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.
Since Condor Wines was established in 2011, it has carved a niche as one of the UK’s foremost importers of wines from Argentina, Chile and Uruguay. To celebrate its 10th anniversary, Condor’s founder, Lee Evans, hosted a day of webinar sessions with representatives from several of the really interesting wineries with which he works, comparing and contrasting their different regions and enlightening us on the challenges and opportunities they face now and in the future.
In just over a decade Mirabeau has become not just one of the most recognisable, influential and fastest growing Provence rosé brands, it has successfully crossed a line few wine brands have been able to achieve and become a lifestyle brand in its own right. So much so that other household lifestyle brands, particularly from fashion and health and beauty, are keen to bask in the halo effect from the aspirational, escapist Provence imagery that Mirabeau has captured so well. Here founder Stephen Cronk, in the second part of his extensive interview with The Buyer, explains how the business plan for Mirabeau was to create a brand from day one and the steps they have taken to make it happen.
Former Somerset cricketer and wine expert Geoffrey Dean reports on the inspirational story of Doddie’5 Red Blend 2019, a unique South African red blend which has many parts to it but one purpose – to raise money for ex-Scotland rugby player Doddle Weir OBE, now suffering with Motor Neurone Disease. Weir wore the No.5 shirt for Scotland while Schalk Burger, who made the wine with his son Tiaan, wore the No.5 for the Springboks. In another homage to the wine’s sporting provenance the blend is made of five grape varieties with £5 from every bottle sale donated to Weir’s MND charity and Burger constructing the wine as if it were a team of legends.
Here’s an en primeur system of paying for wine in advance that gets to the core of real winemaking, dedicated to reviving, and in some cases, bringing vineyards back from the dead. Derek Mossman Knapp of Chile’s Garage Wine Company explains how he has helped introduced a ‘Revival’ winemaking programme focused on neglected vineyards across rural Chile. A project that is both helping to rediscover old vines and create unique new wines, but has also captured the imagination of major producer and distributor, Freixenet Copestick, that is helping to part fund the initiative as well as sell Garage’s wines in the UK.
Stephen Cronk’s dream to make wine in Provence took a long time to come true. Eleven years and a whole different career in telecoms passed by before eventually he, and his wife Jeany, plucked up the courage to actually make happen what they had spent over a decade craving to do. But it was a time well spent as it gave the Cronks the time, the experience and the knowledge to start and then grow what has gone on to become the global success of Mirabeau. A business based on the concept of creating a Provence wine brand that embodies the nature and viticultural values of the region, but also captures the iconic imagery and lifestyle of the south of France. As they introduce the first wine grown on their own estate – La Réserve – Stephen Cronk sits down with Richard Siddle for the first part of a two part interview on how the Cronks’ Mirabeau dream came true.
Langham Wine Estate is still relatively new to winemaking, it has the UK’s youngest winemaker in Tommy Grimshaw, and yet the awards keep rolling in. Last year it was named the world’s top sparkling wine producer and its wines racked up high critics’ scores and top awards at wine shows – including being the only British pink fizz to win a Gold from the IWSC. Now it has launched an ambitious new wine called Zig Zag and is Britain’s first on-tap sparkling wine. The wine is an English col fondo meaning its secondary fermentation takes place in a keg. Kate Hawkings visited the estate and got the story.
Selling rosé in magnum has always been key to the sales strategy of AIX, becoming the market leader in Provence rosé in a little over ten years. And, as the world starts ending its cabin fever and heads towards the new Roaring Twenties, that ploy has never looked smarter. Speaking from his 75-hectare base in the South of France, Dutch owner/ winemaker Eric Kurver tells Peter Dean how he’s set to clear 125,000 magnums this year and many larger formats besides. The formula has always been pretty straightforward, although they have had to work with clients to overcome some issues, like how does a sommelier gracefully pour glasses from a 15-litre bottle that weighs 22 kilos.
Entering any drinks competition is ultimately about trying to win a Gold medal for your brand, but to be then told that your product is not just of gold standard but the best out of all other products entered in your category from around the world really is something else. It means the team at Ramsbury Brewery & Distillery are still reeling from being named Best Spirit of the Year in the 2021 London Spirits Competition for its Ramsbury Single Estate Vodka.
It seems every city has their own gin these days, but the team behind York Gin set themselves a high bar when they looked to create a gin that would live up to the history and traditions of York, one of England’s oldest and most famous cities, and be a gin the city could be proud of. Three years on and the founding team, who first came up with the idea in their local pub, can look back on a brand that has picked up gold medals and expanded into different flavours and styles.
“Women are having more and more of a say whether it is in viticulture, winemaking, tasting, sommelier. It may be necessary one day to have a parity policy – otherwise there will only be women.” Corinne Chevrier is proud and excited by the changes she has seen in the role, respect and influence female winemakers and growers now have in the traditional world of Bordeaux producers. Here she shares her experiences working in wine and how she has helped to put her mark on Bordeaux winemaking with the wines she makes at Château Bel-Air La Royère.
We’ve seen a number of drinks retailers and suppliers introduce a variety of schemes that help wine drinkers pre-determine the kinds of wines they will like based on their tasting preferences. Well here’s a similar concept from the world of coffee and how Piqant uses artificial intelligence technology to help coffee lovers identify the styles, flavours and tastes they want in their coffee and then select a range of coffees for them to trial at home. Co-founder Rosanna Nibbs Senise explains how it works and what lessons we can learn from it in the drinks industry.
There are some ideas for a new business that seem so obvious you can’t believe someone has not thought of it before. Like Still In Cask. A business model based on the idea of having a blockchain powered website on which distilleries from all over the world can put up casks of aged spirits for people to buy individual cask shares worth one bottle each for as little as £20. Be it a whisky, rum, tequila or whatever aged spirit a distiller might want to offer. It hopes to open up spirit investment to the everyday spirits lover and, in particular, attract a new younger generation of spirits drinkers, and give distilleries the chance to get much needed cash into their business. It’s all the idea of the team behind craft distiller, Circumstance Distillery, Liam Hart and Danny Walker who are working in partnership with Illy Jaffar, managing director of Kinetic and formerly of Pernod Ricard, and entrepreneur Zak Hirt, to what they call “democratise” the ownership of cask spirits whilst creating and bringing together a community of spirits lovers online. Richard Siddle hear’s how it is all going to work and how the the idea first came out of The Buyer’s first One Step Beyond innovation conference last March.
Chris Wilson always felt that his Bacchus 2020 – the first wine he has ever made – would be a popular choice, but in just a few days the entire allocation had sold out. Wine scribe-turned-winemaker, Wilson describes the first day of letting ‘strangers’ into his tiny windmill winery, Gutter & Stars; the power of media; some cute marketing ploys and the ‘2nd album syndrome’ – the old music industry fear that it is all well and good charting with your debut album, but what are you going to follow it up with?
The last year of lockdowns and restrictions across the hospitality sector has been brutal for so many companies that have gone out of business through no fault of their own. Yet, amidst the decimation, some have innovated and risen, as Braden Saunders at Doghouse Distillery beautifully describes, like a phoenix from the ashes. Battersea-based Doghouse Distillery has worked hard to keep innovating and make sure it has the right brands and spirits to come out the other side. It has even found time to launch its own whisky. To get the finer details Jessica Broadbent caught up with Saunders, Doghouse Head Hydrator who founded the distillery with his wife Katherine in 2018.
Australians have been trying to sell us beer for as long as Paul Hogan was in short trousers. But the 3 Ravens Brewery in Melbourne has a slightly different take on the beer scene than our friends at Foster’s. It is very much about capturing the irreverent Australian personality in its beers, but matching it with authentic, local ingredients that gives the brewery an ever changing range of quality, but quirky craft beers that have gone down a storm at home and now want to make it around the world, including the UK, explains general manager Nathan Liascos.
Even a business as seemingly entrenched and successful as Origin Wine, one of the world’s most respected and successful wine producers, making wine in South Africa and South America and creating brands that sell the world over, has had to take serious action in the last 12 months to respond to the challenges thrown down by Covid-19. A key part of that response has been working with experienced winemaker and consultant, Clem Yates MW, on developing bespoke blends and wines for customers when buyers have been unable to travel, as Richard Siddle reports.
The second Cape Fine & Rare Auction takes place on May 22 with a 200-year old bottle of sweet Muscat de Frontignan hogging all the headlines. But it is not just Groot Constantia’s bottle of Grand Constance 1821 that makes this year’s event worth registering for. A new tasting panel, a new set of criteria and overall set-up has ensured that the range of wines on offer and the quality level has never been higher. Geoffrey Dean talked to leading South African wine critic Michael Fridjhon,
Cathy van Zyl MW and François Rautenbach about why wine buyers should tune in this year, what’s on offer and how the auction delivers a captivating slice of South Arica’s continually evolving wine history.
There is something very different about this new Formula 1 season. For a start Lewis Hamilton looks like he is going to have to work a lot harder to keep himself at the front of the grid, and if he ends up sharing more podiums with Max Verstappen then they will be celebrating with bottles of Ferrari Trento thanks to a new sponsorship deal signed by the Italian sparkling wine company. We talk to president and chief executive, Matteo Lunelli, about how this illustrious deal came together and how they hope to capitalise on it.