The Society's Christmas Press Tasting 2017 - an outsider's musings

I was lucky enough to participate in the press tasting with the added perk of meeting @Ewan in person. I created this topic to slowly add my thoughts on the trading for the community’s benefit. I will add my ramblings on distinct topics as replies. I will also be happy to answer questions on the event, so please ask.

It was daunting prospect to taste 65 wines, but I soldiered on and managed to taste (yes, spit) all within 3 hours. It puts the job of a wine writer into perspective… it does require endurance, especially as most of the others were off to a different tasting in the afternoon.

The wines were great, some real treats getting onto the Society’s list for this Christmas.


My winners of the day - whites and fizz

This is what will be on my Christmas shopping list. I loved these wines, don't forget though... you may not.

2014 Bride Valley Brut Reserve (available mid October) - This is a unique English fizz that is so refreshing, so nice citrus taste. Better value than the Hambledon NV, which was more of a run of the mill number.
This was the best of a number of ‘simple’ Italian whites. So moreish.

2013 Domaine William Fevre Chablis So subtle on the nose, but rock and roll on the palate. Might be my favourite of the whites… and below £15

What a find, this was so different, true it is worth trying.

More of this, please. A wonderful Albariño… Almost as good as the Soalheiro wines

Saumur ‘Clos de la Thibaudière’ Brèzè, Domaine de Roche Ville -The name is a mouthful… so is the wine. First I was not convinced, but then it beautifully opened up to this fresh biscuity, mineral laden number. Great Loire white.

2015 Magnum of Sancerre Cuvee Silex, Domaine Serge Laloue - The only magnum of the line up. Can completely imagine on the Christmas table. I wanted to hate it, but I loved it.

A very nice dry German riesling, that is not from the Mosel… need to keep an open mind. Buy methinks.
So complex, so exciting… Alsace rules

I am honestly running out of words to describe this… This is how you imagine a gewürztraminer should be. Perfect, did I say Alsace rules? Beware it is off dry, if that is not your thing, this wine might actually change your opinion.


Press tastings are the best … and the worst. You can’t just pick and choose tables like at a BIG generic wine tasting. EVERYTHING has been hand-picked to tell you a story. There are literally dozens of deserving wines, staring you in the face, pleading to be tasted.

I really enjoyed the Society tastings I attended before I ever did any work for them, because the list was always carefully selected to have some very interesting stuff on offer. You got to meet lovely people who came regularly to get ideas for their columns (I have a soft spot for Olly Smith, I have to admit), and the lunch was always pretty decent. On top of ALL that, you got to hang out with @Ewan, @dillonmorrall and @ALISOND.

What more could anyone ask for?

(actually, while I wanted to find stuff to write about … the best thing of Society press tastings was always to top up my personal shopping list … it was a great way to find the really amazing new wines on the list)


You’ve got me salivating …it worked!


My favourites - reds

If possible the red line up was even stronger, so let me give you my top wines (in no particular order) and then a simple list of other worthy numbers. A beautiful Chianti Classico, from such a good vintage.

Silky smooth, rich, instantly drinkable… and under £9!

2016 Regina Viarum Mencia, Ribeira Sacra - Fragrant, rich fruit, hint of mint… so good

Expensive, but great powerful claret. Okay, I might not actually buy this one on price, but truly it was gorgeous.

Now three Spanish beauties:
This is ‘just’ a Crianza, but oh so good. I did write it is a steal in my notes…

2013 Anayón Cariñena - Look no further if you like cariñena.
One of my 2 top reds. Very, very good. So concentrated. So structured. Even for the price.

Onto Portugal and Italy for the next two 2007 beauties
Very interesting Nebbioloesque wine. Such a find in an attractive 50cl bottle with relatively low alcohol.

2007 Ghemme - Torraccia del Piantavigna
My favourite, an aged Nebbiolo, just how it should be. Still with some tannic grip.

Other notable items:

  • 2015 Pinot Noir Côte de Rouffach, Muré
  • 2014 Domaine de Bellene, Bourgogne Rouge Pinot Noir Vieilles Vignes Clos Bardot
  • 2014 Domaine Sylvain Pataille, Marsannay Rouge
  • 2013 Novac Sec, Prince Stirbey
  • 2015 Hans Igler Classic Blaufränkisch
  • 2011 Domaine de Courteillac, Bordeaux Supèrieur
  • 1998 Chateau Fontesteau, Haut-Medoc (below £15 per bottle… a must for any lover of aged claret)
  • 2014 Sendiana Rouge
  • 2012 Vergelegen GVB Estate Red, Stellenbosch
  • 2015 Viña Zorzal Malayeto Garnacha, Navarra
  • 2015 Minervois La Livinière Cuvèe Cantilène, Chateau Sainte-Eulalie
  • 2015 Undurraga Cauquenes Estate Maule Carignan-Mourvedre
  • 2015 Undurraga Cauquenes Estate Maule Garnacha
  • 2012 The Society’s Exhibition Gigondas
  • 2012 The Society’s Exhibition Barolo

Thanks, @szaki1974 - a great summary of your favourites of the tasting, and of your feelings about the event as a newcomer to such tastings. Great to meet you - we in the trade often take this kind of tasting for granted, so it’s great to get another perspective. Delighted you liked so many of the wines - we spend time putting such a tasting together to make it as ‘easy’ as possible for the tasters, so hopefully the order the wines were in helped.

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Many of those present say exactly that!!


Further thoughts - sweet and/or fortified

I just could not leave these out, the line up was so strong. Out of the 5 wines in this category 3 actually blew me away. I was quite averse to sweet and fortified wines till as recently as 4 years ago, but then sherry happened and sweet Mosel rieslings happened and there was no turning back.

My top three

Oh wow, such an intense wine. I am new to the palo cortado category, but if it is like this just bring it on. I will say it is not for the faint hearted. I am a fan.

2014 Château La Caussade, Sainte-Croix-du-Mont - This is from across the river from Sauternes, so only £12.95 for a full bottle… I bet you could not tell it apart in a blind flight of the top numbers of the more illustrious neighbour. Not sure what to do with a full bottle of sweet wine, but s**w that…

1969 Rivesaltes, Parcé Frères - Right, 1969, first man on the moon and then this stuff. Sweet, fortified and 46 years in barrel before bottling. It was delicious.

Not sure why there is no sweet wine topic…


As we approach the season-of-sweets I am sure there will be

It is a sad truth that the VAST majority of dessert and fortified wines are sold at Christmas

Just to say that this isn’t the same wine as was shown at the tasting (wasn’t clear from the tasting sheet). What you tasted was another from the same producer but a special 50cl bottle from a 10-barrel lot which will be available for sale w/c 4th December for £28.50. Mind-blowingly good.

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Thanks for the invite to join the press tasting on Tuesday. It was probably the best tasting I’ve been to, in terms of the quality of wines, the size of the selection, the location and atmosphere. Many highlights (actually it’d be much easier to list the lowlights, which numbered about two!), specifically:

La Crotta di Vegneron Petite Arvine Val d’Aosta
Domaine Turner-Pageot Coteaux du Languedoc
Undurraga Cauquenes Estate Maule Viognier Roussanne Marsanne
The Society’s Exhibition Saint Aubin Blanc
Saumur ‘Clos de la Thibaudière’ Brézé, Domaine de Roche Ville
Château Latour-Martillac Blanc, Pessac-Léognan
Forster Riesling, Heinrich Spindler
Trollinger, Fellbacher Alte Reben Aldinger
Château de Lacarelle, Beaujolais-Villages
Domaine de Bellène Bourgogne Rouge Pinot Noir Vieilles Vignes Clos Bardot
Sylvain Pataille Marsannay Rouge
Regina Viarum Mencia Ribeira Sacra
Domaine de Courteillac, Bordeaux Supérieur
Château Fontesteau, Haut-Médoc
Bajondillo, Méntrida
Viña Pedrosa Crianza, Ribera del Duero
The Society’s Exhibition Gigondas
Adega de Colares ‘Arenae’ Colares Ramisco
Château La Caussade, Sainte Croix du Mont
Rivesaltes, Parcé Frères

I tried to keep that to ten, but it’s impossible. The ones in bold are wines I will definitely be buying (or just dreaming about).

Nice to meet Ewan and various buyers and journos. Sorry I missed you Akos, I think we’d have a lot to talk about (my wife being Hungarian).

Until next time!


Not a Nicaraguan dictator president

The most over represented grape variety ofvthe tasting was one Ortega. I will admit this is the first time I tasted wine made from it... and immediately two... and both English... and both good value.... and lo and behold one of them sweet. Honestly you can do much worse for the price.

While the first one is a refreshing white, the second one is the more surprising find. Happy to drink English wine (as well).


Would that go well with a nice Somoza? :wink:


Thank you so much for posting your thoughts on this tasting. I’ve just placed an order and it has several of those you selected as your stand out wines! (my list was based on the press Tweets :slight_smile: who agree with you too.


I think it would… or even better the Gewürztraminer I highlighted.

A silly Nicaraguan dictator pun!

Yeah, I was not sure… if it is inappropriate then happy to change it. I leave it to the community to decide if the Ortega pun (intended) went too far.

  • Too far
  • Not too far

0 voters

Was talking about my comment! No offence at all …my bad dictator pun Anastasio Somoza Debayle - Wikipedia

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Just realised that the community guidelines have a glaring ‘use of esoteric political puns’ clause missing.

Must remedy that … One day


A great pun… just shows my brain reads and interprets stuff that makes sense to it :slight_smile:

I do stand by the Samosa pairing recommendations.