It would be interesting to know the break-down of TWS’s sales by country/region. I find most peoples’ weekly tipple is non-French, as it is much easier to buy a medium priced wine from other countries that will be enjoyable. Anything French with a “name” will be far too expensive and definitely NOT guaranteed to be good.
A couple of years ago, TWS offered a Baron De Ley, described as “Layered, seriously stylish and focused. Pure, black fruit, intense palate, beautifully controlled, velvety ripe tannins and a very long finish. A stunning reserva that will age beautifully.”
The description was accurate and reasonable value at £10 pb but I have not seen any Baron De Ley since - why?
Additionally, there are some great wines from Ribera del Duero but we see precious few on the list.
Can we please move away from being dominated by France? I hope Brexit will help!!
Just quickly using the product search on red, white, mixed and sparkling wines there are currently 739 products from France and 801 products not from France - that’s not including the Ports, Sherries, Whisky, Madeiras etc.
Just having a quick look on Majestic, they current have 276 French wines out of the 519 on sale so they have a higher % of French wines than The Society does.
The WS is particularly strong on wines from the less well known parts of France, which I think are often great value. Most old school wine merchants have lists of high end Bordeaux and Burgundy which are beyond most peoples budget and on the other side of the coin supermarkets are full of boring mass produced branded wine.
I’m happy that the Wine Society stock a reasonable range of wines from Greece, Turkey, Lebanon and Eastern Europe and hope these areas will continue to expand. As more than 90% of the wine I buy is from the Eurozone, I expect to be paying more for my wine in the foreseeable future alas!
If my budget was twice what it is I think I would buy an even higher proportion of French wines than I do now.
Yes - for example Corsica - wines from which I had never drunk before buying from TWS.
Italy however has been for me the greatest discovery from TWS - the breadth and depth of beautiful wines under GBP15 is amazing.
I also think it’s hard for wine not to be Francocentric - they are responsible for nearly everything in our wine lexicon so even drinking New World wines you are often drinking something with a French accent, n’est-ce pas?
Naturellement! Its rare to find New World wine not made with French grape varieties. The WS has a few nice Australian versions of Italian varietals.
I think the UK market has little understanding or appreciation of Italian wine, which I share your enthusiasm for. The US fine wine market is far more focused on Italian wine, which I’m sure has a lot to do with the Italian American community.
FWIW for my personal wine preferences I also think TWS’s offerings are too France-centric. I have always assumed this is because that’s what the clientele of TWS wants; clearly there are plenty of members interested in more “interesting” areas as (compared with the high street) there’s an amazing range of countries’ wines on offer … but it’s still overwhelmingly France-centric! It would be interesting to see the sales figures France vs. RoW to see if they match the offerings numbers: if 50% of the sales are of French wine then it’s difficult to argue with the current strategy…
Whilst I and other wine geeks may think the best things all come from France I find my non geeky friends( few as they are) prefer the fruitier and more obvious wines from the new world.
I wonder at the reference to Rioja as TWS always has a good selection of these IMHO:
If there is a lack its in the new things.
I’ve been a member for about eight years and for all that time the list has been very franco-centric. It’s hard to complain though, because I can’t think of another merchant with such a good and exhaustive list from outside France. In fact, I’ll put myself out on a limb here and say that I’m certain one doesn’t exist in the UK…
They’ve always championed off the beaten track regions, countries and grapes as well. I’d never had a Turkish wine before joining and I wouldn’t have thought they could make incredible, Burgundian style wine from indigenous grapes until I tasted them.
Yes top Bordeaux and most decent Burgundy is very expensive, too expensive for me anyway, but lots of members have deep pockets and should be catered for as well. Anyone can drink well on a budget with TWS, they just need to put in a little bit more effort and expect the odd wine they don’t like along the way.
I think the answer to that question lies in the point you make that “it’s much easier to find medium priced wine from other countries that will be enjoyable”. For me this is something that used to have some truth - French producers were caught napping by a massive improvement in standards in the new world - but they have definitely caught right back up.
TWS doesn’t sell any poor wine - and it sells in the main affordable wine. France is the 2nd biggest producer in the world (after Italy which produces vast quantities of “plonk” alongside a smaller amount of sublime wine). So I think the high (and growing) proportion of French wine on offer reflects increasing quality in that country and the fact that the rising quality in other regions has meant rising prices there as well.
As to leaving the EU - I presume you are hoping for an influx of new world wine at cheaper prices. As an EU member we currently pay 8p (yes pence) per bottle as an import tariff - except for SA and Chile where it’s near zero due to quotas attached to an EU trade deal. So when we leave - the best we could do is to zero tariffs on all imports and save… 8p a bottle. More likely though we won’t drop tariffs - so we will just pay more for Chilean and SA wine. All that is of course before you talk about the declining £. The real tax cost in the UK is duty and VAT, which is set at our discretion and is currently £2.60 a bottle - 3rd highest in the EU (France is 3p!). Regardless of your politics - Brexit is probably not a win for the UK wine drinker wherever your chosen tipple comes from.
I’ve just been looking at some reports, In 2006 60% of volume sold was French. Today it’s 47%. Slow-moving, evolution rather than revolution, but it’s moving with members’ buying patterns and demographic profile.
The Society holds the Regional France Specialist award (covers Alsace, Beaujolais, SW France, Corsica, Jura & Savoie) with both IWC & Decanter, something that we’re very proud of, and something which I believe is important. France is too diverse a wine-producing country to be put into a one-country box. (One could argue the same for other countries too, but given France accounts for such a large part of our activity…)
We also regularly win the Portugal and the South America categories of these awards and have been shortlisted for Spain and Italy recently.
For info Spain, New Zealand and Italy are our fastest-growing regions currently.
Current top 10 by volume:
5 New Zealand
6 South Africa
10 United States
This compares with the overall UK volume chart, but given that the average price at the UK till is £5.59 (cf £9.55 for The Society), you can tell that it’s discounted / cheap Aussie wines, Pinot Grigio/Prosecco and Blossom HIll/Echo Falls that is leading the way …
5 South Africa
8 New Zealand
The other thing that skews France is the top end. If you look at even the >£30 market it is massively skewed to France - but to me that isn’t really relevant for most buyers in their everyday selections, which means the lower priced wines are actually less French-centric.
It does include en primeur, but the volumes compared to value are relatively small, and therefore don’t make much of an impact for the purpose of this discussion.
Interestingly I’ve just made the comparison with the online offerings from our top 3 direct competitors from a quality point of view, taking France out of the equation:
Majestic: 508 wines from 18 countries
Waitrose: 669 wines from 21 countries
M&S: 437 wines from 23 countries
The Wine Society: 824 wines from 28 countries.
So while we’re proportionately France-centric, we offer more diversity outside France (and more wines) than any other major quality-driven merchant.