Paul Boutinot bringing quality wine to Cheshire for over 40 years

PUBLISHED: 13:09 09 January 2013 | UPDATED: 22:37 20 February 2013

Paul Boutinot and Eric Monnin

Paul Boutinot and Eric Monnin

Paul Boutinot's wine business in Gatley has ridden the amazing boom in UK wine consumption over the past 40 years and now turns over £100m a year. How did he do it?<br/>Words by Ray King PHOTOGRAPHY BY Paul Sweeney

Theres an old saying in the business: You can make a small fortune in the wine trade...but you need to have a big one to begin with.

Paul Boutinot was not endowed with a fortune of any size when he first began buying wines for his parents French restaurant, La Bonne Auberge in Heald Green, back in 1972. But the business he went on to create, which has ridden the extraordinary boom in UK wine consumption over the past 40 years, now turns over 100m a year.

The Gatleybased company, simply called Boutinot, employs more than 80 people and lists 800 different wines from all over the world. Sales total 36 million bottles a year but thats only half the story. Because half the wine Boutinot sells, Boutinot also produces and in the industry, thats unique.

It all began when Paul, disillusioned by the inferior wines available to the on-trade in the 1970s, headed to France to purchase quality house wines for his parents restaurant. Word soon spread as restaurants in the north west of England asked Paul to supply their wines too - and so at the end of 1980, he set up on his own raising many an eyebrow in the process.

At the time, German-style sweet white wines, hock and liebfraumilch were in the ascendency, but Paul, with a determination to sell only wines that he liked a philosophy he still vehemently sticks to came up with a very natural red that was totally dry.

He recalls: When I first brought it out, colleagues in the wine trade thought I was mad. They said: Only two per cent of the market will drink a wine like this. I thought, thatll do me... Yes, the vast majority of people wanted German-style wine - but some wanted wine that tasted like real wine without spending a lot of money.

In the end you dont have to satisfy 50-60 per cent of the market. There is no requirement to do that. If you can satisfy two to three per cent then you have a business. Two to three per cent of wine consumers is a lot of people.

Sticking to his guns paid off handsomely, but he also admits to enjoying an element of luck. His start in the wine business co-incided with what he calls the beginning of the democratisation of wine in the UK; when it ceased to be the preferred drink of only a very narrow sector of society.

Paul said:There was a whole new customer base which until last year saw non-stop growth for the best part of 50 years. I knew the trade would keep on growing because of the dynamics that were in place, but I had no idea to what extent.

Pauls vision and stylistic ideals of how wine should be made were put to the test with the establishment of his own production site in France, just outside Beaujolais, in 1989. The company rapidly grew production by expanding into South Africa in 1994 and the founding of the False Bay Vineyards in the Cape in 1999. Investment in South African vineyards continued in 2004 with the development of a state-of-the-art winery, Waterkloof Estate in Stellenbosch.

A passion for France, in particular the Rhne, where vineyards and cellars were purchased in 2010; exciting joint venture projects with like-minded producers in Italy and Spain, plus developments in the New World, see the business continue to grow and prosper. And it was been rewarded by being named winner of the Sommelier Wines Awards Merchant of the Year accolade four years on the bounce 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012.

Said Paul: The way to make life easy in any business is to produce and sell quality. Quality will always sell. Thats the fundamental starting point for us. We concentrate on our strengths, operating in areas where, in our opinion, we are better than anybody else. If we cant to that, we dont do it.

Latest from the Cheshire