BrocklehurstJ…There may be not a sneaky corkscrew down there but some of the wines have screwcaps
Best dad ever!
My top two tips are exactly as yours. The difference between £5 and £10 is massive (or 6/12) and temperature is hugely underrated in importance - so much more than specific glassware.
You’re not the first person to mention the Society’s Champagne NV (and others) benefitting from a year or two, the fact you put it at 3 makes me again consider a case for reserves…
What would my third be? I definitely agree that research pays off. Not only in choices but just in enjoyment. Drinking Muga after seeing the Rioja Zoom made it infinitely better. Aged wine can be magical, even less expensive bottles. The 2009 Bordeaux blend from the last TWS Taste event on the Community for £13 was off the charts in beguilement for money.
I tell you what. Here’s mine:
- You can meet people from varying backgrounds and perspectives on life. With a shared interest in wine, you can connect and have great conversations over a glass. Whether online in the community, over Zoom or at a tasting or BYOB lunch (those were the days) the Society is full of individuals to share wine, passion and stories.
I use sunflower oil when there’s also sausages involved. After a conversation on here last time I made one (paired with a not very good Rioja), the next one is also going to have some black pudding in.
I couldn’t agree more with your number three danchaq and am really enjoying reading the contributions and replies from from other posters. I’d never considered a Rioja with my Toad-in-the-Hole strawpig. As long as you don’t make the batter with it I’m cool!
I can’t help it btw, here are another three observations and ponderings (OK, it’s a cheat but there you go).
- I’m a real fan of half bottles for trying something new or just as a mid-week, not over the top, couple of glasses of a little something. It’s slightly more expensive of course but I think its a small price to pay for the option. Two I would suggest looking out for are the excellent Domaine Jaume Vinsobres (which I buy en primeur every year) and the recently available Guigal bog-standard Cotes du Rhone. I know they make zillions of gallons of it (and the 16’ which was on offer is a bit heavy on the alcohol at 14.5%) but the extra age and the fact that half bottles tend to age quicker anyway made it a lovely purchase. I’ve also pictured a rather nice Gigondas which I get every year from La Tour Sarrasine (mentioned I believe by Taffy-on-tour). The Wine Society have a better than most selection of halves so give it a go if you haven’t already.
I hesitated before doing this one, but then I realised that in my early days I did not appreciate this. The year of the vintage really makes a difference! I’m stating the blinking obvious for you old hands but this one is aimed at very new wine drinkers. Many (many!) years ago, I bought a bottle of Louis Latour Marsannay on the way home at a village Spar. It was with some other ‘heavy bottle’ wines in a display case that looked out of place. I subsequently found out that the shop was trying a better range of wines on a sale or return basis with a local wine merchant. It was excellent and I went back every so often until it was all gone. A few more weeks passed and the shop owner said that he had got that wine back in that I liked. I won’t say that it was horrible but I was disappointed and noticed that it was from the following year. That was my first insight as to how fundamental the vintage is. I find the WS vintage chart really useful but I would also note that better producers can make excellent wine in ‘lesser’ years. Sadly the wine rack at the Spar disappeared. The shop-keeper commented that most people just wanted the Blue Nun or the Bulls Blood. Well we all had to start somewhere and I will admit to trying to impress a young lady once with a bottle of Mateus Rose
OK, this one will set a few people going I suspect. So before you get stirred up, this is only my personal view!
Decant or not…
I do decant many of my reds as well as some of my whites. My own experience is that the heavier the red wine and the older it is, at the very least I need to get rid of the sludge. A careful one-movement pour (so the wine does not rush back into the bottle and stir up the sediment) does the trick and I have become a dab hand at not leaving much for the fairies in the bottle.
Then follows a heated debate about getting air into the wine. My own taste-buds prefer all but the lightest and most delicate reds to be decanted and it is a personal judgement call as to how long to leave it before drinking. A fine pinot noir I would drink fairly quickly as I would not want to lose the delicate fruit. On the other hand, I have known Chateau Musar to be fabulous after two days in a jug! Most of my Penfolds reds I actually double decant (pour, rinse the bottle out and pour it back in) before I leave it for 1 to 4 hours depending on which one it is and its age (the older, the less time I give it). Another general rule for me is the more oak, the longer I tend to decant for.
Decanting whites? No, I don’t decant Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio. I do decant Grand Cru Chablis and Australian Chardonnay. After all, Penfolds recommend it and who am I to argue with the winemaker. I also prefer vintage champagne after half an hour in the glass. Do I sit there with a stop-watch and a spreadsheet trying to time it precisely. No, these are general personal principles and I can always swirl it round the glass!
DON’T think too long about buy/ don’t buy - if you feel you will enjoy & find interest in the wine then buy it there and then - AND buy a few more maybe. So many times I have bought a single bottle and wished I had bought more before it was out of stock.
TWS is NOT a supermarket with huge stocks of the same product you can return to buy again and again.
Snooze… you lose.
Be warned, I am going to get a bit philosophical next.
I like wine. But what makes my wine journey truly fascinating are the stories behind it. To quote the late Aime Guibert, my taste in wine (and many other things) is unique to me. It’s a sort of legacy, accumulated through years and years of trying, failing, and, sometimes, succeeding. There is no right or wrong. I don’t believe in points. But I am open to try, and I accept failure as part of the process.
So, when I find a wine that I really like, I inevitably put the effort to get to know the story behind what’s in the bottle. Let me use Daumas Gassac as an example to illustrate this.
I first came across Daumas Gassac via the Mondovino documentary (watch it, if you haven’t yet, please). When I joined the Wine Society, around 2005, I noticed that the wine would sometimes appear on the list, so I was happy to give it a try. I haven’t looked back since then. I have tried every single vintage since 1998 (and some earlier ones), including the Cuvee Emile Peynaud, and most of the other wines produced by the Domaine (including the sweet Vin de Laurence and the fabulous Rose Frizante). Theirs is a fascinating story, which resulted in taking a detour to visit the Domaine in Aniane, while on a trip to Sete many years ago. But before that, I had already had a chance to meet Samuel and his mother (at a diner in London), and, through a friend whose Aunt lived in Aniane, had bought many cases of their various wines directly from the Domaine (their grape juice, from a blend of wine grapes, is a family favourite). Needless to say, I drink their wine every year, regardless of it being considered a good vintage or not. As I’ve told them on every opportunity I had to meet anyone of the family, we’re on this journey together, and I am very lucky to be alive in a time where so many interesting people inhabit this planet at the same time, them being a case in point.
So, to wrap this up, my 3 things I’ve learned are:
- Find something you love
- Put some effort, dedicate yourself to it
- Enjoy the rewards, but especially, learn from the failures.
I am a big fan of the Cazaux wines too, both Gigondas and Vacqueyras. I didn’t know that TWS did halves of it though?
Regarding Chablis, I agree regarding 2014, my regret was not buying enough of it! The Billaud village Chablis was awesome…I’ve bought it every vintage since. I probably need to start buying two cases of it…you have reminded me again how good it is. I like Fevre too. My current stock of Chablis is…not enough! Probably about 20.
Great thread, thanks @Brentw1 and everyone that has contributed, a lot of really good tips here for someone like me that is still finding their feet in the world of wine. Not sure I can add anything for those much more experienced than me, but for people at the start of the journey there are a few things I wish someone had told me a couple of years ago (and that I should really refer back to before every order):
Buy what you like, not what you think you should like. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve convinced myself this is the year I’m going to really get into white burgundy/Riesling/Chenin blanc etc etc based on an article or video I’ve watched. After the research, buying a range of bottles to try, picking the perfect recipe to showcase the wine, the first bottle gets opened and…I still don’t particularly like white burgundy/Riesling/chenin blanc.
Take the TWS website reviews with a heavy pinch of salt. Yes, reviews can be useful, but too often they tend towards the extreme (see the reviews for practically any new world pinot noir which will inevitably include some 1-2* reviews for simply not being as good as burgundy, despite costing less than a tenner). Far better to pop on here and do a quick search, chances are someone here has already tried what you’re thinking of buying and offered an honest opinion.
I still don’t particularly like white burgundy (I know, I need to get over it).
- will save you a lot of money if nothing else!
At least until next summer when I give it one more try…
- Despite the fact that there are a lot of bottles that are well beyond my price range, that’s OK - the Society really excels in the £8-13 price bracket.
- If you joined the society to save money on buying wine, you have made a mistake - whilst the value is excellent, you will end up buying more than you planned!
- Mystery cases and other mixed cases of fun are a good way of accidentally broadening your tastebuds (I forgot how much I liked Beaujolais)
Have you tried the 2006 recently? I can’t get to like it, despite trying 4 bottles over about six or seven years…unyielding, bit like some clarets from certain vintages in the 70s and 80s.
Also, have you broached the 2010 yet? I have a half case untouched…
Hi @Jack_Humphries and a great post. There are a lot of very experienced wine-drinkers on here and my intention with starting this thread was always to try to get people to pass on their knowledge to people who were at the beginning or the earlier stages of the wine journey. This includes me! @MarkC is responsible for me planning to spend money on Billaud’s entry level Chablis. Thanks mate! I need more boxes in the cellar like a fish needs a bicycle!
White burgundy. I acquired the taste for it quite late in life. As a couple of people have said, it will save you a shed load of money if you hate the stuff!
Having said that, I have always loved Chablis. It don’t know what it is about it (and we can go into Kimmeridgian Limestone and all that mystery called Terroir), but it hit the spot for me, even when I was not that keen on oaked Chardonnay. I suspect it led me down the path to eventually spending silly amounts of money on a few select bottles. My tastes have definitely changed over the years as well.
What the rising price of Burgundy (and reds in particular) has taught me is to look for alternative expressions of the grape from other regions. For me, some notable examples have been Pinot Noirs from Oregon (Willamette Valley in particular and flagged up by my son who is working in Chicago at the moment), Martinborough in New Zealand and the Mornington Peninsula in Australia. And for the whites, Chardonnay from Tasmania is floating my boat at the moment. They may not have the incredible complexity of the very top Burgundies, but they are affordable (and some of the ‘Village’ stuff from the Cote D’Or frankly takes the micky at times in my opinion!).
Thank you so much for contributing and enjoy the journey!
Another great post @Rio_Jano. All three of your points are excellent. You make a very good point about the cost of the very high-end bottles being beyond the pockets of an awful lot of people. The majority of my wine education has had to be with a large dose of realism when budgeting for wine, and it is only in the past few years that I have been able to invest more in seriously stocking the cellar.
Some points that may help those on a more modest budget (only in my opinion of course and another three sneaked in!).
- Excellent wine can be had in the price point range that you mention and I totally agree that the £8 to £13 price bracket is the TWS’s strongest card. Look for up and coming producers (I discovered Sylvain Pataille when his village Marsannay was a tenner and Clos Du Roy was £18 a bottle!). One of my original points in my first post was to buy 1 bottle at £10 rather than 2 at £5.
2.You don’t have to have a cellar full of boxes gently maturing to have a special bottle for a special occasion. One of the things I love about TWS is that it stores and matures good wines that it subsequently releases at sensible prices. You can buy those one or two bottles when they are at their peak.
- Keep your eyes peeled for a bargain! Bin ends, special offers and in particular some of the spectacular offers that pop up from time to time. I still have TWS NV Champagne from a couple of years ago that was on a 6 for 4 offer and still enjoy taking advantage of the various vouchers and promotions from all sorts of retailers. I also love your advice about mixed and mystery cases. By a strange co-incidence I had a mixed case of Cru Beaujolais a couple of years ago and had the same epiphany as you! Fleury and Moulin-a-Vent seem to have been turning up ever since!
In the specific case of the 06, it’s closed down. This is typical of Gassac: going through a period where you should avoid drinking until it starts opening up again. Usually after 10 years, but could take longer. Have you tried opening a few hours before drinking? It will soften it a bit.
For the 2010, it’s approachable now. Not as powerful as the 09. I had a bottle of each just last weekend.
Hi @Jack_Humphries Re-reading your post, I wanted to pick up on your point about TWS website reviews. I remember being quite excited about this feature being introduced a few years ago and I think the main problem might be that not enough people post on it.
This includes me (and mental note to sort it!).
I post regular reviews on Cellar Tracker so it’s not an issue to cut and paste. Perhaps we should all make a little bit of an extra effort to guide our fellow wine enthusiasts. And, btw, I agree with the observation that some people can be very derogatory about ‘New World’ wine.
Global warming and climate change could (in my view) cause more change in the next 10 years than we have seen in the past 100 years. I’ve (for a while now) cottoned on to English Sparkling wine being a serious contender to Champagne (and so have some of the big French names with investment in English producers), and have have noticed Burgundy and Bordeaux finding it harder to prevent serious problems. Food for thought folks?
I appreciate this point - I spent too much time pre-TWS putting cases of wines into reserves (mainly BBR, which makes it more complicated to withdraw in part) without realising the Society would make so many single bottles available at/close to their peak. Having this available to us is such a boon.
(edit - such as this ‘new’ 1973 Bordeaux for £57!)
Many thanks. I’ve tried many things with the 06,including decanting, and yes I’m aware of the ‘closed’ period. From memory, I had one bottle young, when many vintages can be really good, then kept them stashed until about 2-3 years ago, then have tried about 1 a year, and it’s still pretty unyielding for me. However, I see a couple of more promising reviews on CT this year, including one from someone who had experienced my disappointment up til now.
Interesting about the 2010, particularly since many other wines from both Bordeaux and the Rhone are still needing time in that vintage. I will try one soon!
Regarding the 2010, it was unfair to compare it to the powerhouse that is the 09. There’s a lot more subtlety in the 2010, than in the 09. One thing to keep in mind is the % of Cabernet Sauvignon year on year. On very good years, they will use more of it, rather than chuck it into the Moulin bottles. That will give you a hint.
Other neighboring estates in Aniane don’t follow the same pattern though. If you can get your hands on some bottles of Mas Laval, you will see that they follow a Rhone assemblage (Syrah , Grenache , Mourvedre) for the Grand Vin. That works well with the sun-baked climate of that region (unless you are near a river, like Daumas Gassac, where the water body attenuates the effect a bit).
Another one to try is Domaine Grange des Peres. To quote Kermit Lynch, “attaining cult wine status is not an easy feat, and certainly not when the odds are stacked against you. Laurent Vaillé has achieved what others thought impossible. Having spent his early career training under such masters as Jean-François Coche-Dury (Meursault), Gérard Chave (Hermitage), and Eloi Durrbach (Domaine Trévallon, Provence), he settled in the l’Hérault of the Languedoc and purchased his own land in 1989, near Aniane. In this area of the region, where the limestone is hard and abundant and the soil poor, no one thought he would ever have any success planting a vineyard on his plot of choice. Though it took dynamite and bulldozing to clear twice the amount of limestone, boulders, and glacial scree that is found in neighboring vineyards, he found a great terroir for his grapes. He did not have to look far to find ideal bud wood, either. He sourced his Syrah, Marsanne, and Roussane cuttings from Gérard Chave and his Cabernet from Domaine Trévallon. Laurent’s South-facing vines get very low yields, normally from twenty to twenty-five hectoliters per hectare. All are pruned in the gobelet style. The simultaneous restraint and power of his wines makes them ideal for aging. As for the skeptics, they are currently eating their words. His area of the Languedoc has since become known to produce some of the greatest wines in the region, with the new appellation of Terrasses du Larzac, of which he is technically part, reaping attention and praise. In his words, “Nature gave us a partition of land. It is up to us to interpret it.””
I’ve been keeping an eye on the Terrasses du Larzac appellation since tasting a couple of them a year or two back. Impressed by even the more modest ones.
Grange des Peres - I tried it at a tasting a few years back, but it seemed too young still. Price has moved to a level I’m probably unlikely to pay! Unless of course I sell some burgundy that’s gone to silly prices…