Grapevine Archive for February, 2014

We’ve been absolutely delighted with members’ response to the Blind Spot wines so far, and heartened to see several critics praise them too. ‘Blind Spot’ is an exclusive range of Australian wines that aims to provide genuine expressions of authentic Australian regional styles at affordable prices.

Blind SpotJancis Robinson called them ‘outstanding value by any measure’, and we’ve just seen a review of the new range (published yesterday) by Sarah Ahmed, aka thewinedetective which may be of interest to members. (Please note: the Rutherglen Muscat mentioned in this piece will be available very soon).

‘Hats off to Mac Forbes, chief sourcer, or is that sorcerer?’ – Sarah Ahmed
Mac Forbes, one of Australia’s most talented winemakers, acts as our man on the ground for the Blind Spot range, utilising both his impeccable contacts and regional knowledge to source cuvées from throughout Australia.

Blind Spot in Mac Forbes’ own words
You can find out a little more about the range in this interview with Mac:

Pierre Mansour
Society Buyer for Australia

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Wed 26 Feb 2014

Wine Champions: A Flavour of the 2014 Tastings

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At last! After the wettest of starts, spring seems finally to be springing in the UK. Here at The Society we are in full swing planning a number of offerings for that elusive warmer weather.

The buyers assessing some of this year's candidates

The buyers assessing some of this year’s candidates

The highlight, as ever, is the annual unveiling of our Wine Champions.

The Champions are gleaned from a series of blind tastings by the buying team. All labels are concealed, allowing no room for potential bias and enabling the tasters to focus entirely on what’s in the bottle rather than on it. Hundreds of wines are tasted and whittled down to best-of-the-best selection of ‘Champions’: wines that are giving of their delicious best, at the top of their game and guaranteed to please Society members over the summer and beyond.

I have been fortunate enough to take part in these fascinating, enjoyable and admittedly rather exhausting tasting sessions for three years now, and each campaign throws up its own trends, conundrums, excitements and surprises.

What made 2014’s Championship?
I am, of course, sworn to secrecy as to the identities of the winning wines themselves. However, to whet members’ appetites, I have been permitted to divulge the following:

Star country?
Two of our buyers’ tweets from the tasting should tell you who one of the star countries was this year:

This is perhaps unsurprising given the diversity of Italian wine, with its thousands of native varieties and disparate styles. However, I cannot recall such a buzz about Italian wines in previous ‘Champs’ tastings I have been here for. Do look out for the wines from The Boot in this year’s offer.

Sweet spots: Portuguese white and Argentine red
Also particularly striking in 2014 were these two heartening ‘sweet spots’. The quality of Portugal’s red and white wines has been on a glorious upward curve for some time now, and their white wines showed this year that, for style, flavour and value, they can compete with anyone.

Able to satisfy and stimulate across a range of price points, Argentine malbec’s irresistibly moreish, food-friendly flavour has long been a favourite of UK wine drinkers. Rich pickings indeed – but these wines are not just about richness. We found some remarkable examples, benefiting from creative blending, old vines, an emphasis on finesse rather than power and some recent successful vintages. I hope you enjoy them as much as we did!

A quick peek inside the tasting room during this year’s Bordeaux round.

Tanked out
Tasting hundreds of wines all day sounds like a dream come true (and it is, of course), but those who have not had the pleasure of tasting a large number of tank samples may not appreciate how difficult it can be after a while! The buyers are very experienced at tasting and assessing tank samples, but a late 2013 vintage across so many regions meant that several of the infant wines’ samples that reached us were particularly embryonic. Healthy and sometimes impassioned debate is as mandatory as the quality of the final shortlist, for one begets the other, and meticulous retasting and deliberation ensures each wine gets the fairest chance it can in its category and line-up. This was especially necessary for many of the 2013 tank samples, as the team expertly sifted through the sulphur aromas and primary fruit to form consensus.

South Africa
A final mention must go to South Africa: we may not have chosen a vast number of Cape Champs this year, but I can’t remember the wines showing better. In only three years of my attendance at these tastings, the progression in quality has been noticeable, something I find quite breathtaking. It would be difficult to refute the assertion that, of all the countries making wine today, the Cape has the biggest spring in its step right now.

Fine Wine Champions
The fun doesn’t stop once the initial list of Champions is unveiled: the Fine Wine Champions will follow shortly afterwards in the August Fine Wine List. I could write at least as much again about the exceptional wines and happy surprises that went into the premium line-up. Perhaps I will nearer the time…

Martin Brown

Digital Copywriter

The 2014 Wine Champions will be unveiled in June.

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Mon 24 Feb 2014

Video: The Society’s Tastings & Events

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Have you ever thought about coming to one of The Society’s tastings? We hold over 100 annually, ranging from informal, walk-around tastings to gala dinners via tutored tastings, workshops and more.

You can see a full calendar on our website, but the Tastings Team has also put together this short video to give a flavour of what members coming to a Society tasting might expect. We hope you enjoy it!

Categories : Wine Tastings
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Thu 20 Feb 2014

One Of The Best Cellars In Burgundy?

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Drouhin-Laroze have one of the best cellars in Burgundy. In fact they don’t just have one – they have two like this, one above the other.


This is effectively the first year cellar where the new wine is racked. It normally stays here for about six months until the malolactic fermentation in spring the following year.

Underneath is an identical cellar, where the wine normally ages a year, before bottling in spring.

Clos de Tart also have a similar arrangement but this is rare in Burgundy.

Toby Morrhall
Society Buyer For Burgundy

The Society’s opening offer of the 2012 vintage is available now

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Wed 19 Feb 2014

Buyer Profile Video: Jo Locke MW

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What’s it like being a wine buyer here at The Wine Society?

Jo Locke MW tells us in this short video.

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Mon 17 Feb 2014

1969 Mâcon from Bonhomme

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Bonhomme make modestly priced Mâcon which keeps very well.

To prove the point, Aurelien Palthey kindly opened this 1969 for Tim Sykes and me in November.

1979 Macon fron Bonhomme

It is very mature but still very much alive. Lovely flavours of hazelnuts, butter and crème brûlée.

We are selling the 2012 Cuvée Spéciale in our opening offer at the end of February.

Toby Morrhall
Society Buyer For Burgundy

Edit (17/2/2014): This offer is now available.

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Thu 13 Feb 2014

What is Biodynamics?

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With many distinguished wine producers converting to biodynamic viticulture, there has to be something to this form of farming, doesn’t there?


Burying cow horns – one of the more well-known biodynamic preparations.

Master of Wine Caroline Gilby who has a PhD in plant science finds it all a bit hard to believe. ‘Where’s the science bit?’ she asks in a recent article written for The Society:

Supercharged organics with a hint of spirituality?
‘Biodynamics sounds quite lovely in principle – often billed as a kind of supercharged organic approach to grape growing, complete with more than a hint of spirituality. Demeter, the largest certifying organisation for this system defines biodynamics as ‘a holistic approach to agriculture in which vitality is the highest priority,’ while French group Biodyvin states ‘a wine producing property, like any other agricultural property, is considered to be a living organism.’ The wine trade today seems to hold biodynamics in great, and unquestioning, reverence, partly because of some of the renowned producers who have converted.’

Read the full article in Wine World & News

Wine journalists have been accused of giving too many column inches over to the promotion of this form of winemaking by some in the wine trade (read our blog post on the debate on this matter), so we thought it right to air the sceptic’s viewpoint.

Do read Caroline’s article and let us know what you think.

Joanna Goodman
News Editor

Categories : Miscellaneous
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Wed 12 Feb 2014

Burgundian Cellars: Tollot-Beaut

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Tollot-Beaut have very attractive cellars, although quite recent.


Still, the black alcohol-loving fungus has colonised the pillars and wine bins.

Tollot-Beaut bins

We will be selling their lovely 2012s in our opening offer.

Toby Morrhall
Society Buyer for Burgundy

The Society’s opening offer of 2012 red and white Burgundy will be available from 17th February.

Edit (17/2/2014): This offer is now available.

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Tue 11 Feb 2014

Uruguay: The Pisanos – A Barrel Of Laughs

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Right to left: Eduardo (viticulture), Gustavo (head winemaker), Gabriel (winemaker), Daniel (sales).

Right to left: Eduardo (viticulture), Gustavo (head winemaker),
Gabriel (winemaker), Daniel (sales).

The Pisanos are great fun to be with, produce one of the best barbecues in South America (which includes grilled vegetables, not just meat), and make lovely wine too.

Toby Morrhall
Society Buyer for South America

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These are lovely vineyards in Santenay. Murgers are walls made up of piled up stones cleared from rocky vineyards before they could be planted.


Clos are walled vineyards. One here even has steps built into the wall.


Cabottes are vineyard huts to store tools in or have one’s sandwiches when its wet. This one is built into a Clos.


Toby Morrhall
Society Buyer for Burgundy

The Society’s opening offer of 2012 red and white Burgundy will be available from 17th February.

Edit (17/2/2014): This offer is now available.

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