A fortnight on from its awards banquet at the Guildhall in London, the International Wine & Spirit competition is open for entries again for next year’s event as it announces a series of changes to its judging process and line-up of key judges, including the news that Steven Spurrier is to be honorary chair of the IWSC. Richard Siddle looks into what other big steps the IWSC is taking to shake up and improve further how it awards and picks out its winning wines and spirits.
Here’s a wine fact for you: the grape variety, Furmint, is actually the half-sibling of Riesling and Chardonnay via its parent Gouais Blanc (aka Heunisch Weiss). Well it is according to Master of Wine Caroline Gilby who also just happens to be not only a big fan, but one of the world’s leading expert on how and why Furmint is becoming a real quality benchmark for Hungarian wine. You can find out for yourself at the second Furmint February tasting being held on January 29 2020. Before then here’s Gilby’s personal assessment of why we should be paying more attention to Furmint.
In the lead up to Hallgarten & Novum’s 2019 portfolio tasting, portfolio director Jim Wilson kindly granted a brief interview to the annoying oeno-eco-warrior that is Mike Turner. Turner was keen to understand more about the changing shape of Hallgarten & Novum’s portfolio, and whether the move towards a more sustainable future was central to their plans. Turner also wanted to know what, if anything, was being done with the company’s 190 wine producers to offer more eco-friendly products.
Mike Turner sat down with fellow wine writer and all round drinks industry rising star, Harry Crowther to ask him about Buckingham Schenk, which has recently acquired Crowther’s services to help launch its new look portfolio for next year. With Buckingham Schenk opting for a Taste of the Mediterranean-style tasting Turner wanted to know the inside track on which were the essential three wines from the portfolio…
There may well be the vital festive trading period ahead of us, but for those in the fine wine world, there is arguably an even bigger yearly event just a few weeks away and the annual Bourgogne campaign, which comes to a head with Bourgogne Week. Over the next few weeks The Buyer will be interviewing a number of leading fine wine merchants to get their feel on how this vital region is doing and what the 2020 campaign has in store. First up is Montrachet Fine Wine Merchants.
With so many different parts and aspects of the wine and spirits industry it’s only right we should grasp the opportunity to reward and shine the light on those individuals who are going the extra mile in whatever sector they are in. Which is what the Julian Brind MW trophy at the International Wine & Spirit Competition looks to do. Here we profile two more of the finalists for this year’s prize: PR manager, Sula Richardson of Phipps Relations and wine educator from Tasmania, Curly Haslam-Coates.
“The books that taught me about wine were as much about places and people as they were about the wines themselves, and those were the stories that stuck in my mind.” They are also the stories that acclaimed wine critic and writer himself, Steven Spurrier, wants to capture and celebrate with his new venture the Académie du Vin Library that will give the opportunity for journalists and writers to have new wine books published, as well as the chance to delve back in time and help re-publish old classics.
We’ve all heard the talk about demand for wines in a can, but now that Greencroft Bottling, one of the UK’s biggest and most influential packing companies in the country has decided to invest over £2 million in installing the UK’s first canning line for wine, all that talk is turning into action. Greencroft has clearly seen and had enough demand from its customers, which stretch from major branded wine companies to the big supermarkets and on-trade groups, to take the step to have a dedicated canning facility. David Kermode looks at the opportunities that lie ahead for canned wine.
This month’s Bellavita exhibition gives UK wine buyers the chance to explore and discover wines and food from across Italy and the Mediterranean at an event dedicated to bringing the full restaurant experience together under one roof. So rather than just have an event purely for wine, and another for food, Bellavita is very much about bringing the two sides together. The Buyer will be hoping to do that too as part of a wine trade debate on November 7 that will ask major importers and merchants to assess where Italian and Mediterranean wines are going in the premium on-trade.
We might all be a little burnt from the concept of asking “the people” for their opinion when it comes to making big decisions. But let’s leave Strictly Come Dancing to one side for a moment. When it comes to wine judging the norm is only ever to ask trained professionals to assess how a particular wine is compared to another. Not the People’s Choice Wine Awards. It lives up to its name by involving everyday wine drinkers in deciding which wines should be awarded the top prizes. Admittedly with a little help from the professionals. As the deadline for entries into this year’s award approaches on September 30, Janet Harrison, its founder, looks back at the impact the event has had, and what new partnerships she has made for this year’s competition and why it is increasingly more relevant for the on-trade.
There are a whole stack of reasons why a by the glass range is now crucial for premium on-trade operators. They allow restaurants and sommeliers the chance to offer their customers different and more ambitious, interesting wines, they can help drive better margins and growth and they fit far more with our lifestyles where people are looking to drinks less and better, be it at lunchtime or the evening. Here John Graves, Bibendum’s on-trade channel director, explains why it has been running a by the glass promotion throughout the summer and into September.
The speed of growth within the UK wine industry really does take your breath away. Last year saw a staggering 13.2 million bottles produced, and a further 1.6m vines planted, on top of the 1m that went into the ground in 2017. Which means future production can only get significantly higher. All of which is great news for the overall UK wine industry providing it can find a market for all the wine it is making. Which is why this week’s Wine GB annual tasting is even more significant than normal, says marketing manager Julia Trustram Eve. The chance to show the trade and its buyers just how far the British wine sector has come and why importers, retailers, and restaurant and bar groups need to find more space for them on their lists.
“There’s nowhere in the world like it.” Which is reason enough for Ben Henshaw to keep going back to South Africa to find more dynamic, cutting edge winemakers to add to its already impressive portfolio of South African wines, a country he believes is leading the world in terms of innovation and new wines styles. You can meet all of Indigo Wine’s South African winemaker partners, alongside those from the four other importers involved in hosting what will be the third New Wave wine tasting in London on September 3.
Distill Ventures doesn’t have holding music when you call it up. It does not quite cut the image of the world’s first hip and happening spirits drinks accelerator company. But if it did then The Pet Shop Boys lyrics “I’ve got the brains, You’ve got the looks, Let’s make lots of money” would be perfect. For that, in a nutshell, is what Distill Ventures does. Admittedly with Diageo’s money. Founded in 2013 it finds start up drinks brands it believes have what it takes to make it on a global scale. If its partner, Diageo, agrees, then it gets the green light to use Diageo funding to help develop and build that brand up. To potentially the point when Diageo offers to make it part of its own portfolio. Like it already has done with the world’s first non-alcoholic spirits brand, Seedlip. But how does it work in practice? What makes a brand so unique and exciting that Distill Ventures would want to take it on? Co-founder Frank Lampen explains to Richard Siddle the step-by-step process it goes through before it’s prepared to share its “brains”, or “money” with any potential drinks entrepreneur.
Argentina, and South America in general, may not be currently top in the cyclical world of football, but it seems their wines are very much back on the agenda for international wine buyers looking for the best value to quality ratio they can get for their retail and restaurant businesses. Paul Schaafsma, founder of new UK importer and agency business, Benchmark Drinks, explains why he believes Argentina, in particular, is so well placed to benefit in the months and years to come and why he is so pleased to have signed an exclusive deal with to bring the wines of leading producer, Fecovita to the UK.
There are very few winemakers who would readily admit that in the early days they were literally making it up as they went along. But that’s very much the approach that self-taught winemaker, Tim Wildman MW, took when he first had a go making pet nat wines in Australia. Now on the verge of his fifth vintage he is really beginning to make a name for himself Down Under and can claim to be the biggest importer of pet nat wines into the UK. He tells Richard Siddle what started out as a dare has resulted in him completely changing his wine career to become a bona fide winemaker in his own right.
It’s been a tough two to three years for Enotria&Coe as it arguably could not have chosen a worse time to buy and integrate the spirits business, Coe Vintners, into the company. But following what it says has been record-breaking growth over the last 12 months, and turnover up to £200m a year, compared to £128m in 2015, it looks like all the hard work and pain has been worth it. Richard Siddle catches up with chief executive, Troy Christensen, and chief operating officer, Jon Pepper MW, to get their inside line on what have been the key factors in the turnaround, and how balancing a larger share of national accounts, with a burgeoning regional and independent customer base is what is giving it the platform to deliver its strong wine and spirits portfolio.
It can be a daunting prospect putting on a trade tasting. It’s the ultimate test in how popular your wines really are and how much your customers want to spend time with you. So why do it yourself when you can spread the pain, and share the love with others. Which is what the New Wave South Africa tasting is all about. In fact it is has proven so popular that September 3 will be the third time the event has happened. To tell us what to expect we talk to one of the five specialist importers that have come together to host the event, Matt Smith, South African wine buyer at Fields Morris & Verdin.
For all the hype, pomp and circumstance there has been around South African wines over the last three to four years, there are still parts of the premium on-trade that has yet to feel its magic. At least in terms of listings and getting more of these breakthrough wines into the hands of sommeliers and their customers. The third New Wave South African tasting hopes to change that and once again provide a springboard for so many of the country’s exciting, dynamic winemakers to come to London and show what they can do. Here James Booth of New Generation Wines explains what we can expect.
The market for legalised CBD cannabis products in the UK has an estimated 1.3m users, and could be worth £1bn by 2025. New products across the health and beauty sectors have caught on to the trend, and the drinks industry is not far behind. The Buyer sat down with OTO CBD, one of the many new companies that have been set up to launch their own range of CBD products, or in its case non-alcoholic CBD infused bitters which it hopes opens up a new avenue for consumers to enjoy the increasingly popular cannabis compound.