- Published on Monday, 24 September 2012 10:09
- Written by Gemma McKenna
It’s not often that regional merchants come to London to show their wares, but a rather popular north-western player, Booths, showcased 100 wines from its wine range at the Saatchi Gallery’s Mess Room on Friday afternoon.
“Bringing Mohammed to the mountain,” and getting press exposure was the idea behind having a London tasting explained Edwin Booth, the current chairman, representing the fifth generation of this family business.
He reports that just 10% of the turnover from 28 stores – or rather medium-sized supermarkets – in England’s northwest (with the 29th opening in November) is from wine, but that Booths “are perceived to be a competitor in the north to Waitrose and Sainsbury’s, we always have to have something that excites and surprises people and people in the north read national newspapers, too!”.
Looking at some of the deals on offer, a trip north might be in order, as there is neither mail-order nor online selling: Booth maintains that “the experience [of Booth’s] is in the store, because of the people we employ and of the interaction. Our customers are important to us as humans.” While this may sound like a quaint and almost glib notion, the success of the chain speaks for itself and it appears that profitability here does not preclude good supplier relationships, fair prices and longstanding relationships. The connection to the Champagne house Duval-Leroy, producers of Booth’s own Champagne goes back decades.
The tradition of focusing on fine foods and top-quality grocery of course also helps. Booth explains: “It’s not just a question of letting people buy before they try but of entertaining people and to say ‘Let’s got to Booth’s’ – retail has to be fun, it’s a store that people visit not because they NEED but because the WANT something.”
This notion is echoed strongly by wine and spirits buyer Andy Green who says people come to Booth’s “not necessarily to do their weekly shop, but to treat themselves.” Here are some own-label “treats” that stood out – who was it again that said it was grim up north?
Booths Champagne Brut NV - £19.59 – a balanced and extremely appetising mix of fruit and autolysis appearing as the aroma of fresh apple crumble. On the palate there is lovely acidic tension and savoury hints. Great value.
Prestige des Sacres Brut NV Champagne – usually £29.99 but on offer for £19.99 – very lemony and bright on the nose, this opens up broadly on the palate with a firm structure. Serious stuff calling out for food (at least some delectable canapés). The offer price is incredible.
Booths Riesling Vieilles Vignes 2008, Alsace,£9.99 – caramelised apple and notes of petrol – sounds disgusting but it so works on Alsace Riesling. A little bit of age means a rounded, viscous palate with integrated acidity. There’s lovely length, too. Unbeatable for a mixed cheeseboard.
Booths Gavi del Commune di Gavi 2011, Piedmont, £ 9.99 – lifted citrus freshness on the nose and a lovely fresh and aromatic palate of green apple and zesty flavour in a very slender body. Much better than your average and often indifferent Gavi.
Booths Shiraz 2011, Langhorne Creek, Australia, £7.99 – simply lovely, eucalyptus-scented, full-fruited and warming Shiraz at a wonderful price – und so pleasantly unlike many brand-giants in the same price range.