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Our work: Elevating prosecco, with Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG

“[Prosecco wines] are delicious; they seem to make happy moments happier” – Andrew Jefford, Financial Times [paywall].

Today, on National Prosecco Day, we have shared in our newsletter how we think Awareness Days like this are a great opportunity to tap into a new audience, drawn in by the fun of a social-media driven ‘holiday’. In the newsletter, we drew a parallel between the way ‘Days Of’ function in marketing, drawing people into a deeper, richer seam of information, and the way prosecco opens minds and palates to the nuances of Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore.

Does a wine have to be ‘serious’ to be good?

Andrew Jefford’s glowing Financial Times article shows that the perceived levity of prosecco, it’s apparent lack of ‘seriousness’, is no longer an impingement to its popularity even among the most highbrow wine drinkers. His exploration of the complexities of the wine as you move from the DOC plains to the precariously steep hills of the DOCG gives a feel of unpacking a Russian doll. There’s always more to learn, another incredible wine to discover as you climb ever steeper into the mountains. But that’s balanced by the everyday pleasure to be had in the easy-going lift of familiar prosecco.

Our work with Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore

Swirl Wine Group has been working with Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore for several years and over that time we have held strong to one essential truth: very few wines ever gain cultural relevance. Most wines are not household names (unless you’re round ours with the other wine geeks!). Prosecco-with-a-small-‘p’, or prosecco DOC, has become a cultural phenomenon. It represents a carefree happiness – it represents fun. One the one hand, this can only be a good thing. But on the other, when prosecco begins to appear as a label on bath products, cakes, even paint colours, this success begins to erode the connection of the wine to its agricultural heart. With a ten-fold increase in exports in the last decade, it’s no wonder that, as Jefford puts it, prosecco seemed to ‘dance away from seriousness’.

When we first began working with Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore it was essential to us to address this perception. The DOCG hills, despite their deep-rooted cultural and historical relevance in the region, had given their name and image to a wine style which became associated with quite a shallow approach to wine drinking.

So, our mission was to unpick this.

How did we do it?

First, we tackled the prejudice against prosecco of all types by wine professionals and those who felt themselves ‘discerning’ drinkers. In every kind of art or cultural creativity there is an inherent dichotomy between the elevated, uncompromising and aspirational and the quotidian and accessible. We see it in literature, we see it in food, we see it in art and music and wine, too. We made it our mission to show that this principle – this dichotomy – applied to prosecco.

We did this, perhaps counter-intuitively, by embracing complexity.

We focused on the mountains, describing Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore as ‘mountain wines’ – a visual way to describe the difference between lowland plain DOC and DOCG wines. We focused on the complexity of the winemaking process. On the centuries old UNESCO-recognised system of grass terracing. On the single vineyard Rive. On the staggeringly steep vineyards which have to be maintained by hand.

How is prosecco seen now?

What we’ve achieved, as seen in Jefford’s article, is a shift change in the way that prosecco – especially Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore is seen. We’ve embraced all the nuances of the DOCG with the confident geekiness you’d usually find applied to regions known best for their top fine wines. We think we’ve shown that fine wine can come from anywhere – even places where the market is most familiar with entry-level, accessible wines. And this National Prosecco Day we raise a glass to the gate-opening simply delicious proseccos, as well as the filigree-fine, elegant mountain wines of Prosecco Superiore.

 

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How we hosted a global conference digitally

We explore how the virtual format of The Old Vine Conference created an environment in which the conference’s aims could thrive.

The Old Vine Conference was created with a singular aim: galvanising a global movement to nurture and value great old vines, and their wines.

With a global outlook at the heart of their ethos, a digital conference was a great opportunity to give their message a truly international reach and focus with Swirl Wine Group acting as conference and PR partner, executing the events and securing coverage.

An incredible global response

We had an incredible response to the first Old Vine Conference, with over five hundred guests from more than twenty countries. It would have been unlikely to have achieved such a range with an in-person conference. We achieved 29 pieces of coverage for our client, in publications including The Telegraph and the Financial Times. Not to mention extensive features in the trade press.

Even more significantly, The Old Vine Conference also received hundreds of emails from new old vine champions all over the world who had been able to tune in and learn about why this ancient vines are so vital.

Connecting likeminded experts

The really transformative, powerful thing about this conference being held digitally was its ability to foster connections which otherwise would have been challenging. In almost every region and every country there are passionate, visionary individuals with a deep level of knowledge of their own specific old vines who had no idea that there were people like them, doing similar things in another part of the world. There was a parable send of excitement – of gratitude, even – when people were able to learn from each other in this way.

Changing perceived wisdom

Prior to this conference, there had been a palpable sense that the trade was acquiescing to the loss of these heritage vineyards. There was a belief that it was too hard to communicate to consumers why old vines are so special, an attitude which had bred apathy in some quarters.

But by bringing together people like Marco Simonit in Italy, Dylan Grigg in Australia and Jean-Philippe Roby in France – highly respected practitioners with incredible applied knowledge and understanding of how to cultivate these old vineyards – has completely upended accepted wisdom.

The digital format meant that these experts are no longer lone voices in the wilderness. They have been presented to the trade as a united, loud front.

As Sarah Abbott MW says:

“Since our first event in March, we have been contacted by passionate winemakers and old vines experts from around the world who want to engage with our initiative. This shows that there is a real need to harness this passion and turn it into real actions that can help secure the future of old vines around the world.

We have already started to build a network of regional ambassadors and producer sponsors around the world which will allow us to continue to develop future events and connections.”

But in-person meetings are still important

The one failing of this digital conference format is that we couldn’t share the selection of old vine wines we wanted to. While each of these wines may seem disparate, when united in a tasting under the banner of ‘old vines’ you can trace the effect these heritage vines have on their wines.

This future hope was reflected in our recent survey of virtual versus in-person events. 68% people said that the ability to taste and connect with others could not be replicated online, an important lesson as we come to plan future Old Vine Conferences.

View the coverage

You can view the full coverage from the first and second Old Vine Conferences here: Conference 1 and Conference 2.

 

 

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Survey results: virtual vs in-person events

Last month, we conducted a survey to explore attitudes to virtual versus in-person events in the context of the governments’ easing of COVID-19 restrictions.

We surveyed a tight group of people: only those who had attended one of Swirl’s events in the last 12 months.* This decision ensured that the results were highly relevant to Swirl and could help us make decisions in a couple key areas for us: creating events which serve our attendees best, and making eco-sustainable choices.

But while these results are highly specific to Swirl, we still think they’re worth sharing for their general relevance to our industry.

In-person tastings

We asked respondents to rate the following topics, ranked here in order of importance:

  1. Opportunities to meet winemakers and importers face to face
  2. Opportunity to network and discuss wines with peers
  3. Ability to taste at own pace
  4. Tasting from full bottles
  5. Opportunities to sample wines with food

Notably, 68% of respondents highly valued meeting winemakers face-to-face. 54% of people also liked having the ability to taste at their own pace, and enjoyed networking opportunities.

On the other hand, 68% of people didn’t relatively find it important to be able to taste from full bottles in-person. 88% of people also said they didn’t value tasting wines with food. In a later question, 68% of people said food at tastings isn’t relatively important, but it is nice to have (see chart below). This was an interesting finding for us, as clients often ask us to present food specifically paired with the wines at in-person tastings.

Other key findings regarding in-person events included the following charts which show that respondents are generally flexible about how in-person events are structured – they’re mainly just happy to be back!

Virtual Tastings

We asked respondents to rate the following topics, ranked here in order of importance:

  1. Opportunity to meet a wider range of winemakers live virtually who perhaps wouldn’t be so easily accessible in UK
  2. Convenience and accessibility
  3. Health security in times of COVID pandemic
  4. Pre-recorded multi-media that you can access at your convenience after the tasting
  5. Tasting and discussing online with others

A key contextual takeaway is that for the whole survey it was apparent that people were evenly split in terms of the importance they placed on COVID-19 health safety at the time of taking the survey. Given that by mid-June over 60% of UK adults had been double vaccinated, this reflects the public mood.

For the purpose of thinking about virtual events long-term, 70% of respondents comparatively thought that hybridised events should continue to be offered:

 

This tallies with the 54% of people who said that, relatively, the accessibility and convenience of virtual events was of most appeal to them. We had a number of additional comments which pointed out that, geographically, in-person tastings tend to be London-centric, which means they’re not as accessible for people not living in the capital.

But for us, one of the most interesting findings was that 68% of respondents said that, similarly, the opportunity to meet ‘live’ a wider range of winemakers who perhaps wouldn’t be so easily accessible in UK was the main appeal of virtual events for them. In tandem with the finding that another 68% of people relatively valued in-person tastings for this very same reason – to interact with winemakers, we know that having this connection in any way possible is very important for event attendees.

“I would just like to add that the only thing that is not useful about virtual tastings is allowing winemakers to talk endlessly about how wonderful they are. Swirl is very good at making them keep to the point!”

A key concern for the Swirl team when we created our digital arm, Swirl in the Cloud, was replicating as best as we could the experience of chatting to peers you’d experience at an in-person tasting. While necessity is the mother of invention, it’s still notable that now virtual tastings are no longer the only option, 60% said that, comparatively, discussing wines online with others was not important to them.

All in all, virtual tastings present a very efficient use of time but they’re still not seen as a desired alternative to the ‘real thing’ – in-person events.

Sustainability

Sustainability, in both environmental and business terms, is vitally important to Swirl’s future. We’ve noticed a sharp uptick in awareness of eco-sustainable practices in terms of sample delivery and the execution of events. In this context, there are benefits to both virtual and in-person events.

Virtual events reduce travel, especially air travel. But it’s necessary to send samples out individually, whereas in-person tastings require only a few bottles.

We found that, comparably, 75% of respondents rated recyclable packaging as very important. But, given everyone has different means of processing information, opinions were split on the relevance of printed materials.

Other feedback

We were really happy to see some lovely feedback about Swirl in the Cloud events, and in-person Swirl events.

“I love Sarah’s presenting style – the combination of wine, geo-politics, history and culture is always fascinating. More of that, please!”

We also got some valuable feedback on what key information is vital for event attendees. Of particular importance was the label information breakdown: grape, ABV, RRP, vintage. Tasting notes and further background was considered less important.

These are valuable insights for Team Swirl. If you responded, thank you very much for your input. We hope wine trade colleagues find this information as useful as we do.

*50 respondents from across the UK wine industry who had attended a Swirl Wine Group led event in the past 12 months.
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Pioneering producer connections

At Swirl Wine Group, we specialise in helping emerging wine regions reach their full potential in the UK wine market. For ‘emerging’ or lesser-known wine regions it can be a battle to match the great wines we know are out there with the passionate sales people who we know will get those wines into people’s glasses.

One of the biggest barriers that we encounter is extracting the compelling, saleable story behind great producers – and then presenting clearly to potential stockists. So, for one of our key clients, Wines of Georgia, we devised a pioneering solution: Georgian Wine Connect.

Georgian wine in the UK is booming, but it remains a small, young market. The old markets of Russia and the CIS still consume the majority of Georgian wine. But the new markets of Western Europe and North America are where sales are growing most rapidly.

The Georgian National Wine Agency has pursued this strategy of market diversification for ten years. The health and survival of their wine sector depends on it. It is impossible to overstate the importance of wine to Georgia’s culture, identity, society and economy.

Of course, new markets demand new approaches. Good wine is not enough. Markets such as the UK require consistent access to reliable wine information, and story-led marketing. Georgia has the wines. But not the information. Georgian Wine Connect is a project and online platform to develop and share the details of wine and winery that have proven difficult for trade buyers to find.

We are inspired, of course, by the excellent platforms run by the generic bodies of major wine exporters. Australia is a fine example, (we promise that we didn’t mean to copy the name!).

But our work with Georgian Wine Connect has required that we didn’t only provide a platform for producers and buyers to connect. We have worked with over 50 export-ready producers, surveying them (in Georgian where necessary) to identify their most promising wines for the UK, and to present their story and offer in the most accessible way with producers filterable by winery size, wine style and positioning.

The Georgian Wine Connect platform combines a producer directory and events hub. Our program of in-person and virtual tastings are hosted on the platform, as well as a series of monthly Doing Business webinars that will start at the end of June. UK buyers, journalists and educators are invited to log into the hub, join events, and request information, live chats or a zoom call with the representatives from wineries.

Together with the Indie Trade Alliance initiative, the winners of whom we interviewed this month, we’re providing a progressive, user-friendly way of grabbing one of key clients even more market share.

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Interview: the winners of Wines of Georgia’s Indie Trade Alliance Fund

Each month we speak to a someone doing things a little differently in our industry. Usually, this takes the form of an interview with an interesting woman in our trade, but this month we decided to do something a little different. Our newsletter highlighted the novel approach we’ve taken to connecting export-ready producers with UK retailers via the Georgian Wine Connect hub. Wines of Georgia are one of our key clients, and we’re proud to showcase how their trust in us has enable us to come up with a pioneering solution for a common issue faced by producers in emerging wine regions: how to get their wines in front of consumers in key markets.

In tandem with Georgian Wine Connect, we also worked with Wines of Georgia to develop an Indie Trade Alliance fund giving small and medium independent UK retailers the opportunity to apply for a grant to use to increase their exposure of Georgian wine to their customers. We had some fantastic entries, but, together with our client, we whittled it down to the strongest proposals.

This month, we talked to those winners about how initiatives like Georgian Wine Connect and the Indie Trade Alliance can have a positive impact on their business, showing why they’re such an important part of what we do at Swirl.

The typical way to get people interested in wines from new places is to get them to taste taste taste! But the pandemic has put restraints on these sorts of marketing activities – so we asked the winners how they’re adapting their marketing of Georgian wine to mitigate these barriers.

Danilo di Salvo of Georgian Wine specialist Gvino UK admits that they’ve pivoted to be fully online. “We have invested in a part-time Marketing Director who looks after our digital marketing activities [and have] re-vamped our website for a better use experience. For example, we have included filters to choose a specific bottle of wine based on the questions that we get asked most face-to-face. We have also had to turn to online wine tasting, which we were nervous about at first. However, our online wine tastings have been very successful (with fantastic support from Swirl). We will do more of these in the future.”

But Danilo isn’t the only one who’s innovating. Duncan Findlater of Smith & Gertrude says that “we are going to be taking the wines to people in their own homes through our wine club and through the weekly cheese and wine packs that we send out.” While Chris Coombes of Turton Wines says they’ve initiated “Home Tasting Kits, Online Tastings [for] private and Corporate clients, Mystery Cases with online Youtube Channel presentation, and targeted staff tasting sessions.”

The latter investment is repeated by Emily Silva of The Oxford Wine Company who says part of their grant-winning strategy is to focus “heavily on staff training, which will provide our lovely, enthusiastic staff with all the information they need to spread the word about delicious Georgian wine”.

But there’s also a clear desire to offer ‘normal’ in-store tastings where possible. Tom Boronat of The Salusbury Wine Store & Bar admits “[they’ve] channelled [their] efforts into a higher social media presence and began writing more frequent newsletters […but they’ll] host the event in store as easing of restrictions means we can get away with an indoor tasting’.

One of the most powerful things about an initiative like the Indie Trade Alliance fund for an emerging region like Georgia, is that it gives indies the opportunity to do what they do best: hand sell compelling stories. Wine is enmeshed in Georgian culture in a way that’s quite unique, so the winning plans all explore this significance.

Danilo of Givno UK is putting a strong focus on the cultural importance of wine: “The cuisine from Georgia is absolutely incredible and so we are going to use our generous funding from the GITA to commission a short series of YouTube videos celebrating the relationship between Georgian wine and food from a famous Georgian chef.” Les Hall of The Wright Wine Company agrees: “[I’ve said before] that in order to promote Georgian wine I felt that Georgia as a whole should be promoted and that there should be an exploration of the absolute bond linking family, hospitality, food and wine. Doing all that in a shop is certainly going to be a challenge. But we’re up for it!”.

This cultural focus also rides on the coattails of sweeping wine trends – something Carrie Carruthers of Carruthers & Kent will definitely exploit. “We can’t quite believe it ourselves how through the roof [the rising demand for natural and Amphora wine has] gone, in particular with young people.”

Speaking to the winners of the Indie Trade Alliance has also highlighted how powerful a tool this will be to enable Georgia, a still ‘emerging’ region to gain even more market share in the valuable UK wine market.

Isa Bal of Trivet restaurant says “we have plans to work with a number of producers directly at this point in time it gives us a good idea what we can do.” Emily of The Oxford Wine Company agrees, saying the tool is “very efficient and a great way to connect without needing to travel either abroad or to London” – highlighting the success of portals like Georgian Wine Connect which engender personal connection in tandem with the ease and accessibility of online tools.

Danilo of Givno UK says it all with his comment: “This is a fantastic innovation – well done to all of those involved. We have plans to increase our wine variety significantly over the coming 12-18 months and so this tool will be invaluable. We currently source our wines through our relationships in Georgia, which has both pros and cons. One of the cons is that we may miss out on bringing some fantastic wine to the UK because we simply don’t know about it. This tool will help us mitigate this issue.”

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End of term report

Sarah Abbott shares her end of term report reflecting on our work and our clients’ successes in a turbulent 2020.

2020 began in disarray. We had the best laid plans – but my fantastic team and clients kept calm and carried on. Together, we found ways to be adaptable, creative and resilient in order to deliver what was needed, sensitively.

At the time we didn’t grasp what a crucible of adjustment it was. Fortunately, towards the end of 2019, we’d become interested in the growing trend in other industries – especially events and conferences – for blending in-person events with virtual augmentation. We had begun to research it to see how it could translate for wine – which gave us a great basis for the wholesale pivot to digital everything.

Our job is to communicate and engage on behalf of our clients, as well as assisting commercially. And I’m proud that we achieved this, in a time when promoting a product, wine, which is all about togetherness, contravened the essence of our daily lives.

So, we came up with Swirl in the Cloud – proof that every cloud has a silver lining.

From the get-go we were strict about the structure. The most important thing was fostering a sense of togetherness so, at the most basic level, either everyone got the wine, or no one did. So, we really jumped on the informational webinar format. Packing these presentations chock-full of great data and information has helped us learn so much about what really engages our clients’ audiences.

A May report from McKinsey showed that in March to May of 2020, “we have vaulted five years forward in consumer and business digital adoption in a matter of around eight weeks”. I can definitely believe it. Digital events are a great democratiser. They ensure equal access for everyone – whether you’re shielding, less mobile or just can’t get child care. That’s incredibly valuable – as we recognised in the opportunity it gave us to connect with people from across the globe. For example, for Wines of Georgia, we did a webinar about Qvevri and were joined by people from 20 different countries. Among them were some winemakers who had just started making qvevri wines in South Africa, and another using the method in Lebanon. Without that connectivity, we would never have been able to introduce them to some Georgian qvevri specialists who are now helping and advising them. That feels incredibly rewarding.

Looking forward, there are several things that this year has extracted from us which I don’t think we’ll ever put back. Clients have really risen to the occasion, making exquisite videos showcasing terroir. Combining this kind of content with in-person events is here to stay. It’s hugely valuable, especially given the high per-attendee cost of in-person events. Of course, in many ways in-person events are irreplaceable. There’s nothing like showcasing wine in the context in which it’s to be enjoyed – and we want to get back to hospitality venues as soon as possible. But there’s a high level of wastage and no-shows with the current model. I predict that this will change with a swing to smaller, more flexible in-person events blended with a digital element.

Wines of Georgia 

It came as no surprise that the team in Georgia were some of the first to embrace digital innovation – they know the importance of being creative and adaptable in difficult times.

In collaboration with their team, we’ve run 13  different virtual tastings and presentations. Year on year sales of Georgian wine to the UK have increased by 240%. We now have over 60 merchants and retailers stocking Georgian wines – a fantastic result for the producers and for our wine market. We’re also so pleased to report that importers have shared what an invaluable resource the in-depth online courses and training have made to their sales.

JFOODO

This year we’ve been running two different projects for JFOODO – one on their wines and one on sake.

Just before lockdown 1, at the beginning of February, I was in Japan. I am a complete sake novice, but though the style and tone of sake is so different from wine, I find that the depth of the culture, heritage, craft and intersection of place, personality and technique is very familiar to me. It’s just as rich as wine, so I’m really thrilled to be running two events on sake later this year.

Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superior DOCG

Conegliano Valdobbiadene is the premium end of Prosecco. And latest figures show that they have maintained their 2020 exports at the same level as 2019, in which exports to the UK from this specific zone doubled in volume and increased by 80% in value.

This year, we hosted six virtual tastings and supported the Consorzio with two virtual press trips. It was revelatory that a virtual event allowed us a deeper insight than what would be achievable in person. For example, we worked with Professor Digeo Tomasi, a leading authority on soil science and its effect on wine style. Using recorded video and live Zoom we were able to take attendees all over the region, sharing technical analysis of the aromatic compounds which resulted from each different soil type. While tasting the wines from each zone. It was an enormous piece of work to bring that together but it was really worth it to feel like we broke through those last vestiges of Prosecco prejudice.

Wine GB

We’ve just completed a really interesting project with Wine GB, focussing on classic method sparkling wine. The UK is emerging as a wine making nation and it was tremendously exciting to be able to work with Wine GB to explore how to express our identity and place in the world of wine.

We devised a communications hierarchy for how to talk about and differentiate classic method sparkling wine from England and Wales. We wanted to articulate the uniqueness of our wines made in our terroir, informed by our culture. I was really keen to move away from that trite way of talking about UK sparkling wine – in comparison to Champagne. Of course, Champagne is the benchmark for great classic method sparkling – but we’re not wannabes. We have an even more extreme climate and a much younger wine culture. We revel in the audacity, the boldness and experimentation which typifies our wine culture.

We were able to show a range of wines to predominantly trade journalists, and it was brilliant to hear them saying ‘I’ve never heard of this producer before, but this wine is fantastic’.

Respected by Gaggenau

This is a consultancy project, and one I’m really proud to be a part of. I love working on projects where wine is part of the story but not the only character. It puts wine in the broader context of humanity – a world which is broader than the ‘fellowship of wine geeks’ (among whom I’m happy to live).

Gaggenau makes really high-end, craft-focussed kitchen appliances. Their ‘Respected by…’ project celebrates culinary culture, of which wine is a part, by asking three curators from the worlds of wine, food and design to judge nominations from regional experts in each field. I’m so delighted that wine is being considered in the same breath as design and culinary excellence and look forward to sharing more when the winners are announced next year.

 

 

 

 

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Brave new world – Gunma craft sake with Master of Wine Sarah Abbott

Gunma craft sake

For a winelover, discovering sake is like being teleported to a new planet. The balance, aromas, texture and profile are so different – but the richness of culture, heritage, craft, climate and, yes, terroir, is reassuring familiar. Sarah Abbott MW became interested in sake while visiting Japanese wine regions in 2019 (and being treated to some seriously good sake by her hosts). In February this year, she visited the rural, land-locked prefecture of Gunma to find out more about Jetro’s project to supports the many small sake breweries there, and to raise awareness of the ‘terroir’ approach to rice selection and cultivation.

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Almost there: virtual trade and press trips to Georgia

The National Wine Agency of Georgia had hoped to host their usual (and hugely popular) trade and press trips to Georgia this Autumn, but given the ongoing disruption to international travel, regrettably, this is not possible.

However, conscious that interest and curiosity for Georgian wine among the UK wine trade remains high, the Georgian wine agency and producers have worked together with Sarah Abbott MW and team at Swirl to create engaging virtual trips for the wine trade and press.

Held over two consecutive mornings, each trips will include virtual tastings with producers talking live from marani and vineyard, as well as presentations and video footage on Georgian terroir and wine styles. A key theme of the trips is to show the contemporary diversity of Georgia, and the richness of her wine culture, and indigenous grapes. Georgian exports to the UK have boomed in the last two years, but there are still myths to be busted and prejudices to be broken. The quality, creativity and relevance of Georgian wine has never been higher, and the teams have worked to express this through thoughtful itineraries and accompanying materials.

Group size is limited to 12 on each trip, so as to foster engagement and ensure a positive, useful experience for all.

Each attendee will receive a pack containing wines (for virtual tasting), and some Georgian specialities. Sarah Abbott MW says , “While we can’t capture Georgia’s spirit and vitality in a box, we have thought carefully about how to convey some of the sights, sounds and tastes that make Georgia such a delight to experience in person.”

The dates and times of the virtual trips are:

  • Tuesday 13th and Wednesday 14th October 2020 – Press
  • Tuesday 27th and Wednesday 28th October 2020 – Trade
  • 10:00 to 12:00 GMT (13:00 to 15:00 Georgian time)

To express interest in attending the Virtual Trips, or for more information, please contact Sarah Abbott MW on sarah@swirlwinegroup.com, or Madeleine Waters on Madeleine@swirlwinegroup.com.

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Supporting Black Wine Professionals

Image via SevenFifty Daily

In support of black wine professionals.

Black Lives Matter is having its #metoo moment: we think it’s about time that systemic racism became as unacceptable as everyday sexism. Black wine professionals are marginalised in our industry. We shared the following comments and resources for self-education about racism in the wine trade in our June newsletter on 12/6/20. The final two links are articles which have since been published which are also valuable reads.

The bald fact of it is that the wine trade, especially in the UK, is overwhelmingly white. We have thought long and hard about whether we, as a company run by white women, ought to comment on the global narrative and action which has arisen as a consequence of the murder of George Floyd. But in the words of Julia Coney, ‘it’s not that hard to stand up for what is right”.

Privately, we have committed to a revaluation of our business practices. We actively support other women in wine. We know we could and should be doing more to celebrate BAME people in the same fashion. We will be taking our time to evaluate how best to pursue this responsibility moving forward, in tandem with private self-education.

Publicly, we wanted to share these wine-trade-specific resources for self-education and support of black wine professionals. We have also shared a number of social media hashtags which we have also found useful.

First watch this IGTV from Julia Coney.

This post from her listing some notable black wine professionals (also see the comments) is a good place to start introducing diversity to your bottle-heavy Instagram feed. This is another post from Vinepair doing the same.

Dottie Gaiter’s 47 years as a journalist are worn so lightly. This piece, Being Black in the White World of Wine, was as moving as it was matter-of-fact. “One would think any industry that revolves around hospitality would want to be viewed as progressive, anti-racist, and inclusive [… But] inclusion simply is not on the minds of many in this industry.” Side note: we have also ordered a copy of Dottie and her husband John’s spine-tingly-feeling book: Love by the Glass: Tasting Notes from a Marriage.

Follow Julia’s new platform, Black Wine Professionals.

These hashtags have been a good resource for us too: #blackwineprofessionals #blackwomeninwine

With so many anti-racist texts currently sold out in the UK, we’ve also been exploring some great podcasts seated at the intersection of race and wine:

Hip Hop and Wine is awesome. The tagline describes it as a ‘blending the worlds of fine wine and popular culture’ and it does it so well. Episode 28 was particularly interesting because it brought together Amelia Singer (of The Wine Show fame) with rapper JR Boss. Host Jermaine Stone and JR Boss have a fascinating, if brief, discussion about the fact that wine is not brand-centric hampers it’s discovery by a host of new drinkers.

The Colour of Wine is another must-listen. We are slowly listening our way through the back catalogue, but particularly liked this episode featuring Brenae Royal of EJ Gallo. She touches on the value of her relationship with mentor Deborah Juergensen: “Deb started out as one of the first few women winemakers in a very male-dominated field. It’s been amazing to have her as a mentor both professionally and personally.”

Does The Wine Industry Have A Racism Problem? An article from Forbes featuring Brenae Royal, Wanda Mann and Regine Rousseau. Examples of systemic racism in the industry which keep recurring revolve around black people being questioned about their qualifications and right to be in a wine space; the suggestion that a black person is included in a wine space/ panel/ etc as a diversity token. A valuable read to check the way we approach black wine professionals.

What Being An Ally Really Means, by Shakera Jones aka @BlackGirlsDineToo. The article includes a call for influencers to use their platforms to drive social change, rather than shying away from race-related statements for fear of losing followers or potential work. A good example of concrete action she references is certain wine influencers requesting a statement on their response to #BlackLivesMatter and diversity policies from brands before they agree to work with them. A simple but powerful action.