president of Consorzio of Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG she is taking over the vision, control and strategy for the overall region at a crucial time in its history. After a decade or more of unprecedented success the pressure is on to not just keep that momentum going, but finding new ways to reach out to more export countries and increase the diversity of Prosecco styles in the market. Here she explains what she sees as being her key priorities.
“It is really a dream come true to be able to demonstrate the spectacular range of sparkling, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay styles that are possible in the Russian River Valley.” That is how Nicole Hitchcock describes her role as winemaker at J Vineyards, which has been able to move up to the next level of its growth following its acquisition in 2015 by E&J Gallo Winery. Here she shares her background in wine, how she became a winemaker and just what it is about the Russian River that gives J Vineyards all the tools a winemaker would want to make a wide range of classic Californian wines.
All eyes are on the Tokyo Olympics of course, which are coping with an unprecedented level of restriction, so now seemed as good a time as any to find out how Ayana Misawa, winemaker at Grace Wine, one of Japan’s leading wineries, is coping as a winemaker. The interview is the first of a new series The Buyer is running throughout the summer with key influential winemakers across the globe. We want to know from the people who actually make the wine how has their life been in the past 18 months? What additional challenges have they faced as winemakers? And how are they adapting to the new normal?
Elisha Rai and Tom Cannon are not the first to have enjoyed a successful career in the City before swapping careers to go into English wine, but Rai is one of the first to have done so from a BAME background. Here they explain how they are looking to bring a very different approach to English wine, by focusing on creating a rosé brand – Folc – using grapes bought by the best producers they can find in Kent and Sussex. A brand that was launched in lockdown and has already picked up medals in the IWSC and IWC awards – only one of two English rosés to have done so.