“Boutique” is one of the many adjectives used to describe wine and wineries worldwide, and yet, few really know what it means to produce a boutique wine or be a boutique winery. In the wine industry, a winery producing less than 10,000 cases annually is considered a boutique winery. Other terms associated with boutique wineries and wines include small-run, limited-production, hand-crafted and artisanal. But, these terms do not come close to capturing the essence of what it means to produce a boutique wine.
“Boutique” Wine Defined
Merriman-Webster defines “boutique” as “a small company that offers highly specialized services or products.” While a boutique wine is surely highly specialized, this definition doesn’t quite get at the heart of how precious a boutique wine truly is. Yes, a boutique wine is typically one of a small-run or limited-production. And there is no question boutique wines are hand-crafted by artisans who have a desire to create a masterpiece in each bottle. A true boutique wine is one that is personalized, from start to finish. From the time a vineyard is established, when the root and clone selection of the vine is specifically tailored to match the soil type and water availability, to the perfectly timed harvest, and a meticulous barrel aging program, each step in producing a boutique wine is purposeful and personal, from vineyard management to bottling.
A Boutique Wine Starts in a Boutique Vineyard
One key characteristic that sets boutique wineries apart is in the size of the vineyard. At O’Connell Family Wines, we cultivate the equivalent of 6 acres of closely spaced vines, which is perfect for our soil structure. Larger vineyards are in the thousands. This small production affords boutique wineries, like O’Connell Family Wines, the ability to pay personal attention to each and every vine. We minimally till our soil, preserving the micro-organisms active underground to effectively transfer soil nutrients and flavors into the root system and ultimately into the flavors of the boutique wine in your wineglass. We are committed to organic and sustainable practices, including bio-diversity to attract beneficial birds, insects and bees. Minimizing outside material inputs and utilizing Mother Nature’s ecological contributions balances our growing environment naturally. This extra effort and cost is possible because we are a boutique vineyard.
Harvesting Practices to Create a Boutique Wine
The moment of harvest at a boutique winery is carefully tailored to ensuring each vine is harvested at peak ripeness. At O’Connell Family Wines, we keep a close eye on every grapevine, nurturing it throughout the season and carefully observing its acid and sugar levels as the grapes reach their ideal ripeness to produce an artisan boutique wine. At harvest, we decide vine by vine, when each is ready to harvest; a variation that reflects each plant’s soil structure, moisture level, and stress level. Every vine is hand-picked once the grapes have reached their optimal ripeness to produce a boutique wine of lower alcohol, higher acidity and optimal natural flavors. Such a wine will be less prone to giving headaches, more food friendly, and more expressive of its terroir (climate and soil). Our detailed harvest practices, a luxury larger wineries do not have, sets our boutique wine apart from those that are mass produced. In fact, in this era of labor shortages, larger wineries use mechanical harvesting equipment to harvest entire vineyards at once, irregardless of ripeness variations within the blocks. Since the vineyard crew at O’Connell Family Wines has as personal a relationship with each vine as our Director of Winemaking does, they only pick grape bunches perfectly grown to produce a beautiful bottle of boutique wine.
Making a Boutique Wine
The final steps in creating an artisanal boutique wine begins with avoiding extreme grape ripeness, extended fermentation, and over extraction, which leads to higher alcohol and the extraction of undesired and overly jammy flavors. From there, a boutique wine’s grapes are handled gently and are properly aged in the ideal barrel. The barrel section is matched to the style of wine desired, whether it be oaky, mildly oaky or unoaked, American oak or French oak. Each boutique wine is purposefully aged. At O’Connell Family, we extend aging until the wine achieves a luscious texture that translates into a very elegant and smooth wine experience. Extended aging is a rare attribute for any winery, given then need for twice the number of barrels, twice the capacity in our ageing facility, and twice the labor. However, the result is worth it! The final step of creating a boutique wine is selecting the exact aged barrels to blend together make an impeccably balanced wine with lively fruit expression. This is the artistry of creating a boutique wine.
New Release: 2015 Gabrielle Collection Equilateral Cabernet Sauvignon A Lovely Boutique Wine
O’Connell Family Wine’s newly released Equilateral 2015 exemplifies what constitutes a perfectly crafted boutique wine. The growing season for 2015 allowed for the ideal spring bud break, steady flowering, even fruit set, with warm days, cool nights, and rains that held off until our Cabernet Sauvignon grapes reached optimal ripeness and exceptional quality. Barrel aged in new and once used medium toast French oak for 34 months, this boutique wine boasts bright red fruits with a touch of earthiness, spice, and thyme with a lovely, long finish. As a boutique winery, purity of flavors is our ultimate goal, as excessive manipulation of over-extracting flavors during fermentation or additives interferes with the character of our estate grown boutique wine, Equilateral Cabernet Sauvignon.