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    London Spirits Competition 2021: The Best Spirits & Distillers By Country

    The big classic spirits categories become more international every year as the art and skill of distilling reaches all parts of the world. The London Spirits Competition has become a great test bed to see which distillers, producers and brand owners are making the best spirits in their country. Here we shine the light on the highest scoring spirit in each main spirit producing country.

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    Awards
    Map of Europe. Detail from the World Atlas.

    London Wine Competition: The Best Wines and Producers by Country

    Taking part in a global wine competition is a chance to benchmark your wines against the best wines being made around the world. But it is also a chance to see how you are doing in your own back yard, which is why winning the best wine from your country is one of the most sought after accolades in the London Wine Competition. Here’s the top rated wines from Australia to Georgia.

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    People: Supplier
    PIedmont is where Michael Palij MW first fell in love with Italy

    Michael Palij MW: how Winetraders brings producers & buyers together

    Michael Palij MW has been like a caged tiger for the last year chomping at the bit to get out and visit the producers across Europe that have grown to become personal friends during their time working together through Winetraders, the wine importer and distribution business he set up in 1997. The company is most associated with Italy, and Palij is widely respected as a leading voice on the country’s wine, but, as he explains to Richard Siddle, Winetraders is now taking its footprint around the world.

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    Tasting: Spirit
    Clairin Long Read

    Raiders of the Lost Distilleries: Clairin, discovering the ‘wild spirit’ of Haiti

    Clairin is the fifth-fastest trending rum brand in the world and yet it has only just recently been put into a bottle. Made for centuries in Haiti with traditions and techniques passed down from generation to generation it is a handcrafted, artisanal, small-batch spirit that embodies the local terroir and rural communities that produce it. Like Mescal was in the 1990s, Clairin is both very old and very new. As Spirit of Haiti releases its sixth in a series, Clairin Sonson, Peter Dean has an audience with Daniele Biondi, a spirits explorer, and the man responsible for bringing this ‘jewel’ away from its Caribbean home.

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    People People: Supplier
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    Luca Quagliano on bringing premium NIO Cocktails to your door

    We have become used over the last year to have just about anything delivered to our doors. But a carefully crafted classic cocktail made by a top Italian mixologist? Well, why not thanks to the team behind NIO Cocktails that are not only pushing premium drinks through our letter box but have come up with unique packaging that makes it possible. Richard Siddle finds out how from founder Luca Quagliano

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    Opinion
    Kata Zsirai

    Caroline Gilby MW on Tokaj’s second grape: Hárslevelű

    Often neglected because of Furmint, its more famous parent, Hárslevelű is due its ‘time in the sun’, argues Hungarian wine world expert Caroline Gilby MW. Hárslevelű is blended into acidic Furmint to build the mid-palate, making the wine longer and deeper, but curiously the other way round and just a small percentage of Furmint will overwhelm Hárslevelű’s unique varietal character. Tokaj’s high percentage of women winemakers are also playing a strong part in building back Hárslevelű’s reputation and are responsible for many of the grape’s most exciting interpretations.

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    Insight
    Screenshot 2021-05-12 at 08.47.09

    How Wine Australia ‘Connects’ producers & buyers

    Australia, along with neighbouring New Zealand, have arguably been the most successful countries in the world in being able to control, contain and keep its borders as safe as it can from Covid-19. But it also means its people are effectively grounded for the short to medium term at least. Which means no Australian winemakers roaming the world telling their stories for months to come. Which is why Wine Australia has set up Connect, a new platform to essentially take its producers, its stories and its wines around the globe through a new 12 month digital platform. It’s as ambitious as it sounds as Richard Siddle finds out from Stuart Barclay, general marketing manager.

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    Opinion
    Bordeaux 2020

    Guy Seddon: Does Bordeaux 2020 make a ‘holy trinity’?

    The Bordeaux 2020 en primeur campaign is underway and comparisons are already being drawn between 2018-20 and that other excellent trilogy of vintages 1988-90. Early indications are that it is a Right Bank year with Merlot, and the soils that dealt with fluctuating water tables, helping to produce the best wines. Here Corney & Barrow’s Bordeaux buyer Guy Seddon looks at the quality of the wines, the growing season, anticipates the pricing and gives a nice bit of insight into the psychology of the Bordelais.   

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    Insight
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    On-trade leaders on hopes & fears of re-opening

    As the UK’s on-trade starts to put the final lick of paint on its preparations of finally re-opening bars, restaurants, pubs and hotels inside next week, industry leaders have shared both their excitement at the demand there is amongst customers to enjoy a night in hospitality from next Monday, but also their fears that for many it will only be putting some Polyfilla on cracks that are too big to fix overnight. Richard Siddle reports on the last month’s London Wine Fair on-trade debate.

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    Tasting: Wine
    Finger Lakes

    Why New York’s Finger Lakes is not just about the Riesling

    Once famed purely for its high-toned, nervy Riesling, the Finger Lakes region of New York State has been branching out. Although the region is small by international standards, its many micro-climates are facilitating experimentation with Grenache, Syrah and even Rkatsiteli. Justin Keay had an audience with Christopher Bates from Element Winery, Meaghan Frank from Dr Konstantin Frank Winery and Oskar Bynke from Hermann J Wiemer who showed Keay their Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Gewürtztraminer respectively.

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    People People: Producer
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    How Doghouse has innovated its way through lockdown

    The last year of lockdowns and restrictions across the hospitality sector has been brutal for so many companies that have gone out of business through no fault of their own. Yet, amidst the decimation, some have innovated and risen, as Braden Saunders at Doghouse Distillery beautifully describes, like a phoenix from the ashes. Battersea-based Doghouse Distillery has worked hard to keep innovating and make sure it has the right brands and spirits to come out the other side. It has even found time to launch its own whisky. To get the finer details Jessica Broadbent caught up with Saunders, Doghouse Head Hydrator who founded the distillery with his wife Katherine in 2018.

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    Tasting: Wine
    Lungarotti Long Read

    Meeting Lungarotti, the women of wine in Umbria

    When Giorgio Lungarotti passed away in 1999 he left his Umbrian winery in the capable hands of his wife Maria Grazia and their two daughters Chiara and Teresa. Together they have helped put Umbrian wine on the international wine map – but it has not been easy. Teresa was one of the first female oenologists in Italy while company CEO Chiara found that she was the only woman in the associations of which she was a member. Their style is individual and uncompromising and their wines, including the famous Rubesco, reflect the unique terroir of Umbria in all its power and elegance.

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    Awards
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    Top Gold Medal spirits brands in 2021 London Spirits Competition

    The big spirits brands do everything they can to catch our attention with their high profile, big budget advertising campaigns. But what really counts is what the top bar staff, bartenders and owners think are the best brands to have on their lists. Which is what this list of the top scoring spirits voted for in the 2021 London Spirits Competition is all about. The brands that achieved the four highest scores – 96, 95, 94 and 93 – in an event only judged by professional bar staff.

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    People
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    Matthew Curtis: why I’m so ‘Opinionated’ about London Pubs

    Having just published An Opinionated Guide to London Pubs, with a second book – Modern British Beer – in the works, it’s safe to say Matthew Curtis knows a thing or two about what makes a good pub, and the kind of beer it should be selling. Fiona Holland talks to the freelance writer and photographer, who by day is busy putting together his drinks website, Pellicle, about what long term impact he sees Covid-19 having on the British pub and beer industries.

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    Tasting: Wine
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    Elizabeth Gabay MW on what makes Tavel rosé so different

    While recent fashion dictates that rosé is a wine that is only salmon pink and to be enjoyed al fresco, served from an ice bucket, the Tavel rosé wines are an altogether different beast. These are not for those looking for delicate aperitif rosés, but are more serious wines, preserving their heritage and just as happily paired with winter food as a summer salad. With skin contact ranging from 12 to a more traditional 72 hours, Tavel rosés have more colour, weight, structure, firm minerality and hint of tannin, compared to their Provencal counterparts. World rosé expert, Elizabeth Gabay MW, tastes a range of 30 Tavel rosé to highlight their different styles.

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    Awards
    going for gold Long Read

    Top Gold Medal winning wines in 2021 London Wine Competition

    Today we profile the Top Gold Medal winning wines in the 2021 London Wine Competition that scored the three highest level points – 96, 95 and 94 – in this year’s event. These are the wines that stood out even within the Gold Medal class. Each wine in the competition is judged for its quality, its value for money and what they look like with their packaging and design, and are assessed by professional buyers with direct buying responsibility in their roles.

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    People People: Producer
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    3 Ravens Brewery on putting the Aussie personality into craft beer

    Australians have been trying to sell us beer for as long as Paul Hogan was in short trousers. But the 3 Ravens Brewery in Melbourne has a slightly different take on the beer scene than our friends at Foster’s. It is very much about capturing the irreverent Australian personality in its beers, but matching it with authentic, local ingredients that gives the brewery an ever changing range of quality, but quirky craft beers that have gone down a storm at home and now want to make it around the world, including the UK, explains general manager Nathan Liascos.

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    Tasting: Wine
    Ruinart extra

    Dom Ruinart Blanc de Blancs 2009 & reality of climate change

    Bling gift boxes for luxury cuvées will be a thing of the past and Dom Ruinart is happy to be the first major Champagne house to ditch them in order to reduce carbon footprint, says chef de cave, Frédéric Panaïotis; “The time for action is now.” Speaking at the 50th anniversary launch of Dom Ruinart Blanc de Blancs 2009, the morning after the devastating April frost, Panaïotis wants consumers to understand the effect climate change is having on the future of the region as well as how it affects the style of the Champagne they are drinking. A deep dive into the 2009 vintage, and the decisions he and his team have to make during increasingly early harvests made for enlightening and sobering listening. Peter Dean had an audience and tastes and rates the new cuvée in full.

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    People People: Producer
    STELLENBOSCH, SOUTH AFRICA - NOVEMBER 17: Swiss winemaker Bernard Fontannaz photographed at the packaging center of Sterhuis Wine Estate in Stellenbosch, South Africa, on November 17, 2020. 

Photo: Charlie Shoemaker for Le Temps

    Origin Wine responds to Covid’s challenges & opportunities

    Even a business as seemingly entrenched and successful as Origin Wine, one of the world’s most respected and successful wine producers, making wine in South Africa and South America and creating brands that sell the world over, has had to take serious action in the last 12 months to respond to the challenges thrown down by Covid-19. A key part of that response has been working with experienced winemaker and consultant, Clem Yates MW, on developing bespoke blends and wines for customers when buyers have been unable to travel, as Richard Siddle reports.

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