Other Europe

There’d be some real, actual blood as well, but what I’m trying to say is that I really like riesling.

Characterful, versatile and downright delicious, it’s the grape that everyone says they don’t like before they actually try it, and this gorgeous example – recommended to me by fellow copywriter compadre Martin Brown – has converted plenty of naysayers recently.

Louis Guntrum Dry Riesling 2016

Bursting with mouthwatering lime, pear and gooseberry flavours, it manages to achieve bracing freshness, while not subjecting the roof of your mouth to that mouthpuckering post-peardrop tenderness that other particularly acidic wines can. A lean, mean mineral seam conjures the breeziness of the Rhein which, incidentally runs through the heart of the Guntrum’s beautiful vineyards.

Back in February, we were lucky enough to be joined for a guest tasting by owner Konstantin Guntrum, whose infectious enthusiasm and obvious passion was as vibrant and life-affirming as the wines themselves.

More interesting than sauvignon blanc, less divisive than chardonnay, this is the perfect bottle to enjoy with friends as summer draws to a close.

Rosie Allen
Content Creator & Editor

£8.95 bottle
£53.50 case of six
View wine details

Find a full archive of Staff Choices on our website here

Categories : Germany, Other Europe
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It is with great sadness that we learned of the death of Greek winemaker Haridimos Hatzidakis this weekend. Sebastian Payne MW, buyer for Greek wines, had met Haridimos a number of times and pays tribute below.

Haridimos Hatzidakis, who sadly took his own life on 11th August, was one of the most original, engaging and inspirational winemakers I have had the good fortune to know. Each time we met it seemed he had embarked on a new challenge.

Carving his new cellar from tufa out of a Santorini hillside covered in vines, was one of his more ambitious schemes. Exploring all the possibilities of the island’s marvellous native grapes was his passion.

Originally from Crete, he became, because of his talent, winemaker for the major wine producer Boutari, but from 1996 he set up on his own on the island of Santorini, working originally from a tiny cramped cave winery just outside Pyrgos, the highest village in the island.

He had only a few hectares of his own but was able to lease four hectares of land with some amazing century-old vines from the monks of Patmos and also from vineyards owned by a local nunnery of the prophet Elijah.

All his vines were cultivated sustainably, without pesticides, herbicides or irrigation, the humidity from sea breezes providing just enough moisture for the vines trained close to the ground in unique bird’s nest shape.

He never made his life easy, but the popularity of his main estate white assyrtiko, and the reputation he earned for his old-vine Mylos were truly deserved.

Over the last decade he had been achieving increasingly exciting results from mavrotragano, the native red grape, which had almost become extinct till he championed it. His new cellar was home to an exotic range of wines he worked on such as bullseye (voudomato), aidani, and the late-harvested Nykteri and Vin Santo.

All his wines were memorable and exciting to taste and will ensure he will not be forgotten. I shall particularly remember the twinkle in his eye when he stood in his beloved vineyards talking about wine, grapes and the soil. He was at his happiest connecting with the earth.

Our condolences to Haridimos’ family.

Sebastian Payne MW
Society Buyer

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Fri 07 Jul 2017

The Society’s Big Night Out!

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The annual International Wine Challenge Awards Dinner at London’s Hilton on Park Lane is always a glitzy affair, with the great and the good of the world’s wine trade coming together to celebrate the best in wine and sake.

Society CEO Robin McMillan receiving the IWC Wine Club of the Year award from IWC Co-Chair Peter McCombie MW

We always know how The Society is doing in the eyes of you, the members, because you’re always so generous with your feedback, whether positive or constructive. That’s what drives us and is the very essence of what we are about – The Society is, after all, its members – but it’s always rewarding when we receive third party endorsement, especially from our peers in the trade.

Last night was the night when the IWC gives out its coveted UK Merchant of the Year awards. The Society was shortlisted for six 2017 awards, so it was with anticipation and excitement that six from The Society (CEO Robin McMillan, buyer Marcel Orford Williams, campaign manager Vicki Markham, Member Services co-ordinator Tracy Richardson, buying administrator Sarah MacCormack and PR manager Ewan Murray) joined over 600 wine trade colleagues.

And we weren’t disappointed! Being shortlisted is already an achievement, but winning is the icing on the cake!

We have a proud history of winning Wine Club of the Year and so were very pleased to continue this tradition. Another award we retained was that of Specialist Merchant for Regional France (Alsace, Beaujolais, Corsica, Jura, Provence, Savoie, South West France and other lesser known nooks & crannies). It was also very special to regain the Specialist Merchant for Portugal crown. Congratulations to our buyers Jo Locke (Alsace & Portugal), Toby Morrhall (Beaujolais until May this year) and Marcel Orford Williams (the rest!).

While there is a lot of work behind the scenes all year round from all 220 Society staff to get things right, it’s really all down to you, the members, who keep on drinking , and appreciating the quality and value for money of, the wines we discover for you. There are so many merchants and channels to choose from when buying wine – we thank you for your loyalty, and look forward to continuing the good work together!

Ewan Murray
PR Manager

Fri 19 May 2017

Rating The Range: Your Recent Highlights

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You’ve been busy! It has been great seeing so many Society members sharing their thoughts on wines they’ve ordered recently.

Eager to spread the love and (hopefully) put you on to something new to enjoy, we couldn’t resist sharing a few recent reviews, all of which were accompanied by 5-star ratings from your fellow members.

Five-star wines

Help other members by rating and reviewing any wines you’ve purchased from your Society via My Wines.

Teroldego Rotaliano Riserva, Mezzacorona 2012
£8.25 per bottle
“This wine really is very good, and it’s quite astounding value given the price. I have tasted inferior wines that cost double the price. I ordered this as one of our wedding wines last summer, and all our guests were raving about it. I still have a few bottles left that are drinking very well. I will be ordering more when I run out.” – Mr Lawrence Sorrentino

The Society’s Exhibition Alto Maipo Cabernet Sauvignon 2012
£13.50 per bottle
“I’m still working my way through mixed cases to learn what I like but this bottle went straight to the top of the favourites list. Delicious from the moment it was opened. Perfect round mouthful of loveliness. I just can’t believe that my non wine drinking husband used half of the second bottle in a sausage casserole. It was a very good casserole!” – Mrs Shirley White

Adega de Pegões Colheita Seleccionada, Península de Setúbal 2015
£7.25 per bottle

PW5731

“I have bought every vintage since 2012 and I think this one is the best so far. There is a complexity to it, with a great creamy texture and finish, and at this price, it is an absolute bargain. Keep it coming……” – Mr John E Curtis

Grignan-les-Adhémar, Delas 2015
£7.25 per bottle

RH43541

Gorgeous, far better than a glugable red at a ludicrously low price. Served with a rack of lamb, it went down a treat and I got the somewhat undeserved plaudits. Totally recommendable from a top Rhone producer!!” – Soorat Singh Esq

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VINEYARD

Until recently, German wine had an image problem.

Not for those in the know of course; savvy drinkers have been stashing their cellars full of fragrant riesling and pinot noir for decades, while many of us had been too busy having new world love affairs to notice.

And that’s the problem; to the average supermarket-buying booze-hound, the region continues to conjure images of weissbeer, pilsner and, less deliciously, Blue Nun. Fruity, full-on New Zealand sauvignons and Italian pinot grigios have been filling our baskets while Germany’s gems have been left languishing on the shelves.

One man who knows this all-too-well is Konstantin Guntrum, owner of legendary winemaking dynasty, Louis Guntrum. His family have been growing grapes on the left bank of the Rhein since 1648, before marauding French catholic occupying forces compelled them to flee to the Left side of the Rhein in 1792. It took nearly a century for the Guntrum family to get back to their homeland, buying up vineyards and wineries in Nierstein and Oppenheim where they remain to this day. Today, and 11 winemaking generations on, the dynasty continues to thrive, making award-winning riesling, pinot noirs and sweet wines. The next challenge? Switching today’s discerning young wine-lovers onto the aromatic delights of Germany’s sweeter wines.

Konstantin GuntrumKonstantin dropped by The Society to give us a quick lesson in history, food matching and to share his phenomenal German wines.

1. German sweet wine is great for tough-to-match food Cheese and German sweet wines go together like Bogart and Bacall, the nectar-like qualities of Auslese or Kabinett perfectly offsetting sharp, savoury cheeses.  Fiery foods also make a great match. As Konstantin says ‘eat something hot and try to wash it down with a fruity red and…well, have fun with that! It’s like putting fuel on the flames’. Sweet wines however counteract spiciness, in turn knocking any over-sweet edges from the wine.  Puddings also apply here, so try a ‘riesling Kabinett’ which is made without additional sugar to perfectly balance the sweetness.

2. Grauburgunder is known as pinot grigio in Italy and pinot gris in France. The 2015 vintage of grauburgunder is especially delicious, a combination of baking summer days which add a tropical fragrance and cool nights which lend refreshing acidity to the fruit. This acidity also acts as a natural preserving agent, so the wine will get even better with age.

Guntrum Wines

3. Weissburgunder is better known as pinot blanc and German examples display lively floral flavours. This slightly sweet style fell out of favour in the latter-half of the 1980s following its 1970s heyday but is gaining in popularity again. Modern examples show perfectly balanced sweetness and freshness, so give it a try if you’re looking for a delicious conversation-starter.

4. Chilled German reds such as dornfelder make great summer barbecue wines. With cherry, cranberry and herbal notes, dornfelder is light and fresh but has enough body to take on boldly savoury flavours of bangers, burgers and other British summertime staples.

 

Find Louis Guntrum wines on our website here

Categories : Germany, Wine Tastings
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Fri 06 Jan 2017

Staff Choice: Martin’s Budget Portuguese Pick

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Having spent my wine budget rather lustily during the Christmas period, I’m looking for maximum bang for buck from any New Year indulgences.

Thankfully, this under-£7 Portuguese white ticks all the boxes. It was one of the stars of my visit to Portugal with Society buyer Jo Locke MW last year; and it’s a testament to its quality that it can shine every bit as brightly in a grey Hertfordshire January as it did in front of the sun-soaked vista of Esporão’s tasting room!

The view at Herdade do Esporão in the Alentejo

You can find a full archive of Staff Choices on our website here.

Esporão Monte Velho, Alentejo 2015

Esporão Monte Velho, Alentejo 2015

This blend of local grapes (roupeiro, antão vaz and perrum) is the top seller in its price bracket on the Portuguese market, and winemaker David Baverstock hit the nail on the head at our tasting when he said it offers ‘a lot of sophistication for a big-blend wine from a hot climate’.

Esporão’s winemaker David Baverstock showing buyer Jo Locke MW the day’s harvest during our visit in September

The ripe 2015 vintage offers a little extra generosity of body, citrus fruit and even some leafy complexity too, making this the perfect opportunity to try it.

This is no one-dimensional summer quaffer, but really quite a refined foodie white that will work well for wintry sipping too, and I hope you like it as much as I do!

£6.95 – Bottle
£41.50 – Case of six
View Wine Details

Categories : Other Europe, Portugal
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Tue 25 Oct 2016

Remembering Annegret Reh-Gartner

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Annegret Reh-Gartner, who died this October aged 61, will be sorely missed by all who knew her. Her sense of responsibility, hard work ethic and determination may have been inherited from her father, but I shall chiefly remember her warmth, sense of humour and disarming honesty.

Annegret Reh-Gartner

Annegret Reh-Gartner

Tasting the new vintage in her company at the von Kesselstatt winery in Morscheid was always a joy. The wines were nearly always exciting and beautifully made, but she was the first to admit with humility if one was not a complete success.

Gunther Reh, her father, had bought the historic von Kesselstatt estate and vineyards (with the help of profits from his Sekt business) when it was an almost unmanageable 100 and more hectares with vines and cellars scattered throughout the Mosel and its tributaries. It was Annegret, who had the vision to concentrate her efforts on 36 hectares of its top Mosel-Saar-Ruwer sites, determined only to make top-quality wines.

These include Josephshöfer in Graach, a good chunk of the heart of the great Piesporter Goldtröpfchen amphitheatre, Brauneberger Juffer-Sonnenühr, Scharzhofberger, Ockfener Bockstein and Wiltinger Braunfels in the Saar, and Kaseler Nies’chen in the Ruwer. Each has its own distinct personality and stamp of real quality which made those tastings such a pleasure.

Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt

Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt

We were able to draw on these Saar vineyards and also the excellent underrated Niedermenniger Herrenberg for The Society’s Saar Riesling.

Though she and her Michelin-starred chef husband Gerhard had no children of their own, Annegret, as the eldest of Gunther Reh’s children was the one all the others often turned to. Her care and concern for her family, the people who worked for her and her customers was deeply felt and evident.

Her last vintage, 2015, is looking wonderful and will be a living testament to her work that we shall continue to enjoy for many years, because rieslings of this calibre age so well. But when I drink them I shall specially remember Annegret herself, her infectious laugh and warm heart.

Sebastian Payne MW
Society Buyer

Categories : Germany, Other Europe
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Wed 13 Jul 2016

The Art of the Summer ‘Lunch Wine’

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Conrad Braganza invites us to do lunch with his favourite warm-weather white wines from our Cellar Showroom.

There is something decadent and delightful about drinking wine with lunch on a summer’s day. But to negate the necessity for an afternoon nap when chores still demand my attention, I tend to choose a lighter style of white wine with a modest alcohol level.

Lunch white wine

Here are some of my favourite lunchtime liveners from around the world. Do feel free to suggest your own in the comments!

• Austrian grüner veltliner can offer fruit and spice in a food-friendly package.
The Society’s Grüner Veltliner (£7.50) has been welcomed with open arms by our members and sailed through the 2016 Wine Champions tastings. Pepp Wienviertel Grüner Veltliner 2015 (£7.25) hits the spot well too.

• Australian semillon can work wonders on its own or with food.
The exclusive 88 Growers (£7.25) clocks in at just 11% alcohol and brings a zesty note to the grape’s classic greengage flavours.

• England offers a wealth of lower-alcohol choices thanks to our cooler climate.
For a floral, lychee-infused tipple that’d be perfect with chilli chicken skewers, try Three Choirs Stone Brook 2014 (£7.95). For something a little drier, Chapel Down Bacchus 2014 (11.50) is well worth the extra outlay, offering a flinty, mineral and crisp style with some sauvignon-esque flavours that would stand up very well to a goat’s cheese tart.

• Germany’s lower alcohol levels are well known, and the wines are as versatile as they are delicious.
The off-dry Ruppertsberger Hoheburg Riesling Kabinett 2015 (£6.50) is a great sipper but is also suitable for spicier food. Alternatively there is von Kesselstatt’s charming and appealing Piesporter Goldtröpfchen Spätlese 2013 (£16), which comes from a great producer and a world-class vineyard.

• Greece is a source of delicate, clean and crisp wines that go brilliantly with (dare I say it) Greek salad.
A great-value current favourite is the dry and gentle Ionos (£6.50).

• Vinho Verde is a wine made for lunch!
Fashionable again, and for good reason, these wines are fresh and dry but also aromatic and spot-hitting (and perfect with a bowl of prawns, as I found out on a recent trip to Portugal!). In the 2015 vintage, The Society’s Vinho Verde (£5.95) has never looked better, whilst Muros Antigos (£7.95) from Anselmo Mendes proves why he’s one of the region’s top growers at a friendly price.

Conrad Braganza
The Cellar Showroom

Thu 09 Jun 2016

Austria: Buyer’s Update From VieVinum

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Every two years, the winemakers of Austria descend on Vienna’s spectacular Hofburg Imperial Palace to host the country’s largest wine fair, VieVinum.

The Hofburg Imperial Palace, Vienna, Austria

Superbly managed by the Austrian Wine Marketing Board, this biannual event sees a convergence of the world’s wine trade, packing out the hotels, the wine fair and the local watering holes!

This year’s highlights included a tasting that showcased the ageing potential of Austrian wines. This line-up proved in some style that fine grüner veltliner, while precise and fresh when young, can age and develop complex layers (such as honeyed almond, peach and flint). Less surprisingly, but nonetheless also often overlooked, were wonderful older examples of Austrian riesling and blaufränkisch on show. A seminar devoted to Austria’s ‘elements of uniqueness’ reminded us of the wide range of native grape varieties, the diversity of appropriate landscapes and the food-friendly nature of the wines.

Vievinum 2016 The Great Salon Vertical Tasting

Proving too that the Austrians know how to party, a get-together for all the international visitors was held on the Saturday in another distinctive Viennese venue, this time in the Museum Quarter, showcasing local food and wine pairings and introducing us all to the new sustainability programme that the Austrian wine sector are now committed to.

Vievinum 2016 Hofburg tasting

VieVinum is without doubt one of the best-run and most focused international tastings, educating, entertaining and enabling buyers from across the world in equal measure.

I was spoilt for choice with the universally high quality and wide diversity of the wines on show.

I hope you enjoy a few of my favourites in the upcoming Austrian Shortlist and in future Fine Wine selections.

Sarah Knowles MW
Society Buyer

Visit Travels In Wine for more news from Austria

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Janet Wynne Evans gets into hock without breaking the bank…

Janet Wynne Evans

Janet Wynne Evans

What could be better than a classy bottle and a meal that cost next to nothing – apart perhaps from the sterling advice that it doesn’t really work the other way round?

Should you be tempted by our current crop of German wines, here’s a recipe to bring some joy to plate, palate and domestic balance of payments.

It involves that most Germanic of ingredients, ham, a riesling soulmate if ever there was one. The racy acidity of the grape offsets saturated fat while the roundness underlying even in the trockens soothes salinity. And the nobility of the fruit counters the pigsty so elegantly.

But let it also be said that a supple German pinot noir with a thick slice of baked ham is an Ode to Joy in itself.

A ham hock weighing a generous kilo will set you back little more than a couple of your hard-earned sovereigns. Slowly baked in the oven on a rhythm-section of onions, herbs and spices, it will feed four people adequately, or two very generously, with scrumptious leftovers. The cooking juices and not-quite-spent veggies make a superb sauce or can be blended into soup fit for a king, with shreds of the ham and a few pulses thrown in. The meat itself makes hearty terrines and well as peerless sandwiches.

When meat is this cheap, some other kind of investment is needed. Here, it’s time and, by extension, the cost of a longish tour of duty, albeit at low wattage, for your trusty oven. Even so, this meal is belting good value. It’s a much better destination than a food waste bin for unprepossessing bits of vegetable: the unglamorous outer leaves of fennel bulbs, slightly elderly celery sticks, the too-green bits of leek you’re always advised to discard. Any superannuated wine, cider or ale you happen to have around can be pressed into service too.

ham hock recipe

You can boil ham hocks for lipsmacking flavour and pleasing, pull-apart texture, though not photogenic beauty, which this baked version has in abundance. During the cooking, the flavoursome fat renders into the meat, rather than being lost in cooking water. A final blast of hot air gives them a beautiful burnished glow, and – praise be! – crackling!

Don’t try to make the recipe below on impulse. Snap up your hocks, vacuum-packed for extra shelf-life, or store them in the freezer. ready for a call to action. The impending arrival of a Wine Society van, for instance.

Janet Wynne Evans
Fine Wine Editor

BAKED AND ROASTED HAM HOCK WITH BEANS AND ONION SAUCE
One hock will serve 4 – but why not cook two for safety and leftovers?

• 1 or 2 unsmoked ham hocks, skin on about 1.2kg each
• 3-4 onions, or a combination of onions, fennel and leeks, roughly wedged or chunked, enough to cover the base of the dish
• A small bunch of sage leaves, washed and dried
• 2 bay leaves, fresh or dried
• 2-3 star anise
• 1 teaspoon of whole white peppercorns
• 100ml dry or medium cider or white wine
• 2 x 400g cans or jars white, butter or cannellini beans or flageolets, drained
• Salt and freshly ground pepper, white or black
• A small bunch of fresh parsley, leaves only, not too finely chopped (put the stalks under the ham before it goes into the oven).
• A pinch of mustard powder (optional)

Ideally, soak your ham in cold water the night before to remove excess salt. If you are seized by impulsiveness, a quick cheat is to cover your joint with cold water in a large pan and bring slowly to the boil. Once the water begins to bubble gently, pour it away and rinse the joint thoroughly in fresh water. In both cases, dry it thoroughly with kitchen paper.

Now score the rind all over with fine lines, close together. This is a simple task provided you have a Stanley knife, the point of which does the job admirably without cutting too deeply into the fat.

Preheat the oven to 150C/Gas 2 and choose a deepish roasting tin or ovenproof dish that comes with a lid.

Line the bottom of the tin with the vegetables, herbs and spices.

Stand the ham on top, and pour over the wine or cider. Grind in a generous amount of black pepper. Cover and bake for between three and four hours, or until really tender, basting from time to time with the juices. Add a little more liquid if necessary.

Remove from the oven and increase the temperature to 220C/Gas 7.

Transfer the ham onto a platter and carefully pour the juices and vegetables into a clean pan. Fish out the bay leaves and star anise. If you have a stick blender, use this to puree the vegetables into a thickish sauce. If not, cool them slightly and use a blender or food processor. A mouli, or vegetable sieve will also work and if none of these is to hand, simply chop the vegetables for a pleasantly chunky effect. Season and add a judicious pinch of your favourite mustard if you like.

Put the ham back in the tin, scored side up. Rub a little salt into the skin and return to the oven for about 25 minutes or a little longer if the crackling is elusive.

Add the drained beans to the onion sauce and heat through gently on the hob. Sprinkle abundantly with the parsley and keep warm.

Transfer the ham to a board and carve into thick slices or let it fall into shreds.

Serve in rustic fashion with the beans and provide contrast with a short, sharp, crunchy salad, dressed with mustard vinaigrette.

Categories : Germany, Other Europe
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