From biodiversity to low-and-no alcohol alternatives, there is plenty of positive change afoot in the fine wine and spirits industry. And yet, it would seem that there is a final frontier to be crossed when it comes to breaking down our preconceptions and prejudices of own label wines. Misguided opinions that these bottles are in some way inferior to their pricier counterparts can lead customers to rule out some truly exquisite wines without any just cause — and spend far more than necessary as a result.
With this in mind, we spoke with Corney & Barrow’s Head Buyer Rebecca Palmer, to get a deeper understanding of the craftsmanship behind the design of an own label wine, and to firmly dispel any reservations you might be holding onto.
Own labels in a nutshell…
Own labels, Rebecca tells us, are as much a commitment to the creators as to the customers. “Our Corney & Barrow labels are essentially affordable classics,” she says, “wines that are benchmarks of their style or region, and at an approachable price, representing true value for money.”
“For us as buyers, the challenge is to home in on that sweet spot where style, quality and price are in perfect alignment. This takes a huge amount of work but it is worth it: these wines bear our name, we have to be proud of them.”
Working alongside trusted producers...
In order to ensure that all of their own label wines are of a premium quality, Rebecca tells us that Corney & Barrow work to keep relationships at the heart of their process. “We work extremely hard with the individual wine producers behind our C&B label wines, and some of these producers are among the most established of their region,” she explains.
“Others are suppliers of regional country wines with whom we have worked for decades — but it all comes back to the same thing: selecting and creating wines that we believe offer our customers benchmark examples of their style, for a decent price.”
Finding the ‘sweet spot’...
Rebecca admits that there is a lot of fun to be had in the process of crafting a new wine. “As always when putting blends together, we start out with a bunch of test tubes and try out different blends, guided by intuition and experience.” The key, she says, is to find ‘the sweet spot’ “when you find it, you know,” she says, simply. “Typically in this process, a handful of the base wines will shine out as the core of our blend, then it’s all about the proportions, and adding in tiny percentages of other vats to season and refine the final recipe.”
"By the end of the process, I will have tasted and re-tasted at least 200 times...”
“Our new rosé is a blend of hillside Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes, giving ripe berry flavours, but adding a hint of greenness to give lift and interest to the wine. It is juicy and supple with just the right level of flavour concentration, while retaining freshness.
It takes at least half a day’s concentrated work to create this wine in its final form. And by the end of the process I will probably have tasted and re-tasted at least 200 times.”
Just in time for summer...
As we head into the sunniest months of the year, there can be no better time to uncork a chilled bottle of vino and discover the best that Corney & Barrow have to offer. For the purpose, Rebecca says, “our C&B Blanc has always been a bestseller, so we’ve also just launched a new white wine the C&B Périgord. It’s made by Château Grinou, another long-term producer of ours, based in the heart of the beautiful Bergerac region.”
"The challenge is to home in on that sweet spot where style, quality and price are in perfect alignment..."
This region, Rebecca discloses, is something of an insider’s secret — less prestigious than its posher neighbours, but offering outstanding value for money. “This wine is bright and citrusy now, a feature of the Sauvignon Blanc in the blend, but over the next few months in bottle, will develop a gorgeous subtle creamy honeyed character from the Sémillon component.”
A little something to look out for…
Hawk-eyed customers might also notice something a little different about the bottles of this latest offering from Corney & Barrow, which are adorned with the new C&Bee bumblebee icon. This, Rebecca explains, signals that the wines have been made on vineyards farmed using sustainable principles.
The logo has also been applied to the producers certified as organic and biodynamic. “The design stems from our partnership with the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, who do great work to help the declining bee population,” says Rebecca. “These much-loved insects are vital in pollinating our crops and wildflowers, and this is no less the case in vineyards.” You can look out for the C&Bee icon across the Corney & Barrow website, and on all Drake & Morgan wine lists nationwide.
Invest in the best...
If all this has been enough to whet your appetite for a glass of something chilled, then look no further for an own label bottle that is sure to fit the bill…
Corney & Barrow Rosé IGP Comte Tolosan 2018
Corney & Barrow Perigord 2018
Corney & Barrow
Looking to lower your ABV? Take a look at the extraordinary story of Seedlip…