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.

The dairy godmothers

While spirits sales grow, cream liqueurs are in the doldrums. This year’s First Drinks Market Report put off-trade sales value in the 12 months to April 27 level with a year earlier, and volumes down by 3% (Nielsen). The performance contrasts with non-cream liqueurs, driven by a new generation of in-home cocktail makers, with sales up 14% in volume and 19% in value.

Putting the 'ale' in female

The 2014 Good Beer Guide reported that real ale club Camra now has more female members than ever, with women making up 22% of its membership – an increase of 20,000 in the past decade.

Not just a commodity

It is not a research company’s job to try to sex up a market, but when Nielsen – to be fair, probably led by the brewers it was researching – called the burgeoning 1.3%-3.3% abv lager market “commodity” it was so dreary a tag as to make the “standard” lager category sound like a Hollywood A-lister.

Protecting Prosecco

Manuela Oregna paints an evocative picture of growing up in a small farmhouse hugging the steep hills surrounding Valdobbiadene, with uninterrupted views of fields and cows. Apart from the occasional roaming wild boar, animals are now long gone, carted off to make way for grapes in what has become one of the most expensive vineyard regions in Italy.

Giving wine a reboot

Ham isn’t a topic you expect a former catwalk model to get so animated about, but then Ruth Spivey isn’t your typical fashion industry clotheshorse.

The gloves are off

like sherry. And I like port. But which is better? There’s only one way to find out. FIGHT!

Classically French

Where can you get a bot- tle of red wine from a household-name French appellation, with the perceived added value of a lesser-known region within that appellation, and all for less than £6?

Action, not reaction

If alcohol were to be outlawed in the UK, 2.2 million people would be out of work and there would be a £16.3 billion hole in the chancellor’s tax revenues.

A responsibility too far?

Strange but true – packs of the UK’s best-selling alcohol-free beer bear the words: “Please enjoy Beck’s Blue responsibly”. But why?

It's only rock n roll - but they like it

Consumers browsing the premium bottled ale fixture this month may be stopped in their tracks by a picture of a disembodied bulldog head wearing sunglasses and a fez while looking down on an elephant balancing on a beach ball, with the word “Madness” emblazoned in between.

The light fantastic

When big wines from the new world invaded UK shelves in the mid-1990s they introduced consumers to powerful styles from warm regions that packed a hangover-inducing punch. UK shelves had previously been dominated by old world aristocrats from the likes of France and Italy, which came with typical abv range of 11-13%, and strength was never a major issue. But with much of the old world order barged into oblivion alcohol levels began to creep up and 14-15.5% wines from countries like Australia and South Africa grew so commonplace the Government had to change its unit guidelines on a glass of wine.

A taste for adventure

Not so long ago, British beer was the envy of the world, while three virtually identical brands accounted for the bulk of sales across the pond. But then mass-produced bitter and lager took over the UK market and the scene began to look equally lacklustre.

Bye-bye Booze Britain?

Assuming reality has anything to do with it, those screaming headlines about young people and their binge drinking should swiftly become a thing of the past. Research and statistics from every angle are revealing a new generation that’s gone off the booze and in the UK is driving the second-largest fall in alcohol consumption in the world.

What's the big eye-dea?

People often see supermarkets as the one-eyed monsters of the brewing industry, so it’s perhaps appropriate that Morrisons has at least in part been responsible for a great leap forward in the fortunes of Cyclops, the scheme to put independent tasting notes on to the reverse of bottled beer labels and cask ale pump clips.

Ginger lingers even longer

Due to the recessive nature of the MC1R gene ginger people are dying out and could be extinct by the year 2100, according to the Oxford Hair Foundation.

Packing the Defence

Triumphant sports people bouncing up and down in front of hoardings with the names of beer brands on them could soon be a thing of the past.

Do yourself a flavour

When the researchers for BBC’s The Apprentice got their hapless teams making flavoured beer in the current series, they certainly hit on a trend in the drinks industry. The question is, did they miss the hottest trend in the business?

Nature's sway

For millions of years all food and drink was organic. The cavemen, the Victorians and your great-grandparents didn’t call it organic food – they just called it food.

International Cider Challenge 2013 results

A private dining room with large sash windows that sits above the White Horse pub in west London has become a microcosm for the global cider industry in recent years.

Homegrown hero

When writing a story you need conflict, drama and obstacles for the hero to overcome in order to capture the reader’s imagination.

Grape Britain

For a small island straddling the western coast of Europe, England has a habit of punching above its weight on a global stage.

Lager sees light at the end of the tunnel

The lager category has been battered from pillar to post in recent years by a rising duty escalator, miserable weather, falling volumes and the rise of cider and golden ale.

The shoppers asking for short measures

The industry jargon is “fractional bottles”. In spirits, this has traditionally meant 35cl, the orthodox half-bottle size. For wine, a half-bottle means 37.5cl – an unfashionable size for decades that is starting to make a comeback.

Eastern Europe heading in the right direction

The mass migration of more than a million eastern Europeans to Britain since Poland and seven neighbouring countries joined the EU in 2004 has heralded the one of the greatest cultural shifts our nation has seen since the Norman Conquest.

The gentle touch

It took two decades but Rooster, the Yorkshire brewer with a cult reputation for its cask beers, has finally got round to bottling some of them Though kept off the front pages of the nationals by spring snow, the death of Hugo Chavez and Justin Bieber’s late show at the O2, the early March event was some- thing of a red letter day for Rooster fans deprived of the opportunity to sample their favourite brews in their own home.

Summer in a glass

At the turn of the century rosé was the Austin Allegro of the wine world – cheap, unfashionable and something you would never want to bring to a dinner party.

Charge of the light brigade

A year ago the drinks industry voluntarily pledged to shed one billion units of alcohol within a decade under the Responsibility Deal.

Imperfect 10

Ten years have passed since Magners launched on to the UK market and arguably changed cider forever. The Irish brand made a low-key entry into Scotland, an initially tentative move for Ireland’s C&C international, until then best known outside of its home country for its crop of whiskeys and liqueurs.

Off Licence News meets Iron Maiden

In a world dominated by reality TV and YouTube anybody can become a celebrity for five minutes, but to truly be considered a modern icon you need to see your name attached to consumer products.

Delivering the goods

Wholesalers are a vital link in the supply chain between drinks manufacturers and independent retailers. In the age of supermarket power, wholesalers not only supply product, but provide a promotional base for stores to be competitive and valuable management support for the business.

A golden opportunity

The summer of 2012 promised to be the most glorious season of all time for the off-trade, with patriotic drinkers gathering for barbecues on sun-drenched afternoons to enjoy the Olympics, the Diamond Jubilee and the Euro finals, putting away record amounts of beer, wine and spirits.

Stats are the real cause for concern

The figures used by Alcohol Concern to substantiate its claims are so out of whack it is impossible to have an informed debate, says Phil Mellows.

Energy drinks are in high demand

The UK energy drinks market kicked-off in inauspicious circumstances in 1929, when Lucozade was introduced as a hospital drink designed to aid patients’ recovery. For decades these drinks remained little more than items that went alongside chicken soup and aspirin in the trolleys of flu victims.

Retailers lose faith in police

Shops are spending more than ever on protecting their businesses from crime – but feel they are not getting enough support in doing so from the police and politicians.

Fighting Fit Languedoc

The Languedoc is a fiery region of bullfighting, rugby and tough, cassoulet-fuelled farmers tending scorched plains, but it has always suffered from an inferiority complex when it comes to wine. The “wine factory” tag has dogged the world’s largest wine-producing region for decades, and noisy stepsisters Burgundy, Bordeaux and Côtes du Rhône have historically left it more downtrodden than Cinderella on a bad-hair day.

Full of southern promise

Alentejo has much to boast about. It is home to Portugal’s biggest selling brand, Herdade do Esporão (according to sales director Nicolas Giannone), it commands the biggest share of the domestic market and highest average retail price (€3.88) of any Portuguese region (Nielsen, year to July 31, 2010) and major UK players Sogrape, João Portugal Ramos and Herdade do Esporão confirm sales here are growing.

Crowd control: brand owners are using social networking to give consumers power

It’s easy to see social media as a form of free advertising, a way for brand owners and retailers to broadcast their good points to the world without having to pay a middle man in the form