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Blind spot - direct funding of wine

I’m sure this is the case with at least some of the Exhibition and Society wines. While there are no doubt minimum quality standards that the wines must meet, if the wine meets those standards the Society will likely be obliged to purchase the wine that has been allocated to it.

Of course, the position is similar with all wine that the Society purchases en primeur. The buyer may have tasted the wines in barrel, but they will not have tasted the final product before committing to buy it. We just have to rely on the experience of the buyer to be able to predict how the wine will turn out. I really don’t see this as being fundamentally different to the situation where the buyer has been more actively involved in the blending, for example, Pierre Mansour and the La Rioja Alta 874 Selection:

https://www.thewinesociety.com/product/la-rioja-alta-seleccion-874-reserva-rioja-2018-magnum

At the end of the day, I am relying on Pierre’s skill and judgement to help create a blend that will be attractive to me and other Members.

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It would be interesting to know a bit more of how the financial arrangement will work. If Mac Forbes is buying grapes for the Society and then making wine for the Society, is he effectively employed by the Society? If he’s an employee of some sort and something goes wrong in the process (I.e. the wine turns out poor) then it is the Society’s problem.

If he’s some sort of consultant being provided with working capital and something goes wrong, then the responsibility may be less clear cut. I suppose another way of putting this would be does Mac Forbes still have any skin in the game? I am not doubting his ability or competence, but just curious about the risk, as others are.

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I think it’s a bit different to a buyer getting involved in a blend, which is commonplace, and outsourcing grape production thus becoming a quasi negociant. It’s reminds me of Oddbins into Nicolas which suddenly became stuffed with Castel wines. Granted Castel do make some decent wines but the original premise of the retailer was lost. You also have Naked Wine’s model of providing capital to growers which although a lovely idea, resulted in some pretty average wines and a generally sub standard retail offering compared to TWS.

I’d hope TWS have no intention of going down that route and I presume this is very much a one off ‘adventure’. That said, having been underwhelmed by the only Blind Spot I’ve tried, I’m now curious enough to give it one more (last) go.

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I suspect this isn’t a realistic proposition for large parts of the membership - the cost/benefit analysis of me getting in the car/train, going to Stevenage (do you pay for tastings? I genuinely don’t know) suggest it would just be cheaper for me to buy a mixed case of them and try each at home.

Or is there a way around that?

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One day there will be walk around tastings again…

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It is fairly easy to avoid the WS labelled wines (although I have found a few without the normal own branding, but still WS), and I usually trust the descriptions, if not necessarily the views, of the buyers on other wines. In normal times (and briefly again last year), I use the enomatics in Stevenage and try to go to a few of the tastings. I just checked and the enomatics are still closed. (Checking was, as always a complete nuisance: search the site for ‘showroom’ and you get Sorry we can’t find any results; after a couple of guesses, I found the details at the bottom of About us: why can’t they get their search working?)

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Hi all,
Sorry for the delay in replying here.
Some key points to answer a few recurring questions:

  1. Its very common for us at TWS to have a hand in blending. Tim blends the Society’s Claret and White Burgundy, Toby a good number of his wines, especially from Chile, not only own label. Pierre the Society’s Rioja. I initially blended the Soccy Greek white and Matthew now does that, as he does the English white and now the Exhibition English fizz. I do the same with a number of wines from my patch too including Three Terraces, Exhibition Marlborough Pinot and so on. Of course the winemaker takes the lead but its a very good way for us to be able to ensure that a wine will be suited to the palate of our members, which we tend to have a better idea of as Society buyers than many winemakers do.
  2. The risk of the Blind Spot - We have an agreement with Mac that if the final wine isn’t up to scratch after us having funded the grapes, he will sell it off elsewhere to be sold under another label and refund us for what we have paid up to that point. I will always taste the wines before they are finished and labelled and this agreement removes the risk.
  3. I will not compromise on quality. If the wine isn’t good enough we wont be buying it, let alone promoting it. I see no conflict of interest.
  4. Previously, Mac would source wine which is already made and in tank from various wineries across Aus, meaning there wasn’t a level of traceability I personally was happy with. He therefore didn’t make the wine and the consistency of quality across the range was harder to maintain. In buying the grapes and Mac having control over the wine-making, we can achieve better traceability, control and consistency. I genuinely believe therefore that this revamped range will be of higher and more consistent quality across the board.
  5. Where possible, Mac will make the wines himself at his winery. At the least he will have control from a distance (much like a senior or “flying” winemaker would).

I really believe that people make the best wines when they are excited and inspired. Working like this allows Mac to get excited about the wines from the start. We can discuss what we think would be a great style/grape to introduce and pad out ideas before he goes off and finds the fruit. He then is able to put more of his passion into these wines whereas before we were all at the mercy of what he could find in tank.

I hope that helps to clear things up a bit but do please let me know if you have further question. Please do also try the wines. I think they are superb quality at the price point.

Thanks

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Many thanks for detailed reply and clarification. Happy to know there is an escape route even if it is never needed. Much appreciated.

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Oh no - another thread where the facts get in the way of a good argument :wink:

More seriously thanks for the detailed explanation of the arrangements.

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Freddy, many thanks for your full response. Clearly, your second point addresses the financial risk, which I pleased to see although perhaps not the lost opportunity cost if cash flow or existing range size/quota prevents purchase of a parcel of exceptional wine as we are tying up our funds for longer. Of interest, having provided the funds to buy the grapes, will this impact price per bottle similar to the purchase of EP?
I agree, Mac was clearly passionate about the range during the event today (just caught up with it).
Turning to what grapes/styles - if he can find more of that Tasmanian Pinot you did on the bin offering for the same price that would be fabulous.

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Rest assured this hasn’t been some offhand decision and has been well thought through at TWS before being agreed upon. It certainly wont affect our buying of any other parcels etc. If we didn’t have the capacity to comfortably do this and if there was going to be anything other than a positive outcome for members, we wouldn’t be doing it.
I’m excited about it and its a privilege to be able to do something like this as a buyer at TWS. The wines are great, they offer remarkable value and I think its a very positive step. I hope you agree too and enjoy the wines.

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Freddy I’m going a bit OT here but any news on the next vintage of RS19 or whatever number replaces it? It was mentioned above but would there ever be a chance of selling some of Mac’s EB stuff too?

Just to echo the thanks for the detailed explanation, it’s really interesting to read and I look forward to trying the wines.

I’ve got a bottle of that lurking somewhere. Have you opened one? I kind of assume it’s going to be a bit like a Kabinett, but I’m not sure, so not considered broaching it yet (plus it’s got a nice, long drinking window). If you have tasted, what did you think?

I’ve bought a couple when they’ve been on the list but drunk them straight away. It’s been a few years now and too long to giver you any tasting notes I’m afraid - my memory is awful but I really enjoyed them.

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Thanks Aaron

Thanks Freddy, looking forward to getting acquainted with my first one pretty soon.


Don’t think the photo does it justice, but it looks like a clairet in style (through fairly darkened glass, it must be said).

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Very enjoyable Instagram live video between Freddy and Mac today for anyone interested

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As it happens we had a bottle of the RS19 with friends last weekend. I had intended to drink it with a very inauthentic mapo tofu, but it got finished before we ate… sure it would have been a great match. I’m certainly not an expert but I’d have thought it was at the rounder and more off dry end of kabinett. Still good acidity and lovely as aperitif or with food (probably).

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Yum! Thanks very much

Will you let us know what you think of it? I’m interested to try this, never tried a pinot meunier before…

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