• Top importers: what to expect at London’s VIN French wine tasting

    With the Six Nations rugby kicking off this weekend it is good timing to welcome the French wine community to London on February 1 with the return of Business France’s VIN tasting and the chance for UK wine buyers, merchants, importers and sommeliers to meet and taste wines from across 10 regions of France, featuring over 40 producers and covering 45 plus AOCs. To help set the scene we talk to the four UK importers who are also taking part in the event about what they hope VIN can achieve and why they are taking part.  

    With the Six Nations rugby kicking off this weekend it is good timing to welcome the French wine community to London on February 1 with the return of Business France’s VIN tasting and the chance for UK wine buyers, merchants, importers and sommeliers to meet and taste wines from across 10 regions of France, featuring over 40 producers and covering 45 plus AOCs. To help set the scene we talk to the four UK importers who are also taking part in the event about what they hope VIN can achieve and why they are taking part.  

    mm By January 30, 2024

    The VIN tasting from Business France takes place at the Hyatt Regency, 30 Portman Square  in London and will include wines from 10 French wine regions including Champagne, Loire, Alsace, Burgundy, Rhône, Provence, Corsica, Languedoc, South-West & Bordeaux. Wine critic, Jamie Goode, will also be hosting wine walks around the tasting and Libby Brodie will be hosting the French Champions awards to celebrate the best supporters of French wine in the UK wine industry.

    Here The Buyer talks to the four UK wine importers who are taking part in VIN and what we can expect. They include:

    What are you looking forward to most at VIN?  

    The VIN tasting takes place in London on February 1 featuring wines from 10 French wine regions

    Daniel Lambert: We are very much looking forward to meeting existing customers and showing new wines and agencies to both them and customers we do not currently work with. Last year we met some really promising producers who we’re hoping to see back again.

    Georgia Townend: We can’t wait to introduce two of our exciting producers, Ducourt from Bordeaux and Rhonéa, based in the southern Rhone. They will both be showcasing their wines to potential clients who will be able to discover first hand the super value that these two producers offer. 

    Cecile Lavaud-White: Great time to show customers the new 2023 vintage to introduce some of our new wines. And of course, to get to chat to the people behind the wines who will be showing their wines alongside us.

    Thibault Lavergne: For Wine Story, as an importer and distributor for on and off-trade trade market, we are of course looking to meet a maximum of sommeliers and wine buyers. But as other importers will visit the fair, we are also in search of regional distributors who could access our large London stock in our bonded warehouse within a mixed order. It’s also a great event for catching up with some producers and finding new wines to bring to the UK. 

    What highlights can buyers expect at VIN? 

    Businesss France’s VIN tasting is an opportunity to travel and taste wines from around the country at one tasting

    Thibault Lavergne: By all reports, our French producers have said the 2022 vintage was ripe with big crops so buyers should expect easy drinking and attractive wines at a decent price.

    Daniel Lambert: Our table at VIN will host new agencies for us which are some real standouts. Domaine Guillaman in Gascony, Chateau Famaey in Cahors, and Dauvergne-Ranvier in the Rhône are exciting new finds for us. Sales have started very strongly for these wineries and we look forward to getting them in front of those attending VIN 2024. There’s lots of interesting sounding wines from the French producers which I for one am looking forward to trying.

    Georgia Townend: We will be joined by both Jonathan Ducourt and Rhonéa who will be presenting their sustainably certified wines.  I would look out for Rhonéa’s exceptionally priced Ventoux red, white and rosé offering as well as their delicious Muscat Beaumes de Venise.  Ducourt will be presenting a number of excellent value Bordeaux, including some older vintages that are ready to drink now. We’re excited to see what new wines the producers at VIN have up their sleeves this year. 

    Cecile Lavaud-White:  There is a great mix of different styles from Limoux, Rhône, Provence, Bergerac and Bordeaux showing the diversity of the French wine offering across different price points.

    Which French regions and styles are most in demand in the UK?  

    Jonathan Ducourt from Ducourt in Bordeaux will be showing its good value, but quality wines at VIN with Charles Taylor Wines

    Georgia Townend: We continue to see an unprecedented demand for Burgundy, emphasised during our 2022 Burgundy campaign, but Bordeaux and Rhône, where Charles Taylor Wines traditionally also has a focus, continue to perform very well. There is growing intrigue in the lesser-known areas of Bordeaux, with the Saint Emillion satellites and the Côtes receiving particular attention due to the vast improvements in winemaking and viticulture in recent years. 

    In terms of style, we have also seen a greater focus on individual terroirs as well as a move away from higher alcohol wines and a return to a more classic style. The French winemakers tick so many boxes of what consumers are after in 2024.

    Cecile Lavaud-White: The Crémant category is very in demand along with rosé and Loire wines.  We are also getting more requests for wines that are either sustainable or organic. So we hope to discover some gems at VIN.

    Daniel Lambert will be showing wines from Chateau Faumey in Cahors at VIN

    Daniel Lambert: The Loire, and Languedoc are doing well. We saw a slightly surprising increase in demand for Bordeaux last year, in fact, our best selling promotion of 2023 was a well-priced older Bordeaux vintage. Champagne continues to grow for us, particularly as our independent retail customers discover the quality of our Champagne De Saint Gall agency. Also, we saw growth in the Rhône and the South West, areas where we actively sought out new agencies in 2023.

    2024 is yet to be decided, so tastings like VIN are a great way to see what producers have to offer.

    Thibault Lavergne: Various white wines from Loire Valley with fresh and mineral style are popular today. They are ideal as aperitif without food and then paired with fish, seafood, Asian dishes, tapas street food dishes which are also popular are the moment. I’m happy to see the Loire is well represented at the VIN tasting.

    What would you recommend the UK wine trade to look out for at VIN?

    VIN from Business France will also include the French Champions awards hosted by Libby Brodie

    Cecile Lavaud-White: There are some great value for money wines from regional France and the South West which are often overlooked.

    Thibault Lavergne: The best wine producers from less well-known regions are always great value for money, but you should also keep your wine list balanced with the usual suspects. Don’t underestimate the appeal of “brand” appellation, such as Sancerre or Chablis, on consumers for example. 

    Daniel Lambert: Look beyond the obvious, there are great wines from less obvious appellations, such as Madiran, Coteaux de Giennois etc, and, of course, the Languedoc remains a source of interesting and well-priced wines.

    Georgia Townend: The diversity in French winemaking and breadth in quality, style and price. Covering the classics is essential but it is important to remember that there are some exciting, lesser-known appellations that tend to get overlooked in well-established regions – think Saint Romain in Burgundy for instance.  They offer excellent value for money and the quality has never been so good.

    • To find out more and to register for the VIN tasting that takes place in London on 1 February at the Hyatt Regency London – The Churchill, 30 Portman Sq, click here.

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