Having joined The Wine Society’s Tastings and Events Team as a relatively fresh faced 24-year-old just over two years ago, it’s become apparent that, at the majority of tastings that I host across the UK , I am more often than not the youngest person there.
Although certainly not the end of the world, it does raise an important question – and one that’s been bouncing around The Society for the last year or so: where is the next generation of Wine Society members going to come from?
There are a number of projects currently in motion at TWS HQ, from the Digital Team through to the Marketing and Buying Teams. All are trying to make sure we offer something for younger wine-drinkers (and female as well as male!).
Generation Wine is my way of trying to shake up The Society through our 150-event-strong calendar which I help put together with the rest of the Tastings Team.
The idea is simple – we’ll be conducting a series of exciting tastings throughout the year that will appeal to younger members.
First up, we’ll be launching our new Generation Wine Walkaround Tastings. My intention for these events is to provide a complete night out as opposed to our more formal ‘standard’ walkaround tastings, which often focus purely on the wine and giving you the perfect environment to taste, smell, observe and discuss.
They’ll take place at a variety of lively venues (such as our May 4th event at Kachette Shoreditch – already sold out, unfortunately – where wood panelling and regal paintings are replaced by bare-brick railway arches and strip lights), and held a bit later in the evening to allow for a more relaxed, party-like atmosphere.
It’s also important to me to showcase the whole range The Society has to offer; not just our fabulous wines but also craft beers and gins sourced by our two newest (and youngest) buyers, Freddy Bulmer and Sarah Knowles MW. Music will play, beer will flow, ties can be removed and we can see how much fun TWS can be. Just don’t be the ones to miss out!
We’ll also be running exciting dining experiences at our Generation Wine Dinners. These will be heldat less formal, quirkier restaurants, with wilder, more esoteric guest speakers, and even a bit of theatre to accompany the meal (we’ll be serving whole suckling pig at Camino and rocking on with Au Bon Climat’s ‘wild man of wine’ himself, Jim Clendenen at the Tramshed, for example).
As always, a selection of wines will be chosen to accompany the meals, but the focus will be on interest and experimentation. Discussion will be encouraged, curiosity demanded and a brilliant night out promised!
Let us know what you think, and indeed any other ideas you have!
Tastings & Events Team
On Saturday 2nd July we welcomed 37 members to The Wine Society to take part in a United States of America tutored tasting hosted by buyer Sarah Knowles MW.
With the sun shining over glorious Stevenage and a list of wines as flashy as Dorothy’s daps we knew we were in for a treat.
The tasting began with a flight of three fascinating chardonnays; firstly the Fess Parker Santa Barbara County Chardonnay 2014 (£13.95), a well-balanced, fruit-forward crowd-pleaser that shows that quality American chardonnay can be found for under £15.
This was followed by the Bergstrom Old Stones Oregon Chardonnay 2013 (£22), a completely different kettle of fish. From cooler-climate Oregon, this is a concentrated style of chardonnay that leaps out of the glass and lingers long on the palate – stylish. The last of the whites was the Ridge Chardonnay 2012 (not currently available), a real haymaker of a wine and the only one of our three to use American oak. Full, rich and intense with a nose reminiscent of caramel and brown sugar this screams out for food but its bodybuilder-esque physique can be easily enjoyed on its own.
I’ve long been preaching the Book of Zin, boasting its vibrant juicy fruit and velvety texture to all who can hear, but it seemed there were some yet to be converted to the dark side on Saturday when confronted with three zinfandels. The first two, The Society’s California Old-Vine Zinfandel (£7.50) and the Ravenswood Lodi Old-Vine Zinfandel (£8.95) are very much in the ‘American mould’ of Zin making – big, bold fruit with alcohol just a shade below 15%.
The third, the Broc Vine Starr Sonoma County Zinfandel 2014 (not currently available), is produced by Chris Brockway in his garage (seriously) but tasted more like it comes from a fancy estate in the northern Rhône with its peppery, syrah-like nose and elegant if slightly funky (due to being fermented with wild yeast) palate which, along with the other two, helped convert many to zinfandel and its varying styles.
Pinot noir was up next – Pedroncelli (£10.50) from the Russian River valley, Lemelson’s Thea’s Selection (£19.50) from the Willamette Valley and the Au Bon Climat from the Sanford and Benedict vineyard, Santa Barbara (not currently available).
This was another extremely interesting flight showing three distinct styles – the first being ripe, round, generous and affordable – another marvellous example of top-quality Californian wine that doesn’t break the bank! The Lemelson on the other hand is elegant and sappy with plenty of cherry and redcurrant flavour, great with food or on its own, and the third an example of Californian pinot at its absolute best. As with all Au Bon Climat pinot it was beautifully balanced with Burgundian leather and truffle savouriness supported by fine tannin and underlying red fruit.
To finish, we were treated to a trio of cabernets – an affordable, Bordeaux-styled blend from Sagemoor Farms Vineyard (£14.50) in the Columbia Valley, alongside a big, sophisticated and juicy Silver Oak Alexander Valley Cabernet (£65) packed with intense cassis, blackcurrant and vanilla oak, a great example of American cabernet that opened up beautifully after a few hours’ breathing.
The final wine, taken from our Tastings Vintage stock, was a Ridge Monte Bello from 1995 – a real treat and one that drew a few gasps from those attending upon it being revealed. Despite being 21 years old it was still youthful and just starting to show the cedar and pencil-shaving charm that top-quality cabernet can give, alongside softened tannins and added ripeness expected from California – a truly stunning wine that was a fitting end to what was a fascinating and well-received workshop.
Tastings & Events Host
Our programme of tastings and events for the rest of 2016 has just been published! View the calendar and book your tickets here
The Wine Society’s Tastings & Events programme offers a wide range of events throughout the year across the United Kingdom and also in Montreuil.
Our aim is to bring The Wine Society to our membership and provide a series of both formal and informal tastings where those attending can sample an array of wines in an atmosphere that suits them.
Whether this is a relaxed walk-around tasting at a large venue, an intimate tutored tasting with some of the biggest names in the wine trade or an informative dinner here in Stevenage there will always be something for you to enjoy no matter what your level of wine knowledge.
Check out these videos that give you an insight into both our team and our events. You can find out what’s coming up here - we look forward to welcoming you!
Tastings & Events Team
For many, Christmas is a time of joy, happiness and late-night panic buying. For the little elves in the Tastings Team, however, tucked away in a little corner of The Wine Society it is time to tackle the nightmare before Christmas of food and wine matching.
As with previous years, we arranged a series of informal tastings across the country dedicated to Christmas food and wine. This time, it was a chance for me to put together a list of 20 wines that I believe to be ideal for any Christmas situation; from light, easy-drinking party wines to lusciously sweet/fortified wines for the quiet moments once everyone has gone to bed.
On Monday 24th and Tuesday 25th November, I was joined by my fellow Tastings colleague Jon Granger in Leicester and Bradford in order to showcase these wines for a number of members. For those that have been to a Wine Society tasting of a similar theme before you will know that at the end of the evening we like to take a quick vote in order to ascertain the favourite wines of the evening.
For the Christmas Recipe Tastings, however, I decided to break up the voting into the five separate categories. By doing this, my ‘20 best wines for Christmas’ became your ‘Wine Society Member Top 5 Christmas Essentials’.
Here were the results from both days:
Leicester AND Braford: Nyetimber Brut Classic Cuveé 2009 (£27.50 per bottle)
Leicester: Saint-Chinian, Domaine Raynier 2013 (£5.95 per bottle)
Bradford: Duo Des Deux Mers, Sauvignon-Viognier Vin de France 2013 (£6.25 per bottle)
Leicester AND Bradford: Domaine Cordier, Pouilly-Fuissé Vers Pouilly 2011 (£25 per bottle)
Boxing Day and Beyond
Leicester: The Society’s Exhibition Rioja Reserva 2007 (£13.95 per bottle)
Bradford: Ockfen Bockstein Riesling Kabinett, Von Kesselstatt 2013 (£12.95 per bottle)
Special mention should be given to both the Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Domaine Du Vieux Lazaret 2011 (£17.50 per bottle and £9.50 per half bottle) and the half bottle of Stanton and Killeen Rutherglen Muscat, 12 years old (£16 per bottle) that both came to within two votes on both evenings!
Following this, it was up to Tastings & Events manager Simon Mason and Tastings & Events co-ordinator Emma Briffett to take the reins in Reading and Swansea on the 1st and 2nd of December respectively. Amazingly, both evenings shared the same result as Bradford a week previous!
So, it would seem that no Wine Society Members Christmas Holiday period is complete without:
• Nyetimber Brut Classic Cuveé 2009 (£27.50 per bottle)
• Duo Des Deux Mers, Sauvignon-Viognier Vin de France 2013 (£6.25 per bottle)
• Domaine Cordier, Pouilly-Fuissé Vers Pouilly 2011 (£25 per bottle)
• Ockfen Bockstein Riesling Kabinett, Von Kesselstatt 2013 (£12.95 per bottle)
• Maydie Tannat 2011, 50cl (£13.95 per bottle)
Tastings & Events Team