Our March Newsletter: The Wine’s The Thing – the power of grass-roots marketing

In our March newsletter we reflect on the power of grass-roots marketing

Last Monday Swirl attended a party with a purpose – the Old Vine Conference’s 2022 launch, co-hosted by our founder, Sarah Abbott MW. The Old Vine Conference is an extraordinary success story; a Sunday-evening side-hustle turned compelling, far-reaching campaign.

Since it was founded a year ago, The Old Vine Conference [OVC] has had real impact: 1300 people registered for the first conference, from more than twenty different countries. There have been 87 individual pieces of coverage across print and digital – generating 2.1 million online article views – and social coverage generated more than 430,000 interactions. Jancis Robinson’s 2021 writing competition, on the theme of old vines, (and inspired by the OVC), had a terrific 136 entries, the IWSC has partnered with the OVC to launch an Old Vine Wine Trophy and there will be and Old Vine Wine Trail at the 2022 London Wine Fair. In essence, the OVC has shown that viticulture is no longer just for geeks – old vine wine puts people viscerally in the vineyards, and they can’t get enough.

There is a type of magic here. We talked to Belinda Stone, Consultant Head of Marketing, about why she thinks that this is old vines’ marketing moment. The ambition to create a new category which is viticultural rather than geographical doesn’t really have precedent. But the time feels right. Never was that more apparent on Monday night, when a cross-section of the trade joined the OVC team for the first time in person to talk about old vine wines. But also, more saliently, to taste them.

To paraphrase Hamlet, the wine’s the thing. The OVC isn’t out to capture the consciences of consumers, so much as they want to capture their imaginations. As we at Swirl know, there is no more powerful way to do this than by putting those wines in people’s glasses. Never has this been more apparent to us than on Monday night when twenty great old vine wines from across the world were brought together in one place.

It was energising to see the emotion and excitement these wines generated in the people tasting them. It’s the first time that wines have been presented together specifically because they’re made from old vines, and it was fascinating to see the purity, the vitality and depth which transcends wine styles and even origins in this fledgling category. To give an idea of the breadth and intrigue of Old Vine wines, we’ve also collated Sarah Abbott MW’s exclusive tasting notes on each of the twenty wines featured last Monday on our blog.

Swirl feel very lucky to play a small part in this movement, thanks to our founder’s involvement. We predict great things to come as the OVC progresses to consumer tastings this summer. And most excitingly, you too can become part of this movement. Whether you join as an individual member, choose to offer support as a producer or generic body or want to volunteer yourself as a Regional Ambassador, the opportunities to help spread the word about old vine wine are endless.

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Our February Newsletter: tech is wine’s new frontier

In our February newsletter we consider wine’s new frontier: technology.

This coming month we have an event which shows how some of the technical adaptations forced on us by the pandemic are here to stay. We’re hosting a Gunma Craft Sake tasting on the 8th March in London, a hybrid event with brewers joining the tasting virtually from Japan. It’s a small example of the hybrids now colonising the event industry – and we think that the wine trade is ready to catch up.

Tech is wine’s new frontier, with all the rewards and hubris of a gold rush. But there’s a sticking point: our trade’s definition of ‘technology’ is imprecise. The ancient Greek tekhnologia (τεχνολογία) referred to the consideration of a systematic whole. And the systematic whole is where wine and tech disintegrate.

As digi-wine expert and 5 Forests founder Polly Hammond pointed out to Sarah at Wine Paris, the reason for this is wine’s fragmented regulatory structure. It prevents the systematic integration of different types of technology, limiting the success of said tech – and also limiting the appetite to invest in tech R&D and implementation in this space to begin with. What’s the motivation to invest when it is impossible to scale up your product globally?

Despite this obstacle, tech is still something we’re positive and excited about. There are areas of our trade where we’re seeing a well-developed, systematic application of scientific knowledge – and it’s happening in vineyards. Take Saturnalia. Using satellite imaging of vineyards, they are seeking to link vineyard practices to the eventual score a wine gets. Now they just need to persuade wineries to allow the publication of the data linking to those vineyards, (but that level of transparency would be worth a whole new newsletter).

A lot of what we think of as ‘wine tech’ is just existing tech applied, currently somewhat awkwardly, to wine.  Founders which have come from other industries were a common theme among the start-ups in the Wine Tech area at Wine Paris a couple of weeks ago. Engineers, gamers, designers. The D-Vine Pro – a new client for us – integrates electronics, engineering and content to address wastage and staff knowledge in wine service, promising to boost wine list profitability alongside customer experience.

Others are applying their tech expertise to wine in one of the most essential areas of the industry: communication.

AI is the basis of two interesting new ventures. The app WineSee, founded by a gaming entrepreneur, aims to make the gathering of wine tasting notes and data seamless and connected. Currently the app is being used for running wine competitions, but they aim to use their data learnings to generate predictive suggestions for consumers. Ultimately, they hope it’ll make the often-confusing world of wine more accessible.

Pix is having MW David Round teach their AI model how to recognise, categorise and recommend wines on their platform. One of the key problems in the wine industry is that data isn’t properly aggregated and linked to CRM systems. At the moment, that’s because the cost of integrating that information is prohibitive given wine’s slim margins. It’s a strange quirk of wine – by all measures a luxury good, full of diversity and specificity – that it’s treated as a low-margin product.

Pix’s AI product could bridge the cost-benefit gap which would bring wine’s communications to the level of comparable industries. So, it makes us question the validity of the heated hostility we see towards tech in wine in general, and AI in particular. Without it, it’ll take us decades to work out the customer journey. And decades to get profits up. And that should worry us all.

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Our January Newsletter: coming up in 2022

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.

D-vine Pro

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.

Wine Judging

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.


What will 2022 look like?

Pre-covid and post-covid worlds are taking shape, with changes almost as significant as those pre and post-war. So what will 2022 look like? We bring your our final newsletter of 2021 with some predictions for next year’s biggest trends in wine.

Digital digs deep

The pandemic has accelerated digital adoption all over the world. And these adaptations will stay. We are at the beginning of new digital possibilities for wine trading, education, investment and more. In our own work at Swirl, virtual tastings now complement in-person events from the earliest stages of planning.

We will always need in-person connection, but virtual events and their digital footprint broaden reach. Guests at our virtual tastings have told us how they value these events for their accessibility – especially important for those who cannot travel easily, and for those balancing child (or other) care. We took up virtual events at Swirl as a problem-solver, but now we’re working on ambitious new ways of improving the experience and theatre of our digital events. And we know we’re not alone.

Positive Patrimony

Wine may be incorrigibly plural, but it’s not uniquely so, and the highlighting of Ancestral Foods as a key trend in the latest Pinterest Predicts vindicates the wine-centric obsession with context, tradition and culture. Ancestral Foods is a concept that celebrates positive patrimony; a preoccupation with authenticity of traditional ingredients, links to the land and the passing down of community wisdom. Wine is rooted in this preoccupation, and we should stop fretting about how complex that makes it, and start embracing it. We saw a connection between Ancestral Foods and The Old Vine Conference, co-founded by Sarah Abbott MW, and of which Swirl is a corporate sponsor. One of the most powerful messages coming from the Old Vine Conferences is how heritage vineyards crack open a concept of vine and wine growing that connects. Including to this growing movement for ancestral foods, and regenerative agriculture.

Don’t sustain, regenerate

Beyond sustainability, regeneration is now the preoccupation for leaders in capital and agriculture. It’s no longer enough to “do no harm” – governments and industry are being forced to address how we can thrive and grow. Already we see much admired and dynamic wine producers describe their approach as “regenerative agriculture”. Don’t dismiss “Regen Ag” as a contrived gimmick. Its aims and principles are influencing agricultural policy all over the world. It’s coming for wine: this article this explains why.

Environmental Accountability

Wine has had a free pass from the consumer scrutiny of environmental impact that has glared upon fashion, travel and broader agriculture. Until recently. Aleesha Hansel’s call for the use of unnecessarily heavy wine bottles to be challenged was supported by Jancis Robinson MW and backed by data from International Wineries for Climate Action that bottle weight and transportation is wine’s biggest single contributor to carbon emissions. The push back she experienced only counterpoints the priceless leadership from IWCA and individuals such as Robinson and Hansel as well as alternative formats advocate Justin Howard Sneyd MW. We should also credit those business pioneers putting sustainable viticulture, wine quality, and environmental impact at the heart of their proposition, such as Melissa Saunders MW of Communal Brands, and Christina Rasmussen of Little Wine.

Destination Wine

With the staycation trend set to continue to the end of 2022 and beyond, we’re poised for the next phase of UK enotourism. It ties to Pinterest’s flagged ‘ancestral foods’ trend: learning about, and consuming, local products is at the heart of the UK’s wine tourism industry. We look forward to the emergence of enotourism experiences influenced by destinations like The Newt. This much hyped concept hotel and cidery is a great example of what can be achieved with wine – placing English wine in a lifestyle context to great effect.


Will you celebrate National Prosecco Day? Our August newsletter

Today is National Prosecco Day. Hold your sighs. Don’t pop your indignant cork.

In the last decade Awareness Days have grown almost as rapidly as prosecco exports.

Awareness Days started with a focus on worthy causes, promoted by governments or campaign groups. Health, the environment, humanitarian causes – an Awareness Day is a great way to raise profile, engage the media, strengthen community and galvanise action. All great purposes.

But then there are Awareness Days which are trivial, playful – even straight up commercial. Case in point: today is not just National Prosecco Day. It’s also National Filet Mignon Day, International Left Handers Day and National Blame Someone Else Day (seriously).

Awareness Days have become a way to advocate for interests more niche and playful than global health issues. In wine, there are days to celebrate what feels like every grape – there are even 17 different days to celebrate winemaking regions. These “Days Of” can be a great way to build customer interaction by piggy-backing on high-engagement social media trends.

Awareness Days thrive on herd mentality and sociable frivolity. We engage with these discussions because we see others doing the same. Purists or technocrats may sigh at such shallow attraction, but it’s an easy hook for otherwise hard-won, flighty consumer attention. And once hooked, you can start to share the nuances of your mission with your new audience.

In our latest blog post we explore how to communicate nuance (in this case for Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore) on a day which feeds the shortcut-hungry attention of the average consumer.

We reckon that of all the wine-related days, Prosecco Day has cultural resonance. Prosecco has become a symbol for care-free happiness. As Andrew Jefford wrote in the Financial Times last week, prosecco wines “…are delicious; they seem to make happy moments happier.”

There is still reward, still meaning to be found in fun and bright surfaces. ‘Days Of’ are useful for drawing people to a deeper, richer seam of information – in the same way that the popularity of prosecco opens minds and palates to the rewards of Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore.

Any irritations or errors in this newsletter are absolutely NOT OUR FAULT.


Only connect: our July newsletter

We’re happy to share our July newsletter below:

The UK is officially open for business. For better or worse, the majority of the restrictions we’ve lived with for the past 18 months have been lifted.

So, we thought it was the perfect time to ask for a little feedback about the virtual events which have come to dominate our lives – and the in-person events many of us have been raring to get back to.

Last month, we surveyed a tight pool of UK trade professionals who had attended a Swirl event in the past 12 months. The findings were illuminating.

When we developed Swirl in the Cloud in the first months of the pandemic, we wanted to make the most of the opportunity to introduce event attendees to winemakers who wouldn’t typically be accessible without travelling to their vineyards. It was gratifying to see that 68% of respondents really valued this opportunity. Though, interestingly, having the opportunity to meet winemakers and importers in person was also ranked as the top reason for attending in-person events.

It shows that personal connection has a higher value than convenience. In a time where we are all starved of human contact – where we all newly appreciate the sheer luxury of setting the world to rights over a glass of wine – this finding feels especially prescient.

But accessibility and sustainability are still important values for us as we move into uncharted COVID-restriction-free waters.

70% of respondents said that they would welcome hybrid events in the future. To reach the portion of potential attendees who are unable or unwilling to travel, virtual events via Swirl in the Cloud will continue to be part of our offering.

You can see the full report on our survey’s results here.

At a time where we’re reflecting on many months of virtual-only events, we’ve also explored how the digital leaps we’ve made during COVID have enable us to host a global conference virtually.

The Old Vine Conference was a huge success – not least because the digital format enabled us to achieve things we wouldn’t have been able to at an in-person event.


The power of stories

“Stories are powerful because they transport us into other people’s worlds” – Paul Zak

In the UK, our wine industry is anything but ancient. Perhaps that’s why it’s hard for us to get our heads around how wine can be as integral a part of a culture as Christmas rituals, or the way we greet friends at a bar.

But that’s how wine is in Georgia. It’s a fundamental part of their culture. So, when we were thinking of ways to further the (already impressive!) market share of Georgian wines in the UK, we knew we couldn’t turn to ordinary solutions. We needed to find a way to communicate the cultural relevance of these wines in their country of origin.

The answer? Storytelling.

Of course, in a market like the UK, simply making good wine is not enough. We’re a market of sophisticated consumers who demand access to reliable wine information – and story-led marketing. Stories have become much bandied about marketing ‘concept’. But their power has real neurological basis.

Georgia had the wines. It even had the stories. But it didn’t have them in an easily digestible, saleable format. So, we created Georgian Wine Connect.

Fundamentally, Georgian Wine Connect is an online platform to develop and share the details of wine and winery that have proven difficult for trade buyers to find. But we also 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.

Our hope is this story-led approach will become the norm, especially for emerging regions where wine is culturally embedded. Where wine is part of their story.

You can read in more detail about Georgian Wine Connect here and explore the portal here.

This month we also talked to the winners of the Indie Trade Alliance Fund. This fund offered small and medium independent UK retailers the opportunity to apply for a grant towards increased promotion of their Georgian wine listings.

We had some fantastic entries, but together with our client, Wines of Georgia, we whittled it down to the strongest proposals. We talked to the winners about the impact of pandemic restrictions on their marketing plans and how they’ll use Georgian Wine Connect.

Of course, we also spoke about how wine is at the heart of Georgian culture and how they communicate that to their customers.



What Does Biodiversity Mean To Our Trade?

In our May newsletter, we consider the significance of grape diversity and drinking bravely ahead of World Biodiversity Day on May 22nd.

Humans find efficiency reassuring. We crave certainty. Diversity bristles against predictable order. But the disorder of diversity makes us robust; it is here that we thrive, rather than survive.

Tomorrow is World Biodiversity Day. Is this a day the wine trade would have taken note of a few years ago? Consumers increasingly analyse the environmental and social impact of their food choices. Until recently, wine has avoided that scrutiny. But we no longer have a free pass. There is an increasing concern with the water use, packaging, carbon footprint and environmental transparency of wine. Such concern is behind success of wine brands whose proposition is transparency. The response of some in the wine trade is, naturally, sceptical. Of course, most wines meet these environmental and health credentials, we say. But can we really complain about perception? As a trade, we have failed to communicate information for which many consumers thirst.

We wish biodiversity didn’t feel like a political statement. Because it is fundamental to the world of wine. Biodiversity touches the life in our soil – in our vineyards. It’s a great measure of how sustainably and regeneratively we are working in our vineyards, and in our markets . And we have the ability to communicate our biodiversity to consumers in a unique way: grape diversity.

This quest for diversity is critical to wine. Despite the accusation in articles such as this (published, with blithe irony, at winesearcher.com) that we are fools for thinking anyone cares about protecting the variety and diversity of wine.

We talked to grape diversity champion Emma Dawson MW about how a diverse approach from both producers and consumers pays dividends.

Wine is waking up to our biodiversity crises, and treasures. In Soave, a concern for sustaining agricultural heritage alongside their communities and land led to the development of a biodiversity accreditation for grape growers with the help of the World Biodiversity Association.

In Argentina, Laura Catena asserts that grape genetic diversity and heritage vineyards are essential if wine is to adapt to climate change. In Spain, Torres are championing the genetic diversity of recuperated Ancestral Varieties.

Such leadership should inspire us all.

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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.


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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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.