Portugal has enjoyed a magnificent year in the consumer press and, after many a false dawn, it may finally be set for its time in the sun.

Liquid Cocaine, Blood Clot, Redheaded Slut, Screaming Nazi... this is not a list of emerging heavy metal bands, but just a few examples of the on-trade trend known as shooters.

Everyone agrees the “big night in” is a big opportunity – but what exactly is it, how does it differ from a quiet night in, and how can retailers make the most of it?

The Devon town of Plymouth was without a specialist wine merchant for 25 years before retailer and wine lounge Le Vignoble opened in 2012, according to its owner, Yannick Loué.

Supermarkets’ recent headline-grabbing range culls are just the latest in a long series of changes that have rocked the trade and forced suppliers to take a hard look at the way they do business.

Competitive rivalry is one thing, but when it comes to Oddbins and Majestic the battle lines are more barbed than most, intensified by a series of public spats and showdowns.

"If you’d told me five years ago I would be in this position now I wouldn’t have believed you.” At just 27, Lidl UK’s head of beers, wines and spirits, Ben Hulme is by far the youngest person in OLN’s 100 Most Influential People In Wine list.

There was a time a few years back when a week didn’t go by without a ginger- flavoured launch. The scene has quietened down a bit, but ginger has become a cocktail staple and suppliers say consumers’ increasingly sophisticated palates mean they are even more likely to favour the fiery root’s flavour.

Wimbledon, strawberries and cream, seaside staycations, cricket, festivals, sunshine and rain are all part of the delicious cocktail that is the Great British Summer.

It seems a little unfair to say the shine has gone off a category that is growing at a whopping 36% year on year – but there does seem to be less of a buzz around “speers” these days.

Five years after Peter Snowman (right) and Nick Davis opened the tiny shop under Snowman’s home in Bristol with a few crates of cider, a wing and a prayer, it is going from strength to strength.

While in the north Prosecco continues to make the Italian wine market fizz, at the southern end of Italy, people are getting excited about Sicily.

It’s more than a decade since vodka staked its claim as the nation’s spirit of choice, ousting gin from the Office of National Statistics’ basket of goods used to measure consumer price inflation – and it has dominated the spirits market ever since.

Sales flagging? Struggling to attract younger drinkers? Looking for a magic cure-all to revive your brand? We’ve got the answer: just add fruit.

Who's the daddy?

18 June, 2015

Fathers have a tough gig: burdened by long hours and no pay, they find themselves replaced in their marriages by 50 Shades of Grey, surrounded by toddlers that act like a blender without a lid and teenagers that steal their credit cards and pout a lot. 

The Lancaster Wine Company has been open just two years and has already chalked up one of OLN’s Drinks Retailing Awards – it was named Newcomer of the Year in 2014.

Wholesale changes

17 April, 2015

The pre-Christmas rush will have an extra level of hassle for suppliers and many drinks retailers this year. The government has chosen the last three months of the year to start implementing the Alcohol Wholesaler Registration Scheme. Any trade supplier or wholesaler of alcohol will have to apply to join the scheme between October 1 and December 31, even though it won’t come into full operation until 2017.

There were 253 premium bottled ale launches in the past year (IRI) and a leading brewer has warned that too much innovation could damage the category.

Spring has finally sprung, and the UK is bathing in temperatures 7°C above the April average thanks to a plume of hot air sweeping in from Spain.

World lager is flying off shelves, outperforming all other beer categories and emerging as the star performer.

Craft is the buzzword of our times. From Kirsty Allsop crocheting cushion covers on Channel 4 to artisan bakers and the thriving small-batch gin market, consumers are looking for all things handmade and homespun.

The Good Spirits Company makes a real specialism of spirits in its central Glasgow shop and its extensive and in-depth online range.

Rioja 'n' roll

10 April, 2015

Rioja is the rock star of the UK wine trade. Everyone knows its name, everyone rates its quality and it’s a chart-topper in terms of consumer awareness, better known than Marlborough in New Zealand and Barossa in Australia, and sitting  alongside Côtes du Rhône and Chianti in the top five best-known wine regions, according to Wine Intelligence.

England's finest

10 April, 2015

The British have bestowed many wonders upon the world: chocolate bars, penicillin, football, TV, the worldwide web, David Attenborough, cricket, bulldogs, the theories of Darwin and the plays of Shakespeare to name but a few.

Age of innovation

07 April, 2015

Diageo has launched a golden ale, a fruity cider and a white rum and now competes in virtually every BWS category imaginable.

When is enough enough?

07 April, 2015

The Responsibility Deal between the drinks industry and the UK government has come under fire from academics pouring scorn on the apparently successful pledge by the industry to strip a billion units from the market.

Long time coming

07 April, 2015

Following the opening of Brewdog’s first Bottledog outlet last year, news that Oddbins has unveiled a dedicated beer store in London lays open the possibility that we shall soon see national chains of beer shops, a scenario inconceivable when the idea of specialist beer retailing was pioneered four decades ago.

It’s generally accepted in the wine business that the current rebirth of Oddbins is a force for good. When people are expressing that opinion they’re prone to refer to a “golden age”, starting some time in the early 1980s and running well into the following decade. And when they do the name of Steve Daniel isn’t usually very far away.

Over the past decade German wine has shed its excess baggage like a celebrity on a fad diet, leaving behind the frumpy hausfrau image of the Liebfraumilch and Hock generation.

Rising prices have forced the Languedoc – the engine room of France’s bulk wine production – to look at more premium offers and establish itself as a top-quality wine region, not a bargain basement.

Ales By Mail is a family business set up by Paul Kruzycki, his wife Karen and their daughters Millie and Abbie in a bid to help the burgeoning number of craft beers from the UK and around the world reach a wider audience.

The Llanelli & County Guardian was the unlikely chronicler of a landmark moment in brewing history. On December 3, 1935, it reported the first successful commercial packaging of a beer in cans in the UK, by the town’s Felinfoel brewery.

Green Valley Cyder is concession in the Darts Farm shop near Exeter,  where owners Nick Pring (pictured right) and Chris Coles make and sell cider. Beyond an impressive range of bottled ciders and beers, customers can watch cider being made in the company’s own press. Green Valley also sells draught cider with plenty of opportunities for tasting – both of its own range and for suppliers to show off their wares in the farm shop’s main food hall.

The gin bubble

16 March, 2015

Gin sales are booming – and so are distillery openings, but some suppliers are warning the market is close to saturation.

Portsmouth retailer Bobby Sood didn’t want to sign up to the Reducing the Strength scheme launched in his city.

The wizardry of Oz

13 February, 2015

You’re probably familiar with Oz Clarke as Britain’s best-known wine critic, James May’s TV co-star in seeking out unusual beverages and one of the Three Wine Men along with Tim Atkin MW and Olly Smith.

For a long time, Californian wine has been split into two camps. In one sit entry-point brands such as Blossom Hill and Barefoot, in the other top-priced Syrahs and Zinfandels with high alcohol, high extraction and high points from über-critic Robert Parker.

Spanish wine: into the unknown

13 February, 2015

Madrid’s main avenues were a sea of blue and purple Podemos flags this month as thousands of the unemployed, the disaffected and the impoverished protested against austerity.

Britain’s beer scene spent years minding its own business before brash American brews stormed our shores with aggressive flavours, high alcohol contents and bold packaging that turned the market upside down.

Soft drinks and energy drinks have been hitting headlines for all the wrong reasons lately, with sugar and caffeine being blamed for all manner of ills. But the market remains buoyant.

Have e-cigarettes prematurely peaked? A consumer survey by Smoking in England and researchers at University College London suggests usage has “taken a downturn”.

In later life, Dave West became something of self-parody, frequently snapped in trademark flamboyant coloured suits surrounded by glamorous young women, sipping Champagne and enjoying the high life. His murder just before Christmas was the final tragic chapter in the life of an ordinary bloke from a humble background, seduced by the trappings of wealth and power that his success in business brought him.

Austrian wine has come a long way – 30 years ago antifreeze was found in some of the country’s bulk wines and the scandal demolished the industry.

Organic wine is starting to look like one of those things everyone talks about but no one is actually buying into.

The big match: beer and food

19 January, 2015

Rule one of beer and food matching: there are no rules. While wine has an established set of classic grape, style or region matches for popular dishes, the required reading on beer and food is still relatively thin on the ground.

Beer rides high in new era

05 January, 2015

For the first time in a decade the UK beer market is showing continued growth, and the retail trade is leading the charge.

Portugal passion

16 December, 2014

Film nights, gourmet burger evenings and even a Douro vs Alentejo blind tasting competition have brought Portugal to life in independent wine merchants.

Setting the bar low

16 December, 2014

After the bountiful Christmas period come two words to strike fear into the hearts of drinks retailers: dry January.

Over the past couple of years Banbury-based independent wine merchant and regional wholesaler SH Jones has shocked the trade by buying two established online retailers and the wholesale arm of agency Stevens Garnier.

Talk to a customer about wine and you can bet the topics of grapes and vineyards aren’t too far behind. Have a similar conversation about beer, and the natural ingredients that go into a brew, or the rolling British countryside they’re grown in, might be a bit slower to come up – if they do at all.

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Talking terroir

When Bordeaux was in fashion, it seemed almost logical that we should fetishise winemakers. Here were people responsible for brilliant acts of blending, across large estates and multiple grape varieties, including superstars such as cabernet sauvignon and merlot. These days, fashion has moved on and pinot noir is ascendant. As a result, the star of the winemaker has fallen and we find ourselves following a new star in the sky: terroir.

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