Plumpton college sees student enrolment numbers rise by 20%

5th December, 2018

UK wine and agricultural education provider Plumpton College has announced that the 2018/2019 student intake was the largest on record, with total candidate numbers up by 20%.

The college has offered wine programmes since 1988 and in May this year launched a Level 3 Diploma (A Level equivalent course) to promote the industry as a viable career path to younger individuals.

Chris Foss, head of Plumpton Wine Division, said: “On top of an outstanding grape harvest in our vineyards, we are delighted to see such good student numbers this year, clearly demonstrating the boom in the English wine industry and Plumpton’s growing worldwide reputation”.

The college boasts 10 wine specialists and in 2006 raised funds for a purpose-built wine centre which includes laboratories, a sensory evaluation room, lecture rooms and the Rathfinny Research Winery.

Plumpton stated that this year applicants for its BA (Hons) International Wine Business degree rose by 40% with the majority of students being female from countries including Spain, Cyprus and Italy.

The gender split for its other undergraduate programmes, the FdSc Wine Production and BSc (Hons) Viticulture and Oenology, however is more even with ages ranging from 18 to 60.

The largest increase in student application numbers was for the MSc Viticulture and Oenology course, with numbers doubling from 10 to 20. The Masters programme has attracted students from England, Wales and Ireland as well as France, Belgium, Portugal, Australia, Brazil and Zimbabwe.

Foss added: “We are delighted to see that some of our new students already have substantial industry experience, but the vast majority are new to wine production and are energised to join the UK’s flourishing wine production industry”.

Students hail from a range of backgrounds including finance, hospitality, fashion and luxury tourism.

18-year-old Gabby Riley, one of two students at Plumpton born in this millennium, commented: “I came on the course as I have always been interested in the idea of how wine is sold around the world. That and my love for traveling and how wine can bring different cultures together. Studying wine business at Plumpton College will equip me with the right skills and knowledge I need to pursue my career to one day hopefully being an international wine buyer”.

Daniel Jackson, a first year student on the MSc Viticulture & Oenology course, added: “For me, it’s been a great start to the course. With a background in chemistry, I’ve really enjoyed the balance between in-depth science involved in winemaking and viticulture, while having the opportunity to be hands-on picking grapes and fermenting wine”.

Plumpton also manages 10 hectares of vineyards which produce around 40,000 bottles a year. In May this year, a first-year student re-designed the college’s entire wine portfolio in collaboration with brand creation specialists Studio Parr.

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Japan’s Château Mercian to double production

5th December, 2018

Japan’s leading winery Château Mercian is planning to double its production volume in the next 10 years in anticipation of an increase in exports, with the winery’s third estate set to open next year.

Mitsuhiro Anzo, chief winemaker at Château Mercian, and Kenichi Ohashi MW

The news was revealed yesterday (4 December) by Château Mercian’s president Teruyuki Daino at a masterclass in Hong Kong hosted by Jeannie Cho Lee MW and Kenichi Ohashi MW.

Founded in 1877, Mercian currently has two wineries, namely the Katsunuma Winery in Yamanashi prefecture and Kikyogahara Winery in Nagano. Its annual production hovers around 500,000 bottles made from local hybrids such as Koshu, Muscat Bailey A to Bordeaux varieties in the Yamanashi and Nagano prefectures, two key wine producing regions in Japan that account for more than half of its national production.

“The quality is reaching a nice level but the quantity is still limited,” Daino admitted. “We are thinking of expanding our vineyard vigorously in the next 10 years, currently we make 500,000 bottles maybe we can expand the volume, maybe double in 10 years.”

To achieve the goal, Mercian plans to open its third winery, Mariko Winery, next September in Nagano, a wine region that Cho Lee believes holds brighter promise for better quality wines given its lower rainfall compared with Yamanashi, which allows for better ripeness for varieties such as Cabernet Franc, Shiraz and Merlot.

The push to grow an export market that was previously almost non-existent for Japanese wineries comes at a time when the country’s domestic wine production is evolving quickly.

In October this year, Japan tightened its regulations on domestic wine production, allowing only wines made from grapes from Japan to be labelled as Japanese wine.

Teruyuki Daino, president of Chateau Mercian at the masterclass hosted by Jeannie Cho Lee MW and Kenichi Ohashi MW

Domestic wine production in the country stands around 22 million bottles a year with roughly 300 wineries across the country. Domestic wine consumption of Japanese wine is said to be less than 5%, according to Ohashi, the only Japanese to hold the titles of both Master of Wine and Master of Sake. More broadly, the consumption of wines produced in Japan including wines blended with bulk wines is around 20%, he estimated.

The trend for consuming domestic wines, however, is growing, Mitsuhiro Anzo, chief winemaker at Mercian told dbHK. It has become more palpable particularly in the past few years after Japan’s devastating earthquakes in 2011 and 2013 that spurred consumers to turn to local produce to boost the domestic economy.

“I don’t know exactly, but since 2011 many consumption of wine and saké increased at home because after the earthquake, we think the communication with family is more important,” Anzo speculated, adding that interest in Japanese wines is expected to propel the consumption percentage to 10% in the next 10 years, up from 5%.

For export markets, Hong Kong is tipped to be the key focus for Mercian, building on the city’s strong Japanese cultural influences and many Japanese restaurants spread across the city.

“Maybe one other advantage that Hong Kong has is, if you haven’t noticed, that we have we are crazy about Japanese cuisine. Every new restaurant has something to do with Japanese food or cuisine… The perception of Japanese food in the culinary world is so high,” explained Cho Lee.

“Sake has been very trendy in the past 10 years, so high quality wines produced from Japan would be more favourably accepted than negatively if you exported to other markets. its a very good positioning,” she continued.


Japan: Introducing a new frontier for wine 

Koshu: the go-to Japanese grape for Japanese food 

Oskar Blues is latest brewer to enter sparkling water category

5th December, 2018

Aimed at “active lifestyle consumers”, Colorado craft brewer Oskar Blues has become the latest beer brand to enter the sparkling water or seltzer category, with a new alcoholic, fruit-flavoured, sugar-free range.

Part of the Canarchy Craft Brewery Collective, a group of “like-minded independent brewers,” Oskar Blues its to launch its hard seltzer range in the US next year.

Founded in 1997, the brewer is known for its flagship Dale’s Pale Ale and operates breweries in Colorado, North Carolina and Texas, producing 200,000 barrels a year.

The new, four-can range of “boozy sparkling waters” are to be flavoured with lime; cucumber & peach; lemon, agave & hibiscus and melon & basil. Called Wild Basin, the drinks have a 5% ABV and contain 100 calories and 1 gram of carbohydrates. They are also sugar-free, gluten-free and contain no artificial ingredients.

The brewer is looking to appeal to “active lifestyle consumers” who enjoy being outdoors and socialising and who are also health conscious.

President of Canarchy, Matt Fraser, commented: “The response from both distributors and retailers so far has been tremendous. We’ll do whatever it takes to ensure that we have product in warehouses and on shelves”.

In order to do this, the brewer is investing in new canning and packaging lines in order to cope with demand.

Oskar Blues CMO, Patrick Daugherty, added: “Wild Basin is unique in that it challenges some existing category conventions. Our goal is to introduce something that can help grow the category and give drinkers a true craft option in hard seltzer”.

Wild Basin Boozy Sparkling Water will launch in Colorado and North Carolina in January and is due to be rolled out nationwide in the coming months.

The alcoholic seltzer/sparkling water category is expanding rapidly in the US, inspired by similar movements in low and lower alcohol beer. The market is currently dominated by brands such as White Claw and Boston Beer’s Truly Spiked & Sparkling, however brewers and drinks companies including Wachusett (Nauti Seltzer); Two Beers (Sound Hard Seltzer); M.I.A Beer Company (HRD WTR); Constellation Brands (Svedka Spiked Premium Seltzer); AB InBev (SpikedSeltzer), and Diageo (Smirnoff Spiked Sparkling) have all released examples.

Ohio brewer Platform Beer Co. has also just joined the list, launching a ‘seltzer project’ with the first flavour being black cherry.

Among the brewers branching out and investing in new low and no alcohol products include Belgian brewer Duvel which bought a 60% stake in east London Kombucha brand JARR last month, and Heineken-owned brewery Lagunitas, that launched a non-alcoholic sparkling water inspired by its eponymous, flagship IPA in August.

Last month it was revealed that over half of the Brits who took part in a OnePoll survey funded by Carlsberg said they have tried at least one non-alcoholic drink, while 52% agreed that no-alcohol beer has become more socially acceptable in the past two years.

In the 12 weeks to 12 August 2018, sales of no-alcohol beers were up by 58% compared with the same period last year, according to Kantar World Panel. In addition, moving annual total of Nablab (no- and low-alcohol beer) products has risen by 24.4% in volume and by 29.6% in value in two years – by 22.7% and 24.3 % respectively in the past year, according to CGA.

Noth: My Tequila is better than Clooney’s

5th December, 2018

Sex and the City star Chris Noth has revealed he believes his recently acquired Ambhar Tequila is “better” than fellow actor George Clooney’s Casamigos brand.

American actor Chris Noth and Ambhar founder Jaime Celorio at the first tasting of the Tequila in London yesterday

Speaking exclusively to the drinks business at the first tasting in London of Ambhar, held at Boisdale in Belgravia yesterday, Noth said:

“Casamigos is a great product and is sold in a great way, but I believe Ambhar is a better Tequila as it’s richer and more complex. There’s room in the market for both.”

In September Noth acquired a majority stake in Ambhar Tequila for an undisclosed sum. The liquid is made in small batches from 100% Weber Blue agave. All harvesting is done by hand and the agave hearts are steamed, roasted, mashed and fermented in accordance with ancient recipes.

Ambhar’s Añejo expression

Noth, who was in London to pick up his Cigar Smoker of the Year award at Boisdale on Monday night, told db that taking a majority stake in Ambhar this year was a case of ‘right place right time’ rather than a long-held dream.

“I met Ambhar’s founder, Jaime Celorio, through a mutual friend, tasted the Tequila, loved it and started drinking it. He asked me to come on board and I thought, why not?

“Before that I was an amateur Tequila fan and enjoyed Margaritas and shots. Jaime taught me there was an art to high-end Tequila, which is as rich and complex as a fine brandy and not something to be swilled.

“Smoking a cigarette is like having sex, while smoking a good cigar is like making love, which is how I view Ambhar, particularly the añejo – it’s a civilised way to drink. I’m confident about the product and am convinced it’s better than other Tequilas,” Noth said.

The American actor, known for his roles on Law & Order and The Good Wife, revealed to db that he’s planning a series of commercials for the brand that he’s due to star in, which run with the tagline: ‘Why not?’

“One of them is going to be set in a bar like Rick’s Café in Casablanca. There’s going to be a guy at the bar who’s too shy to buy a beautiful stranger a drink. Then I swoop in and slam a bottle of Ambhar on the bar and say, ‘why not?’”

Noth has taken on the role of creative director for Ambhar and is busy growing the brand in the US and UK, where it will go on sale next spring.

George Clooney sold his Casamigos brand to Diageo last year for US$1 billion

In September he helped secure a national distribution deal with the Republic National Distributing Company in the US, to take the Tequila across America.

“I’m keen to take Ambhar around the world and am starting in London. Tequila isn’t huge here at the moment and I want to change people’s perceptions about it and show that it’s something to be sipped and savoured.

“Fine Tequila is a drink that promotes conversation and mediation. In America Tequila is undergoing a revolution similar to what has happened with Bourbon and American whiskey.

“My father used to drink Cutty Sark and Jim Beam but things have evolved a lot since then, and the same evolution is happening with Tequila now,” he said.

The Ambhar range includes a Plata (silver) expression, an oak rested Reposado and an oak aged Añejo, which boasts “smoky aromas and a silky palate”.

The bottle is inspired by the ‘canteen’ bottles cowboys used to carry alcohol in, and features a dragonfly luck charm tied to a leather chord.

Noth is the latest star to enter the celebrity spirits game. In February, Ryan Reynolds bought American gin brand Aviation, based in Oregon.

Meanwhile, Hollywood heartthrob George’s Clooney’s Casamigos Tequila brand was bought by Diageo last summer for US$1 billion.

Other celebrities that own Tequila brands include wrestler-turned-actor Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, rapper P Diddy, and singer Justin Timberlake.

Drunk Japanese pilot sentenced to 10 months in jail

5th December, 2018

A Japanese pilot has been handed a 10-month jail sentence after being found guilty of consuming two bottles of wine and beer before being due to operate a commercial flight from London to Tokyo.

Katsutoshi Jitsukawa, 42, a pilot with Japan Airlines, was sentenced to 10 months in jail at Isleworth Crown Court after being found to have consumed alcohol that put him nine times over the legal limit. An alcohol breath test showed the pilot had a blood alcohol level of 189 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood. The legal limit for pilots is 20 mg.

Jitsukawa was supposed to co-pilot JAL Flight 44 carrying 244 passengers from London to Tokyo when a bus driver noticed the smell of alcohol on his breath.

Judge Phillip Matthews ruling the case reprimanded the pilot’s behaviour as, “too appalling to contemplate”, according to a BBC report.

“Most important is the safety of all persons on board that very long-haul flight, potentially 12 hours or more. Their safety was put at risk by your inebriation and drunkenness,” he stated.

“The prospect of you taking over control of that aircraft is too appalling to contemplate. The potential consequences for those on board was catastrophic,” he continued.

The pilot has been fired from his post since then, and it promoted Japan Airlines to introduce a new breathalyser system at airports abroad.

Supermarkets tempt shoppers with fine wine deals

5th December, 2018

The battle for Christmas at the UK supermarkets has heated up, with Waitrose and Morrisons both selling ‘grab it while you can’ fine wine deals for £10 a bottle

Waitrose & Partners has launched a limited edition 10 fine wines for a tenner each sale, discounting the five red, five white range by between 28% – 44% off the regular price. The selection, which is being marketed as hand-picked by its buying team, and highlighting their MW credentials, includes a Luigi Bosca Malbec Seleccion de Vistalba (originally selling for £17.99), an El Piadosos Rioja Gran Reserva DOCa (down from £16.99), A Villa Antinori Toscana and a Chateau Lalande medic Cru (both orginally £15.99). Whites include the Broglia Gavi di Gavi DOCG, down from £15.99, Rustenberg Chardonnay and Bird in Hand Sparkling Pinot Noir, down from £15.99. Stocks are limited, the supermarket said, and the Malbec and Rioja had already sold out at the time of going to press.

Meanwhile Morrisons is selling a Châteauneuf-du-Pape for around £10 this week (usual rrp: £15), which Clive Donaldson, Morrisons senior wine sourcing manager described as “a match made in heaven with roast turkey thanks to its rich, warm plummy flavours”.

Asda six-bottle wine bundle includes a £27 saving on six bottles of Châteauneuf-du-Pape at £81 (working out at £13.50 each), as well as

Sainsbury’s has also included four Châteauneuf-du-Pape of varying prices in its 25% off six bottles deal, which runs until 11 December.

Chef Simon Rogan takes restaurant overseas

5th December, 2018

Decorated chef Simon Rogan, of the two-Michelin-starred L’Enclume in the Lake District and Michelin-starred Roganic in London, is to take his restaurant brand overseas for the first time.

Chef Simon Rogan

Rogan will open two restaurants in Hong Kong in 2019: Aulis Hong Kong, his chef’s table and development kitchen; and sister venue Roganic Hong Kong, both in Causeway Bay.

The Aulis concept first launched with Aulis Cartmel, within L’Enclume in 2016. Shortly after, Aulis London opened, in 2017, as a 2017 standalone development kitchen for Rogan’s London-based team of chefs at Roganic,

Aulis in Hong Kong will be similar in concept Rogan’s UK restaurants, with only 12 seats and a focus on personalisation.

The Hong Kong venue will offer an ever-changing 8-10 course experimental menu, that will be priced at HK$1,480+ per guest, with an additional HK$680 for a choice of wine or cocktail pairing.

Roganic Hong Kong meanwhile will focus on natural wines and fresh, foraged ingredients, like its London counterpart.

Rogan’s Roganic first opened in Marylebone as a two-year pop-up. A permanent site opened nearby in January 2018, and achieved a Michelin star just nine months later.

Simon Rogan’s potatoes and pearl ash dish at L’Enclume

Michael B. Jordan directs digital ad campaign for Bacardi dark rum

5th December, 2018

Rum maker and drinks giant Bacardi has released a series of short films co-directed by actor Michael B. Jordan that promotes its premium range.

Director Paul Hunter and actor Michael B. Jordan collaborated to create Bacardi’s digital ad campaign. (Photo: Bacardi)

The film, Angels Share, is the first digital advert created for Bacardi’s premium rum range, which launched earlier this year.

“This is an exciting time for rum, and as a rum guy, I knew I had to be a part of this project,” Jordan said. “I think rum is timeless. It’s always been there and it’s always been consistent.”

The film — co-directed by Jordan and Emmy-nominated filmaker Paul Hunter, follows three characters – Carlos, a rum master blender; Isabel, a bartender in a Caribbean bar; and Santiago, meant to be a member of the original Bacardi family. Each tell a story revolving around the angels’ share — a term for the amount of spirit which is lost while it is aged in barrels.

“We first connected with Michael last year when he attended No Commission – our art platform in partnership with The Dean Collection,” Roberto Ramirez Laverde, Bacardi’s North American VP, said.

“Watching Michael on set during the shoot was amazing – he has an eye for storytelling and was extremely adept at bringing the story to life.”

The drinks giant launched Bacardi Añejo Cuatro and Bacardi Gran Reserva Diez in April this year, as well as repackaging private family blend Bacardi Reserva Ocho.

The news comes as dark spirits sales, particularly whiskey and rum, are starting to rise in the UK and overseas.

The latest market report released by the WSTA shows that total sales in the UK to September 2017 reached £991million – up 5% on the same period last year. This is the equivalent of 34.3 million bottles sold across the on- and off-trade.

Drinks producers are also expanding their ranges to include rum. Atom Brands, the company responsible for That Boutique-y Drinks Company, extended its collection of limited-edition, small batch casks to rum, launching That Boutique-y Rum Company earlier this year.

However, Bacardi has also invested in several trending categories this year. The company bought Tequila maker Patron in January, and in July took a minority stake in Irish whiskey label Telling.

Whisky Exchange to launch ballot for 30YO Scotch gifted to Prince Charles

5th December, 2018

Specialist spirits retailer the Whisky Exchange is to launch a ballot for 184 bottles of 1988 Royal Lochnagar single malt Scotch whisky from a cask gifted to HRH Prince Charles, which were bottled last month on his 70th birthday.

Photo: Mike Wilkinson

The Whisky Exchange will be opening the ballot at the end of this month, giving whisky lovers the chance to purchase 184 out of a total of 206 bottled. As for the rest, one will be auctioned off prior to the closing of the ballot, another placed in the Diageo archive, while the remaining 20 will be kept by The Prince’s Foundation for additional fundraising.

The 30-year-old whisky was bottled last month on the 14 November to celebrate Prince Charles’ 70th birthday. The individually numbered bottles will go on sale priced at £1,470, with all proceeds donated to the Prince’s Foundation.

The cask was a gift to the Prince intended to commemorate the 140th anniversary of the first royal visit to Royal Lochnagar distillery, conducted by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in 1848.

Prince Charles subsequently donated the cask to his charity, The Prince’s Foundation, which was formed earlier this year by merging the Prince’s charitable interests The Prince’s Foundation for Building Community, The Prince’s Regeneration Trust, The Great Steward of Scotland’s Dumfries House Trust and The Prince’s School of Traditional Arts.

The cask strength whisky (52.6% ABV) will come packaged in a presentation box inscribed with the crest of Prince Charles, Duke of Rothesay and a handwritten edition number.

Aged in American oak, the whisky is described as having aromas of “cereal, vanilla, pear and marzipan” with a “creamy” texture and flavours of “blackcurrant, walnut and coconut”.

In October, Prince Charles took a tour of the Royal Lochnagar distillery in Royal Deeside, meeting employees, including one who worked at the distillery when the cask presented to him was filled in 1988. He was also able to taste a dram before it was bottled.

Royal Lochnagar distillery manager Sean Phillips commented: “We are delighted to have welcomed His Royal Highness back to Royal Lochnagar Distillery recently and are particularly pleased that this special whisky will support the work of The Prince’s Foundation at The Carriage at Ballater Station on Royal Deeside, which is so important to Royal Lochnagar and our people who live and work here.”

Founder of the Whisky Exchange, Sukhinder Singh, added: “This whisky encompasses the full character of Royal Lochnagar Single Malt Scotch Whisky, and it lingers beautifully, developing subtle flavours on the palate. The Whisky Exchange is honoured to help sell this special bottling to raise funds for The Prince’s Foundation”.

Interested parties can register for a notification once the ballot is made live on 31 December. It will then run until 27 January 2019.

Château Margaux announces new branding

5th December, 2018

Bordeaux first growth Château Margaux has announced it is making a number of changes to its branding and packaging from the 2016 vintage onwards.

The estate rolled out a new darker bottle with its 2015 vintage (which also bore a one-off screen-printed label) and this will now be used with all subsequent releases.

The labels for the grand vin, second label and white wine will all have a new typeface, apparently inspired by that used by the estate in 1865.

New, matt capsules have also been designed and the colours used for the print are changing too: a light red for Pavillon Rouge and a fine, china blue for Pavillon Blanc, while the grand vin’s type colour is toned down a little.

Finally, the material used for the wooden cases is changing to radiate pine and the top of the six-bottle cases will be stamped with the château logo.

The new packaging will be applied to all vintages from now on, starting with the 2016 reds and 2017 white.