The beverage business blog from Olly Wehring
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Postcard from Orkney, with Highland Park
15 Oct 2010 01:13
I've just got home from a memorable two days on the northern Scottish island of Orkney, as a guest of Edrington Group's Highland Park single malt brand. Not only was it my first trip to the islands – located seven miles north of the Scottish mainland - it was also the furthest north I've been in the British Isles.
The journey up was certainly part of the adventure – I can heartily recommend the Caledonian Sleeper train, which leaves London at 2350 and arrives at Edinburgh Waverley at 0730 the next morning. I slept like a baby in my cabin as the train headed north, and was woken by breakfast and the morning's Scotsman (it's a newspaper, potty-mind).
An hour-long flight from Edinburgh took us to Kirkwall, the main town on the island of Orkney, population: 20,000. From the airport, our local guide, Jim, took us on a tour of the Scapa Flow area of the island – one for the World War I and II buffs. A quick lunch was followed by the obligatory distillery tour, which took in the malting rooms and peat-fired burners for Highland Park. Orkney is home to two distilleries, the other being Pernod Ricard's Scapa, barely a stone's-throw from Highland Park.
In the evening, we boarded a boat and sped across the Bay of Kirkwall to the island of Shapinsay – a white-water trip of 30 minutes in the dark, which raised the proximity of the elements to concern-creating levels. An informal, rustic dinner in a locally-run restaurant included seafood, steak, darts and Highland Park. Time was called at gone midnight, and we headed back to the main island with a bottle of cask strength being passed around on deck.
Not responsible drinking, I concede.
The next day, we continued with the tour of the island – lochs, seals, curlews, neolithic stones, St Magnus' Cathedral and the rocky coast of Yesnaby (next stop, Canada). And, of course, a dram to ward off the wind.
With thanks to Susie Davidson, Matt Turner, Gerry Tosh, Ken Grier and the Orcadians of Highland Park. I'll be back.
NB: The trip was made all the more evocative by the 71st anniversary of the sinking of the Royal Oak, with the loss of 833 souls, at Scapa Flow by a German U-boat.
Some dirt, yesterday
23 Sep 2010 13:32
Now, I'd appreciate it if you didn't guffaw or conclude that today is a slow news day, because, respectively, it's not funny, and it isn't. But, yes, this is a picture of a pile of dirt.
One of the more curious press releases I have received arrived overnight, from California. It turns out that this soil comes from some of the vineyards of Napa which border the Napa River in the Rutherford American Viticultural Area.
The Rutherford Dust Society (of course!) is looking to restore the natural flow of the river, the banks of which have been steeply eroded of late. Subsequently, six landowners, including the David Guggenhime family. the Quintessa Estate, the Ranch Winery, Frog’s Leap, Caymus, and Carpy-Conolly Ranch, have rededicated seven acres of vineyard to the river corridor worth US$2.1m.
“This must be the most valuable dirt in America,” said project coordinator Gretchen Hayes in the statement. “It is truly a mountain of Rutherford Dust, and the greatest wines in America are grown in this coveted red soil.”
Let me know if you'd like some and I'll put you in touch.
Concha y Toro - Sing When You're Wining
20 Sep 2010 15:31
Readers are advised that the content of and opinion voiced in this blog belong to Dean Best and not myself. Dean is a Manchester United supporter. I am not.
A glass of wine can be the perfect accompaniment to times when we enjoy food, socialise or unwind. For one member of the just-drinks family this weekend, wine presented the opportunity to be a grade A fanboy.
Oxford Dictionaries describes a fanboy thus: "A male fan, especially one who is obsessive about comics, music, film, or science fiction."
To that, millions of us would add "football". Within that, some of us would add "Manchester United" (The cue for half of our readers to tut and click to another page).
For someone who watched their first United game in 1988 as a seven-year-old, this weekend was pretty special. Chilean wine giant Concha y Toro is one of a series United's corporate "partners" and, to mark the formal start of the association between the two sides, the company hosted a three-day event to which they invited members of the international press - including your correspondent.
Over the weekend, we the press were able to see behind the scenes at Old Trafford, meet United manager Sir Alex Ferguson and players including Ryan Giggs, and, taste some of Concha y Toro's wine stable in a tasting hosted by head winemaker Marcelo Papa.
Among the weekend's highlights for me, being able to spend five minutes in the company of Sir Bobby Charlton and to chat with him about the rivalry between United and their opponents yesterday, Liverpool, was particularly special.
Concha y Toro's management and representatives, including chairman Alfonso Lorrain and global marketing manager Giancarlo Bianchetti, enjoyed their trip to Manchester, which coincided with the 200th anniversary of Chile's independence.
The club marked the anniversary when, on a tour around the ground on Saturday, the Chilean national anthem was played over the tannoy system at Old Trafford - with United mascot Fred The Red standing proud and wearing a Chilean flag across his shoulders.
And, as if by magic, just as United's first goal hit the back of the net in the first half yesterday, the electronic advertising hoardings that border three sides of the pitch at Old Trafford (obviously the three sides picked up by the TV cameras) turned to say "Concha y Toro wines".
Cue much delight among the Concha y Toro team that its ad would be picked up on TV replays around the world.
And that, when all is said and done, is what the "partnership" between United and Concha y Toro is all about for the Chilean wine group.
The Casillero del Diablo maker is hoping that United's global name can help it build its presence in key markets, most notably Asia.
Next week, just-drinks will carry a full-length interview with global marketing manager Bianchetti, a piece that will cover his thoughts on the sponsorship, on broader industry issues around foreign currency volatility, discounting and the downturn - and, notably, Concha y Toro's belief that beverage alcohol brands can associate with sport.
For now, the just-drinks' fanboy will bask in the glow of the weekend when he met Sir Alex and Sir Bobby.
Scotland's Getting Silly
15 Sep 2010 17:19
We've been pretty thorough in our monitoring of the twists and turns within Scottish politics of late, as the people's elected representatives have talked and talked and talked about how to deal with the country's relationship with alcohol.
The latest twist, however, has had me rolling my eyes for most of today.
According to a Daily Telegraph report, SNP backbencher Ian McKee has proposed that buying alcohol on supermarket loyalty cards or as part of a 'meal deal' be banned in the country.
It's all starting to get a bit silly now up there.
Do alcohol abusers actually use supermarket loyalty cards? And, surely, having food with alcohol slows the effect - something alcoholics would steer well away from.
In a way, though, it's actually good that the price argument has gone to this extreme, if only to highlight just how insulting it is to the intelligence of consumers to use price to slow consumption. And if you disagree with that, then how about looking to improve the intelligence of consumers, so that they can be insulted by this harebrained suggestion?
Sympathy for the Multi-National
09 Sep 2010 17:06
The temptation to side with big business has always been one that I've found pretty easy to resist. Stick it to the man, has been my mantra since student days – albeit more quietly these days (right, corporate subscribers?).
But, it's hard not to sympathise – if that's the word – with the multinationals of this world, when I read of India's decision to slap Vodafone with a US$2.6bn charge. The mobile 'phone giant was told by the High Court in Mumbai this week that it is liable for the charge after it acquired local operator Hutchison Essar three years ago.
Vodafone's defence has been that the transaction is not subject to the country's tax rules, because it took place in the Cayman Islands via a string of holding companies. This defence has cut no cloth with the High Court, though.
The aftershocks of the ruling pricked memories of the rumblings last summer, when Diageo had to tread very gingerly in Scotland, for fear of provoking the ire of politicians in the country.
Last year, the challenge laid at Scotland's door was that it was not a friend of big business. “What incentive is there to operate in a country that reacts like that?” was a question I was asked (rhetorically, thankfully) a year ago.
So, India, could you provide me with an answer, please?
What incentive is there to operate in a country that reacts like that?
Pedicab, (Cono) Sur?
06 Sep 2010 17:41
Here in London, we're in the grip of another transport strike, with action by RMT and TSSA union members affecting underground services in the capital today and tomorrow.
Pity Wines of Chile, then, whose tasting this coming Wednesday (8 September) could suffer from the knock-on effects of the industrial action.
How's that for timing?
Help is at hand, though. Vina Concho y Toro's Cono Sur wine brand is laying on pedicabs free of charge, to take visitors from Victoria overland train station to the tasting at the Royal Horticultural Society.
No doubt, this is a nice touch. Even if Victoria is also the nearest underground station to the Royal Horticultural Society anyway.
If you'd like to take advantage of Cono Sur's offer, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call Lucy Richardson on 07584 474293.
Bank Holiday Madness
27 Aug 2010 09:16
A quick heads-up to our global readership: The UK has told us we cannot work this coming Monday (30 August).
We're not allowed to ask why, either.
Back at the coal-face on Tuesday.
Me? I'm off to Berlin, for some doughnuts.
Going to the chapel and we're...
20 Aug 2010 11:48
I'm actually off today - not that you'd notice, let's be honest.
Those of you who have been with just-drinks since the earlier days will remember Dean Best, our news editor from 2005 until early 2007. When he left just-drinks he didn't have too far to travel, taking up the role of editor at sister site just-food, where he remains to this day.
See? He's still close to our hearts - and our desks.
Today, Dean will be getting married to his belle, Karen McAteer.
I'll be sure to raise a glass to Mr & Mrs Best on your behalf.
Bill Hicks - Ever the Advertising Prophet
28 Jul 2010 13:25
Writing up the story today (28 July) about 901 Silver's new advertising campaign reminded me of the late, great Bill Hicks.
Take a look at the first advert - be quick, because I don't think it'll be around for too long.
As I (too) gasped and shrieked "You can't do that", I remembered Hicks' take on what would be the zenith of advertising (headphones on if you're in the office, mind).
Don't buy that, buy this - or the Iberian lynx is for it
23 Jul 2010 16:22
We had a press release come through earlier this week that has been troubling me a tad.
The Portuguese Cork Association, APCOR, sent out a statement on Wednesday (21 July) aimed at debunking what it claims are widely-believed myths about natural cork.
That's right, folks. It's stopper-time again.
Anyway, the three myths are:
- “Trees are cut down in the production of cork so it's better for the environment to buy other closures.”
- “Screw caps are the most environmentally friendly closure.”
- “Corked wine is still an issue of wine using natural cork stoppers.”
I'll leave myth number three, because it's boring. But the first two clearly show that the cork producers are going for the green card.
“According to Conservation International,” the release goes on, “the cork oak forests are a top diversity hotspot and have some of the richest and most threatened reservoirs of plant and animal life on Earth e.g. the Iberian lynx.”
Then, adding the final layer with a trowel, Jose Tavares from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is quoted as saying: “For centuries, the production of cork has helped to retain cork forests, one of the richest wildlife habitats in southern Europe. A range of species from eagles and Iberian lynx to songbirds and reptiles find a vital refuge in these forests, and a reduction in the use of natural cork threatens the existence of these special species and also a magical and vibrant landscape.”
Now, hold on there. Is this not the equivalent of holding a gun to a puppy's head and saying: “Buy cork, or the puppy gets it?"
It's the emotional blackmail that makes me squirm.
More importantly, however, do you know if a bottle of wine has a natural cork stopper or a synthetic stopper when you're buying it? I don't.
And I'd HATE to get home and open the bottle only to find out that I've unwittingly killed an Iberian lynx.