On-trade Spring Portfolio Tastings 2024 - Boutinot
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A view from our spring portfolio tastings

By Georgina Bickers, On-trade Channel Marketing Manager

 

 
A week on, and with the benefit of a weekend’s R&R, it’s time to reflect on our On-Trade Spring Portfolio Tastings.

 

On Monday 4th March we returned to Mackie Mayor in our hometown of Manchester, taking over both floors of the 1858 Grade II listed market building. As sunshine poured through the ornate glass roof, between the wrought-iron doors came a steady stream of somms, buyers and FOH teams, eager to embrace the coming of Spring.

The following Wednesday saw our London delegation arrive at Walthamstow’s Big Penny Social, a vast beer hall and community space, also proudly waving the flag for its (much more recent) industrial past. A relaxed vinyl set from Boutinot’s resident DJ warmed the acoustics of the warehouse as we peered expectantly into one of London’s largest beer gardens, looking forward to the months of trading ahead.

For ease of navigation, both tastings were organized into two distinct areas: themed tables and the ‘Producer Zone’. Our themed tables are curated by your very own account managers; an opportunity for them to share the wines that really sing to them this season, as well as those that continue to work hard and hit the mark for many of the hotly contested spots within on-trade list.

First stop on the tasting journey was the ‘New’ table where many were drawn to the unusual bottle shape from new Provençal agency Domaine Bargemone and their Libre Blanc, 2023. Organic and sustainable, the juice itself was as expressive as the packaging, offering plush white peach and exotic fruits.

Old friends were overjoyed to see us extend the range from Bodegas Madai in Bierzo, showing their Origen Godello 2022 and Sobre Lias Mencia 2019, just 2 from the 5 wines we are now proud to represent from a passionate team of two brothers.

Incoming from the Southern Hemisphere, it was South African pair from Kleine Oranjerie and Barossa’s Lone Palm Vineyards that drew the most ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’. The Kleine Orangerie Viognier and Merlot were both grown on early-picked Paarl Vineyards and seek to capture the finest expressions of the Cape’s great cultivars through balance and finesse. The Aussie trio of Riesling, (90 year) Old Vine Grenache and Hillside Shiraz, made with a respect for the old-school, provide a classic solution for a restaurant list.

‘Fizz, Pink & Orange’ brought a welcome antidote to the chillier months past and refreshed our palate for the seasons to come. Tabali Tatié Brut and Brut Rosé NV and Château de Piote Perles de Piote Blanc, Crémant de Bordeaux were the top picks from the sparkling selection, demonstrating a desire to stray away from the usual suspects of Prosecco and Champagne. The former from Chile’s Tabali is a joint venture with Champagne Thiénot, who fell in love with the mean, calcareous soils of Tabalí’s Talinay blocks. The latter is a 70:30 Semillon/Colombard blend from a genuinely artisan winery making unique biodynamic wines with real character and substance, new to us this year.

On the rose-tinted front, the taste for the esoteric continued with Casa de Vila Nova Vinho Verde Rosé 2023 displaying all the energy and confidence of fruit we come to expect from the region. Domaine des Tourelles Skin, from the Bekaa Valley Lebanon, is an enchanting orange wine made from 150-year-old Merweh grapes, borne from a mentorship from skin-contact veterans in Georgia.

Both ‘Fine Dining’ and ‘Casual Dining’ selections were brimming with tried and trusted labels, an out of the box solution for any newcomer to Boutinot, curious to know what we offer at their end of the restaurant trade. 

The curators of our ‘Spring Focus’ table were given the brief of showcasing regions and varietals that find their way onto hospitality lists as the days grow longer and the sun climbs in the sky. No surprise that Condes de Albarei La Huida Albarino 2023 with its mouthwatering brightness and littoral minerality was a firm favourite from the white selection, alongside Sharpham Estate Pinot Noir 2021, abundant with cherry fruit, delicate spice and oak-softened tannins, from Devon’s Dart Valley, from the red selection.

Green & Natural’ highlighted our sustainable and low-intervention wines, a growing area of our wider portfolio. New organic estates from France Château de Piote and Domaine Bargemone, once again garnered much of the attention here, whilst Juan Gil Comoloco 2022 a 100% organic Monastrell from Jumilla made with minimal intervention, no added sulphur and no histamines, stole the show for Spain.

Alt. Formats: Keg & Cans’ showed our capabilities in the innovative packaging space. In addition to our range of canned wines, in a choice of must-have varietals, we are also growing our keg selection from a handful of key grape varieties from South Africa’s Western Cape, adding a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and a number of other exciting fills, soon to be announced…

Finally, from the themed tables, ‘Limited Parcels’ had our friends from Third Floor Wines at the helm. Each bottle, most often as limited as they are obscure, had a story as beguiling as the next. Current tastes seem to be heading for the hills as visitors sought out the very best from Austria and Germany. Weingut Seehof demonstrated fine, terroir-focused wines from the Rheingau whilst Zahel opened our eyes to Vienna’s revival of traditional styles and techniques through their Gemischter Satz and Amphora Riesling.

Over in the ‘Producer Zone’ was a golden opportunity to get to know, first-hand, many of our agency partners and hear in their words what makes their wines so special. We were fortunate enough to have visiting producers from all across the winemaking world who loved hearing from attendees to understand more about where their wines sit in the context of the UK on-trade. Chateau Mercian from Japan and Teliani Valley from Georgia drew particular interest for those looking to travel off the beaten path…

The Boutinot winemaking Homes were of course represented, with the début of Heaphy, our new Home in Nelson, New Zealand. Londoners had the treat of meeting Andy Nicole, Heaphy’s General Manager as he poured the very first releases from the fledgling project. We were delighted to see the buzz around the Nelson Sauvignon Blanc 2023, Nelson Riesling 2023 and Moutere Old Vine Riesling 2023 and are keenly awaiting the first shipment later this month, so we can share them with more of you.

To round things off, both tastings ended with a visit to Boutinot Spirits and a chat with Rick Dacey from Outlier, the award-winning rum distillery on the Isle of Man. His enthusiasm for locally-sourced spirits with real identity was infectious and more than enough to convince the crowds to try his signature Daiquiri. For those still thirsty, in Manchester the guys at Stray indulged us with some expertly crafted cocktails using the Boutinot Spirits range, whilst in London, old-fashioned G&Ts were the order of the day.

With weary palates and smartwatches telling us to chill out, we raised our glasses to ‘cheers’ the end of another successful tasting week. For us, hosting a tasting goes beyond opening a few hundred bottles. It’s about creating an environment that gets your whole team excited about wine and making changes to our customers list. It’s about encouraging a conversation with the people behind the labels on the back bar and spending that much needed time to slow down, reflect and (re)connect with all your fantastic friends in hospitality. We are aware more than ever of the continued pressure our industry comes under and are therefore incredibly grateful for the time taken from hectic weeks to spend a few hours with us at our tastings.

We’ll be back in the Autumn to do it all over again – here’s to a successful Spring and Summer.

For more of a taste of both events, reels of the two days can be viewed on our Instagram feed here

 

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