As Sussex’s longest established wine merchants, there’s little that partners Henry Butler and Cassie Gould don’t know about wine. Nick Mosley asks the questions.
Which countries are offering the best bang for your buck currently?
Cassie: As always we champion Portugal, they are making great wines at affordable prices. Spain is always consistent for affordable sustainable wines. We've also seen some great value wines from Italy and Sicily.
Henry: I think Bulgaria is an exciting country for wines. There are many different styles available within one country, they are generally affordable and a lot of them are really good quality. There is also a difference in style depending on what region you get it from, which is exciting.
What emerging regions to look out for?
Henry: I love the Alto Adige region in northern Italy. Some stupendous white wines are coming from this area, they are well worth seeking out, and they are so food versatile.
Cassie: I think more quality Greek and Eastern European wines are making their way to the market and I think China will start exploring more wines in the next few years. Keep an eye out for more American wines heading to the UK, but made outside of California, places such as New York and Texas.
Anything exciting coming out of Sussex at the moment?
Henry: We have recently gone back to the wines from Albourne Estate in Sussex. We used to sell these a while ago, and are very happy to have these well made, modern wines back on the shelves. We also love the sparkling wines from Breaky Bottom in Rodmell, they continue to impress.
Cassie: English sparkling wine is still a big business and sparkling wine sales will continue to grow in all areas. There are a lot of producers also making orange wines in the UK.
Orange wines are an increasing trend – what are they and why are they on the rise?
Henry: Orange wines are made from white grapes, where the wine remains in contact with the grape skins, a similar method to making red wine. This extracts a deeper colour and some of the elements contained in the skins such as tannins, so the wines can feel richer and a bit more grippy.
There’s a lot of talk of natural wines too at the moment – in fact some Brighton restaurants have exclusively natural wine lists. Do you recommend the category?
Cassie: Anything with no added chemicals, flavours etc have got to be better, so well made and sustainable wines are a must. Sometimes natural can go too far and be volatile or unpredictable but there are some great examples. We have many natural wines on our shelves but not labelled as such, they are just good wines being made in a natural way.
What are your thoughts on no alcohol and low alcohol wines?
Henry: We haven't been impressed with no-lo wines so far, based on the examples we have been given to try. I think the no-lo beer market is further along the curve in terms of taste and value.
Are ready-to-drink canned wines increasingly in-demand?
Cassie: Canned wines are more popular and are a great way to have wine in sustainable packaging. That said you need to seek out a quality product, the same with any other wines. We have some good examples in the shop. I think cocktails in cans are an easier sell but the ones we've had have all been way too sweet.
Henry: We did take some premixed cocktails to some outdoor events this summer. They were interesting to try but I'm not sure I'd bother reordering for general use.
Finally, why should consumers buy from their local independent vintner rather than the supermarket chains?
Cassie: Independent businesses are struggling daily so need more support than ever! By going to an independent you will find wines that are from smaller producers and be able to get good advice from the staff so are likely to leave with something you will really like rather than taking a gamble by picking something random off the shelf.
Henry: If you shop with an independent, you should find a much more extensive range of wines than other retail outlets. The staff will be well trained and full of passion for the subject. Our role as an independent is to provide great products, great service and inspire more people to investigate better wines. There is life beyond big brands.
Butlers Wine Cellar, 88 St George's Road, Brighton BN2 1EE • 01273 621 638