The beverage business blog from Olly Wehring
If you would like to offer your comments, opinions, suggest topics or just have a good rant, please feel free to email: Olly Wehring.
A funny thing happened on the way to The Macallan...
16 Feb 2010 09:15
Number two in our haphazard, (hopefully) long-running series of drinks industry travel-related anecdotes.
Here's number one, to ease you back in.
At Heathrow's Terminal 5 yesterday (15 February) en route to Aberdeen for a dinner at Edrington Group's The Macallan distillery, the tannoy kicks up:
"Would Mr Rasmussen, travelling to Copenhagen, please make his way to gate A6 immediately, as the 'plane is ready to depart."
Not that Mr Rasmussen, surely?
Wine writers - criticising the critics
09 Feb 2010 15:19
It's open season for critics of wine critics here in the UK this month.
Last week, US wine personality (I struggle still to find out what it is he actually does) Tim Hanni attacked wine critics en masse, claiming that the breed are of little use to the wine consumer in the street.
"We've created the false idea that to be a wine expert you have to have an almost supernatural palate," he told the Guardian. "But, ironically, if anyone really did have such a palate, it would disqualify them from being an oracle to those who didn't.
"Received wisdom holds that certain wines are simply the best, and that anyone who disagrees is stupid, unsophisticated, or both. That's more chaotic than giving people the confidence to drink what they like, no matter what the bottle costs, and no matter what food they enjoy it with."
(Granted, Hanni was pushing a questionnaire he has designed in partnership with Bibendum in the UK, designed to help consumers work out what tastes they prefer. Still, his opinion on wine writers warrants consideration.
Today, however, Tim Atkin – a wine writer – has countered Hanni's argument, going so far as to suggest: “Experienced wine critics are arguably more essential in a recession than ever.”
Do feel free to let me know which side of the fence you sit on. Indeed, if you tell me, I'll tell you.
I'll have to whisper it, mind.
Survey time - We ask the questions
03 Feb 2010 11:34
At the beginning of last year, the performance of the drinks sector in 2009 was pretty easy to forecast. After all, as 2008 came to a close, it was clear that the prognosis for the following 12 months was not good. One year on, however, and the future is a little tougher to forecast.
So, just-drinks is asking its readers what they think 2010 has in store for our industry.
We've put together a short questionnaire, which will only take a few minutes of your time. Once the responses have been compiled, I will send you the results.
Rest assured that all responses will be treated in the strictest confidence and summary/average results presented.
Everything you always wanted to know about Champagne...
02 Feb 2010 17:09
If, like us, you're based in the UK and, like us, you prefer your peers to believe that you know more than you actually do, then this little black book might come in handy.
Champagne Lanson is celebrating its 250th anniversary in the UK this year by offering a pocket guide to all things champenoise, ‘The Little Black Book of Champagne’.
The 52-page book offers a guide to the different taste profiles of malolactic and non-malolactic styles of Champagne and helps to put into context the role that taste should play when choosing Champagne.
Retailing at GBP5.99, the guide will be available free of charge to trade and consumers for a limited period by requesting a copy from here.
We've already put our order in.
Vodkat - Is this problem really an opportunity?
29 Jan 2010 16:10
Diageo’s legal victory against 22% abv 'vodka look-a-like' Vodkat last week has been hailed as “a major step in the legal protection of the vodka category” by the Gin & Vodka Association (GVA).
Vodkat brand owner Intercontinental Brands (ICB) is still mulling over a possible appeal against the High Court ruling that it was passing Vodkat off as a full-strength vodka, but what will the longer-term knock-on effects be of the Vodkat saga?
The brand sold nearly 9m litres, netting revenues of over GBP50m, in the period from its launch in May 2005 to late 2009 – making it the fastest growing spirits brand in the UK in that timescale.
Diageo and the GVA will argue that much of that growth was spurious, based on the mistaken consumer assumption that they were buying a regular vodka. But, it’s still hard to escape the conclusion that there is demand for low-strength, mixable 'light spirits' like Vodkat.
At a time of unprecedented social concerns over the effects of strong alcohol, and with wine and beer both exploring lower-strength alternatives, is the time ripe to develop a mid-strength mixable category – stronger than wine, but weaker than full-strength spirits?
Given the Vodkat decision, it’s hard at this stage to say what this category will look like, since it appears it can’t even allude to a full-strength product like vodka or, say, gin.
But could a Vodkat-like product – albeit one with a less controversial name – be a hit with consumers? And who might emerge to lead this pioneering new category? A rebranded Vodkat from ICB? Or a brand-new product from a company like Diageo?
Whisky and haggis
27 Jan 2010 15:18
Diageo is pushing its Talisker Scotch whisky as an accompaniment to food and haggis is top of the menu.
Whether you pour your Talisker onto your haggis, or merely sip it alongside, Diageo is keen to make more of the combination.
Haggis sales in the UK rose by 19% to GBP8.8m (US$14.2m) in 2009, said the Scottish Government on Monday (25 January), the date when Scots celebrate the life of national poet Robert Burns.
As two icons of Scottish culture, whisky and haggis could not be more different. One induces romantic images of glens, lochs and moors, while the other tends to conjure a wrinkled nose and a fear of stomach cramps. Have you guessed which is which?
Despite a rise UK demand for haggis, then, Diageo is sensibly looking to promote Isle of Skye-distilled Talisker as an accompaniment to food in general.
For one thing, haggis is still banned in the US.
UK out of recession
26 Jan 2010 15:29
There may be grey skies overhead as winter continues in full swing, but it seems that the sun has finally begun to rise on the UK economy.
Yes, that's right, official figures show that the UK has emerged from more than a year of recession.
But, don't you get all get your hopes up too much. Figures show the economy rose by a mere 0.1% - less than expected - during the final three months of 2009.
Notionally, the country is on the mend.
If music be the drink of wine lovers..
21 Jan 2010 15:21
For those who like to end a hard day with a rich, full-bodied glass of red, or a crisp white, but can’t decide whether to have Mozart or Black Sabbath in the background…Berry Bros & Rudd appear to have the answer.
The UK wine merchant has devised a soundtrack to “enhance the taste and pleasure” of wine by up to 60%. Yes, you can measure it.
The firm’s ‘perfect playlist’ is designed to accompany some of their most popular wines, with research by Berry Bros revealing that people record a change in the taste of a wine depending on the melody they hear.
“The past research suggested that there is a strong link between music and the enjoyment of wine, which makes perfect sense,” says Katie Cooper, Berry’s Wine Club Manager.
“Both evoke strong memories and feelings and, although these are highly personal, it was interesting to see that there were similarities in the songs we chose – we can’t wait to see what our customers come up with.”
Berry’s chairman, Simon Berry, chose Joni Mitchell to accompany an Argentine Cabernet because of its “timeless appeal”, and Master of Wine Alun Griffiths opted to drink Berry Bros Burgundy while listening to Neil Young’s Four Strong Winds.
So whether you like some Mozart with your Mosel or Pink Floyd with your Pinot, Berry’s is asking readers of its wine blog to suggest their perfect music and wine suggestions…
Corporate response to Haiti
20 Jan 2010 15:29
In the wake of the Haiti earthquake last week, estimated to have killed as many as 200,000, just-drinks has published a piece on corporate help for the disaster relief effort.
Drinks firms, alongside companies from many other industries, have flocked to donate time and money to the relief effort. I'm sure there are more of you than we had space to mention here.
While the contribution is largely auxilliary, often in tandem with NGOs, just-drinks applauds those who have made an effort.
It is now commonplace for corporate social responsibility strategies to incorporate disaster planning.
And this goes further than public relations stunts. Global companies have a need to reassure employees and customers in all their business regions that they will respond.
Often private enterprise has a better logistics setup than Government, particularly in poorer countries. The Coca-Cola Co's distribution system is one of the best examples of this.
The key for companies is to work out the best way for them to help, rather than helping to create chaos via isolated relief strategies.
When Russia's beer bubble bursts...
19 Jan 2010 15:22
SABMiller's bloated Russian beer sales point to a mighty hangover for brewers in the country in 2010.
A 34% rise in beer volume sales in Russia for SABMiller in its fiscal third quarter is dramatically out of kilter with the prevailing market trend in the country.
So dramatic, in fact, that it is a completely false bubble. Distributors in Russia spent December racing to stock their warehouses full to the brim of beer, ahead of a three-fold rise on excise tax in January. Carlsberg flagged up the trend in December.
Russia's beer market shrank by nearly a tenth in volume for the first nine months of 2009 and Carlsberg believes that the sector is facing a similar decline in 2010.
The vacuum left by the distributor stockpiling will exacerbate the situation.
Then, of course, there is the Russian Government's crusade against alcohol misuse.