Since Condor Wines was established in 2011, it has carved a niche as one of the UK’s foremost importers of wines from Argentina, Chile and Uruguay. To celebrate its 10th anniversary, Condor’s founder, Lee Evans, hosted a day of webinar sessions with representatives from several of the really interesting wineries with which he works, comparing and contrasting their different regions and enlightening us on the challenges and opportunities they face now and in the future.
“We have had an exciting 12 months and been able to launch a whole number of concepts into the market,” is how David Rowledge, owner of Alchemy Wines, looks back at what he says has undoubtedly been the busiest and arguably the most rewarding of his career in the wine and drinks industry, which has culminated in the community.co charity drinks range and a new wine brand with former England cricketer Phil Tufnell.
After 18 months of Zoom tastings and mini samples, this July’s generic Wines of Spain tasting was an opportunity to experience the real live thing, albeit through Covid-safe protocol. Here Justin Keay found further proof that with closer attention to soil, climate, altitude and the nuances of individual grape varieties Spain is truly becoming one of the world’s most interesting producer nations. The tasting covered all of the country’s regions providing an exciting opportunity to taste lesser-known wines from increasingly-improving regions of Ribeiro and Txakoli. Afterwards Keay had an audience with Paula Fandino from Mar de Frades.
Breaking industry news does not normally happen on a Sunday afternoon, but just as many in the trade might have been thinking about what bottle of wine to open for Sunday lunch, news broke that would have got many reaching for a bottle of fizz to celebrate the surprise government u-turn that it was to scrap completely its intention to introduce what the wine sector saw as expensive and dangerous VI-1 forms on future wine imports from the EU. The Buyer looks back on the efforts made by so many in the wine industry, driven by the Wine & Spirit Trade Association, to stand up to Whitehall bureaucracy which showed how strong the sector can be when it has the support of all its influential leaders and a sympathetic ear in the financial and business press.
Wine expert LM Archer discovers Lugana Riserva white wines and Bardolino reds from Northern Italy from producers Le Morette, Le Fraghe, Rizzardi, Zenato, and Ca’ Lojera and argues that they are a match for red and white Burgundy at a fraction of the price. The Consorzio di Tutela Chiaretto e Bardolino has been busy of late, putting its weight behind a charm offensive to promote this ancient wine region at the southern tip of Lake Garda, showcasing its two-year aged white Riservas and reintroducing three historic sub-zones developed during the 19th century. These include the northern foothills of Montebaldo, the morainic, more Mediterranean, lakeside hills of La Rocca, and – warmer still – the, southern, gravelly hills of Sommacampagna.
South American wine expert Amanda Barnes is in no doubt – Itata really does have it all. Incredible old vines, artisanal producers, ancient granite soils, unique grape varieties and a mild climate where dry farming and sustainable viticulture come with ease. It has old vines to rival the pre-phylloxera ‘ancestors’ of Barossa Valley in Australia, its revolution is just as notable as that of the Swartland in South Africa, and yet, Itata is still somewhat under the radar for most wine drinkers. Here’s why Barnes think that’s set to change.
Every wine producer has a vineyard or site that gives that little bit more and works that little bit harder – with the wines produced from it being synonymous with the name of the estate. For the great Burgundy producer Joseph Drouhin that place is the Clos des Mouches, a 14 hectare vineyard acquired 100 years ago by Maurice Drouhin, that sits between Corton Charlemagne, Pommard and Puligny Montrachet. The red and white Premier Cru wines that come from this rare monopole are legendary in Burgundy, but that wasn’t always the case. In the 1980s the family realised the soil was dying and something had to be done quick to bring it back to life.
The London Wine Competition is looking to build on the success of its 2021 awards by calling out to supermarkets, specialist drinks retailers and wine merchants to enter the 2022 awards and give their wines an extra push by vying for Golds and Trophies in the only major international drinks competition that judges wines by their quality, their price, value for money and what they look like. Any business that enters their wines before August 31 can take advantage of Super Early Bird pricing.
In just over a decade Mirabeau has become not just one of the most recognisable, influential and fastest growing Provence rosé brands, it has successfully crossed a line few wine brands have been able to achieve and become a lifestyle brand in its own right. So much so that other household lifestyle brands, particularly from fashion and health and beauty, are keen to bask in the halo effect from the aspirational, escapist Provence imagery that Mirabeau has captured so well. Here founder Stephen Cronk, in the second part of his extensive interview with The Buyer, explains how the business plan for Mirabeau was to create a brand from day one and the steps they have taken to make it happen.
The fine wine world is increasingly taking stock of the great Italian white wines that are on offer, as their quality improves. One case in point is Verdicchio which often used to be just about the Anfora bottle and nothing else – this was a white wine that punters used to chill with ice cubes. One of Italy’s leading Verdicchio producers, Sartarelli, showed its latest vintages to wine consultant Douglas Blyde, who explains the background to the wines and why this Marches-based producer is consistently picking up the major gongs at the wine competitions.
Nika Tiki is a Lanchester Wines best-seller, a flagship Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc that’s a firm favourite with the on-trade and its customers. So Lanchester’s director of purchasing, Lesley Cook, was facing a potential crisis when it became apparent that Marlborough’s 2021 vintage was going to have incredibly small yields. To make matters worse, such was the popularity of the previous vintage that there was nothing left from 2020. Add in a sharp increase in shipping costs and it looked like the perfect storm. Here, Cook tells David Kermode how she needed to work fast, to secure an alternative supply from South Africa, creating a new wine, Moloko Bay, that replicates the characteristics of Nika Tiki, without replacing it.
Former Somerset cricketer and wine expert Geoffrey Dean reports on the inspirational story of Doddie’5 Red Blend 2019, a unique South African red blend which has many parts to it but one purpose – to raise money for ex-Scotland rugby player Doddle Weir OBE, now suffering with Motor Neurone Disease. Weir wore the No.5 shirt for Scotland while Schalk Burger, who made the wine with his son Tiaan, wore the No.5 for the Springboks. In another homage to the wine’s sporting provenance the blend is made of five grape varieties with £5 from every bottle sale donated to Weir’s MND charity and Burger constructing the wine as if it were a team of legends.
Here’s an en primeur system of paying for wine in advance that gets to the core of real winemaking, dedicated to reviving, and in some cases, bringing vineyards back from the dead. Derek Mossman Knapp of Chile’s Garage Wine Company explains how he has helped introduced a ‘Revival’ winemaking programme focused on neglected vineyards across rural Chile. A project that is both helping to rediscover old vines and create unique new wines, but has also captured the imagination of major producer and distributor, Freixenet Copestick, that is helping to part fund the initiative as well as sell Garage’s wines in the UK.
Stephen Cronk’s dream to make wine in Provence took a long time to come true. Eleven years and a whole different career in telecoms passed by before eventually he, and his wife Jeany, plucked up the courage to actually make happen what they had spent over a decade craving to do. But it was a time well spent as it gave the Cronks the time, the experience and the knowledge to start and then grow what has gone on to become the global success of Mirabeau. A business based on the concept of creating a Provence wine brand that embodies the nature and viticultural values of the region, but also captures the iconic imagery and lifestyle of the south of France. As they introduce the first wine grown on their own estate – La Réserve – Stephen Cronk sits down with Richard Siddle for the first part of a two part interview on how the Cronks’ Mirabeau dream came true.
Trying to cope with the symptoms of Long COVID and the restrictions on international travel have made life tough for Steve Daniel, Hallgarten’s head of buying. In a candid interview he explains how he has managed, adding two new estates to his Greek wine portfolio, both from islands he has not sourced wine from before – Ios and Kefalonia, which the smart money predicts will be the ‘new Santorini’. So what is it about Greek wine that has continually fascinated him? From championing it back in his Oddbins days to the present, where the world has finally woken up it seems to what the country has to offer.
In part one of our report on The Buyer’s debate with key importers, sommeliers and retailers on the opportunities for Beaujolais white wine and Centre-Loire red wines, in partnership with Inter Beaujolais and Centre-Loire Wines, we analysed what the buyers thought specifically of Beaujolais’ less well known white wines. Here we turn the spotlight on the Centre-Loire and look at the styles, the producers, and the price points that our panel feel have the best opportunity to do well in the specialist retail and premium on-trade.
Any drinks competition is only as good as the quality of products that are entered. That stands to reason. But they also need to be pushing themselves forward to truly represent the drinks being made that are of increasing interest to the consumer. Which is why the International Wine & Spirit Competition teamed up with Cider is Wine to hold its first tasting and awards judging for 100% juice, not-from-concentrate ciders, perries and fruit wines. Here Christelle Guibert, the IWSC’s chief executive officer, and Alistair Morrell, chief executive of Cider is Wine explain why they were blown away by the results.
Biodynamic farming is being damned by a group of Italian scientists who have started a petition, claiming that the practice is witchcraft. A leading senator backing the scientists has declared (somewhat unbelievably) “we risk giving legal recognition to flat-earthers who preach magic and witchcraft.” The aim of this petition, which has surpassed a staggering 31,000 signatories, is to overturn a bill which would put biodynamic farming on the same standing as organic farming, thereby allowing biodynamic practitioners to receive state aid. So puzzled about this state of affairs was wine consultant and restaurateur Mike Turner, that he decided to delve into the matter and ask some fundamental questions about all types of farming, talk to South African winemaker of the year Johan Reyneke, and generally put some positive PR out there for biodynamic farming.
“Rosé is the only wine where customers buy with their eyes. All rosés are customer-facing in our stores. On our Vagabond machines, the guests are able to see the different shades of pink, and there is a definite sweet spot that Provence rosés hit.” That’s the way wine buyer and winemaker, Freddie Cobb, says Vagabond Wines displays and sells Provence rosé in its bars – to great success. Here he looks at why and how Provence has not only made such a difference with rosé it now leads and drive the rest of the category. But, he stresses, Provence is also a lot more about rosé and that’s why its future is so exciting.