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Wine trade ‘needs a Jamie Oliver’

The wine trade could benefit from having “a Jamie Oliver” figure to engage with consumers and encourage interest in wine, replicating the chef’s success in engaging a generation with food, a leading retail buyer has said.

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Speaking to the drinks business at a tasting of its portfolio in London yesterday, Davy Zyw, buyer for Laithwaites, said wine had been “slightly left behind” as interest in food has taken off in recent years.

“It’s an exciting time for food and wine in the UK at the moment”, said Zyw. “There’s a whole generation that’s super excited about experimenting with trends and are enthused and engaged in the restaurant and food scene. I think wine has been slightly left behind in that, so we need to engage with consumers that care about what they are eating. We want to ride on the back of that wave.”

Crediting Jamie Oliver helping to engage a generation with food, Zwy said: “He was a lad, a personable guy who was interested in food. Chefs were around before Jamie Oliver but I think he was the first to really engage with people that might have been put off before. The wine trade needs a Jamie Oliver.”

Unveiling its autumn portfolio at Vinopolis, Zyw highlighted English sparkling wine as one of the most exciting categories, adding that the champenoise should be worried about the growth of the industry and the quality emerging.

“Champagne is in its crystal tower right now but English sparkling wine is here to stay with all these vineyards going down there’s going to be a lot more sparkling wine coming on line when the vines get to fruition and ready to be bottled”, said Zyw. “There’s going to be a lot more wines coming in so it’s going to be even more important for people like Wyfold, which have come from a quality background, to make better quality wines. It’s going to be more important for vineyards of quality to set the benchmark. Perhaps not everyone planting vines has that quality mentality.”

Laithwaites Family Vineyards has already invested heavily in English sparkling wine and currently owns four vineyards; Wyfold, run by Barbara Laithwaite, Harrow and Hope, owned by Henry Laithwaite, Windsor Vineyard, which supplies grapes to Ridgeview, and Theale, a tiny vineyard used to as base for WSET lectures on viticulture.

“I think its a very exciting time to get behind English sparkling wine”, said Zyw. “It’s a new industry and I think it’s important for the trade to get behind a home grown product. I was in Champagne recently and I asked everyone if they had tasted English sparkling wine and everyone had – they know the quality – but it’s going to take a few more years to build up English sparking wine as an aspirational drink that Champagne is.”

Click here to read db’s recent interview with Tony Laithwaite.

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