Grapevine Archive for April, 2014

Wed 30 Apr 2014

Bank holiday barbecue recipes from down under

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With the first of the May bank holidays coming up many of us will be dusting off our barbecues and venturing outside to eat. OK, so the weather forecast for the weekend doesn’t sound that promising at the moment, but we can live in hope!

Who better to ask for some recipes for dishes to ‘throw on the barbie’ than our Australian wine growers who get a great deal more practice at this style of cooking than we do? Although food and wine matching is matter of personal taste, winemakers also know a thing or two about which dishes will bring out the best in their wines too.


Dust off your barbecues, there's a bank holiday coming!

Dust off your barbecues, there’s a bank holiday coming!

Here are two recipes to try. The first is from Paul Hotker, senior winemaker at long-standing suppliers of our Society’s Australian Shiraz, Bleasdale in Langhorne Creek. The second comes from Andrew Wigan, chief winemaker at Peter Lehmann Wines whose 88 Growers Barossa Semillon is an established favourite with members too.


Lamb cutlets with feta and prosciutto

Meat on the bone and chargrilled is my preference for shiraz, so T-bone steaks oiled and seasoned with smashed potatoes is a favourite, but these lamb cutlets are a hit, and my kids love them too.

The great thing with Lamb cutlets is they come with a handle, so picking them up with your fingers and stripping every last bit of meat from the bone is mandatory.

Food tastes much better if you get a bit messy, if it’s easy to make, even better.

Perfect with Langhorne Creek Shiraz, either the succulent Society’s Australian Shiraz or the more opulent Bremerview 2012.



16 lamb cutlets, French-trimmed Australian lamb (does that count as multicultural?)
200g feta cheese, cut into 16 slices
16 small rosemary sprigs
300g fresh prosciutto
2 tablespoons honey (optional)

Let the meat warm up to room temperature, 30 min before cooking.

Using your hand, press cutlets to flatten meat slightly. Top each cutlet with a slice of feta and a sprig of rosemary. Wrap a slice of prosciutto around feta, to enclose.

Preheat barbecue plate or chargrill on medium. Cook cutlets for 2-3 minutes each side, for medium-rare, or until cooked to your liking.

Transfer to a platter and drizzle over honey (optional of course, and/ or some cracked black pepper)

Eat, and don’t be afraid to use your fingers!


Paul Hotker
Senior Winemaker, Bleasdale Vineyards


Barbecue lemongrass chicken

Lemongrass chicken

Lemongrass chicken

This is one of our favourites that we often do at home here in the Barossa. We flatten a whole chicken and cook it in a hooded barbecue, but if you only have a flat plate/grill, simply flatten some chicken thigh fillets or breast fillets and proceed with the same marinade and glaze.

The 88 Growers Semillon shows lemon flavours and is a perfect match for this particular dish, which is all about freshness.


1 whole free-range chicken

Lemongrass rub
5 cloves garlic
1 thumb-size piece of ginger
1 red chilli (depending on your chilli threshold)
3 large lemongrass stalks
1 root fresh turmeric (1tsp of powered may be substituted)
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

½ cup sweet chilli sauce
Juice of 1 lime
½ bunch fresh coriander, chopped

Pre-heat a Webber-style (lidded or hooded) barbecue. Prepare the chicken by cutting though the backbone all the way from the neck to the cavity. This will enable the bird to be opened out (flattened). Score the thighs and the drumsticks to the bone to allow for even cooking.

Peel and finely chop all the ingredients for the lemongrass rub and smash in a mortar and pestle until it becomes a paste. Liberally rub all over the chicken, making sure the paste penetrates the score marks in the legs.

Place the chicken in the barbecue, making sure the heat is monitored. Cooking should take about one hour and fifteen minutes, or until the juices run clear. Mix the lime juice and sweet chilli sauce together and add the coriander. Brush  over  the  chicken  during  the  last  15  minutes  of  cooking,  then rest the meat off the heat for a further 15 minutes before serving.

 Andrew Wigan

Chief Winemaker, Peter Lehmann Wines


The above wines feature in our current offer of Australian wines which remains open until Sunday 18th May 2014.

For more recipes and food and wine-matching suggestions, visit the Wine World & News pages of the website.


Categories : Australia
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enramalabelGonzalez Byass’s (if not the world’s) most famous Fino Sherry is Tio Pepe which, if you didn’t know, is Spanish for ‘Uncle Joe’. Last week I attended the Big Fortified Tasting in London where I tasted this year’s bottling of Tio Pepe En Rama – the unclarified and unfiltered expression of Fino Sherry which this year celebrates its fifth bottling. They call it “puro zumo de flor” (pure flor juice).

My necessarily brief tweeted tasting note said:

This year’s @TioPepeFino En Rama. Biscuit & Bramley apple. Crisp, refreshing, long & delicious #WatchThisSpace #NextWeek

— The Wine Society (@TheWineSociety) April 24, 2014

It has a really broad mouthfeel and a long finish – an ‘en rama panorama’, if you like.

The official launch date is Wednesday 30th April, and it will be on sale with us very soon after at £14.50 per bottle.

UPDATE: 30/4/14 – It’s available right here, right now, while stocks last.

Ewan Murray
PR Manager

Categories : Fortified, Sherry, Spain
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Thu 24 Apr 2014

Australian wines with a sense of place

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When I first started in the wine trade, nearly a quarter of a century ago, there was a certain sense that ‘terroir’ was a word somewhat derided by Australian wine producers. These were the heady days of big bold flavours, big brand marketing and cross-border blending. The point was to make pleasurable, consistent wines that matched customers’ perceived tastes. This was something the Australians did exceptionally well, turning on a whole new generation to the delights of wine and for this we are all grateful.

But at The Wine Society we have never been the biggest champions of this style of wine preferring to seek out individuals who make wine on a much smaller scale; wines with an extra dimension that talk of the land which made them. Wines which our members tell us they appreciate. Our growers down under do talk about their ‘patch of dirt’ (some even say ‘terroir’) and many have several generations’ worth of knowledge and experience of tending their vineyards. And just because Australia is referred to as the ‘new world’ it none-the-less is home to some of the world’s oldest vines. When it comes to soils, it has some of the oldest on the planet and it is the ever increasing understanding of these and their potential for fine-wine making that is what makes the Australian wine scene so exciting.

Cullen Estate vineyard, Western Australia, a blessed spot on the viticultural map

Cullen Estate vineyard, Western Australia, a blessed spot on the viticultural map

When we asked some of our growers to tell us about their particular ‘patch of dirt’. Naturally they all said their region was the best and why would you want to make wine anywhere else (!) but they also provided us with some great videos and images to help paint the picture and explain how they get the best from their soils.

Chester Osborne of d’Arenberg talks about how he looks after his 100-year-old grenache vineyard in McLaren Vale and shows us what the infamous dead arm looks like. Vanya Cullen of Cullen Winery in Margaret River tells us what makes their cabernets unique, not just in Australia, but in the world. She also gives some insights into biodynamic winemaking of which she is a keen proponent. There are plenty of a atmospheric images to give the flavour of each region too.

We hope you enjoy reading what they have to say and watching their videos. Do let us know what you think of our Australian Regional Heroes article by leaving a comment at the end.


Meanwhile, our offer of wines from the best ten regions down under is open until Sunday 18th May while stocks last.

Categories : Australia
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Tue 22 Apr 2014

Madiran: à votre santé!

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Research suggests that not only is red wine good for you but that traditionally made wines are better still, and that Madiran is best of all.

Madiran is a beautiful, sleepy, wineproducing region in the south west of France among the gentle foothills of the Pyrenees, south of Armagnac. The region is known locally as ‘the heart of darkness’, not apparently due to any similarity to Joseph Conrad’s nightmare vision but, some say, after the Black Prince who frequented the area in the 14th century. Others, myself included, prefer to believe it’s because of the deep, dark, brooding colour of the wonderfully individual local red wine.

Grapes, Tannat in Madiran ©Photo:Claes Lofgren/

The thick-skinned tannat grape

The name of the favoured local grape, tannat, betrays the character of the wines it produces: often coarse, earthy and rustic with rough tannins, perfect for washing down the deliciously hearty duck, goose and cassoulet cooked locally.

US filmmaker Woody Allen reputedly once recommended ‘elephant burger’ when asked to suggest a suitable food to go with Madiran. I know what he means; Madiran calls for something BIG. In days gone by, the wines were guardedly closed and harshly tannic for most of their youth before eventually opening up to reveal structure, depth and spicy complexity alongside the inherent strength.

This lack of approachability meant that Madiran was little known, or loved, outside its home. Indeed, ravaged by the twin horrors of phylloxera and war, vineyards covered just 15 acres in the early 1950s.

Modern fashion, however, dictates that wine should be approachable much earlier and Madiran growers have cleverly managed to create a far more acceptable modern wine without compromising the individuality that makes it unique. The technique of micro-oxygenation, developed by Madiran grower Patrick Ducournau in 1990 and now widely used across France, involves bubbling tiny amounts of oxygen through young wines, reducing the ferocity of the tannins and making the wines much smoother.

The introduction of Bordeaux grapes, cabernets sauvignon and franc, to the blend (they can account for up to 40 per cent) have added structure. These factors and the picking of riper grapes and a warmer climate, have convinced devotees that the best examples can now match some of the finest wines of all of France.

Heart of the matter

But Madiran is also winning plaudits for its health benefits as well as its style and taste. ‘Wine is a food, a medicine and a poison – it’s just a question of dose,’ noted 16th-century Swiss physician Paracelsus. A truism followed closely by Professor Roger Corder of the William Harvey Research Institute, London. Corder led a study by British scientists that examined the health benefits of wine consumption. ‘Wine drinkers are generally healthier and often live longer; have less heart disease and diabetes, and are less likely to suffer from dementia in old age,’ says Corder, encouragingly, in his book The Wine  Diet (Sphere, 2007).

Corder and his team wanted to get to the bottom of the ‘French paradox’ – the statistical phenomenon of a relatively low level of heart disease in France despite a high level of saturated fat in the diet. He was attracted to further examination of the Gers region of France because it had double the national average of men aged 90 or above, despite it being the home of foie gras, cassoulet, saucisson and cheese. Had he found the home of the real French paradox?

Fit pickers in Maridan. The Gers region of France has double the national average of men aged 90 or above and many believe the local red is to thank

Fit pickers in Maridan. The Gers region of France has double the national average of men aged 90 or above and many believe the local red is to thank.

Yes. In a word. And it was, he concluded, all thanks to the local red wine, Madiran. Corder’s research had revealed that while moderate consumption of red wine was beneficial to health, certain red wines were more beneficial than others. The secret is the amount of procyanidins, a polyphenol thought to protect the blood vessels and thus reduce the risk of heart disease, in the wine and the amount can vary enormously in different wine styles.

‘The best results I’ve had in my laboratory have been from Madiran wines,’ says Corder. ‘These have some of the highest procyanidin levels I’ve encountered, as a result of the local grape variety, tannat, and the traditional long fermentation and maceration.’

Corder says long fermentation and maceration are important wherever the wine is grown, and wine from grapes grown at high altitude and with low yields also score highly. ‘The basic, mass-produced, branded wines generally don’t conform to these criteria and have disappointingly low levels of procyanidins,’ Corder adds. ‘I believe the types of wine that are best for health are those designed to be sipped as an accompaniment to food, not those made for casual quaffing.

‘Madiran is a genuine heart-protecting wine and this is the real French paradox. One small glass of this wine can provide more benefit than two bottles of most Australian wine.’

In a world where wines taste increasingly alike, wines such as Madiran that dare to be different lift the soul and could well be protecting your heart into the bargain.

Our current South by South-West offer features some highlights from the south of France including Madiran Odé d’Aydie 2010, a lovely well-balanced modern example of the tannat grape and a great partner to the south-west’s classic cassoulet. Click here to read Marcel Orford-Williams’ cassoulet recipe

To find out more about the rich panoply of indigenous grapes in France’s south west, read wine writer and former member of The Wine Society’s tasting team Jane Parkinson’s guide here.

A vôtre santé!

This article first appeared in Societynews, The Society’s newsletter.


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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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Tue 15 Apr 2014

Wine Champions 2014: My First Impressions

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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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Thu 10 Apr 2014

A Real Privilege: The Birth of a Wine

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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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