A peek inside Laura’s world … the life of a wine buyer for Co-op wines

I’d love to be involved in the creation of wine and not just sit at the “consumer end” opening a bottle and enjoying the contents. Don’t get me wrong, I love that bit. I really love that bit.

Laura Stafford, wine buyer for the Co-op
Laura Stafford, wine buyer for the Co-op

Laura Stafford is a wine buyer for the Co-operative and I’ve spoken to her about her work and our shared love; sharing our love of wine.

Laura says she was “in the right place at the right time” when a role as a buyer came up, and a couple of qualifications later (from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust) and Laura is in a role she loves.

I asked what inspires her.

“I love the end to end aspect of my job, it’s all hands on. It’s the pride in seeing the whole process through.”

Laura will taste, test, and consider different blends during her visits to winemakers. Laura says: “Then suddenly you hit THE moment when you have found the right blend and it’s really satisfying.”

When sourcing a malbec in Argentina, Laura was hugely influenced by the region. That is reflected not just in the wine, but in the label.

The Co-operative Argentine Malbec
Laura’s mood board which inspired the malbec label

Laura explains: “There was a really colourful town, very rustic, murals on the wall, bright chalky colours, and it really showed the spirit and the character of Argentina. I thought, how can I live and breathe that through this wine?”

Laura shared a mood board with a design company back home and the result is a colourful but simple label.

Says Laura: “I talked with the design team about making it friendlier and easier to understand. Malbec goes with meat and it is full of raspberries and plum. The rewarding bit is seeing it on the shelves.”

The Co-operative Argentine Malbec
The Co-operative Argentine Malbec

Laura describes The Co-operative Argentine Malbec (£4,99) as clean and honest; there is just enough tannin and a good amount of spice.

Laura says: “I really encourage people to step a bit beyond the boundaries.

“I love the friendliness that needs to come from wine. Take away the scary factor; ignore the snobbery; ignore people who hold the glass in a certain way. Don’t be scared about wine. I want to make wines friendly and approachable. All of it, the whole package; from the wine to how we evolve the labels.”

Laura and I sipped and talked about Co-op wines.

Argentina Finca Las Moras Pinot Grigio
Argentina Finca Las Moras Pinot Grigio

Argentina Finca Las Moras Pinot Grigio (£6.99) is 100% pinot grigio, Laura explains that the warmth of the climate gives bolder fruits which are slightly tropical. I found a tutti frutti hot pot of pineapple, lemon and honeyed apricot.

I asked Laura what people could try that’s different if they are stuck in pinot grigio world. She says: “Try chenin blanc. It is a really drinkable style, with a little bit of acidity. The fruit isn’t as big and bold as chardonnay, or as acidic as sauvignon blanc.”

Hilltop Premium Pinot Grigio-Királyleányka
Hilltop Premium Pinot Grigio-Királyleányka

Hilltop Premium Pinot Grigio-Királyleányka (£4.79) is another pinot grigio, but this time blended with a local grape variety, Királyleányka (40% of the blend). It is pronounced keer-a-lee-en-ee-ka. It’s definitely easier to sip than to say! It is sherberty, lemony and has sweet floral notes.

The Co-operative Truly Irresistible Pinot Noir (£7.99) is from Chile. Laura suggests you pop this wine in a fridge for half an hour, or pop in an ice bucket for a chilled summer garden wine.

The Co-operative Truly Irresistible Pinot Noir
The Co-operative Truly Irresistible Pinot Noir

This will bring out the red fruit and redcurrant characters. This wine smells of snapped twigs and palma violets, with blueberry and cherry flavours. Really lovely.

The upshot? I’m actually jealous of Laura Stafford.

Published in the saturday extra magazine March 14, 2015

Liverpool Echo South Wales Echo – Daily Post Wales – Huddersfield Examiner – The Chronicle, Newcastle – Teesside Evening Gazette Birmingham  Mail – Coventry Telegraph – Paisley Daily Express

Wine Press: Mother’s Day wines and special treats

Mums are special and it’s only right they have a special day. And on their special day, it’s only right they have a special treat.

My idea of such a treat is a lovely glass of wine for Mother’s Day.

I’m going to launch straight in with a handful of extraordinary wines, at prices more than average.

Why would mum like them? Well, mums like a treat, but make sure if you buy something like this it really is a treat for mum; not one you sip sneakily.

Some of my favourite wines are from Germany, and they are too often overlooked.

Oliver Zeter Pinot Noir Reserve 2010
Oliver Zeter Pinot Noir Reserve 2010

Oliver Zeter Pinot Noir Reserve 2010 (£27.99, redsquirrelwine.com) Well, at nearly £30 you’d want to be confident mum would like this. I’m pretty sure she would if she’s a fan of pinot noir.

All of the wines from German brothers Oliver and Christian Zeter include an illustration of a bear on the label. This one is a big cuddly bear of a wine, with the aroma of mushrooms picked from dewy dawn undergrowth. There are lots and lots of cherries, raspberries and a freckle of spice. I loved it. It’s more of a treat when you discover that only 2,800 bottles of this vintage were made.

Prinz von Hessen Dachsfilest Riesling 2013, (£25.95, Slurp.co.uk) has a limey burst on the nose with a lift of floral and just a temptation of honey. Then a wave of tropical fruit. Why would mum like this? German rieslings are among the best in the world. Don’t think sickly warm German hock; think beautiful bright white perfection.

Prinz von Hessen Dachsfilest Riesling 2013
Prinz von Hessen Dachsfilest Riesling 2013

A pretty opaque white champagne bottle enshrouds newly launched Canard Duchene Charles VII Smooth Rosé NV (RRP £31.50, www.thechampagnecompany.com). The light pink champagne rosé is a blend of pinot noir, pinot meunier and chardonnay. It has delicate aromas of berries and each sip is a strawberry and redcurrant compote.

If budgets are a bit more modest, how about these:

Blackfoot Daisy Pinot Grigio (£8.99, Virgin Wines) is a flavour tumble of Sunday apple pie, pears and a knife-edge squeeze of lime. I enjoyed every mouthful of this wine from Australia, which is saying something as pinot grigio is a wine I usually avoid. The fruity aromas led to a button-bright flavour and crisp fruity finish.

Winemakers’ Selection Moscato
Winemakers’ Selection Moscato

For a sweet, fresh, light, fruity drop of a sparkle then Winemakers’ Selection Moscato (Sainsbury, £6.50) is a nice one to try. It’s only 7% abv so light on the alcohol, as well as being good on the pocket. It would make a brilliant light sparkle in the garden, but for Mothers’ Day would add a peachy zizz-zazz to a pretty dessert. Its sherberty sweetness is very moreish indeed, specially when chilled for a long time.

Over at the Co-op Valdo Prosecco Treviso DOC Extra Dry NV (£6.99 down from £10.49 until March 17) ticks all the boxes where prosecco is concerned. Delicate, lovely and bubbly, pears and apples, What’s not to like in a prosecco? For a mum’s red, save £3 on   reduced to £9.99 until the end of the month at Tesco. It’s a blend of merlot, cabernet franc, and cabernet sauvignon, Aromas of chunky cherry and in the mouth, plums pack a spicy punch.

Also in my glass …. There’s some deep red gorgeous, rich, scrummy Languedoc reds from Calmel & Joseph. They have an RRP of £11.99 at independents including Daniel Lambert Wines, Loki Wines and Richard Granger Wine and are sun in a glass.

Calmel & Joseph Vieux Carignan Côtes du Brian owes its very existence to vines planted in 1890. No dilly dallying around, the flavour is slightly savoury, some herbs, pecks of pepper and the red fruits surge through. Keep an eye out for the equally delightful Saint Chinian (wild herbs and spice) and Corbieres (red and black fruits with a lick of liquorice).

Published in the saturday extra magazine March 7, 2015

Liverpool Echo South Wales Echo – Daily Post Wales – Huddersfield Examiner – The Chronicle, Newcastle – Teesside Evening Gazette Birmingham  Mail – Coventry Telegraph – Paisley Daily Express

Wine blog: To help you grow old grapefully. As simple as.

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