Top drinks marketing campaigns and news: May

2nd June, 2020

Coors Light helps consumers escape from Zoom calls

After offering US$1 million worth of free beer to locked-down US drinkers, Molson Coors-owned brand Coors light has provided a way for them to drink at their leisure all week long, regardless of work meetings.

The forward-thinking beer brand has created a platform on its website that allows you to record a 30-second loop of yourself looking interested and engaged, which can then be used as a background for video calls on popular web-based conferencing tools such as Zoom.

Once you start recording, the video will offer prompts like “nod in agreement”, “quick, look interested!” and “smile at a co-worker’s joke”.

You can then upload it to Zoom as a background in your own call, which, in theory, means you can escape for a few minutes.

The platform was set up shortly after Coors Light pledged to give out 500,000 free beers to people all over the United States.

In April, a Pennsylvania woman made headlines when she was photographed by her window while holding a cold one in one hand and a sign reading “I need more beer!” in the other. Coors Light then sent 150 cans of beer to her doorstep.

This sparked Coors’ latest US$1m campaign, called #coulduseabeer, in which Twitter followers were asked to tweet @CoorsLight with the name of a person they’d like to nominate to receive some free beer from the brewer.

New Changyu Chinese icon wine pitted against top drops in blind tasting

2nd June, 2020

Lenz Moser, chief winemaker at Château Changyu-Moser XV in Ningxia, pitted his new icon wine, Purple Air, against top drops from around the world in a blind tasting put on for db.

The five wines that made up the blind tasting, including Purple Air (far right)

The first blind wine tasting of its kind featuring Purple Air, Changyu’s 100% estate grown Cabernet Sauvignon from Ningxia priced at £134 a bottle; last week db’s editor, Lucy Shaw, took part in the tasting, which took place over Zoom.

Keen to prove that Purple Air can stand shoulder to shoulder with some of the world’s top wines, Moser pitted the inaugural 2016 vintage of the wine against the likes of California icon wine Opus One 2016, the 2014 vintage of Vega Sicila’s second wine, Valbuena, and Penfolds Bin 389 Cabernet/Shiraz 2017.

Just 6,300 bottles of Purple Air 2016 were made at Changyu’s flagship winery in Ningxia, northwest China.

“It’s a wine which I believe is the future of Ningxia. We worked hard to bring this new style of wine to life. It’s very harmonious and more fruit-driven than anything else.

“I tried to bring out the bright fruit of Ningxia Cabernet in a very subtle form that’s lighter in alcohol. I’ve worked hard on it, reducing the wood treatment to bring out the typicity of the region,” Moser said.

“I couldn’t resist making an icon wine. It has a very Chinese-looking label and it is going to raise the bar again for the chateau. We have a clear vision – to ensure that the wines of Changyu-Moser XV are not just among the very best of China, but also belonging in the company of the world’s finest,” he added.

Only grapes from the best parcels at Changyu’s estate were selected for the wine, which is aged in new French oak for 24 months.

The striking purple label was created by a Chinese calligrapher, with each character representing the name of the wine, which means ‘bringing fortune and luck from the East.’

In traditional Chinese symbolism, purple means divinity and immortality. It also happens to be Moser’s favourite colour.

Purple Air will be sold in the UK through Bibendum and is aimed at high-end on-trade venues like Sexy Fish in Mayfair and Dinner by Heston Blumenthal at the Mandarin Oriental in Knightsbridge.

Kent winery Gusbourne agrees new £10.5m loan

2nd June, 2020

After a stronger than expected start to the year, which was then curtailed by Covid-19, Kent-based Gusbourne has agreed a £10.5 million asset-based loan with PNC Financial Services.

The winery, which first planted vines at its base in Appledore in 2004, said that revenue achieved in the first three months of this year had been “ahead of expectations”.

However, it said distribution channels have been impacted by Covid-19, namely the on-trade. A trading update stated that the winery had been able to engage in a number of “new sales initiatives” to mitigate the impact of coronavirus, with increased volumes of online sales reported.

The winery and vineyard has remained in operation with safety procedures in place, however the company has furloughed a number of staff, particularly in sales roles, and has “taken various steps to reduce costs at this time”.

Company directors, however, have said they remain “confident” about the winery’s longer-term prospects post-Covid-19.

The £10.5m asset-based lending facility, agreed with PNC, will be used to refinance existing debts and provide additional liquidity for the company. Gusbourne will also use the loan to instigate the part-repayment of loans from non-executive director Paul Bentham and shareholder Lord Ashcroft.

For example, £0.8m of the loan will be used to part repay a short-term loan of £1.25m received on 23 December 2019 from Franove Holdings Limited, a company owned by Bentham. An additional £0.5m will be used to part repay a short-term loan of £2m received on 31 May 2019 from a company controlled by Lord Ashcroft.

However, Gusbourne’s directors said the loan will be mostly used to provide working capital for the business. They said that asset-based lending is a facility “used by vineyards across the world”, and that given the current environment, it is “an important milestone for the maturity of the Gusbourne business and reflects the growth of the company over the past five years.”

Charlie Holland, head winemaker and CEO, commented: “We are delighted to have secured significant asset-based financing facilities from PNC and which aligns with the working capital requirements of the business. We are pleased to welcome PNC as a key stakeholder and look forward to working with them as we continue to develop our business over the coming years.”

Claridge’s hotel selling fried chicken to go

2nd June, 2020

Five-star hotel Claridge’s, in London’s affluent Mayfair district, is to start selling fried chicken to go this week through its restaurant Davies and Brook.

Run by Swiss chef Daniel Humm of Eleven Madison Park in New York, on 4 June Davies and Brook will launch a ‘To Go’ menu, which includes its popular CFC (Claridge’s Fried Chicken’) bar snack.

Priced at £35, the to go box also includes three side dishes: potato and celery salad, marinated aubergine and broad bean hummus, a parker roll and a raspberry cheesecake dessert.

Chef Daniel Humm of Davies and Brook

For an additional £20, you can get your lips around an eight-inch lemon tart for up to six people to share.

The boxes will be available from Thursdays to Saturdays from 2pm to 6pm. All the items are ready to eat but Claridge’s recommends warming the fried chicken and bread rolls to enjoy them at their best.

For those in the mood for a tipple, the restaurant is also offering two pre-mixed cocktails: a strawberry and jasmine milk punch, made with gin, vermouth, strawberry and jasmine syrup; and an elderflower cooler, which mixes Cocchi Americano, Caperitif, St Germain and citrus, priced at £9 each.

As for wine, the likes of Gerard Tremblay Premier Cru Chablis 2018; Egon Müller Mosel Riesling 2018; and Domaine de la Porte Saiin Jean Saumur-Champigny Cabernet Franc are available to go, along with beers from Goose Island and Lost and Grounded.

The boxes can be pre-ordered on the Claridge’s website and collected at a designated pick up point at the front of the hotel.

In early April Humm turned his New York flagship, Eleven Madison Park, into a commissary kitchen to help feed frontline workers during the Covid-19 crisis.

Having parted ways with business partner, Will Guidara, last December Humm opened his first London restaurant, Davies and Brook, inside Claridge’s, which received rave reviews off the bat. Click here to find out what we thought of it.

Viña Vik releases new high-end Chilean rosé

2nd June, 2020

Chilean wine estate Viña Vik has released a new high-end rosé as part of its La Piu Belle range, as it focuses on two terroir-driven projects including one which involves making amphorae using clay from the vineyard.

The Vik winery

The winery and hotel, set in a 4,300ha estate in the Millahue Valley in Colchagua province, has seen the hospitality side of the business dry up during the Covid-19 pandemic. However, chief winemaker Cristián Vallejo said his team have remained busy at the winery during what has been a “very different vintage”.

He said he has had to find new ways to work in order to carry out the necessary winemaking tasks while keeping the required distance between workers.

Like most of Chile, Vik experienced a hot year and harvested earlier than usual. Vallejo told db that harvest was three weeks earlier than normal and yields were 15% down on an average year. He said the decision to harvest earlier was a good one as it helped to retain the freshness, which he believes is a characteristic of Vik’s wines.

“I think the winemakers understand that we need to show the fresher side of Chilean wine,” he said. “That’s why people are talking about freshness – we’re making different decisions than we used to.

“In our case, we want our wines to be elegant, fresh, and enjoyable. If you want to drink the wine now, it will be completely enjoyable, but if you want to keep it for 15-20 years it will be different, but beautiful.”

He said that decisions made when planting at Vik in the 2000s meant that yields and alcohol levels can be controlled. Vallejo keeps his wines at around 14% ABV with vines planted at a high density of 10,000 plants per hectare.

New rosé

The desire for freshness inspired the release of the winery’s latest wine, La Piu Belle Rosé. Made from a blend of 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc and 4% Syrah, Vik first made the wine last year, but only for those that visited the property in Chile.

Vallejo said: “The idea was to have a really fresh wine that was complex, but that people could also enjoy while sunbathing. We only make red wine and we needed an alternative.”

However, the rosé proved so popular with visitors, the winery has decided to start exporting, first to the US and Brazil and then to Europe. Like its red cousin La Piu Belle (56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Carmenere, 9% Syrah), the bottle features a label designed by an artist, this time from Uruguay.

Priced at between US$20-$28, the rosé is pale pink in colour and is made by gently pressing whole clusters, before the wine is kept on its lees. 7% of the wine spends a month in second and third use French oak barrels.

Vallejo said: “What I want to have is a serious rosé that professionals can analyse in terms of the flavours, the profile, the acidity, and the complexity of aromas. But if you want a fine rosé in terms of freshness that you can enjoy outside, it can be that too.”

Amphoir and Barroir

Vallejo is currently working on two passion projects, which he calls his “crazy ideas”.

Inspired by the desire for the wine to reflect 100% of the place in which it is made, Amphoir (a combination of amphora and terroir) denotes a project where Vallejo has helped to create amphorae made using clay from the estate. Having tracked down a craftsman, Vallejo said the project was a labour of love, with one amphora taking a year to make.

The winery now has 10 amphorae, and has commissioned a further 10.

Vallejo said the idea came about when he realised that the only element of the winemaking process that wasn’t “from our terroir” were the French oak barrels he was using. He began thinking of other ways to achieve the micro-oxygenation.

However, Vallejo has not stopped using barrels. As part of his Barroir project (barrel and terroir) he is using oak from the 57ha 100-year-old forest planted on the estate to toast his barrels. Vallejo said he only uses wood that has fallen to the ground to toast the barrels, which are scraped down, re-toasted and used to barrel-vinify wines, in conjunction with the amphorae.

He said the wine estate has just finished work on its own tonnellerie, where it toasts the French barrels using Vik-grown wood.

“Now, in some way, the flavour of the barrel belongs to us,” Vallejo said. “I want Vik to have 100% of the personality of its terroir.”

Château Palmer 2019 released at 33% lower than 2018

2nd June, 2020

Margaux third growth Château Palmer released its 2019 vintage today at €161 per bottle ex-negociant, 33% less than its 2018 opening release price of €240.

According to Liv-ex, the wine is being offered at £1,998 case, equivalent to a 31% discount on the 2018 release price of £2,892 per case.

The wine comes with an international recommended price tag of 187 HT, 200 CHF, 1613 HKD and 208 USD per bottle.

Yields of the 2019 vintages were small at Palmer, with Decanter reporting that 55% of the estate’s entire production last year went into its first wine.

The magazine’s Bordeaux specialist, Jane Anson, gave Palmer 2019 a score of 98 points, and described it as “up there with the very best vintages of this estate”.

Anson said the wine was “measured and elegant, with textbook floral Margaux character”.

“If more critics concur, at this price the wine would look like a good value offer,” Liv-ex said. Palmer’s second wine – Alter Ego 2019 – was also released today at £540 per case ex-negociant. The 2018 vintage wasn’t released due to low yields.

Palmer is one of the first out of the gates with its 2019 release, though ‘flying fifth’ Pontet-Canet pipped it to the post, releasing its 2019 grand vin last week. Palmer’s 2019 release price is lower than the lauded vintages of 2005, 2010 and 2015.

The Master Winemaker 100: Héctor Gómez, Altos de Rioja Viticultores y Bodegueros

2nd June, 2020

The drinks business recently published a guide celebrating the talent of the winemakers who have scooped the highest accolade of our  Global Masters tasting series, which is judged almost exclusively by MWs. Each week we profile the winemakers behind these medal winning wines – the creatives, scientists, mavericks and dreamers who are at the pinnacle of winemaking.

Héctor Gómez, winemaker, Altos de Rioja Viticultores y Bodegueros, Araex

In 2006, Héctor Gómez teamed up with Jean Marc Sauboua, formerly of Château Haut-Brion, to establish Altos de Rioja, a boutique winery in Rioja Alavesa, which produces modern Riojas.

What or who inspired you to become a winemaker?
It was while studying. I don’t come from a wine family and studied to be an agricultural engineer. But out of the entire agricultural industry, oenology was what caught my attention and I decided to specialise.

What is your favourite part of the job?
All technical work: the vineyard, the elaborations and the ageing.

What is the hardest part?
The amount of paperwork we must do: regulatory council, agricultural industries, the ministry of agriculture. I do not understand how today we have to give the same information but in different formats for different agencies. It takes us a lot of time because they are not interconnected.

What is your go-to drink at the end of a long day?
Well, after a hard day working with wine it’s a good craft beer. Garapar Txak is a great choice.

What advice would you give your younger self?
Everything you’ve learned by studying is fine as a base, but don’t think you know it all, because you’re going to really learn by making wines. Experience is very important, every year is different and we do not stop learning.

What was your biggest winemaking error?
At the beginning of my career, I made wine according to protocols instead of properly preparing the grapes I had.

Which wine-related achievement are you most proud of?
Have placed the Altos de Rioja wines in high-quality segments of the market, as a new winery without years of history behind it, and having set up my own project in the Getariako Txakolina DO.

Who is your inspiration in the world of wine today?
Producers that give maximum importance to the vineyard and its work in a sustainable way and produce wines with great personality.

Where would your fantasy vineyard be?
Old vineyards in the Rioja Alavesa. Elvillar is wonderful, and Kripan a treasure, but I am happy working my vineyard in Getaria, near the sea, watching the fishing boats entering and leaving the port.

If I were not a winemaker, what would I be doing and why?
I really don’t know; I don’t see myself in another profession, I’d maybe be a brewmaster.

What wine (grape/style) do you find impossible to get along with?
Large-quantity productions. I am not able to make wines industrially.

How has your taste for wine changed throughout your career?
It has gone from intensity to complexity, both in whites and in reds.

Which type of wine do you drink most frequently?
Tintos de Rioja Alavesa, I work here and it is what I have most access to.

Which wine would you most like to drink, and who would you share it with?
Sparkling; I like them a lot and I know them little. I am starting to make them and it is a great challenge. I would share them with my wife, who is also an oenologist and the best companion to enjoy a wine with.

Master medals

  • >  Altos Rioja Reserva 2012 (Rioja Masters 2017)
  • >  Altos de R Crianza 2015 (Rioja Masters 2018)
  • >  Altos R Pigeage 2015 (Rioja Masters 2019)


To buy a copy of The Master Winemaker 100, please click here.

Coronavirus conversations: Ewan Proctor, Jackson Family Wines

1st June, 2020

After being Penfolds’ ambassador for Asia for three years, Ewan Proctor has returned to his motherland of Australia. Having worked internationally in wine education, cellarhand and sommelier roles, he has now joined Jackson Family Wines as global brand ambassador for the company’s Australian wineries, namely Yangarra, Hickinbotham and RockBare. Proctor speaks to db Asia about how the Covid-19 pandemic has affected operations in Australia, as well as what he hopes to achieve in his new role.

How has Covid-19 affected your company and what has been done to adapt to the situation?

In the Australian wineries and vineyards, we have just navigated our way through an unprecedented vintage with the impact of Covid-19 striking a bullseye with the grape harvest. As Australia quickly moved towards a lockdown, two-thirds of our international harvest interns returned to their home countries, so we found ourselves having to pull together at the winery with all hands on deck to ensure that the wines got made without disruption. There was a bit of manoeuvring to adhere to social distancing regulations in crucial aspects of the process, such as availability of hand-picking teams, but thankfully everything fell into place.

In a wider business sense there is, in some cases, an adjustment in strategy that is necessary because of the downturn in on-premise sales and a pivot towards retail or e-commerce. Moreover, I’ve been impressed with how the company has embraced the opportunity to go online and bring even more consumers into an intimate experience with winemakers and ambassadors, hosting tastings from the vineyards, wineries and even their own homes.

Why did you decide to join Jackson Family Wines?

I was attracted by the positive company-wide approach to sustainability and environmental stewardship, the family culture and the allure of working with some truly remarkable, regionally specific, single estate and single vineyard wines.

What does your job entail?

It’s a rapidly changing concept in the current environment! I recently completed a turn as full-time cellarhand for the vintage in McLaren Vale. It was an incredible opportunity made possible by the lockdown and cancellation of events like Tasting Australia and the Chengdu Wine Fair, both of which I was scheduled to attend. While travel and tasting events are curtailed, I’m enjoying the opportunity to be creative with content and ideas that assist our partners and their consumers to discover and connect with our wines.

To you, which is the most engaging market in Asia?

I feel like one of the most challenging markets for Australian wine, in terms of untapped potential, is South Korea, however the most engaging is a different story. On a personal level, I’m enthusiastic about new markets for me like Thailand and Singapore, but I’m generally looking forward to returning to the Asian market in a broader sense after a two-year absence.

Can you tell us your experience in Shanghai as the Penfolds ambassador? How would you describe the wine scene there?

I like to describe my experience in Shanghai as being seated in the front row of a roller coaster. Most of the time it was unbridled exhilaration, sometimes even a little scary! The opportunity for growth professionally and personally was quite profound, and I found the pace of change really stimulating. However, as a person who loves history and can be nostalgic, it was sometimes heartbreaking to see things I adored disappear – like a restaurant, live music venue or a whole neighbourhood. That’s life in Shanghai, it’s so dynamic and you are compelled to move on to new things. With that in mind, I’m hesitant to describe the wine scene there right now, as two years in Shanghai is like a decade elsewhere. It’s a city I really love, and I can’t wait to get back and see what’s happening there on so many levels.

Australian wines are big in China now. How will you introduce the three brands to this competitive market and make them stand out?

I’d like to think I’ll play a part in building on that success, and I’ll always be grateful for the opportunity to be part of that story. All three brands have distinct personalities, however they will stand out because of the provenance of the wine, the attention and resources that are directed towards caring for the environments from where they are sourced, and the clear identification of where the wine truly comes from – that is something that more consumers are seeking out in this segment of the imported wine market. Couple that with the acknowledged skill of our winemakers and the numerous accolades they have earned across the portfolio, and I believe we’re in a very enviable position.

How well does the Hong Kong market perceive Australian wines?

Hong Kong is such a gateway and often a first mover on new regions and varietals that begin to gain favour in Asia. With this curiosity and ease of access in the market, it’s no surprise we also see a great reflection of the wider Australian wine community in Hong Kong. The big players are of course there in force, but you can also find a greater diversity of Australian wine than other export markets around the world.

Champagne Billecart-Salmon invests in Chinese wine distributor

1st June, 2020

Champagne Billecart-Salmon has announced that it will become a shareholder in Liber, a premium fine wine and spirit importer in Greater China.

Having entered the China market 15 years ago, Champagne Billecart-Salmon has been focusing on the distribution of its Champagnes in high-end restaurants, 5-star hotels and premium wine cellars.

Based on its confidence in the market, the Champagne house has decided to expand its presence in the market and invest in Liber, a boutique wine distributor, which was founded two years ago.

The founders of the company are Stéphane Moreau, Connor McClay and Bertrand Carquillat. Together they have more than 50 years of experience in Asia and are now based in Hong Kong and Shanghai. Each of them comes from a solid background ranging from distributing and consulting to open-market sourcing in respective regions, and have garnered a strong network of clients from China, Hong Kong and Macau.

Bertrand Carquillat told db Asia: “We have been working with Champagne Billecart-Salmon since the beginning of our business and we distribute their Champagnes to carefully selected outlets that fit with the house standard.

“Our discussion of a further partnership began at the end of last year as Billecart-Salmon has observed positive sales growth in the region. In fact, over 70% of Liber’s sales of top labels are consumed in mainland China. It is definitely a win-win situation to join hands with Billecart-Salmon. For us, we are extremely proud of the endorsement from an historical company as it can help open doors for us to more clients; meanwhile Billecart-Salmon can strengthen its sales and presence in the region.”

Mathieu Roland-Billecart, CEO of Billecart-Salmon and also the seventh generation of the family, added: “We are delighted to have further strengthened our partnership with Liber. We are confident that Liber can deliver our selective distribution strategy across China and we look forward to working more closely with them.

“My recent trips have confirmed my belief that there is a strong and growing community of Champagne lovers in Greater China and we must ensure Champagne Billecart-Salmon is available in the best places there in the same way as we have been able to do across the world’”

Apart from being the exclusive distributor for Billecart-Salmon, Liber is also working with other quality producers from the most sought-after regions, such as Domaine Nicolas Rossignol, Château Magnan la Gaffelière and Dominus Estate.

Furlough extension welcomed but UK hospitality sector needs more support

1st June, 2020

Industry leaders have cautiously welcomed the UK government’s plans to extend its furlough scheme for companies unable to pay all of their staff during lockdown.

The UK’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which pays wages of workers who have been placed on leave due to coronavirus lockdown measures, has been extended to lend more support to businesses unable to open.

Furloughed employees are currently receiving 80% of their salaries, paid by the government, up to £2,500 a month. Employers can also ‘opt in’ to top these salaries up.

The scheme was meant to end in July, but was extended until October last month.

On Friday (29) May, chancellor Rishi Sunak updated the scheme again. From August, employers will need to pay National Insurance and pension contributions, then 10% of pay from September, rising to 20% in October.

Kate Nicholls, the chief executive of UKHospitality said the extension is a “positive and pragmatic step towards reopening the economy while recognising that this recovery will take time, particularly in hospitality.”

She welcomed the increased increased flexibility, which will allow more people back to work on a part-time basis and help venues ensure safety for customers and staff.

“Flexibility is going to be crucial if businesses are to open and be economically viable with social distancing measures in place,” she said.

“The introduction of employer contributions to the scheme from August will put some businesses under particular strain, but the way it is tapered allows for a gradual adjustment. Further support for the self-employed is also helpful for many in our sector.”

However, she added that business owners still need more support to cover a backlog of debt accrued during the crisis, such as deferred rents. She suggested the treasury should offer support to landlords with hospitality tenants, and could also give further grants to support businesses to reopen.

“If we can find a solution on rents and get an extension of the grant scheme, this will mitigate much of the impact of the reduced furlough. If we do not, a very difficult Spring would become a disastrous Summer for hospitality.

“We hope the Government bears in mind that many high street businesses will be reopening in the next couple of weeks, whereas hospitality will be forced to survive for an additional month, at the very least, on this reduced form of furlough.”