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The Interview: Benot Allauzen, Head sommelier, The Greenhouse

Published:  23 July, 2008

A total of 2,400 bins is a huge number for any wine list. How do you get to grips with such a large selection?
Well, it takes about two years to become familiar with a collection this size. I was at Morton's previously, which helped me, because a few wines are the same for both lists. But the good thing about The Greenhouse is that it has wines from the New World. I had to move from Morton's to remind myself of the differences between Central Otago and Nelson.

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Club MW: pass or pass?

Published:  23 July, 2008

The Institute of Masters of Wine (IMW) sounds like a scary place. The sort of place that might be surrounded by barbed wire and big, black gates; a darkened building that you can't set foot in without a password and a secret handshake. Not everyone is frightened, however, and plenty of people have tried to climb the walls - more than 2,000 since the first members were admitted in 1953. But there are currently only 250 worldwide who have successfully struggled through the marathon examination, including a four-part theory paper, three-part practical paper and final dissertation, to make it to the other side.

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Portman says, no Beastie

Published:  23 July, 2008

A vodka-based drink which features grinning cartoon spider characters on its packaging has breached the drinks industry Code of Practice, as drawn up the Portman Group.
The products Wee Beastie' and Big Beastie', produced by Inver House Distillers, fell foul of the the Independent Complaints Panel due to concerns that the grinning spider character, which featured prominently on both products and on the website, was both cartoon-like and childlike. It was also concerned that the warning Strictly for over 18s ADULTS ONLY' was likely to have a particular appeal to under 18s.

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Pen launches wine range

Published:  23 July, 2008

Spain's leading wine critic Jos Pen is launching a range of wines in the UK under the brand Pen Selection.
Imported through Surrey-based Latin Wines, the four-strong range consists of a Rueda blanco, a Crianza Rioja tinto, a Ribera del Duero tinto and a Toro tinto.
The wines, which come from bodegas selected by Pen for showing the best price-to-quality ratio', will be distributed worldwide except for in Spain itself. They are expected to retail at between 8 and 14.
Pen publishes the bestselling annual guide to Spanish wine.

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Lamberth and Perry launch new wine company

Published:  23 July, 2008

A new wine company, Crush Wines, headed up by two long-standing members of the wine trade, launched last week.
Crush Wines will specialise in facilitating ex-cellar sales with marketing and sales support.
Managing director Chris Ellis formerly held senior roles at Western Wines and Skalli, while Andrew Lamberth, sales and marketing director, previously held similar roles at Domaine Boyar and PLB.
Lamberth commented: Initial trade responses to our format and ideas have been tremendous. It has been really encouraging to see buyers take us on as suppliers so quickly.'
He added that the lean business structure' allows Crush to deliver real value'.
Full details are expected to follow shortly.

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Global oversupply bites deeper

Published:  23 July, 2008

The problem of global oversupply and the accompanying fierce price competition in key markets is having an ever-greater impact on profitability around the globe.
With Australia and parts of France already deep into a wine downturn, it increasingly appears that South Africa and Chilean producers are also suffering serious economic problems.
Just last week, the South African Wine & Brandy Company (SAWBC) met with a government agricultural committee to ask for increased support to regain a competitive advantage' and warned that it was becoming virtually impossible' for South Africa to compete profitably on price in its two key markets, Germany and the UK. As well as an oversupply of wine
driving a discount culture in supermarkets, the continued strength of the rand has meant margins were low.

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WSTA secures continued use of Customs code

Published:  23 July, 2008

Following six months of negotiations with the European Commission, the WSTA has secured the continued use of the existing 8 Digits Customs Subheadings. The Commission had considered abolishing these codes as part of its simplification of the European Combined Nomenclature.
These codes allow the trade to compare year-on-year production and sales using recognised industry product codes.
WSTA chief executive Jeremy Beadles said: This is a good outcome for the trade, which had argued strongly for these customs subheadings to be maintained. We are in favour of simplifying the nomenclature, but there is no point in losing something that is recognised and used by the trade to help monitor performance.'

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Delibo signs Situ

Published:  23 July, 2008

Delibo Fine Wines has signed an agreement with Vina San Esteban to distribute its In Situ range of Chilean wines in
the UK, a range developed specifically for this market.
The winery, located at the eastern edge of the Aconcagua Valley, in central Chile, produces a Reserva range (Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenre, Merlot, Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay) with RSPs of 5.99 and a Winemakers Selection range (Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenre, Syrah and Chardonnay) with RSPs of 7.99.

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PLB unveils new Sicilian brand

Published:  23 July, 2008

PLB has launched a new brand from Sicily. Named Sicilano, it aims to capitalise on positive consumer perception of the Italian island'.
Sealed with a screwcap closure, the four wines will be available at two price points. Nero d'Avola/Shiraz and Chardonnay/Cataratto blends will sit at 3.99, with Nero d'Avola and Grillo varietals priced at 4.99.
Brand manager Paul Shelton commented: Research conducted
by Wine Intelligence identified two important consumers of Italian wines: "Frascati Girl", who knows she likes Italian wines at a certain price points; and "Chianti Connoisseur", who will be attracted by the indigenous varieties. Sicilano will appeal to both.'
The wine is produced by the Firriato winery in Sicily and the labels were designed by the London-based Barlow Doherty design agency.

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Caribbean generic

Published:  23 July, 2008

A group of Caribbean rum producers is launching a generic marketing body.
The West Indian Rum Producers Association (WIRPA) includes the produce of most Caribbean rum producers (with the exception of those in Cuba, Bermuda, Venezuela and the French-speaking islands) and has been funded by the EU as
a result of the phasing out of preferential trading agreements with the region.
The UK arm (it will also operate in selected markets worldwide) will be run by James Stocker. As well as an educational campaign run by the WIRPA itself, companies can apply to the body for funding for their own marketing campaigns.
I want the various island-specific West Indian rums to
be thought of the same way as Scotch malts,' said Stocker.

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Duty stamps launched

Published:  23 July, 2008

After several years of wrangling, arguments and counter-arguments, the Government finally unveiled its anti-fraud weapon, the Duty Stamp, this week.
The duty stamps (pictured) will be required to appear on all bottles of 35cl or above containing spirits of 30% abv or more from 1 October. The Government is asking for all producers, stores or suppliers of spirits to be fully prepared' for the 1 October deadline and to apply to the UK Duty Stamps Scheme immediately in order to give themselves a chance of being ready on time'.

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Champagne pavilion at LIWSF

Published:  23 July, 2008

Six Champagne producers have joined together to create Champagne's first regional generic pavilion at the London International Wine and Spirits Fair (LIWSF).
Exhibiting under the collective banner of the Chambre de Commerce et d'Industrie de l'Aisne and l'Agence d'Exportation de Picardie, the six producers are Champagne Dehu, Champagne Baron Albert, Champagne Fleury et Fils, Champagne Serveaux et Fils, Champagne Leclerc-Mondet and Champagne Olivier Pre et Fils. All are located in the Valle de la Marne.
James Murray, LIWSF exhibition director, said he was thrilled on two counts - firstly that the LIWSF is considered by these Champagne producers as the gateway to Europe, and secondly, because this is the first time Champagne producers have taken a generic pavilion at the Fair'.
The 2006 LIWSF will take place at ExCeL, in London's Docklands, from 16 to 18 May.

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Family fortunes

Published:  23 July, 2008

Gallo. Torres. Symington. Rothschild. It's no secret that the wine world is dominated by family businesses. With family ownership comes the advantage of the long-term view: you are looking after your brand for your children and grandchildren, so - in theory at least - you are less likely to throw away brand equity in pursuit of short-run gain. But it can also bring disadvantages, most notably intra-family disagreements and rivalries, in some cases lasting generations (and getting worse as the family tree spreads wider).

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As good as it gets

Published:  23 July, 2008

The California wine grape harvest for 2005 was mind boggling. A record 3.8 million tonnes of wine grapes were crushed, up almost a million tonnes from the 2.81 million tonne crush of 2004. There were rumblings of a large crop as the harvest extended into mid-November, but the final numbers were completely unexpected. It's as if enough grapes had been added to the state's production to create a winery the size of E&J Gallo. Every grape-growing region reported higher tonnage, from premium North Coast vineyards to the Central Valley.

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All that glisters

Published:  23 July, 2008

Once again, the California annual tasting will take place at the Royal Horticultural Halls (London SW1), although for 2006 it has moved to the slightly smaller Lindley Hall. Doors are open from 10.30am to 5.30pm on Thursday 23 March.

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Wow Portugeezers

Published:  23 July, 2008

What? Annual Tasting of Portuguese Wines
Where? Vinopolis, London SE1 9BU
When? 10.30am to 5.30pm,
Tuesday 14 March
Contact: filipe.neves@icep.pt; tel: 020 7201 6666

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Castel attacks Thresher Group over Unwins shop purchase

Published:  23 July, 2008

Castel, the owner of off-licence chain Oddbins, is considering legal action in the wake of the collapse into administration
of Unwins in the week before Christmas.
The French company alleges that the rapid purchase of
200 Unwins outlets for 4.5m by Threshers was anti-competitive because the deal contained a provision that
the administrator, KPMG, would not sell any of the remaining Unwins outlets to a rival high-street chain, including Oddbins.
Jacques Duley, the managing director of Oddbins, has said that he had wanted to buy between 30 and 40 Unwins shops but had been told by KPMG that there was a specific clause in the Thresher sale agreement barring any such deal.

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Scotch Sherry winners

Published:  23 July, 2008

Chef-and-wine-waiter duo Craig Sandle and James O'Donnell, from the Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh, won the Copa Jerez on 20 February - the live cook-off and Sherry-pairing contest.
They will now go forward to the Sherry World Cup', or International Copa Jerez, to compete against teams from other key Sherry markets, including the US, Spain and Germany, and to be judged by Spain's top chef, Ferran Adria.
Second place went to James Lui and Debbie Thornton from the British Army Culinary Arts Team, Hampshire, followed in third by Matt Simon and Darren Stanford of Avenance, London's Deutschebank restaurant.

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Delegat's wins Oyster Bay battle

Published:  23 July, 2008

Delegat's has finally secured control of fellow New Zealand winery Oyster Bay Marlborough vineyards after a protracted takeover battle.
Delegat's had to almost double its original takeover offer of NZ$3.10 to NZ$6 a share, with the takeover taking around nine months from offer to completion. Delegat's owned 33% of Oyster Bay prior to its takeover offer and became embroiled in a bidding war with fellow shareholder Peter Yeatlands for control of the company.
Delegat's is New Zealand's third-largest producer and is fully owned by the Delegat family. The company is now expected to list on the New Zealand Stock Exchange, with an estimated value of around NZ$220m-375m.
The Delegat family is expected to sell down its holding to 65%.

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New distribution for Hayman

Published:  23 July, 2008

Hayman Distillers has outsourced the distribution of three of its brands - Hayman's 1820 Gin Liqueur, Kerenski Chocolate Vodka and La Chica Tequila - to Malcolm Cowen.
Hayman Distillers has also appointed Happening UK to carry out sampling activity of Hayman's 1820 in the on-trade across the UK.

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