Winery offers amateurs the chance to create their own Bordeaux vintage

PUBLISHED : Friday, 21 March, 2014, 9:47am
UPDATED : Friday, 21 March, 2014, 9:57am

A Bordeaux-based winery is stretching the "boutique" concept to its limit by offering clients the opportunity to create their own label for a single barrel - just 288 bottles of wine. Total production is limited to 195 barrels, or just under 4,700 cases a year. This is truly a small production.

If you want to become a Bordeaux winemaker you need between £6,900 (HK$89,000) and £10,900 to spare, but you don't actually have to do any winemaking. While some customers show a curiosity about the actual process, others are really just in it for the wine.

"This is the solution for every romantic amateur winemaker out there," says Berry Bros & Rudd's sales director for Asia, Simon Staples.

This is the solution for every romantic amateur winemaker out there
Simon Staples, Berry Bros & Rudd

Viniv, a company founded by French-American entrepreneur Stephen Bolger, owns 14 plots of vineyard across Bordeaux, and on both banks of the river. That means access to all the classic Bordeaux varieties - cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, petit verdot and malbec. It also means access to the terroirs of Pauillac, Saint-Emilion, Saint Estephe, Canon Fronsac and Graves, among others.

The winemaking is in the hands of the team from Chateau Lynch-Bages, including Eric Boissenot, who is an adviser to four of the five Bordeaux 1855 first-classified growths. While vineyard tastings and blending sessions are part of the package, they are not compulsory. That hasn't stopped at least one client turning up for six separate sessions. While Bolger says the winemaking team would never directly contradict a customer's wishes, they would definitely nudge them away from a blend that wouldn't work.

One of four Hong Kong-based clients so far, actress and wine-lover Bernice Liu Bik-yi recently sold a single bottle from her own barrel at a mainland charity auction for 250,000 yuan (HK$315,000).

The motivation for making the wine is not financial. One demographic targeted by the company is London bankers who have the money to spare. Other customers include families - many preparing to celebrate a wedding. Often these families will order a second barrel about a year later to celebrate the arrival of a baby.

With families being families, the barrels can also produce arguments. Should the barrel be kept for years or should it be drunk as soon as possible? What should go on the label? It's been known for clients to get round the first problem by ordering two barrels. The second can be resolved with two labels for a wine from a single barrel and the company employs two graphic designers to come up with labels for its customers.