The finalists in what will be the fourth Star Wine List of The Year UK with The Buyer have been announced, picking out the very best restaurants and bars that have wine as a central part of their offer. The chosen venues will now go forward to the final to be held in London on March 4 and the chance to network with fellow finalists and the drinks partners for the competition. Here we reveal who will be competing for the overall winners.
Although its original vineyard was planted 130 years ago it wasn’t until 1980 that Elderton Wines really started – when a real estate agent offered Neal and Lorraine Ashmead 72 acres of vineyard for free if they bought the farmhouse. Having brought the vines back from the brink, the couple won Australia’s top wine trophy 10 years later and have never looked back. Now under the ownership of sons Cameron and Allister, Elderton is on an ambitious growth programme, changing the style of the wines, and looking to invest in its future. The good news is that the wines are back in the UK. Peter Dean caught up with Cameron and tasted through the new vintages.
The Roussillon is ‘the last frontier of France’ – a region that’s been making wine for millennia but is only today being rediscovered as a source of fine wine. So says Steve Daniel, Hallgarten & Novum Wine’s head of buying, who has made it his mission over the next five years to give the region the attention it fully deserves, and the kind of focus he has brought to bear on Greek wine. On the eve of Hallgarten’s annual portfolio tasting in London, Peter Dean caught up with Daniel and tasted through the wines from the six producers he has chosen to spearhead this new project.
With a growing middle class and increasing appreciation for premium drinks, the Asia-Pacific region continues to present strong opportunities for wines and spirits brands. This expanding market, however, remains a complex one and can be hard to navigate and requires strategic partnerships and a deep understanding of the local market to get right. Which is where Nimbility, a specialist market builder for drinks companies across the region, hopes it can offer a targeted route to market and has worked with a number of brands and producers including Maison Mirabeau, Sagamore Spirits, Rathfinny Estate, Journey’s End, Klein Constantia, Trinity Hill and Bertinga. Here Nimbility’s founding partner, Francesca Martin, explains how it can help wine producers find the right import and distribution partners in the APAC region.
Valpolicella is another wine region that has started listening to the changes in consumer taste – from making big, bold extracted wines with immense concentration and alcohol, to wines with greater elegance and finesse. So how are producers changing style and what does this mean not only for Valpolicella but also the future of one of Italy’s greatest red wines, Amarone? Justin Keay talks to Stefano Cesari owner of Brigaldara and also discovers the part that expanded production in the region and how it is having a detrimental effect.
Tuscan wine royalty, Tenuta San Guido, releases Sassicaia 2021, the latest vintage of its true iconic flagship wine this February. The 2021, available through importers Armit Wines, has been eagerly anticipated following favourable vintage conditions on the rolling slopes of Bolgheri, towards Tuscany’s stunning western coastline. We sent The Buyer’s very own Italophile, Mike Turner, to taste the wines with Priscilla Incisa della Rocchetta and find out more about what proves to be another much sought-after triumph for the team at Tenuta San Guido.
Sardinia, best known for blue seas, white sandy beaches and unlike the UK right now, warm sunshine. Located 150 miles off the west coast of Italy, Sardinia is the second biggest island in the Mediterranean. At around 9,300 square miles ‘Sardegna’ as the locals say is just fractionally smaller than Italy’s famous southern island, Sicily. Here Abbie Bennington reports on the exciting new wine and food scene on the island and a growing winemaking community.
To best understand the key trends, opportunities and pressure points across the super competitive UK on-trade sector, Wine Business Solutions has for over 15 years analysed and tracked up to 300,000 different wine listings on wine lists in venues across the country. Here its founder, Peter McAtamney, sets out some of the key lessons to be learnt from its latest Wine On-Premise UK 2024 report, shares his thoughts on what areas he thinks UK importers are doing well and where they need to quickly improve on – and what it was that made Boutinot stand out as its leading supplier of the year.
The concessions made to demonstrating French farmers over ‘green regulations’ was a setback for biodiversity but a timely reminder during the second Vignoble & Biodiversité conference, of the need for strength in adversity. The French government backtracking on its Ecophyto programme which would have massively reduced the use of pesticides in French agriculture coincided with the conference getting underway in Avignon. Ben Bernheim was there for The Buyer to hear why biodiversity matters, particularly in viticulture, and what is being done in the field to promote it.
Domaine de la Romanée-Conti 2021 is a magical set of wines of great beauty and a look back over the shoulder at the style of past decades before the power of the sun became such an issue. The weather was cruel, however, with the yields the lowest for 50 years – Corton and Montrachet down to just 10% of production – although that is not apparent in the wines. Peter Dean heard from DRC’s co-directors Perrine Fenal and Bertrand de Villaine about the soul-searching the team experienced during the April frosts and their use of ‘candles’ for the first time and tastes through the wines at Corney & Barrow, DRC’s UK distributor.
“Greek wine has come a long way over the past years. I believe that in today’s rapidly evolving global wine scene, an annually updated Greek wine report has become indispensable.” Which is why Yiannis Karakasis MW has pulled together arguably the most comprehensive guide to Greek wines in his new 116 page report – Greek Wine Explained. Here he sets out why he thinks Greek wines deserve their place in the premium and fine wine market and what to expect in his new report.
For 10 years Coravin has allowed ‘accessed’ wine to have a life above and beyond the limitations of its closure – whether that be cork or skrewcap. Since inventor and founder Greg Lambrecht introduced us to his revolutionary gadget quarter of a billion glasses of wine have been served with Coravin and extensions been developed for sparkling wines, Vinolok closures and 100ml sample bottles. Lambrecht was in London to show how the device can also be used for No/Lo, fruit juice and fortified wines – and put Victoria Sharples’ tasting to the test with a 15 year-old bottle of Barolo that has been ‘accessed’ multiple times over the past decade.
“It’s like doing a massive jigsaw puzzle, it’s frustrating at times but once completed it feels amazing.” That’s how Helen McGinn, wine buyer turned novelist, describes the experience of starting with a blank piece of paper and turning it into, hopefully, a best-selling novel. With her fourth book about to be published she explains the process she goes through of bringing an idea for a story to life and then committing it to page. She also gives a behind the scenes insight into her other career as a television wine pundit on BBC’s Saturday Morning Kitchen.
“Would you like your wine with or without alcohol?” is a glimpse into the future of selling wine in a restaurant, afforded by Oddbird. The latest entrant into the alcohol-free wine market, Oddbird wines have been made possible by an unique process of vacuum distillation which aims to keep the wine’s provenance and varietal obvious to the customer – at the same time as removing the alcohol. David Kermode gave Oddbird the taste test in one of London’s hottest new restaurants, Apricity.
The London Competitions for Beers, Wines and Spirits has introduced a new global ambassador programme where it is giving leading sommeliers and wine buyers around the world the chance to help promote the awards in their respective countries whilst also sharing their experiences of what drinks trends are driving their local markets and how medal winners in the London Competitions can look to target local listings. As the clock ticks down for entries into the 2024 London Competitions (February 22) we feature three of the ambassadors based in Bangkok, the UAE and the UK.
“You really have to come to the region to immerse yourself. I will go back to the UK and evangelise about the complexity and diversity of the region’s wines.” That’s how Del Crookes co-founder of Kerno Wines in Cornwall describes the experience he shared with a small group of fellow wine buyers and independent wine merchants during a trip to Portugal’s Vinho Verde, co-hosted by The Buyer and the region’s governing wine body, the Vinho Verde Wine Commission. It was an opportunity for them to see first hand the diversity of the wines now being made in Vinho Verde and discover both its white and red wine styles which Marianna Sivalli, operations manager at Vinoteca described as “a revelation”. The Buyer’s David Kermode was also on hand to help chair a filmed panel discussion between the merchants and Dora Simōes, president of the Vinho Verde Wine Commission, and explore the opportunities for Vinho Verde wines in the premium on and off-trade.
In order to get to the crux of the Frescobaldi family’s winemaking strategy, Justin Keay compares this great Italian dynasty’s philosophy with that of the Antinori family. He looks at how the two families’ approaches to winemaking have changed over the years and talks to Lamberto Frescobaldi about recent estate acquisitions, choice of grape varieties and the importance of Tuscany to Frescobaldi’s output. Keay also picks out five Frescobaldi wines that need to be on your wine list.
Pruning 4 million vines across 2,420 acres is the task set for the vignerons at Gérard Bertrand’s Languedoc empire. We travel to the city of Narbonne to see how they do it with the aid of seven mules, get the lowdown behind the world’s most expensive rosé and hear from the man himself, both his philosophy of winemaking and also why he had to tell rugby legend Tendai Mtawarira of South Africa, aka ‘The Beast’ to stop calling him on the phone.
“There is a whole generation of people working in hospitality who grew up through Covid and don’t have that ‘pub or going out culture’…We cannot continue to assume knowledge that just isn’t there.” That’s how Bob Davidson puts into context the work that Veraison, the wine training arm of Berkmann Wine Cellars, is doing to help connect with the new and next generation of hospitality staff that the on-trade is going to rely on to make the most of the wine category in restaurants, bars, pubs and hotels. Here Jonathan Caswell talks to Davidson about the work it is doing and what impact it hopes to make.
Timing is everything with en primeur which is why MMD decided to host a ‘sneak peek’ tasting of three of its prestigious agencies at the tail end of last year – Domaine Faiveley, Billaud-Simon and Rhône’s Delas Frères from the much-lauded 2022 vintage were on show at London’s Carousel restaurant. Victor Smart, polished his tasting glass and went along for the ride.