Finally after weeks of turmoil and damage across the South African drinks and wine industries, and all the retail and hospitality sectors they support, the government’s domestic ban on all alcohol sales has been lifted. For the last few months all those outside the country could do was show their support by promoting, buying, and in The Buyer’s case write and talk about South African wine. Which is what this week’s video interview is all about and the chance to talk to Jean Claude (JC) and Carolyn Martin, the charismatic and inspiring couple behind Creation Wines, who encapsulate the extraordinary efforts that producers have had to go to in order to keep innovating and selling their wines overseas, so that they could support their staff and local communities that rely on them for their livelihoods. In particular, they have shown the way forward with the number of virtual tastings and sampling packs they have created for their international markets. It’s why today The Buyer today ‘Raises a Glass To’ them – and all South African wine producers at this time.
If you like bone dry Riesling and cool climate Pinot Noir then head to Forge Cellars in New York States’ Seneca Lake. It’s so proud of those two styles of wine it makes that they are the main slogan on the company’s website. Forge Cellars is actually a Franco-American alliance between local New York winemaker, Rick Rainey and Louis Barruol of France, owner of Chateau de Saint Cosme and Chateau Rouanne. Here Rainey explains what it has been able to do in lockdown and its plans when restrictions ease.
West Country based winemaker, Daniel Ham, has recently launched his new Off Beat Wines label onto the market – to critical acclaim. His 2018 is already sold out, and his 2019 all but spoken for already. With a new winery to open later this year in readiness for the 2020 vintage, it’s been a whirlwind few months for Dan that has turned doubters into believers. Himself included.
Three years since Rioja introduced its Single Vineyard category, Ramon Bilbao unveils its long-anticipated Lalomba project – a series of Vinedos Singulares wines that set out to capture the individual character of each very special vineyard. The entirely new Finca Valhonta andLadero reds are the producer’s most expensive ever wines and the Finca Lalinde 2019 Rosado is a re-launched premium rosado, which all share an unprecedented degree of background research and development. Quite apart from the individual merits of each wine, collectively Lalomba shows how producers in Rioja are starting to believe that terroir character can be a better predictor of quality than the length of time that a wine spends maturing in a barrel.
The Covid-19 crisis has seen a number of major grocery and FMCG brands launch their own direct to consumer websites in a bid to stay close to their usual customer base who were stuck at home, not willing to venture out, who had switched in their millions to buying their favourite products online. Truth be told most had been planning and proposing setting up their DTC sites for some time. Like Treasury Wine Estates, which next week pulls back the curtain on its own first venture into DTC in the UK, aimed at promoting its premium and luxury wine brands. Richard Siddle talks to Ben Blake, Treasury’s European head of marketing, about why now and how it is going to work.
When the invite came through to help take part in the judging and blending of the new La Única project from Felix Solis I took a double take. The time and date was for an actual venue alongside other people, rather than sit in on a Zoom tasting. But when I nervously arrived at Camino in Kings Cross to take part there, as well as my fellow real life tasters, was a large screen with not just one Zoom tasting taking place, but five others simultaneously happening in China, Germany and Spain. Welcome to the new normal of virtual, and actual wine tastings. Here Richard Cochrane, head of Félix Solís in the UK, explains how La Única concept works and why it wanted to make it a global online event.
Winemakers, producers, importers, retailers and restaurateurs have all had to step out from behind the curtain during Covid-19 to take their turn to go online, turn on Zoom or go live on Instagram in order to be able to keep telling their stories during lockdown. But none have been quite so prolific as Katie Jones who has created her own version of a breakfast TV show with her daily walks through the small plots of land that make up Domaine Jones in the heart of the Languedoc – taking a loyal and growing community of trade customers and consumers with her. Here she talks to Richard Siddle, in the latest video interview on The Buyer, about why and how she has turned so much to social media during the crisis, and how it is now going to be very much part of how she does business post lockdown too. In so doing she has also shown the way forward for other producers and drinks businesses to use social media, and Instagram Live in particular. Which makes her a very worthy second recipient of The Buyer’s ‘Raise a Glass To’ award to highlight people who have gone way beyond the norm during Covid-19…here’s her story.
Regardless of what part of the world and sector of the drinks, retail or hospitality industries you work in, we’ve all had to find ways to adapt and self motivate ourselves to get through the Covid-19 lockdown. For Pier Sfriso and Reka Haros, the winemaking couple who run a small family winery in Treviso, northern Italy, it meant they were faced with 1,000s of bottles of unsold wine. So what did they do? They started a competition calling on designers to come up with label they could use to help promote and sell 6,000 bottles of Prosecco. It has resulted in hundreds of entries. Now they are calling on anyone in the trade to cast their vote for the designs they have shortlisted. Here Reka Haros shares their story and how the reaction to the competition has helped raise their spirits at such a difficult time.
Sun is good for grapes but bad for wine – the effect of sunlight on wine, particularly those in clear glass bottles, has been under-estimated for too long. Preventing this with a revolutionary new ‘second skin’ case is one of the drivers behind Maison Ruinart’s decision to ditch its gift boxes and replace it with paper maché-like packaging. Anne Krebiehl MW hears from Frédéric Panaïotis, Ruinart’s chef de cave, about the additional ecological and cost benefits.
The Covid-19 pandemic has for so many people around the world been the most challenging and damaging time both in their working and their personal lives. But it has also been a uniquely inspiring few months as individuals and businesses have stepped up to the mark and gone way and beyond to help others in their industry get through this extraordinary period. Those are the people The Buyer wants to highlight and show our appreciation for in our new ‘Raise a Glass To’ series where we can all collectively stop and pay our respects to their achievements and actions during the pandemic. Starting here today with Rico Basson, managing director of Vinpro, who has led the South African wine industry through its huge difficulties during the lockdown.
The outbreak of Covid-19 has hit the drinks and wine industry the world over. None more so than in South Africa which is again going through a national lockdown of all domestic wine sales with potentially a devastating impact on the country’s wine network. It has also made wine businesses think and act differently, particularly with the boom in online sales. In keeping with that new spirit of innovation, creativity and collaboration, three South African wine producers – Bruce Jack of Bruce Jack Wines, Ross Sleet of Rascallion Wine and De Villiers Graaff of De Grendel wines – have come together to launch a new, and potentially unique direct to consumer concept for the wine industry. Together they have set up a non-for-profit platform called Mind Map Wine Company that they are launching in the UK to act not as a competitor to their usual retail and on-trade channels to market, but to be an active partner to them, helping to raise the awareness of their brands and connect directly and with consumers. They hope to sign up more like-minded producers from around the world to join them in the months ahead. In our latest The Buyer video interview Richard Siddle caught up with Bruce Jack and Ross Sleet to talk through the new DTC platform, but also assess the current state and impact of the South African domestic wine lockdown.
We continue our series of profiles of key New York State wine producers with a behind the scenes tour of Dr Konstantin Frank Winery by Meaghan Frank, the fourth generation of the Frank family that first came to the United States from Ukraine in 1951. Over the years the family has been at the centre of the ‘Vinifera Revolution’ that has taken place in the state as producers trialled and tested which grape varieties were best suited to the harsh growing conditions of the Finger Lakes.
There are a fair few wine producers around the world who can lay claim to be the oldest in their respective country. In the United States, the Brotherhood Winery in New York State, can make that claim as it dates back to 1839. So it has had a fair bit of time to work out what sort of wines it should make, and the grape varieties to make them with. Here we look at how the winery works and why the UK is still a key target market for the business
At one end of the retail spectrum we’re told the major supermarkets are not interested in any new product development as they are too busy making sure they get the day job right. Fair enough. Then at the other end of the drinks spectrum you have David Rowledge and Alchemy Wines who won’t take no for any sort of answer. He has not stopped thinking, innovating and creating in the lockdown to such an extent he has created a new charity drinks brand – Community.co – to stretch from waters, beers, wines and spirits. He’s also only managed to sign up cricket legend, Phil Tufnell, to be the brand ambassador.
The UK regained some of its independence on Saturday, July 4, as bars and restaurants re-opened but how is it going in Italy? Italy eased out of Lockdown seven weeks ago and is now slowly counting the cost of the pandemic. The drop in restaurant turnover this year is €34 billion, and Italy’s wine tourism business worth €2.4 billion has been severely hit. Just as tourists start returning and many businesses put a brave face on proceedings, Italian food and wine expert Michèle Shah talks to producers in Lombardy, Tuscany, Sardinia, Veneto and Sicily to find out what the ‘new normal’ means to them.
Ben Riccardi was born and raised in the Finger Lakes, the heartland of winemaking in New York State. Whilst he is quickly making his own name for himself in the state as a cutting edge winemaker, producing low intervention, terroir-driven wines, it’s his experiences travelling the world in working with prestigious winemakers in France (Domaine Blancardy), New Zealand (Craggy Range and Muddy Water) and Sonoma County (Williams-Selyem) that has helped shape the winemaker he has now become.
Running a business through Lockdown is hard enough in the UK but how does it work if you are an Englishman running a large wine business in France? Tim Ford, managing director of Languedoc estate Domaine Gayda explains how he has handled télétravail (working from home) and Chômage Partiel (furlough), keeping his export markets open and working on the new harvest. And also how impressive and fast the help has been from the French government.
The news today that Sogevinus has acquired historic estate Quinta da Boavista from Lima Smith further strengthens its position on still Duoro wines and exports. The wine group has long had a strategic focus on still wines – arguing for Portuguese wine producers to market with an united front and around a single grape – and the Boavista deal follows a long line of interesting acquisitions and product launches. Justin Keay spoke to Sogevinus CEO Sergio Marly Cominal and the rest of the team about what the plans are post-Covid.
The combination of strong winds coming in off the ocean, with quality soils helps the Wölffer Estate Vineyard produce its signature, balanced, elegant, and age-worthy wines – with a particular focus on making premium rosés. As we continue our series profiling leading New York State wineries we talk to Roman Roth, winemaker at the estate, about being able to make food-friendly, accessible wines that also have the ability to age and improve with time.
Today Pol Roger Ltd celebrates 30 years of trading in the UK as primarily a business to promote, distribute and sell the famous Champagne house, but over the years it has also built itself up to be a highly respected agency representing premium, family, independent producers from across the world. It had hoped to pop some bottles of Pol Roger in much better times, but, as managing director, James Simpson MW, explains, it’s also about raising a glass to all the customers it serves and hopes to be working with for many years to come.