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TOAST talks organic grapes and festive tipples with The Wine Butler

As the demand for organic grapes grows, TOAST catches up with The Wine Butler to see what all the fuss is about.

It’s hard to stop Kevin Latouf once you get him onto the subject of organic wine. Which is kind of understandable, given a) that’s why we’re meeting, and b) he’s in the business of selling the stuff. But Latouf’s energised patter is more than just an expert salesman attempting to big up his wares – he seems genuinely passionate about natural viticulture and wants to spread the word.

“Conventional wine making is an open field,” says the founder of The Wine Butler, the “You can pretty much put anything you want in there. Not only are grapes sprayed with chemicals, fertilisers and pesticides, but additives can include everything from acid and sugar to bovine pancreas.”

Nice. Before you start emptying the remnants of last night’s picpoul down the sink, Latouf is keen to stress not all non-organic wines contain dubious animal parts. But as there’s no requirement to list ingredients on wine labels, we have no way of knowing what lurks inside our favourite supermarket fix. “Buying a £10 bottle of wine from a big grocery store is the same thing as buying battery eggs,” warns Latouf.

A growing number of consumers appear to agree. Though still a niche market, organic wine is slowly but surely shedding its alternative image. Earlier this year, luxury goods conglomerate LVMH reported a 7% rise in sales of natural wine, champagne and spirits, while nearly 900 exhibitors signed up for the 2016 Millesime Bio organic wine fair, in Montpellier – a record number. Then there are the estimated 20-30 vineyards in England that are now organically certified – is this the future of wine production?

Latouf is sanguine about the industry’s growth. “More and more vineyards and wine makers are switching to organic. Some of the the most famous Bordeauxs in the world that sell for thousands of pounds a bottle are made from grapes grown without interference.” In fact, the owner of Chateau de La Dauphine has predicted that 100% of Bordeaux wines will be organic within the next 30 years.

“What the top wineries know is that you can’t make quality wine with bad grapes,” says Latouf. “The healthier and better your grapes are, which means no chemicals, the better the wine in the long term.” 

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Surprisingly, wine isn’t Latouf’s first love. A former professional cricketer, he discovered his passion by accident while on tour in Australia. “We’d planned to go surfing, but there were no waves, so decided to visit a vineyard instead. The winemaker was in shorts and a t shirt and it was all so relaxed. It completely changed my perception of wine.” 

After an injury ended his sporting career when he was 23, Latouf took a job as an advisor for The Sunday Times Wine Club before branching out on his own five years ago with a restaurant and cafe. Capitalising on the trend for Antipodean brunches and coffee, Winchester-based Josie’s also supplies an ever-changing list of red and white wine, all organic, naturally. “I learnt so much in my job at The Sunday Times, but once I started my own business, I began getting into smaller producers who didn’t really use any chemicals. I struggled to go back to conventional wine after that.” 

A second Josie’s followed a few years later and in June, encouraged by demand from his customers, Latouf launched The Wine Butler. “People kept saying how they struggle to choose wine and would ask for my recommendations. I get the opportunity to travel around the world and taste all these fantastic wines, so I wanted to share my knowledge.” 

Monthly membership costs from £30 for three bottles, rising to £65 for a one-off gift box. So far, there have been no complaints about Latouf’s selection. “Obviously, everything we sell is organic and most of our products are made with minimal sulphur and no additives. But ultimately, people wouldn’t buy our wine if it wasn’t delicious. I believe in taste first and foremost and for me, when it comes to natural versus conventional wine, there’s no comparison.”

The Wine Butler The Special Box

Festive Food and Wine Pairings

Kevin’s guide to making merry this Christmas…

Be Experimental

Play around with the wines that you enjoy. If you don’t like anything too heavy or oaky, the lighter-style pinot noirs are great. I’m a big fan of some of the southern French reds from the Corbier region. They’re light-bodied, fresh wines, not high in alcohol, and are so food friendly. 

For Christmas dinner

I’ll typically start with a zesty and crisp Albarino, a white wine from Galicia, in the northwestern part of Spain.

Moving onto the main course, it has to be something from the Corbier. There’s a producer there called Maxime Magnon – he’s my favourite wine maker at the moment. His white is a granache blanc, which usually makes a really heavy and oaky wine, but his is light and flavoursome. One sip and it makes you smile. His red is an incredible granache and syrah blend. (I’m not a traditionalist when it comes to only drinking white with fish and poultry and vice versa. If you want red with your turkey, go for it.)

Dessert Wine

German wines are massively underrated. A riesling makes an excellent dessert wine. Also, don't be scared of port and sherry. There are some amazing producers out there who are making sweeter stuff. Fino sherries go really well with pudding, while the PX’s (Pedro Ximenez) taste fantastic poured over ice cream.

If you'd like to try some delicious organic wine from around the world and delivered straight to your door take a look at The Wine Butler's collection of wines to share for special occasions and the every day on their website wwwthewinebutler.co.uk or take a look at their listing in our Little Black Book. 


Posted in Spotlight

by Alix O'Neill
on on 24 November 2016

  organic wine, wine, wine pairing

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