“The quality is better than ever…there are more whites than ever, so don’t miss those…but it’s the reds that are the stars of the line-up. I really like 2021 as a vintage and it’s good to see a few older wines in the Top 100. The diversity is growing exponentially. There really is a Ribera del Duero for every palate.” That’s how Tim Atkin MW sets the scene for next week’s Ribera del Duero D.O. Top 100 Tasting based on his recent visit to the region and which wines and producers he thinks are setting the standards for the rest to follow.
New Zealand’s Valli Wine is one of those producers you may be reluctant to recommend – for fear of losing an allocation or sending the prices skywards. In a very short space of time Valli has started making Pinot Noir that rivals some of the very best sites in Burgundy, and wine that has earned winemaker Jen Parr the New Zealand Winemaker of the Year Award. On an early Monday morning tasting in London, with the room full of the sweet smell of Pinot, Peter Dean met up with Parr and masterclass chair Matthew Jukes to discover how Valli’s wines flips the New World/ Old World paradigm on its head.
Silverhand owns the largest vineyard in the UK at a colossal 500 acres; it has already been producing a Prosecco-style sparkling called Bramble Hill for M&S. So what does the future hold? The Buyer’s Victor Smart tasted through the new range of its wines including the still white Solaris, a Blanc de Blancs, another Prosecco-style wine, Silver Reign, and the Traditional Method fizz called KYNG that retails for a cool £249 a bottle or £395 with Norman Foster-designed packaging.
Juggling a number of balls simultaneously comes naturally to Adrian Bridge, managing director of the Fladgate Partnership – responsible for Taylor’s, Fonseca and Croft – Portugal’s third largest port producer. His military training has helped him run Fladgate as well as mastermind the building of the Yeatman hotel and the World of Wine museum in Porto, projects which have helped oil the cogs of the Douro’s all-important tourism industry, as well as earn him the city’s highest civic honour. Now a hike in UK import duties, which adversely affects fortified wines, is another hurdle in an already complex trading environment that Bridge must overcome. Geoffrey Dean travelled to the Douro, met up with Bridge and David Guimaraes, head technical director, to get an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the inner workings of one of the world’s most respected producers.
“The wine industry is innovating too slowly. Spirts and other beverages are leaving the wine business behind by recognising the need to shift their strategies and tactics.” That’s the challenge that Michael Wangbickler, president of Balzac Communications & Marketing that works with leading wine brands and producers on their communications strategies, hopes will be addressed at the Wine Future conference that is taking place in Coimbra, Portugal this week.
It has been quite a month for Lanchester Group, and its founder Tony Cleary, scooping two major industry awards in recognition of the company’s pioneering approach to sustainability. The group, which includes Lanchester Wines and Greencroft Bottling, won the prestigious Green Wine Initiative trophy at the International Wine and Spirit Competition’s annual awards gala at London’s Roundhouse, while Cleary, who founded the company with wife Veronica in their living room more than forty years ago, was also personally recognised with an ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) award from the LDC (a part of Lloyds Banking Group) for creating ‘a business driven to contribute to a more sustainable future’. David Kermode caught up with Cleary as he was still taking it all in.
The once booming Chinese and Asian wine markets are still in a sustained period of upheaval and turbulence as the region continues to struggle post-Covid to re-gain economic and consumer confidence. All of which is bad news for wine producers that had built up a significant presence in these once fast growing market places. To help mark the scene for this week’s analysis of the Chinese wine market at Wine Future in Portugal, Ian Ford and Nichole Mao, partners in Nimbility, the specialist Asian business marketing and support agency, give their latest comprehensive update on the current state and future prospects of China and Asia’s wine markets.
“There are sadly far more leaders and chief executives across the combined drinks, retail and hospitality sectors that choose to stay quiet and work away behind the scenes than there are those willing to speak out and risk opening themselves up to publicly scrutiny – and all three sectors potential for future growth are harmed as a result.” Harsh but fair? The Buyer’s Richard Siddle thinks so and here explains why in all his years covering the grocery and FMCG sectors, in particular, and their long and winding supply chains, he can’t think of a time when there is a real lack of leadership clout and individuals with the personality to inspire and motivate the industries they work in. It’s ironic that in a time when there have never been more ways to communicate so many of our so called leading supermarkets, drinks companies, brand owners and their suppliers choose to hide behind sanitised corporate social media feeds and anodyne public statements. The good news is the stage is clear for any businesses, brands or individuals to stand up and make a difference. You will quickly earn the respect of your peers if you do.
All of those advocates of South Australian Grenache – winemakers and voices in the trade – are being proved right as the sheer quality of the wines coming out from Down Under are proving to be peerless. To make the point Amelia Jukes held an event in London’s 67 Pall Mall called ‘Continents of Grenache – an exploration of South Australian Grenache’ to highlight what South Australia can offer and to pit them against the best from across the globe. Roger Jones was in attendance and picks out his highlights that include wines from Alkina, Cirillo, John Duval and Yangarra.
“Brilliant digital strategies and the ability to engage consumers in new ways will be the difference maker for most brands. We need to invest in talent and technology and continue to innovate with sustainability.” Justin Noland, senior director for DTC marketing and ecommerce at Treasury Wine Estates sets out the challenges and opportunities the wine industry needs to address ahead of next week’s major Wine Future conference in Portugal that will bring together many of the sectors leaders figures and businesses.
The Chardonnay grape rose to international fame in the 1980s and has since become the World’s most planted white variety. In Pays d’Oc, more than 600,500 hectolitres of varietal Chardonnay were made in 2022 – which amounts to almost the combined total of ALL the other Pays d’Oc varietal whites! There’s a good reason for this: Chardonnay thrives in the sunny south of France, making a seemingly endless array of different wines, the quality of which never ceases to improve. Dominic Rippon selects 14 of his favourite IGP Pays d’Oc unoaked Chardonnays from a recent tasting of the 2022 vintage.
VSPT Wine Group is looking for a full-time UK Account Manager based in the market to develop current business and open new accounts within the off-trade channel. An exciting opportunity to join the UK subsidiary that was opened earlier this year.
The worlds of bulk, branded, packaged and own label wines and spirits are becoming ever entwined as buyers and producers alike look at ever more efficient and sustainable ways to do business with each. Which is why in November the International Bulk Wine & Spirits Show is returning to London with a new sister event, the UK Trade Tasting focused on promoting branded wines and spirits. The Buyer talks to events organiser Sid Patel, chief executive of the Beverage Trade Network, about what he hopes the two combined events can offer the UK and European wine industries.
As the organiser of a Crémant v Cap Classique masterclass, it was sod’s law for Les Grands Chais de France that it would land just days after the South Africans knocked the French out of the Rugby World Cup. Ballsy that they should still go ahead with it but then, as France’s leading producer of traditional method sparkling wines making almost 40 million bottles a year, GCF is not known for being a shrinking violet. They have unrivalled expertise in making top-quality crémant and are the only company to make it in all eight of the PDO regions. Sarah McCleery had a ringside seat for the sparkling wine clash, tasted through the South African estates Neethlingshof and newly acquired, Villiera and reports back on what’s new at GCF in 2023.
As if battling climate change wasn’t hard enough, the Italian wine estates that travelled to London for this year’s Borsa Vini Italiani had to then combat a national rail strike and threatened London Underground strike to get people to come taste their wines. The Buyer’s Heather Dougherty managed to get to the event and found wines made with a fascinating range of grapes – ones that are familiar and many less so – a breadth of varieties that could well be Italy’s answer to coping with the changing weather.
Turkish wines now offer a “combination of gorgeous, expressive brightness of fruit that that almost has a slightly ‘New World’ feel that is countered by really lovely, interesting textures and an almost ‘Old World’ structure”. That was the summary of Sarah Abbott MW who helped lead a travelling group of UK wine buyers, and consultants to take part in the IWSC’s new initiative to taste where possible in the host country. Fellow judge David Kermode explains how and where the judging took place and picks out some of the highlights.
South Africa is rightly praised and respected around the world for how far its wines have come in the last 20 years, but it is still not seen as a major fine wine producing country. Vilafonté is looking to change that. A high-end South African wine brand, based on premium Bordeaux-style blends that, in its own words, has “an uncompromising determination to produce wines which stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the great wines of the world”. To help prove the point, and to set the scene for the imminent release of the 2021 vintage, it recently held a 21-year vertical tasting of every vintage of Vilafonté Series C all the way back to 2003 at a special event in Stellenbosch, South Africa. The invited tasters could go at their own pace, aided and abetted by head winemaker, Chris de Vries. Malu Lambert was one of those invited to attend and here she catches up with Mike Ratcliffe, one of the co-founders and lead champion of the Vilafonté brand, where they discuss ancient terroir, new irrigation technologies, the state of fine wine in South Africa, and his 100-year plan.
Next month sees the culmination of a year-long campaign by the Consejo Regulador D.O. Jerez and ICEX, the Spanish government agency that promotes exports and investment, to shine a sustained light on the opportunities that Sherry has for the premium on and off-trades through a mix of marketing, digital, trade, and promotional events that will all come together for the 10th Anniversary of International Sherry Week between November 6 and November 12. Fino 4 Foodies, the digital marketing campaign that looked to highlight Sherry and Fino wines, in particular, to the UK trade and consumer, launched in the summer and continues throughout October and November. Here we set the scene for what to expect during November’s International Sherry Week and how restaurants, bars, pubs and independent wine merchants can get involved with their own events, tastings and dinners.
“I have just returned from one of my life’s most fascinating and comprehensive Australian tours…” That’s how Matthew Jukes describes his recent comprehensive tour of Western Australia, taking part and hosting breakthrough tastings and masterclasses right across the region, as well as the chance to taste 100s of wines and assess just where he thinks the region, its wines and producers are heading. Here in this exclusive in-depth, comprehensive report for The Buyer he takes us all on a journey across Western Australia, as he shares his thoughts, feelings and experiences of taking such a deep dive into what the region can offer the world of premium and fine wine. Jukes, arguably the world’s leading non-Australian critic of the country’s wines, also shares his top wines from the WA Good Food Guide & Wine Awards and includes highlights from many of the not to be repeated tastings he was able to host and take part in.
No Champagne brand has courted such controversy as Armand de Brignac. What’s changed, though, is that lux giant LVMH has bought a 50% stake. Picking up the story is The Buyer’s Victor Smart who hooked up with the team and tasted through the new range, including the new Blanc de Noirs Assemblage Number Four which will first be available from Harrods this Christmas in a boxed set of each of the maison’s cuvées at a cool £6,400.