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Mason flavour

Published:  23 July, 2008

Chris Mason has been a man of the drinks world for more than 30 years. When he eventually decides to quit the booze-selling game, he will be drawing pensions from Pernod Ricard, Allied Domecq and Bacardi. Had it been the type of company that thought about pensions', he could have added Seagram to the list. As he says, It's only Diageo that's missing for a full set.'
As so often in the drinks trade, it very nearly didn't work out that way. Had it not been for the antisocial hours, Mason could well be appearing in the pages of Property Week or The Builder, rather than Harpers. It was rugby that saved him from the social-pariah status of his first proper job as an estate agent. I played a lot in those days,' Mason says, and, though I wasn't afraid of working long hours, I didn't want to work on Saturday afternoons. But you can't be an estate agent without working on Saturday afternoons.'

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Small regions, big story

Published:  23 July, 2008

For a wine produced by a co-op in a region little known in the UK outside of the trade and wine enthusiasts, it is quite a result: Via Bajoz's Cao brand, from the DO of Toro in Castilla y Len, sold 13,000 six-bottle cases in Tesco during a single week last month.
The main reason for this sales spike was, as always, a hard-and-fast discount that saw the retail price fall from 4.49 to 2.99 for the blend of Garnacha and Tinta de Toro (the local version of Tempranillo). A general Tesco promotion that gave a further 20% discount on any six-bottle cases coincided with the Cao promotion, meaning bulk buyers could have a bottle for as little as 2.38.
Price, however, doesn't tell the whole story. Cao's success is also about PR. As Ben Smith, who runs Bibendum's PR department, explains: I sent out a couple of bottles to
the major newspaper journalists, and the response was fantastic.

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No Spain, no gain

Published:  23 July, 2008

The Spanish tasting is once again setting up residence at London's Old Billingsgate (EC3), although there will be a new format for 2006, with both the Importers Fair and Exporters Fair taking place under the same roof. Held on 8 March and running from 9.30am to 6pm, the fair will feature the wines from 50 importers and 30 bodegas seeking representation, as well as a themed tasting area - New Wave Spanish Wines: Top 106 - and a tutored tasting led by Jancis Robinson MW entitled Cutting Edge Wines from Spain.
Members of the trade or press interested in attending should call 020 7409 0494 or e-mail celine@spearcommunications.co.uk

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In like gin

Published:  23 July, 2008

When it comes to making cocktails, vodka is a damp squib. Gin is much cooler,' insists Jamie Walker, global ambassador for Bombay Sapphire. Vodka is like alcoholic tofu,' he continues. It doesn't have any character of its own - it just takes on the flavour of the mixers.' Walker, of course, has a vested interest in slamming the UK's biggest-selling spirit, but before he teamed up with Bombay Sapphire, he consulted
on the cocktail lists for some of London's leading bars, and his frank boredom with vodka and enthusiasm for gin is a feeling that is creeping up on bartenders across the capital.

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South Africa's giant leap

Published:  23 July, 2008

A few weeks ago, Sophie Waggett of Wines of South Africa (WOSA) was more than a little worried. She was in Cape
Town and awaiting the arrival of a group of 20 on-trade buyers from the UK, most of whom she'd never met. The origins of this scenario began last year, when WOSA was forced to recognise that South African wines, while generally in growth, were seriously underperforming in the UK on-trade: only 5% market share, compared to 10% in the off-trade.

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Q&A with the Wine+ team

Published:  23 July, 2008

When and how did you come up with the idea for Wine+?
Andrew Evans: Back in 2001, I was researching visitor motives for going to the London International Wine & Spirit Fair [Evans was formerly commercial director of Brintex, LIWSF organisers; see below]. Each channel has different reasons, but what was clear with the on-trade was that the reason for going had to be compelling and relevant, because if something happened in their establishment, they would not attend. It was also clear that they had to get to and from the event quickly. It soon became obvious that there was an opportunity for a stand-alone on-trade event to satisfy this unique audience.

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The Interview: Hseyin zer, Owner, Sofra Restaurants

Published:  23 July, 2008

How did a poor boy from Turkey manage to put his stamp on the London restaurant scene?
It wasn't really planned. I came to the UK to learn English, and then I stayed because I love it here. I love the culture, the people and I love London. London is Miss World to me. As for the restaurant, I bought it for my girlfriend at the time. I didn't have any money, but the bank liked my idea and gave me a loan. One minute I was cooking my favourite foods for just myself and Linda, and the next minute we had a queue outside the door.

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Southern comfort

Published:  23 July, 2008

The good news about this year's ViniSud was that it passed off without conflict. A protest (albeit peaceful) held by winemakers in Narbonne the week before may have raised fears, but the atmosphere in Montpellier was overwhelmingly positive.
And it was fitting that the organisation with the biggest stand by far made the biggest launch of the week. As reported in Harpers in November, the Conseil Interprofessionnel des Vins du Languedoc (CIVL) has teamed up with its Roussillon, Vins de Pays d'Oc and Vins de Pays de Languedoc-Roussillon counterparts and decided to market all wines from the four regions as Sud de France'. While the names of the appellations will still be used in marketing campaigns, Sud de France is the umbrella term and, it is hoped, will feature on every bottle of wine. A sum of e12 million will also be given by the French government to promote agricultural products' of Languedoc-Roussillon, including wine.

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HOT: On the town

Published:  23 July, 2008

The bold and the beautiful were out in all their glory (or otherwise) at this month's launch of Dune, the latest bar and restaurant to hit Piccadilly. The invitation said to dress decadent', and although this was interpreted as smart casual' by the boring majority, there were a few daring souls who took extravagance to a new and sometimes frightening level. One such lady couldn't seem to make up her mind whether she was intended for Stringfellows or Ascot.

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Own-label Champagne

Published:  23 July, 2008

With Champagne shipments to the UK reaching 36,765,884 bottles, up 5.19% on 2004 and a record level for the third year on the trot, supermarket giants Tesco and Sainsbury's are once again squabbling about who was responsible for selling the lion's share; while in Champagne, producers are asking if the current pricing of own-label Champagne is sustainable.
In a report published in The Daily Telegraph on 28 December 2005, it was alleged that stocks of Champagne at Tesco, the biggest wine retailer, were dangerously low' for the New Year. According to the Telegraph, Tesco said it had ordered 1.5 million bottles of Champagne the week between Christmas and the New Year and had sent an emergency convoy of 25 lorries to France to collect them'.

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HOT: Ark annual at Allium

Published:  23 July, 2008

The fifth anniversary of The Ark Foundation, a charity for chefs with alcohol and drug problems, was celebrated on 22 February with an all-star chef line-up at London's Allium Restaurant. Michael Quinn MBE, former chef at The Ritz and recovered alcoholic, hosted the event.

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HOT: Tonic for old timers

Published:  23 July, 2008

Tonic cocktail bar in Edinburgh has launched a new cocktail menu that takes customers through the history of cocktails, from old classics such as the Bloody Mary, the cosmopolitan and Between the Sheets, through to creations by Tonic bartenders like Monarch of the Glen (12-year-old Glenfiddich, pressed apple, cinnamon sugar, bitters and orange zest) and the Asian Grand Master (Grand Marnier, Suntory Hibiki - Japanese whisky - pressed apple, lychee liqueur and lime leaf)

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HOT: Fashion label launches Sassicaia-alike

Published:  23 July, 2008

The creator of Diesel fashion label Renzo Rosso is set to launch two new premium Italian wines from Bassano del Grappa, Veneto, in the UK. The brand will be listed only in restaurants, with recommended price tags of between 100 and 140.
According to Alessandro Marchesan, head sommelier at Zuma: These wines are geared to appeal to the same type of customer that orders Sassicaia. Now I can offer an interesting alternative to this classic wine.'
Other restaurants to confirm a listing are River Caf, Roka and Les Trois Garons (all in London).
Only 600 bottles of the Cabernet/Merlot blend (2000 Rosso di Rosso) and 250 bottles of the Chardonnay (2001 Bianco di Rosso) have been made, with just 55 bottles of each colour allocated to the UK. A third Diesel wine has been made from Pinot Noir (Nero di Rosso).
The rest of the wine will be exported to France, the United States and Japan, as well as being sold domestically in Italy.

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HOT: Funkin helps the shakin'

Published:  23 July, 2008

London-based producer of premium fresh fruit juices and pures, Funkin, has launched a consultancy service. The package, worth 547, will include advice, training and printed cocktail support for all new customers in the UK, free with a first order for five or more cases of Funkin. According to Funkin MD Alex Carlton: This is aimed at pubs in the middle of the countryside, where people have little experience of making cocktails.'

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HOT: Top tips at Babylon

Published:  23 July, 2008

Babylon Restaurant at The Roof Gardens, off Kensington High Street, is starting a series of food-and-wine evenings to be held every two months. Food lessons will be taken by head chef Oliver Smith. Chris Hambleton, from Champagne Tuesdays, will introduce the wines. The programme will begin on Tuesday 28 February with a New World focus. That evening will begin with an apritif and canaps at 7.30pm, followed by a five-course dinner and wines to match. The cost is 85 per person each evening.

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HOT: Two more Hotels du Vin in 17M deal

Published:  23 July, 2008

Malmaison continues its expansion of the Hotel du Vin brand it purchased in 2004, with new venues set to open in York and Cambridge in 2007.
Both are in Grade II-listed buildings and will have 42 beds plus the now-familiar formula of bistro, bar and cigar room. The two hotels have cost a combined total of 17 million.
Hotels in two cities selected from Durham, Chester and Edinburgh are likely to be launched towards the end of next year as Malmaison continues its plan to have 25 Hotel du Vin venues in the UK by the end of 2008.
All these future sites fit the Hotel du Vin pattern of launching in historic towns that provide few overnight facilities at the mid-price level.

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HOT: Automat to add fine-dining restaurant

Published:  23 July, 2008

Automat, the US-themed brasserie in London's Mayfair, is to open a high-quality restaurant in its basement space later this year.
Owner Carlos Almada is aiming for Michelin stars, and quickly', said one person involved in the new venture who did not wish to be named. They want to have something along the lines of top New York restaurants, with haute cuisine food, but in a more relaxed vein.'
The wine list will specialise in top Napa Cabernets, as well as expensive Bordeaux and Burgundy, and will run to at least 500 bins.
Managers at Automat are recruiting a sommelier to oversee both the restaurant and brasserie.

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HOT: Aikens takes on pub and more cellar space

Published:  23 July, 2008

Michelin-starred chef Tom Aikens is to open a pub close to his eponymous restaurant in London's Chelsea area.
Formerly The Blenheim on Cale Street, close to Chelsea Green, the new dining room will seat 80 and serve stews, pts and whole legs of lamb to share. It will be open all day, seven days a week.
A basement area will have vast glass fridges with whole hanging carcasses for Aikens to bring into cookery lessons for the public. He will also use the space to store wines for both this restaurant and his more upmarket, eponymous venture.
There will be a games room on the first floor and private dining on the second level, but Aikens has yet to give a name to his new venture.
Gearoid Devaney, sommelier at Tom Aikens, will oversee the wine list.

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HOT: New Veuve-only bar at Malmaison

Published:  23 July, 2008

Veuve Clicquot has opened a new Champagne bar in the lobby of Malmaison hotel in Charterhouse Square, London. Only Veuve Clicquot, in all its varieties, including La Grande Dame, will be available.
According to Roz Colthart, marketing director for Malmaison: We've formed a great relationship with Veuve Clicquot over the past couple of years and undertaken several promotions that appeal to our customers.' Andrew Notcutt, brand manager for Veuve Clicquot, reckoned: As a contemporary, elegant brand, we wanted to build a relationship with a company with a similar mindset.'
The bar is open 11am-midnight Monday to Saturday, and 11am-10pm on Sunday.

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HOT: Demetre opens on ill-fated site

Published:  23 July, 2008

Former Putney Bridge owner Anthony Demetre is to launch
a brasserie restaurant in the building that once housed Bruno Loubet's Bruno Soho venture. The new restaurant, opening in April, will be sited where Loubet left after a split with his partners. It is also the location of other now-defunct ventures, such as Claudio Pulze's Frith Street.
You've got to cater for the masses,' said Demetre. That doesn't mean cheap food or shoddy service - just value for money. I hated the chi-chi reputation [of] Putney Bridge.'
Called Arbutus, after the trees that Soho Square once had in abundance, the restaurant will combine Spanish, French and Indian food and list Mouton Rothschild by the glass. Once a bottle of such expensive claret is open, a bell will be rung to inform the whole restaurant.

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