Villages like Saint-Romain and Saint-Aubin, Maranges and Marsannay were never that high up on the ‘must-have’ list of most self-respecting Burgundy buyers in the past, but how times are changing, argues Sebastian Thomas, director and buyer of Howard Ripley. These wines from more humble locations, and those from the Hautes-Côtes, can be quite brilliant and as generous and balanced as Premier Cru wines were 30 years ago. There are even signs that the hierarchy of classification is threatened, he says.
The second of our three debates, held in partnership with the Bourgogne Wine Board (BIVB), to help mark #BourgogneWeek examines the relationship between key specialist wine importers and the producers they work with in such an important region as Bourgogne. To help us we turned to Jason Haynes, co-founder of Flint Wines, widely regarded as one of the most important Bourgogne players in the UK market, and Thibaut Marion, owner of artisan producer, Domaine Seguin-Manuel, in Savigny-lès-Beaune.
The People’s Choice Wine Awards is the first competition out of the traps in 2021 to announce its finalists in this year’s competition. Once again the awards stand out as they include both everyday wine drinkers as well as professional trade judges in deciding who should be on the shortlists in each category. This year’s competition included both in person judging when it was possible and virtual judging. Here is event founder Janet Harrison to explain how this awards have gone with links to all the wine finalists and a chance for you to vote for the finalists in the Retail award categories.
LM Archer travels to Beaune to meet François Labet, one of the pioneers of organic viticulture in Burgundy, and the largest producer of Clos Vougeot Grand Cru. His two estates, Domaine Pierre Labet and Château De La Tour, are not just about making premium, iconic wines, however, his outstanding value Vielles Vignes Pinot Noir outsells the nearest other red Burgundy that Bidendum sells, by three to one. Archer hears first-hand about Labet’s minimalist approach to both viticulture and winemaking and samples a range of his wines, including the Corsican Pinot that he makes under his own name.
The impact of Covid-19 has thrown the drinks and hospitality sectors together like never before. Although on the one hand it has been incredibly tough for so many businesses and individuals it has also been a year of inspiration and collaboration as people and companies have come together for the greater good. The launch of the new Trust Water brand is a perfect example of our times. The work of three former colleagues who have joined forces to use their drinks industry expertise to create a brand they hope can raise at least £500,000 for The Drinks Trust. Richard Siddle finds out how.
Against all the odds, a solitary one-man Armit team has been visiting its vignerons to bring us insight direct from Burgundy. Nicolas Clerc MS was in the fortuitous position of holidaying in France and, by a stroke of luck and timing, was able to make that crucial diversion to the Route des Grands Crus. Having tasted a comprehensive range of Burgundy 2019, Clerc brings us the inside view into what is proving to be one of the most singular vintages that Burgundy has experienced in recent decades.
We mark the start of Bourgogne Week with a key industry online debate hosted by The Buyer and the BIVB (Bourgogne Wine Board) with leading importers and key figures in the UK wine industry, who discuss the key issues facing Bourgogne going into 2021 with BIVB president and producer, Louis-Fabrice Latour. In this wide ranging discussion the panel looks at how they responded to the challenges of Covid-19, the steps they took to continue working with their key Bourgogne producers and how this classic French region goes into 2021 with the UK as once again its number one export market.
Will Coulanges-la-Vineuse, one of Burgundy’s lesser-known appellations, be getting a designation upgrade in the same way that Pouilly-Fuissé has in the south? LM Archer thinks so, especially given the quality exhibited by the wines of Domaine du Clos du Roi that sometimes blend Pinot Noir with ancient grape variety César. There is even one Pinot Noir that is non-vintage and is made by blending at least three different vintages together in one cuvée.
The speed at which restaurants, bars and pubs switched to doing takeaways, pick-ups, deliveries and online during the Covid-19 lockdown was one of the few highlights of 2020. It is why the new UK Wine List of the Year awards, co-hosted by The Buyer and Star Wine List, includes a standalone Lockdown Wine List category to celebrate and reward the efforts that many outlets have taken to continue to serve their customers. Here John Graves explains why Bibendum is so pleased to be the category sponsor.
“If I can inspire other Latinas to pursue their vino voyages, I will have succeeded. If I can help increase our presence and influence in areas where we have been ignored, I will have succeeded. If I can encourage our Latinas to become more vocal for change in our industry, I will have succeeded.” Those are the mission statements that have driven Erlinda Alexandra Doherty to set up the Latinas Wine Club with her business partner, Martha Cisneros, as they look to do their part to support and promote diversity and inclusion for the Latina community – and in the wine and hospitality sectors.
In a nutshell, Burgundy 2019 is a vintage of considerable quality with reduced quantity. The detail is understandably far more complex, as Guy Seddon, Corney & Barrow’s senior fine wine buyer explains. Ahead of next week’s Bourgogne Week 2021, which runs from 11th-15th January, Seddon goes through the growing season in detail, explaining the background to the wines and then draws out key points about the wines themselves – their substance, richness, freshness and terroir-expressiveness – everything, in fact, that you need to help you make your buying decisions.
Covid-19 continues to wreak havoc across the hospitality sector and even with government support and the furlough scheme thousands of businesses are at risk of closing down, which in turn means their employees are at risk of losing their jobs, if they have not already. The Hospitality Gig is a new platform that has been set up by three highly experienced hospitality professionals to offer a new flexible way for on-trade companies to find the most suitable talent, to work on both short and longer term projects that will be needed to help the industry get back on its feet throughout 2021. Co-founder Rachel Moosa explains how it is going to work.
Two years ago Olivier Cuvelier, President of the Crus Bourgeois du Médoc, told The Buyer of his plans to change key areas of the classification system – making the award stand for five years rather than one, and for three historical hierarchical levels: Cru Bourgeois, Cru Bourgeois Supérieur and Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnel to be introduced. The changes were part of a campaign to simplify and clarify the Bordeaux classification to consumers and trade alike. But, just as these measures were being implemented in 2020, the roll-out was scuppered by Covid. Peter Dean hears from Cuvelier about how the global pandemic affected the Alliance’s work on the 2018 vintage programme and what is in the pipeline for 2021.
The world of wine is not just complex, it can be baffling and difficult to enter. There are many and diverse barriers to entry, so how can we share knowledge and access to people – and their businesses – that can help newcomers build a career? As The Drinks Trust rolls out its new mentor programme as part of its Drinks Community initiative, Pauline Vicard looks back on a debate she held late last year with Areni Global on the steps you need to take to be a good mentor.
With the barbers shops shut in his region, wine expert Justin Keay has stuck to what is truly essential – discovering exciting new wines and wine regions without leaving the comfort of his own home. He has travelled to Georgia, the Lebanon, Lombardy, Chianti, Greece (all through Zoom), and discovered a range of fascinating and somm-friendly wines along the way. As is Keay’s love of the ‘grape unknown’ he raves about wines using Negroamaro, Susumaniello, Nero di Troia, Timorasso, Marawi and Begleri amongst others.
While most wine experts have been content with mini-samples sent to them for the virtual tastings that have become de rigeur in 2020, Roger Jones has simply gone downstairs into his award-winning wine cellar and dusted off a few real, life-sized bottles. The semi-retired chef also has a food-pairing lens to look through – hence this year’s challenge to find out which wines (if any) work with char-grilled octopus, a dish he is rather partial to cooking at all hours of the day and night. And talking of barbecues – he is the only member of The Buyer’s tasting team that has picked a Bordeaux First Growth to go with a South African Brai.
If you work in the drinks industry there is a fair chance you would have got a book related to wine or spirits somewhere in your Christmas stocking. It’s hardly a novel present. But when Mike Robinson was given a book on gins and home-made tonic recipes one Christmas it was to change his life. For up to then he had been quite happy working in supply chain and logistics for Heinz. Now he is looking to make his way into the drinks industry with his own range of Jeffrey’s handcrafted cordials and tonic syrups.
2020 for the wine writer was a real game of two halves – tasting in the flesh whilst mingling round the spittoon, then tasting alone on Zoom, trying not to talk about Covid. But the drinks trade’s speed and ingenuity in facilitating online tastings meant that it was easy to appreciate how exceptional 2020 was for new wines, irrespective of how difficult life in hospitality had become. For The Buyer’s drinks editor, Peter Dean, 2020 was ‘the year of drinking differently’ – it was a year of discovery (virtual or not) with some interesting finds unearthed in his Top 10 wines of 2020.
As we finally say goodbye to 2020 there is still time to share the experiences and memories of a key member of the wine trade as we ask Mattia Scarpazza, head sommelier at Petersham Nurseries, what were his personal takeaways from such a turbulent year. It might have meant spending a lot more time away from the restaurant floor, but he has kept himself busy and creative launching his own wine podcast to great acclaim. Over to you Mattia…
As a former professional cricketer, wine expert Geoffrey Dean has been used to ‘rain stopping play’ on many an occasion. But, like the rest of us, he has never had to contend with Covid-19 sending everyone back into the pavilion. Before the pandemic prevented international travel, however, Dean visited South Africa and Australia where he made a number of key vinuous discoveries which he shares with us in his Top 10 wines of 2020.