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2015 year in review and hopes and fears for 2016: Sarah Abbott MW, Turkish Wine Alliance and Swirl

Published:  28 December, 2015

Sarah Abbott MW has her fingers in many pies, including running her own events company Swirl and helping clients like the Turkish Wine Alliance promote their wines in the UK. While 2015 was a brilliant year for her, she is looking forward to 2016 and helping wine producers in countries that face huge political and economic pressures promote their wines in the UK as wine in these countries is a symbol of defiant hope. But 2016 will also have challenges and she worries about the uncertainty of the UK remaining as part of the EU.

How was 2015 for you and your business?

Brilliant and the best yet. Of course it's still a challenging and competitive environment, but we expanded the team with some amazing young talent, developed our UK and overseas business, launched two new services, and expanded our event themes into whisky and chocolate.

What do you think were the most significant things that happened or issues and trends that occurred in 2015?

The rise of the young foodie - beards who love provenance.

Being into food and wine used to be a bit of a 30-something suburban thing. But we see people in their 20s really caring about craft drinks and food. And they want to share this in a social, accessible way. That's a huge opportunity for wine. And a related trend is the continued shabby-luxe thing - top quality food and drinks served at pop ups, street markets, and informal contexts. Social media is powering all of this. The desire for authenticity drives it. But it needs to be delivered with a light touch - with wit, not lectures.

For Turkish Wine Alliance,  the growing interest in wines of the eastern Mediterranean and Levant - Turkey, Georgia, Lebanon, Greece- helped by the rise in number and quality of restaurants serving that cuisine.

What opportunities are you most looking forward to working on in 2016?

For TWA a collaborative marketing initiative for wine producers who are facing huge political and economic pressures at home. Wine in these countries is a symbol of defiant hope, civilisation, liberal values, and connection across borders. I love that - it gives you a lot to work with even though the challenge is huge! 

For Seirl and Savour, continuing to create corporate events that put wine in a broader aesthetic and lifestyle concept. Clients love that. And we're also working on ways to make our experiences more immersive and engaging. There is amazing stuff happening in digital technology that I want to incorporate.   

Oh, and we're doing a re-brand and relaunch in Q2 so that will also be very exciting.

What are the biggest challenges facing the trade in 2016?

Uncertainty over Europe. I have sleepless nights hoping that we don't leave because every sector of our trade would suffer. I think as a trade we should be campaigning more pro-actively to make the case for Europe. 

And anxiety over security could affect tourism in London.

Who are the people, companies or retailers to watch in 2016?  

1. Oddbins 


3. Aldi

What are you doing for Christmas and New Year?

Cooking like a maniac, playing WiiDance,  and drinking posh champagne in the kitchen with my sister while peeling Brussels etc.

What will be your favourite tipple over Christmas and New Year?  Everything. I just love everything at ChristMas. Champagne, port, baileys, Barolo, Okuzgozu, Aussie Grenache, Burgundy, Malibu, Manzanilla, my famous rum punch, whisky macs. But not all on the same day.

Favourite Christmas film?

Gremlins. "Bright light bright light"

Ideal day out over Christmas period? 

Walking in the park with family and Asta, crazy springer spaniel.

What do you want most from Father Christmas? 

I have everything I need, I'm very lucky.

New Year's resolution?

I don't do those. Stuff it, we are all good as we are.