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Number One Drinks Company gains Japanese distillery stock

Published:  12 August, 2011

The remaining inventory from Mercian's Karuizawa Distillery has been acquired by an Asian-based company on behalf of its international importer and distributor, Number One Drinks Company.

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Sterling gains ground after Osborne dismisses spending cut review

Published:  12 August, 2011

Sterling recovered ground yesterday against the US dollar after Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne rebuffed opposition demands to review spending cuts.

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Yohann Jousselin, The Vineyard at Stockcross

Published:  11 August, 2011

The sommelier's view

 

Things are really going well for sommeliers. Over the past three to four years the arena has really opened up. Previously everything was London based, but there are now increasingly more tastings and events outside of London, which benefit those like myself, as I am based in Berkshire.

 

It opens it up to new and more talented people. There are younger contestants with a lot of knowledge coming to the fore to enter wine-tasting competitions, which can only be good for the industry and spur it on; it gives it a sharper edge. There is also a lot more training going on at different levels, leading up to the WSET trophy and the Academy of Food & Wine awards.

 

A lot of people in the past have viewed sommeliers as being arrogant. It's very important we help them to overcome that way of thinking and take away the stuffy image the sommelier has. The image is definitely improving, but there are still quite a lot of sommeliers who are not approachable. We have to remember the guest or customer is the most important person in the room. It can be difficult if you have an awkward customer, you have to adjust yourself to fit, as you don't want to give them any reason not to come back to the restaurant.

 

There's a lot of opportunity there, if the sommelier takes it seriously, and the ability to achieve. Of course, it includes a considerable amount of hard work, as you have to gain as much knowledge as possible. But if you like the job, you don't mind the long hours.

 

I think the reason why I won the UK Sommelier of the Year, this year, on my third attempt, was because I trained much harder and began my studies earlier. It took five months of study, but it helped because this time around I felt much more relaxed. So I have concluded it's all about preparation: if you train properly and put enough thought into it you'll get there.

 

As far as the industry goes there are more and more interesting wines coming from smaller countries, and the market is really starting to open up. Slovenia, Croatia, Hungary and Romania have really improved the quality and intensity of their wines.
Here at the Vineyard we are very open to new things. With 2,800 wines on the list, we're always happy to explore something new from a classic region or upcoming country.

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LIVE UPDATES UK riots: Cameron unveils plans to help businesses

Published:  11 August, 2011

The Prime Minister has made £20 million available and unveiled a series of emergency measures to help businesses affected by riots.

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Gordon's gin drops TV chef for actors

Published:  11 August, 2011

Grouchy TV chef Gordon Ramsay has been dropped as the face of Gordons's gin in favour of "witty conversation" from actors Emilia Fox and Philip Glenister.

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Maxxium UK launches alcoholic foam

Published:  11 August, 2011

Maxxium UK has launched Bols Foam, with the aim of bringing molecular mixology to everyday use.

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Ronan Sayburn MS, Hotel du Vin

Published:  11 August, 2011

The director's view

 

Coming out of the economic downturn has obviously been a great relief for the catering industry. In times like these luxury products tend to be affected most of all - this includes dining out and especially on the wines that are purchased.

 

Right now I feel the customers require more service in the wine department than ever. This includes better selections, more knowledgeable sommeliers and better value for money. I hope the days of enormous mark ups on high-end wines are over.

 

Also I feel many customers are looking for simpler food, but made with great ingredients, along with less formal, but professional, service. Great menu and wine list knowledge along with speedy service is far more important than topping up wine and water glasses after every sip.

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Gerard Basset MW MS OBE, Hotel Terra Vina

Published:  11 August, 2011

The hotel owner's view

 

The speed in which changes are taking place in the restaurant industry is staggering. It is at once scary but also greatly exciting. Every restaurant employee is concerned but I would say that sommeliers are probably more concerned than many other "actors" of that sector.

 

Indeed, it was long ago when the black-aproned sommelier would almost exclusively inhabit a world of classic French cuisine, to be matched from a traditional list and dominated with wines agreed by the likes of Robert Parker or the Wine Spectator.

 

First of all, sommeliers now less often wear the traditional costume - and that is not a bad thing. More importantly, the array of cuisines on offer makes the recommending of wines much more demanding. Understanding the work of masters such as Escoffier, Bocuse, Robuchon and Ducasse is still useful, but so is the appreciation of Mediterranean cooking, authentic Asian dishes, the many different spices, fusion flavours and even molecular creations.

 

The wines are changing, too. Robert Parker and the Wine Spectator are still important points of reference, but there is a new generation of wine commentators coming via all of the social media networks voicing relevant and even thought-provoking opinions. Gary Vaynerchuk and the many wine bloggers are certainly influencing younger consumers (often with seriously big spending power) and sommeliers cannot afford to ignore this phenomenon.

 

Thanks, in part, to the Chinese market, the top wines of Bordeaux are still leading the way. However, because of their now stratospheric prices, one can seriously wonder if they are really just relevant to the collector/investor market, and therefore of little interest to sommeliers. On the contrary, sommeliers need to be au fait with wines such as those made with organic or biodynamically grown grapes; wines from the thousands of boutique producers appearing from all parts of the world; as well as those wines produced from indigenous grape varieties of little notoriety. Neither can they ignore the growing interest for the unofficial movement for natural wines (loathe them or love them).

 

If the emergence of many new styles of cuisines and the incredible diversity of wines were not enough, sommeliers are also confronted with amazing new technology. Wine lists on iPads are already commonplace in quite a few restaurants and new gizmos have given all sorts of opportunities to present and market wines.

 

Having said all that, it is also crucial to remember that the most important aspect of the role of the sommelier is to make customers welcome, happy and give them a wonderful experience that will make them want to come back time and time again. While the need to embrace changes has never been greater and sommeliers should relish this exhilarating challenge, there are fundamental aspects of the job that will never change.

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Fred Sirieix, Galvin at Windows

Published:  11 August, 2011

The general manager's view

 

I spend about 50% of my time training, thinking about it or finding ways to motivate and inspire my team at Galvin at Windows. Being a good teacher is, for me, a prerequisite for being a successful professional, as much of our workforce is made up of people from outside the UK or part-timers who have little or no training.

 

Many do not consider our industry as a viable career choice and are only passing through until something better comes along.

 

It is a well known and documented fact that the hospitality industry is still badly perceived by most people in the UK today. Combined with the on-going confusion with the numerous professional qualifications available, it seems things will not improve this much in the short term.

 

Indeed, the qualifications have changed so much over the years that too many professionals and students do not know what they stand for, refer to or what the level actually is.

 

Being a UK resident for 20 years, these unnecessary changes have always puzzled me. In France the professional qualifications have been the same for as long as I (or my father) can remember. These are CAP (apprenticeship), BEP and BAC for the main ones.

 

There is some good news, though. Apprenticeships are back on the table in our industry. Currently, 22,000 people are on apprentice schemes and there are plans to increase this number to 30,000 by 2020, with an expected completion rate of 80%. However, according to Mintel we are still about 30,000 people short.

 

This basically means that if every restaurant, hotel, bar or club does not undertake extensive training programs within their business, quality will go down dramatically due to the increased staff shortage created by our industry's growth.

 

There has never been a greater need for managers to believe in training, be patient and invest the necessary time and energy to teach, develop and coach those who will be tomorrow's stars.

 

For me it is more than just work, however, because to develop staff it is imperative to believe in people and in their potential - both on a professional and personal level.

 

Whenever I coach someone I always dig deep. Everyone is different and every time I must find a way to relate and connect to my trainees if I am going to be successful.
It is not just about the business; it's about important things like inner values and what they want to be. It's about teamwork, the joy of learning and embarking on a new amazing journey every time.

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Doug Wregg, Les Caves de Pyrene

Published:  11 August, 2011

The on-trade supplier's view

 

Self-styled centre of the world wine trade, the UK is a clearing house for fine wines, a massive import market and the spiritual home of wine writing. Despite that, we have a second-rate restaurant wine culture which needs a radical shake-up. A restaurant wine culture is more than a Verre de Vin machine, a EuroCave, some fancy racking and a 500-bin list; it concerns the overall feel of an establishment from the way the wine list is laid out, to the pricing and, most importantly, the quality of the service.

 

Compared to many similar establishments in the US, Australia, France, Spain and Italy, wine lists over here can seem drab, conventional and unimaginative; mark ups are prohibitive and brands still dominate every level of the trade. Even in certain high-end restaurants sommeliers are content to kowtow to the "hypothetical customer" and list the classic rather than the adventurous option. There is not enough passion or risk-taking, and far too much defaulting to the middle ground. It doesn't have to be this way.

 

You only have to look outside the mainstream to see what is currently energising the wine scene. Last month the first Natural Wine Fair was held in London's Borough Market over three days. Nearly 900 people attended the consumer day alone, assaying wines unavailable in supermarkets and the high street, while meeting and actively engaging with growers and winemakers.

 

Natural wines have dynamised the Parisian cavistes and wine bar scene creating a direct connection between the grower and the outlet. What restaurateurs have perhaps failed to grasp is that consumers are ahead of the curve on this issue and increasingly understand that there is a strong point of difference between wines.

 

They are more than ever thirsty for knowledge and interested in provenance. Restaurant menus will tell you which farm a cheese comes from, where the bread is baked or what herd of cattle their beef is sourced from; it seems only right to tell the story behind the wine as well, to know that it is well-sourced, or free from chemical additives.

 

The challenge for restaurants is to be more personal in a more competitive market, connecting intelligently and sensitively with these consumers rather than seeing them merely as the end-user of a product. A strong wine offering can help restaurants build on their customer base.

 

Enlightened mark-ups, informed and enthusiastic service, introducing artisan growers and their individual wines, and changing the list according to the menu and season, will all help to bring a sense of excitement, energy and greater purpose to the business.

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Monty Waldin

Published:  11 August, 2011

The biodynamic winemaker's view

 

The steady rate at which global vineyards have converted to organics or biodynamics since 1995 will now augment dramatically. By 2015, 15% of both France and New Zealand's vineyards will be organic or biodynamic.

 

By then perhaps laggardly Australian winegrowers will accept organic compost and cover cropping can make their ever scarcer irrigation water go much further than any of their techno-babble deficit irrigation systems - or even render irrigation superfluous.

 

Global wine oversupply makes "premiumisation" a lifeline for wine's bottom-feeders.
Organics offers them rungs up the quality ladder and potentially fatter margins, even if cash subsidies for organic conversion remain scarce.

 

With scarcer water and fossil fuels, expect more rain barrels under winery roofs, more solar panels on them and more biodiverse vineyards: horses in for tractors, sheep and chickens on winter weed control, and petrol-hungry fertilisers replaced by four-legged fertility factories called cows.

 

Increased adoption of flowering cover crops will spawn fewer vine pests and more terroir-specific honeys from vineyard beehives. Biodiverse vineyard farms growing other fruits, vegetables, or herbs on spare land will become more desirable places to work and will give local families with kids multiple reasons to stop and shop. The perfect cellar-door product may become no-added-sulphur wines, which usually travel poorly.

 

For wine exporters organics offer zero liability as big wine buyers like Germany and the US block imported bottles containing even a micron of herbicide or pesticide residue.

 

While rule-setters keep disagreeing about a single global bio wine standard - the US and Europe are at loggerheads over exactly what kind of support posts bio vineyards can have - wineries may put their organic bona fides in their top drawer rather than on their bottles to avoid having to design potentially different labels for Japan, Canada, the US, and Europe.

 

Label frustration should help the world's only dedicated biodynamic wine body, France's SIVCBD (Biodyvin), become a world leader by attracting winery members from elsewhere in Europe, but, more significantly, from the New World.

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UK riots: £80m in lost sales for retailers

Published:  11 August, 2011

The cost of riots across England is put at £80 million in lost sales for retailers, according to research from Kelkoo.

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Boom in fine wines by the glass

Published:  11 August, 2011

High-end restaurants are offering more wines by the glass in an effort to up-sell, create more choice and add "theatre" to wine choices.

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Viñalba secures ninth national listing

Published:  11 August, 2011

Argentinian wine brand Viñalba has secured its ninth national listing, this time at the Co-operative.

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Sterling falls after downgraded UK economic growth forecast

Published:  11 August, 2011

Sterling fell by 1% against the US dollar yesterday after the Bank of England downgraded its economic growth forecast for the UK.

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Diemersdal winemaker launches Sauvignon.com

Published:  10 August, 2011

The South African winemaker, Thys Louw, has launched Sauvignon.com, a brand that aims to challenge the way people think about wine and engage with new consumers.

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Renaissance opens sixth site

Published:  10 August, 2011

South London bar operator Renaissance Pubs has opened its sixth site, the Rosendale in West Dulwich.

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Laithwaites plants UK's smallest producing vineyard

Published:  10 August, 2011

Laithwaites Wine has planted what it claims is the smallest producing vineyard in the UK, which will be entirely looked after by staff.

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Bordeaux Index - future en primeur prices will remain high

Published:  10 August, 2011

Top vintages are likely to continue to be priced "aggressively" in future en primeur campaigns, after the 2010 market remained strong in July, according to Bordeaux Index.

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Pub and bar rental values remain in decline

Published:  10 August, 2011

Pub rental values have been taking a hit since the beginning of 2007 and there is no sign of an uplift, according to Fleurets' annual Pub Rental Survey.

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