With 70% of English vineyards planted in the last 10 years, the UK is home to one of the wine world’s newest and fastest-emerging regions. As a result, it can be difficult to keep up with events. Vintage variation in England is significant, and there are constantly new producers coming on stream. Simon Huntington, co-founder of Marasby, the specialist English wine retailer, is as well placed as anyone to know what is really going on with growers, winemakers and producers. Here are his top three English wine trends that will drive the market in 2024.
Retired Michelin star chef Roger Jones gets up close with Peter Fraser, winemaker and general manager at Yangarra, McLaren Vale to discover his love of Rhône Valley wines, hear how US Jackson Family transformed the winery’s fortunes with a similarly held belief in old, bush vine Grenache, and to taste through the newly-released wines.
The business conference circuit is made up of professional keynote speakers able to turn their hand to any industry and share their wisdom on how that sector and its company leaders could do better. But there are not many on the speaking circuit who are also used to fronting a heavy metal band and playing to tens of thousands of adoring fans. That, though, was the theme that Bruce Dickinson, lead singer of Iron Maiden, drilled down on in his inspiring talk at last year’s Wine Future event in Portugal. How do you turn your customers into loyal, adoring fans? Without slipping into spandex, or whirling an electric guitar around.
With the purchase of Bee Tree Vineyard in East Sussex, new financial backers and a whole range of new projects afoot, 2024 will be the year that Sugrue South Downs will finally and indelibly be put on the map. Run and co-owned by Ana and Dermot Sugrue – the most famous and finest winemaker in the history of English winemaking – the team are turning their backs on contract winemaking and concentrating on their own portfolio which will include Dermot’s first still wine, a Pinot Noir from Essex fruit, a first Blancs de Noirs, a gin and a perpetual reserve with an undisclosed gameplan called Bonkers. But first, there’s the no-small matter of expanding a very muddy building site into a fully-functioning winery.
If you are in the midst of Dry January here is a sobering analysis by US wine and medical writer, Lewis Perdue, into the scientific and medical research and health claims made by certain US government regulators and alcohol control organisations about how damaging drinking alcohol is and in particular the supposed threat of the acetaldehyde compound commonly found in alcohol beverages that is claimed to be linked to cancer. Research and evidence that Perdue believes is far from proven. Here he explains why.
As one of the oldest Cape wine farms, Spier has its share of controversial history but for the past five decades it has been at the forefront of enotourism, sustainable viticulture and social innovation in South Africa. By seeing to the needs of workers and practising regenerative farming, Spier has generated positivity in the local community and even abroad, where they’ve won many accolades for this work. In her second piece about the estate Lisse Garnett met up with Frans Smit in London to taste through Spier’s latest vinous offerings.
It looks like ProWein will have to do without an appearance from Kylie at this year’s show, but for thousands of wine buyers and producers Dusseldorf still remains the place to be seen and to do business. Richard Siddle catches up with the show’s new director, Peter Schmitz, to find out how seriously it is taking competition from Wine Paris & Vinexpo Paris, and what steps it is making to build on its status as the number one global wine fair.
Few wine estates are like Jean Leon that can boast a founder who was a Hollywood actor, then a restaurateur who schmoozed Marilyn and James Dean, and then returned home to Penedès and uprooted Spanish varieties in order to plant Bordeaux vines. Victor Smart takes up this fascinating tale and tastes through the range of new wines with Mireia Torres, yes that Torres, who is now tasked with taking the estate along the next stage of its journey into a somewhat uncertain future.
“This time last year alcohol inflation was 3.5%. We told the HM Treasury that its plans for the duty system would push up inflation. Now alcohol inflation is almost three times the rate a year ago.” That’s how Miles Beale, chief executive of the Wine & Spirits Trade Association, kick starts a campaign starting today to get the government, the Treasury and the Chancellor to think again about its new damaging alcohol duty regime that is, as warned, sparking inflation with spirits up 8.9% on a year ago, wine up 7.8% and fortified wine up 18.7%. Here he sets out what the industry can do together to get the government to change tack.
Celebrated film and winemaker Michael Seresin is not a man to stick with the status quo and the launch of three new natural wines under the sub-brand Beautiful Chaos witnesses him showing the world another angle to Marlborough wines. Peter Dean caught up with him and runs the rule over the three new wines.
We’ve all seen the power of the stand-up comedian that can have an arena full of thousands of people enthralled just by talking about the simple, everyday things we do in our lives. But there is a scientific reason why we love them so much. We can see ourselves in the stories they tell, visualise ourselves doing the very same. That’s the power of using simple, storytelling techniques copied by brands and marketing teams all over the world. Here behaviour scientist expert, Richard Shotton, explains the other powerful steps drinks brands and businesses can take to tell their stories and connect with their customers.
Pugnitello is an ancient Tuscan grape that has been rising in significance over the past 40 years in Chianti-shire. From an experimental planting by the University of Florence in the 1980s, it was championed by San Felice as a blending component for Sangiovese, then replaced it in the estate’s SuperTuscan blend Vigorello. It is now used by 20 producers in the region, with its own Pugnitello community formed. To hear this remarkable story, and to taste the grape in a blend and as a single varietal wine, Leona De Pasquale hooked up with winemaker Leonardo Bellaccini.
One of the wine industry’s biggest strengths is also one of its major weaknesses. For this is a sector that attracts people for the long term with many, if not most, spending their entire careers working in some aspect of wine or another. But it can, for that very reason, be quite intimidating for someone to come in to what is a largely white, middle class workforce, particularly if you don’t look or feel the same as those around you. To help better understand what those challenges are last year’s Wine Future conference invited those from a range of different backgrounds and underrepresented groups to share their experiences of how diverse and inclusive the wine industry really is.
Wine judge and former Michelin-star chef, Roger Jones, examines the latest round of awards and trophies handed out by the IWSC to 22 Margaret River wines – tasting them and determining if he agrees with their awards status or not. An expert in, and a prolific buyer of, wines from this Western Australian wine region, Jones also discovers how IWSC has increased entries for certain regions by 300% into their annual Wine Awards competition.
Ironically the hardest thing busy wine buyers get to do when attending major trade exhibitions is the opportunity to go and meet new producers, so busy are they with meetings with existing producers and importers. Which is where Wines Unearthed comes in. An initiative 100% focused on promoting producers seeking distribution in key markets all in one area of the show. It has become a firm fixture of the London Wine Fair and will be making its first appearance at Wine Paris & Vinexpo Paris in February. Here its founders, Judy Kendrick and Ana Sofia Oliveira explain how Wines Unearthed works and what to expect in Paris.
The 2023 British harvest was enormous with 20-22 million bottles predicted, but are the celebrations premature? Indie winemaker Chris Wilson from Gutter&Stars thinks so as he believes the all-crucial benchmark of quality of wines has not been fully determined. In a fascinating insight into 2023 British wines, Wilson explores why there was a glut of fruit in 2023, why over-cropping became an issue and how he has had to deal with the 2023 fruit in order to make the wines he wants to.
“All of my businesses have that underdog hunger, that big start-up energy. They all have challenger status, and a healthy dose of punk rock resolve.” That’s how Tim Wildman MW describes his self-made career as what he calls – with his tongue firmly in his cheek – the “world’s most disruptive MW”. Over the last 10 or so years he has set up his own wine producing business that now sells his eclectic Australian pét nat wines in 16 countries, run a series of wine education field trips to Australia and started an English wine initiative, Lost in a Field, bringing back to life old native grape varieties. Here he talks to Richard Siddle about the passion he has felt as an underdog to shake up and disrupt the traditional wine industry.
The Institut Regional de Sommellerie Sud de France is a spanking new €9m facility close to the city of Perpignan that is an immersive regional sommelier school with international associations and ambitions. As it opened its doors for the first time we sent Victoria Sharples to the Roussillon to see how a range of flexible and tailor-made courses offer insight and practical experience to sommeliers and wine trade professionals both in France and further afield.
If you are looking to expand or liven up your French wine range going into 2024 then Business France has two dedicated opportunities for you. First is its Marketplace platform that allows buyers to access thousands of wines from producers who are looking to export and get a listing in the UK for the first time. Broken down by a variety, AOC or region it truly is a one stop shop for French wine. Then there is its VIN wine tasting event taking place in London on February 1 featuring around 50 producers. Here’s how to take advantage of both.
Meeting demand and stabilising prices are two possible outcomes of Burgundy 2022 being followed by another plentiful harvest in 2023, writes Nicolas Clerc MS, portfolio director for Armit Wines. In this thought-provoking analysis of the 2022 vintage, Clerc givens an inside track on the wines, where the real value for money lies and which producers to keep an eye on. In general though Burgundy 2022 is solid and moreish in both colours, approachable, expressing terroir, underscored by purity of fruit and freshness. No wonder the Burgundians are smiling again.