I find myself sitting at my desk in what is a giant metal shed on a grey industrial estate realising how fantastic the invite to attend the Wine Society’s world and what it means to be in this community.
Firstly, I would like to say thank you to @Ewan again for arranging this day out as it was very generous to afford the membership with the chance to meet the great and the good of the wine world – 4 MWs and numerous high-profile journalists as it must create an impression (hopefully a good one) that you probably don’t get at the Waitrose or Tesco events.
I also finally got to meet the impossibly glamorous and lovely @Inbar who was my wine guide throughout the day – It quickly became apparent listening to her commentary on the wines that her palate is very attuned and can really pick out the key aspects of everything we tasted and her enormous enthusiasm for all of them. I just stared blankly at the glass.
We spoke to Pierre, Joanna, Sarah, Toby, Ewan and others about how they go about their job – The pressures for securing wine orders, their relationships with the producers and how they go about selecting the range. It really shone that the buyers and TWS in general punches above its weight in terms of revenue and market share vs. influence. Themes like taking risks on interesting batches, trusting in the producer’s art and even just getting on TWS list is an aspirational thing for any producer. We also heard about the pressures of what happens when you don’t make the cut on the list and how the buyer’s go about managing dips in demand or their ranges which was fascinating to see how they operate. We also saw Steven Spurrier but we both a bit star struck to go and say hello. We did try to peek a look at his extensive notes, but they would have been exactly the same as ours anyway.
So, to the important bit, what did we taste? Well, Inbar and I did the walk round together tasting fizz, lighter whites, full whites, light reds, full reds then on to sherry and stickies. I MAY….MAY have cocked the order up a bit with a reductive Jura half way through. The wines were ordered according to buyer as opposed to any particular order so we had to make up our own route. Joanna commented that she was very impressed that we were still upright and tasting after 75 wines and that often having a random order can keep your palate on its toes. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to that.
I might add I got my eye in the night before at The Sampler in Islington and tried some treeeeeeemendous stuff for not too much…Chassangne Montrachet, 2001 Cantenac-Brown, Chambolle-Musigny, top dry German Riesling, ‘The Cream’ Aussie Shiraz, 30 year old Gran Riserva and a beautiful SA Merlot. I didn’t make a note of the producers sadly, it was just nice to sample some outrageously good stuff at an accessible price. Yep, Enomatics for the win!
Right, the actual wines
Inbar took the evens, I took the odds.
I won’t list everything at length, so I will list what I felt the highlights were and work downwards. Pretty much every wine was in the £7 - £40 bracket so there was oodles of plentiful value bottles there and we were blown away numerous times with just how good these were at the price point…Like, really surprised!
4 Australia 2017 Bleasdale Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 12.5% 10.95
Yes, it is an Australian Chardonnay. And yes, it has loads of oak, it’s complex, it’s got great body, creamy texture, toastiness on the finish and that fantastic savoury character, with acidity to give it that spruce. Just wonderful value at a shade over a tenner a bottle – If you’ve just ordered some white burgundy, did you keep your receipt?
10 Hambledon Première Cuvée Brut Hampshire 12% £38.00 (available 18th June)
Call me a little Englander…but I have a soft spot for any English sparkling. Maybe it’s the thin and insipid base wine we make in this country (though the 3 choirs knocked that stereotype into touch and then some) but the Première Cuvée really did shine. I didn’t make the same mistake as before when trying champers and English fizz together, we kept this last and rightly. Rich honey, sumptuous toasty brioche, fine mousse with almost a mead finish. It was like a Willy Wonka ever-lasting gobstopper where new flavours seemed to appear then go then come back. Sensory overload. It is £38 but that’s only a few quid more than a grand marque and for Christmas day or a special occasion I implore you to choose right and pick this – it really does have its own character, class, yet without being overly shouty. Think Terry Thomas climbing out of the bedroom window and into an E-Type getaway car.
26 2014 El Inquilino Crianza Rioja 14% £10.50
I’m so delighted I get to tell you about this wine! This is an 80/20 Temp/Garnacha blend – So a pronounced perfume of cherry, almond, soft elegant vanilla and had a real harmony together. Inbar and I were basically just smelling it…and smelling it. So fragrant and comforting. This has everything you look for in a comforting, opulent style of Rioja – Buttery finish, soft red fruit, full body but none of it is slapstick. You’d never know it was 14% ABV such is how well it had been brought together. Another outstanding value buy at only £10.50. I can’t see what more you could have done to this to improve it. Bravo Pierre!
44 2016 The Society’s Exhibition Colchagua Carmenère 14% £11.95
I made a bit of a bee-line to write this wine up first. In a word ‘outstanding’. This is actually the first time I tasted this as I missed the community tasting. This really stood out and spoke to me – It has pronounced green, fresh blackcurrant leaf, smoke and rounded beautifully. I preferred this to Koyle’s own label as it had wonderful complex fruit but that lift from the cooler-area. A must-buy and well done Toby Morrhall for finding it! A South American beauty for those who prefer a classic Bordeaux.
38 Half bottle of Williams & Humbert ‘As You Like It’ Medium Sweet 20.5% £22
Right now, there is an Inbar somewhere cursing my name that I got to write about this. You should have seen her eyes light up when she stuck her nose in the glass. A strong pronounced nose of raisin, prunes, almond, toffee. The moment it hit the palate the syrupy, fantastical mouthfeel is pure hedonism. The finish is so wonderfully smooth with pure truffley hazelnut which balanced the initial sugar rush. A marvel – At £22 you shouldn’t be umming and arring, this is a symphony.
Nice to try
2 France NV Jeaunaux-Robin Le Talus de Sainte Prix Brut 12% £ 28.00
Superb champers for under £30 – Strong yeast and brioche flavours, lemon curd on the finish, big mouthfeel.
6 Mac Forbes Woori Yallock Yarra Valley Pinot Noir 12% £39.00
I was going to add this into my ‘Must-buys’. A lighter style of pinot, very pale but a very aromatic nose of savoury mushroom, cherry, sweet spice – A very classy wine. The only thing that stopped me is that the equivalent wine you could get for the same price from a French appellation, SA, Oregon would outshine this – I think I remember the Domaine Tawse being just £36 last year and that was incredible – Difficult to justify this particular price tag, but if the lighter pinot is your cup of tea then this won’t disappoint.
8 2015 Bogle Vineyards California Merlot 13.5% £12.50 (Available w/c 25th June)
A guilty pleasure. Pure unbridled joy in a glass – Lots of fruit, pronounced oak, sweet spice and is like playing with a kitten and a ball of wool. Again, this nearly creeped into the ‘must-buys’ as at £12.50 this screams value but maybe my slight embarrassment at being so bowled over by the such upfront, lip-smacking deliciousness needed to be reined in. (Whispers: buy it)
20 2017 Astobiza Txacoli, Alava 12.5% £11.95 (Available 13th July)
My first Txacoli. I confess (now) that I’ve never even heard of it! It was summer, summer, summer! Lemon and apple flavours but kept on it’s lees and lifted the mouthfeel and a soft floral finish. Great alternative to a white rioja or even a Muscadet. To say this can also be done as a late harvest sticky makes me question if I’ll ever ‘know’ wine.
30 2017 Château Reynon Sauvignon Blanc, Bordeaux 14% £11.50
An immediate hit of grass, pleasant urea-like gooseberry. Really a very pronounced nose, which then makes way for a palate of apple, unripe pear, elderflower and a rosemary finish. I had the previous years vintage and that was a much more restrained affair.
32 2016 Chevalier Galant Côte de Brouilly 12.5% £8.95 (Available 13th July)
Text book Beaujolais cru. Strong whiff of savoury gym plimsole and bubble gum with soft strawberry on the palate.
42 2016 Maycas del Limarí Pinot Noir Reserva Especial 14% £13.95
Inbar’s first comment was ‘potting shed’. I thought it had a strong umami mushroom nose the delicious cherry on the palate. Great value alternative pinot.
36 2010 Vieux Château Saint André, Montagne Saint-Emilion 14.5% £14.95 Available 13th July
Popped this in here as it seemed great value for a mature St.Em, but I felt that it was a little too mature for my liking. Lots of cedar, cigar, a little blackcurrant fruit still. Maybe I was just a bit skewed by the young Society Claret I had before which is a blackcurrant bombshell. But if this is your thing ten your in for a well-priced treat!
[46 2013 Weinert Carrascal Mendoza Cabernet Sauvignon 14% £9.50] Available 6th August
Possibly the most spoken about red producer on the community and I can see why! A fresh, crunchy style of cabernet, big tannins, fine oak but with ripe fruit. I’ve only just noticed this was NINE POUNDS FIFTY PENCE. It didn’t move me like the carmenere but this really is powerful stuff for the money – Possibly one to come back to in a few years.
54 2016 Dolcetto d’Alba, GB Burlotto 12.5% £11.50 Available 6th August
A lighter style of Dolcetto. The Dogliani was a huge wine – Thick and inky black. This is more of a full and dark Nebbiolo appearance with black fruit, acid, softer tannins but grippy of the finish.
58 2017 Moulin Blanc, Blanc de Noirs, Jérémie Mourat, Vin de France 13% £11.50 Available 18th June
A curious wine – A pinot made as a white. This worked much better than a white cabernet I had not that long ago. A nose of raspberry and fresh herbs with blackcurrant and forest fruits (and floor). I’d recommend anyone trying this – Joanna seemed very enthused and rightly so!
60 2017 Magnum of Rustenberg Chardonnay, Stellenbosch 13.5% £25.00
The only magnum on show and it comes with a heady complex nose of oak, toast and rish dairy malo. All this is stacked nicely against a notable acid structure. I think I’d devour a glass of this with a roast chicken or buttery skate and bacon but a whole magnum would be a challenge. For £25 this is why TWS works!
62 2016 Moselle ‘Les Hautes-Bassières’ Pinot Noir, Château de Vaux 12.5% £13.50
Excellent value regional pinot – Inbar suggested a ‘cough mixture’ character. I thought it had a light candy and almost slight sourness followed by an umami kick on the finish. Superb alternative to Red Burgundy if you have more sense than money (ducks).
The best of the rest
All good wines, but maybe just not for me on the day – I give a caveat that a palate that has tried that many wines won’t quite be as accurate, so my bet is that if these had been my first wines I would’ve loved them.
12 2017 Tetramythos Roditis Natur 12% £10.95 (Available 13th July)
14 Geyerhof StockWerk Grüner Veltliner, Kremstal 12% £12.50 (Available 13th July)
16 2016 Fodor Orange Wine, Maurer 11.5% £17.50 (Available 13th July)
18 2012 Villány Kekfrankos Nagytótfalu, Hummel 11.5% £12.50 (Available 13th July)
22 2017 Capricho Godello, Bierzo 13.5% £12.95 (Available 13th July)
24 2017 Pardas Sus Scrofa Sumoll, Penedès 12% £10.95 (Available 13th July)
28 2014 Finca Vallobera, Rioja 13.5% £15.50
34 2016 L’Usufruit de Clos du Notaire, Côtes de Bourg 13.5% £8.50 (Available 13th July)
40 2017 Undurraga Cauquenes Estate Maule Viognier-Roussanne-Marsanne 14% £7.75
48 2015 Zaha Toko Vineyard Paraje Altamira Malbec 13.5% £25.00
50 2017 Vescovado Guardavalle Calabria Bianco, Santa Venere 13% £12.50
52 2016 Lagrein Alto Adige, Hofstätter 13% £13.50 (Available 13th July)
56 2016 Cirò Rosso Gaglioppo, Santa Venere 13.5% £9.50 (Available 6th August)
64 2015 2015 Bourgueil, Domaine de Matabrune 12.5% £10.50
66 1998 Henriques and Henriques Medium Rich Single Harvest Madeira 50cl 19% £24.00
68 2015 Gimmeldingen Riesling, Müller-Catoir 12.5% £13.95 (Available 13th July)
70 2016 Pinot Noir, Coteau du Grésivaudan, Domaine Finot 13% £17.00
72 2017 Saint-Chinian, Domaine Raynier 14% £6.50
74 2015 Cahors Petit Clos, Clos Triguedina 13.5% £10.95
Gutted I didn’t get to review…Lucky Inbar!
- Mac Forbes RS19- The world’s best lime cordial
- The Exhibition Otago Pinot Noir – Great value lush new world pinot
- Bodegas Murua Aclys Crianza – Rich complex rioja
- Unduttaga Carignan – Pokey, fruit-driven yet lean and smoky. Yum!
- Susana Balbo Malbec – Fully justifies the price tag. Great finesse. The journo standing next to us looked like he was about to sneak it under his jacket he was so crazy about it.
- Late Harvest Txacoli – Best tasting sticky in a while! Exquisite marmalade and golden syrup!