Bibendum’s annual portfolio tasting is always a must-attend event. This year was no different with it staged in Battersea Arts Centre under the imaginative and effective theme of ‘The Art of Wine’. Justin Keay attended this preview, congratulated agencies for emphasising breadth and value-for-money and picks out 10 stand-out wines that should be displayed on many a shelf or list.
Whisper it quietly but the world of wine is waking up to the idea of doing business in Paris, in February thanks to the fast growth of Wine Paris & Vinexpo Paris which goes into only its fourth show promising to be 25% bigger than 2022, of which 35% of visitors will come from outside France, up from a quarter last year. Here Helen Arnold assesses what it is that has made the trade fair connect so quickly with the global wine industry and what to expect at next month’s show.
One small step for the world of wine, one giant leap for Slovakia. This was the message that came out of The World of Slovak Wine tasting earlier this month in London. The first ever UK wine tasting devoted to Slovak wine was a small, focused affair that has helped put the wines on the map, with sommeliers, indies and niche wine consultants all raving about what they found and eager to discover more. Elizabeth Gabay MW who was showing a Rosé she has co-produced with Vladimir Magula reports from the event.
“I’ve been lucky to join an industry and find a role which fits like a glove.” That’s how Stuart Porter, sales executive for Southern Home Counties, describes his position at Corney & Barrow and how the opportunity to work directly with restaurants, bars and pubs to find the right wines for their wine lists and their customers is what still excites him some 10 plus years working for the company. Richard Siddle talks to him about the skills needed to be a regional sales executive.
The annual portfolio tasting for Louis Latour Agencies last week was an impressive affair, particularly given that it was the first since the tragic passing of Louis-Fabrice Latour last September. With his brother Florent Latour attending as well as MD Will Oatley, Geoffrey Dean got the lowdown on the company’s succession plans and the priorities for the coming year. New agencies Château Sainte Roseline from Côtes de Provence and Champagne’s Cobalte Vodka were unveiled along with all the new vintages and cuvées from the company’s tidy stable of international, family-owned estates. Dean also highlights nine wines (and a brandy) that caught his eye.
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.