I love being fooled by an unassuming wine. Of course, not every bottle offers up the ultimate triune of an eye-catching label, divine juice and the penny-perfect price. But, that’s the beauty of any given wine; on any given day, you’re going to be fooled by what’s in store…sometimes a disappointment, hopefully more often a joyous surprise.
This month, which always begins with a day of pranks, I introduce you to a few wines that totally fooled me the first time I tried them. Hopefully, you’ll be happily fooled as well…
There’s a wine company called Boutinot Wines, a UK-based distributor that both sells and produces wonderful wines from around the world. Started in 1980 by Paul Boutinot, the eponymous label has morphed from a one-man supplier in a rented van (Paul) to a multi-faceted company, with a portfolio of over 1600 wines from 10 different countries, selling more than 44 million bottles annually. The Boutinot mantra has always been, really good wines at fair prices. And this approach applies to its agents, grape growers and winemakers.
The rugged landscape in southwest France surrounding the fortified town of Carcassonne and the commune of Limoux is home to Boutinot’s label Les Volets. The heart of the Languedoc – Roussillon region is historically known for varietals such as grenache, syrah, cinsault and other Rhone Valley grapes; however, you’ll also find beautiful wines from pinot noir and malbec, two more traditional varietals that are equally majestic in this lesser-known land.
Les Volets Pinot Noir 2016 is made from hand-picked grapes and vinified in large, old oak barrels. Dark red in color, with aromas of fresh raspberries and a savory note, the palate offers more red fruits that complement both the acid and tannin…a more rustic counterpart to the softer pinots of other regions. Winemakers Samantha Bailey and Guillaume Letang maintain the wine’s integrity, with a drinkable 12.5% ABV. And the price? Try $12…can’t beat it.
Staying true to Boutinot form, the Les Volets Malbec 2016 also delivers in superb ways. Malbec (Cot in France) has an old tradition in Languedoc, where it’s used in the art of blending. This wine, however, is 100% malbec. Les Volets Malbec 2016 is ruby in color and semi-dense in viscosity. Aromas of blueberries, cassis and violets jump, while red and black fruits fill the mouth, along with a touch of dark chocolate truffle. It’s delicious, uniquely separated from the more ubiquitous Mendoza malbecs. Priced even less than the PN, around $11, it’s a steal.
In addition to France, Boutinot also produces wines from South Africa, a vine-rich country that is both overlooked and underappreciated. Boutinot’s South African book of today reflects almost three decades of partnerships with grape growers, allowing them access to the most unique sites around. Of their many SA labels, my favorite is Prime Cuts, a Western Cape wine from the sandy, granitic soils of Swartland.
Prime Cuts White Blend 2016 is a clean, fresh wine comprised predominantly of chenin blanc. It also has viognier, grenache blanc and a splash of semillon. All grapes are picked by hand and it’s vinified in stainless steel tanks, giving the wine great acidity. Instantly, you’ll notice jasmine, lemon, and citrusy overtones on the nose. The palate is an equally enticing, reflective of its sandy soils terroir. It’s a great ‘everyday’ wine. Ryno Booysen is the young talented winemaker, and he takes pride producing wines that people want to drink; and priced less than $10, you’ll want to drink it often!
Not to be outdone by its little sister, Prime Cuts Red Blend 2016 is also a worthy wine of South African origins. Here, Booysen really delivers with a powerful blend of shiraz, petit verdot and cinsault, again from the Swartland area of the Western Cape. A foodie wine for sure, blackberries, dark spices and very red cherries permeate both the nose and palate. Although stainless steel vinified, there’s still some tannic structure to complement the steady acidity. It’s a great match for steak and chips and beef stir-fry. And like the Prime Cuts White Blend, it’s also $10, another steal.
So yes, I was certainly fooled by the little gems. Packaging on all these wine is very eye-grabbing, and I love the prices…but, it’s the juice in the bottle that gets the last laugh here, especially in April.
If you’re heading up Leesburg way, check out Vanish Brewery, you’ll find the Prime Cuts wines there.
Until next time, Happy Vino’ing!