This busman’s holiday (on a bike…) all started on a tactically late lunch break last year to catch the end of the Tour De France climb up Alpe d’Huez.

French rider Thibaut Pinot had taken the stage win, and the crowds, which had swollen to just allow the bikes to pass, were full of a party atmosphere.

I looked at my colleague and fellow cyclist Freddy Bulmer, and said, ‘we’ve got to go.’ And that was that.

This year, the big climb was Mont Ventoux, so with the thought of a pretty long drive through some of the most famous wine-producing areas of the world, it was somewhat impossible for a couple of oenophiles not to stop off on the way down.

Ventoux cycle

The break in the journey up came in Epernay, Champagne, and who better to visit than one of our oldest suppliers, Alfred Gratien?

After a quick cycle through the vineyards and a walk down the Avenue de Champagne, we had the opportunity to sample the forthcoming 2004 Vintage Brut with Gratien’s head winemaker Nicolas Jaeger. It really is something special!

Society members are regular visitors to the Gratien cellars, and Nicolas is extremely proud of the winery. He was especially keen to show us the innovative stacking system for the barrels: The Society’s Champagne is fermented in old Burgundian barrels to give the wine depth, and these can now be easily moved, drained and racked via a roller system, instead of backbreaking lifting.

Next up was Champagne Boizel, where we met with Florent Roques-Boizel. The cellars are cut out of the limestone, and there is plenty of evidence of riddling the bottles by hand still going on to this day. The soil above is very porous, and after a downpour of rain the puddles can get quite deep!

The Vintage Room, Champagne BoizelThe Vintage Room, Champagne Boizel

It was an absolute pleasure to taste back through some of the range currently in bottle. The Boizel non-vintage is a personal favourite of mine – a hidden gem in our List – and the back vintages are developing beautifully. The real treat was looking into the vintage room, where bottles date back to 1893, but unlike some other houses these bottles were stacked up against the walls, as if ready for drinking, as opposed to being hidden away as museum pieces.

Driving through the Rhône, and back up through Burgundy on the way home, is quite an experience in itself, with the steep valleys home to some of the world’s finest examples of syrah down through Rhône. Although we did not have time to stop off, the signs for Jaboulet and Chapoutier stood out from the hillside, enticing a future trip and earning a cross on the map for reference as we drove past.

Arriving in Bedoin, at the foot of Ventoux, the sun was out, the spectators had plenty of local wine inside of them, and two days of cycling had arrived. Along with a few thousand others, Freddy and I ground our way up the mountain on the first day. Even more were camped up in the prime spots for the following day, to watch the professionals pass through, and were in high spirits cheering each amateur as they passed by, pushing themselves to the limit.

We both made it, completely wind-battered and with jelly legs, but proud of the achievement. Nothing could have prepared us for it, but watching the tour riders shoot up a lightning speed the following day left us with a new found respect, both for them and the crowds which had amassed up the entire climb.

At the summit!At the summit!

A trip to Burgundy’s Château de Beauregard was the icing on the cake. Welcomed by Bertrand, the export manager, as Frédéric Burrier was on his yearly trip walking through the Alps with friends, we were blown away by the location. A beautiful refreshing breeze cooled the sun-drenched vineyard positioned in the middle of Pouilly and Fuissé, and just out of eye shot of the Beaujolais vineyards.

A tour of the cellars, and tasting of the 2015 vintage (available en primeur now) and others confirmed that not only are Beauregard’s wines beautiful in bottle, this quality is also showing through into the future, both in barrel and in the pristine vineyards. The Saint-Véran La Roche 2015 is beautifully ripe and rich, but also balanced with grip and freshness. A real treat to look out for is the Grand Beauregard, which is an assemblage of the best barrels, parcels and crus, blended when Frédéric has tasted every one of them. Possibly the best wine I’ve ever tasted from the region.

Château de BeauregardChâteau de Beauregard

All in all, it was a trip I’m sure neither of us will forget in a hurry, and we’d like to extend our thanks to all the producers who welcomed us, and were so generous with their time. There’s no better experience than visiting a producer or the sport you love, and to see the dedication to their passion.

All I can say is Allez Allez, Va Va Froome, and we’ll be back next year!

Thom Buzzard
Member Services

Categories : Burgundy, Champagne, France
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latest-reviewsWhile one part of my job is to get out and about among the great and the good of the wine trade and press (and do a little bit of tasting on the way!), another is monitoring the press and social media for what is being said about The Society and our wines.

‘The Society in the Press’ section of our website is updated at least weekly, and is a great place to go to discover the word on the street about what’s currently hot in our range.

Putting together a summertime Top Ten of wines mentioned in the press is hard, because we have so many mentions as a result of our quarterly press tastings and periodical samplings to the journalists, so perhaps I’ve erred on the side of some of my personal favourites. You could therefore view this as ten Staff Choices in a row for summer, backed up by some of the very best palates in the land.

The Wine Society, Stevenage  19th October 2015 Photo:  - Richard Washbrooke PhotographyThe Society’s Exhibition English Sparkling Wine 2013: “Sourced from Ridgeview, one of England’s best-known and most reliable producers of bottle-fermented sparkling wine, this fine vintage blend of mainly chardonnay with dollops of pinot noir and pinot meunier shows fresh aromatic complexity and the vivacious apple and hedgerow fruit mousse whose tangy, crisp and refreshing dry bite is one of the hallmarks of good English fizz.” The Wine Gang, 2nd August 2016

Duo Des Mers, Sauvignon-Viognier Vin de France 2015Duo Des Mers, Sauvignon-Viognier Vin de France 2015: “‘Must-try’ white – made by LGI, a company set up by Alain Grignon in 1999 to source wines made by co-ops between Roussillon and Gascogne. Its goal is to deliver inexpensive wines for export and this must be the best-value wine in the UK. The sauvignon blanc is sourced from Gascony, the viognier from Languedoc. Refreshing gooseberry, citrus and apricot fruit with great texture. The perfect summer party wine.” Christelle Guibert, Decanter, September 2016 

PW5571Altano, Douro Branco 2015: “I can’t imagine there are too many other wines at this price that can boast the same quality. This is the only white made by the Symington Family Estate … High altitude helps reveal the freshness in the grapes here and that’s very evident in this wine. Lemon zesty and aromatic, there is also plenty of ripeness in the palate with a slight hint of an almond nuttiness.” Andy Cronshaw, Manchester Evening News, 13th August 2016

CE8801Matetic Corralillo San Antonio Gewürztraminer 2015: “Alsatian gewurz tends to be quite rich and oily, but in coastal Chile it’s lighter, fresher and dry. With ginger, pear and peach, zippy acidity and oodles of perfume, it’s a winner with spicy food.” Tim Atkin MW, Jamie Magazine, 1st August 2016

Jurançon Sec ‘Chant des Vignes', Domaine Cauhapé 2014Jurançon Sec ‘Chant des Vignes’, Domaine Cauhapé 2014: Jurançon is known predominantly for its sweet whites, but the local grapes (gros and petit manseng) can also produce dry whites with a citrusy edginess … Fresh and aromatic, as soon as you’ve poured a glass the fruit races off the starting line and its zingy with citrus, grapefruit, spice and a hint of white pepper on the finish. Sam Wylie-Harris, The Press Association, 23rd July 2016

GR1031

Hatzidakis Santorini 2015: A lemon nestling in a bed of oregano! Dazzlingly the perfect pairing for a Greek salad. Olly Smith, Event Magazine (Mail on Sunday), 24th July 2016

Pla dels àngelsScala Dei Pla des Àngels Garnacha Rosado 2015: This incredible wine … comes from a legendary Spanish estate famed for making massive reds.  The delicate, haunting, rose petal perfume of this rosé is remarkable and this sensual aroma is backed up with a firm, long, masterful palate.  It’s worth every penny! Matthew Jukes, matthewjukes.com & Daily Mail, 13th August 2016

ciro_rossoCirò Rosso Gaglioppo, Santa Venere 2014: You don’t often come across wines whose price seems genuinely incredibly low but this is one of them … Another stonkingly good value offering from this small denomination on the sole of Italy … distinctive rose-scented nose as well as massively friendly, fruity palate … Masses of character and charm. Very good value. Jancis Robinson MW, jancisrobinson.com, 12th August 2016

AR3501The Society’s Exhibition Mendoza Malbec 2014: Penetrating, cool black fruit, black pepper and bitter chocolate, with softening tannins. Concentrated, sensitively oaked and even better in a couple of years. Joanna Simon, joannasimon.com, 27th July 2016

FC29251Fitou, Domaine Jones 2013: Katie Jones has had to deal with quite a bit in her wine-making career, but this doesn’t stop her making an impeccable drop … A classic blend of carignan, grenache and syrah, resulting in an inky dark colour in the glass. The spicy bouquet of the darkest fruits has touches of blackberries and tarter blackcurrants. In the mouth the fruit is held in line with the structured tannins and a smidge of spicy wood tones. The warming black pepper heat continues through to the long earthy finish. An opulent style of Fitou from Katie’s vineyard in the village of Tuchan. Neil Cammies, Western Mail, 6th August 2016

Cheers! Here’s to the rest of summer and – who knows – perhaps an Indian one too.

Ewan Murray
PR Manager

Categories : Miscellaneous
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…Relative newcomer, anyway, the first bottlings from this model ‘Stellenbosch’ (Somerset West) estate being sold from 2005. The elegant surroundings (already busy with Saturday morning visitors enjoying wine tasting and coffee around a roaring fire) made a delightful setting for a tasting of wines from across their range.

Waterkloof's Nadia Barnard Waterkloof’s Nadia Barnard

These included:

• The refined white blend Circle of Life (available for £14.95 in our August Fine Wine List).

• Current and new vintages of Circumstance Cape Coral Mourvèdre Rosé (the 2015 is available for £8.95 in my South African Buyer’s Shortlist offer), a wine that is ideally suited to these southerly-facing, windswept vineyards with stunning views out over False Bay (somewhat lost in fog on our visit!).

Our host was talented young winemaker Nadia Barnard (pictured below with my colleague Steve Farrow) who has responsibility for the impressive cellar and works closely with the vineyard team.

Nadia Barnard and Steve Farrow Waterkloof

We missed visiting the homemade compost and (frankly foul-smelling when I was treated to it on my last visit) biodynamic preparations which are par for the course in this environmentally respectful & friendly ‘biosphere’ of the Cape Winelands!

Nadia may have a very big job for one so young but she has a super-well-equipped, high-tech cellar with plenty of fashionable tools of the trade.

Nadia Barnard with the new wine press

Her pride and joy is this new gentle giant of a press. Several tanks had to be removed to get it in, and Nadia confessed it took some getting used to (high tech does not mean physical hard graft is avoided altogether!) but the results are speaking for themselves.

Look out for Waterkloof, and Boutinot’s other wines here and in the Cape. If you do go, treat yourself to a meal at the restaurant (last experienced last year, and not only good, fresh & imaginative food but good wine matching advice too) and try the fruits of their latest venture: an on-site cheesery!

Jo Locke MW
Society Buyer

Waterkloof Circle of Life 2013 is available for £14.95 in our August Fine Wine List, alongside several other South African white blends.

Circumstance Cape Coral Mourvèdre Rosé 2015 is available for £8.95 in the current South African Buyer’s Shortlist offer).

Categories : South Africa
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Thu 11 Aug 2016

Calcaia: Italy’s Sauternes?

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Barberani's CalcaiaBarberani’s Calcaia

One of the real gems of Umbria is Barbarani’s delicious sweet white wine, Calcaia. It is a hard wine to sell, as it falls into its own category in a way, however whenever it is shown at a tasting, it gets a very warm welcome indeed.

Calcaia Orvieto is made with thanks to botrytis cineria aka noble rot, which is brought on by the vineyards’ proximity to Lake Corbara. The fog which develops through the night envelops the vines until the cool morning winds clears it away so the vines can enjoy the sun. This process brings on noble rot, which dries out the grapes, causing them to shrivel on the vine, concentrating the sugars and the flavour.

As sweet wine goes and in comparison to Sauternes, the Calcaia is a beautifully light and elegant style. Alcohol tends to come in around 10-10.5% and the wine is beautifully crisp, fresh, pure and bright – no wonder it is so often a hit with our members when it is tasted.

In order to really get the best idea of how this wine will age, we recently opened a few back-vintages, which Italy buyer Sebastian Payne MW had very handily tucked away over the past few years.

Grechetto grapes in Barberani's vineyards affected by 'muffa nobile'Grechetto affected by ‘muffa nobile’

Sebastian explained how this wine is painstakingly produced, with individual berries being picked, over sometimes five or six harvests in order to account for the different grapes achieving the same level of noble rot at different times. The varieties used are grechetto and trebbiano procanico, two grapes widely planted in Umbria, although grechetto actually has Greek origins and it tends to be these two grapes which feature in most vintages of this wine, albeit with a few tweaks from one year’s blend to the next.

The first vintage of this wine was made in 1986 and although we didn’t have the opportunity to taste that far back on this occasion, we did have a bottle of 2005, 2006 and 2007 vintages, along with the 2013 and the soon-to-be-released 2014.

2014: Bright, pure beeswax on the nose with a mouthwatering touch of honey and apricot. Light on the palate, very fresh and clean with perfectly poised acidity. Youthful and fine.

2013: Slightly deeper fruit aromas on the nose with a little more botrytis evident. Fresh acidity remains and a nice weight on the palate. Complex, layered and delicious.

2007: Golden in colour. Unctuous palate with more of the beeswax notes and barley sugar. Some of the acidity has now rounded out but is still very well balanced with stunningly vivid caramelised orange-peel notes and a slight hint of burning incense.

2006: A more herbal nose, again with quite a pronounced botrytised character. The acidity is still there but this wine is much more full and viscous. Showing signs of age but wearing it well.

2005: Orange peel and candied fruit but with an intriguing savoury note which adds to the complexity. Lost a touch of the freshness but the charm is still there.

The 2013 is currently available for £22 per 50cl bottle, as part of Sebastian’s ‘The Best Of Italy’ selection.

I’m certainly looking forward to seeing how it tastes in a few years… if I can manage to keep my hands off it before then…

Freddy Bulmer
Trainee Buyer

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Evidently, it is as dangerous to dismiss as it is to assume: over the past few years, a number of wine regions and styles written off by some of us have sprung back into wine lists and affections. Australian chardonnay – the subject of this month’s Staff Choice – is certainly one such example.

Pemberley Western Australia Chardonnay 2014: 'simply stunning on every occasion that I have opened a bottle.'Pemberley Western Australia Chardonnay 2014: ‘simply stunning on every occasion that I have opened a bottle.’

As my colleague Stephanie Searle writes below, we know that some members have been turned off trying Aussie chardonnay over the years, feeling that its initial success led to a decline in quality. Wines like Pemberley’s Margaret River Chardonnay, a new addition to our range, make a compelling case for a fresh look. Here Stephanie explains why.

You can find a full archive of Staff Choices on our website here.

Pemberley Western Australian Chardonnay 2014

Stephanie SearleOne of the many joys of working in the Tastings & Events Team is the opportunity to try so many different wines: choosing just one was far from easy! I have settled on a real gem that has proved to be simply stunning on every occasion that I have opened a bottle.

From just south of Western Australia’s Margaret River, this rich ripe wine delivers wonderful texture and freshness. It pleases on so many levels as notes of citrus, green apple and ripe fruit blend perfectly with subtle hints of toast and butterscotch.

If you gave up drinking Australian chardonnay back in the day when it was mass-produced, over-oaked and of poor quality, I would urge you to give this a try. It couldn’t be more different. This is new-style Australian chardonnay at its very best.

Stephanie Searle
Tastings & Events Team

£15.50 – Bottle
£186 – Case of 12
View Wine Details

Categories : Australia
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Tue 02 Aug 2016

Remembering Denis Dubourdieu

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Raise a glass to the memory of Denis Dubourdieu, who died on 26th July.

Many members of The Wine Society will know him as the owner of Château Reynon in Premières Côtes, Clos Floridene in Graves, Château Cantegril (the excellent source over several vintages of The Society’s Exhibition Sauternes), and, with his father, of Château Doisy-Daëne in Barsac.

The Society has been regularly following his wines for over 30 years, because they have been consistently excellent examples of red, dry and sweet white Bordeaux at prices most can afford.

Denis Dubourdieu at The Wine Society in April 2015Denis Dubourdieu at The Wine Society in April 2015.

He first made his reputation by revolutionising the quality of white Bordeaux, but a tasting we organised in London recently of ten vintages of Château Reynon Rouge for Jancis Robinson showed the keeping quality and class of his red wines too, with his 2005 and 2010 more delicious than many classed growths.

Not so many may have known of Denis’ immense importance in raising the standards of Bordeaux wines in general and that his influence extended far beyond his home patch. He was a highly valued consultant at châteaux as varied as Haut-Bailly, Batailley, Pichon Comtesse Lalande, Giscours, Cheval Blanc and Yquem, and many others in Bordeaux.

He consulted also in Burgundy, the Rhône, the Loire, Languedoc, Italy, Spain, Greece and in Asia.

Although he first made his reputation by revolutionising the quality of white Bordeaux, Denis Dubourdieu's influence extended far beyond his home patchAlthough he first made his reputation by revolutionising the quality of white Bordeaux, Denis Dubourdieu’s influence extended far beyond his home patch.

He believed passionately that a wine should express the terroir it came from, quoting Émile Peynaud: ‘A cru wine is a taste one can recognise.’ He said that a terroir is not only the soil, climate and grape varieties of a place, but the capacity of all these to give a wine a delectable and specific taste recognisable by the customer who cannot find the exact equivalent elsewhere.

Denis, the son of Jean-Pierre Dubourdieu of Doisy-Daëne, was born into wine and married Florence, the daughter of a vigneron owner of Reynon, which they made their home. Together they created, almost from scratch, Clos Floridene, a property whose vines planted on limestone have produced wines that often outperform and outlive many Pessac-Léognan crus classés.

Visits each year in spring to Reynon to taste his newly made wines were an essential pleasure.Visits each year in spring to Reynon to taste his newly made wines were an essential pleasure.

As Professor, since 1988, at the Oenology faculty of Bordeaux University and, since 2009, director general of the Science of Vines and Wine at the university, he gave countless young vignerons and winemakers the benefits of his scientific knowledge and practical experience.

For me, as wine buyer, visits each year in spring to Reynon to taste his newly made wines were an essential pleasure, because I could not only assess his own wines, but learn from his honest, informed view of the recent vintage all over Bordeaux; both its strengths and its weaknesses.

Denis proved that, if you worked hard in the vineyard, it was always possible to make good wine. He brought an extraordinary attention to detail, needed to make good Sauternes, to the making of red and dry white too, often making several consecutive pickings to catch grapes at their optimum.

The Dubourdieu family. Left-right: Fabrice, Denis, Florence and Jean-JacquesThe Dubourdieu family. From left to right: Fabrice, Denis, Florence and Jean-Jacques.

Florence, his wife, and his trained oenologist sons Fabrice and Jean-Jacques will continue, I am sure, to make excellent wine at the properties they own, but this remarkable, modest man will be very much missed, while his legacy lives on.

Sebastian Payne MW
Society Buyer

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Last month, as well as being named overall Wine Merchant of the Year by the International Wine Challenge, we had the pleasure of receiving the IWC’s Online Retailer of the Year award.

The judges said:
‘The Wine Society is building for future growth and has the building blocks to start. It covers everything from en primeur to some of the best wines available for under £10. Its great personalisation means that it targets its customers with very effective tailored offers. Its website works brilliantly, whether being accessed using a PC, a tablet or a smartphone.’

It therefore felt like a good time to let people know a little about the recent developments to The Society’s digital offering, as well as what’s in the pipeline for the coming year.

Online Retailer of the Year

As a result of improvements made in the past year or so, members can now

Follow the buyers in Travels in Wine, a new area of our site devoted to sharing the latest insights from our intrepid team’s trips around the wine world unearthing gems for Society members.

Use our site across a range of different devices after the launch of responsive design.

Travels In Wine

View more product information than ever before, including much more about individual wines’ regions and vintages, and the ability to let fellow members, and us, know what you think of wines you’ve tried with star ratings and recommendations.

Use personal wine notes to jot your thoughts about wines purchased from us for your own reference.

Browse the first of our interactive digital maps, namely Italy

…and have a bit of fun in the form of The Society’s Poll on our homepage and improved social media sharing options.

We hope you enjoy using these features! Whilst we’re delighted to have been recognised by the IWC, the success of these projects depends entirely on the quality of members’ experience, and we welcome your feedback.

However, creating a successful, sustainable and fun digital offering is about looking forwards, not backwards!

Over the next year, we have a lot more planned, including:

A homepage redesign to make the site easier to navigate.
Search and filtering improvements to help users find what they’re looking for quickly and simply.
More interactive maps
A new community area of the site for members to share the love of wine and much more.

Watch this space…

Categories : Miscellaneous
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On Saturday 2nd July we welcomed 37 members to The Wine Society to take part in a United States of America tutored tasting hosted by buyer Sarah Knowles MW.

With the sun shining over glorious Stevenage and a list of wines as flashy as Dorothy’s daps we knew we were in for a treat.

The tasting began with a flight of three fascinating chardonnays; firstly the Fess Parker Santa Barbara County Chardonnay 2014 (£13.95), a well-balanced, fruit-forward crowd-pleaser that shows that quality American chardonnay can be found for under £15.

This was followed by the Bergstrom Old Stones Oregon Chardonnay 2013 (£22), a completely different kettle of fish. From cooler-climate Oregon, this is a concentrated style of chardonnay that leaps out of the glass and lingers long on the palate – stylish. The last of the whites was the Ridge Chardonnay 2012 (not currently available), a real haymaker of a wine and the only one of our three to use American oak. Full, rich and intense with a nose reminiscent of caramel and brown sugar this screams out for food but its bodybuilder-esque physique can be easily enjoyed on its own.

I’ve long been preaching the Book of Zin, boasting its vibrant juicy fruit and velvety texture to all who can hear, but it seemed there were some yet to be converted to the dark side on Saturday when confronted with three zinfandels. The first two, The Society’s California Old-Vine Zinfandel (£7.50) and the Ravenswood Lodi Old-Vine Zinfandel (£8.95) are very much in the ‘American mould’ of Zin making – big, bold fruit with alcohol just a shade below 15%.

Zinfandel lineup

The third, the Broc Vine Starr Sonoma County Zinfandel 2014 (not currently available), is produced by Chris Brockway in his garage (seriously) but tasted more like it comes from a fancy estate in the northern Rhône with its peppery, syrah-like nose and elegant if slightly funky (due to being fermented with wild yeast) palate which, along with the other two, helped convert many to zinfandel and its varying styles.

Pinot noir was up next – Pedroncelli (£10.50) from the Russian River valley, Lemelson’s Thea’s Selection (£19.50) from the Willamette Valley and the Au Bon Climat from the Sanford and Benedict vineyard, Santa Barbara (not currently available).

Pinot noir lineup

This was another extremely interesting flight showing three distinct styles – the first being ripe, round, generous and affordable – another marvellous example of top-quality Californian wine that doesn’t break the bank! The Lemelson on the other hand is elegant and sappy with plenty of cherry and redcurrant flavour, great with food or on its own, and the third an example of Californian pinot at its absolute best. As with all Au Bon Climat pinot it was beautifully balanced with Burgundian leather and truffle savouriness supported by fine tannin and underlying red fruit.

To finish, we were treated to a trio of cabernets – an affordable, Bordeaux-styled blend from Sagemoor Farms Vineyard (£14.50) in the Columbia Valley, alongside a big, sophisticated and juicy Silver Oak Alexander Valley Cabernet (£65) packed with intense cassis, blackcurrant and vanilla oak, a great example of American cabernet that opened up beautifully after a few hours’ breathing.

Cabernet lineup

The final wine, taken from our Tastings Vintage stock, was a Ridge Monte Bello from 1995 – a real treat and one that drew a few gasps from those attending upon it being revealed. Despite being 21 years old it was still youthful and just starting to show the cedar and pencil-shaving charm that top-quality cabernet can give, alongside softened tannins and added ripeness expected from California – a truly stunning wine that was a fitting end to what was a fascinating and well-received workshop.

Matthew Horsley
Tastings & Events Host

Our programme of tastings and events for the rest of 2016 has just been published! View the calendar and book your tickets here

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Buyer Marcel Orford-Williams celebrates our all-too-easily-overlooked Specialist Merchant Award for Regional France won at the IWC this month…

Charles Metcalfe of the IWC presenting the Regional France award to The Society's head of buying, Tim SykesCharles Metcalfe of the IWC presenting the Regional France award to The Society’s head of buying, Tim Sykes

The late Edmund Penning-Rowsell, chairman of The Wine Society from 1964 to 1987, was always keen that the buyers should look beyond the ‘classic’ regions and source wines from off the beaten path for members to enjoy. And so, as long as I have been at The Society, the Committee of Management has afforded buyers the freedom to roam the backwoods of France and elsewhere to source exciting wines for our range.

In all the excitement and rightful pride in winning Overall Merchant and Online Merchant of the Year at the IWC (International Wine Challenge), it was easy to overlook that we had also won prizes for our South American and Regional France ranges.

We were naturally thrilled to have received this last award. It is the result of a good deal of work over many years. While France’s classic regions of Bordeaux, Burgundy and the Rhône are historical passions for The Society, our range also makes plenty of room for other French wines which much of the trade has barely discovered.

MA2016_RegionalFrance_Winner

We have long championed the wines of Alsace and our range was recognised as the country’s finest by the International Wine Challenge for eight consecutive years to 2015.

During the last 12 months, we have visited Auvergne, Beaujolais, Alsace, Lorraine, the south-west, Provence and Corsica. A trip to the Jura will feature later in the year. There have been dedicated offers covering the wines of Alsace and Beaujolais and one for the south-west is also on the drawing board for release in the autumn.

It is not so long ago that many of these wines were for local consumption only. But globalism has changed all that. Growers from Savoie, Beaujolais or Corsica are as well travelled and skilled as any and keen to share the secrets of their terroirs with the rest of us.

We never forget though that it is thanks to members’ support that we can explore the wine world in this way. Members play a vital role in all of this by always being receptive to new ideas and new tastes. We hope that you enjoy the wines as much as we enjoy discovering and sharing them.

We salute you!

Marcel Orford-Williams
Society Buyer

Explore our range of French wines at thewinesociety.com

Conrad Braganza invites us to do lunch with his favourite warm-weather white wines from our Cellar Showroom.

There is something decadent and delightful about drinking wine with lunch on a summer’s day. But to negate the necessity for an afternoon nap when chores still demand my attention, I tend to choose a lighter style of white wine with a modest alcohol level.

Lunch white wine

Here are some of my favourite lunchtime liveners from around the world. Do feel free to suggest your own in the comments!

• Austrian grüner veltliner can offer fruit and spice in a food-friendly package.
The Society’s Grüner Veltliner (£7.50) has been welcomed with open arms by our members and sailed through the 2016 Wine Champions tastings. Pepp Wienviertel Grüner Veltliner 2015 (£7.25) hits the spot well too.

• Australian semillon can work wonders on its own or with food.
The exclusive 88 Growers (£7.25) clocks in at just 11% alcohol and brings a zesty note to the grape’s classic greengage flavours.

• England offers a wealth of lower-alcohol choices thanks to our cooler climate.
For a floral, lychee-infused tipple that’d be perfect with chilli chicken skewers, try Three Choirs Stone Brook 2014 (£7.95). For something a little drier, Chapel Down Bacchus 2014 (11.50) is well worth the extra outlay, offering a flinty, mineral and crisp style with some sauvignon-esque flavours that would stand up very well to a goat’s cheese tart.

• Germany’s lower alcohol levels are well known, and the wines are as versatile as they are delicious.
The off-dry Ruppertsberger Hoheburg Riesling Kabinett 2015 (£6.50) is a great sipper but is also suitable for spicier food. Alternatively there is von Kesselstatt’s charming and appealing Piesporter Goldtröpfchen Spätlese 2013 (£16), which comes from a great producer and a world-class vineyard.

• Greece is a source of delicate, clean and crisp wines that go brilliantly with (dare I say it) Greek salad.
A great-value current favourite is the dry and gentle Ionos (£6.50).

• Vinho Verde is a wine made for lunch!
Fashionable again, and for good reason, these wines are fresh and dry but also aromatic and spot-hitting (and perfect with a bowl of prawns, as I found out on a recent trip to Portugal!). In the 2015 vintage, The Society’s Vinho Verde (£5.95) has never looked better, whilst Muros Antigos (£7.95) from Anselmo Mendes proves why he’s one of the region’s top growers at a friendly price.

Conrad Braganza
The Cellar Showroom