Home
Menu
Chasing the organic dream

Sales of organic products are on the up — they grew 2.8% in the year to March 2014, reversing several years of decline, according to UK certifying body the Soil Association. But it’s a different story for wine.

E-cigs – a smokin' opportunity

In a few short years, electronic cigarettes have emerged as one of the most dynamic — and controversial — markets in the country.

Make room for the fruit cider boom

In an off-trade market of almost static volumes, and value sales creeping up with tax and inflation, one category is still storming ahead — fruit cider.

Fruit cider - a sip for all seasons

The sun is shining, the weather’s hot, and fruit cider sales are on the up and up. But long-range forecasts suggest that July could be wetter than average — so how can retailers guard against a drop-off in sales and keep fruit cider moving through to autumn and beyond?

Inspiring Indies: Borough Wines

Borough Wines started out as a tiny stall in London’s  trendy Borough Market, set up by owner Muriel Chatel to sell wines from her family’s Bergerac estate. 

World class chance for lager

For years lager has been in the doldrums, cast as a villain by health lobbyists and Daily Mail columnists decrying “booze Britain”, a tasteless dullard by ale aficionados and a great disappointment by retailers watching annual sales continuously dwindle.

British brands: united we stand

Love ’em or hate ’em, there’s no denying that the success of UKIP’s candidates in last month’s local and European elections tapped into a rich seam of patriotism in the British population. Nigel Farage is oft snapped supping on a pint of honest ale in a traditional pub – an acknowledgement that great British drinks are at some level an important part of the cultural psyche of the country.

Top 100 Most Influential People in Wine: the top 10
Who decides which wines are sold, bought and drunk in the UK off-trade? Who determines where they come from, how they are made and how much they cost?

Top 100 Most Influential People in Wine: 100-51

Who decides which wines are sold, bought and drunk in the UK off-trade? Who determines where they come from, how they are made and how much they cost?

The vintage crew

Cliff Roberson hasn’t done badly for someone who started out as an assistant’s assistant at Peter Dominic, earning £3 a week.

Capital gains: will a venue move and new approach make the London Wine Fair a success?

The eyes of the trade are on the London Wine Fair as it gears up for a make-or-break event. A more central location, a broader welcome for suppliers and retailers of all sizes and a domestic, rather than international, focus are all hoped to “re-energise” and “reinvigorate” the fair – and now show organisers are waiting with bated breath to see if the changes will be enough to make it a success.

World class

The world beer fixture has emerged as arguably the most diverse and exciting space in the FMCG market in recent years, and it has finally dragged the struggling lager category back into growth.

Sporting chance

Beer and football go together like £10 Champagne and footfall, so there is no better time to promote world beers than the impending World Cup.

Top 10 Scotch whisky brands on the market: industry insiders vote

If the people of Scotland vote for independence in September they’ll take with them one of the UK drinks industry’s biggest assets.

A pinker shade of pale

Rosé is coming of age. After its mad surge in popularity in the mid to late noughties, sales of pink wine have levelled off and consumers are turning to paler-coloured, drier styles that go well with food.

Cocktail catwalk

April air is full of promise. Balmy evening barbecues and picnics in the sunshine are just around the corner. Long, refreshing drinks will be the order of the day and the best way to gauge what might slake consumer thirst this season is to talk to the trendsetters.

Upping the ante on sherry

At first sight, the latest export data from Jerez’s Consejo Regulador make for some pretty grim reading. Total imports of sherry in the UK fell more than 1 million litres, from just over 12 million litres in 2012 to just over 11 million litres in 2013. This is typical of the downward trend that has dominated the UK sherry market over the course of the past decade.

Warm welcome

Winter is barely behind us and the sun already seems to be shining on cider sales. They grew 9% by value in the off- trade to reach nearly £1 billion in the year to March 1, according to Nielsen, and cider is outperforming most other drinks categories.

Cider's high five

Cider is set for a super summer, but it is no longer as simple as pouring apple cider over ice. Keep on top of the trends with OLN's guide to the five key elements to make this year the summer of cider. 

Inspiring Indies: Corks Out

Ruth Yates founded Corks Out in Chester in 2003 and has grown the business to a chain of five shops – in Alderley Edge, Stockton Heath, Timperley and Heswall – as well as an e-commerce website.

English crops grow

Drinkers want more English wine than the country’s 1,438ha of vineyards can produce. But production remains tiny compared to more established wine countries, prices are high and there are still some people who don’t even realise English wine exists.

The perfect match

Bookmakers have slashed the odds on Britain basking in the hottest temperatures on record this summer to 4/1 after forecasters predicted a prolonged heatwave.

What if the Scots walk?

When Scotland wakes up on September 19, voters will have decided whether to break away from the UK and set out as an independent nation, opening the prospect of differing tax regimes and currencies on each side of the border. Both sides of the political debate are already being hotly discussed, but many issues remain unclear, including the implications for drinks retailers.

Heart to Hart

Rob Hart’s not really into gimmicky beers. “Old Badger’s Arse and that sort of thing?” he half asks and half laments, shaking his head. The credo of his Harts Family Brewers is to produce good beer, present it well and turn a profit, without being married to a style, whether it’s old-fashioned chestnut bitters aimed at 60-somethings in the golf club or Belgian-style saisons to be sipped by hip young readers of The Chap in Shoreditch craft beer bars.

Lost in France

If you take a stroll down the wine aisles of a British supermarket these days, you’re bound to be struck by the diverse origins of the offering. It’s a veritable United Nations out there, with representatives from Australia, Chile, Spain, the US, Italy and South Africa jostling for shelf space with Austria, Greece, Bulgaria, Hungary and Uruguay. Twenty years ago, the picture would have been different. Those shelves would have held a far scantier range of wines, and would almost certainly have been dominated by one country: France.

Sweet sorrow

The wine trade loves Germany. In fact, it’s quite possible that anyone who has tasted even a smallish range of what the country has to offer loves its wines – they’re great quality, they cover pretty much every price point and they come in all shapes and sizes.

Score a win

On any given day 5.5 million pints of Guinness are downed across the globe, but that figure more than doubles to 13 million pints on St Patrick’s Day, according to Diageo sales figures.

The OLN Hot List: British Ales

According to this year’s Good Beer Guide there are 1,147 breweries in the UK, with almost 200 opening in the past year, taking levels to a 70-year high. Established national and local brewers have been joined by exciting start-ups that have helped change the taste, quality and style of the beers we drink. But which one’s best? Only one way to find out ... with the latest in our Hot List poll of leading retailers and opinion-formers in the field.

The world in miniature

The snacks market has gone mad for sharing sizes over the past few years, but as successive duty hikes have combined with economic and ecological factors to drive prices up, wines and spirits have begun to embrace individual serves.

Inspiring Indies: Loki Wine Merchant & Tasting House

This central Birmingham independent has a plush wine bar upstairs and a wine shop with sampling machines downstairs.

It's hip to sip

Comedian Dylan Moran once said that to drink gin you have to be 45, female and sitting on the stairs, because gin isn’t really a drink – it’s more a mascara thinner.

Aiming high

Fears of a poor 2013 harvest in Spain have not materialised and the country looks set to remain the European favourite for wines at what retailers and producers are euphemistically calling “key price points”.

The new, old Napa

Ask a Napa winemaker what they thought of the 2011 vintage and you’re likely to get one of two answers. For some it was an opportunity, for others a disaster.

Green shoots for ale

For the first time in a decade the UK beer market has shown two consecutive quarters of growth – led by retailers who champion premium bottled ale. The British Beer & Pub Association produces a quarterly beer barometer survey and it shows the total beer market grew 5.2% in the third quarter of 2013, its best performance this century.

Status flow

A piledriver is a wrestling manoeuvre that sees a spandex-clad behemoth pick up his opponent, turn him upside down and slam his head into the ground. It is favoured by a wrestler called The Undertaker, and it always results in a knockout.

Take a chance on France

With prices under pressure from duty, short harvests and an exodus of growers struggling to make money from grapes, French wine suppliers face a balancing act. On the one hand it is a struggle to maintain value for money at entry level – but on the other, many are benefiting from consumers trading up.

Land of contrasts

Sales have dropped sharply, but retailers love Portugal, saying it’s “in a good place”. On average its wines are cheaper than many of its European competitors – but the complexity of its regions and grapes can put off the uninitiated.

Go nuts for Brazil

More than 20 million UK viewers regularly tuned into the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, suffering the heartbreak of England’s crushing defeat by Germany and enjoying the drama of Spain’s extra-time win in the final.

Bittersweet infamy

They’re calling it a ticking time-bomb, the hidden menace and the new nicotine – as addictive and dangerous as cigarettes.

Inspiring Indies: The Jug & Bottle

This village off-licence and deli in a Victorian former schoolhouse has become a destination shop, thanks to its real ale and cider range, including a rolling choice on draught. Bottled beers are sourced from local microbreweries and craft brewers around the country and further afield, while the bottled cider range focuses on premium, niche and boutique products.

Is the party over for cheap fizz?

The ritual of celebrating Christmas with fizz has become as common as leaving a glass of sherry out for Santa. Yet, like cheap ice-cream deals when temperatures rise, the prices plummet just at the time people are most likely to buy Champagne.

Pushing premium

We would like to apologise to any of our readers who are cricket fans for mentioning the “A” word at all. Not only did England hand the Ashes to the Aussies on a plate, but we were probably drinking their wines while we did it. Well, not the cricket team as such — but the rest of us.

Keeping an eye on Austria

If you heard there was a wine-producing country growing at 30% in the off-trade, you’d be running for the fireworks, wouldn’t you? You’d at least be cracking open a bottle of something special to celebrate.

The OLN Hot List: Vodka

Vodka’s inherent neutrality of flavour makes it a fiendishly difficult drinks category for brands to stand out in. Not too long ago the battle lines were drawn around numerical distinctions in distilling and filtering, but — perhaps realising the limitations of this strategy — producers are testing the boundaries of packaging, incorporating subtle shifts in ingredients, sharpening up back stories and highlighting meaningful aspects of provenance to inject the category with a new level of excitement.

Inspiring Indies: Vino

Vino is a chain of four independent off-licences that rose from the ashes when Wine Rack went into administration in 2009. Three stores opened in 2010 and a fourth in 2011, with the aim of taking the best parts of the old Wine Rack business to create a place where customers feel comfortable — a shop environment that is easy to navigate, with well-trained, accessible staff.

The Northern Light

They call Booths the Waitrose of the north. But in reality, it feels more like Harrods’ food hall has moved into Morrisons’ Market Street.

Are you getting the white stuff?

Independents are being urged to be extra vigilant after a number of wine specialists reported being delivered older vintages of white wines that would be best drunk fresh from the vine.

Let battle commence

"Wine has been and will continue to be one of our hero categories. I can’t dispute its growth and it shows no real sign of letting up,” says Simon Cairns, wine trading manager at the Co- operative Group.

Survival instinct

Almost two years after adding the Nicolas stores in London to the Spirited Wines chain he set up in 2010, Benoit Thouvenin has a leaner estate but confidence in the future. He says business is much better than it was 18 months ago – but that has come at a cost. Rising rents and challenging trading have forced him to close 14 stores, leaving him with just five of the shops outside London that he began trading with.

The OLN Hot List: Gin

We asked a host of opinion-formers to score their top gins to give us the first OLN Hot List, and the top 10 coolest names at the forefront of the sector’s renaissance.