For all the swilling, tasting, talking and, hopefully, buying going on at this month’s London Wine Fair there is also a big elephant in the room for an event that has placed the environment and sustainability at the heart of its agenda. What happens to all the thousands of bottles that are needed to host such an event? Well the show’s organisers hope it has come up with an answer with a new bottle re-use scheme that will be in operation over its three days. We talk to Marta Mendonça and Cristina Crava, from the Porto Protocol and Muriel Chatel of Sustainable Wine Solutions who have devised the initiative and will be in charge of running it at the fair.
Although sommeliers and consumers alike have become increasingly familiar with the individual qualities of wines from Georgia, Armenian wines are a lesser-known quantity. This is all the more reason for the on-trade to embrace the, argues Justin Keay, as they tick a variety of key boxes – they are gastronomic wines, made with autochtonous varieties, grown at high altitudes on ancient vines. In fact, there’s a good case for saying that these are the oldest wines on earth. Keay reports from the GInVino tasting and recommends a variety of wines to put on your buying radar.
The Rhône is the second biggest appellation in France after Bordeaux and its wines are loved the world over for their signature Mediterranean warmth and generosity, but getting to know its many sub-regions can be somewhat daunting. So who better as a guide than renowned expert Matt Walls, who has hosted a series of masterclasses, to shine a light of some of the less well-known appellations that deserve to be on your Rhône radar. The Buyer’s Justin Keay – by his own admission a relative newcomer to the vast region – went along to find out more about two such areas, Lirac and Rasteau, and was impressed by what he discovered.
Know your Albariño from your Alicante, Garnacha from Graciano and Verdejo from Viura? Ramón Bilbao is giving you the chance to prove it by entering the Spanish Wine Master, the latest initiative from its Spanish Wine Academy educational programme. The Spanish Wine Master is open to anyone who works in the UK trade and is pitched at the equivalent of WSET Level 3 (and above) knowledge. Here Rodolfo Bastida, chief winemaker and Kirsty Loftus, UK and Ireland area manager for Ramón Bilbao explain what the competition is all about and why education is such a key part of what the winery is about.
After almost three decades producing rum in Barbados, Foursqure is still considered a newcomer, but with Mount Gay no longer producing 1703 Master Select, this most enterprising distiller senses a gap in the market, says Geoffrey Dean. Reporting from the Caribbean, Dean tours the plant and tastes through Foursquare’s range whose premium rums have a distinctive second maturation in a variety of used casks.
Edinburgh-based subscription wine club Wine52 claims to be a cut above the competition, describing itself as the UK’s largest wine discovery club and offering its members wines from new, emerging regions and countries. Helen Arnold catches up with head wine buyer, Thomas Sanetra, and talks to him about how a business that started out in craft beer – with Beer52 – has taken the same concept into wine to great success.
Victor Smart tastes through the new whites, rosés and reds of Provence estate Château Sainte Roseline with owner Aurélie Bertin at Petersham Nurseries’ La Goccia restaurant in London. The challenge, Smart argues, is for this producer (who also owns and manages Château des Demoiselles) to keep moving with the times as well as keep one foot in its traditional past through which it has accomplished so much… especially with the pressures of drought, climate change and bureaucracy.
Earlier this year Pol Roger Portfolio announced the addition of the fabulous wines of famed Barolo producer Luciano Sandrone to its range of fine wines for the UK trade. Built on the success of the eponymous Champagne brand, Pol Roger Portfolio continues to include some of the most celebrated names in wines and spirits. Earlier in the spring The Buyer’s Mike Turner sat down with Pol Roger Portfolio’s James Simpson MW, to discuss the recent additions and future opportunities for this premium drinks’ agency. This was followed a couple of weeks later with a visit to Barolo to meet Barbara Sandrone to discuss their hopes for this exciting new partnership.
This spring, Matt Walls, the man who – literally – wrote the book on the wines of the Rhône Valley is conducting a series of masterclasses in the UK to shine a light on one of most fascinating, diverse and iconic wine regions in the world. Walls began his mission in Edinburgh, with a masterclass dedicated to the impressive range and value on offer, as well as the current trends emerging from the innovative Côtes du Rhône appellations. Mike Turner was there – and for this comprehensive and insightful report, the first in a series for The Buyer, he also brings the perspective of the Rhône Valley’s rich wine history to the fore.
“The scheme is open to anyone who is starting in their career in wine but who has had a barrier to going further, whether financial, social, or based on your background.” That’s how Jane Anson describes who the Bordeaux Mentor Week, that she set up last year, is aimed at. As she looks to host the second Mentor Week in Bordeaux later this year she explains what she hopes the initiative can do to get more people from diverse backgrounds into the wine industry.
As tastes change, both of wines and the foods they’re matched with, so winemakers are responding with different styles of wine, levels of alcohol, tannin and acidity. Nowhere is this more true than with Australian Shiraz. Two decades ago these wines delivered a heck of a punch with high concentration and alcohol levels. Retired Michelin star chef and New World wine expert, Roger Jones, looks back fondly as he samples and recommends 24 of the finest new style Australian Shiraz from the latest vintages.
You have to go all the way back to 2008 for the first Wine Future event held in Rioja, Spain. A breakthrough event at the time that looked to bring the biggest names, companies and wine brands in the world together to address the key issues facing the sector. Some 15 years later and many of those challenges, if anything , have got worse and a whole lot more have piled up. Which is why Wine Future is returning in November to help the sector address its issues and make the most of untapped opportunities.
California wines are changing with the future looking bright for alternative varieties, and wines made by new winemakers, producing contemporary styles for a younger demographic. The well known names and heavy hitters are still holding their own, argues Justin Keay, but it is in the middle bracket – the wines that sit between blue-chip estates and supermarket wines – that you can discover amazingly good value.
With so many tastings in the wine trade calendar how do busy buyers, importers and sommeliers decide which ones to go to? What makes one stand out over another? What do sommeliers, in particular, look for when they go to a trade event? To find out we asked Mattia Scarpazza, head sommelier at Petersham Nurseries, to attend the recent portfolio tasting of the fast growing Wanderlust Wine that is quietly supplying many of the hip and happening restaurants in the country.
The UK’s first wine tasting dedicated to the wines of Toro was a real eye-opener, writes Robert Mason. This North-West region of Spain has long been associated with concentrated, high alcohol red wines made from its own Tempranillo clone. But last month’s tasting in London, coinciding with the 35th anniversary of the Toro DO, displayed a wide range of wine styles that were as unexpected as they were refreshing.
With canned wine sales in the UK now close to £15m and an estimated global value of over £160m it is quietly moving from a niche to mainstay of the overall UK wine market, particularly as its sustainability credentials tick so many boxes for businesses looking to hit their environmental and carbon net zero targets. Any growing sector, though, needs pillar brands and businesses to set the standards and show the way forward for smaller players to follow. Which is what the Canned Wine Co now believes it is in a position to do, particularly with last week’s acquisition of The Copper Crew canned wine brand. The Buyer talks to Ben Franks, co-founder and wine buyer for Canned Wine Co about why it decided to buy a rival brand and what he sees as the future for the overall canned wine market.
Following the success of last year’s inaugural Bike to Care event, which took place in Burgundy, the wine industry is once again taking to its bikes this May in Bordeaux, hoping to overtake last year’s impressive €250,000 money raised for hospitality charities. The Buyer’s Peter Dean joins the Hatch Mansfield team, gives a taster of what’s in store with Bike to Care Bordeaux, and explains how you can help by giving.
Are B Corp certifications a sign of genuine commitment to environmental and ethical causes, or are they just the latest corporate fad – an empty promise designed to draw in customers with words but not backed up by any real change? As we look to mark Earth Day 2023 that’s the challenge Dan Hooper, co-founder of the Yesmore Creative marketing agency, has for the drinks industry and the business, brands and celebrities that are now all chasing each other to get B Corp status.
Ribera Del Duero is one of Spain’s most exciting DOs. With the likes of Vega Sicilia and Dominio de Pingus, the reputation of its top wines is now well established, especially amongst the great and the good of Madrid’s fine dining establishments. Outside of the country, however, less is known about the complexity and range of terroirs on offer. The Buyer’s Mike Turner met up with two of the finest winemakers of the region to find out more.