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AMA with Pierre Mansour, Head of Buying



Welcome to the first community ‘AMA’ – ‘Ask Me Anything’ event.

Today we are very excited to be joined by Pierre Mansour, Head of Buying for The Wine Society. Pierre originally came to The Society as Tastings and PR Manager and has been a buyer for the last 14 years, so has a wealth of experience to share. You can read a fuller profile of Pierre on the main Society site

The initial topic today, to kick-off the discussions is Pierre’s thoughts on “What to Drink in 2018”, with his suggestions for vintages and regions worth exploring this year. However, the AMA format also means that you can ask those questions you’ve always wanted to ask, so prepare for some variety!

This promises to be an exciting session that puts YOU in the interview chair.

Please note that, unfortunately, Pierre and the buying team cannot guarantee to be able to answer all questions posted in the community every day, so having key members of the team available ‘live’ is a great opportunity for those who aren’t able to pop along to the tastings to meet them in person. Of course, if you have any important questions or issues to raise, you can always send these via Member Services at any point.

Do feel free to respond to questions or topics raised here, and if these conversations develop we can always turn them into conversations for the community to reply to.
We will start with those questions you’ve already sent in, but do feel free to ask any follow-up questions or to post new questions below for Pierre, and anyone who joins us.

Invitation to AMA with Society buyer Toby Morrhall
Invitation to AMA with Pierre Mansour, Head of Buying
AMA/Ask Me Anything Guide - plus: who do you want to hear from?
Your favourite threads - get to know the community
Invitation to AMA: wedding and party wines with The Showroom's Marjorie Cropp


Hi to Mr. Mansour!

Question - Do you feel the natural wine category has a future or is just a fad for hipsters? :slight_smile:


Hi everyone, I’m here and looking forward to your questions…


Great question! The simple answer is that we choose wines on quality alone (by taste and of course taking into account value for money) and only buy wines we truly believe in. The beauty of The Society’s mutual model means the Buyers are not tasked with finding wines to drive profit which means we have more freedom and independence than any other wine company. Our objective is to put members’ satisfaction first so our choices must be relevant to what members like and are interested in. What members don’t see is the work done by our team of Merchandisers, led by Louisa Peskett (@peskylou), who ensure our range is balanced with the appropriate depth and breadth of price points and styles.


For everyday drinking (under £10), southern France, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Chile. You can also find great value fine wines in these areas too, usually from less known producers (who invest in their production rather than their branding).


What is your favourite wine region to visit and why ?


This might sound counter-intuitive; start by working in sales! The most skilled wine buyers I have come across as those who have some background selling the product. A good way to get into the wine trade is in retail (my first job was with a tiny company who had a concession in Harrods). Enrol yourself on a WSET course, the wine & spirit education trust, and taste, taste and taste……


Natural wines, yes a hot topic in the wine industry. So the difficulty is that there is no clear definition of what natural means and as a result I think that consumers are in many cases being misled. “RAW Wine” is the main organisation for natural wine and they say “natural wines are true to where they are from - they have an authenticity of taste that most wines today have lost”. Their charter goes further to include specific criteria (organic or biodynamic vineyards; wild yeasts; no additives) and permits the use of sulphur. I applaud all of these principles as they are fundamental to the low intervention approach to winemaking that emphasises terroir and individuality which is what The Society looks for in its wines. Lots of our suppliers apply these techniques but they (and we) shy away from marketing them as natural. Wines that are natural in the true sense of the word are generally very poor in quality and often an excuse for bad winemaking. We come across these at tastings and on our trips but to date have not discovered anything that meets our quality-first approach and is worthy of a listing.


Delighted that you love the 16 year old blend – we take great care in selecting it from our own stocks of malt and grain whisky – a rarity for this price point.

Our intention is to aim for an introductory-style of whisky that has wide appeal but offers excellent value – which is why it is bottled at the lower strength. For our members that are more deeply interested in whiskies – we hope that our malt range allows for more variation. From own label Islay and Speyside (both in 70cl and not colour adjusted), to a changing range of whiskies like Glenfarclas 15 year old – bottled at 46% (un-chill filtered) or Tomatin 12 year old at 43%.


I asked Toby Morrhall this question- he has not tasted many 2010s recently but generally recommends 6-8 years after vintage as a lovely time for PCs as long as cork is OK. So now is a good time.

It’s also important to decant and serve at 11-13°C, better the wine the higher the temperature, not fridge temperature of 4°C.


A lot of wine people seem keen on a wide variety of drinks, beer, whisky etc. Are there any drinks you really don’t like?


We recommend Burgundy specialist Clive Coates’ rule of thumb for Burgundy drinking dates:

Drink x years after vintage


  • Cote Chalonnaise 2-8 years
  • Village CdB 4-10
  • Village CdN 6-12
  • CdB PC 7-12
  • CdN PC 8-14
  • Lighter GC ie Corton 8-15
  • Grand Cru 10-25

White wines
Complicated by the issue of premature oxidation (premox) which have affected some white Burgundies. We now give longer drinking dates to wines with Diam closures on a wine by wine basis.


  • Lighter village wines 2-5
  • Better village wines 4-8
  • Premier cru 6-8
  • Grand Cru 8-15+


I’m with you, mine would be either Second Toughest in the Infants or Beaucoup Fish, can I choose both?!


Both serve different purposes. Blind can be very useful when benchmarking (which we do here to compare with competitors’ wines). When selecting new listings I will always taste non-blind.


Ooh, I’m bookmarking this for future ref! And using it as an excuse to buy more Burgundy…


Hi Pierre, many thanks for taking part today.

What’s your favourite aspect of the job? If you think about the last year, what was the highlight?


I’ve just a screen shot it :+1:


Nothing really, given we sell 1500 wines a year.


Vintage Champagne; Mosel Riesling; Grand Cru Burgundy; Sherry

As Spain is my area I can pick up the distinct wines, which is why it’s so useful to have the other buyers taste and have their opinion.

Member stats blog

There seem to be more “special” offers of Rioja than anywhere else, why is that or is it just my perception?