Unless you are actively importing wine from Luberon, it is often an area that people have heard of, but can’t tell you much more than that – other than it is south of France somewhere near Provence. Which is very much where The Buyer’s Luberon Restaurant Tour comes in. A chance for the region to showcase its wines and what they stand for to a group of leading wine buyers, importers, distributors and restaurateurs. An opportunity to taste and discover Luberon wines in the way they were made to be enjoyed – with food. This was also the first Restaurant Tour to venture outside of London as The Buyer teamed up with Wines of Luberon to head to Manchester and assess what leading buyers and suppliers based in the north think of its wines. A tour that took in a range of different restaurants and styles of food from the steaks of Hawksmoor, to the Middle Eastern influence of Maray and the Brazilian pop up kitchen at Blossom Street Social. Here you can find out what happened and access the full downloadable report.
This is the second time The Buyer has worked with Wines of Luberon to host a Restaurant Tour. After the success of the first event held in London in 2022 it was keen to also take its story and the Restaurant Tour experience to influential buyers in the north of England and to also show the talent and diversity of restaurants in central Manchester. (All photos by Thomas Skovsende).
Our thanks go to all the buyers, importers and merchants who took part in The Buyer and Wines of Luberon Restaurant Tour of Manchester:
Simon Cairns, founder of Simon Cairns Consulting
Highly respected former head of drinks at the Co-op is now well placed to provide commercial and strategic advice across across all drinks categories for both importers and producers looking to get profitable distribution for their brands and products in the UK.
Noel Reid, founder of Rediscover Wines
Former head wine buyer at Robinson, Noel Reid has now set up his own wine importing business, Rediscover Wines, and is putting together a strong, diverse range of wines meticulously sourced from key regions and countries around the world.
Paul Robinson, head of wine, Frederic Robinson
Paul Robinson is responsible for heading up the wine division at private and family owned Robinsons Brewery with an estate of over 260 pubs across the north west and north of England and is director of Robinson Wines Merchants & Shippers Ltd.
Barry Bradley, wine consultant
Barry Bradley is a widely experienced wine buyer and consultant who graduated through managing Oddbins stores to being a key part of the Robinsons Brewery wine buying and in trade wine development and wine training team.
Nic Rezzouk, wine buyer, Reserve Wine
Nic Rezzouk is wine and spirits buyer and logistics manager at Reserve Wines one of the most influential wine retail and wholesale businesses in Manchester and across the north west and is responsible for helping manage a portfolio of over 1,200 drinks products.
Phil Crozier, sales director north for Ucopia Wines
Widely experienced across both the on and off-trades – particularly his time as head of wine at Gaucho – Phil Crozier is now heading up sales in the north of England for Ucopia Wines as well as being European ambassador for Wines of Argentina.
Laura Griffiths, founder of Lingo Vino
Laura Griffiths balances her time between working at Majestic West Kirby and providing wine consultancy services and running her own wine education events focused on making wine accessible and fun for both casual and serious wine drinkers to enjoy.
Ben Stephenson, founder of Blossom Street Social
Ben Stephenson has long been a respected figure in the Manchester wine retailing and wine bar scene first with his breakthrough hybrid Hanging Ditch venue, combining retailing and wine bar experience which he has now followed up on a bigger scale at Blossom Street Social.
Janet Harrison, founder of People’s Choice Drinks Awards
Janet Harrison is responsible for launching both the breakthrough People’s Choice Wine Awards and People’s Choice Spirits Awards and giving regular wine drinkers the chance to work alongside drinks professionals and take part in judging national drinks competitions.
Frances Bentley, wine buyer, LWC Drinks
Frances Bentley heads up wine buying at LWC Drinks, described by the Sunday Times as the “fastest growing privately owned drinks company in Britain” and is looking for wines that can all work in all channels of the market.
Paul Caputo, founder of Vinorandum
Paul Caputo is widely experienced wine writer, judge and consultant with a specific focus on Old World and Italian wines who also runs his own wine search engine and media platform, Vinorandum, and is a contributor to The Buyer.
Nayan Gowda, founder Vinosity Consulting
Nayan Gowda has enjoyed a wide career in the wine industry working with producers all over the world making and blending wines and is now heading up his own wine producing operation in Bolivia as well as offering consultancy services through Vinosity Consulting.
David Quinones, export manager for Marrenon
Repressing the Luberon was David Quinones, the widely experienced export manager for Marrenon, one of the biggest and most influential producers in the Luberon with vineyards across the region stretching from 160m to 450m high producing premium and complex white, rosé and reds wines.
The Restaurant Partners
Our thanks also go to Wines of Luberon for making the event happen, but also to the professionalism, support and friendly welcomes we received at each of the venues that took part in the tour which included.
184, 186 Deansgate, Manchester M3 3WB. https://thehawksmoor.com/locations/manchester/
The first Hawksmoor to open outside of London it has become a mainstay of the Manchester restaurant scene – now joined by a sister restaurant in Liverpool – bringing premium steaks and dining to the north west.
14 Brazennose St, Manchester M2 6LW
First started out in Liverpool, Maray is inspired by the experiences its founders enjoyed in the cultural melting pot of Le Marais in Paris with a range of dishes inspired by the flavours of the Middle East and East Mediterranean.
Blossom Street Social
51 Blossom St, Ancoats, Manchester M4 6AJ
Ben Stephenson has followed up the success of Hanging Ditch and one of the first hybrid wine bars and wine merchant concepts to succeed outside of London, with his second venture at the larger Blossom Street Social that pairs its eclectic range of wines with a pop up Brazilian kitchen.
You can download the full report to get a comprehensive analysis of what buyers thought of the wines and the overall opportunity for Luberon in the UK’s premium on-trade and independent wine merchant sector. Here’s a summary of their thoughts.
Phil Crozier at Ucopia Wines said the “rip off” pricing now coming out of Burgundy means buyers and importers are looking at French white wine options from other regions and Luberon certainly fits the bill for an “under the radar region” that they might not have considered before. “It’s a big opportunity.”
Noel Reid at Rediscover wines agreed: “Finding a new winery in Australia or South America is quite a commitment. France offers great opportunities for smaller producers. It’s great that Luberon has come here and it is wonderful to see your wines that don’t cost the earth, where we might be able to find some wines to work with. I am excited about what is happening in the region and the attention to detail in the wines. You can potentially act quicker and get the wines into the market quicker too.”
Frances Bentley at LWC Drinks said the challenge for the region going forward was not to lose momentum and keep focused on its primary goal. “You are like the Languedoc in that you do not have the baggage that so much of the rest of France has. You can be so much more responsive and reactive and flexible, particularly around packaging. But you also have to keep looking at what is happening in the market. Particularly the on-trade and make sure you remain flexible.”
She added: “The fact we are not waiting weeks for shipping is an important factor. We can send customers to the region for them to see it for themselves. That is really important to us now and you can’t do that for the rest of the world.”
Simon Cairns of Simon Cairns Consulting said: “I think the wines have a bright future in the UK if they are open to the opportunity. The biggest sales potential is with rosé. As more investors buy-up land in Provence, the price will continue to rise. Affordability will become a challenge for some existing Provence consumers, so they will start to look for alternatives. They really need to make their products ‘pop’ out on shelf. Many buyers will be tempted to buy Mediterranée Rosé as a more cost efficient alternative and this is where Luberon will probably find its greatest competition. As long as quality is good, styles are not going to disappoint a Provence consumer, pricing is keen and the packaging proposition is distinctive, there is no reason why the producers shouldn’t enjoy some decent distribution.”
Nic Rezzouk, Reserve Wines, added: “Having taken part in the tour I know where in France to place them and understand more about the geography and to an extent the geology. I am more able to make an informed assessment when I come across these wines in future tastings.
“I think the whites will do well in the on-trade, they are very drinkable with a bit of body and fruit to them. A good white, showing balance between fruit, density and freshness could sit at £14 to £16 on shelf with an attractive label with a “what next” option sitting around £18-19 with greater complexity, maybe with a tad of old oak. The rosé wines have the potential to offer good value compared to Provence with the right style, colour and packaging.
“Ultimately, it’s sandwiched between two very strong regions, whose prices have gone up. If Luberon can clearly show it can delivery similar quality with lower prices, it has a shot.”
Janet Harrison, founder of People Choice Drinks Awards said: “Overall I was really surprised by the fresh and complex white wines as many of the Rhone whites can lack acidity. They would be great for the on-trade and perhaps they could find a particular dish which ‘identifies’ with this style of white? Bit like Champagne and oysters. I liked the restaurant tour format. It was fun and informal whilst being a good way to try the wines with food.”
Laura Griffith, Lingo Vingo, said: I thoroughly enjoyed every second of the tour and pairing the wines with the different cuisines styles was really interesting. Overall, I enjoyed the wines and learning about the Luberon appellation, a region I previously knew nothing about.
- You can find out more about Luberon wines at the Wines of Luberon website here.