Compared with the big names and their huge numbers of stores, Booths seems more like a chain of specialist shops than a major retailer. But this brings its own advantages. Less of a megastore, more of a grocer, Booths stores focus on local meat, fresh fish and a few quirky ingredients that you might otherwise have to go online for.
Booths is also terrific for wine. Locals who shop there on a regular basis already know about its distinctive, well-chosen range but now the world-famous Decanter magazine has acknowledged its wines with the accolade of Wine Supermarket of the Year, beating Aldi, Waitrose and Marks & Spencer which were also short-listed.
This is the second time Booths has won this award in recent years. It came top in 2017 and runner-up in 2019. The Co-op, with its thousands of corner shops as well as major supermarkets, was named as runner-up which is recognition of this organisation’s range and its Fairtrade credentials.
Booths wine buyer Victoria Anderson, who has been in the role for over six years, is delighted by the win. “To have won this prestigious award in such challenging times is a really proud moment for me and for all the team at Booths. As a relatively small, regional retailer, it’s quite humbling to be recognised by Decanter on the national stage. My aim is always to look after our customers’ palates and pockets and to delight them with a range of wines to explore, which appeals to both traditionalists and adventurers alike”.
With only three stores in Yorkshire, in Ilkley, Ripon and Settle, a trip to Booths might involve somewhat of a detour, but the wine range is well worth trying. During lockdown and through all the difficulties of this year, Victoria has been busy adding new wines to the range. I tasted through a number of them this week, with a distinct but not exclusive focus on Italy. These are some to try.
Connubio Bianco 2018, Terre Siciliane IGT, Italy, £5.25: A great value, easy-quaffing wine with white flowers and lime zest on the nose. Made from 100 per cent Cataratto, it has citrus and herbs on the palate and a clean, minerally finish.
Fiano 2019, Terre Siciliane IGT, Italy, £7: The producer of this wine is noted just as CS in Menfi, Sicily, but everyone knows this refers to Cantina Settesoli, one of the best co-operatives on the island. Made from the Fiano grape which is more usually found in Puglia, this is a serious dry wine, with citrus, herbs and peachy notes and just a touch of honey. Light and fresh, it makes a great aperitif and it goes well with prawn linguine or creamy fish dishes.
Monte del Frà Lugana 2018, DOC, Italy, £13.50: From the south-east of Lake Garda, this is a fine example of good wine made from the Trebbiano grape. It has aromas of ripe pears, with fresh honeydew melon fruit on the palate and a gentle touch of honey. A serious wine with depth and finesse, team this with monkfish, creamy pasta or vegetable dishes.
Booths Rosé 2019, IGP, France, £9: Provence Rosé is moving up the price band, allowing quality wine from just outside that hallowed area to fill the gap. This is a super wine, fashionably pale pink with flavours of redcurrants and strawberries and a clean, fresh finish. Summer may be on its way out, but a glass of this could make the sun shine again.
Connubio Rosso IGT, Terre Siciliane, Italy, £5.25: Sicily is famous for having held on to its native grapes and there is a whole mix of them in this wine. There are no clues but I would expect some Nero d’Avola and Nerello Mascalese with maybe some Frappato adding to the strawberry fruit flavours in the wine. Soft and easy-drinking, pour this alongside a midweek bowl of pasta.
Nero d’Avola Red, Sicilia DOC, Italy, £7: A Booth’s own-label wine, and once again this comes from the Settesoli winery. Full-bodied and full of flavour with black cherry, plum and bramble fruit, a dusting of spice and pepper and smooth, easy tannins, this is perfect to team up with pasta or a meaty casserole.
Ch. Trillol 2016, Corbières, France, £12: This comes from the wild and beautiful terroir of Corbières where southern French grapes Grenache, Syrah and Carignan work together to produce a wine with bramble fruit, sprinkled with wild garrigue herbs of thyme and rosemary, with a note of spice on the finish. Delicious now, but it won’t mind if you keep it through winter.
Briccotondo Dolcetto 2016, Piemonte, Fontanafredda, £13: Dolcetto is the name of the grape, which translates as “little sweet one”. That doesn’t mean the wine is sweet – it isn’t. It means it is full of cherry and bramble fruit flavours, lively, savoury and with supple, easy tannins. Perfect with pasta or lamb.
Ascheri Nebbiolo 2018, Langhe, S Giacomo Piemonte, Italy, £16: The taste of this wine takes me straight back to Piemonte where I once spent a weekend at the stylish, modern hotel owned by the Ascheri family. There’s an osteria there too where you can eat your fill of local produce and then just amble up to bed. And this wine? As you might expect from one of the most prominent producers in the region, it is gorgeous – full of black cherry fruit, tempered by notes of forest floors, liquorice and savoury spice. Perfect for autumn.
Rioja Ardanza Reserva 2010, La Rioja Alta, Spain, £26: When you can buy Rioja Reserva for around £10 why should anyone part with £26 for Viña Ardanza?
The reason is simple – it is sensational. It has more layers of flavour and the oak sits under the fruit, within the whole structure of the wine, which is balanced, refined, elegant and precise. This is more than just a Rioja, it is the epitome of how Rioja should taste. But there is never enough for everyone, hence the price.
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