Fortnums taps into rosé trend with sparkling rosé tea

9th July, 2020

Luxury London department store Fortnum & Mason is hoping to tap into the rosé, sparkling wine and alcohol-free trends with the launch of a sparkling rosé tea.

Packaged like a Champagne in a glass bottle with a neck foil and cork seal, Fortnum & Mason Rosé Sparkling Tea is the pink version of the store’s original Sparkling Tea, which launched last summer and proved an instant hit.

Priced at £16.95 for a 75cl bottle, the tea-based fizz is said to boast notes of “raspberry pavlova, sherbet, wild strawberries, elderflower and Oolong”.

On the palate you’ll find “cranberry, hibiscus, hints of ginger, and deep layers of Darjeeling”, while “delicate tannins” give the fizz a “precise structure and herbal complexity”.

Featuring no artificial additives, the sparkler is made from a base of 11 organic teas, including Fortnum’s Sencha, Silver Needle and Darjeeling. The addition of hibiscus gives the fizz its pink colour, red fruit profile and tannic grip.

“Summer and rosé go together like tea and biscuits, and since we launched the original sparkling tea last summer, our team has worked hard developing, tasting and tweaking this rosé sparkling tea.

“It’s the perfect no-alcohol summer drink to celebrate a reunion with a loved one or as a gift for a rosé loving mum-to-be,” said Fortnum & Mason’s customer experience director, Zia Zareem-Slade.

The alcohol-free movement continues to pick up speed in the UK. This year, 4.2 million Britons took part in dry January as mindful drinking becomes the norm.

California Wine Month kicks off in Hong Kong

9th July, 2020

Now in its second year, California Wine Month is taking place in Hong Kong this summer, featuring over 40 participating restaurants and retailers.

Organised by the California Wine Institute (CWI), the summer-long promotion features a host of offers and promotions from over 40 participating restaurants and retailers.

Wine lovers can look forward to discounts on selected California wines, in-store tastings, special wine pairing menus, and ‘discover California’ wine classes.

From 20-23 and 27-30 August, the organiser will host the first pop-up retail store in Hong Kong’s Fashion Walk, where wine lovers can taste and purchase an array of California wines with a rotating line-up of wine merchants and exclusive discounts.

At the pop-up shop, the ‘Discover California Wines’ tasting bar will also be set up to offer a selection of special wines, featuring some bottles which are not yet to be available in Hong Kong from famed wineries such as Napa Valley’s Barnett Vineyards (Spring Mountain District) and Silenus Winery (Oak Knoll District), as well as Dierberg Vineyard 2 from Santa Maria Valley. A limited quantity of goodie bags will be produced, featuring special bottles of wine, summer-ready souvenirs like beach towels and waterproof bags, as well as tasting coupons and cash vouchers for use at the pop-up store.

Taking place in conjunction with the California Wine Month will be Delicious USA, organised by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Trade Office in Hong Kong. The festival presents a lineup of 25 restaurants in town, offering over 40 exclusive dishes using an array of premium US ingredients. The festival aims to highlight the quality and versatility of US food and beverage products for quality dining experiences.

HK hotels launch Champagne and whisky-themed staycations

9th July, 2020

Two hotel groups in Hong Kong have released staycation promotions to attract locals, inviting Champagne and whisky lovers to indulge themselves this summer.

Despite the fact that Hong Kong is swiftly recovering from the pandemic, the fall in tourism has hit some of local industries hard, including hotels. As a result, hotels are targeting locals to help revive business. They have been intensively promoting room packages that encourage people, who can’t travel due to the restrictions, to take a mini-getaway. To stand out, some hotels have come up with creative thematic promotions to attract guests.

Available from now until 30 September 2020, W Hong Kong has teamed up with Veuve Clicquot Champagne to deliver a rounded Champagne experience. Upon check-in to the hotel, guests will be welcomed with two glasses of Veuve Clicquot Champagne, plus a set of welcome canapés, while the room is decorated with Veuve Clicquot touches.

A brand ambassador would then hold a private 60-minute Champagne tasting class with guests in the room, savouring four different Champagnes including the Yellow Label, Rosé, Vintage 2008 and La Grande Dame 2008. The package also includes a bottle of Rosé to be enjoyed at the rooftop pool. Last but not least, guests will also receive a Veuve Clicquot gift set upon check-out to end the stay with a pop.

Home to Tiffany’s New York Bar, one of the famous long-standing whisky bars in town, Intercontinental Grand Stanford Hong Kong has also branched into alcohol-themed promotions with the launch of the Malt & Stay staycation package.

Whisky fanatics can revel in Tiffany’s New York Bar, boasting one of the largest selection of whiskies in Hong Kong with more than 300 labels on the menu, as dinner and a bespoke whisky flight are included. Based on guests’ preference and knowledge of whisky, the bar would design a flight that comprises whiskies from all over the world – some of them are limited rare casks.

With a booking of two rooms on the same date, guests will receive a complimentary 60-minute whisky masterclass (valued at HK$888). The masterclass will be conducted by a whisky ambassador, who will share tips and guiding through the tasting of the whisky flight. Guests with a sweet tooth should not miss the mini whisky chocolate cake served in-room, which is also part of the package. Starting from HK$1,988,  the promotion is available from now until 31 August 2020.

California hotel uses wine-delivering room service robot

9th July, 2020

Hotel Trio in Healdsburg, California has said its wine-delivering room service robot called Rosé has transitioned “from a novelty to a necessity” due to Covid-19.

Rosé, a three-foot robot which uses sensors to travel in the hotel’s lifts and corridors, can deliver groceries, towels and even pet treats to guests.

The automated delivery bot, which has been working at the hotel since 2018, has come into its own after social distancing regulations were put in place.

Rosé can be programmed to deliver items to different rooms. Once it arrives outside the door, guests receive a call that it is waiting outside. It then returns to base and is sanitised after every delivery.

The hotel stated that owing to Rosé’s lack of arms and the ability to carry luggage, make beds and take reservations, it won’t be replacing human roles.

According to Sonoma Magazine, Rosé was made by Savioke, a San Jose-based company which has sold over 80 of its robots to hotels across the US.

Scott Satterfield, general manager of Hotel Trio, commented: “For guests who prefer contactless deliveries, Rosé provides them with peace of mind as she can deliver items to their suite.

“Guests are in awe when they see her digital eyes blink and hear her futuristic sci-fi sounds as she shimmies on the elevator flashing a digital message, “I’m on a guest delivery.””

Lauren Schechtman, vice president of marketing and sales at Savioke, told Sonoma Magazine that technicians map the facility and program the robots with instructions about where to travel to on each floor.

“Once the robot is programmed, it’s basically self-sufficient until the next software upgrade,” she said. “That’s the beauty of having one of these in the hotel. It’s reliable. It doesn’t take breaks. It doesn’t need health care. It’s a good employee.”

Automation and robotics have become hot topics during the coronavirus pandemic as governments around the world encourage physical distancing. Restaurants are increasingly recruiting robotic waiters, while a team in Israel have constructed a mask with a remote control mouth that lets diners eat food without removing their protective facial covering. 

For more unusual approaches to social distancing in restaurants, please click here. 

Italy’s Prosecco producers prepare for rosé Christmas

9th July, 2020

The Italian government gave the go ahead for the production of pink Prosecco in May this year, and now, estates are gearing up for a big push in time for Christmas.

Villa Sandi’s president, Giancarlo Moretti Polegato, said the company has already set aside its Glera and Pino Nero harvest from last year, and hopes to have its rosé Prosecco on the market by September, just in time for Christmas.

Polegato has been a long-standing supporter of a rosé Prosecco label, and has been lobbying for its inclusion since 2009,  but said that “other producers weren’t ready at the time.”

“All the great sparkling wine appellations of the world have a rosé and we should have one, too. And our clients have been waiting for it as well. So it’s a big moment for me personally.”

Wine producers will be able to start creating this new type of Prosecco DOC from 1 August, which requires a fermentation period of at least 60 days.

If all goes to plan, realistically, the fizz will be on sale in Italy from around 1 October. However, the European market will have to wait until 1 November to allow the new legislation to be accepted and implemented by the EU.

There is a substantial and growing demand for more expensive Italian sparkling wines. Export volumes from the Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG to the UK doubled in 2019, according to the data from its Consorzio.

But rosé fizz could push this further.

In the 12 months to 8 August 2019, volume sales of Champagne fell by -4.4% in the UK hospitality sector as diners opted for cheaper bubbles such as Prosecco, yet the total value of rosé Champagne sales actually increased by 0.5%.

Consumers are clamouring for pink wines at the moment, and providing them with a more affordable option could help Prosecco to retain its position as the market leader in sparkling wine.

Despite the delay, in reaching the rest of Europe and, more importantly, the UK, Polegato believes rosé Prosecco could boost his estate’s sales by up to 15%, “so it’s a big slice of the market”.

“Prosecco Rosé will most definitely represent an opportunity, especially in this delicate moment. It will make it possible to win over new clients and obtain new listings with distributors all over the world. It’s a new product that our clients have been waiting for this product for a while now. ”

He even thinks it will make the famous sparkling wine more versatile as a food pairing, opening up more opportunities for restaurant partnerships.

“Prosecco pairs well with every cuisine across the world. But it’s generally paired with seafood and white meat dishes. The new Prosecco DOC rosé will also be great with a steak. Prosecco is so versatile. The rosé only expands the range of dishes it can be served with.”

One of the first producers to launch a pink Prosecco will be Bosco Viticultori, which had originally planned to release its first bottles back in January.

“We will be making pink Prosecco from the 2019 harvest, which will be bottled in December. There is a temptation to get the wines ready in time for Christmas, but it’s better to take your time and make a quality product than rush it to market,” Bosco’s managing director, Paolo Lasagni, told db last summer.

While the process has suffered many delays, Bosco Viticultori will now be able to capitalise on 2020’s holiday season.

(Photo: Bottega)

Bottega Prosecco already makes a sparkling wine with Pinot Nero and Glera, but now, the company has unveiled the design for its new, DOC-labelled Prosecco rosé. The sparkling wine will contain 15% Pinot Nero, lending a bright pink hue.

Sandro Bottega, the owner of the eponymous Bottega Prosecco brand, told the drinks business the inclusion of rosé fizz in the DOC is a great opportunity and will allow the company to provide more variety in both its standard and premium lines.

“It is genuine and sustainable, tasty and light, sexy but not too expensive: in a few words the best of the best, useful to enjoy both for an aperitivo both for all the meal, for a happy hour and for a late night party, for a pink celebration or for a dessert.”

“For us it will be a great opportunity to extend the range and we will present it in two versions: standard and premium.”

Enotria&Coe acquires Gin Foundry

9th July, 2020

UK-based drinks distributor Enotria&Coe has acquired craft gin review site and retail platform Gin Foundry in a bid to boost its direct to consumer sales.

Gin Foundry, launched in 2014 by Olivier and Emile Ward, has been bought by Enotria&Coe

As part of the agreement, Gin Foundry, founded in 2014 by brothers Oliver and Emile Ward, will be absorbed into Enotria&Coe’s operations.

“Adding Gin Foundry into the E&C family brings two clear benefits to our business. First, their experience in editorial, retail and event environments further our direct-to-consumer capacity,” said Enotria&Coe’s CEO, Troy Christensen.

“The second major benefit is strengthening our spirits insight and education. Gin Foundry has demonstrated its ability to successfully educate within the spirits category. We’re delighted to tap into this and enrich our capability to better service our valued trade customers,” he added.

Gin Foundry’s retail site, Gin Kiosk, enjoyed a 400% increase in sales during lockdown. The website, which sells gin, vermouth and bitters, will relaunch with a new look this month, with further events and campaigns to follow this year.

“Continuing on from our already close working relationship, we’re thrilled to become fully part of Enotria&Coe. From a retail perspective, there’s an incredible opportunity to supercharge what we have done for the gin category and replicate it within other spirits,” said Gin Foundry co-founder, Emile Ward.

Olivier Ward added: “The spirits landscape has changed dramatically in the past five years, gin in particular, with continuous education around brands key to understanding what’s in the bottle.

Outside of gin reviews and features, Gin Foundry publishes books and hosts the wildly popular Junipalooza Gin Festival in London and Melbourne, which is now in its seventh year.

Top people moves: July

9th July, 2020

Opus one CEO departs for Meadowood estate role

David Pearson, the CEO of cult California winery Opus One since 2004, has announced he is leaving the winery to join The Meadowood Estate in the Napa Valley in September. Meadowood is owned by real estate developer and resort magnate William Harlan and his family, who also own Harlan Estate.

In a statement, Pearson said: “For almost as long as I can remember, my professional life has been attached to Rothschild, Mondavi and Opus One. I am forever grateful.

“Bill Harlan has proposed that I join him and his family as a partner in the creation of a new project. It is too early to share the nature or the specifics of this project. However, I can assure you that this project is new, visionary, and rather challenging as well. The chance to work as a partner with Bill Harlan and his team in the development of something new is exceptional. I am pleased and very honoured to have been offered this opportunity.”

Meadowood, a 250-acre estate, comprises a luxury resort, complete with spa and accommodation, meeting space and a three-Michelin star restaurant operated by chef Christopher Kostow. The Harlan family said Pearson “will be responsible for the oversight of all activities, including the strategic and synergistic rapport that has existed between Meadowood and The Napa Valley Reserve”.

Heineken’s UK managing director moves to C&C Group

9th July, 2020

The UK managing director of Heineken has left his post at the dutch brewer to become the chief executive of Tennent’s lager maker C&C Group.

C&C Group has lured Heineken’s UK managing director to become its new CEO.

David Forde, who joined Heineken in 1988 and has spent the last seven years running its UK business, will join C&C at the latest in early 2021, following the completion of a customary notice period, according to a statement from C&C.

The news comes after C&C said at the start of the year that boss Stephen Glancey was planning to retire and left at the end of February.

Starting out in sales and marketing, he was appointed general manager of Heineken UK in 2007 and played a key role in Heineken’s acquisition of Scottish & Newcastle in 2008.

In 2009, David returned to Heineken Ireland as managing director, before being appointed Managing Director of Heineken UK in 2013.

Stewart Gilliland, interim executive chairman, said: “We believe David has the requisite blend of brands, distribution and pub sector expertise to maximise the potential of our iconic brands and optimise the potential of our distribution capabilities.”

“I am extremely excited to be joining C&C, a company with great people, loved brands and a world class distribution infrastructure,” Forde said.

“I look forward, together with my new colleagues and the Board, to further building the business into the future.”

There have been a few board-level changes at C&C Group this week. Chief Financial officer Jonathan Solesbury has announced plans to retire in September, and will be replaced by Patrick McMahon, currently the company’s group strategy director.

In April 2018, the Dublin-based group, together with global brewer AB InBev, completed its acquisition of Matthew Clark, Bibendum and its other subsidiaries from Conviviality.

McMahon played a central role in C&C’s acquisition of the distributors.

Gilliland said McMahon’s progression through senior roles within the business and “integral role in the transformative Matthew Clark and Bibendum transaction make him the natural successor to Jonathan and ideal fit for this position.”

“The Board would like to thank Jonathan for his significant contribution to C&C over the past three years and we wish him well for the future.

As we navigate the current challenges and uncertainty of COVID-19, these appointments represent an exciting new era for C&C which we believe will deliver long term value for all our stakeholders.”


Bar Douro: Covid will present opportunities for food and drink

8th July, 2020

Max Graham, owner of Portuguese restaurant Bar Douro in London, has said the lockdown has given him the ability to develop a wine retail division, which he hopes will continue trading long after the coronavirus.

A selection of wines from the Bar Douro shop

Graham, whose family runs Churchill’s Port, opened the first Bar Douro in Flat Iron Square near London Bridge in 2016. He subsequently opened a second site in the City of London, shortly before Covid-19 took hold.

He said that the lockdown period had been “challenging”, but there were positives to take from the experience so far.

Speaking to the drinks business, he said: “The food and beverage industry has really been innovating at a rate of knots. We’re in a fortunate position of not being too big a company, so we can be nimble, adapt and start up new ideas.

Max Graham

“I don’t know what the retail and restaurant landscape is going to look like in a year. I’d imagine there will be a lot of closures but also you’re going to have a lot of creativity and innovation.

“If we can keep our heads above water for the next year, it will be exciting to have opportunities to move into areas that were too expensive or too competitive in the past.”

Online wine store

He also told db that during lockdown, he’d been able to develop an online wine retail division of his business.

“Ever since we opened Bar Douro we’ve had a bonded warehouse where we’ve stored all of our bonded wines that we import direct. Over the years, we’ve started to import more and more of our list direct from producers,” he said.

“When this [Covid-19] happened, my first thought was ‘we need to liquidate some of this stock’.”

Graham said it was always something he had wanted to do, and he has now developed a separate e-commerce site selling a range of Portuguese wine.

“It has been so brilliant, I’ve really enjoyed it. It’s a completely different style and way of doing business and it’s been really exciting learning more about e-commerce. The infrastructure was already there because our warehouse was delivering, so it was quite easy to get it up and running,” he added.

While the details remain under wraps, Graham intends to launch a dedicated wine club later this month featuring wines from producers that “are not very accessible in the UK at the moment”.

Graham has sourced many of the wines himself on trips to Portugal, while he has also continued to work with producers when their distributors have ceased trading.

The piri piri chicken sandwich

He said is “blown away” but the number of new wines coming out of Portugal at the moment, and feels there’s a lot of unrepresented, good quality producers on the market.

“We 100% intend to continue with the wine shop,” he said. “We were really encouraged by May’s sales, and have development a loyal following. It’s now about trying to cast the net a bit wider and engage with people and teach them about Portuguese wine”.

He is now focusing on creating more content about the featured producers, which include the likes of Uivo, made by winemaker Tiago Sampaio, and Heredade do Rocim in the Alentejo.

“Tiago is really the vanguard of the Portuguese natural wine scene. His wines aren’t super funky, but he is experimental and likes to reintroduce old, traditional techniques, like making Palhete wines in the Douro,” said Graham.

“Heredade do Rocim in the Alentejo have just started bringing in this ‘fresh from amphora’ wine, which comes in one-litre bottle and falls under Nieport’s Nat Cool range. The Nat Cool wines are always gorgeous, quaffable and good value, but this one in particular is just really lovely.”

The restaurant 

Bar Douro’s Bifana sandwich

Graham has reopened his Flat Iron Square site, which has also been offering food via Deliveroo to the local area.

He began bringing team members off furlough in May, creating a simplified menu for delivery as an experiment.

This has allowed the kitchen team to explore Portugal’s “rich sandwich culture”, starting with the “iconic” Bifana (pork shoulder covered in white wine and massa pimentão sauce in bola rustica bread with fennel and savora mustard mayonnaise), which went on the menu last month.

Speaking about the support he received, he said: “In terms of the Small Business Relief Scheme, I couldn’t get over how quickly Southwark Council gave us a grant. It was really impressive. With regards to our rent, we are still in negotiation with our landlords, but they let us defer, which in the short term was a huge relief.”

“It’s now about getting everyone back into the rhythm of coming into work,” he added.

4 of the UK’s best home bars

8th July, 2020

A man in Shropshire has won an award for his crafting the UK’s best home bar.

With everyone stuck at home, some have more time on their hands than others.

We’ve already seen dozens of examples of creative endeavours online, and with no one able to go to the pub, many have resorted to building their own in the back garden.

On-trade leisure company Liberty Games launched a competition last month to find the UK’s best home bar, and asked people to send in pictures of their handiwork.

Lee Morris, a homebrewer from Albrighton, Shropshire, beat the competition with his well-made, and eco-friendly home pub.

The judges were impressed with the proportioned seating, great spirits selection, beer fridge, beer mats, darts board, optics, and a table football table added in for good measure.

Morris said the pub was made by hand from “a lot of recycled materials”, and although he had had it for seven years, it’s provided a lot of respite during lockdown.


“I’ve had the pub for about seven years and we’ve had many good curry nights. It really does give you that ‘Friday night feeling’.

“I homebrew a lot of beers and use traditional hand pulls to give a real pint feel. Inside the pub I have a fully stocked bar with spirits and optics.”

The pub also contains a log burner, dartboard, cable TV, drums and leather sofas

“I still sit in the pub now and smile to myself about how great it looks, it really is the best space.”

Keep scrolling to see some of the competition’s runners-up…