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.

on 31 May, 2013

How conservative is the wine busisness? Less than it once was is the obvious answer, at least in the UK. When I started writing about the subject in the mid-1980s, a pinstriped suit and a tie were de rigueur at tastings, and that was just for the women. The New World was all but ignored – it was famously covered in a morning at the Wine & Spirit Education Trust – and innovation was frowned upon. It was a world of claret, Burgundy, port, sherry, Rioja, Hock and Moselle.

on 17 May, 2013

When the London International Wine Fair closes its doors at Excel next Wednesday evening it will mark the end of a short and not particularly distinguished era in the show’s 33-year history.

on 02 May, 2013

Stroll through the vineyards at Il Paradiso di Frassina in Montalcino and the sound of Mozart soothes your ears. If you like Beethoven, Bach or Boulez, not to mention Miles Davis, Madonna or Motörhead, you will be disappointed. Musical variety is not the point here. The Sangiovese vines are given a permanent aural diet of Mozart, pumped through 58 strategically sited speakers, and nothing else.

on 19 April, 2013

Moaning about the weather is practically a national sport in England. There’s a bit of me that thinks that we enjoy being grumpy, “coveting disappointment” as the comedian Bill Bailey once put it. And yet the last 12 months have been anything but enjoyable. The rain, the snow and the lack of sunshine would have tested the optimism of Voltaire’s Dr Pangloss, who famously declared in Candide that, “all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds”.

on 05 April, 2013

Peter Cook and Dudley Moore once did a very funny sketch as Derek and Clive about what they considered the worst job in the world. From memory, their choice involved working for Jayne Mansfield – I’ll spare you the anatomical details – rather than being a traffic warden, refuse collector, VAT inspector, estate agent, politician or journalist. And yet most people would place these half-dozen professions at the bottom of the career ladder.

on 22 March, 2013

Brunello and Bordeaux, Bordeaux and Brunello. Italy and France’s most famous wine regions have a lot in common, not least that they both hold high-profile tastings in the first part of the year. If it’s February, it must be Tuscany, invariably in the snow; if it’s April, it must be the Gironde, accompanied by spring flowers and, if you’re lucky, deckchair weather.

on 08 March, 2013

A favourite Paul Simon tune was at the top of my iPod playlist last week. When Numbers Get Serious isn’t as famous as The Sound of Silence or Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover, but it has a hidden message for the wine business. “When times are mysterious,” sings Simon, “serious numbers will always be heard.”

on 15 February, 2013

How hungry would you have to be to eat a spaniel? What about a monkey, a camel or a rat? During the siege of their city in 1870, starving Parisians consumed all those things and more. Horsemeat, first introduced four years previously as what the historian Alistair Horne called “a cheap provender for the poor”, became a comparative delicacy. To this day, it is much favoured in France, where boucheries chevalines still exist, as well as Italy and Belgium.

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The shops that stand out from the madding crowd

The judges met last week to sort out the winners in the independent categories of our 2018 Drinks Retailing Awards. The results are top secret until the awards dinner on February 6 but it’s giving nothing away to report that the overall standard of those that will be revealed in the shortlist of finalists in the January issue of DRN is higher than it’s ever been.

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