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Natural wonder: organic wines

Organic wine is starting to look like one of those things everyone talks about but no one is actually buying into.

The big match: beer and food

Rule one of beer and food matching: there are no rules. While wine has an established set of classic grape, style or region matches for popular dishes, the required reading on beer and food is still relatively thin on the ground.

Beer rides high in new era

For the first time in a decade the UK beer market is showing continued growth, and the retail trade is leading the charge.

Portugal passion

Film nights, gourmet burger evenings and even a Douro vs Alentejo blind tasting competition have brought Portugal to life in independent wine merchants.

Setting the bar low

After the bountiful Christmas period come two words to strike fear into the hearts of drinks retailers: dry January.

Building blocks: Richard Jones of SH Jones and Reh Kendermann in profile

Over the past couple of years Banbury-based independent wine merchant and regional wholesaler SH Jones has shocked the trade by buying two established online retailers and the wholesale arm of agency Stevens Garnier.

Fields of gold: celebrating British barley and hops

Talk to a customer about wine and you can bet the topics of grapes and vineyards aren’t too far behind. Have a similar conversation about beer, and the natural ingredients that go into a brew, or the rolling British countryside they’re grown in, might be a bit slower to come up – if they do at all.

Whisky's on the ball

October 6, 2001, is a date indelibly etched in the minds of diehard England fans. Dreams of qualifying for the Euro 2002 championships were fading fast as the Three Lions trailed Greece 2-1 at Wembley.

Toast of the town: what's in store for festive bubbly?

It’s nearly reached that time of year when everything’s sparkling: the fairy lights, the gifts under the Christmas tree, the tinsel – even the wines. And all the indications are that bubbly sales will be sparkling this year too.

The lure of the south: Argentina, Chile and South Africa in focus

Bringing together three of the New World’s most exciting wine-producing countries to debate their similarities and differences was always going to throw up a fascinating exchange of ideas.

Christmas spirits: which brands sell most in the festive season?

Our Christmas Hot List is a guide to the spirits that make the perfect party drinks and are great for gifts.

Hidden gems: focus on lesser-known wine regions

We talk to the champions of some of the wine regions you might not have heard much about, and ask what makes their wines worth seeking out.

Party animals: how to boost sales on New Year's Eve

New Year’s Eve is the biggest party of the year, but a night on the tiles can leave revellers needing open-heart surgery on their wallets. Last year a four-course meal at a Giraffe restaurant in London cost £100 on December 31 as opposed to the usual price of around £20 for three courses, while entry to London’s Sky Bar cost £185.

Inspiring Independents: Hedonism

Hedonism Wines is a huge, modern, glitzy wine boutique in London’s Mayfair. Set up by the founder of Russia’s largest mobile phone retailer in late 2012, it covers 700sq m over two floors and lists some 5,500 wines and 2,000 spirits. It is run by chief executive Tatiana Fokina, who has a background in luxury retailing.

Bargain Booze: destination warehouse

The outside of Conviviality Retail’s pilot BB’s Warehouse in Wakefield is adorned with the legend “the best brands at the best prices”. It’s a motto that’s been the guiding principle of the company’s flagship Bargain Booze brand since its first store opened in 1981, but here it’s being pursued in a whole new way for the chain.

Ten brands that changed the world

Reinventing Bordeaux

Bordeaux is on a mission to prove there is far more to the region than expensive red wines for rich retirees to sip at country clubs.

Stocking fillers: drinks as festive gifts

Drinks are more likely to be given as a present than chocolate or beauty products, and 73% of people bought alcohol as a gift in the past year, according to the William Grant Market Report.

Mulled drinks: the spice route

Autumn and apples go together like, well, apple pie and custard, or pork and apple sauce. Keats’s season of mists and mellow fruitfulness calls to mind apple bobbing, toffee apples, and all sorts of other appley delights.

Cape finds balance

After a bumper 2013, South African wine exports are expected to dip this year – but that is just getting the industry back into the right balance, says Wines of South Africa chief executive Siobhan Thompson.

The ad man cometh

Advertising guru turned wine producer Sir John Hegarty got tongues wagging and brains working overtime with an incendiary address at the Wine & Spirit Trade Association conference. In these extracts, he tells the trade what it’s doing right – and what it’s getting wrong.

Big Interview: Waitrose beer, wines and spirits boss Pierpaolo Petrassi

Pierpaolo Petrassi MW presides over a BWS empire that is showing healthy growth and cannot stop winning awards for the dynamism it brings to the grocery channel.

Christmas presents

In the drinks trade, the festive season isn’t heralded by silver bells, twinkling lights or even the always-shocking appearance of mince pies in supermarkets on September 1. Instead, the multiples welcome the biggest trading season of the year with the traditional yuletide slashing of prices on port, sparkling wine, liqueurs and other premium products.

Premium bottled ales: lightbulb moments

Greene King has overtaken John Smith’s supplier Heineken to become the market leader in the off-trade ale category for the first time.

Inspiring Independents: Cambridge Wine Merchants

This seven-strong chain has expanded beyond Cambridge to Salisbury, Royston in Hertfordshire and Ampthill in Bedfordshire and has scooped the OLN Drinks Retailing Award for Independent Drinks Retailer of the Year three times.

Setting up shop: the lowdown on premises licences

The market is recovering and off- trade sales are surging as drinkers forgo the pub in favour of a tipple at home, so now might be a good time to open a new store. But if you are considering this there are various legalities you need to be aware of, one of which is a fundamental asset – the premises licence.

Core matters: how retailers market cider

Supermarkets do the best job of selling cider, an OLN poll of suppliers has suggested. Seventy-eight per cent said supermarkets were the best cider retailers, while 22% voted for independent off-licences. High street chains, convenience stores, independent wine merchants and farm shops garnered no votes.

Is the price really right? OLN investigates entry-level wines

The average bottle of wine in the UK off-trade today will set you back £5.34, according to Nielsen – a hefty whack for consumers facing income squeezes, soaring household bills and rising taxes.

Into the deep: the new breed of discounter

One offers “big brands, big savings”, the other “top brands, bottom prices”. They’re the new discounters threatening to make their mark on the alcohol category in the same way that Aldi and Lidl have before them.

Agility course: OLN interviews Richard Cochrane of Félix Solís Avantis UK

“It’s been manic,” says Richard Cochrane of the year since he left Bibendum to take on the role of managing director at Spanish winery Félix Solís Avantis’s newly formed UK subsidiary.

Bewitching brews for Halloween

The UK has enjoyed one of the most glorious summers in recent memory and BWS sales have soared as sandal-clad Brits sought refreshment.

New lease of life for RTDs

RTD producers may not have paid too much attention when Kopparberg branched out from its apple and pear cider variants to launch mixed fruit flavours into the UK market in late 2007.

Here's looking at you: OLN's guide to marketing a movie night in

In 2013 70% of TV sets sold in the UK were classified as big – 26in-32in – and nearly 16% were were “jumbo” – 43in or bigger. This is up 4% from the year before, according to TV Licensing’s annual Telescope report on the nation’s viewing habits.

Inspiring Indies: Bottle Apostle

This innovative London wine merchant recently opened its third store in Clapham’s Abbeville Road, to join outlets in Hackney and Crouch End. It offers a broad range of wines with a particular emphasis on Portugal and Italy, as well as spirits and craft beers and ciders – which have their own section called the Brew Testament. Enomatic machines, online sales and themed tastings are all part of the service. All wines are colour-coded according to style, food-matched and concisely described both in-store and online. The Telegraph Magazine named Bottle Apostle Britain’s best small wine shop in 2011. Owner Andrew Eakins tells OLN about it.

The figure that doesn't add up

Repeat something often enough and it becomes a truth. Repeat it a few more times and it becomes a Twitter hashtag. At least that’s what’s happened to the most widely cited figure for the cost to UK society of alcohol harm.

Go south: Wines of the Beautiful South previewed

The Wines of the Beautiful South tasting is back after its inaugural event last year. Organisers Wines of South Africa, Wines of Chile and Wines of Argentina share their plans.

That sinking feeling: licensing and Reducing the Strength

If you are involved in the retail of alcohol off the premises it is highly likely that you are aware of the schemes now in place in many parts of the country banning retailers from selling various beer and cider brands that have an abv of 5.5% and above.

Can of worms: superstrength lager and the Portman Group

Along with a bunch of verdicts on drinks that included Pernod, WKD and a beer called Arse Liquor, the Portman Group independent complaints panel last month ruled that 50cl cans of Tennent’s Super were in breach of the organisation’s marketing code.

Grasping the nettle: The Cotswolds Distillery

There’s a well-stocked gift shop at the Cotswolds Distillery in the heart of the English countryside. There are Cotswolds keyrings, candles and cufflinks. Pessimistic umbrellas share shelf space with tastefully branded notepads and books on gin and whisky by noted authors. About the only thing that’s not on the shelves yet is bottles of spirits.

Liquid gold: can canned ale hit a seam of sales?

For some time, canned ale has been the dowdy cousin of flamboyant premium bottled ale. The humble format has seen sales slide 2.3% for premium ales and 6.6% for standard ales, according to Marston’s 2014 Premium Bottled Ale Report, while more than 140 products were launched in the PBA category last year – compared to fewer than 20 in canned ale.

Shooting from the hip: opportunities for shots in take-home

Shots and shooters are inextricably linked with the on-trade. Their very names conjure up images of crowded bars and clubs, loud music and drinks that are swallowed, not savoured.

The top 10 brewers in Europe: industry insiders vote

Three Scandinavian producers made the top 10 European brewers in our poll of industry experts and opinion-formers. The traditional European powerhouses of Belgium and Germany still got a look- in, but the impact of the craft brewing revolution has reached as far as Iceland, Spain and Italy, as the list of those that didn’t make the top 10 shows. In addition to the emergence of Denmark and Norway, Italy has reaffirmed its case as the microbrewing scene to keep an eye on, with the country’s vote split between five of its up-and-coming producers.

Premium direction: the latest spirits trends

The off-trade spirits market grew by £130 million in the past year as consumer confidence shot up, according to latest annual market report from William Grant & Sons UK. 

Frozen assets: Manchester independent Browton's profiled

Drinks shops with the ability to provide customers with suggested pairings for their  evening meal are legion.  But there aren’t many that will actually sell them the meal as well.

Prosecco: are soaring sales a market bubble?

Fresh, fruity, approachable and affordable – four reasons why Prosecco has become the bubbly of choice in the UK.

Inspiring Independents: Favourite Beers

Favourite Beers opened in 2010 and set itself up as the Gloucestershire centre for beer and cider lovers. The shop scooped OLN’s Drinks Retailing Awards for Independent Beer Retailer of the Year 2012 and Independent Cider Retailer of the Year 2013.

Bordeaux: varieties add spice

Bordeaux has grown wine exports to the UK by 750,000 cases in the past four years, making it one of the most recession-proof categories around. Latest off-trade figures show sales grew 14.2% in volume and 18.6% in value in the past year (IRI, 52 weeks to March 1).

Ale sales on the rise

The off-trade is gaining a stranglehold on the UK’s total beer market and has returned it to growth for the first time in years, according to a new report.

Big league ambitions: Moorhouse's David Grant profiled

Like the local football team, Burnley brewer Moorhouse’s wants to be in the Premier League. But while the Lancashire town’s footballers defied all the odds to achieve their goal last season, brewery boss David Grant admits: “We’re not quite there yet.”

Vodka in the age of the celebrity brand

Lawsuits come in thick and fast when you’re among the world’s top 25 alcoholic drinks suppliers and have a higher turnover than many small countries.