We continue our countdown to the ceremony of the Star Wine List UK of the Year with The Buyer by looking at one of the new international categories that has been introduced for the 2023 competition – most sustainable wine list. To help put on the award we have partnered with Spier, one of South Africa’s leading wineries when it comes to environmental farming with a whole host of initiatives in place that not only look after the vines and the grapes they produce, but also the soils and natural habitat all around them. Spier also works closely with local communities and promotes cultural and art initiatives as part of its commitment to be a sustainable business in all aspects of what it does.
With its natural ampitheatre and 8-metre high walled terraces, Quinta da Boavista is one of the most instantly recognisable and iconic estates in the Douro Valley – worthy of UNESCO World Heritage status on its own. And yet very few people are allowed here. Granted rare access to the estate, Peter Dean explores the historical, 80-hectare site, meets winemaker Carla Tiago for the first ever tasting of all the estate’s wines from the past five harvests and discovers how, under its new owners Sogevinus, and with the help of Pétrus’s Jean-Claude Berrouet, Boavista is set to cement its reputation as one of the best producers of still red wine in Portugal.
To help mark Australia Day we turn our attention on Brown Brothers’ that has been making wine in Milawa in Victoria since 1889. The winery remains with the family all these years later and is now under the control of three sisters, Katherine, Caroline and Emma who have taken the helm of one of Australia’s first and leading family-owned wine companies. Libby Brodie talks to winemaker, Katherine Brown, about life on the estate, its future plans and how it is looking forwards to bringing Brown Brother’s sweet wine Orange Muscat and Flora back to the UK.
For the past three years, Creation Wines has been voted into the top 50 of the World’s Best Vineyards and has now grabbed the top spot in Africa. While Creation’s restaurant and tasting room are a destination in their own right, the wines are pretty special too, as Anne Krebiehl MW discovered when she tasted through the range of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and got under the skin of Creation’s philosophy with owners Carolyn and Jean-Claude Martin.
With so much competition amongst the wine importers that already exist, it’s quite a big step to launch a new business into such a crowded market place. But since Alex Green and Matthew Johnson started up Beyond Wines in the middle of Covid-19 they have not looked back with a business model that operates as a smaller, arguably more flexible alternative to the UK’s biggest distributors. It’s all based on striking strategic partnerships with key producers around the world. Here Alex Green explains how it is working with Overhex to source great value wines – and potentially breakthrough brands – from South Africa.
The flagship wines of Western Australia’s Vasse Felix – Tom Cullity and Heytesbury – offer exceptional value for money and quality when set alongside comparable wines from the Old World, argues Roger Jones. Our Australian wine expert and retired Michelin star chef met up with Vasse Felix’s chief winemaker, Virginia Willcock to put the wines to the test, tasting the first ever vintage of Tom Cullity, sampling Heytesbury back to 2013 and comparing both wines with verticals of the Vasse Felix Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.
We are not even at the end of January and the trading challenges facing the wine industry for the year ahead look like some of the hardest it has ever had to overcome. It feels like producers, buyers, importers, suppliers and retailers alike are standing in front of a croupier in a casino not sure whether to stick, twist or place another bet. Be it the problems up and down the supply chain getting wine from A to B, to the increased packaging, dry good and glass costs, through to the shortage of staff on the front line of hospitality and retail to sell it. Here Phoebe Phillips talks to major producers, suppliers, importers and buyers to understand the challenges they are facing and how they are innovating to stay relevant, competitive, solvent – and hopefully profitable.
Victoria Pinot Noir is arguably Australia’s finest, but there is more to the State than Mornington Peninsula and Yarra Valley as Geoffrey Dean discovered when he spent a three-week driving tour there – teasing out some of the lesser-known gems in Victoria’s vinelands. There are eight regions (aside from Mornington and Yarra) which are all producing outstanding Pinot Noir which Dean explores, highlighting the producers that may well be under most people’s radar.
As the clock ticks down to the final days to enter the UK Wine List of the Year competition, run by Star Wine List in partnership with The Buyer, we look back at one of last year’s big winners – The Vineyard at Stockcross. In all it picked up three wine list awards for California, Germany and New Zealand in the 2022 awards. Here Helen Arnold analyses its success in the New Zealand category and talks to director of wine, Romain Bourger, about how he puts the overall wine list together.
In France’s Pays d’Oc, the long-underrated Grenache variety is finally enjoying its time in the sun. Dominic Rippon discovers how much this grape has to offer, in all three colours, and selects his top dozen bottles from a recent tasting at IGP Pays d’Oc’s space age HQ in Montpellier.
Next month sees a new wine event launched in London as Business France brings winemakers and producers from all regions of France together for the first VIN event – billed as a one stop opportunity for buyers to see what trends and styles are now possible in still arguably the world’s most influential wine producing country. To help set the scene The Buyer talks to leading buyers and importers who will be taking part in VIN to ask them why France is such an important country for their businesses.
When it comes to creating content, tasting notes, marketing copy and images or illustrations to be used by businesses across the drinks, retail and hospitality sectors there is a now an increasingly blurred world between what has been created by a human and what has automatically been generated by an artificial intelligence platform. There are now even AI tools out there that are specifically targeted at the wine and drinks industry and many more are expected to follow. For this month’s column Dan Hooper, co-founder of YesMore Creative, analyses just what is the future for AI in our working lives.
Winemakers are used to dealing with major climate issues and, more recently, problems with supply chains. For Lebanese producers such as Chateau Ksara, life is a whole different ball game. Making wine in the Bekaa Valley, a stronghold of the pro-Iranian Hizbollah, coping with frequent power cuts from a bankrupt utility group and inflation that is tracking at 180% – it is a wonder that any are still in business. But the Lebanese people, like the wines of Chateau Ksara, have an agelessness and indestructibility about them as Justin Keay discovered when he met up with Ksara’s George Sara and Lebanese wine expert Michael Karam for a rare vertical tasting of Sara’s flagship Bordeaux blend Chateau and its 100% Cabernet Sauvignon.
“Mature vineyards and talented, experienced winemakers have taken the expression of Riesling to another level, where the region’s examples sit comfortably as world-class interpretations of the variety.” That’s how David Stredwick explains the impact that Riesling has had in Western Australia and how winemakers, particularly in the Great Southern area, are working hard to understand and improve the unique quality Rielsings the area is now capable of producing.
As the oldest family-owned estate in Rioja, Marqués de Murrieta, has an air of Spanish royalty. At the bodega’s 170th anniversary, however, chief Vicente Dalmau explains to Roger Jones that there’s no intention to sit on its laurels but rather for his team to push the envelope further both in terms of wine styles and how Rioja is presented to the outside world. At a spellbinding dinner atop London’s Shangri La, Jones reports back on an event where some of the rarest bottles from Rioja were opened and consumed.
“It is great to see what Steve and Jill Matthiasson are doing to fight the good fight for California as a whole,” is how Jon Davey of its UK wine importer, Nekter Wines, introduced the Matthiassons to a room of top sommeliers and wine merchants in London at the end of last year before giving the floor to the Matthiassons to explain their part in the new wave Californian wine scene and just what a ‘pursuit of balance’ means to them and why sustainable and organic winemaking has always been the way they have made wine since they started in 2003.
Our final look back at the wines of 2022 finishes with a selection of 10 from our Drinks Editor, Peter Dean. Four major events stood out for him in the year – a legendary Hermitage tasting, a wine fair in Vienna, a cycle through the vineyards of Burgundy and a tasting in the underground cellars of Octavian which has already gone into wine scribe folklore as possibly the best-ever wine tasting.
“Curious Vines’ approach to redressing the gender imbalance in the wine world is two-fold: not only do they provide high-quality education and academic support for women undertaking the highest level of wine qualifications; but they complement this by fostering a genuine community of women in wine.” Which is why The Gerard Bassett Foundation has just awarded Queena Wong, founder of Curious Vines, a Master of Wine support funding programme to help female candidates taking the exam. Here we talk to Queena Wong about the work Curious Vines does to bring women in wine together and how the new funding will help.
“We have never been able to buy Bordeaux with the consistency of quality that we are doing at the moment…Bordeaux has never been so good.” That was the verdict of Bordeaux wine educator, Laura Clay, after taking part in a tasting of Right Bank Bordeaux wines that asked our panel of leading importers, wine merchants and educators to assess wines from 2018, 2010 and 2012 vintages to see what developments there have been across the region’s main appellation as part of a link up with Union of Syndicates of St Emilion which covers 10 appellations: Lussac Saint-Emilion, Puisseguin Saint-Emilion, Saint-Emilion, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru, Montagne Saint-Emilion, Saint-Georges Saint-Emilion, Pomerol, Lalande de Pomerol, Fronsac and Canon Fronsac.
Created in 2005 and now led by 36-year old CEO Rodolphe Frerejean Taittinger, Frerejean Frères is one of the youngest houses in Champagne – allowing it to break free from convention. The company ethos sits somewhere between that of a typical maison and that of a grower as Victor Smart discovered when he visits for its inaugural maison cellar dinner. Smart meets the Frerejean Frères team and samples the wines including Cuvée des Hussards 2012 and VV26 Grand Cru, a blend of 2008, 2009 and 2016 harvests from vines dating back to 1926.