Ormer Mayfair names Svetoslav Manolev as new head sommelier

28th May, 2019

Ormer, the critically-acclaimed restaurant at Flemings Mayfair hotel, part of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World, has appointed Svetoslav Manolev as head sommelier.

Holding over a decade of experience, Manolev has worked at some of London’s most renowned establishments including COYA Mayfair, Park Chinois, Roka and most recently 67 Pall Mall.

As assistant head sommelier at private members’ club 67 Pall Mall, Manolev managed a team of 18 sommeliers and assisted with curating and overseeing its 4,000-strong wine list.

As head sommelier at Ormer Mayfair, Manolev will have the opportunity to work closely alongside chef Shaun Rankin, who won Jersey-based restaurant Bohemia a Michelin star.

The sommelier will also be responsible for the operational management of all wines within the restaurant and hotel, including Manetta’s bar.

Manolev said: “I am delighted to be joining the team at Ormer and working alongside Head Chef Kerth Gumbs to develop some wonderful pairing menus.

“I look forward to introducing diners to new styles of wine not previously offered at the restaurant, as well as hosting intimate tasting events in The Barrel Room.”

Asian Sparkling Wine Masters 2019: results

28th May, 2019

When it comes to sparkling wine, Champagne reigns supreme but other expressions made from Spain’s delectable Godello grape, a sparkling rosé from Adelaide Hills and Italy’s Trentino region emerged as top performers as well at our Asian Sparkling Wine Masters.

From left to right: Sophie Raichura, sales manager of the drinks business Hong Kong; Tersina Shieh, wine marketer and judge; Fergus Moore, the drinks business Hong Kong; Graham Kwok, assistant brand marketing manager at Watson’s Wine; Natalie Wang, managing editor of the drinks business Hong Kong; Lina Anderson, former employee at the drinks business Hong Kong; and Yu-Kong Chow, independent wine consultant

Held earlier this year at the Flying Winemaker’s tasting room in Central, the blind tasting competition chaired by drinks business Hong Kong editorial team brought together a panel of expert judges including Hong Kong’s seasoned wine educators and consultants to examine flights of sparkling wine expressions from around the globe, from Champagne to Prosecco, Cava to crémant.

Champagne

Natalie Wang, managing editor of the drinks business Hong Kong

Champagne lived up to its reputation and won two highly coveted accolades of Master both in the pricier category. Champagne Castelnau’s Blanc de Blancs 2005, made from grapes selected from crus of the Montagne de Reims and Côte des Blancs, was a unanimous favourite among judges.

With a 8g/l dosage, the brut impressed the judges with its balance, concentrated fruit flavours and complexity. Hailing the wine “an exceptional beauty,” Hong Kong-based wine consultant Yu-Kong Chow, commented: “From its compelling nose of ripe white fruits and yeastiness to the combination of elegance and persistence in its fresh and rich palate, [the wine] captured the imagination.”

Graham Kwok, assistant brand marketing manager at Hong Kong’s biggest wine retailer Watson’s Wine, agreed, adding that the fizz was “perfect to consume now with its full maturity.”

In the same HK$400 to HK$799 price band, Champagne Lanson Rose Label was another standout. A blend of 53% Pinot Noir, 32% Chardonnay and 15% Meunier, the wine delivered a lively and persistent palate with plenty of lemon and red fruits, taking home a Master. The house’s extra age brut won a Gold as well.

Elsewhere 

Tersina Shieh, experienced wine judge and marketer

Outside of Champagne, it’s almost guaranteed that the price ladder is rather lower but for any savvy-wine consumers that does’t mean quality is compromised. “Champagne will still dominate the market in terms of size but Prosecco and sparkling wines from Australia will see stronger growth in the coming years. This will be largely due to price performance, improvement to quality and more intensive promotion and marketing,” Chow, observed. 

Encouragingly, there’s a trend among sparkling wine producers which is to push down sugar levels to reduce what the trade calls “excessive make-up”. This, in general when done right, leads to less cloying and more balanced bubbles, be it Prosecco, Cava, crémant or other sparkling wines. 

Yu-Kong Chow, independent wine consultant

Acidity for many is considered a key feature in a good sparkling wine. “Sparkling has to be simple or complex but it must have acidity to ensure the wine is fresh, has the necessary framework and structure and to support ageing. A flabby sparkling wine tastes like an alcoholic fizzy drink,” comments Tersina Shieh, wine marketer and independent wine judge, when asked about what makes a great sparkling wine.

Graham Kwok, assistant brand marketing manager at Watson’s Wine

In Italy, much has been said about the rise of Prosecco for its approachability and favourable price points but there are plenty of overlooked fizz and Spumante that deserve recognition. One example is Mezzacorona Rotari’s Brut Trento Riserva 2014 made from Chardonnay. The wine is among the best value one can find with a price tag of less than HK$100. Speaking of the wine, Chow commented:, “What a great sparkling for such a price category! This Trento gem exudes a soft mesmerising floral scent with a background of white fruits and a touch of toastiness. The pleasing, delicate, refreshing yet balanced palate that finishes with an uplifting note just brightens the day.”

Also winning a gold was Spain’s Godelia Cuvee 2015, a lively fizz made from the indigenous Godello grape. Aged for 22 months on lees before riddling and disgorging, the wine packs plenty of freshness, citrus flavours balanced with bready yeastiness. Praising the wine, Shieh commented: “It is fresh with complexity from the time on lees and a crisp acidity. It has a high price quality ratio and it’s a good example to show consumers that bubbles don’t need to break the bank.”

Another wine that had judges raving was Sidewood Estate Isabella Rose Methode Traditionnelle 2013 from Australia’s Adelaide Hills. Packed with plenty of red fruits, yeastiness, and layers of complexity from an extensive 54-month lees contact and ageing, the rosé is a crowd pleaser that ticked off every box.

It’s worth noting that there were silver medal winners in this competition worth seeking out. Azienda Agricola Andreola’s Dirupo Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore Brut DOCG, as judge Kwok acknowledged is “a very good example for high-quality Prosecco showing enormous typicity of the region.”

Click through the pages to check out all the results. 

Flavoured gin launches make Scottish brand Boë £8.5m

28th May, 2019

Colourful Scottish gin brand Boë’s sales have increased by more than £7 million thanks to a thirst for flavoured expressions and liqueurs, the company’s directors said.

Boë Gin’s directors Andrew Richardson and Carlo Valente (Photo: Boë Gin)

Results filed with Companies House this month show Boë Gin’s revenues reached £8.5 million between March 2018 and February 2019, up from £1.1 million the previous year.

The company said this meant it ended the financial year with an increase of more than £1.1 million on operating profits compared to the previous 12 months.

Stiffy’s Shots Ltd, the original name of the business that filed Boë’s annual results on Companies House, announced a turnover of £9.9 million and £1.25 million in pre-tax profits.

Stiffy’s Shots now trades as VC2 Brands, according to a member of staff at the company’s head offices in Stirling. It owns Boë Gin, as well as beer brand Black Wolf, and Stivy’s vodka liqueur.

It said that all of the growth in the last year filed under the company has come from Boë Gin.

Distillery director Carlo Valente said the rapid growth last year came as a result of the company focusing on producing liqueurs and flavoured gins that inject “vibrancy and colour” to an already crowded industry.

The company launched its first full strength, flavoured expression Boë Violet, at the tail-end of 2016. It initially gained listings in 276 Morrisons stores, adding a further 50 by October 2018. The Boë Gin range now totals six products; three gins comprising their classic Scottish Gin and two flavoured gins – Boë Passion and Boë Violet – plus three flavoured liqueurs; Peach and Hibiscus, Scottish Bramble and Spiced Orange.

“Knowing we were truly innovating and seeing the interest our products soar over the past year has led us to invest further in the business and hire more staff to support demand,” Valente said.

Sales of flavoured gin in the UK have contributed more than half of all the growth in the gin category in the past year, according to the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA).

In September, the trade body reported that sales of UK gin have doubled in value in the past five years with exports and domestic sales totalling £2.2 billion in the year ending 16 June.

Almost three quarters of the growth in flavoured gin can be attributed to pink gin alone.

Truman’s brewery to relocate to Walthamstow

28th May, 2019

Historic east London brewer Truman’s is to relocate from its current location in Hackney Wick to a huge new site the northeast London borough of Walthamstow.

An artist’s impression of what the new Truman’s brewery in Walthamstow will look like

As reported by the Evening Standard, the new 50,000 square feet brewery, set to open in early 2020, will have a production capacity of 25 million litres and will boast a tap room, street food market, live music space and artist studios.

The new Truman’s will offer tours of the brewery and punters keen to make their own beers will have the chance to do so at the site’s brewing school. The news marks a major expansion for the firm, which opened its Hackney Wick brewery in 2013, 24 years after it went out of business.

Truman’s has a long, illustrious history, having first begun brewing in what is now Brick Lane back in 1666, when the company was known as the Black Eagle Brewery. By the end of the 19th century it had become the largest brewer in history, and remained a powerhouse of the British brewing scene for much of the 20th century.

In 1989 the brewery was forced to close its doors on Brick Lane due to financial woes, but the business was revived in 2010 and three years later moved its headquarters to Hackney Wick.

“Having maxed out capacity at our current home in Hackney Wick, our new brewery gives us a springboard to grow for many years to come while flying the flag for east London brewing,” Truman’s CEO, James Morgan, told the Evening Standard.

“We’re delighted to bring Truman’s to Walthamstow and join part of its vibrant and growing craft beer community,” he added. The Hackney Wick brewery will close once Truman’s relocates to Walthamstow.

Constellation Brands fined $420k for trade practice violations

28th May, 2019

Crown Imports, a subsidiary of drinks giant Constellation Brands, has been fined US$420,000 by the US Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) for alleged “trade practice violations” in Chicago.

In a newsletter published on 24 May, the TTB announced that it had accepted a “$420,000 offer in compromise from Crown Imports LLC for alleged trade practice violations”.

In a supporting document, it claimed that Crown Imports, which has a portfolio of beer brands including Corona Extra, Corona Light, Modelo Especial, Pacifico, Negra Modelo and Victoria, had “engaged in activities and conduct that violated 27 U.S.C 205(b).”

Expanding on this, it claimed that Crown had entered into agreements or understandings with retailers in Illinois indirectly through an independent third party or an affiliate of the retailer. Payment of these parties resulted in the retailer receiving money for “advertising, display and distribution services” relating to Crown’s portfolio of beer brands. In sum, Crown effectively paid to gain shelf space for its products.

According to the TTB, the violations occurred during the period 1 January 2016 and 25 April 2019 at an address in Chicago, Illinois.

This comes after a number of companies including Heineken USA and Eagle Brands were fined following similar trade violations.

Constellation Brands acquired the remaining 50% stake in Crown that it did not already own in 2012. It previously ran the company as a joint venture with Grupo Modelo but acquired the entire business when AB InBev completed its acquisition of Modelo.

Scotch company launches ‘light’ lower alcohol spirit inspired by whisky

28th May, 2019

Scotch whisky is bound by strict production rules and centuries of tradition, but hoping to cash in on the trends making millions for other brands, Glaswegian distiller Whyte & Mackay has brought a new take on the amber elixr to market.

Called Whyte & Mackay Light, the new product is a “spirit drink” bottled at 21.5% ABV, which the company said will allow it to benefit from the growing number of consumers who prefer to spend their money on lower strength serves.

“The success we enjoy across the Whyte & Mackay portfolio has been built on the brand that carries our name,” Ruairi Perry, Whyte & Mackay’s head of brand, said.

“We’re continually looking at trends in drinks & listening to our consumers across the UK, which is why we’re delighted to announce the launch of Whyte & Mackay Light.

Perry adds that the Light version of its whisky is “a different product, built with the same younger, lighter consumer in mind.”

“We see a different type of drinking occasion emerging – and Whyte & Mackay Light has been developed to satisfy that occasion.”

The Scotch company, founded i175 years ago, has sold a number of expressions over the years, including an 8-, 12-, 12-year-old Deluxe and 21-year-old Scotch, but the range of its portfolio has doubled since 2016. Whyte & Mayckay relaunched single malt Scotch Tamnavulin in 2016, before bolstering the product mix for its single malt whisky Jura, which launched 5 new whiskies for the domestic market in 2017.

Head of innovation Rod Gillies said the company is aware that it needs to “bring new consumers into the category.”

“With Whyte & Mackay Light, we’re using the strength of one of our existing brands to deliver an attractive option for the growing number of consumers who may be looking to keep an eye on their alcohol intake.”

Whyte & Mackay Light will be sold in Tesco stores nationwide from early June, priced at £12.

Sexy Fish bottles own Chichibu Japanese whisky

28th May, 2019

London restaurant Sexy Fish and Speciality Drinks have worked together on an own-label bottling of Chichibu whisky from Japan.

The single cask bottling (an ex-Chassagne Montrachet Pinot Noir cask) has produced just 254 bottles which will be available at the restaurant from this week as part of a revamped Japanese whisky menu.

With over 400 Japanese whiskies on offer and following a visit to the distillery last October, the Caprice Holdings’ director of bars, Xavier Landais, wanted an exclusive for the Mayfair restaurant.

Landais said: “Having our own Sexy Fish whisky was the next logical step, and what a whisky! From the legendary distillery Chichibu, we could not have dreamt of a better dram. Pink peppercorn, strawberry, coffee. Super sexy really. Thanks to Ichiro Akuto and Speciality Drinks for making a dream come true.”

Speciality Drinks’ creative director, Raj Chavda, explained that he drew on the restaurant’s aquatic theem for the label design.

The whisky is available at Sexy Fish for £30 per 50ml.

Three million vines to be planted in England and Wales in 2019

28th May, 2019

To celebrate English and Welsh Wine Week, industry body WineGB has announced that a total of three million vines are due to be planted this year, resulting in a 24% rise in land under vine in Britain in just one year.

Figures previously announced by Wines of Great Britain (WineGB) had revealed that two million vines were expected to be planted this year, but this has now been increased by a further one million. This, the industry body says, makes the UK one of the fastest growing wine regions in the world.

The three million vines equate to an extra 690 hectares under vine, representing a 24% increase in the total area.

This figure is nearly double that planted in 2018 (1.6 million vines) and triple the number of vines that was planted in 2017.

After a record year in 2018, with favourable conditions experienced throughout the growing season and no severe frosts, a total of 15.6 million bottles were produced. This trumped the previous record (6.3 million bottles in 2014) by 9.3 million bottles.

Much of the planting has taken place in the south east of England in the counties of Kent, Sussex and Hampshire.

At the WineGB AGM, it was revealed there was to be an ambitious single planting project this year in which over 1 million vines were to be planted. In his book The Wines of Great Britain, English viticultural consultant Stephen Skelton MW notes that Mark Dixon of Château Berne in Provence, who made his fortune from serviced office firm Regus, had bought Kingscote and Sedlescombe vineyards and has also taken a lease on a site at Bodiam where he plans to plant vines. Dixon is also rumoured to have bought an estate near Gravesend in Kent.

Commenting on the new figures, Simon Robinson, chairman of WineGB, said: “This impressive figure of 3m vines represents another milestone in the growth of our fantastic industry. Last year we set out our vision that in the next 20 years, at the rate of current growth, we could be producing some 40 million bottles per year. We’re certainly heading towards that. This is a thriving British industry.”

Food minister David Rutley added: “Our winemakers are innovative, creative and determined, so it’s no surprise that we are seeing the fruits of their labour now shining on the world stage.

“I will continue to champion our innovative food and drink businesses, and I look forward to seeing more of our stand-out wines in restaurants and on shelves the world over.”

While expressing pride in the growth of the industry, winemakers have expressed concern with regards to the relative lack of winemaking facilities compared to the quantity of vineyards. Last year’s record harvest volume proved a stretch for many, with a number of vineyards having to order in extra equipment shortly before the grapes were due to be processed. 

READ MORE:

IN FOCUS: THE FUTURE OF ENGLISH SPARKLING WINE

THE BEST WAYS TO CELEBRATE ENGLISH AND WELSH WINE WEEK

US breweries blame Trump’s tariffs for job losses

24th May, 2019

Breweries in the US have blamed the Trump administration’s metal tariffs for a loss of thousands of jobs in the beer industry since 2016.

A report published by the Beer Institute and National Beer Wholesalers Association has found that 40,000 jobs have been lost in breweries as tariffs on metal have inflated the cost of aluminium cans.

The study found that 2.19 million people were employed in the US’ beer industry in 2018, down from 2.23 million two years ago.

Suppliers to the brewing industry – enterprises that manufacture bottles and cans, cardboard case boxes, brewing equipment or marketing displays – generate nearly $102.0 billion in economic activity and are responsible for almost 436,650 jobs, according to the Beer Institute.

US president Donald Trump sparked a trade war with several countries after he implemented a 25% and 10% import tariffs on steel and aluminium respectively from 1 June 2018.

“Aluminum tariffs are increasing brewers’ costs and are an anchor on a vibrant industry,” the Beer Institute’s CEO Jim McGreevy said in an emailed statement. “Each brewer is deciding for themselves how to absorb that expense, whether it’s raising prices, laying off workers or delaying innovation and expansion.”

Where winemakers dine: Mike Dawson

24th May, 2019

Mike Dawson, winemaker at South Africa’s Journey’s End, speaks about his fondness for the Harwood Arms, reveals why he enjoys visiting urban wineries and explains why nothing compares to London’s wine scene.

What is your favourite restaurant in London and why? 

It has to be the Harwood Arms. I visited this magic pub in 2017 and timed my visit, co-incidentally, with the newly appointed sommelier having to bin end a load of wines that were no longer on their list. As a result, I ended up drinking a 1991 Mosel Riesling which blew my mind. It was certainly the most interesting wine I have ever tasted!

Where / what is your favourite wine offering in London and what would be your go-to first glass of wine when you get there?

I really loved visiting the Urban Wineries dotted around London. It was such an alien concept to me – having spent the last 5 years living in a beautiful farm house in the Stellenbosch mountains, overlooking lush vines where the grapes only have to travel a mere 100 metres to the winery.

I couldn’t believe the quality of the wine coming from a few tanks in a small building in south west London, London Cru winery is definitely worth a visit, and if you can’t make it to the winery then keep a look out for their ‘Gresham Street’ Grenache, a particular favourite.

How does London compare to other big global cities in terms of the wine lists you find there? 

Nothing compares to London. It’s a totally epic city, and in my opinion, the food and wine hub of the world! To have a city that has so many varying suburbs, with some more gentrified than others, all boasting out of this world dining experiences is totally insane.

Soho used to be where all the best restaurants are in my mind, but now the variety is amazing.  It is expensive for me (remember I deal in rands), but I think one would have to be a little naïve to expect a bargain when going out for a meal. You pay for the experience, service and of course great food and drink! Good wine is priceless – London has it all.

To view the Wine List Confidential website, please click here.

Wine List Confidential, brought to you by the drinks business, is the first platform to rank London’s restaurants on the strength of their wine list alone, providing a comprehensive guide to the best restaurants in the capital for wine lovers.

Restaurants are graded on a 100-point scale based on five criteria: size, value, service, range and originality.