In the mid-2000s the Hunter Valley was home to some of Australia’s most successful volume brands, from Tyrrell’s Long Flat to Mount Pleasant’s Elizabeth. The region’s winemakers were raking in orders from around the world and enjoying huge growth as a result, but they were not particularly happy. 

Gin: Natural selection

09 November, 2017

After witnessing the advent of baobab gin, hop gin, cocoa gin, gin with ants in it, nettle gin and seaweed gin, you could be forgiven for thinking the flavour conveyor belt had run out of options. You would be wrong.

Surely “no/low-alcohol drinks” would be at the front of the queue if ever a category were in need of a sexier name. But this compilation of drinks – which includes lower or alcohol- free variants of cider, beer, wine and even spirits – has attracted considerably more interest lately.

Sleeping with the enemy

09 November, 2017

Over in Ireland a 300-strong group of independent off-licence owners has aligned itself with the health lobby in a bid to prevent supermarkets wiping them out.

It’s the time of year when Halloween paraphernalia masks the fact that retailers are already in full Christmas mode, yet we know that the pumpkins on shelf will soon magically transform into festive delights.

Cider Report: Golden Child

03 November, 2017

People are now discovering and making innovative ciders all around the world and here in Britain fans are keen to reinstate this country’s position as one of the leaders of the category. This year annual cider sales rose to a three year high, topping the £1 billion mark for the first time since 2014.

“What’s the difference between an English wine merchant and a terrorist?” says Australian Vintage’s award-winning winemaker, Peter Hall. “You can negotiate with a terrorist.” 

Chile raises its game

14 September, 2017

In the uncertain political and economic times created by Brexit, Chile looks like a wine- supplying country that could bring a bit of reassurance and calm to the market.

The fall and rise of Sumoll

14 September, 2017

In the heart of cava country a once-loved grape variety that nearly went the way of the dodo is enjoying a remarkable renaissance. Sumoll, known locally as the Pinot Noir of the Mediterranean due to its thin skin and diva-like antics on the

Trade thinks beyond borders

14 September, 2017

Brexit dominated discussions at the Wine & Spirit Trade Association's annual conference, which took place 12 September. At the event key speakers were brought together to discuss implications for the drinks trade: 

Focused approach

14 September, 2017

A focus on local ales, craft beer and mini-kegs has seen Morrisons’ beer category outperform the market and post 4.5% year-on- year sales growth. DRN travelled to Yorkshire to meet the buyers, John Morris and James French, and get the lowdown on the success the retailer has enjoyed after a sweeping range review.

Plastic has conquered the world. From manufacturing to retail, its presence is felt in virtually every stage of the supply chain. The soft drinks industry has been particularly quick on the uptake, with plastic bottles the pack solution of choice for some of the world’s biggest brands.

South Africa secured a resounding victory when DRN recently polled 200 independent merchants in a bid to find which countries’ wines are performing best in the sector. It finished ahead of Italy, Argentina and Spain as the country growing sales in the strongest fashion and it is easy to see why. Quality has improved drastically in recent years. Classics from well-established regions are winning plaudits, a dynamic new wave of winemakers is pushing boundaries and producing intriguing offerings and at the very top end scores from critics speak for themselves. 

Celebrating women in wine

15 August, 2017

Celebrating the record of the business community on gender equality can be a trying endeavour as women are still massively under-represented in boardrooms. Female chief execs run just 7% of FTSE 100 companies and that percentage drops for the FTSE 250. Women account for a quarter of seats on FTSE 100 boards, but the increase has mainly been among non-executives who do not have their fingers on the buttons that matter. The notion that middle-aged, rich, white men run the show is impossible to ignore, and the issue has tongues wagging again after the BBC published details of its highest earners and revealed that two-thirds of top earners are male. 

In 1973 New Zealand was selling almost 100% of its dairy products to the UK and had been doing so for a century. Then it received a call to say the market was closed because Britain had joined the EU, and it had to embark on the long and strenuous process of forging new trade deals with countries across the world.

Virtual reality is changing the world, from reducing errors made during surgery to bringing schoolbooks to life and enabling us to browse shops from the comfort of our own homes. It is an exciting bandwagon full of tech firms, rollercoaster designers, casino operators, neurosurgeons and Hollywood execs.

Buzzing Abruzzo

17 July, 2017

Abruzzo is a spectacular region full of picture- perfect villages and Roman remains nestled amid dramatic, mountainous scenery, but it remains something of a hidden gem for tourists. The resulting lack of foreign influence means it offers a window to an Italian lifestyle that has not changed for centuries.

Botanical Radical

17 July, 2017

The UK gin category has enjoyed astronomical growth in the past few years, driven by innovative brands that have pushed the boundaries around taste, price and serve. One of its biggest success stories is Brockmans, which caused a stir when it was launched in 2009.

Step aside niche beers and artisan gin – we are about to see a raft of craft ciders vying for shelf space, according to two cider experts.

A surge in support for Jeremy Corbyn among Canterbury’s students saw the city’s parliamentary constituency fall to Labour in June’s general election for the the first time in a century.

Britain is veering towards a situation where guidelines will state that there is no safe level of alcohol consumption, a leading commentator has warned.

Germany's ripple effect

17 July, 2017

Finding German wines on retailers’ shelves used to be like playing Where’s Wally? But while you still need an eagle eye, this is clearly changing. Across market sectors, a shift is happening, quietly but convincingly.

The UK cocktail culture is booming, according to industry experts, and a wider range of on-trade outlets than ever are upping their game with exotic mixed drinks. The challenge for retailers is to replicate this in the off-trade, according to Hi-Spirits managing director Dan Bolton.

It sometimes seems like the whole brewing industry has gone daft for craft. The redrawn landscape of the British brewing industry has led many of the more established family-owned producers to rethink their approaches to the market.

Brands need provenance to survive in the modern cider category: those that can demonstrate a strong back- story and sense of place are thriving and those that cannot are falling by the wayside. British consumers are becoming more discerning about the products they are purchasing and are looking for genuine imports and local, independent producers, and that is a strong factor in Kopparberg’s success. It might not be a brand many in the UK immediately associate with heritage and provenance, but it has a back- story to rival any drinks brand on the market.

Denis O’Flynn was the managing director at Pernod Ricard UK and chairman of the Wine & Spirit Trade Association. Here he discusses how to motivate a workforce within an already successful business to spur them on to greater heights.

Italian Renaissance

08 June, 2017

Prosecco has enjoyed a remarkable rise towards ubiquity in recent times, thanks to its uncomplicated taste and its status as an affordable luxury. “I’ll be there in a Prosecco,” laugh Brits to one another. “My superpower is making Prosecco disappear. It’s a classy and elegant drink. Two pints of Prosecco, please.”

Craft beer is on everyone’s lips and it’s good news for both UK and global producers of all sizes. It would be impossible to fit a description of every beer launch into this feature, so suffice it to say there are many and the flavours are diverse.

We know that people are increasingly drinking less, but when they do drink they want premium options. On days when alcohol is off the menu this rule still applies – and in the soft drinks sector it’s the premium options that are soaring.

The lower the better

08 June, 2017

The low-alcohol drinks market has had more false starts than the average running of the Grand National. The first false dawn in the 1980s foundered on the triple whammy of poor product quality, a sceptical public and the absence of any social pressure other than not getting caught out by a breathalyser test.

I Heart Feels the Love

08 June, 2017

Copestick Murray’s I Heart range has taken the market by storm since its launch in 2011 and annual retail sales have now broken through the £45 million barrier (Nielsen). It has surged into the UK’s top 20 wine brands and has the bestselling Prosecco and Pinot Grigio in impulse.

Innovation in wine

08 June, 2017

The London Wine Fair has shrunk somewhat in recent years – partly a reflection of consolidation in the market. Companies such as PLB and Bottle Green, which previously hawked their wares from some of the largest stands, are among the firms that have been swallowed up.

Whisky: Held in honour

08 June, 2017

Mark Angus, retail sales manager of whisky distributor Gordon & MacPhail’s shop in Elgin, has just been made a Keeper of the Quaich in honour of his special commitment to the Scotch whisky industry.

Craft beer in America is still buzzing. The number of breweries is increasing at a rate of more than two a day and the movement now accounts for 12.3% of the national beer market. It’s a remarkable success story, given that it has grown from nothing in less than 40 years.

Asda has hit headlines of late for selling a huge amount of £10 Champagne, offering three slabs of lager for £20 and stocking six bottles of branded wine for £24. It has consistently offered the most competitive prices on spirits and recently raised eyebrows when it unveiled a £5 fizz called Progrigio.

One million vines are being planted across England in 2017 to meet soaring demand for homegrown bubbly and still wines from grapes such as Bacchus and Pinot Noir. That is enough to fill Hyde Park, and the names of the producers planting the vines gives cause for excitement. 

More sparkling wine is making its way into our fridges, thanks to the nation’s insatiable love of fizz, but Champagne is struggling to attract any value growth, with a drop of 7% since June last year (IRI).

Life beyond Prosecco

21 March, 2017

Britons are celebrating far too much, according to the latest sparkling wine data. A record 40 million bottles flew off the shelves in UK shops in the 12-week festive period of 2016, according to the Wine & Spirit Trade Association’s Q1 market report – a 12% increase on 2015.

Here’s a beer recipe for you: take one northern, family-run brewer and blend it with a well-known grocery retailer to create a trio of craft beers.

Southern belles

27 February, 2017

The Languedoc-Roussillon region produces 16 million hl per year, making it bigger than Australia, Argentina, China and Africa in terms of output.

With the rise and rise of gin it’s no surprise a new wave of tonics is battling its way on to the shelves. Over the past year we’ve seen a number of premium brands entering the mixers sector, particularly in tonic water – a category which grew 12% last year compared with 2015, to £98 million (IRI). This compares with 5.2% for other mixers.

Portugal: Off the beaten track

21 February, 2017

Wine-producing countries that fall outside of the top 10 might be out of the limelight but they can be ideal for independent wine merchants seeking value-for-money wines that are unlikely to be found in supermarkets. Portugal, which sits at number 11 in the UK off-trade, is a perfect example.

It’s easy to think that some of the UK’s most successful family-run drinks producers found fame slowly as consumers discovered the brands, and perhaps as each generation built on the foundations of the last.

Tesco’s announcement that it intends to buy Booker could prove to be the food and drink retailing sector’s Brexit or Donald Trump moment. The high-ups in each business would have known it was coming, of course, but for the rest of us it was certainly something of a bolt from the blue – and for many in the mainstream drinks retailing arena it has the potential to prove as transformative as the two big political events that promise to reshape the world we live in.

Core Objectives

18 January, 2017

There’s nothing stale about the cider category at the moment. In the past year we have seen the growth of craft canned cider as well as a concerted effort from producers to flag up the authenticity of their brands, ranging from highlighting traditional English apple varieties to pinpointing the actual orchard and apple grower.

Formats: The future of cans

18 January, 2017

Not so long ago cider was all about ice, but now much of the buzz surrounding this category is about small, or craft, cans and other new formats. Of course, these are not limited to cider – beer is streets ahead when it comes to diversifying into 33cl cans, and it’s a trend that shows no sign of abating.

Making more of France

18 January, 2017

Although value sales continue to slide for French wines in the off-trade (down 2.5% in the year to October 2016, according to IRI data), the one time of year when it fares better than most is at Christmas. And early reports indicate the 2016 festive season was no exception, with many Britons seeking out and trading up to well-known names such as Chablis, Sancerre and Côtes du Rhône.

Concha y Toro believes it now owns more hectares under vine than anyone else on the planet, with 9,194ha in Chile, 1,142ha in Argentina and 468ha in California. It is a colossal player in the wine world, dwarfing all other South American producers, and its largest market is the UK.

The dramatic question “Is this the end of the Campaign for Real Ale?” was posed by the consumer organisation itself on the launch of its Revitalisation Project last March.

Kiwi wine producers branch out

15 December, 2016

NZ is big in Sauvignon Blanc and growing in Pinot Noir, but it has plenty more up its sleeve, says Sonya Hook

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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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