New year. New contracts. New clients. We’re looking into 2022 with great optimism – and are excited to share details of our work and non-profit projects with you. Please do get in touch if you would like to know more about any of the events or projects.
We’ve worked with the National Wine Agency of Georgia for six years. The first few were all about making Georgian wine (and Georgia) more familiar. Georgian wine was either weird or unknown to our market. (In the early years, one trade show listed the Wines of Georgia stand under USA in their brochure index.) Georgian wines became seen as intriguing, perhaps, but not as commercially viable. But we’ve worked hard to show that Georgian wine isn’t like that at all. It has its quirky, idiosyncratic wines, but it’s an industry rejuvenated by its drive to find new export markets.
We think that 2022 is the tipping year for Georgian wine. In 2021 exports to the UK increased by 72% on the previous year, to 730,000 bottles. We are now the fastest-growing of Georgia’s new western markets. Wine is critical to Georgia’s agrarian economy, and we’re inspired by sharing the pride that Georgians have in their identity as the world’s original winemakers.
Our priority for this year is to build on the work we’ve already done to make Georgian producers more visible and accessible. The Georgia Trade Guide (powered by the Global Wine Database) is part of this, a trade resource listing over 90 producers and their wines. Georgian Wine Connect, our trade hub, enables buyers and media to research producers and join us virtually for tastings through the year. We’re also thrilled that the in-person press trips can begin again – Georgia really is a place like no other and planning for our visits in Spring and Autumn is happily resumed.
Conegliano Valdobbiadene Superiore Prosecco DOCG
This year is our fifth working with Conegliano Valdobbiadene, and we’re gratified that the premiumisation of prosecco is really taking off in the UK.
Italian sparkling wine of all denominations is establishing an overarching ‘brand’ in the UK, and a lot of our work is behind the scenes, helping great wines find representation in the UK. Prosecco is still criticised for being too easy – but there are many nervy, distinctive, worthwhile wines made which are finally being more widely distributed here. We want to show in the UK the very best of what prosecco can be.
To do this we’ll be carrying on with masterclasses on focussed themes such as rive, as well as resuming trips to Conegliano Valdobbiadene. We will be putting a big focus on the details, such as terroir, because, with Conegliano Valdobbiadene it’s the beauty that’s in the detail.
Conegliano Valdobbiadene Superiore Prosecco DOCG has welcomed a new director, leading agricultural scientist Diego Tomasi, and we have agreed with him that cultural partnerships will be a key part of our work. We’re excited to be partnering with If Opera, an amazing company which works to make opera accessible and available to a wider audience. Opera and sparkling wine partnerships are nothing new, but If Opera’s ethos chimes with our aim to make the finest Conegliano Valdobbiadene Superiore Prosecco DOCG wines visible and available to all.
Expanding our work in France
Last year we began a partnership with EOC International, a global exports consultancy for French wine, drinks and food. We are delighted to be EOC’s partner for the UK market. We started working with them with on Alliance Riceys, a collective of grower Champagne producers from this historic and exciting part of the Aube. We’ll be working with EOC to take a group of buyers and media to the historic city of Troyes and the vineyards of Les Riceys, as well as showing the wines at trade fairs.
With EOC we’re also bringing D-vine Pro to the UK market. D-vine is a significant innovation in wine service that has the potential to transform the offering of single serves and portable wine tasting portions. We are recruiting the brand ambassador as part of ongoing team building in the UK.
Japan is a paradigm-shifter in many wonderful ways. We started working with Japanese wine (and we’re doing more tastings with them later this year), but on Sarah’s travels in Japan she fell for sake. We’re now working with a group of Sake producers from the prefecture of Gunma, helping them bring their craft Sake to the UK. We held our first event virtually – and producers found new importers as a result. This year, we are kicking off with an in-person masterclass at Pantechnicon. The brewers will be joining virtually Gunma by live link and we are offering the option of a virtual tasting on catch-up for those who can’t make it to London in person.
Old Vine Conference
2022 is set to be a really big year for the Old Vine Conference. Sarah co-founded the non-profit in 2021 to raise awareness for, and create a category for, great old vine wines. The fact that old vines have been in place for such a long period brings with it an embeddedness – in their place, their culture, community, and in local cultivation techniques. Old vines represent a long-term view of farming grapes which is fundamentally regenerative – it’s more than just sustainable, it’s a transcendence of quality and meaning.
Last year Swirl co-hosted three online conferences which attracted huge support from the industry and media. As a result of that support and funding the Old Vine Conference has been able to recruit the brilliant Belinda Stone as head of marketing and memberships to focus on ongoing outreach.
This year, the OVC will be hosting one expanded conference in the autumn and a program of ongoing content and tastings through the year. It’s incredible that we now have the OVC resourced so we can properly harness all the support and energy behind it.
Sarah is a committee judge at IWSC – one of the most dynamic international wine competitions. The committee’s role is to guide the individual judging panels, overseeing results and ensuring there’s consistency. As she says: “I really enjoy judging the IWSC – it has small panels and everyone is paid and the quality of the judges is high. MWs, MSs, experienced wine buyers, journalists, communicators. As someone who oversees the results, the soundness of the panels’ results is high. It shows that great wine really does come from so many corners of the world. Of course, there are established reputations but they still need to be scrutinised. I don’t believe we should reserve reverence for established names. The great thing about this tasting is the open mindedness and the way we award wines from across the globe, including lesser-known regions and terroirs.”
Corporate wine events
We’ve found that demand for well-executed and fun corporate online events has soared. So, we’ve found a way to offer compelling tastings online. We’re collaborating on a series of wine events with Germany-based JI Events, putting together themed tastings with packs sent to recipients before we come together online. What we love about these events is how different parts of the wine world support each other. These events are a great opportunity to introduce people to lesser-known wines from our amazing clients.