I am very excited to have recently become acquainted with Wanderlust Wines. Based in London, Wanderlust are a wine importer and retail both direct to the public and to the trade. What makes them different is the nature of the wines and producers that they deal with.
Most wine in this country is purchased from a supermarket and in order for those supermarkets to be able to offer the same wines in every store across the country all year round, the wines they stock are manufactured in vast quantities. Granted the economies of scale that this mass production allows drives costs down such that the price we pay in the shops is pretty low but remember that probably about two-thirds of your £6 bottle is actually not the wine inside but things such as duty/tax, packaging (the bottle, etc.), distribution, retailer profit, etc. So the actual value of the wine in these cheap bottles is pretty small indeed.
Because supermarket wines must be made in these high quantities and to a predictable standard they are also, in a way, diluted. I don’t mean that water is mixed in like some sort of fancy cordial of course but I mean that they are invariably blends of grapes from a number of vast vineyards that stretch as far as the eye can see where all sense of place (terroir) is lost from the resulting wine.
This is where Wanderlust is different. They work with smaller scale producers, often working organically and sustainably, who create wines using smaller single vineyards or blended from a carefully selected number of sites that still retain the nature of the environment in which they were grown. The notion of craft beer is becoming well established and these could be thought of as craft wines.
Because they are made in smaller quantities the vintage also becomes more relevant as, again, the availability and character of grapes from an individual site affected by weather will show through far more in small batch production than in mass production where ‘errors’ or a reduced yield from one particular source is lost to the all-pervading consistency and predictability required by the supermarkets.
That’s not to say that supermarkets only sell bad wine. There are of course some great wines available in supermarkets and some good bargains to be had if you shop wisely, but what we are talking about here requires a different mindset to the need for cheap mid-week plonk.
Wanderlust work with their producers to ensure long term sustainability and seek out these small wineries in places that the big importers simply would not look, dealing with them exclusively to bring their wines to the UK. As such they have on their books wines that you cannot experience elsewhere.
A good example is Dagon Wines from Romania, one of Wanderlust’s star performers. Romania once had a great wine industry, like much of Europe, but world wars and communism took their toll. Recently, however, small producers like Dagon have been turning the tide, rediscovering their heritage and quality and showing the world of wine what this country is capable of. The care and attention that can be instilled into these wines provides that enviable ‘quality’ that is generally missing from mass produced wines. You feel like you are drinking something special, exclusive and have a sense of privilege that these are not wines that everybody will have come across. You feel like you’re one of the few ‘in the know’.
Of course, the smaller scale of production means that opportunities for economies of scale are reduced, generally resulting in a higher bottle price. This is sometimes tempered however by the fact that these are often less ‘fashionable’ regions that don’t command a high price for the name alone. So we can see that these wines can often compete quite well on price. Whichever way it drops out, when the price on the bottle is rewarded with a corresponding level of quality then you have achieved good value and I suspect that the sense of value with some of these craft wines will be more commonplace than with their mass produced competitors.
The challenge for Wanderlust is to spread the word so that more of us are in that special ‘club’ but at the same time preserving the artisanal feel of the products. Holding on to that niche in the industry will allow them to be quietly successful.
In the meantime, I’m really looking forward to sampling some of Wanderlust and Dagon’s wines over the coming weeks to test this hypothesis and reviews will of course be posted here as soon as they are available.
For more information on the selection of wines available from Wanderlust and to order directly, visit their website at: