Indies Corner - Boutinot

Indies Spring-24 Portfolio Tasting Roundup by Angela Johnson

Its been a busy few weeks for the Independents team and Account Manager Angela Johnson kicks off a new feature “Indies Corner” with a round up of our spring portfolio tastings. 

It’s Friday morning following our annual February Portfolio tastings, a week where the Indies team head to London and Manchester (despite contending with a last-minute extreme weather warning) to show our new wines, latest vintages and welcome producers. It’s one of the busiest weeks of the year, I’m on my third cup of coffee as another email drops into my inbox from a customer enthusing on the wines they tried. It comes with a glowing ‘Thank you’, another to add to the growing list for an excellent event, and, it feels like this year, more the ever, there was a real sense of camaraderie amongst everyone there, coupled with an immense buzz for the wines. It’s a whirlwind of a week for those involved but also the most fulfilling. It’s always so heartwarming to hear the praise for the wines, but it doesn’t beat seeing customers, producers and Boutinot people come together to share them.

“We got through the year of January”

Can we still say, ‘Happy New Year’? I ask Liam from Wild and Lees but he tells me we haven’t hugged it out yet so it’s still OK. We made it through the year of January but the ‘Christmas trading’ question still hangs strongly in the air. Following a year of duty hikes, rate increases and an ever-shaky economy, we were all on tenterhooks during the most important trading period of the year to see how it played out. Despite everyone expecting a bit more turbulence, it’s an ultimately positive response all around. It feels, this week, as if the dust has settled, we’re ready to go headstrong into the new year ahead. It’s clear that Independents still hold a strong front, but it’s obvious speaking to customers that spending has changed and collectively we all need to work together to make sure the right wines are in the right places. Changes in shopper demographics, increase in online retailing or the ever-growing ‘hybrid’ drink-in model; our customers now need wines to suit the changing landscape of their business and with it, we, as Indies account managers, need to understand these needs too.

This week we returned to Glaziers Hall in London and Hallé St Peters in Manchester. With over 350 wines and spirits across 19 countries and 28 producers, we were joined by some of our established customer favourites such as Bodegas Ontañón, Waterkloof and Emiliana. As well as new faces, Bordeaux producer Château de Piote and Domaine Bargemone in Coteaux d’Aix en Provence. This was also a particularly special year as we took the opportunity to introduce our newest ‘Boutinot Home’ – New Zealand’s Heaphy. Heaphy joined our other Boutinot wineries in attendance; Henners in Herstmonceux, Domaine Boutinot Rhône in Cairanne and Wildeberg in Franschhoek.

Heaphy Vineyard, situated in Nelson in the northwest of the South Island, follows the continued commitment of Boutinot to establish our own winemaking roots in places of untapped quality; places that may be overshadowed by their more famous neighbouring areas. Nelson is a prime site for vine growing, boasting 2,405 hours of annual sunshine, a sheltered topography and a specific blend of Moutere clay and Mapua sandy loam, creating the ideal environment for cultivating characterful grapes with intensity of fruit and a subtle salinity. The Heaphy range currently consists of a Sauvignon Blanc and two Rieslings, all with elevated aromatics, oodles of fruit and zingy acidity. All the wines received exceptional feedback, and, considering a handful of customers in London had joined us after spending a morning at the wines of New Zealand tasting, it was great to hear such acclaim on its debut. As one customer put it “its grapes are pushing what they can do to their boundaries and showing their full potential… wines that say, ‘you’ll remember me!’”- yes, we think you will!

Own production is still one of our biggest strongholds in the industry, being able to bridge that gap between wine and consumer without compromising on quality is often held as what keeps us apart from competitors. Ross from The Offy visits London with a clear mission to try our Domaine Boutinot Argiles Blanches Blanc from our Rhône Domaine in Cairanne. The 2022 vintage doesn’t disappoint: rich and textural with layers of fruit and florals. The versatility of this wine means that it’ll work well both on the shelves and for his restaurant customers in the seaside town of Whitstable.

“You guys know what you do, and you do it well, you’re consistent so I know I can come with an agenda, but I know I’m going to find so many more wines I’ll love” – Alastair, Alteus Wines

A popular corner of the tastings on both days was our affectionately named ‘Work Horse’ wines – a selection of favourites that offer exceptional quality and value. Of course, there’s an increase in consumers seeking more cost-effective wines, but they want these without compromising on taste. We know it’s what we do well at Boutinot, it’s a category that our customers trust us with, but it’s also great to see the wines such as Wild House Chenin and Nieto Malbec tasting so well on the day for our customer’s palates too.

As always, there’s an excitement when welcoming our new agencies, especially those that bring with them a true sense of place and personality, like the charming, if slightly eccentric right-bank Bordeaux producer Château de Piote. This biodynamic winery is overseen by a menagerie of ducks, chickens, pigs and horses … and the Aubrion family of winemakers, of course. They bring four new wines to the list including Perles de Piote Blanc Crémant NV; a must for those wanting to increase their sparkling offerings with a rich and luxurious wine that is full of baked apple and warming spice notes. Domaine Bargemone add their touch of elevated classic Provence wines and a true representation of the Coteaux d’Aix regional style. Their Cuvée Libre Blanc and Rosé bring to the portfolio a premium Provence wine, all dressed up in their iconic eye-catching bottles.

As well as our new producers, we also showed a host of new wines to the list, touching on some key areas of growth in the last year; low/no alcohol and low intervention wines. The ‘sulphite free’ Comoloco by Juan Gil, was a popular choice – a juicy and fruity 100% Monastrell wine that is low in histamines, something to satisfy those ‘red wine headache’ conscious customers. Bischöfliche DOM Zero Riesling Alkoholfrei and the 11% alcohol Il Traliccio Trebbiano and Sangiovese show that you can have wines with flavour and body, alongside the bonus of no or lower alcohol (and duty rates!). Two new wines from Australian winery Lone Palm Vineyards offer a Riesling and Shiraz with the classic nuances of the Barossa Valley. And with the sales of fizz showing no sign of slowing down, the Brut white and sparkling rosé, Tatié from producer Tabali’s new joint venture with Champagne Thiénot, proved a hit for those wanting to increase their listings with a selection of impressive ‘Champagne-alike’ wines.

“We still have customers seeking something a bit special, quality over quantity and we need a balance for premium wines too” – Cork of The North

We also unveiled the recent vintage releases of Burgundian producer Domaine Berthelemot. The Indies team visited the Berthelemot winery last spring to taste through the ’22 whites and ’21 reds in barrel, and, like most in attendance, this was the first chance for us to try these vintages in bottle. The 2022 whites are genuinely delightful – classic charm of Burgundy and refreshing drinkability across the board and all the wines attracted high praise. Customers noted the reds were elegant with crunchy red fruit, but each showed their distinct individuality from the vibrant Beaune 1er Cru Les Grèves* to the smokier and more earthy Pommard Noizons. The 16 wines side by side offered the perfect way to highlight the differences across the region, villages, and cru wines. With the rumbling suggestions of a more stable future for the prices, customers found it the perfect line-up to rediscover Burgundy, when (like myself) they may not have found themselves drinking that much of it in recent years…

“What were your favourites today?”

From those excellent value wines to our great agencies and our own production, there was, as always, something for everyone. With far too many to mention, a few standouts of the day included:
Bressia Monteagrelo Cabernet Franc 2020; a wine that was poetically commented on for its “brooding depth” of bramble fruit.

  • Domaine Berthelemot St Aubin 1er Cru 2022; a great balance of crisp acidity and creamy body with delicate stone fruit and minerality.
  • Bacalhôa Baga 2017; a well-structured and elegant wine packed with red fruits and subtle spice.
  • Marchesi di Grésy Nebbiolo Martinenga 2021; a youthful versatile Nebbiolo with lots of wild berry fruit.
  • Granbazán Don Álvaro de Bazán 2020; continuing to raise the Albariño bar. This old vine estate wine has rounded creaminess on the palate from extended lees ageing alongside florals, fruits and herbal nuances.
  • Kloster Eberbach Pinot Noir Edition S VDP. Gutswein 2021; for its elegant wild strawberry and floral notes.
  • Domaine des Tourelles Skin 2022; leading the way with popularity for skin contact wines. This vintage has a lifted citrus note with the addition of Sauvignon Blanc in the blend.
  • Henners Blanc de Blanc 2018; a fantastic vintage with classic English elegance of apples, brioche, and quince.

With a wrap on another portfolio week and as I contemplate another coffee, I’m left with a sense of positivity and time to adapt. It feels like there’s a ‘shake up’ in the air and we need to keep that excitement going. For us and our customers, it’s a time to work together to review the range and see what works in the changing times. And what’s more exciting than discovering a whole new lot of wine on the shelves?! As an unapologetic millennial growing up in the era of a 90’s movie ‘makeover montage’ … I’m here for it.

A footnote.
* At the end of our London tasting, everything packed away ready for our travels north, I spy John Sanderson, Product Manager for Boutinot France, resting by the tall windows of Glaziers Hall, looking out pensively over the Thames, smiling to himself with a glass in hand. It’s like I’m looking at an Edward Hopper painting. When I ask what’s in the glass, this is what he’s drinking. What a way to end a great day.

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