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Lunch with a Buyer: Sarah Knowles MW, Tuesday 12th May, 1-2pm

While our Buyers are currently stuck at home, unable to traverse the world looking for great new wines for us, we’ve been enjoying the opportunity to get to know them a bit better! This is the sixth of our informal lunchtime Q&A sessions.

Thank you to everyone who attended our Buyer’s Lunch with @owmarcel - if you missed it and would like to catch up, please have a read of the thread here: Lunch with a Buyer: Marcel Orford-Williams, Tuesday 5th May, 1-2pm

For our next Buyer’s Lunch, we are very pleased to announce that we will be joined by our Buyer @Sarah!

Lunch with a Buyer: Sarah Knowles MW, Tuesday 12th May, 1-2pm

Sarah Knowles MW is our Wine Society Buyer for Italy, Champagne, USA and spirits, having joined our Buying department in 2013.

On Tuesday lunchtime, Sarah’s joining us for a Q&A - perhaps you’d like to ask how Sarah conquered the Master of Wine course, or maybe you’d like to know Sarah’s recommendations for which Champagne to drink on various special occasions? Join us for an hour - maybe even bring a glass of something along - for a fun discussion about all things wine!

How to take part

Please send us your questions in advance, by replying to this topic - or just log in to the Community before 1pm on Tuesday and there’ll be a ‘LIVE FROM 1PM: Lunch with a Buyer’ topic where the event will take place. The chat will be in written format - like a regular topic here.

We hope you can make it along! Who’s planning on joining us for lunch?

  • I’ll be there!
  • I can’t make it, but I’ll send over a question in advance.

0 voters

Hi Sarah.

With regard to Piedmont as a whole, and more specifically (for me) Barolo, is the onset of climate change likely to shake up the map of current ‘Grand Cru’ MGA’s leading to new (as yet undiscovered?) top sites and a redrawing of the map, even an expansion of the zone?

And if so, do you have any insider tips as to what and where might emerge over the next decade, or is that commercially sensitive information for TWS plans going forward!?!


Italy is such a fractured and complex wine country with countless grape varieties DOC/Gs. Outside the obvious “must haves”, how/where do you start when putting together a list? Do you see there being more TWS offers around less well bits/grapes of Italy?


Hi Sarah,

My knowledge of Italian wine does not travel much beyond Chianti’s, the occasional Valpolicella Ripasso and Verdichio.

So I would like some guidance of what to try from southern Italy and Sicily, red and white, possibly put a mixed case together for when the day comes.

I recall about 35 years ago my parents drank Corvo for a while but that’s about it.



Hi Sarah are there any plans for Brunello/Tuscany EP?

What plans are there for the US range? I’ve recently had some Washington state cabernet (Ste Michelle and Ch. Smith) and was blown away by the quality:price ratio. It’s be fab to see more of this type of US bottle :slight_smile:

Oh, also would you ever consider a society exhibition vintage champers?

Thank you in advance!


Thanks for your questions so far!

Just giving this a quick bump so you’ve got time to send in any more advance questions.


Hello Sarah,

We seem to be having a run of good champagne vintages despite climate change, if you were spending your own money which vintages would you be buying?

And could I have one recommendation from the champagnes TWS lists now please.



Not many questions so far, so thought I’d fire out a few.

I’ve seen a fair bit on social media in the past few days about the latest blend of N/V Krug. Is it something that TWS will get their hands on to offer to members? Sounds pretty tasty.

How much has Covid-19 affected the regular offers TWS normally put out so well and frequently? e.g.:

  • Do you normally travel to taste new wines for the offers?

  • Would you normally taste the wines as part of a wider group to get consensus?

  • How much face-to-face time do you need to pull the offer together with head office support? Even the mundane things like printing / copy checking / mailing would be affected to some degree I’d imagine (let alone having the capacity to send out the floods of forthcoming orders).

As an extension from that, are we going to see a Piedmont offer in 2020? I’ve not seen any 2016 Barbarescos offered by TWS yet and it would be great to see a combined offer including some of the other Piedmontese varieties like Dolcetto, Arneis, Barbera, Ruche, Cortese Freisa et al.

Is it your intention to expand the US offer from the current listings or do you think you have it pretty well-represented?

Finally, given that Italy has a fantastic range of grape varieties to discover, will you get the opportunity (once travel is back on) to really dig deep and unearth some delicious, unusual varieties to offer to us?


Once and Future Oakley Road Mataro 2016

Was this a one off or any chance of seeing this wine again in future ‘Once and Future’ offerings to come? Asking for a friend…


Hi, I have a question and a request :smiley:

Q: will there be a 2016 Brunello EP this year? :pray:
R: please add Villa le Prata to TWS list :crazy_face:


Hi, a few questions from me please to add to the thread.

I have had a few Italian sparkling wines recently and have also had some recommended. Do you have a favourite style and are then any you would recommend?

Chianti classico seems to be an up and coming region and had a great vintage in 2016, from which I haven’t tried a bad wine yet. Do you see the Gran Selectione wines becoming 100% Sangiovese in the future and do you think the wines can eventually challenge Brunello in standing. Sorry also as a follow up do you have any recommendations in Chianti and also in terms of other up and coming regions?

Just to reiterate questions from others, will there be a Brunello and/or Barbaresco 2016 EP?



Hi - here are my linked questions for Sarah: do you prefer Flaccianello or Vigna Del Sorbo, and what are our odds of seeing the Society offer either or both of the 2016s at some point this year?

Thank you!


Hi, do you have any plans to expand the range of Lugana & Etna Rosso wines? Thanks.


Hi Sarah ,
I have a couple of questions if you don’t mind answering ?
Firstly Champagne !
I am a huge lover of Champagne, not just the wines but the villages, the towns, the cities ( can you even call them that ?!) I love Reims and it’s environ . The people are lovely and I go every year. Not sure what will happen by August but fingers crossed ! So first question ;
When you have a ripe (ish) vintage as far as a Champagne producer can have, are there really any benefits of having an extended lees ageing on that particular vintage?
To clarify my question, is it better to have a longer lees ageing on a less ripe vintage because it needs that extra complexity to round out the wine and in vintages of greater ripeness would an extended lees ageing just throw that balance off by dominating the fresh and ripe fruit ??
Second question : Champagne incorporates so many villages throughout the different regions offering up such a diversity in style and quality of wines, how do you decide what to pick and who to see ?
Following on … which is your favourite village to visit ?
No.3, Meunier, which always seemed to have the ugly duckling curse, now appears to be turning into the swan and coming back into vogue. Would you ever consider listing a varietal Meunier Champagne on the list such as Prévost’s Les Béguines or similiar? (Preferably less expensive :woozy_face:)!
No.4 where is your favourite place to eat in the region ?
No.5 Do you think Rosé de Ricey has potential going forward ?


  1. I love the wines of Elk cove, any plans to bring more wines of that specific area in ?
  2. In general our US portfolio is not large and I understand there are only so many wines you are allowed or permitted to list, will we ever see wines coming from subregions such as the likes of Walla Walla and Horse heaven hills etc…?? It would be great to have the opportunity to learn more about these regions and wines through tasting etc…
    I have so many more questions but I’ll let others have a chance but just one more …
    can I please come with you on your next Champagne trip ? I’m great craic :grinning::smiley::grin::wink::wink::crazy_face:!

I second @Leah’s comment regarding the US regions. I would like to see an offering of wines from the Finger Lakes region of New York State. Didn’t the Society do one back in the '80s or early '90s or possibly I am confusing you with another merchant? It would be great to see special pinot noir range cases from some of the West Coast wineries (Au Bon Climat?), perhaps on a limited scale. Is there any scope for this?


Hi Sarah,

Just a few from me:

  1. Following on from other members questions, will the WS offer the Produttori del Barbaresco Cru Assortment (the 9 bottle case) when they are released?

  2. Would there be scope for “indigenous mixed cases” or something similar? By these I mean local, obscure grapes made by local growers/garagistes that perhaps would not normally be exported from the region? In addition to the rarer Piedmontese varieties @Brocklehurstj asked about, I would love to see some truly local, characterful hidden gems from all regions of Italy (particularly Campania, Sicily and Sardinia). The kind of wine you drink by the bucketful from earthenware jugs at the village restaurant.

  3. And finally, just how much Burlotto wine are you able to secure and is it getting harder to get these allocations? (Please add Fratelli Alessandria to the future Barolo offers :pray:)


Hi Sarah, a couple of questions from me:

  1. What would be your desert-island sparkling wine (NOT champagne)?
  2. Are we likely to see any wines from Sardinia back on the list in future? When I first joined the Wine Society a couple of years ago there were a few lovely ones but they seem to have disappeared. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’d be glad to see them back! (I of course appreciate that this is all dependent on being able to get out and about again…)

Thanks so much!


Another vote for some Sardinian wines @RachelLoire. In particular some Vermentino di Gallura (Capichera please!)


Oh yes i’d love to see an ‘off the beaten path’ italy case with the less well known varities :slight_smile:


And an additional vote from me. Vermentino di Gallura was one of the wines that started me on my precarious wine journey. Would LOVE to see some excellent examples in TWS list! :pray: