Grapevine Archive for March, 2011

Thu 31 Mar 2011

Pricing in the current List

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As Chief Executive, many letters from members come across my desk. To help respond to one recent letter, we undertook a price-check for all wines in The Society’s current List (January-April) that are available elsewhere, and I thought the results may be of general interest.

Of these 458 wines, we found that The Society was the cheapest retailer outright for 277, 60% in total. Those wines where The Society was joint-cheapest were excluded from this result and, as we tend to price at 5p below the pound (e.g. £6.95), we also omitted results which showed us marginally cheaper than retailers who price their wines at, say, £6.99.

Being a co-operative organisation, we aim to provide the lowest price possible for our members whilst ensuring good service. We focus on making certain that the every day price is both clear to members and the best that we can achieve. We will continue to work hard to this end.

Oliver Johnson
Chief Executive

Categories : Miscellaneous
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Wed 30 Mar 2011

Beautiful Grapes

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Margaret River is in full harvest swing and I’m at Cullen Wines, a pioneer of this great cabernet sauvignon region.

Vanya Cullen

Vanya Cullen

I was struck by the intensely-coloured, almost fluorescent bloom of Vanya Cullen’s cabernet grapes (which will go into her best wine, “Diana Madeline”, due to be harvested any day soon).

Cabernet grapes at Cullen

I hope the above photo does justice to what must be one of the healthiest vineyards in the area, proof that biodynamics works.

Grape sorting at Cullen

Grape sorting

Vanya, not one to oversell, reckons 2011 may be her finest vintage ever. The grapes certainly tasted delicious: pure, fruity and with perfectly ripe pips. For the wine, well, we’ll all just have to wait three years once Vanya has worked her winemaking magic.

Pierre Mansour
Australia Buyer

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Just before our recent ‘Bordeaux & Beyond’ tasting, BBC Radio Manchester’s Gourmet Night programme interviewed Ewan Murray, The Society’s Head of Tastings. Ewan gave listeners a brief guide on how to taste wine.

You can listen to the five minute excerpt in mp3 format here.

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Edit: The below was written with, among other things, The Society’s Wedding & Gift List service in mind. Though The Society will continue to honour existing Gift Lists, members can no longer request to set up their own Gift Lists.

Those planning weddings or civil partnerships this summer or beyond may be experiencing a few headaches at the moment. While organising any celebration can be taxing, we believe that choosing the right wines should be an enjoyable experience.

Gill Wise has written for Society Grapevine recently about The Wine Society’s Wedding & Gift List Service, which aims to take the hassle out of choosing presents for members’ weddings, birthdays and other celebrations.

Here, The Society’s six Buyers offer their expert advice, suggesting reliable choices to pour on the day itself, wines you may enjoy adding to your gift list and, where applicable, the benefits of ageing them (members may store their Gift List wines in Members’ Reserves free of charge for a year). Watch this space for more advice regarding suggested quantities and other relevant services offered by The Society.

Marcel Orford-Williams

The Wedding
From experience there are two important things to consider about weddings.
First: the wedding itself is what it is all about. So nobody will expect fine dining with wines to match. Unless of course the guests all happen to be gourmet chefs and wine merchants!

Second: cost
Reception venues are often tied to caterers who in my experience will always offer the most dismal of choices. I can’t begin to enumerate the times when I ended up tipping a glass discreetly into a flower bed. It is often a much better idea to negotiate corkage and bring your own and it will often be cheaper as well.

Choose a banker which you know most people will enjoy. I got married to The Society’s Riesling which was perfect and refreshing. Alternatives would include The Society’s White Burgundy or Society’s Chilean Chardonnay. My red was The Society’s Claret, which ticked the boxes.

For when the guests arrive, refreshment is the imperative. I did Crémant de Loire as a clean refreshing sparkler or Mosel Riesling for those who cared little for fizz. There was also a bottle or two of The Society’s Fino on ice, but that was mostly for me as I was going through a serious Fino stage at that time.

We had a triple layered cake of which I made the top two and my then sister-in-law in waiting, the larger bottom tier. A bottle of 15 Year Old Cognac was used one way or the other in the preparation of these cakes to very good effect. The top layer eventually served as my eldest son’s christening cake eight years later.

Champagne is obviously not indispensable but nearly so, especially when it comes to the toasts. What it should be is a matter of taste and cost, suffice to say that there is plenty of good festive Champagne at around £20 a bottle. Larger sizes are fun but more difficult to handle by less experienced staff. Chilling is essential as wines warm up very quickly in the glass.

The Gift List

Inevitably I give wine as my wedding gift and usually I give two bottles, one for drinking early and one for the 10th anniversary. One of my favourite bottles to give is Domaine de Perdiguier, preferably in magnum. This is a very stylish cabernet-merlot blend from Languedoc, well-presented and relatively inexpensive. The other might be a Claret or a Châteauneuf-du-Pape from the Rhône Valley and from one of the top estates, a wine which inevitably keeps well and has a festive feel about it.

Toby Morrhall

The Wedding

Domaine Mallory et Benjamin Talmard’s Mâcon-Villages offers good value for money, is not too austere, and can be enjoyed as an aperitif or with food.
Chilean sauvignon blanc is fruitier than Loire sauvignon and without the residual sugar of NZ. These are perfect crowd pleasers; as Sebastian (Payne MW) said, these are the wine equivalent of G&T. I list a couple at different prices:
The Society’s Chilean Sauvignon Blanc
Tabalí Caliza Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc

For reasonably priced White Burgundy for the meal:
St Véran En Crêches, Domaine Nathalie et Jacques Saumaize
The Society’s Exhibition Chablis Premier Cru

Chilean merlots are soft and smooth all rounders, such as
The Society’s Chilean Merlot
Lascar Merlot
El Polilla Merlot

As is Argentine Malbec, especially
The Society’s
Faldeos Nevados Malbec

For food, classy wine that does not cost the earth, such as Marqués de Casa Concha Puente Alto Cabernet Sauvignon.

The Gift List

Bordeaux and Rhône are really the red classics. Burgundy you have to know it to enjoy it, so I wouldn’t suggest Burgundy to someone who doesn’t already like it. With age, Burgundy starts smelling of red cherries and develops gamey aromas and what the French call “sous bois”, literally “under the wood” – it’s the earthy smells you get when walking in a wood in autumn: leaf mould, bracken, ferns, mushrooms, truffles, smoke of a distant bonfire, etc. The tannins soften and the palate becomes smoother and silkier.

Mark Buckenham

The Wedding

From the wine advice given and taken by members so far this year/last year I would suggest amongst the favourites are:

Sparkling wine:
The Society’s Celebration Crémant de Loire 2008 – celebration in the name
Ridgeview Bloomsbury 2008 – go English
The Society’s Champagne Brut – best ever

White wine:
The Society’s White Burgundy – hard to beat at this price, crowd pleaser
Mâcon-Villages Domaine Mallory et Benjamin Talmard 2009 – everybody loves it
Cheverny 2009 Dme du Salvard Delaille – crisp sauvignon with touch of chardonnay to temper it
Midsummer Hill 2009 – go go England, be patriotic. Nettley & fresh
The Society’s New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc 2010 – crisp, they love it.

Red wine:
The Society’s Beaujolais-Villages – sweetness of gamay appeals to all
Beaujolais-Villages Château de Lacarelle 2009 – even better than above
The Society’s Rioja Crianza – hard not to enjoy, not over oaky
Navajas Crianza Rioja 2007 – best under £10 available in the range right now

The Gift List

For the Gift List, I’d suggest the Quinta da Senhora da Ribeira 2004 Port (£29). Drinks from 2020-2030. From a quinta owned and run by Symington group and on really good form with this vintage. Beautifully floral, with hints of eucalyptus and mint. On the palate, super-concentrated fleshy layers of brambly fruit showing through appealing nuances of chocolate; all held together by fine peppery tannins.

The 2004 vintage could be when the happy couple first met/got engaged? If not then find a vintage when they did! Ideal if buying six bottles as gift, as this is supplied packed in a six-bottle varnished oak presentation case containing a specially designed corkscrew based on a 19th-century pattern. Wow!

Sebastian Payne MW

The Wedding

I was married in 1973, when my father in law provided a generous amount of Champagne. Weddings tended to be shorter affairs then than they are now. My daughter married the year before last, which was a longer occasion, and we served The Society’s Champagne, White Burgundy and Rioja. There wasn’t a single bottle left.

The Gift List

Members can use online vouchers from their Gift Lists towards en primeur wines. It remains the best and cheapest way to purchase fine wines, as the wines often won’t be available again afterwards. Perfect for this year would have been a case of 2009 Rhône wines.

The Society’s Opening Offers always cover a spread of price points, and we’ll tell you how the wines are coming along.

Joanna Locke MW

The Wedding

All rounders are essential in my view, though one can still make a decision based on the food being served, or not. It also depends on budget of course.

My lower/mid price range, without knowing the menu, would include:

Sparkling wine:
The Society’s Celebration Crémant de Loire, 2008

The Society’s White Burgundy
Pinot Gris Tradition Dry, Cave de Turckheim, 2008
(an earlier vintage worked for us!)
Picpoul de Pinet, Domaine Félines-Jourdan, 2009
Monte Velho Branco, Alentejo, 2009
Villiera Estate Chenin Blanc, 2010

The Society’s Beaujolais-Villages
Beaujolais-Villages, Ch de Lacarelle, 2009
Côtes-du-Rhône, Domaine Jaume, 2007
The Society’s Corbières
Côtes du Roussillon Villages, Ch de Pena, 2008
(we went Southern French for our red and it was great with the hog roast and Mediterranean flavoured buffet.)
Cahors, Clos la Coutale, 2008
Monte Velho Tinto, 2009
Malumbres, Tinto, Navarra, 2008

My more premium range, again not knowing food, would be:
The Society’s Champagne, Brut
Jules Camuset, Non-Vintage, Brut
Ch Pey La Tour Réserve, 2007, Bordeaux
The Society’s Exhibition Margaux, 2004
The Society’s Exhibition Savigny-lès-Beaune, Nicolas Potel, 2005
Beaujolais-Villages, Ch de Thulon, 2009
The Society’s Exhibition Châteauneuf-du-Pape, 2007
Viña Amézola Crianza, Rioja, 2005
La Rioja Alta, Viña Arana Reserva, Rioja, 2001
The Society’s Exhibition Martinborough Pinot Noir, 2009

The Gift List

The Society’s Exhibition Margaux, 2004 – the second wine from a beautiful property we visit every year; holds its own against many grander names, will keep, but is already lovely to drink now.

The Society’s Exhibition Châteauneuf-du-Pape, 2007 – proper stuff from a top vintage: hedonistic, rich & opulent and gorgeous now, but absolutely no hurry.

Ch Prieuré-Lichine, 2001, Margaux – elegant, rewarding, and these days still very good value Claret which has done consistently well in our blind tastings over the last few years.

Ridge Lytton Springs, 2008 – a tasting tutored by Paul Draper at Lytton Springs remains one of the highlights of my life in wine. His wines are complex, fine, ageworthy examples, very European in their structure and balance.

Magnum of The Society’s Exhibition Blanc de Blancs Champagne – though ready to drink, in magnum this very lovely fizz will keep for your first really special occasion when one bottle just won’t do.

Pierre Mansour

The Wedding

A good wedding wine (or party wine) should combine usability (crowd pleasing), authenticity (reflect its style precisely) and value. So, New Zealand sauvignon usually works well, and currently whites that are not too oaky (as fashion seems to be for crisp, fruity unoaked styles). Soft, smooth reds like Rioja, Australian shiraz, mature Claret.

For the record, at my wedding three years ago we had The Society’s Champagne, Talmard Mâcon and Muga Reserva for the meal, then the party in the evening more Society Champagne plus Marlborough Sauvignon and Navajas Rioja.

The Gift List

Muga Prado Enea 2001: a top vintage from a top producer. So good it tastes wonderful now in its youth but will develop well for many years. This style of Rioja, a gran reserva, is aged for around 9 years (5 in barrel, then 3-4 in bottle) before release. This oxidative process makes it very resilient to further maturation in bottle.

Furthermore, tempranillo has a special affinity with bottle maturation – as a young wine tempranillo can be quite bland and simple, but with age it evolves beautifully. As it does, it will develop tertiary flavours (savoury, leathery, vegetal notes), become softer in texture (silkier and fleshier) and become more integrated and harmonious. In great vintages like 2001, these top Riojas become quite pinot-like as they get older. It will age with ease to 2019.

For personal wine advice (including matching your menu) for weddings, civil partnerships or other special celebrations or about which wines to add to your gift list, please contact

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As a new recruit to any organisation, there’s a lot to learn. With most colleagues’ names and the whereabouts of the paperclips safely under my belt, I was then given the enjoyable opportunity to discover more about The Society’s presence in France – something that perhaps we don’t make enough of on here. On Friday, Ewan Murray (Head of Tastings) and I joined some 50 members and guests for an Alsace and Rhône dinner at l’Auberge du Moulinel in the village of Saint-Josse.

Alongside the busy calendar of tastings and events on our side of the Channel, The Society also holds a number of wine dinners in France, the majority of which are in and around Montreuil (about 45 miles from Calais).

The Society’s French Showroom has been here for some six years now, and despite the more straitened times experienced by many during this period, business has remained good. This is less surprising to me having seen the place first-hand: Véronique, Julien and Marc are to be congratulated for such a well-run and tempting establishment, boasting as it does a large range of Society wines and, of course, favourable rates of duty (the average case saving is around £18).

Most of The Society’s dinners in this part of the world take place on a Friday or Saturday, giving members the opportunity to make a weekend of it and take in this picturesque town and its surrounding area too. Those joining me seemed to have been enjoying themselves thus far, with itineraries ranging from stints on the golf course (brave given the weather) to Great War battlefields.

On the night, Alain Lévy’s food was outstanding, as one would expect from a chef who cut his teeth at Strasbourg’s three Michelin-starred Au Crocodile, and who came recommended by our Showroom’s own Véronique (it’s a close call as to whose standards are more exacting). Special kudos must also be given to Georges the Basset Hound, whose attempt at a mid-main course pitch invasion provided a further entertaining accompaniment to his master’s cuisine.

The Alsatian whites and Rhône reds on show complemented one another well, and a quick vote at the end of the evening revealed plenty of enthusiasm, but no overall winner. My favourites were both in the white corner: the 2004 Riesling Les Pierrets from Josmeyer, which is really hitting its stride, and a delicious 2005 Gewurztraminer Vendange Tardive from Hugel.

I was struck by how well Chave’s lively 2007 Côtes-du-Rhône Mon Cœur paired with the cheese course, while at the weightier end of the spectrum Thierry Allemand’s brooding and bucolic 2000 Cornas Les Chaillots was praised for having biceps big enough to handle Alain’s pan-fried pigeon breast.

Working for an organisation whose members are its shareholders made the chance to meet so many particularly enlightening for me. It’s always valuable to hear members’ views, and it’s fortunate that few things help to air them better than a few glasses of good wine.

Martin Brown
Digital Copywriter

Thu 17 Mar 2011

80 Champagne Houses before lunch

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Trade tastings come and go. The best provide a snapshot of what is going on in a particular country, region or vintage. The most useful is the annual Champagne tasting organised by the CIVC, the syndicate of Champagne producers. It always falls in March and is traditionally held amidst the splendour and majesty of the Banqueting Hall, a remnant of the Palace of Whitehall in London.

This year there were some eighty Houses present and it is the only time when one can taste from all the main Houses and many of the lesser ones. Houses show three wines including the basic non vintage brut with the opportunity to meet up, exchange views and find out the gossip.

So this year what can I conclude from the 2011 tasting?
More growers going away from the standard Champagne bottle shape and stronger label designs. Definitely lots of marketing, not always backed up the quality of the wine.

Something else was glaringly obvious: Alfred Gratien Champagne is quite simply outstanding with only two or three others coming close to challenging it for quality and price. The Society’s Champagne is surely one of the greatest bargains in the trade. Every member should try a bottle!

Broadly, what I tasted can be categorised into the following:
Don’t touch
Party fizz
Bankers. Great names where quality is consistently good. These are the wines that often appear on restaurant lists and which deliver
Champagne with attitude. Great wines but maybe better with food

Wine is living thing and tastes can change and as can some of my views. Ageing Champagne is an essential component in creating the flavour of Champagne so a wine not showing well this week for example could be delicious in a couple of months’ time.

Here is my Champagne guide of what is good, on the turn, or well and truly rotten.

Champagne Volleraux Decent enough. Very chardonnay. Needs food

Veuve Clicquot Very famous but the widow seems to have lost her touch. Horrid

Thiénot Lovely Champagne. Rounded and charming. Clean and straight. Perfect restaurant fizz and good for parties

Tarlant Decent enough but lacks finesse. Leave alone

Taittinger Another famous house. Lovely, charming and light. An all rounder. Party fizz par excellence

Soutiran NV seemed to be too old with too much reserve wine. Leave alone

Ruinart Great name, silly bottle, disgraceful wine at NV level. Dom Ruinart 1998 is better though showing some age. Leave alone

Roger Pouillon Horrid

Pommery Sweet, common. Don’t touch

Pol Roger Outstanding. Classic. Don’t hesitate here. This is the banker par excellence, an all rounder of real distinction and class

Pierre Moncuit Blanc de blancs and very good with some real finesse. Needs food

René Geoffroy Some real class here. Lovely length and some nice maturity. A good restaurant fizz. Good party fizz

Philipponnat Disappointing. Dull and heavy. Maybe better with food but I’m not recommending it

Perrier-Jouet Too old. horrid

Penet-Chardonnet Never heard of it. Horrid

J.Charpentier Horrid

Pehu-Simonet Silly bottle. Horrid

Paul Berthelot Horrid

Pannier Dire

Nicolas Feuillatte Not bad at all. Wedding fizz. Lacks a little distinction maybe but very acceptable

Moutard Horrid

Moet & Chandon Not bad but somewhat hard and aggressive. Acceptable all rounder

Henri Mandois Good party fizz. Light chardonnay style

Louis Roederer Banker. Very good though I might have tasted it better. This bottle might have been disgorged recently

Le Mesnil co-op NV disappointing. Has been better before. 2004 vintage quite good

Laurent Perrier Delicious. Reception Champagne with a little more weight than say Taittinger. Gorgeous rosé

Lanson Crisp and bone dry. Very good and on the up. Extra Age Brut has much complexity. Bit dry to be an all-rounder. Needs a pot of jellied eels while watching the tennis. Less good at vintage level

Joseph Perrier Dreadful. Cava is better

Lallement Awful

Jean Milan Awful

Jacquesson Has attitude. Very good but not for everyone. Bone dry and full of flavour. Screams out for food and might have benefited from being decanted

Jacquart No charm. Leave alone

André Jacquart Horrid

Henriot Outstanding. Real banker here. As Clicquot used to be: rich and full bodied. Great all-rounder

Henri Ablelé Horrid

Heidsieck Monopole Aggressive and a bit short but not a disaster

Charles Lafitte Horrid. Suggest they use the name and concentrate on sales to China!

H Blin Fairly average. Has flavour but short on charm. Maybe better with food

Alfred Gratien Complete knock out. A clear winner. A perfect all rounder with character, complexity and charm

Gosset Pretty serious glass here but I think would be better with food

Gardet No charm. Leave alone

G.H.Mumm Decent enough but of no great quality. Good label though. Best used for launching ships and spraying F1 drivers

G.H.Martel Horrid

F Dilligent Horrid

Giraud Horrid

Edouard Brun Quite serious, well made and full flavoured. Needs food

Duval-Leroy Unspeakably nasty

Dumangin Horrid

Drappier Horrid

Dosnon and Lepage Too old

Devaux Not exciting. Round and pleasant enough. Party fizz only

Deutz Very good in a dry appley sort of way. Lots of character. Food wine

Delamotte Hard and without charm. Not a winner

Dehours et fils Horrid

JL Vergnon Horrid

De Saint Gall Dreadful

De Castelnau Leave alone

Colin Oxidised

M Furdyna Horrid

Charles Heidsieck « Champagne Charlie is my name » Decent enough. Safe glass to have before a meal

Piper Hiedsieck Seriously good. Best of the Heidsiecks. Super quality here and a perfect all rounder

Charles Elner Horrid

Janisson Tasted like cider

Chanoine Very basic quality. French supermarkets level only

Cattier No finesse. Leave alone

Canard-Duchene Decent only. A bit sweet for my taste

Guy Cadel Horrid

Bruno Paillard Very good indeed. Has real charm, presence and length

De Castellane Famous landmark in Epernay but wine is dreadful

Philippe Brugnon Better than when tasted before. But no more than decent. Rich mature style

Alexandre Bonnet Lovely party fizz. Soft, round and very attractive. Good for those who don’t like the high acidity of most Champagne

Bollinger Stand out quality. Full bodied, rich and mature. Resplendent. Probably at its best when wearing jacket and tie

Boizel Real complexity and a lot of flavour for the money. Real quality here. One doesn’t have to be at Glyndebourne to enjoy it

Comte Audoin de Dampierre Pretentious. Very marked by oak and needs food. Not bad

Besserat de Bellefon I used to like this but this bottle was horrid

Tsarine Poor man’s Cristal maybe. Decent enough but unexciting

Beaumont des Crayères Green and mean. Leave alone

Pierre Gimmonet Outstanding. Lovely pure chardonnay Champagne. Lots of finesse and great length. Possibly better with food than on its own

Rapeneau Horrid

Ayala Getting better but not really much fun

Arlaux Barely decent. Avoid

Marcel Orford-Williams
Champagne buyer

Wed 16 Mar 2011

Bordeaux & Beyond pt 2

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Pouring the Château Tour du Haut Moulin 2005

And so on to Shrewsbury (where I learnt that you pronounce it ‘shruse’ if you’re born inside the loop in the river, and ‘shrose’ if outside, but that nobody seems too fussy as long as you visit – and very pretty it is too).

Some wry smiles (well, among Society staff, at any rate) occurred when we parked  The Society’s Tastings & Events van by the window of the dining room only to discover that Tanner’s Wines were holding their pre-Spring Tasting luncheon in the dining room.

But I digress …

The winning wines were very different to the previous night in Manchester. Winning white was the elegantly mineral, passionfruit scented  Undurraga Sibaris Leyda Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2010, while with the reds the classically styled Château Les Ormes de Pez 2001 from St Estèphe just won out over its St Julien rival Château Lalande-Borie 2004 with the vibrant The Society’s Exhibition Chilean Merlot 2009 a close third.

Next stops for this tasting are Winchester (sold out) and Hereford next week. Who knows what the results will be. We’ll have to wait and see.

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Tue 15 Mar 2011

Bordeaux & Beyond pt 1

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Great fun was had at Freemasons’ Hall in Manchester last night when 130 members and guests had the chance to taste ten classic Clarets and compare them with New World versions of Bordeaux blends (select any from cabernets sauvignon & franc, merlot, malbec and petit verdot for reds, sauvignon blanc, semillon and muscadelle for whites) as well as single varietal wines.

At the end of the evening a quick vote was held and the favourite white of the evening turned out to be Quoin Rock Oculus 2007 while the red was a close battle between Catena Cabernet Sauvignon Special Selection for The Wine Society 2008 and Ridge Vineyards Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet Merlot 2007

Which wines will win tonight in Shrewsbury? Watch this space!

Categories : Bordeaux
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Fri 11 Mar 2011

A Society Wedding

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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.

Gill & Michael WiseWith the forthcoming royal nuptials dominating the press and the summer months around the corner, we thought we’d remind readers planning their own celebrations about The Society’s free and easy-to-use Wedding & Gift List Service.

Below the first member to use the service, Gill Wise from The Wine Society’s Member Services team, talks about the gift list she and her husband made for their big day and the wines they’re still enjoying as a result.

My equally wine-loving husband and I were married last August. We were combining two households’ worth of possessions, so as well as buying the wines for the day itself from The Society we decided to set up a Gift List for our guests to choose some wines for our wedding presents.

Gill's WeddingPutting the list together was a lot of fun, and we ended up choosing a real mixture of wines. Some of our guests ordered from these choices, while others opted to get us online gift vouchers, allowing us even greater freedom to choose the wines we wanted. We felt this combination gave us the best of both worlds, and we decided to leave a few cases of special bottles we’d been given in Members’ Reserves to enjoy later.

Being able to withdraw cases in this way is particularly pleasant, as in many ways it feels like receiving the present all over again – a feeling difficult to replicate with a toaster or kettle!

It was also lovely to receive a complimentary bottle of Champagne from The Society, which really set the mood for the occasion.

The Society's ChampagneFor me, the beauty of the service was its flexibility. Guests enjoyed choosing whether to buy an online voucher or something specific, and we were glad of the option to take the wine immediately or to keep all or some of it in storage.

Most of the wines we kept in Members’ Reserves were Italian reds, which go beautifully with food. We’ve even shared some wines with the guests who bought them for us over dinner, and it’s always nice to see the look on their faces when we tell them they’re the people to thank for the bottle we’re enjoying. We would recommend a Society Gift List to anyone with something to celebrate, and I would certainly use the service again for birthdays, anniversaries and other special occasions in the future.

Categories : Miscellaneous
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Wed 09 Mar 2011

Angludet – a family affair

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The late Peter Sichel and his wife Diana bought the rundown Margaux estate of Château d’Angludet in 1961 and transformed it into one of the most consistently high-performing properties in the appellation.

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of this acquisition Peter & Diana’s five sons Allan, Charles, James, Ben and David, all of whom are in this family business, are spending three days in the company of Society members.

On Monday we were at the delightful Corse Lawn House, near Tewkesbury, for a dinner including venison that showed off the 2004, 2000, 1995, 1989 and 1983 vintages to perfection.

Tonight, Wednesday, we will be enjoying a four-course dinner including Northumbrian lamb at Blackfriars in Newcastle-upon-Tyne with the same five vintages. At both dinners the aperitif is the delightful white Corbières made by the Sichels at their Château Trillol estate.

From left to right: David Sichel, Benjamin Sichel, The Society’s Joanna Locke MW, Charles Sichel, The Society’s Sebastian Payne MW, James Sichel, Allan Sichel

Merchant Taylors’ Hall in London was the venue for last night’s tutored tasting of 10 vintages (2007, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2000, 1996, 1995, 1989 and 1983). Each brother had selected a pair of his favourite vintages, and each talked us through the wines focusing on the 5 key areas of a vintage and how they affected the end product: flowering, swelling, veraison, ripening and final maturation. It was fascinating to see how one year with an identical rainfall and sunshine record to another can be so different due to when and how the weather happened during the year – 2007 & 2000 were a point in case. The elegance and finesse that together make up the hallmark of Angludet were in evidence throughout; even in the heady and rich 2003 they had wisely picked early enough so that the effects of the ludicrously high temperatures in August and September were attenuated.

My personal star at both Monday’s dinner and Tuesday’s tasting was the 1995 which, to my mind, is absolutely à point right now. The ripeness of the 45% merlot, in what was very much a merlot vintage, shines through the austere skeleton of the 51% cabernet sauvignon and is enhanced by the crunchiness of the 4% petit verdot, the sum of which is a perfectly balanced, juicy, rounded, well structured bundle of plum and cassis enveloped in velvety ripe tannins.

But every wine on each night had its fans. While most Angludet sold by The Society is quickly soaked up by members at en primeur time, occasionally we are able to secure small stocks of certain vintages. 2004 is currently available in magnum, and watch this space for some more news regarding other vintages.

Categories : Miscellaneous
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