Thu 17 Apr 2014

A surfeit of Hot Cross Buns

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Hot Cross Buns Bread & Butter pud…an oxymoron if ever there was one and a situation that rarely occurs in our house!  However, such is our appetite for hot cross buns that we do sometimes find we have over-purchased (I have tried making them once and the results didn’t really justify the efforts). Happily I have discovered that just-stale hot cross buns are equally delectable as the main constituent of a bread and butter pudding when I adapted a recipe by Kim Morphew that I came across in Sainsbury’s magazine.

But then the question arises, what wine should you serve with a dish like this, containing as it does such vinicidal ingredients as chocolate, eggs and oranges? Janet Wynne Evans’ series of articles entitled Tastebud Terrors provide a good steer, with a piece on wine and chocolate (Propping up the Bar), wine and oranges (Contemplating the Navel) and wine and eggs (Unscrambling the Egg). Luckily I had a half bottle of Samos Anthemis tucked away under the stairs and the caramelised orange flavours in the wine matched the dish perfectly.

The recipe for the seasonal bread and butter pudding is below; feel free to experiment and adapt according to the number of buns in need of saving!. There are more Easter recipes in the recipe pages of the Wine World & News section of the website including one to have on hand in the unlikely event that you are left with too much chocolate after the Easter weekend!

Hot Cross Bun Chocolate Chip and Orange Bread and Butter Pudding

Serves 4

1½ oranges
75g unsalted butter
4 hot cross buns, cut in half
2 tbsp orange marmalade
250ml tub double cream
100ml milk
2 large eggs
50g caster sugar
25g dark chocolate chips
1 tbsp Demerara sugar

1 litre oven-proof dish

Pre-heat oven to 180ºC/gas 4 and grease the dish with a little butter. Zest the orange and mix with the rest of the butter, spread this mix on the one side of the hot cross bun and put marmalade on the other. Cut into thick slices then spread more of the mixture on the cut sides, alternating with marmalade. Sandwich together and arrange in the dish, spread over any remaining orange butter.

Cut the half orange into thin slices and then quarter. Put in a heatproof bowl cover with some water and heat on high for a couple of minutes. Set aside to cool.

Squeeze the juice from the whole orange into a bowl whisk in the cream, eggs, milk and caster sugar and add a little more milk if looks too thick. Pour over the buns and then leave for about half an hour for the liquid to seep into the buns. When ready to put in the oven, drain the orange quarters and scatter over the top of the pudding; scatter over chocolate chips to taste. Finally sprinkle over some Demerara sugar and bake for about half an hour or until just golden. Serve with more cream drizzled over and a glass of liqueur muscat.

Happy Easter!


Visit the Wine World & News pages for more tips on Easter entertaining, wine and food matching, recipes and an article written specially for us by Nina Caplan in which she reflects on similarities and differences between Jewish and Christian Easter festivities and rituals and how, when it comes to choice of wine, ‘France is still the Holy Land’.

Categories : Miscellaneous
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Starting a new job can be a stressful experience. When I was a young wine débutant, freshly graduated from university box wine, I dreamed of joining such a respected and knowledgeable buying team as The Society’s. Having spent three years working in Member Services as a fine wine adviser and part of the Quality Assurance team, I took up my new role as trainee buyer in February 2014. If I had any trepidation about this new job, I certainly did not have time to notice it, such was the pace and intensity of my first few weeks. I thought members might be interested in the most formative of my experiences so far.

joe champsAs many members will know, each year The Society makes an offer of ‘Wine Champions’: wines that are perfect for drinking right now. Known affectionately in house as ‘Champs’, this offer involves a vast number of wines and a lot of tasting. Perhaps ‘a lot’ could use some clarification: the 2014 ‘Champs’ campaign saw us taste over 600 wines across 17 different sessions, ranging from sparkling to fortified and everything in between.

My very first morning involved a modest tasting of rosé wines – perhaps around 40. That afternoon was devoted to Champagne and sparkling rosé wines. The second day heralded an extensive examination of chardonnay – both old world and new. Wednesday’s task was to taste through around 50 new world Bordeaux-style blends, ranging from £5.50 per bottle to over £30. By this point, I was becoming increasingly clear that this exciting, fascinating job about which I had dreamed was also incredibly challenging. I’m no stranger to tasting wine, but the concentration and resilience required to do so accurately and quickly for such an extended period of time is phenomenal. I had a great deal of respect for The Society’s buyers before I joined the department. By the end of my third day I was in awe.

The second and third weeks followed very much the same pattern as the first, and as my nose and palate got used to the vinous assault, so my appreciation of the process grew. ‘Champs’ is essentially a range tasting – every wine The Society sells can be included (though some pre-selection obviously occurs). Tastings are blind – the corks, screwcaps and capsules are removed and the bottles placed in numbered bags. Some buyers taste more quickly than others, and all are free to revisit particular wines at any point. Once each buyer has tasted every wine, we reconvene in the tasting room and give our scores for the wines.

There inevitably follows a certain amount of lively debate, and not a small number of retastes. Eventually, agreement is reached, and a ‘champ’ is elected. Or two ‘champs’. Or none. Sometimes, a tasting will be chock full of very, very good wines (it is a Society tasting, after all!) but despite the quality, one will hear the repeated refrain ‘good, but not a champ’. The wine might need a little more time in bottle before it is ready to be classed a ‘champ’ or it might just lack that hint of class or complexity that turns a great wine into a champion. Whatever the reason, if a wine is not a champ, it simply does not make the offer. After all the tasting sessions are complete, we assemble all the ‘champs’ and one or two runners-up and re-taste them – just to confirm our original assessment. The process is as rigorous as it is exhausting and rewarding.

I am tremendously fortunate to be involved in such an exciting and interesting offer, and I am confident that members will be bowled over by this year’s Wine Champions selection, which will be released in June.

Joe Mandrell
Trainee Buyer

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Members often tell us that a recommendation or two can be useful, particularly in a range of some 1,500 wines. We’re always keen to share tips from others, be they from the press or indeed fellow members. As ever, our buyers continue to do their bit as well, and the 2014 Buyers’ Favourites offering will be available next week.

But throughout our 200-strong team, there can be found a healthy number of passionate wine lovers; indeed, several of my day-to-day workplace conversations and emails with colleagues will include some form of recommendation from our burgeoning cellars.

A few of the recent contributors to Staff Choice

A few of the recent contributors to Staff Choice from throughout The Wine Society.

With this in mind, we set up a Staff Choice panel on the homepage about a year ago, so that various members of staff could share a bottle they’ve particularly enjoyed – and tell us why they think Society members might too.

You can now also view our Staff Choices in one place online, with a new choice coming every two weeks. We hope you enjoy them!

Martin Brown
Digital Copywriter

Categories : Miscellaneous
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Fine wine manager, Shaun Kiernan, helped blend the exclusive Contino 930 Reserva Rioja 2010, The Society’s first Rioja to be offered en primeur. Here he describes the process.

I’ve worked for The Wine Society for many more years than I care to remember, but fortunately opportunities regularly arise to remind me why I continue to do so.

207759 (283)Last February, I had the privilege to visit Spain with Pierre Mansour, our Spanish buyer, to taste through a large number of old Riojas, which we subsequently listed in an offer. At the same time we visited the cellars of Contino, a long-term Society supplier, and their charming winemaker, Jésus Madrazo, to blend what has become our first Rioja Reserva to be offered en primeur.

Over the years, I’ve been involved in blending new wines before in Stevenage and, on occasion, helped with the mix for The Society’s Claret out in Bordeaux, but this was special as I was witnessing the birth of, and helping to shape, a wine which I think will give members enormous drinking pleasure over a number of years.

It was a fascinating process and I have to admit to feeling quite daunted as we entered the cellars where we were confronted with numerous bottles all containing wines with different attributes from different vineyards and different grape varieties.

Our job was to come up with a blend which was in keeping with the Contino style and one that Society members would enjoy over the next decade.

After about an hour and half of extreme pipette action, tasting and blending and re-tasting and re-blending, we finally felt that we had found a wine which achieved what we set out to do. It is Contino 930 Reserva Rioja 2010, a blend of tempranillo, graciano, garnacha and mazuelo aged in French and American oak for nearly two years, including fruit from Contino’s most famous ‘Olivo’ vineyard.

It is offered now in bond (until 9pm, Tuesday 29th April), while still ageing in Contino’s cellars, and is due for release in early 2015. We think it will be ready to drink on arrival but will start peaking from 2019 until 2025.

Witnessing, and playing a part in, the birth of something so special was one of the very memorable moments of my career here at The Wine Society. I hope that you enjoy the fruits of our labours.

Categories : En Primeur, Spain
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Wed 09 Apr 2014

Postcard from Beaujolais

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We love receiving postcards from our buyers on their travels. This one reads:

Spring in Beaujolais. There’s new growth on old vines on the Côte de Brouilly.

Marcel's view across a Côte de Brouilly vineyard

View across the Côte de Brouilly

Lovely wines from the 2013 vintage. Am especially thrilled by The Society’s Beaujolais-Villages, not to forget fab Chiroubles from Trenel. Fleurie from Jean-Paul Brun seemed v good. Needs a a little time still. Super Côte de Brouilly from Pavillon de Chavanne. But today belonged to Moulin-à-Vent. Three outstanding properties including Domaine Labruyère and Château de Moulin-à-Vent. All producing wines fully worthy of 1er Cru AOC. Great Moulin à Vent.

Marcel Orford Williams

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Tue 01 Apr 2014

A Corsican Interlude

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We launched The Society’s Corsican Rosé last year and so successful was it that it made sense to take in a day in Corsica to taste and make the blend. Nothing could be easier. Drive to Marseille airport, pick up a late flight and be fresh for an early morning start in the pretty port of saint Florent and an appointment which turned into breakfast, elevenses and lunch all combined at Clos Alivu.

The remarkable spread at Clos Alivu

The remarkable spread at Clos Alivu

The estate is owned by Eric Poli who like so many of his fellow countrymen seem to have fingers in lots of pies. This is his flagship estate, wines in all three colours, beautifully presented and made. And while on the subject of pies, we were not allowed to taste for too long without sustenance. His wife Marie-Brigitte, vigneronne in her own right, brought in copious amounts of food. There was cheese, bread but above all some delicious warm sausage called Figatellu which one has with warm bread and lashings of homemade clementine marmalade. This was just as well as the hour or so wait ’till lunch would have been unbearable.

The next stop, not far away was at Domaine Arena which has become one of the best-known estates on the island with a scattered vineyard converted to organic Farming as a way of proving that Corsica and especially the tiny Patrimonio Appellation could challenge the best. The range of wines produced is large with many coming from single, quite distinct vineyards.

There is always politics in Corsica but with municipal elections at the end of March, there was more politics than usual, particularly with two of our growers standing for mayor!

After lunch at a bastion of supporters for Jean-Baptiste’s Arena’s candidacy for mayor of Patrimonio, we took a decidedly scenic route across the north of the Island to Calvi, across the stunning Désert des Agriates.

The first stop, at the foot of a snow-capped mountain, was at Domaine Alzipratu where Pierre Acquaviva runs a perfectly constituted estate with a modern and well-equipped cellar. The wines in all three colours are vivid, generous and full of flavour. The estate itself had been founded by Henri Louis de la Grange, whom I knew better as a biographer of Gustav Mahler.

Blending The Society's Corsican Rosé with Etienne Suzzoni

Blending The Society’s Corsican Rosé with Etienne Suzzoni

Then to the last stop of the day at Clos Culombu, again with politics, as Etienne Suzzoni was evidently busy planning his assault on the mayoralty of the town of Lumio. The centerpiece of the evening’s meeting was of course the blending of the 2013 vintage of The Society’s Corsican Rosé. With test tubes and glasses at the ready, we tasted and blended, eventually arriving at a wine that made us all smile.

Then inevitably, dinner and more politics and more delicious Corsican rose!

Marcel Orford-Williams
Society Buyer

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We are well-known at The Wine Society for our Society and our Exhibition ranges. Such has been the success of these two that we are now introducing a third-tier of  wines sporting our livery. The new Spitting Image range is, we believe, unique to The Society – no other wine company has had the skills, the appetite or the audacity to launch such a pioneering concept.

A sample straight from the 'spit lane'

A sample straight from the ‘spit lane’

All spittoons in our tasting room are each to be reserved for specific wine styles. While this will increase the number of spittoons, and hence require some initial investment, payback will be very quick as our buyers use, say, the Chianti spittoon or the German Riesling spittoon to either tip the remains of their glass into, or to spit into. The wine will be rebottled behind the scenes by our dedicated crew in the ‘Spit Lane’ – the corridor outside the tasting room – and labelled with a picture of the buyer who tasted, aerated and blended the wine.

Plans are already being made for joint efforts between two or more buyers – a Vin de France blend, a Buyers’ Favourites blend and a premium Wine Champions blend, for example.

The Society’s Spitting Image wines can be consumed with assurance and in the knowledge that you will be drinking exactly the same wine as our buyers. A true taste of The Society.

Ewan Murray
PR Manager

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Fri 28 Mar 2014

Video: Value and Variety in Bordeaux

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What do you think of when you heard the words ‘Bordeaux’ and ‘wine’?

Value? White wine? Sweet wine? All three of these components are arguably overlooked in this vast region, spanning over 10,000 properties.

Recently we caught up with two of our most valued and long-term Bordeaux suppliers, Basaline Granger Despagne and Fabrice Dubourdieu to discuss just that. You can take a look at the video there and browse some of our Joanna Locke MW’s best buys from the region (available until this Sunday) here.

Categories : Bordeaux, France
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Thu 27 Mar 2014

A New Wine From Olivier Leflaive

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Olivier Leflaive have launched a new wine which we are offering in our duty-paid selection of White Burgundy.

Olivier Leflaive Oncle Vincent

Named Oncle Vincent, it is made from old vines classified as Bourgogne but well situated, sited just below those of Puligny. It is a lovely barrel-fermented wine from the super 2012 vintage which is concentrated yet fine.

Toby Morrhall
Society Buyer for Burgundy

Categories : Burgundy, France
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Mon 17 Mar 2014

My First Week At The Wine Society

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If you can imagine a week of speed dating was combined with your first day at school (where every other student has been at the school seemingly since it was founded) you will start to understand the feelings associated with an induction week at The Wine Society!

Here are a few snap shots one week in:

To my left, my new desk neighbour – trainee buyer Joe Mandrell.

To my left, my new desk neighbour – trainee buyer Joe Mandrell.

To my right and above – Little Shop of Horrors Audrey-esque growth (apparently called Idris…).

To my right and above – Little Shop of Horrors Audrey- esque growth (apparently called Idris…).

Alsace tasting with Marcel Orford-Williams – frankly this should be mandatory in all first weeks.

Alsace tasting with Marcel Orford-Williams – frankly this should be mandatory in all first weeks… should a Vouvray 2009 tasting with Jo Locke MW.

…as should a Vouvray 2009 tasting with Jo Locke MW.

Learning the desk/name plans for various offices.

Learning the desk/name plans for various offices.

Picnic lunch to round off a busy first week – thanks Jo!

Picnic lunch to round off a busy first week – thanks Jo!

Roll on week two…!

Sarah Knowles
Society Buyer

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