We’ve been working hard with our suppliers Boutinot wines to find the perfect wines for The Clarence. The latest wine list features wines that massively over-deliver in terms of taste and value. And while we’ve been speaking to their team and, yes, tasting plenty of wines (*hic*), we’ve also been learning lots about what it takes to make, and find, great wine in tough times. So we asked Boutinot expert Adam Youds to write down everything he told us about how 2017 was a bad year for wine makers, but could be great news for drinkers…
Search the internet for “2017 vintage” and it won’t be long before you are awash with articles about how the wine world has witnessed the worst vintage for decades (some stating for 59 years). Many parts of the world have witnessed ‘the perfect storm’ of spring frosts, hailstorms, unrelenting heatwaves and drought that has resulted in devastation of crops and ultimately a lot less available wine to the consumer. To give you an idea, Italy alone will be down by around 2 billion bottles!
So, does this mean that the quality of wine has suffered? Well actually, no. Many producers are keen to point out that their 2017 vintage (what’s left of it) is showing excellent character and depth. Put simply, when the number of grapes per vine is reduced, the concentration and quality of those remaining grapes is dramatically improved.
What it does mean is that we will see the price of wine increase across the board as demand outstrips supply; there simply isn’t enough wine to go around! Maybe this is the time to order a bottle and really savour it. Appreciate where it has come from and what the grape growers and wine makers have had to go through to get that glass in your hand; it’s their livelihood after all.
It is always heart-warming to see our wines enjoyed in such lovely places such as The Clarence, HOME Café Bar and Automatic [Boutinot are now supplying our whole family of restaurants], where the philosophy of people, provenance and passion never wavers, because their beliefs match Boutinot’s so well.
Boutinot Wines are about 60% own production, which means that we’re wine makers before we’re wine suppliers. Our longstanding relationship with grape growers across the world has meant that we have been able to support each other in this testing time to produce the very best wine for the consumer, and most importantly, make sure we have enough to maintain supply. Although we have our own vineyards in England, France, Italy and South Africa, it’s our relationships with the growers and producers that make everything possible.
A great case study of how we work is The Rambler Barbera [the new House Red at The Clarence]. Claudio Manera – who is one of Boutinot’s owners and Chairman (and also heads up the Araldica Winery in Piemonte, Italy) – saw the potential problems that lay ahead and knew that we still needed a great house wine at an affordable price. To do this he declassified some of his DOC Piemonte Barbera grapes. These brilliant grapes would normally make a wine that sits 3rd or 4th on a wine list. By ‘declassifying’ these outstanding grapes and using them for his Vino Tavola (table wine) he’s creating a wine at a lower market price and ultimately making good wine more affordable. The finished wine is one of outstanding quality for the price, a real crowd pleaser and an example of how we won’t be beaten in challenging times.
So, whilst soaking up the perfect food, atmosphere and service I’d recommend a bottle of the Domaine de Vedilhan Serica Viognier, Boutinot ‘Les Cerisiers’ Cotes du Rhone Rose or El Viejo del Valle Pinot Noir, all of which will be a perfect accompaniment as the spring months (finally) start to appear.
The other (equally important) 40% of Boutinot Wines is made up by some serious superstar winemakers and we maybe got a bit overexcited when listing some of our favourites in the new list – Villa Nova Vinho Verde, Keith Tulloch Field of Mars Semillon, Alpha Box & Dice ‘Enigma’ Barbera and Emiliana Organic Coyam (the first organic wine made in South America).
I hope you enjoy them as much as we do.
Main image is of Tignanello Grapes Ready For Harvest in Tuscany in 2017, photographed by Alan Piper, and licensed under Creative Commons. We’ve cropped it slightly, including removing the photographer’s watermark. The original is here on Flickr.