Neither of these is a wine, but as samples of both drinks landed on my desk at the same time – each quality, original products with several things in common – I thought they’d be of interest to wine-pages’ readers.
Botonique is a new, herbal soft-drink specifically aimed as a grown-up alcohol-free alternative for wine drinkers. British Cassis, on the other hand, is a 15% alcohol liqueur made in Herefordshire, pitched as a premium luxury alternative to French crème de cassis, the classic blackcurrant base for Kir and Kir Royale.
Coincidentally, both products have also been conceived by English women, the former by ex-wine merchant Hilary Marsh, who specifically wanted to create a non-alcoholic option for wine drinkers that had some of the complexity of wine, while the latter is the brainchild of Jo Hilditch, a fourth generation Herefordshire farmer who was brought up harvesting blackcurrants from the farm to make into jams, cordials, desserts, and now, British cassis.
Quality is very good. The cassis appealed instantly, classic in its way but with an interesting tinge of herbal, perhaps less ripe English summer hedgerows. I confess Botonique was something of a shock at first, it’s high, green, almost medicinal aroma somewhat off-putting, but having read up a bit more and having taken the Botonique website’s advice that it was something of an acquired taste, the appeal of the drink really did grow on me: it is nothing at all like a wine, but neither is it like one of the many rather poor de-alcoholised wines that are on the shelves. It is distinctively individual in aroma, but one that does indeed grow on you.