The London Wine Fair 2018 proved to be a terrific success with the increased footfall (up 17% on last year) being put down to the refreshed content. This included the new innovation zone, the education and of course, the Drinks Britannia zone.
Vineyard magazine’s first trade show was a wonderful experience and we relished the opportunity to introduce a collection of fabulous English wines which had been showcased in the magazine. The industry was impressed with the diversity and quality on offer.
As well as catching up with many of our current readers (thank you to all who came to say hello) we were also able to put the magazine in front of a wider audience of independent merchants, big buyers, sommeliers, trade professionals and wine students. In the first day alone we had given away our three-day allocation of magazines so an emergency delivery from the Kent office was duly made on Tuesday. Demand for the magazine was amazing.
We were certainly not alone in the Drinks Britannia section and for those who couldn’t make it to the show Vineyard caught up with the English and Welsh producers showcasing their wares.
Highlighting the West Sussex estate’s Classic Cuvée, a 70% Chardonnay, 25% Pinot noir and 5% Pinot meunier blend, and the 2010, Blanc de blancs, which won a 2018 gold medal from Decanter, announced at the fair, Wendy Outhwaite, estate owner spoke to Vineyard about their successful exports to the Nordic countries.
“In Norway 95% of all wine sales have to go through the state,” said Wendy. “It is brilliant because if you have wines there and someone requests them they have to be delivered within two days. It is a great market and a great opportunity for us as they are drinking a lot more sparkling wine now. They typically like English sparkling because it is high acidity. We are also getting more wine tourism because people are flying from Oslo into Gatwick.”
Following on from its official unveiling at the WineGB press and trade tasting, Black Chalk were back at the tasting table to capture people’s attention.
“The modern branding and the wine styles are helping to show how the industry is maturing,” said Jacob Leadley, winemaker. “We have worked very hard with the design to create a clean element and we wanted it to express that it is a hand-crafted product. Over the past two or three years it has been a family project which everyone has just fallen into and we are all very proud.”
While Black Chalk currently has three vintages of the two core Classic and Wild Rose wines, Jacob plans to expand this as vintages allow. As to whether there are any still wines on the cards, Jacob believes that the category has a great future and with the right fruit he would love to produce a Pinot noir and a Chardonnay.
“I think England needs to produce quality wines across the board to become a region not just of quality sparkling but all-encompassing and I don’t think we are a million miles away from that,” said Jacob. “The development of the industry is picking up speed and there is no sign of it slowing down yet.”
Bolney Wine Estate
Alongside its range of still and sparkling wines, Bolney launched its Rosso vermouth at the London Wine Fair. The development of the new product was motivated partially by the Negroni trend which is sweeping the market, the problems with harvest in 2017 and the fact that managing director Sam Linter is a real vermouth fan.
Produced from the unused wine from the estate’s Lychgate red, it is infused with elderflowers and sloes picked from the vineyard along with lavender and orange peel. Paired with Fever Tree tonics at the fair, Nick Hutchinson from Bolney said the estate was planning to work with the mixologist at the Hand and Flowers, Marlow to create some new cocktails.
Participating in the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) debate on Brexit at the London Wine Fair, Sam Linter focused on the strains being placed on UK producers, the potential risk of a reduced availability of migrant labour and the current export opportunities.
“There are many more disadvantages than advantages of Brexit,” said Sam. “The weakening of the pound has led to growth in exports into Europe, however there is a small percentage being exported and equipment from France and Germany is that bit more expensive. We already trade with the USA and Brexit is unlikely to change those markets. I would love to think that people will drink more English wine after Brexit but we produce less than 2% of what is sold in this country so that will be a drop in the ocean. It was easier to gain investment than it was a year ago and I think the uncertainty has affected that and banks are being more cautious. Migrant labour is one of my biggest concerns. In the vineyard, there are a few key times of the year when things need to be done quickly and I can’t do that with my team of three. We cannot source that from within the UK because there are not the skills nor the people available.”
Speaking on the announcement that the estate’s Rosé NV had been awarded with a Decanter gold medal, winemaker Corinne Seely said: “When you have been working so hard for so many years and your wine has been awarded by your peers it is like watching your children graduate. I wanted the rosé to be an expression of terroir and the grapes so it is 30% Pinot meunier and 70% Pinot noir.”
Still experimenting with what can be achieved in the English climate, Corrine has also just launched an exclusive 2013, Blanc de noirs which was on tasting at the fair. “We wanted to show how Pinot noir on chalk can keep its complexity, structure and balance and so far, all the people who have tasted the wine have been amazed.”
Released the Monday before the show, London Wine Fair was the first outing for the estate’s 2013, Tillington Single Vineyard. Produced from 76% Pinot noir and 24% Chardonnay the new release is an unusual blend for the producer who usually focus on Chardonnay dominant combinations.
“The Tillington vineyard is predominantly Pinot noir and the story behind it is that our winemakers were walking through the vineyard in 2009 tasting different parcels of fruit and it was so delicious in the eastern part of Tillington they thought it would be an incredible waste for it to end up in the Classic Cuvée so we made a single vineyard cuvée,” said Julian Kirk, brand ambassador at Nyetimber.
While the initial 2,600 bottles of 2009 was quite slow to sell at £75 retail, with people’s change in attitude towards sparkling wine, two years later half of the 4,500 bottles of the 2010 vintage sold within just two weeks.
Using the fair as an opportunity to catch up with stockists, people visiting the Nyetimber bus mainly came along to reacquaint themselves with the estate’s produce. However, as word of the wines spread through the show Julian said that 50 French wine producers had flocked over to taste the Blanc de blancs because they had all been talking about it.
Oxney Organic Estate
With the extension of the vineyard boosting Oxney to the rank of largest organic vineyard in the UK, winemaker Ben Smith said that the next stage is the winery extension, which is expected to be ready in time for harvest 2018.
Having produced still wines in the past, the estate is now focused exclusively on sparkling wine production and the new build is set to future-proof the business for when the vineyard is at full cropping levels of around 50,000 bottles.
“We have quite quickly expanded beyond the original winery which was built in a converted oast house,” said Ben. “That will be our main winery and tank room but we will have a separate area for pressing and storage. We have had a huge amount of demand and now we have more stock to play with we can age the classic wines for longer.
The Welsh vineyards were out in force at the 2018 London Wine Fair with a beautifully decorated stand showcasing a cross section of vineyards from across the country including Montgomey, White Castle, Tintern Parva, Gwinallan Conwy, Llaethliw and Pant Du.
Robb Merchant, chair of the Welsh Vineyards Association and owner of White Castle, commented on how busy the show had been and how the stand was helping to change the thought processes for a lot of people who have never tried Welsh wines before. The White Castle wine which had been receiving the most praise was the new 2016 Pinot noir précoce reserve which was released the week after the fair and came to the show ‘straight from the tank’. Produced at Three Choirs, it has spent 15 months in barrel and just 300 bottles have been produced.
Charlotte Bennett from Gwinllan Conwy also said that the wines had been well received. “It is all about getting out there and saying we are from Wales and we do exist, and generally with the wines they have been tasting at the show they have been really quite happy,” said Charlotte. “Our most popular is the Solaris and the sparkling has been going down very well.”
Solaris, a variety widely planted in Wales, was also on offer from Llaethliw Vineyard. Speaking on the family estate which was established by his parents, Jac Evans said that exciting times were afoot as new plantings of 8,000 vines including Seyval blanc, Phoenix, Pinot noir, Madeline Angevine and Rondo had recently been added.
Wines of Great Britain
Passionate about being a part of the UK wine trade’s main event, Julia Trustram Eve, marketing director at WineGB, said how vital it was for the membership organisation to be at the fair with a key range of producers.
“The stand has been exceedingly busy and producers have been receiving a high volume of extremely high quality visitors,” said Julia. “There are other English producers dotted around the show and there is a really exciting Welsh presence. The interest in English and Welsh wines remains huge with a great level of enthusiasm. People are talking about wines from Great Britain and it has been a busy show.”