Wine giant Trinchero enters hard seltzer game

26th March, 2020

California wine giant Trinchero Family Estates, owner of Ménage à Trios and Sutter Home, has followed Gallo’s lead and launched its own hard seltzer brand.

Del Mar will join the likes of Henry’s, Truly, White Claw and Bon & Viv

As reported by Shanken News Daily, Trinchero’s wine-based Del Mar seltzer, which comes in four different flavours, will go on sale across the US next week.

Like brand leaders White Claw and Truly, Del Mar is low in calories, with each can containing less than 100 calories.

Targeted at health conscious consumers, Del Mar is sold in packs of four 355ml cans and carries an RRP of US$9 per pack.

The launch packs will contain only one flavour but variety packs will soon follow.

Trinchero’s senior vice president of marketing, Dave Derby, told Shanken News Daily that production is set to exceed 100,000 cases by the end of 2020.

“While hard seltzer has taken share from the broader alcohol beverage category, we’re not concerned that Del Mar will impact other Trinchero Family Estates brands,” he said.

When bars and restaurants across the US are allowed to reopen following the coronavirus crisis, Del Mar will be rolled out across the on-trade.

The launch of the brand will be supported by a national advertising campaign covering print, digital and outdoor spaces.

In January, Trinchero launched its zero alcohol wine brand – Fre – in cans. The same month E & J Gallo unveiled a range of four white wine-based hard seltzers under its popular Barefoot brand.

The range includes four variants made with sparkling water, white wine and natural fruit flavours: peach and nectarine; cherry and cranberry; pineapple and passion fruit; and strawberry and guava. Each 8.5-ounce can contains 70 calories, two grams of sugar, and 4% ABV.

This week beer giant Molson Coors won its court battle against Future Proof Brands, owner of Brizzy seltzer, for the right to continue to market and sell its Vizzy hard seltzer.

A Texas federal judge said that consumers are unlikely to confuse Vizzy with ‘Brizzy’ seltzer, especially as the packaging of the brands is “overwhelmingly” different.

An in-depth look at the burgeoning hard seltzer category will appear in the April edition of the drinks business.

New date set for Wines from Spain tasting in London

26th March, 2020

Wines from Spain has announced it will still go-head this year in September.

The Wines From Spain tasting will take place at London’s Sky Garden on 29 September.

The event was originally scheduled to take place on 31 March, but had to be postponed in response to the Coronavirus outbreak, which has seen travel disrupted and city’s go into lockdown across Europe.

The event will now take place on 29 September at London’s Sky Garden.

Fernando Muñoz, director at Wines from Spain, said: ‘We would like to thank everyone for their patience over the last few weeks whilst awaiting our news about the postponement of the 2020 Wines from Spain Annual Tasting.”

Muñoz said the format will be exactly the same. Exhibitors will present their Spanish wine portfolios to trade visitors during the day, and consumers will be welcomed in the evening, in association with Three Wine Men.

Self-pour tastings and tutorials will also go ahead as planned.

“Our thanks also go to our suppliers and partners who have all agreed to work together in order to find an alternative date.

“We hope that hosting our event in September will enable all of us to get together for a great day of tasting.”

Californian stars take centre-stage at Christie’s sale

26th March, 2020

Christie’s next online-only sale will feature a “comprehensive” offering of great Californian labels alongside top wines from Bordeaux, Burgundy, Rhône, Italy, Champagne and Portugal.

Running from 24 March to 7 April, Californian wines are taking pride of place in the sale with an array of Harlan Estate spanning 1991-2014 in bottle and magnum a particular highlight.

The sale also includes wines from estates such as Promontory, Opus One, Insignia, Dominus, Ridge, Bond, Araujo and Spottswoode, as well as a selection of wines specially bottled for the Premiere Napa Valley Auction.

As well as top Californian wines, there is Bordeaux in the shape of first growth clarets and Petrus, Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Perrot-Minot and Leflaive wines from Burgundy and rare spirits such as a bottle of Macallan ‘Red Ribbon 1938’, Macallan 29 year-old 1976 and Karuizawa ‘Noh 31 year-old 1981’.

There is also a selection of Vintage Ports dating back to the 1960s and three bottles of 19th century Madeira.

Champagne on offer includes bottles of 1985 Bollinger RD, 1988 Salon and various Dom Pérignon vintages from the 1980s and 1990s.

To browse the sale, click here.

Institute of Masters of Wine cancels 2020 exam

26th March, 2020

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Institute of Masters of Wine has had to cancel the 2020 exam, which normally takes place in June.

The IMW has postponed all its upcoming events and cancelled the June-time 2020 exams

The test, which comprises a week of blind wine tastings and written essay-based papers in three centres – London, Sydney and Napa – will not take place at all this year, despite the hope that the peak of the coronavirus pandemic will have passed within the next few weeks.

However, students who have already passed the “closed book part of the MW exam”, and are working on the final part of the famously difficult ordeal, which is called the Research Paper, can continue as normal “with consideration given for short-term timing issues”.

While some may have hoped that it would be possible to postpone the exam until later in the year, due to the uncertainty of the efficacy of attempts to control the spread of Covid-19, and the challenge of marking student papers by the end of the year, the IMW has opted to cancel the 2020 exam altogether.

The IMW is keen to stress that applications for the 2020/2021 study programme will be open as usual later this year.

Furthermore, the organisation is looking into developing online alternatives for its introductory courses and information sessions, which have all been postponed.

The IMW has also postponed upcoming tastings and seminars, and new dates will be released as soon as possible later in the year.

Meanwhile, the IMW executive team are working remotely.

How the Asian food and drinks industry has responded to COVID-19

26th March, 2020

The rapidly changing Covid-19 crisis sent restaurants and bars in Asian countries into total lockdown for months of catastrophic business disruption. But many have come up with creative solutions, as db Asia discovers.

At a time when diners are discouraged from going out in order to prevent the spread of virus, the food and beverage (F&B) industry has had to think of innovative ideas to combat the struggles it is faced with.

Struggling through the lockdown in China since the end of January, Guangzhou’s first speakeasy, Hope & Sesame, created a comprehensive guideline for small F&B establishments to draw guidance from.

With the temporary closure of bars in Singapore, The Old Man Singapore, ranked 38th in The World’s 50 Best Bars, is quenching the thirst of its drinkers with new takeaway cocktails. Seven of its signature and classic concoctions are now available in sealed bags and ready for customers to pick up in 15-min.

Michelin-starred Preludio in Singapore meanwhile has issued the “Tough Times Tickets”. Each ticket entitles patrons to enjoy an eight-course menu for the price of the six-course menu on their next visit within a year from the date of purchase.

Instead of trying to boost business, sustainable fine dining restaurant Haoma in Bangkok started a charitable initiative called #noonehungry to cook for the jobless and those affected by the epidemic in the city.

“As a chef, it’s my responsibility to cook and nurture people. I will feed anyone who needs to eat. Just knock on our door.” executive chef Deepanker said. The culinary team is going to work in the kitchen of a Hindu Samaj temple, which has been offering free meals for the needy year-round, and would like to call on the help from other chefs in Bangkok to shoulder the cooking load. The restaurant will become a distribution centre to share food with people in need. Dinners can support them by monetary contribution or supplying ingredients.

Missing the fine dining experience but refraining from going out? Renowned Hong Kong restaurant group JIA has created the Chefs at Home catering experience. Diners can choose from a diverse portfolio of chefs and cuisines represented by each of the group’s award-winning restaurants.

The renowned chefs, including the Ricardo Chaneton from the recently opened MONO and Li Man-Lung from the Michelin-starred Duddell’s, are going to bring their skills and experiences to home kitchens and deliver the same standard of dining at the restaurant.

Freshly crowned as the fourth on the latest Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list, neo-Parisian bistro Belon in Hong Kong is launching the specially designed ‘A Feast for Our Family’ delivery menu on 4 April. For one day only, customers who order the menu can enjoy the restaurant’s signature Whole Roasted ‘Three Yellow’ Chicken with ‘Petits Pois à la Française’ and Mille-feuilles with a bottle of Olivier Merlin Mâcon La Roche Vineuse 2016 at home. On top of celebrating the restaurant’s achievement in four years of opening, the initiative has been designed to support the restaurant group’s most vulnerable team members, such as dishwashers and back waiters, who have been asked to go on unpaid leave due to the current situation.

With some of the Hong Kong locals’ favourite casual eateries under its belt, Pirata Group is keeping its customers engaged with video recipes posted on its social media channels.

Global Sauvignon Blanc Masters: the results in full

26th March, 2020

We reveal the full list of medallists from our latest Global Masters tasting for Sauvignon Blanc, including some star wines from Marlborough, Napa, Alto Adige, Pfalz and England.

Point blanc: Forget Sauvignon Blanc fatigue, the wines at this year’s Global Masters scored highly, impressing the judges with their complexity, balance and value for money

In the same way it was once common for consumers to claim they didn’t like Chardonnay, it’s now becoming a bit more normal to hear people say they don’t want Sauvignon Blanc. It’s not so much that they have a complete aversion to the characters of the wine – and by that I mean the archetypal Marlborough green pea and gooseberry style of Sauvignon – but more that they are suffering a certain fatigue from repeated sampling. Similar to music, food, or anything in fact, experiencing it over and over again eventually sees one yearn for something different.

Of course with Sauvignon Blanc, such exposure for wine lovers is due to the grape’s success. As the staple house white in so many pubs, bars and restaurants, and the usual pour at weddings and drinks parties, Sauvignon Blanc is everywhere. It has become the default white wine; virtually synonymous with alcoholic refreshment. But, today, more than ever before, it would be wrong to say you don’t care for Sauvignon Blanc, because the grape is the source of such a broad range of wines.

This is true even within one place, such as the famous Marlborough. As we found out at this year’s Global Sauvignon Blanc Masters, the grape can be used to create something crunchy and acidic, like biting on a bell pepper, or juicy and ripe, like an exotic fruit salad, and, when fermented in new oak barriques, rich and layered, like pineapple chunks and cream.

In other words, saying you don’t like Sauvignon Blanc would mean eschewing the great barrel-influenced whites of Bordeaux and Napa, as well as the taught grapefruit-scented creations from the Loire, or coastal Chile and the Western Cape, along with the full suite of styles now emanating from New Zealand, and some exciting finds from places yet to find fame with the grape – including England.

Nevertheless, one can still make generalisations. If there is a single aspect to Sauvignon Blanc that has, to some extent, damaged its reputation for reliably refreshing whites, it is examples that are too thin, too green, and essentially, too mean.

But in this edition of our Global Masters tasting, it was pleasing to note that we didn’t see such wines – and this included a large swathe of samples that would retail for under £10. It seems an era of picking early from over-cropped vineyards – often the cause of skinny, tart Sauvignons – has come to an end.

This ensured that even our cheapest wines had a pleasing balance between fruit ripeness and acidity, palate weight and refreshment – and that was true even where some residual sugar was evident. Also, at no point did any of the judges comment on apparent high alcohol levels. Not only was harmony evident, but so too was a high level of complexity. It is assumed by some that Sauvignon Blanc is one-dimensional, but writing notes on this year’s entries was easy, as there was so much to say. It seems that the winemaking, as well as viticulture, has improved with this grape.

As for a further general point on the wines, it was notable that we saw very few wine faults, with no cork taint or unpleasant levels of reduction. The latter finding suggested to the judges that winemakers are becoming more adapt at preparing Sauvignon Blanc for sealing with a screwcap, a closure that can provoke post-bottling sulphur-like odours.

So what about the highlights? Well, taking the results by style and price band, staring with the sub £10 category, although we saw no Golds awarded among the cheapest wines, we did observe a high and consistent standard, in line with the comments above on the increasingly balanced nature of Sauvignon Blanc being made today.

As one might suspect, the majority of less expensive samples were from Chile and New Zealand, and both countries did well. Having said that, it was the Sauvignons from Marisco and Yealands, both in Marlborough, which were the benchmarks at this price level. Well done. Both producers would also achieve Golds for their pricier expressions later on in the competition, including Yealands for its brand The Crossings in the £10-15 category. Also gaining a Gold in this flight was te Pã Family Vineyards from Marlborough, and, we were later surprised to find, a Sauvignon from Gloucester in the UK – made by Woodchester Valley – which was floral like an elderflower cordial.

Further up the ladder in terms of cost, we were excited to find a delicious sample with masses of pink grapefruit refreshment from Italy’s Alto Adige, made by the St. Michael-Eppan Winery, and a couple of delicious, peachier styles of Sauvignon, which were creamy in texture too, hailing from California’s Napa Valley. Indeed, one of them, the Ziata Sauvignon Blanc, took home a Master – our ultimate accolade, and in this year’s tasting awarded to just two wines.

So what was the other? That was a simply brilliant example of great barrel-fermented Sauvignon Blanc from Germany. Hailing from this country’s relatively warm Pfalz, a region better known for cherry-scented Pinot Noir, it was a wonderful wine with a broad array of fruit characters, from peach to citrus peel, and a touch of toasty oak.

In short, it was round, rich, expressive, and refreshing – and somewhat apt that it came from a winery called Winning.

But others should also be mentioned, particularly when it comes to the challenge of allying oak to Sauvignon Blanc. As I’ve said after past tastings with this grape, Sauvignon can complement the sweet flavours from barriques, but only if the base wine is rich and ripe. Light, green-tasting Sauvignons fight with creamy oak, but oily peachy samples absorb wood-sourced vanillin to great effect – as shown especially well by the wines this year from Pahlmeyer and Marisco, as well as Domaine du Grand Mayne – the latter in the blended category, and a really great Graves from not far beyond the borders of the famous white Bordeaux appellation.

In conclusion, the grape is being used to create wonderful wines today, and becoming the base of an increasingly broad category of whites, from those offering delicate citrus refreshment to something textured and complex, with a wealth of food-pairing possibilities. It’s also a grape of little-recognised versatility – shown in our Global Masters tastings by the great range of places where it can be successfully grown, its ability to handle a range of vineyard management approaches and cellar techniques, and its suitability for blending with other varieties. Taking all this into account, and the high base standard of wine being made today from this grape, in short, you’d be wrong to turn your back on Sauvignon Blanc.

Over the following pages you can see all the medallists from this year’s competition, as well as comments from the judges (who are pictured below), and more information about the Global Sparkling Masters, including how to enter.

The judges (left to right): David Round MW, Jonathan Pedley MW, Patricia Stefanowicz MW, Patrick Schmitt MW, Erik Simonics, Tobias Gorn. The Global Sauvignon Blanc Masters took place on 6 November at the Opera Tavern in London’s Covent Garden.

Pernod Ricard buys remaining stake in Monkey 47 Gin

26th March, 2020

After recent investments in aperitivo brand Italicus and Japanese gin brand Ki No Bi, French drinks group Pernod Ricard has bought the remaining stake in German gin brand Monkey 47.

Pernod Ricard first acquired a majority stake in the Black Forest gin brand in 2016. It has now bought the remaining stake that it did not already own in the company.

Founder of the brand, Alexander Stein, is to continue his involvement with the brand in an advisory capacity.

Monkey 47 gets its name from the fact that the spirit includes 47 different botanicals including spruce tips, lingonberries, elderflower, sloes and blackberry leaves. It is now sold in 100 countries on four continents.

Stein said that this agreement was the “logical consequence” of the brand’s partnership with Pernod Ricard.

He added: “I would like to thank Pernod Ricard for walking the talk. It has been a fantastic journey and I look forward to personally contributing to Monkey 47’s future trajectory.”

Alexandre Ricard, chairman & CEO of Pernod Ricard, said: “This partnership is a clear example of Pernod Ricard’s ability to incubate small independent distilleries while respecting entrepreneurial freedom and the brand´s core values. However, Monkey 47’s success story would not have been possible without Alexander Stein’s trust, authenticity and entrepreneurial spirit, for which I am grateful.”

Monkey 47 is one of many distillers that has pledged to donate neutral spirit to help fight the hand sanitiser shortage during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Pernod Ricard’s gin portfolio now includes Beefeater, Plymouth, Malfy and the Kyoto Distillery’s Ki No Bi.

It follows an announcement yesterday (25 March) by Pernod Ricard, stating that the Covid-19 outbreak will have “widespread repercussions” on business. The French drinks group said that it was expecting its operating profit to fall by 20% in FY20 owing to the collapse of the travel retail and on-trade sectors.

In 2019, the company said it was to merge its two French businesses, Pernod and Ricard, this year, which would lead to 280 jobs being open to voluntary redundancy.

Mezzacorona ‘strongly rejects’ charges after Feudo Arancio assets seized

25th March, 2020

Italian wine group Mezzacorona has rejected claims of involvement with the Mafia after authorities in Trento seized assets belonging to its Sicilian winery Feudo Arancio worth €70 million.

Authorities in Trento seized 900 hectares of vineyards and buildings in the provinces of Agrigento and Ragusa belonging Feudo Arancio last Friday (20 March) as part of an investigation into alleged money laundering and involvement with Mafia group Cosa Nostra.

According to reports by local media, authorities are conducting an inquiry, sanctioned by the Court of Trento, into four people involved with Mezzacorona including the current president Luca Rigotti and former CEO Fabio Rizzoli.

It is part of a wider investigation examining two vineyard transactions carried out in the 2000s and the alleged “infiltration of organised crime into the Trentino economy”.

In a statement, Gruppo Mezzacorona refutes the charges, stating that the company has “total non-involvement…with mafia connections and activities in Sicily” and that it has always “acted correctly and seriously in its entrepreneurial commitment to protect its members, shareholders and personnel”.

The statement continued: “We reiterate that [the investigation] concerns the preventive sequestration of two Sicilian companies. Both companies remain fully operational. Consequently, all the operations in the vineyards and the commercial activities of Feudo Arancio continue as normal. Gruppo Mezzacorona asks the judicial authority with the utmost swiftness that clarity be made as quickly as possible.

“We are confident that we will manage to demonstrate complete innocence to the disputed facts and to confirm the seriousness, professionalism and honesty of Gruppo Mezzacorona, qualities that have always distinguished our company in 116 years of history, serving and protecting the income and work of its 1,600 members, 480 shareholders and 500 employees.

“Any other allegation or speculation is false and Gruppo Mezzacorona cautions anyone to publish or disclose untruthful information and reserves the right to protect its image and reputation in the appropriate court.”

Oddbins has now closed all of its stores

25th March, 2020

Beleaguered wine retailer Oddbins has now closed all of its stores a day after the UK government asked all non-essential retailers to shut their doors to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

The retailer, which fell into administration last year and was due to be sold at the end of March, wrote to all staff at 5:30pm on Tuesday evening (24 March) to inform them they would be furloughed and are eligible for the UK government’s emergency salary scheme.

The administrator, Duff & Phelps, released a statement this afternoon confirming the closure, adding that all staff will be furloughed and sent home “until further notice”.

Philip Duffy, joint administrator, told the drinks business: “All Oddbins stores in England and Scotland were closed at 7pm last night. The decision was taken by the administrators given the inability to continue trading given the current aoronavirus outbreak. This decision will also affect the Wine Cellar convenience stores, which is being implemented today.”

Oddbins took longer than some retailers, such as The Wine Society, to close its doors, making some members of staff uneasy over dealing directly with consumers in the midst of a global pandemic. Others, such as Majestic, also chose to stay open as it had not yet been made clear whether all shops selling alcohol count as “essential” stores.

The government actually extended its guidelines this morning so that off-licences and licensed premises selling alcohol can now stay open.

Staff at an Oddbins in Edinburgh told the drinks business they were being “forced” to come into work on Tuesday, despite the government asking people to work from home where possible and only leave the house for essentials.

That meant keeping stores open in the hopes shoppers would use the time they are permitted to shop for “essentials” to buy wine, and putting shop workers in direct contact with consumers. A spokesperson for Oddbins has so far declined to tell the drinks business what additional health and safety procedures the store recommended to staff to reduce the risk of catching the virus.

Staff were not given any direction over what will happen to their jobs, or whether or not they should bother coming in that morning, according to the employee, who asked to remain anonymous, they called head office for further guidance, who informed them it was “business as usual.”

“It’s terrible,” the employee said on 24 March. “of course we don’t want to be here, but we feel like we’ve been forced to do something we don’t want to do.”

Founded by Ahmed Pochee in 1963, Oddbins began as a delivery service for clubs and restaurants in London.

According to the UK’s latest measures announced on Monday evening, non-essential retail stores, hotels, and outdoor gyms must all close, and the police has powers to enforce this. However, exceptions include supermarkets and other food shops, including corner shops and newsagents.

A spokesperson confirmed Oddbins has now closed all stores, adding that the company’s senior staff spent most of yesterday deciding whether the company came under the government’s definition of an “essential” retailer.

“There was a lot of deliberation over whether Oddbins falls into one of those categories,” the spokesperson told db.

Another member of Oddbins’ staff told db he “understood” his colleagues’ frustration, but accepted “the situation is very unusual it is important to give the company time to understand.”


On the brink

The UK’s lockdown comes at a particularly bad time for the off-license chain, which fell into administration in January 2019 and was due to be sold at the end of this month as part of a rescue plan.

Oddbins went into administration in January 2019, blaming Brexit uncertainty and the deterioration of the high street, but it later became clear that its financial woes came in part from HRMC revoking the excise approvals of its parent company and chief supplier, European Food Brokers Limited.

This resulted in EFBL losing its bonded warehouse, putting a severe strain on its ability to bulk in bulk and secure competitive pricing from suppliers, severely affecting cashflow and its retail businesses.

A rescue plan from its former owners emerged in June 2019 and in September, an updated report for creditors published on Companies House confirmed terms of a sale of some the stores to an anonymous purchaser.

The administrators, Duff & Phelps, told db in February that due diligence and final discussions were underway and the proposed sales was “envisaged” to be completed by the end of last month, after incurring delays. However, in a statement filed on Companies House on 5 March, the administrators told the proposed buyer that should the deal not be completed “within the next month”, the company will be “wound down” (ie liquidated).

“Due to accruing costs, trading cannot continue indefinitely and as such [the joint administrators] have advised the proposed purchaser that should this deal not be completed within the next month.

“It was “not feasible” to continue trading the companies indefinitely and as such, they would be shut down in an orderly manner,” the update said.

The administrators added it would contact interested parties to sell individual shops “on a piecemeal basis.”

A member of Oddbins’ staff told db that, given the retailers precarious position, it was “understandable” that they wanted to stay open as long as possible, and suspected stores would re-open “as soon as they can.”

Commenting on the retailer’s position, Duffy told db: “It is unlikely in the circumstances that any further trading activity will be undertaken by the administrators but there may still be a number of stores that are acquired on the other side of this global pandemic.”

Chengdu wine fair announces new dates

25th March, 2020

The China Food & Drinks Fair (CFDF) has announced that the show will be held from 21 to 23 May in Chengdu Western China International Expo City.

The organisation committee has called for the participation confirmation from exhibitors. Industry visitors will need to register in advance through CFDF WeChat account or the official website.

The CFDF has launched an online platform that provides official exhibition service and business matching. Exhibitors and industry visitors can utilise the platform for direct information and advance service to create business opportunities.