Boutique Hand-Crafted Wine: What Does That Really Mean?

Guest blog courtesy of Kate Boyle MacDonald, Winemaker, Boyle MacDonald Wines

I’ve often spent the day in the tasting room chatting with folks about ‘everything- wine’. I love talking about wine. And vines. And fruit. And the emotions invoked by smelling and tasting. And, well, like I said, ‘everything-wine’.

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Sometimes I take it for granted that when I’m having these conversations, everyone knows the definition of the words I’m using. Tannin, mouthfeel, pH, titratable acidity, brix, cordon. These aren’t everyday words for most, but after almost two decades in the wine industry, these terms have become commonplace in my personal dictionary.

The words boutique and hand-crafted also get thrown around a lot. Many wineries are using these terms, but there are no legal, binding definitions for these descriptors. They can be used appropriately, but also very loosely at times.

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At Boyle MacDonald, I feel proud to represent both of these terms. Boutique, in it’s most simple form, means small. Again, what constitutes small is up for debate. Trying to define a boutique winery based purely on production numbers doesn’t necessarily work. There are a lot of small producers that don’t automatically make great wine just because they are small. The same can be said about producers who make a quantity that seems more mid-sized, or even large. Does that mean their wines automatically lack in character, like those of small or boutique wineries? Of course not.

I define boutique as a small enough production for me to be intimately acquainted with every vine in the vineyard and every barrel in the winery. I know exactly what is happening in every part of every row, and can catch any issues and manage them before anything detrimental can happen. I am familiar with what is going on in each individual barrel of wine. I can make blends in my mind before doing lab trials, and can already taste them as a concept because of this boutique production.

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Being hand-crafted is a little more clear-cut, although the term still gets misused pretty often. As the term implies, everything is done by hand. This is particularly important at the vineyard stage. The best wines are made by humans with emotions, who care about the vines. If you can go one step further, as we do at Boyle MacDonald, and use your very own hands, I guarantee there is no one more passionate about the outcome of the fruit than the owners and winemakers themselves.

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The advantage we have as a boutique, hand-crafted wine, is that you won’t find hired outside crews tending our vines. We also don’t have cellarhands carrying out orders from the winemaker. It’s me, living up to my title, and physically making the wine.

In the end, you don’t need to define a winery with a word. You’ll be able to feel it, sense it, taste it. You’ll know it’s worth, not by a label, but by an intuition. Above all else, just drink what you like, like what you drink.

Here’s to you!
Kate 

Angel Note: You can buy Boyle MacDonald Wines 2011 Napa Estate Cabernet Sauvignon on Cellar Angels for one month only, beginning Monday, November 21st.  Select your favorite cause to support with proceeds from every sale!

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