on 16 January, 2015

Wine must be the only everyday product that has such a cavernous gulf between the knowledge of those who sell it and most of those who drink it.

on 16 January, 2015

You could be forgiven for thinking that the political frenzy surrounding a general election means those in power take their eye off the important day-to-day matters we pay them to look after and jump in a cab to the next photo op.

on 16 December, 2014

As the end of each year approaches, there comes an instinctive urge to start predicting what the future holds. But for the world of wine, where the vagaries mean something as fundamental as production becomes utterly unpredictable, any kind of clairvoyance is probably best avoided.

on 21 November, 2014

As the Oddbins empire crumbled in 2011, a producer found itself on the receiving end of a rather nasty call from the retailer, demanding more wine when it still hadn’t paid for the last lot. It was a particularly unpleasant example of supplier relations going bad.

on 21 November, 2014

Hey everyone, ’tis the season to be jolly! And when I say jolly, I mean ... drunk. right? Let’s not be squeamish: for most of the UK population, this is pretty much routine logic. Festivity means celebration, celebration means having a drink, and that inevitably equals inebriation, to a greater or lesser extent.

on 07 November, 2014

Being wrong about a subject as massive as wine is as inevitable as  selling more claret at Christmas. Even the trade’s most well-worn clichés celebrate wrongness. You know the ones: I haven’t confused Bordeaux for Burgundy since lunch; I hate Chardonnay but I love Chablis. Oh how we laughed.

on 06 November, 2014

In the early 1990s red kites were reintroduced to the Chiltern Hills, having being hunted to extinction in the late 19th century. Now they’re established, conservationists advise residents not to feed them – they want the numbers of birds to be in equilibrium with their natural food source.

on 24 October, 2014

Hand-picked, whole bunch, punched down, 50% old French for 12 months. For most people, that sentence is utterly impenetrable. Is it about flowers? Bananas? Abused Parisian pensioners?

on 23 October, 2014

Dacia, the Renault-owned Romanian car manufacturer, recently launched a hatchback at under £6,000, yet people are still buying VW Golfs at twice the price. Why?

on 10 October, 2014

Few countries take beer more seriously than Belgium.

on 10 October, 2014

One of the biggest challenges in wine retail is the right mix between wines of passion and wines of practicality.

on 19 September, 2014

Product, price, place and promotion: the four Ps of marketing. It may be corporate jargon, but it works. Sadly, promotion and price are all too often considered one and the same thing within wine retail.

on 04 September, 2014

Every September, as millions of children return to school, so the wine trade sharpens its pencils and girds its liver in readiness for the new term. Here are five ways to make the most of it.

on 15 August, 2014

Don’t judge a book by its cover, don’t believe everything you read, don’t follow the crowd.

on 18 July, 2014

Everyone’s got a story about working with the boss from hell. The manager who barks insults at the team whenever anything goes wrong – not the most helpful or constructive method of problem solving – or the maverick injecting his personality into the business, who turns out to be more sociopath than innovative thinker.

on 18 July, 2014

Where does the line between the personal responsibility of adults and the role of government lie? This question has exercised the minds of our industry leaders for many years.

on 27 June, 2014

few months ago I was tasting with an excellent cava producer – and no, that’s not an oxymoron.

on 27 June, 2014

What can go wrong?’ asked the headline in The Sun just before the first England match – as the newspaper sent free copies of its appallingly jingoistic This Is Our England special edition to 22 million homes. What could go wrong? Well, we could lose our first two matches, that’s what.

on 26 June, 2014

Beer has been given many affectionate nicknames over the years – liquid courage, daddy’s medicine, proof that god loves us and wants us to be happy, and countless others. But “yeast excrement” was a new one on me. That is how Alex Barlow, training director at the Beer academy, described the tipple to 10 MPs at a masterclass he hosted at the red lion opposite the houses of Parliament this week.

on 19 June, 2014

Discounting is routinely cited as the scourge of wine retail in the UK. 

on 30 May, 2014

When I worked at Majestic, a rumour circulated that a plucky manager once led a strike by standing on the roof of the Shepherd’s Bush store and shouting slogans through a loudhailer. Apparently, that story is still going – and someone recently told me they’d heard the protagonist was me.

on 30 May, 2014

My first sales director always asked me this critical question. Never was the question more appropriate than with trade shows.

on 12 May, 2014

Wine has managed to evolve thus far without the emergence of a global brand leader. it’s unusual in this respect, since widely distributed products tend to favour a dominant player. Coca- Cola, Levi’s, Ford, Apple: all of them are evolutionarily logical – inevitable, even.

on 17 April, 2014

There’s been a lot of soul searching about the purpose of Bordeaux en primeur recently. Twitter has been bedevilled with chin-stroking platitudes from merchants and bitchy one-upmanship between wine writers. Debate has raged and disagreement is rife – though miraculously, the world has somehow managed to keep turning.

on 17 April, 2014

Yet again consumer complaints have led to a beer brand being required to change its ads because the industry-funded Advertising Standards Authority has judged them to be misleading. The latest TV ads for Kronenbourg challenge the consumer to “find a better tasting French beer” – yet it is brewed in Manchester.

on 04 April, 2014

In 2007, a voluntary agreement was made between the government and the drinks industry to ensure that 80% of all alcohol packaging in the UK would carry a warning label by December 2013. Consisting of information about units, consumption guidelines and risks to health, it’s part of a wider effort to increase awareness about responsible drinking.

on 21 March, 2014

asked a winemaker recently why it was so important for him to sell his wines in the UK. He said it was like New York, New York: if you can make it there, you’ll make it anywhere.

on 21 March, 2014

Portugal, our oldest trading partner, has everything a holiday-maker could want - beautiful countryside, massive empty golden beaches, Moorish castles and an astonishing seafaring legacy. Yet the country is in a mess. During a recent visit I started wondering what comparisons can be drawn between the UK and our former close ally.

on 07 March, 2014

Off Licence News has followed the steady rise of the so-called Reducing the Strength schemes since the idea was first mooted and Ipswich council gained the dubious crown of being the pioneer.

on 07 March, 2014

If wine retail is anything like it was when I did it 10 years ago, then the fastest moving drink in the shop is, in fact, tea. A nice cuppa accompanied everything: opening up, cashing up, mopping up smashed bottles of wine – and sitting down to read OLN, of course.

on 14 February, 2014

Indulge me for a moment. So, our private plane touched down at the luxurious estate of one of Argentina’s richest families. That night, while their team of chefs prepared a sumptuous supper, I was invited to take my pick from a cellar stacked full of first growths and deluxe Champagnes.

on 14 February, 2014

Marketing folk spend their lives trying to build brands. Brands that can establish reputations with consumers are of great value to their shareholders.

on 06 February, 2014

It seems a bit rich describing wine as democratised when in politics the concept of one person, one vote is something for which people are prepared to die.

on 12 December, 2013

Let’s face it, for all its organoleptic pleasures there is a potential dark side to the effects of alcohol which society has seen fit to mitigate by imposing certain restrictions on its sale.

on 12 December, 2013

This year, for the first time ever, I’ve managed to keep a new year’s resolution. They’re usually doomed to fail. Call Mum once a week. Call Mum once a month. Call Mum, like, once. But in 2013, I resolved not to buy any wine from supermarkets.

on 22 November, 2013

Even before its future plans were revealed to us exclusively this week, Oddbins’ story had become stranger than fiction.

on 22 November, 2013

The wine trade is frequently accused of offering the best career in the world. Because the grass is always greener on the other side, the best career in the world is usually anything that isn’t your own.

on 15 November, 2013

It is always interesting when industry competitors come together to fight a common enemy. The latest such venture is the recently launched Let There Be Beer campaign.

on 15 November, 2013

What’s the point of wine? If you’re Catholic wine is for communion but for some Muslims it’s for infidels. For collectors wine is self-fulfilment, but for alcoholics it’s self-destruction. For some, wine is for quiet contemplation, for others it’s for spraying over people in nightclubs to show you’re classy.

on 07 October, 2013

It is hard not to imagine yourself as a film star when you enter BAFTA’s plush headquarters in London’s Piccadilly and tread the same carpet such distinguished thespians as Marlon Brando, Daniel Day-Lewis and Helen Mirren have previously graced. A place that celebrates the finest achievements in acting is a fitting setting for the Wine & Spirit Trade Association’s annual conference.

on 07 October, 2013

“A vineyard planted at the gates of hell”, doesn’t sound like the most promising source of fine wine. You’d expect it to make a pruney, full-bodied red or a fiery fortified at best. But the 1.4 hectares of field-blended Semillon Blanc, Semillon Gris, Muscat and Palomino that grower Dirk Brand cultivates on his wheat and rooibos tea farm near Elands Bay on South Africa’s West Coast produces one of the Cape’s most refined and minerally whites instead.

on 20 September, 2013

Welcome! Bienvenidos! Thobela! Using a modern day riff on Joel Grey’s famous song in Cabaret, The Beautiful South held its first, keenly-awaited tasting in London last week. If you’ve not heard of the initiative, it is a genuinely groundbreaking collaboration between three Southern Hemisphere countries: Argentina, Chile and South Africa, two of whom are historic enemies.

on 09 September, 2013

“What’s wrong with France?” asked the distinguished journalist Christine Ockrent in a recent think piece in Prospect. Her analysis, which is worth reading in full, begins at the top. Président François Hollande, whose popularity has trawled unprecedented lows in opinion polls, lacks the “grandeur, energy and panache” that the French expect from their leader. But his problems are part of a deeper malaise. France, argues Ockrent, has to face reality. Like its political class, it is frequently arrogant, averse to change and incurious about the outside world.

on 09 September, 2013

Time to raise a dram to the Scotch Whisky Association for its inventive approach to creating concise statistics that strike decisively to the heart of the issues currently at play.

on 20 August, 2013

It’s not so long ago that all the chatter about Bargain Booze was whether it was destined for a sell-off and who would be brave enough to take it on.

on 16 August, 2013

I’m not sure if Peter Lehmann and Tim Hamilton Russell ever met, but I like to think they would have got on, despite their very different personalities. One was a slightly gruff, chain-smoking winemaker who never went to university, the other an urbane, Oxford-educated advertising executive. What they had in common – and would, I hope, have established a bond between them – was a love of wine and an ability to take risks, flouting rules if necessary.

on 23 July, 2013

If proof of the effectiveness among brewing lobbyists were ever needed, it was on full view at the 20th annual dinner of the All Parliamentary Beer Group in Westminster last week. Senior MPs rubbed shoulders with brewers in a resplendent display of back-slapping over the successful abolishment of the beer duty escalator.

on 22 July, 2013

Ever felt like making your own wine? If you work in the business, whether as a retailer, sommelier, importer or impoverished hack, the chances are that you’ve entertained just such a dream.

on 01 July, 2013

Last week I was an invigilator at the Master of Wine exam in London, supervising a tasting paper that I’d helped to set.

on 17 June, 2013

Traitor or patriot? Whistleblower or scoundrel? Depending on your point of view, Edward Snowden, the man behind the recent revelations about the National Security Agency’s surveillance techniques, is either a hero or a villain. Whatever you think of the guy – not least the fact that he has disclosed the contents of top-secret documents – you have to admire his courage. “I do not expect to see home again,” he has admitted from his hotel room in Hong Kong.

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Richard Hemming MW: beware inverse snobbery

Few things can bring communal pleasure so intimately as wine. Apart from a hot tub, perhaps. Sport can trigger mass jubilation, film gives us shared empathy, but wine has a nigh-unique ability to bestow conviviality among us through a shared bottle – which makes it especially galling that we spend so much time divided over it.

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