on 25 October, 2016

All across England and Wales, vineyards are being harvested. Down winding country lanes come armies of welly-wearing conscripts wielding secateurs and buckets, ready to reap the rewards of our vines. Happily they come, their cheeks ruddy with pride. Half an hour later they’re crawling over muddy clods with lacerated hands, drenched in claggy juice and cold sweat, as if ploughing through an endurance race.

on 12 October, 2016

So, George The Bear is back. It’s hard for some of us oldies to fathom, but there are those under, say, 40 who can’t actually remember Hofmeister and feel the cultural jolt supplied by the return of both the bear and the beer whose marketing campaigns it used to front.

on 16 September, 2016

It’s all true. Wine writers loaf around in a state of partial inebriation and partial undress, bitching about having to taste free wine all day and using recondite words like malolactic, terroir and recondite. 

on 15 August, 2016

Procrastination required far more effort before the internet. Locating endless pages of time-wasting distraction necessitated a printed catalogue, and king of them all was Innovations. Subtitled Tomorrow’s Products ... Today! it was the mail-order equivalent of a fairground novelty stall, selling such junk as zip-up ties and big toe straighteners.

on 28 July, 2016

The UK is the world’s largest market for Champagne and after years of decline sales have finally started to pick up once more. Volume sales have grown 0.7% and values are up 1% (IRI, year to March 2016) and it is now worth more than £250 million in the UK off-trade alone. It therefore beggars belief to learn that the Comité Champagne has decided to scrap its annual London tasting.

on 04 July, 2016

Other than sandcastles, it’s generally inadvisable to build things on sand. It’s pretty much the exact opposite of a solid foundation. Building on sand is like drinking seawater when you’re dehydrated or reading tabloids when you want balanced reporting: a self-defeating exercise.

on 21 June, 2016

Last month’s OLN Wine Report highlighted some of the most prominent issues currently facing the off-trade. Taken in isolation, the report’s findings make gloomy reading – shrinking product ranges, supermarket turmoil, lack of innovation and a decline in overall wine sales across the country.

on 07 June, 2016

It’s little surprise to see that Carlsberg’s Euro 2016 special, er, brew is a 4.1% abv golden ale. It’s a product spec that’s become the default setting for any beer launch that wants to tick boxes around modern beer trends without risk of causing offence.

on 29 April, 2016

Do anything too regularly and it soon becomes a chore. Stop sniggering at the back. It’s as true for wine tasting as it is for data entry. I know, poor us. Try telling anyone with a normal job how unlucky we are and I doubt you’ll get much sympathy, but the fact remains that there are thousands of different wines and most of them taste pretty average.

on 11 April, 2016

Whatever your outlook, it’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture. Retailers are too often introspective, focused on what’s happening within their own four walls. Sales reps can get lost in monthly targets and fail to appreciate the longer-term needs of their customers. Wine writers spend far more time tweeting other wine writers about wine writing than considering what readers actually want.

on 11 March, 2016

Some things make better comebacks than others. The Phantom Menace was trite, The Force Awakens was triumphant. Cadbury ironically relaunched the Wispa and it’s still thriving nine years later, whereas its Aztec bar bombed after optimistically returning as the Aztec 2000. Heart-throb boy-band Take That’s comeback album enjoyed huge success, but poodle rock hellraisers Guns ’n’ Roses? Axl Rose is 54 now. Welcome To The Jumble Sale.

on 11 March, 2016

Brewdog founder James Watt was forced to admit his appearance on BBC fly-on-the-wall documentary Who’s The Boss? was “a bit of a disaster” this week after his behaviour sparked a vicious backlash. He was dubbed embarrassing, rude and a “professional arsehole” in his ill-fated bid to hire an area manager in front of the watching public, while wholesaler Best of British Beer even said it was delisting Brewdog beers and giving away any remaining stock as a result.

on 11 March, 2016

In the fifth century, Ireland suffered from a reptile dysfunction. It happens to the best of us. Pesky pagan snakes all over the place, slippery anti-Christian evangelists making a nuisance of themselves, shedding their skin, swallowing hamsters whole, hypnotising Mowgli, sticking their tongue out at everyone. That kind of thing. 

on 09 March, 2016

The most willfully provocative tenet of the Brewdog employee charter is: “We blow shit up.” We know because we were told dozens of times on last night’s BBC fly-on-the-wall documentary Who’s The Boss?. It remains to be seen if the statement's pubic airing causes problems for brewery co-founder James Watt next time he goes through airport security.

on 12 February, 2016

We’ve all done it. A customer asks a straight question, you give a crooked answer. On good days that might be through a genuine mistake. On bad days it might be through stress. But on most days it’s simply refusing to admit not knowing the answer. Having dealt them all during my time behind the counter, I now hear them all back as a customer.

on 12 February, 2016

If you knew the secret to packaging a discerning mixed drink from a great cocktail bar you’d bottle it, right? And by bottle it we don’t mean cower in the corner from the challenge, we mean actually stick the cocktail in a bottle.

on 19 January, 2016

One of the wine industry’s self-imposed missions is to simplify a highly complicated product. The reasoning seems straightforward enough – by making wine more easily comprehensible it becomes less threatening, thereby increasing consumer engagement and boosting sales.

on 19 January, 2016

January. The most mediocre of months. Beginning with a horrific hangover and ending with a tax return, it’s a desperate time that requires desperate measures.

on 06 November, 2015

My 12-times table is ninja fast. Not just up to 10, either – that’s kid’s stuff. I’m talking dozens of dozens, hundreds even. I’ve even got favourites: 38 times 12 is 456 – pleasingly sequential; 50 times 12 is 600 – an easy one, but with satisfying roundness. Then there’s the evergreen classic 74 times 12, giving not just two but three fat ladies, 888.

on 02 October, 2015

Cider: that was my first booze of choice. In its limited-edition coloured bottles, it was the height of sophistication – in the public parks of Bedford. I was no snob though, oh no. I would also sometimes drink Mirage and Taboo.

on 10 September, 2015

few years ago I remember rushing into a supermarket with a few like-minded colleagues, like kids in a sweet shop, filling trolleys with clearance wines, which were perfectly good but the retailer had decided to cull the range and these were the victims, the shelf-warmers – genuine half-price bargains for once.

on 04 September, 2015

There’s something irresistible about stories unveiling the dirty secrets of a profession: politicians blow billions on garden gnomes; athletes busted mainlining Red Bull; hacks distort facts for salacious headlines.

on 14 August, 2015

In July, BBC Radio 4 broadcast an episode of The Food Programme entitled New Wine generation.

on 10 July, 2015

Picture your favourite Champagne. Perhaps you’ve got more than one. Either way, I expect it occurred to you almost instantaneously, and that you conjured up an image of the bottle in your mind. Now ask yourself: why is it your favourite?

on 18 June, 2015

On the surface, life seems generally predictable and familiar. Alarms wake us at the same time every day, insurance premiums go up every year, pubs sell Pinot Grigio by the glass.

on 29 May, 2015

During the short time when cat food came under my remit at Marks & Spencer, I learned two interesting facts.

on 15 May, 2015

Im not sure how to listen to music any more. I don’t mean that I’m sticking earphones into the wrong holes (you don’t make that mistake twice), I'm talking about the way music is accessed.

on 17 April, 2015

Is your decanter half full or half empty? Some people look at the UK  wine trade and see declining sales, punitive tax and low average prices. I prefer to see recovering sales, decelerating duty and everyday affordability.

on 10 April, 2015

Wine marketing only gets criticised for two things: being outdated, conservative and repetitious; or being modern, radical and original.

on 10 April, 2015

recently had to explain the phrase “to have your cake and eat it” to my young son, and it got me thinking about the wine trade.

on 20 March, 2015

wine merchant’s portfolio has to speak for itself. There’s no point having eye-catching merchandising or an integrated social media strategy if the wines themselves aren’t good enough. Here are seven wines that tell me whether a wine shop is worth its salt. How many are on your shelves?

on 13 March, 2015

Just when it seemed like a degree of normality was descending on Cheshunt, the stage could be set for yet another twist in the Tesco tale.

on 06 March, 2015

Imagine if the recordings of the Berlin Philharmonic, the works of Monet  or the performances of Usain Bolt or Cristiano Ronaldo became the sole preserve of the ultra wealthy, kept out of the sight, sound and reach of 99% of the world’s population.

on 27 February, 2015

It was in a bar on the other side of the world earlier this week that I first heard whispers Dan Jago might be making a sensational return to Tesco and the BWS department he was suspended from last October.

on 20 February, 2015

few years ago I requested that a wine back label be changed, getting rid of the word “charcuterie” as a food match. While many of us eat charcuterie, most of us don’t call it that – we talk about cold meats, cold cuts or just ham, salami, or whatever it actually is. I believe that consumers need to be spoken to in their own language, plain and simple.

on 13 February, 2015

remember when having an undercut with curtains was fashionable. I got mine done at Tony’s Barber Shop in Foster Hill Road in Bedford and, to complete the look, I wore 10-hole green DM boots, baggy jeans and a long-sleeved U2 T-shirt.

on 16 January, 2015

You could be forgiven for thinking that the political frenzy surrounding a general election means those in power take their eye off the important day-to-day matters we pay them to look after and jump in a cab to the next photo op.

on 16 January, 2015

Wine must be the only everyday product that has such a cavernous gulf between the knowledge of those who sell it and most of those who drink it.

on 16 December, 2014

As the end of each year approaches, there comes an instinctive urge to start predicting what the future holds. But for the world of wine, where the vagaries mean something as fundamental as production becomes utterly unpredictable, any kind of clairvoyance is probably best avoided.

on 21 November, 2014

As the Oddbins empire crumbled in 2011, a producer found itself on the receiving end of a rather nasty call from the retailer, demanding more wine when it still hadn’t paid for the last lot. It was a particularly unpleasant example of supplier relations going bad.

on 21 November, 2014

Hey everyone, ’tis the season to be jolly! And when I say jolly, I mean ... drunk. right? Let’s not be squeamish: for most of the UK population, this is pretty much routine logic. Festivity means celebration, celebration means having a drink, and that inevitably equals inebriation, to a greater or lesser extent.

on 07 November, 2014

Being wrong about a subject as massive as wine is as inevitable as  selling more claret at Christmas. Even the trade’s most well-worn clichés celebrate wrongness. You know the ones: I haven’t confused Bordeaux for Burgundy since lunch; I hate Chardonnay but I love Chablis. Oh how we laughed.

on 06 November, 2014

In the early 1990s red kites were reintroduced to the Chiltern Hills, having being hunted to extinction in the late 19th century. Now they’re established, conservationists advise residents not to feed them – they want the numbers of birds to be in equilibrium with their natural food source.

on 24 October, 2014

Hand-picked, whole bunch, punched down, 50% old French for 12 months. For most people, that sentence is utterly impenetrable. Is it about flowers? Bananas? Abused Parisian pensioners?

on 23 October, 2014

Dacia, the Renault-owned Romanian car manufacturer, recently launched a hatchback at under £6,000, yet people are still buying VW Golfs at twice the price. Why?

on 10 October, 2014

Few countries take beer more seriously than Belgium.

on 10 October, 2014

One of the biggest challenges in wine retail is the right mix between wines of passion and wines of practicality.

on 19 September, 2014

Product, price, place and promotion: the four Ps of marketing. It may be corporate jargon, but it works. Sadly, promotion and price are all too often considered one and the same thing within wine retail.

on 04 September, 2014

Every September, as millions of children return to school, so the wine trade sharpens its pencils and girds its liver in readiness for the new term. Here are five ways to make the most of it.

on 15 August, 2014

Don’t judge a book by its cover, don’t believe everything you read, don’t follow the crowd.

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English wine: a happy harvest for Christmas

All across England and Wales, vineyards are being harvested. Down winding country lanes come armies of welly-wearing conscripts wielding secateurs and buckets, ready to reap the rewards of our vines. Happily they come, their cheeks ruddy with pride. Half an hour later they’re crawling over muddy clods with lacerated hands, drenched in claggy juice and cold sweat, as if ploughing through an endurance race.

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