Grapevine Archive for April, 2010

Edit: This post concerns The Society’s Wedding & Gift List service. Though The Society will continue to honour existing Gift Lists, members can no longer request to set up their own Gift Lists.

Your London Wedding Magazine

If you’re already living in domestic bliss with your husband-to-be you may struggle for gift list ideas. So, why not leave practicalities aside and treat your tastebuds instead? The Wine Society has come up with an online wedding and gift list service that will allow you to raise a toast long after the big day. After all, “what could be more civilised than starting married life with a sizeable supply of good wine to drink?” asks The Wine Society’s Louise Herring. With a wide range of tipples on offer from £4.75 to £250 there’s sure to be something to suit every guests’ budget.


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Patrice NoyelleA wonderful array of Pol Roger, Bollinger and Louis Roederer Champagnes and Society members were on display at Merchant Taylors’ Hall on Monday 19th April, despite Eyjafjallajökul’s best attempts to scupper the event.

Logistically the day was challenging, to say the least. Some members were stranded in various places around the globe and so couldn’t attend. Our speakers were also affected. Stephen Leroux, Export Director of Bollinger was unable to take his flight or arrange a last minute train journey. Patrice Noyelle (pictured), Managing Director of Pol Roger took the train from Malaga all the way to Epernay on Sunday, arriving home at 3am on Monday, then struggling to find a seat on the Eurostar – he finally arrived at the tasting for the last 15 minutes! Fortunately Louis Roederer’s Mark Bingley MW is based in London, and together with Elizabeth Ferguson from Mentzendorff and James Simpson MW from Pol Roger UK, presented their Champagnes with expertise and aplomb. They were very ably assisted by The Society’s Champagne buyer Marcel Orford Williams.

First up was a flight of the houses’ non-vintage Champagnes – the refreshing Pol Roger White Foil, the rounded Louis Roederer Brut Premier and the rich Bollinger Special Cuvée.

Next came a trio of great interest – the tight, bone dry and ‘crying out for food’ Pol Roger Pure, the delightfully fruit-filled Bollinger Rosé and the beautifully integrated Louis Roederer Carte Blanche Demi-Sec.

The vintages were of great interest. Louis Roederer’s precocious 2003 was the youngest on show, along with Pol Roger 2000 and Bollinger Grande Année 2000, each showing off their house style to the full.

The pièces de résistance from each house gave a grand finale to this unique event: Louis Roederer Cristal 2002 is oh-so-young and with a fantastic long life ahead of it; Pol Roger Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill 1999 (not yet available from The Society – 1998 can be found here) is everything a cuvée de prestige should be – body, rich flavour, great acidity; Bollinger RD 1997, with its elegance and lift was a fitting way to end.

Were you at the tasting? What was your favourite on the night? What is your personal favourite Champagne? Let us know.

Maybe we’ll see you soon at another of the 100+ Tastings & Events that The Society organises every year.

Categories : Champagne, Wine Tastings
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Mon 19 Apr 2010

Champagne Horsepower

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This is Rose and she is 5 years old and ploughing a vineyard in Champagne. Benoit Marguet, whose vineyard this is, is one of many who are going back to the old ways and finding that in some cases horse is better than tractor.

Champagne Ploughing

Categories : Champagne, Miscellaneous
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Fri 16 Apr 2010

Bordeaux 2009: An update on an exciting vintage

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“2009 is an exciting vintage with some wonderful wines at all price levels. It is much more variable than the initial publicity has indicated with some really great successes at all levels but several well-known names which have missed the mark. Jo Locke MW and I have been spending extra time visiting many of the châteaux we regularly buy from ensuring that we only choose those wines which we know represent the best value for drinkers.”
Sebastian Payne MW

Prices are being released, so far, to the timetable we expected. This means that none of the first-growth châteaux have released any details, but we are receiving information on some lovely red wines from petits châteaux and crus bourgeois, where the best value for money can be found. We will be buying the best of these in large quantities. Details of these wines will be mailed, or e-mailed, to members in early to mid-June. As usual, any oversubscribed wines will be allocated by ballot.

The second offer, including the more famous, higher-priced Clarets, will be released later once prices are available; we anticipate late June or early July. We expect prices to be high and supply to be limited but, thanks to The Society’s long relationship with the region’s suppliers, we are in a strong position to source as many of these exciting wines as we can. Further updates will follow.

Categories : Bordeaux, En Primeur
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Thu 15 Apr 2010

What light from yonder vino breaks?

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Every April what appears to be the entire Italian wine industry descends on the beautiful city of Verona for Vinitaly – a trade fair that allows visitors to step out of one region and into another at will (well, out of one exhibition hall and into another, actually).  Sebastian Payne MW and I spent two very busy days racing around Piemonte, Veneto, Friuli, Tuscany, Umbria, Le Marche, Abruzzo, Puglia, Calabria, Campania, Basilicata, Sardinia and Sicily, meeting The Society’s favourite growers and tasting their newer vintages of Society favourites, as well as getting to know potential new suppliers and their wines. In all around 200 wines were tasted and evaluated for future inclusion (or not) in The Society’s List.

Stars included Fontodi, Isole e Olena and Poggiopiano in Tuscany, Sperino and Colla in Piemonte, Barberani in Umbria, Pieropan and Allegrini in Veneto, Alovini in Basilicata, Contesa in Le Marche and Vallone in Puglia. Members will see and taste the fruits of Sebastian’s efforts in our Italian offers which will appear in August.

The Society’s well travelled members, never backward in coming forward, will doubtless have opinions on Italy; specific regions visited, wines tasted, people met. We would welcome hearing your anecdotes and experiences.

Categories : Italy
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Scotland on Sunday
Brian Elliott says:

Well-made Bordeaux offers a velvet texture and an extended range of flavours that include cinnamon, mint, cigars, brambles, cherry, chocolate and blackcurrant – often in combination. Its complexity and intensity has few rivals. But experiencing this need not cost a king’s ransom (ironically, a term believed to originate from the time France’s King John was held prisoner in Bordeaux).

All those thoughts came to mind at last month’s Wine Society Bordeaux event. The event was attended by a host of A-list Bordeaux producers who are defying a lack of confidence among growers in some parts of the world. Beneath the Gallic charm, there was a strong sense that here were leaders, not followers, and the bottles ranged from the superb – but eye-wateringly expensive – Château Palmer to the wine from Château Beaumont. The perfume, balance and ripeness of the prestigious CM11461 Château Beychevelle 2006 illustrate how good claret can taste. But reflecting this château’s worldwide popularity (and confirming concerns about cost), it does carry a £33 price tag.

CM12891 The Society’s Exhibition Haut-Medoc 2006, Château Beaumont, Haut Medoc. Very approachable claret with supple and well-balanced fruity finesse. £11.95, at The Wine Society.

Tue 06 Apr 2010

Albariño Spotlight

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If any one variety can take the credit for the Spanish white wine revival, it’s albariño. This whistle-clean, elegantly dry beauty from the Galician seaboard of north-western Spain is poised enough for serious gastronomy and effortlessly delicious for informal quaffing, too. Not since the advent of Muscadet has there been such a perfect seafood match. Galicia is, after all, pescivore heaven, rich in oysters, octopus and breathtakingly fresh turbot, cod and other noble Atlantic fish, not forgetting the rude-looking and soughtafter local speciality percebes – goose-neck barnacles, which excite some as much as they repel others.

At the heart of albariño country lies the charming little town of Cambados, right on the low, estuarine Rías Baixas which give the denominación its name. Here you’ll find a handsome parador, a fine fish market, a wine museum and, in the middle of town, a jolly, life-sized bronze statue of Bacchus by the contemporary sculptor Franciso Leiro. It’s the perfect place to rest after ‘doing’ Santiago de Compostela, which is a fairly easy drive to the north-east.

Here the grape grows prolifically in the cool, rainy climate, and is trained in pergola fashion, supported by granite posts, in orderly vineyards and sprawling gardens alike. The pergolas help to circulate air around the base of the vine, inhibiting rot and maximising exposure to sunlight. Albariño appears to be genuinely indigenous to northwest Iberia – it goes by the name of alvarinho in Portugal – DNA tests having ruled out any connection, as similarities between the two once suggested, with riesling, and debunked the theory that it was introduced to the region by Benedictine monks. Quite simply, it has always been here. The quality revolution began with the widespread use of stainless steel in the winery, and the advent, in 1988, of DO Rías Baixas, which dictates that every new vintage must be quality-checked before the coveted strip label is authorised. There are now some 200 adegas bottling albariño, from family smallholdings to state-of-the-art enterprises to the long established and patrician: the ancestors of the local squire, Juan Gil, Marqués de Fefiñanes, were the first to bottle wine grown on the family estate in 1904.

I have tried, and failed, to find octopus in west London to make my favourite Galician dish of pulpo a la gallega, and even if I could, the tenderising process (beating it repeatedly against an Atlantic rock) and interminable boiling would defeat me. However, the a la gallega bit makes a brilliant dressing for any firm fish – monkfish or swordfish are particularly good.

Steam or microwave the fish to keep it moist, and, while it is still warm, dress it with plenty of good, fruity olive oil and sprinkle with an unhealthy amount of rock salt. Finish with the key ingredient, a good pinch of smoked Spanish paprika. This comes in sweet or hot mode, so use whichever feels right, but do make sure it is authentic – look out for pimentón de la Vera on the small, square, flame-red metal canisters in which it’s sold. This dish is best eaten at room temperature, and is classically served with rather plain steamed potatoes and bread, to mop up the delicious juices. Oh, and a glass of albariño of course.

Categories : Spain
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The Scotsman
Rose Murray Brown puts together a case of her current favourite reds including:

BU17561 Vougeot Premier Cru Cras 2000, Domaine de la Vougeraie (£45 The Wine Society Fine, perfumed, crunchy red fruit, meaty savoury notes, a beautifully mature red Burgundy tasting absolutely at its peak.

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Business Destinations – Apr 10

Jane Anson recommends:

Kooyong Massale Pinot Noir 2008 (£16, The Wine Society) Mornington Peninsula is one of the best renowned ‘cool climate’ regions of Australia; it still gets plenty of sunshine (being close to Melbourne), but as the name suggests is surrounded by water on three sides. There are beaches and waterfront cafés that make this a popular summer destination, but as far as the wqine is concerned, plenty of cooling breezes that mean good drops in temperature at night-time. This Kooyong Pinot Noir has all the earthy ‘rustic’ characteristics that pinot nuts search for, and at 13% it’s not too high in alcohol. This is a lovely wine, one that still tastes riper and richer than many Burgundy pinots, and would be perfect with a roast duck. Maybe they’ve had a bit of practice with that pairing, as the vineyard is located next to the Devilbend Nature Reserve, and the name Kooyong means ‘where the wild fowl gather’.

La Clape Arpège, Château Rouquette sur Mer, 2008 (£8.95, The Wine Society) Cool climate regions are hard to find in the Languedoc region of southern France. This estate, near the Roman port of Narbonne, used to be on an island (called La Clape), but over the years the gap beween the island and the mainland silted up, and today you can drive right there. The sea views and propensity for producing excellent and unusual white wines remain, however, and this 60% malvoisie , 40% roussanne blend certainly fits in. It is unoaked, but has plenty of structure (there are 3,000 hours of sun each year here, so maturity is never an issue), with a gentle hint of blush, a sour twist of wild herbs and a lovely dry finish.

Thu 01 Apr 2010

South African Celebration

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Football fan or not, South Africa is sure to catch your attention this year, as the Cape prepares to host the 19th World Cup (11th June to 11th July). The PR machine is already rolling, showcasing South Africa’s vivid culture, its stunning scenery, its increasingly acclaimed wines, and of course its passion for football.

I was lucky enough to get a private tour of the beautiful new Cape Town stadium just prior to completion and that, coupled with the infectious excitement across all shades of South African society, will ensure that I tune in with greater personal interest than football usually inspires in the Locke household.

The most important part of my December visit, however, was to discover new wines, whether from estates completely new to us or revisited after some absence. I also tasted new wines and vintages with our favourite producers. The target – a particularly difficult one in a region as diverse and exciting as the Cape – was to select our top thirty wines, from the affordable everyday to the drop dead gorgeous, for our South Africa offer later this month. One theme emerged strongly and sits successfully in both camps: Rhône grape varieties, for whites and rosé as well as reds, and we will offer our pick of the best. Another that springs easily to mind is the braai, or South African barbecue, which celebrates the wonderful combination of fine, fresh food, delicious flavourful wines, and an unmatched landscape – usually with sunshine thrown in!

You will find a selection of BBQ friendly wines in a mixed case in our April List and still more in the offer itself. One winemaker who does both with apparent ease is Carl van der Merwe, from Quoin Rock in Stellenbosch -= one of our ‘one to watch’ recommendations.

Categories : Rest of the World
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