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  • Featured Section

    UK Buyers/French Producers on: Champagne, Crémant & sparkling

    Sparkling wine has enjoyed unprecedented success in the UK over the last 10 years, but where does French sparkling sit alongside the two powerhouses of everyday sparkling wine – Prosecco and Cava? To find out, The Buyer teamed up with Business France, to host an online Zoom panel debate with leading UK wine buyers of independent importers and merchants, who had the chance to chat live with three very different representatives of the French wine market covering sparkling, Champagne and Crémant.



    One Step Beyond: Download the full landmark conference report

    When The Buyer came together with Sophie Jump to organise and hold the inaugural One Step Beyond Conference in early March the focus was 100% on analysing the most disruptive changes in consumer behaviour and technology. Little did we know that just over two months on so many of those changes have now been put on fast forward because of the Covid-19 outbreak. Here is the full report from what was a breakthrough conference for the drinks, retail and hospitality sectors. A day that brought experts from outside the industry’s comfort zone and gave them the platform to set out what we can all expect from consumers and technology in the future. Predictions that are already being seen in how fast businesses and consumers alike are responding to the challenges of Covid-19.


    The Buyer’s Case: Top buyers put Boisset FGV wines to the test

    The hardest job for any wine producer, no matter how prestigious or respected, is getting their wines in front of the right buyers who can ultimately make the difference in getting their wines on to the lists of the restaurants and bars that really matter. That’s what The Buyer’s Case project does. Link producers looking to build distribution in the premium on-trade and specialist retail sector with key buyers in those channels. Here’s how major French producer, Boisset FGV worked with The Buyer on its own Buyer’s Case initiative.


    California Buyers Trip Part 2: the wines and styles ready to export

    Having the opportunity to go to California and meet over 100 producers in an intense five days of tasting doesn’t come around too often. But it proved to be an invaluable exercise for the group of leading wine buyers from both the UK and Irish on and off-trade markets. In Part One of our report we looked at their general feedback on why they wanted to go on such a trip. Here in Part Two we drill down into what they really thought of the wines and the opportunities of giving them a chance in the markets over here.


    California looks to bring right producers & buyers together

    If you are a wine buyer for a leading importer, restaurant group, or independent merchant then there are times of the year when you are no doubt spoilt for choice with invitations to go and visit different regions and countries. But which are ones are going to be the most useful, effective and important to your buying needs? It’s what made the recent California Wine Institute event for leading UK and Irish buyers so different. And relevant. Rather than take a group of buyers on a bus around a select group of producers, the Institute brought the producers to the buyers for a series of back to back tastings hosted in the same venue. It meant the busy buyers were able to see over 100 wineries across five days of intensive tasting and take a deep dive into the kind of wines being made across the state. What’s more the producers did not currently have distribution in the UK or Ireland, or both, and had to have wines, with volume, that could the hit the main commercial to mid premium price points. The Buyer’s Richard Siddle, who helped to identify and recruit some of the buyers invited, was also there to get an insider’s take on how it all came together.


    South Africa Restaurant Safari – 9 buyers, 18 wineries, 2 Land Rovers

    Here’s a conundrum for you. How do you get nine of the UK’s leading wine buyers to meet 18 winemakers in four restaurants in different parts of London in under five hours? Well, throw two Land Rovers into the mix and you are half way home. It’s certainly how The Buyer teamed up with Wines of South Africa to take a group of top buyers on a tour of London restaurants, and the chance to meet some of South Africa’s best winemakers at the same time. Eating, tasting, chatting along the way. Buckle up and join us on the ride…


    Buyer French Debate: Rise of Crémant & other sparkling wines

    In part one of The Buyer’s debate, alongside Business France, between leading importers, merchants, restaurants and wine producers from most regions of France, we focused on the rise in and importance of organic wines. The tasting and discussion also looked at how different styles of sparkling wine are now really coming to the fore, and how Crémant, in particular, is presenting a real premium alternative, ideal for promoting and driving in the premium on-trade.

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    Buyer Debate: the opportunity for French organic wine

    For the latest The Buyer Debate we teamed up with Business France to bring producers from different regions of France together with key buyers from across the premium on-trade to look at two key growth areas not only for French wine, but the premium wine category as a whole: organics and sparkling wine. It was an opportunity to meet, taste the wines and then explore why French winemakers are increasingly turning to organics and sparkling wine production. Whilst assessing just what it is leading UK wine distributors, merchants and restaurant and bar owners are looking for when taking on a new French wine supplier. There was a lot to cover. So much so that we have broken down the report into two parts. First up we look at the rise in organics and both the opportunities and the challenges there are in making and selling organic wine.


    Behind the scenes on The Buyer’s Vouvray Restaurant Tour

    It’s one thing tasting wine professionally it is quite another to go on an eating and tasting tour of top London restaurants to experience food and wine in the same way your customers do. Which is what The Buyer’s most recent restaurant tour was all about as we were able to introduce different styles of Vouvray wine to a tour of buyers covering wine merchants, sommeliers, importers, consultants and journalists. As we publish our full report from the event, Richard Siddle picks out the highlights.


    Buyer debate: Indies put Ribera del Duero through its paces

    Even for a wine region that is as relatively small as Spain’s Ribera del Duero it’s important to taste as many wines as possible if you are going to truly understand, experience and enjoy its enormous diversity, says wine writer and critic, Tim Atkin MW. To help do just that, but also debate and share what leading UK buyers think of Ribera del Duero, The Buyer teamed up with the region’s generic body, a panel of top wine merchants and Atkin himself to see what opportunities there are in the burgeoning independent retail and wholesale sector.


    Douro’s Soul Wines Debate: why the wines are ideal for the UK

    “There is a deliciousness to these red wines. I am hugely impressed by them. The quality has blown me away.” Just the kind of review any wine producer would want for their wines, particularly if it comes from such as senior a figure as John Graves, on-trade channel director at Bibendum Wine. But Graves was not the only UK panelist in our debate with the Douro Valley’s Soul Wine producers to be impressed with what they saw and tasted. In part two of our report on the wide ranging debate we assess the opportunity for Douro’s wines in the premium on-trade and what steps producers need to take to make the most of them.

    People People: On-Trade

    Sommeliers on Chile: The Buyer & Chono Wines debate

    To try to unravel and understand Chile’s position in the premium on-trade, The Buyer teamed up with Ellis Wines and its Chilean producer partner, Chono Wines, to bring
    together a group of senior wine trade professionals, buyers and sommeliers to debate what are the opportunities and challenges for Chile as a whole. It was the chance for these leading figures to share their experiences with Chilean wines in their restaurants and businesses and look at the kinds of wines from Chile that they are looking to source and select for their wine lists.


    Mionetto and The Buyer Prosecco study tour and report

    Is there a more misunderstood wine category than Prosecco? It might top all the best selling charts, but it is too often dismissed or taken seriously by some professional wine buyers. To help get to know not only the beautiful region of Conegliano Valdobbiadene, but to explore the different quality tiers of Prosecco and the potential they have in the premium on-trade, The Buyer teamed up with leading Prosecco brand, Mionetto, and its UK partner Copestick Murray, to host a study tour with key buyers and influencers of the area and the city where Prosecco truly comes to life – Venice.


    Jackson Family debate on Californian Chardonnay and Pinot Noir

    It’s nice talking about and throwing the spotlight on new wine regions and emerging styles of wine and little known grape varieties, but at these times of the year restaurant and bar customers are looking for the classics and the tried and tested. Which is why for our latest major debate we teamed up with Jackson Family Wines to look at what leading wine buyers, sommeliers, distributors and merchants think about Californian Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.


    Special Report: Sonoma County Vintners London Wine Bar Tour

    Organising a wine tasting where all your guests are sitting in one place can prove to be a challenge at times, so you can imagine the potential for things to wrong if you then invited those guests to go on a tour of restaurants and bars around London, tasting different wines, matched to each outlet’s food along the way. It certainly made for a very different, fun, highly informative and memorable day for wineries from Sonoma County Vintners and our panel of “tour-ists” willing to go on the adventure with us.


    Closures Debate: what do you want to put in a bottle of wine?

    Outside of the natural wine debate is there a more contentious issue than the one that surrounds the type of closure you have in your bottle of wine? To assess what leading on-trade buyers and sommeliers now think about closures we teamed up with Vinventions, one of the biggest suppliers of all types of closure from cork to screwcap, to make the issue of closures the latest topic in our Buyer Debate series.


    The Buyer’s Case with Castelnau Wine Agencies

    Every wine as soon as it is made puts its self up for judgement. Be it the end consumer who wants to drink it with their dinner, or the trade buyers and wine critics looking to score, assess and adjudicate on whether it is suitable for listing in the first place. But nothing ventured, nothing gained and Castelnau Wine Agencies was happy to put its range of wines from producers all over the world up to the test in our latest Buyer’s Case project with leading on-trade buyers and influencers in the trade.

    Tasting Tasting: Panel Tasting

    The Buyer’s Case with Cave de Vignerons de Saint-Chinian wines

    The Buyer has been set up to help drinks producers and leading on-trade buyers better understand their needs and where possible work closer together. This is best demonstrated by The Buyer’s Case initiative where we link up with a wine producer or importer and ask leading buyers to taste, assess and offer professional feedback on their wines. Here we turn to the Languedoc-Roussillon and present wines from leading producer, Cave de Vignerons de Saint-Chinian to leading on-trade decision makers.


    The French debate: putting France under the spotlight with Foncalieu

    France might be the best selling country in the UK on-trade, but that does not mean it could not sell. To help better understand the opportunities and challenges facing French wine in the premium on-trade, The Buyer linked up with Les Vignobles Foncalieu and leading buyers from the different types of operator, including high end restaurants, independent wine merchants and national wholesalers all working the French category in the north west of the country.

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    Insight Tasting Tasting: Panel Tasting
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    New Zealand Debate: the opportunities and challenges

    New Zealand’s enormous success in the UK off-trade, where its Sauvignon Blanc has created a category of its own, has not always been reflected in how many of its wines are on premium on-trade wine lists. The Buyer teamed up with Villa Maria, and its UK partners, Hatch Mansfield, to ask a panel of leading UK buyers to set out the challenges and opportunities for New Zealand in the premium on-trade

    Insight Tasting Tasting: Panel Tasting

    The Buyer’s Case with Les Vignerons Foncalieu

    The Buyer’s Case is a new initiative that gives producers the chance to show specific drinks to key buyers in target channels of the on-trade. For our first Buyer’s Case we teamed up with Les Vignerons Foncalieu and selected key buyers in its main distribution areas in the UK on-trade to show their wines. Here are the results.

    Insight Tasting Tasting: Panel Tasting

    Virginia Wine Project: bringing producers and buyers together

    The Buyer teamed up with Virginia Wine and some of its key producers to help them better understand the needs of the UK premium on-trade and how buyers might relate to their wines with both a business roundtable debate with key players and a study tour of leading London restaurants, wine bars and merchants to see the kind of offers they have and where their wines might fit in.



    Tasting with pictures View All
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    • 1981 Gran Reserva 890. Hugely evolved and in its tertiary stage, but still drinking with fresh acidity, tension, length and lovely balance. Bright mahogany red, dried cherries, caramel, coconut husk, a touch of cheese on the nose; the tannins are fully resolved and integrated, the finish dry, but still in remarkable shape. Not enough fruit to keep it going much longer. I’d drink up if I had any.
    • Quinta da Boavista “Rufia”. Skin contact, five-variety Portuguese blend that will be polarising but we loved it! Joao Tavares from Dão Portugal is behind this 2019 vintage, blending Encruzado, Cerceal, Malvasia Fina, Arinto, and Bical grown on granite and shale clay soils. After a three week skin-maceration, it undergoes malolactic fermentation in tank, followed by nine months ageing on its lees. Bottled unfiltered with a touch of sulfite.The nose is floral and pretty with mandarin, apricot, wet earth; the palate is structured but rounded and flavoursome with prominent apple and pear and a touch of saline.
    • Already drinking superbly well, this second wine of the great Super Tuscan estate from the variable climate of the 2019 growing season is a blend of 54% Merlot, 28% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Cabernet Franc and 4% Petit Verdot – a combination of fruit-focused power and elegance, and richness with energy. Medium ruby-purple to look at; the nose is an enticing mix of currants, herbs (sage and bay), graphite and oranges, eucalyptus, strawberry chews; the palate is medium weight, balancing ripe red and black fruits with blueberry, sour cherry, balsamic, a lick of cream, framed by firm, ripe tannins, finely textured with a mineral edge and a long, sapid, dry, blue plum skin finish. Firmly Cab-structured but with a voluptuous, abundance of ripe fruit. Each variety is vinified separately, in steel, then in barriques (25% new/ 75% one-fill) for 15 months, assembled after 12 months and returned to barriques, then after
    • Excellent Cab Sauv/ Petit Verdot blend (92%/ 8%)) from Chile that is a very pure expression – the vines are low-yielding and grown on clay-loam slopes not far from the cooling Pacific – with the wine aged in 4th/5th use neutral barrels after fermenting in steel. The wine is structured and has intensity but there’s a green edge both on the nose and palate, with fresh, pure blackcurrant fruit, bramble, a little mint lift; the tannins are there, textured and ripe. It’s an outstanding wine this, lovely depth and expression- even after a few days this was still opening out. There’s a sense that this is how Cabernet Sauvignon ought to taste and feels very true to its terroir.
    • 20 years on the clock and this is still ticking along very nicely. One of the first vintages of a family project by Angélus co-owner and consultant oenologist Hubert de Boüard and his daughter Coralie this is a Merlot dominant (85%) three grape blend (Cab Sauv and Franc splitting the remainder) that exudes the freshness of the site’s clay loam soils and the family’s winemaking knowhow. It’s a medium bodied claret with good acidity that still has a bit of primary plummy fruit but mainly secondary characteristics: dried cherries, fig confiture, Sechuan pepper, leather, tobacco, mocha; finish a bit short. A 750cl bottle would need drinking up by now, but this is in terrific shape and very more-ish. If the point needed proving that Lalande de Pomerol can produce great wines then this bottle says it right here, and outrageously good value let me say straight off the bat.
    • Fresh and aromatic Falanghina from Feudi di San Gregorio in Campania. Very pale straw yellow; fascinating and complex nose of summer grasses and meadow flowers, herbs and citrus blossom. The mouthfeel is fresh, crisp, cleansing; plenty of citrus fruit flavours, orange peel, touch of vanilla, with a subtle mineral finish. The wine is made in an off-dry style so there is a lot of depth to the flavours and also a lot more applications – this would be perfect with a seafood starter as it would an aperitif at lunch or dinner.
    • A new addition to the collection of rare Frapin vintages comes this unique 30 year old that, for the first time, was a vintage Cognac aged in the downstairs humid cellars (rather than dry upstairs) meaning that more alcohol than water is lost leading to a softer, more rounded spirit. Medium orangey gold, the bouquet is delicate and elegant, offering woody notes, and spiced stone fruit, orange rind, ginger cake, a mild volatility; the palate is silky smooth, fine and rich, with orange, liquorice, gingerbread and a finish that lasts for an eternity with cigar box, rancio and a warmth that slowly envelops you like a warm hug. Made solely from Ugni Blanc grapes grown on chalk and clay soils in the Grande Champagne region and double-distilled on the lees – this is one of the finest Cognacs money will buy from one of the largest artisanal properties in the
    • A treat from the Armit 2021 autumn showcase tasting last week, a vintage that was ferociously tannic on release, and consisted mainly of Cabernet Franc with very little Merlot in the blend. Brick red to brown in appearance; bouquet-wise there’s dried cherries, dried petals, earth and mustiness; the acidity and taut, mineral drive is still powering the wine somewhat out of kilter; the tannins have diffused but I am not sure there is enough fruit to be taking this wine anywhere special.
    • 2017 was a tricky dry vintage in Piedmont with yields at Prunotto 20-30% down. The outcome is that skilled winemakers will have made earlier-to-drink wines with decent concentration as they have done here. Light semi-transparent ruby; the bouquet is pretty and detailed with crushed red berries, cherries, rose petals and red liqourice, hint of tar and something savoury; the mouthfeel is light to medium weight, elegant and precise, fresh, very fine slightly drying tannins, mildly textured, abundant ripe strawberry fruit which is the dominant flavour on the balanced length. The wine was almost discreet on first tasting and grew in the glass. A good wine for the on-trade in that it is drinking so well already. It probably won’t have long legs – maybe drink now for the next 15 years.
    • Biodynamic dry Riesling from the Kamptal in Austria – the sort of style that will win new converts to the grape, if only they’ll try it! Shiny medium gold; complex and fascinating nose that offers creamy notes, crisp orchard fruit, spice, green olives, incense, honeysuckle; the palate is a dream – lively, fresh, precise, zesty lemon and lime but at a point where it’s settling down after a few years in bottle; the wine is medium weight, firm, great balance, mineral, mild texture with medium to long length. Hirsch is one of the best estates in Austria known for its intense fruit and broad aromatic profile. 12.5% abv.
    • One is loath to use the word ‘perfect’ with a wine but this traditional style Rioja made with a very modern sensibility runs pretty close. Only made in special vintages, and from the spectacular 2010, this can stand alongside the 2005 Ygay GRE as a landmark wine. Everything is in exactly the right place but the most unexpected quality is delicacy, the register on the palate is tight and light and magnificently elegant. Pale ruby red, the bouquet is extraordinary and complex – red and black berries, pipe tobacco, vanilla, coconut husk, dried violets; the palate is fresh, medium weight, powerful in a sleek, detailed and precise way. Flavours are equally complex – dried cherry, orange peel, red liquorice, blackberry jelly, vanilla, forest floor (hints of mocha and bazaar spices). Lively, balanced and truly special. The Nadia Comaneci of Riojas. The fruit comes from a single plot of vines called
    • Ludopata Marselan, Tringario, Chile 2020 A fascinating opportunity to try a 100% Marselan the cross between Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache that only officially came into existence 31 years ago, but has since been named as one of the four new grape varieties to be approved in Bordeaux as a way of combatting temperature increases. Mainly grown to date in the Languedoc, this example was made in Chile and fermented in concrete eggs, so it really is a great example of the variety in a ‘pure’ form. Very deep cherry red with purple edges, the nose is fresh, full-on black fruit, cherry, plum, blackcurrant; the palate is medium-weight, rounded, smooth and then displays structure and just-ripe tannins, balance maintained with a splash or blood orange acidity. I liked this and worked well with a vegetarian supper.
    • Ranci Dolc NV from Priorat’s Mas Martinet. This is a naturally sweet traditional wine based on Garnacha grapes that are left to dry for two to three weeks after harvest, the fermentation taken up to 16% abv is done in a solera system with some components over 100 years old and a system of very old barrels that are well above 100 years old. Nothing is added and the wine is not treated in any way, the residual sugar clocking in at about 80 gms/l To look at the wine is medium to deep mahogany brown, cloudy; the nose and taste are both extraordinary and quite original – like a cross between a Madeira and a very old Oloroso sherry. Hugely complex bouquet that evolves in the glass and mixes walnut shells, caramel, manuka honey, sea salt, balsamic, leather, polished wood, alcohol-steeped macerated fruit; full-bodied, oleaginous, sweet and sour –
    • The latest super-premium wine from Gérard Bertrand, an orange one, that is intended to sit at the high table alongside his Clos d’Ora and Clos du Temple, RRP €160 direct. It’s a blend of Roussanne, Vermentino and Viognier, all destemmed and fermented and aged for eight months in a mix of barrel and amphora. To look at the wine has a fascinating colour – medium amber-gold, with orange highlights; the nose is complex and opens in the glass, surprisingly garriguey with boxwood, saffron and wild herbs, dried flowers, orange blossom honey and orange peel, a sweet lifted floral note on the tail; the palate is medium-bodied, structured but not overly so and without the dry stone texture and dryness you associate with orange wines. The flavours are layered with orange marmalade, apricot, sweet lemon; the length is long with a twist of saline. Beautifully crafted (like Clos du Temple), this
    • 2021 Cloudy Bay - To look at the wine is water-like, almost colourless with a pale green hue; the nose is intensely fruity but more on the greener end of the spectrum – grapefruit, gooseberry, lemon verbena, lime, lemongrass. There is not a lot of passion fruit in there, some white peach (two of the thiols the team actively seeks) but again these notes are more discreet than in previous years. The nose is not dissimilar to the 2020. The palate, however, is different from 2020 in that it feels more balanced. The attack is tense and racy with gooseberry and grapefruit pith, but where the 2020 vintage then had an overt smash of concentrated lime-green apple acidity that almost exploded in your mouth, the 2021 has this at its core but there is more weight on the palate, more flesh on the bones – it feels overall more rounded,
    • Produced only in the best years, La Perle 2012 is a Grand Cru vintage Champagne that is a blend of 80% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Noir from Chouilly, Cramant, Le Mesnil-Sur-Oger and Verzy, aged under cork for 8 years. Brilliant gold with a fine delicate bead; the nose is fresh and complex, ripe fruit – pear, white peach – is joined by vanilla cream, a touch of orange peel and spicy notes of clove, acacia honey and pastry touches, a twist of blond tobacco perhaps; throughout there is an overriding sense of freshness that I always associate with a cold, wet chalk cave. The palate is tense, mineral, precise and detailed, poached orchard fruits – apple and pear – fresh hazelnut, there’s a delightfully crisp texture and bright, long finish. Drinking so beautifully now as an aperitif or with a multitude of dish-pairing capabilities and will cellar for 20+ years
    • Chapoutier’s top red wine from 3.5 hectares of old vines on the top of the hill at Hermitage, planted on pure granitic soil. The wine is still in its infancy but, along with Le Pavillon Rouge and Les Greffieux, tasted alongside, the wine in 2020 is so approachable now with super ripe, silky tannins. Impenetrably dark, the bouquet is complex and dark, less dried herbs than Greffieux, but with an element of red fruit along with the dark wild bramble. There are grilled and smoky notes but also a pretty floral element that lends elegance. In the mouth the wine has huge power and structure of course, the mouthfeel is rounded with fine texture, silky tannins, layers of black fruit, peony, truffle and Chinese ink. Stunning with a long, long life ahead of it.
    • Yes this is a serious label and yes this is actually a seriously made wine – Pais (aka Mission – geddit?) from 120-150 year old vines grown in the Colchagua (Cold Shower – geddit?) Valley in Chile. Fruit-forward, glubbable or smashable, this is a wine for pure enjoyment and will be a crowd-pleaser at many an occasion – certainly a talking point with the label. The nose is complex, red fruit-driven (raspberry, plum), the palate is medium weight, with the grape’s acidity and dry stone texture balancing the fruitiness of the wine. 14% but it feels lighter and fresher. A lot of fun.
    • Pesseroles 2018. 2nd vintage of a fascinating complex orange wine from Priorat’s Mas Martinet that took ten years of production before winemaker Sara Perez felt it was right to release onto the market. It’s oxidative, exotic, spicy and savoury and totally beguiling. The wine is a field blend of six varieties including Picpoul, Garnacha Blanca and Pedro Ximenez that is foot-trodden then transferred to glass demi-john and clay amphora for three months with 30% skins and stems. To look at the wine is deep orange gold, the wine has notes of peach, dried apricot, turmeric, cloves and honey. At first the mouthfeel is fresh and juicy, then becomes more textured and bone dry, with a dry stone textured, saline finish. Bags of flavour – this would be a natural fit with some smoked, salted almonds watching the sun sink into the sea.
    • New limited edition 2013 vintage Blanc de Noirs from a very tricky vintage – overall a cool year but also featuring most of what nature could throw at the region – very hot summer, thunderstorms. Bollinger used a late harvest and (atypically) only Pinot Noir grapes for this special cuvée. (La Grande Année which has a percentage of Chardonnay in it was not made in this vintage). Light bright, shiny, platinum gold; Sumptuous aromas whet the appetite primarily of citrus and white peach, red berries, hints of tropical fruit with layers of creamy vanilla bean, sea spray, and leesy notes that hint of a smoked and grilled-nut future ahead of it – if you can keep your hands off it. Crisp, precise, detailed attack, with plenty of tension, then a mouth-filling mousse with many shades of lemon and lime, tarte au citron, tarte tatin, fresh white almonds. The texture is