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The Grapevine

The WSTA's views, distilled.

ENGLAND AND AUSTRALIA CLASH IN WINE-TASTING RUGBY WORLD CUP

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England scored a shock win over Australia in a battle of the white wines led by former England rugby ace and wine buff Andrew Sheridan.

However, The Wine and Spirit Trade Association England v Australia 'wine off' ended in fans giving an overall victory to Australia when the two nations went head to head in a blind tasting of sparkling, white and red.

In a tight run contest, three of Australia’s bestselling wines were pitted against three wines from the award winning Bolney Wine Estate. Australia pushed their way over the try line with their red and sparkling, but there was a runaway win for Bolney in the white wine category for its Bacchus.

Much like their status on the rugby field, Australian wines are clearly still global heavyweights, but this taste test shows that the English are beginning to put up a pretty good fight.

When it comes to a price match the clear winners in this contest are the Australian wines. English wine producers believe the latest government commitments to support English vineyards could make the price of English wine more palatable in the future.

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Sheridan, 35, who hung up his boots last year after sustaining a neck injury, said: 

"The Australian wines come out on top for value, and in this blind tasting snuck over the line to score in the red and sparkling categories.

 

“The Aussies know how to make a very drinkable, reasonably priced wine which will be accepted at anyone's World Cup party. But there is no doubt that the English underdogs are snapping at Australia's heels in the wine market.

 

“Overall it was an evenly matched contest with each side showing different strengths and weaknesses as expected from very different climates.

 

“In the Australian camp, we didn't come across a bad wine and like their rugby players the wines were consistently very good. But we shouldn't under estimate English wine. They have the potential to surprise everyone and all it will take is a burst of sheer class to come out on top."

Sheridan has shown his strength on the pitch, but is now pouring his passion and drive into the wine trade. The burly former prop lives in the south of France with his wife and five year-old daughter where he is immersing himself into the world of wine.

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Not only is he heaping on the wine qualifications - having already passed his WSET level 2 and 3 and is midway through his diploma for level 4 - he is also taking a hands on approach to learning about vino. Sheridan said:

"This harvest, I volunteered at the Bandol wines vineyard in Castell-Reynoard.

"I want to learn about this industry from all sides. Hand picking the grapes was hard work. I didn't come out of the vines as battered as I was from the rugby pitch, but it was certainly back breaking work."

Sheridan used his wine tasting expertise to judge three Sussex wines from the Bolney Wine Estate against Treasury Wine Estate's Australian Wolf Blass and Lindemans.

Four English fans and four Australian joined Andrew in marking their winners in three competing categories. The wines were then individually marked with points awarded for appearance, aroma, body, taste and finish. Sheridan said:

"The surprising victory came in the shape of Bolney's Bacchus which came top with both English and Aussie fans.

 

“The Australian wines were consistently good and very drinkable.  But what seemed to unite both sides and what impressed me, was how aromatic and sophisticated the English white wine was.

“It is an exciting time for English wines. They are showing that the cooler climate wines can be complex and compete with their more established New World cousins."

 

The convincing win for Bacchus over the popular Chardonnay, Lindemans Bin 65 2014 shows why English wine is filling up its trophy cabinet.

 

In the 2007 Decanter awards English wine didn't achieve a single win - in contrast to this year when they were awarded over 100 medals.

 

The red wine taste test showed the Australian, Wolf Blass Yellow Label Cabernet Sauvignon ahead of the charge when pitted against Bolney's Pinot Noir. Sheridan added:

 

"The Wolf Blass was packed with very obvious black fruit flavours, but what I found interesting was it was not too heavy. At 13.5 % abv, there was less alcohol than you might expect from a punchy Australian Cabernet Sauvignon.

 

“In comparison the English offering, Bolney's Pinot Noir, had strong red fruit aromas, but not the same concentration of flavours as its Australian competitor. The English red was impressive for a cool climate wine and may well suit drinkers after a lighter red wine."

 

Finally the sparkling category put the Wolf Blass Yellow Label sparkling up against Bolney's Blanc de Blanc 2010, where fans put the Australian fizz in front. Sheridan said:

 

"I have to say I found the English sparkling had the best texture and the longer finish. It was refreshing and citrusy, but perhaps a little high on the acidity front. Australia's fizz had more weight but for me, not as much finesse when it came to texture."

Australia is known for its more favourable grape growing conditions, but English wine is fast becoming a real competitor in the global wine market. 

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Positive news from HMRC

HMRC have indicated there is NO policy of automatically applying conditions to each excise trader authorisation that they issue.

They will only apply conditions where they identify a risk.

When HMRC receive an application to vary conditions, they will also consider if there is any need to have the conditions at all.

HMRC have made it clear they are open to hearing from businesses who would like to have their excise authorisations reviewed or varied.

I’ve now seen several examples of businesses applying to have warehousing conditions or WOWGR authorisations reviewed - resulting in all their conditions being assessed and removed.

This is an encouraging development and has given businesses more commercial flexibility.

 

I believe there is a good opportunity to rationalise conditions and I would encourage other members to make the most of the opening.

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WSTA and UKTI host ‘British Gin’ reception in Brussels

Gin has long been seen as an iconic British product, but it's current renaissance is seeing it become the premium ‘drink of choice’ for many discerning consumers, with specialist gin bars and new distilleries springing up across London and nationwide. Recent data in the WSTA’s market report showed Gin growing at 5% in the off trade and 10% in the on trade.

And this success isn't restricted to UK shores, with global output forecast to grow by 13 million litres a year. Nowhere is this demonstrated better than in Europe. We have recently seen rapid growth in gin sales in the Spanish, German, French and Italian markets. And Belgium, whose capital played host to the first WSTA-UKTI Reception, has entered the top 20 export markets for British gin with a staggering 60% increase in the number of cases sold – the biggest increase in any market worldwide.

This rise in demand from the continent is being largely met by British gin producers, making it one of the UK’s biggest exports. Almost 140 million bottles of gin were exported from the UK to foreign markets in 2013 – enough to fill three Olympic swimming pools!

I was delighted, alongside colleagues from UK Trade & Investment and a former colleague of mine, Her Majesty’s Ambassador to Belgium, Alison Rose, to host an event 'first' in the UK's historic Residence in Brussels earlier this month to celebrate the growing success of British gin producers.

 

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The reception featured four UK gin suppliers and was a convivial advertisement for a genuine British success story. Attended by MEPs, policy makers, Belgian industry representatives and media, guests enjoyed the taste of a wide range of products including some classic gin cocktails: A Summer Mule, a Pink Lady and a Rosie Lee. The event also provided an ideal platform to set out what the WSTA has been doing to support the industry and what we want to do next.  

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I am delighted that our successful event was able to demonstrate what an exciting time it is for those in the gin industry here in the UK to a genuinely European audience; and as British Gin becomes ever more popular on the continent, the WSTA will be supporting our members to navigate their way into even more European markets. Watch this space…

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WSTA launches online guide to drinks’ calories

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The issue of calorie content is one that is on the news often in recent months and is one that is being considered and discussed both nationally and within the EU. The WSTA will be feeding into this debate and looking to ensure that, should EU- wide rules be proposed, an agreement is reached that is right for UK consumers. However, as with most EU negotiations, this may not materialise for some time.

 

While these discussions are on-going the industry itself has been looking at how it can support the efforts to promote greater consumer awareness, and this has included some producers and retailers taking action voluntarily with their own labelling. These are positive steps, but as an industry we also recognise that consumers consume their information in many different ways, just like their drinks.

 

The Wine and Spirit Trade Association has joined in too. While we don’t produce anything to label, we have published an online guide to average calorie content of drinks in order to help drinkers understand more about their calorie in-take. This is a quick reference guide that helps users to understand what they are likely to be consuming and the figures are averages values taken from generally accepted data and are given in standard measures as found in UK pubs.

 

It is not always possible to give precise values for individual products as there will be variation within a category (particularly wine) for example if lower in alcoholic strength or higher in sugar. But the page is aimed at giving a broad picture of the calories found in a range of standard products.

 

The figures are based on McCance and Widdowson’s “The Composition of Foods Integrated dataset”, data from responsible drinking.eu and The Brewers of Europe and builds on the work undertaken by others on this issue including Drinkaware ( see https://www.drinkaware.co.uk/check-the-facts/health-effects-of-alcohol/appearance/calories-in-alcohol ) as the industry looks to do what it can to provide more information to consumers in a variety of different ways.

 

 

The WSTA Calorie Guide is available on our website here: http://wsta.co.uk/resources/calorie-counter

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Guest Post: Behind the Scenes at The Benevolent Ball

The WSTA are supporters of the industry charity, the Benevolent, who support current and former members of the industry in times of need. The following post follows their gala event, The Benevolent Ball, earlier this month.

For one night only

After weeks of preparation, time and effort, it is back to reality for Team Benevolent. Following the execution of our charity’s biggest event of the year we are suffering the inevitable post ‘Benevolent Ball blues’ and slightly sad that it’s all over. The sumptuous surroundings of The Dorchester become Benevolent HQ for the day and we all arrive early in the morning to spend the day setting up and prepping for the evening ahead.  The Benevolent Ball is the largest and most profitable event in our calendar with 300 attendees each year and is a significant undertaking for our team of 5 from Head Office. There is a huge amount of preparation that needs to happen months in advance; from creating the invites, designing the brochures, sourcing helpers, booking suppliers, securing auction prizes, preparing table decorations, fundraising logistics, sourcing music and entertainment, the list goes on and on. 

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Setting the scene

Before David Cox, The Benevolent’ s Chief Executive, could take the stage on Thursday evening there were countless boxes to unpack, brochures to be laid, and dozens of other tasks to be crossed off the list.  The venue was a true work in progress early Thursday morning as the fun and chaos began, and people arrived on the scene. Helpers and staff could be seen outside the Ballroom assembling over 220 prizes for the Tombola, sorting through pallets of wines and merchandise and making up various luxury hampers. With more than 30 tables seated for 10 guests the team had their work cut out.  It took all day for us to dress tables, carry out the sound check and then lay out the 300 place cards. Even small details like placing party poppers and rocket balloons by each setting cannot be forgotten (we have mixed feelings about this task as we live in fear that an overly enthusiastic guest will set off a rocket balloon during David’s very well thought out and carefully written speech!).  

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Serving up style

The devil is in the detail when it comes to making a black tie event really stand out. The elegant surroundings, white crisp linens, sparkling silverware and the Salons des Champagnes help by creating a lovely ambiance. And with four Grande Marque Champagnes to choose from during the Reception we hope that all our guests feel just a little bit spoiled for choice! Another key element of ensuring the evening is a success is choosing the right four course meal to be prepared by amazing chefs at The Dorchester. This year 300 cheese soufflés were delivered all in one go, that is service at its best!  Nothing worse than a deflated soufflé, which at this point of the evening my heart can feel like!  After dinner we had the Live Auction, with the top prize of tickets to see U2 play at The O2 in a corporate hospitality box and arrival and collection in a chauffeur driven Bentley. The inimitable Andrew Cox, (David’s brother) worked really hard, holding the attention of 300 very noisy guests, and speedily got top bids like no other auctioneer.

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One of my favourite parts of the night, was the photo booth including a make up artist with the theme of ‘zombies and pirates’, this included several key industry figures having their face painted too!  All of a sudden The Ball had a slight Glasto feel to it, with many key figures turning a bit flower power hippy on me – and face paints galore!

The Benevolent Ball Cocktail Bar had some fantastic cocktails, whilst guests networked and played on the casino.  Ewan Murray’s band ‘Chapter Eight’ performed various hits, and well known characters started to cut some serious shapes on the dance floor! It was at this point during the evening that I could finally take a breath and enjoy our guests’ wonderful reactions to the various after dinner activities. I have to say that seeing so many of our wonderful trade having a great evening makes all the hard work worth it!

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Thank you

I want to send out a very big thank you to all those who supported the event.  With your help we raised over £40,000 for drinks industry colleagues facing serious medical or financial hardship. We really could not have done it without you. I also want to send out a special thanks to everyone involved behind the scenes, David and the helpers, not forgetting the Team at Benevolent HQ; you all do an absolutely superb job – go Team Benevolent, and roll on The Benevolent Ball 2016!  

 

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Recent comment in this post
Guest — andrew cox
It was a blast and you all worked your socks off! Tip top Events team! Take a bow!
Wednesday, 25 March 2015 13:11
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