Wine journalist – and regular Buyer writer – Chris Wilson has added another string to his bow as he launches his own urban winery in the heart of Cambridge this autumn. With keys to the windmill-based winery received this week and equipment and grapes on their way he is penning an exclusive monthly column for The Buyer on the ups and downs of building a winery, and brand, from scratch. Part 1: what’s in a name?
With drinks producers finding a route to market harder following Covid-19, the International Wine and Spirit Competition believes that there is an increasing importance being given to IWSC awards as a way of getting new drinks in front of buyers. But making the global competition actually happen this year was a daunting logistical exercise that faced numerous challenges in overcoming each country’s lockdown restrictions. Panel member David Kermode finds out how it was done and what the changes will mean moving forwards.
On the face of it sommeliers and on-trade wine buyers are not natural bedfellows to the global bulk wine market. But in reality if restaurants, bars and pubs are sourcing wines from suppliers, particularly across the major varieties such as New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc or Argentine Malbec, then many of them will have been shipped in bulk and bottled in the UK. It’s the reason they are on people’s lists at price points that many customers are looking for. Here David Gill MW at Kingsland Drinks, one of the country’s biggest bulk suppliers, makes the case for why bulk wine is only going to become a more important part of the wines bought at all levels of the on-trade.
Disruptive online wine service Winebuyers was conceived and launched just over two years ago in response to the wine trade’s slow uptake of e-commerce. To say that they were in the right place at the right time during lockdown is an understatement: Sales have increased over 800%, new memberships are up 700% above forecast, average order values are up 38% and the company has onboarded 80 new suppliers who didn’t have a route to market. CEO Ben Revell looks here at what else the changes over the past five months have taught him about the nation’s changing drinking habits and what lessons there are to learn for the rest of the trade.
Finally after weeks of turmoil and damage across the South African drinks and wine industries, and all the retail and hospitality sectors they support, the government’s domestic ban on all alcohol sales has been lifted. For the last few months all those outside the country could do was show their support by promoting, buying, and in The Buyer’s case write and talk about South African wine. Which is what this week’s video interview is all about and the chance to talk to Jean Claude (JC) and Carolyn Martin, the charismatic and inspiring couple behind Creation Wines, who encapsulate the extraordinary efforts that producers have had to go to in order to keep innovating and selling their wines overseas, so that they could support their staff and local communities that rely on them for their livelihoods. In particular, they have shown the way forward with the number of virtual tastings and sampling packs they have created for their international markets. It’s why today The Buyer today ‘Raises a Glass To’ them – and all South African wine producers at this time.
A company that helped the government and the NHS track the outbreak of Covid-19 across the UK has switched its digital identity and blockchain expertise to set up a new dedicated track and trace system designed specifically for restaurants, pubs and bars to securely record and store details of their customers. Ian Gass, chief executive of AGITATE, talks through how its new InkPass system is going to work and how on-trade businesses can sign up to it.
Akitu has always had a very pure proposition – only producing two Pinot Noirs, Akitu A1 and Akitu A2, that show two sides of the same coin, namely the special terroir of the Wanaka end of Central Otago. So, when Andrew Donaldson and winemaker PJ Charteris decided to make a white wine it naturally enough had be a ‘Blanc de Noirs’, a wine that is as unusual as it is seductive, writes Anne Krebiehl MW. Here she reveals the full story behind Akitu Pinot Noir Blanc 2019 plus the new A1 and A2 from 2018, a vintage that created some serious challenges all of its own.
Post-Communism the Czech wine industry focussed on getting the basics right but since 2007 winemakers have started taking concepts like terroir, low intervention and organic more seriously. The landscape is varied, there’s an exciting diversity of styles and grape varieties, lower alcohol wine is a thing and there is a strong, concerted move to be producing Czech wines with a strong sense of place.
“Stories are important for us human beings, we’ve been painting them on cave walls ever since we had cave walls, and minimalism says nothing except a colour for the baby’s room.” Kevin Shaw, founder of Stranger & Stranger, is back with this brilliant analysis and take down of what he sees as inspirational drinks design…and, well, whatever the opposite is to that. If you want to know what good design is then read on and let Shaw tell you in his own inimitable way.
Today The Buyer, along with no doubt so many people in the drinks, hospitality and retail sectors, would like to ‘Raise a Glass To’ the on-going efforts of The Drinks Trust, and its chief executive Ross Carter, for the amazing efforts they have gone to throughout the Covid-19 crisis to provide both financial and practical support to thousands of people across our combined industries who have personally been affected by the pandemic.
Milan Wine Week 2020 is not quite what founder Federico Gordini had in mind as he closed the successful 2019 event a little over nine months ago. A repeat of 300,000-plus attendees is clearly no longer on the cards. But a little thing like a global pandemic wasn’t going to stop this Milanese entrepreneur and, as Mike Turner found out recently, the plans in place look set to lay a benchmark for the weeks and months to come across the global wine trade.
The 5th annual Willamette Pinot Noir auction 2020 goes live from today (August 11-13) focussing on the ‘Goldilocks’ 2018 vintage. Like most world events it is being held online, although the other major change this year has come about because of the social unrest in Oregon following the death of George Floyd. For this reason the Willamette Valley Wineries Association is working with the James Beard Foundation to benefit Black and Indigenous Peoples of North America. L.M. Archer reports on the changes this year, a virtual seminar moderated by David Adelsheim on August 6 and previews some of the exciting lots that are up for grabs in the trade auction.
If you like bone dry Riesling and cool climate Pinot Noir then head to Forge Cellars in New York States’ Seneca Lake. It’s so proud of those two styles of wine it makes that they are the main slogan on the company’s website. Forge Cellars is actually a Franco-American alliance between local New York winemaker, Rick Rainey and Louis Barruol of France, owner of Chateau de Saint Cosme and Chateau Rouanne. Here Rainey explains what it has been able to do in lockdown and its plans when restrictions ease.
For a respected wine business with as much tradition as Armit Wines, it has been a surprise to see it have five managing directors in twice the number of years, and a revolving door of talent that has come and gone over the same period. But now under the leadership of Brett Fleming, with decades of experience of working with major international wine producers across the word, it appears to be not only in safe hands, but has a chief that is clearly here for the long term. So whilst we might all now be going through a massive period of risk, upheaval and uncertainty, Armit Wines is enjoying a time of both stability and growth with a turnaround in sales and profit. In this wide ranging video interview Fleming talks to Richard Siddle about the corporate vision he has for the business and the goals he has set, but most of all he talks passionately about the culture, the mindset and the attitude of the people he wants to work with.
The devastating explosion that rocked through the port and streets of Lebanon this week also sent shockwaves around the world. But as the dust settles on this unique, vibrant and historic city, the sheer scale of the damage is only just starting to be assessed. It leaves a city, and a country, already on its knees from months of economic and political turmoil that has wiped out people’s savings as its currency has collapsed. Here leading Lebanese journalist and wine critic, Michael Karam, puts this week’s shocking events into context, with a wine industry already dependent on international sales for its future, now desperate for all the support the international wine community can spare it.
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Although Heidi von der Mehden has been at California estate Merry Edwards for the past five years, 2018 was her first vintage fully in charge. Anne Krebiehl MW tastes the new 2018 Sonoma County Sauvignon Blanc and AVA Pinots and hears first hand from Heidi where she is intending to take the wines. We learn too why the SB came out of Meredith Edwards’ distaste of the varietal, plus how pivotal the key UCD 37 clone of Pinot is, and how it came into being.
When a winemaker talks about their wine they will often do so by referring to the unique terroir, or specific location where the vines from which the grapes that go into the wine are grown. But should we be doing the same with beer in terms of where the barley, hops, yeast and water that goes into the brewing come from? To help us find out Richard Siddle explores the wine side of the debate, whilst Emma Inch, the current British Beer Writer of the Year, makes the case for beer. Let the debate begin…
West Country based winemaker, Daniel Ham, has recently launched his new Off Beat Wines label onto the market – to critical acclaim. His 2018 is already sold out, and his 2019 all but spoken for already. With a new winery to open later this year in readiness for the 2020 vintage, it’s been a whirlwind few months for Dan that has turned doubters into believers. Himself included.
No matter how well your sales are doing in your domestic market, you will never maximise the full potential of your brand unless you find a way to successfully export it into new markets around the world. But that’s a lot easier said than done, says Chris Briers head of export at Southwestern Distillery that has been able to build a strong export strategy for its brands, including Tarquin’s Gin. Here he sets out his do’s and dont’s of how to build an export business for your brand.