The Society in the Press
Every year the inimitable Oz Clarke takes time out from his hectic schedule of projects, media appearances, wine region trips and tastings to work his way personally through thousands of wines sent to him by UK wine merchants. As ever, we are delighted to have several Society wines mentioned in the 2012 edition of Oz Clarke’s 250 Best Wines. Here are eight of our wines that found their way on to his palate and into his heart.
2010 Bordeaux Blanc, Château Bel Air Perponcher (Vignobles Despagne), Bordeaux, France, 12.5% abv The Wine Society, £8.50. At this price level, Bordeaux makes better whites than reds. In fact, it makes much better whites, especially in the hands of an expert like M. Despagne. This has a come-hither green apple and greengage flavour, just streaked with passionfruit and grapefruit, but the texture remains gentle while the flavours are unashamedly green.
2010 Garnacha, Calatayud, Cruz de Piedra (Bodega Virgen de la Sierra co-op), Aragón, Spain, 14% abv The Wine Society, £5.50 If anyone asks where to find the juiciest, chunkiest, most rip-roaring red wine mouthful in Europe, I tell them to look out for Garnacha from eastern Spain. This is a gorgeous drink, bubbling with red cherry and bright raspberry and strawberry fruit, scratched affectionately with wild herbs, rubbed solicitously with smooth, warm, hillside stones. Top glugging stuff.
2009 Shiraz-Viognier, Douglas Green, Western Cape, South Africa, 14% abv The Wine Society, £5.50 (NB we’re now on the 2010) I’m continually puzzled as to why we don’t see more examples of ripe, enjoyable, affordable reds from South Africa, so well done the Wine Society for sourcing this one, with its ripe blackberry and black plum fruit, its dab of exotic peach flesh, its trail of smoke and intriguing suggestion of orange scent.
2009 Tempranillo, Sabina, Navarra, Spain, 13% abv Booths, £5.25, The Wine Society, £4.95 (NB We’re now on the 2010) Navarra makes wines that stretch from the positively light and delicate to big brawny beasts. This is definitely towards the brawny end of the spectrum, but enjoyably so. It is a bit baked, but is balanced with attractive jammy dark fruit and a richness like Gale’s honey dribbled on to buttered toast. Bring on the casserole.
NV The Society’s Champagne Brut, Private Cuvée, Alfred Gratien, France, 12.5% abv The Wine Society, £26 I’m often asked who my favourite Champagne producer is, and if I had to average out the last 20 years, I might well put the small but perfectly formed house of Alfred Gratien at the top. They don’t make much, but they’ve had a long-standing agreement to make a special blend for the Wine Society, and year by year it delivers triumphantly. This is still young – you can age Alfred Gratien non-vintage for 5–10 years – but it has loads of class and character. The wine positively foams and has a warm, full flavour of baked Bramley apples wrapped in a richness of flaky butter croissants, crème fraîche and nut syrup. That may sound sweet, but it isn’t, and it’s all tied tightly together by the acidity of Bramley skins and twisted lemon zest.
Amontillado Maribel, Sánchez Romate, Spain, 19% abv?The Wine Society, £7.95 The quality of their Sherries alone would be an excellent reason to join the Wine Society. They regularly ship tiny amounts of thrilling old Sherries virtually drawn by hand from the barrels by their buying team. Last Christmas I tasted two simply stunning 40-year-old Sherries they had discovered – they only bottled 240 half bottles: such wine had never been sold before, it will never be sold again, but they’ll find something else just as good. This brilliant Amontillado is their regular stuff. It’s as classic an example as you’ll find anywhere – and it’s less than £8 a bottle. A gorgeous ‘childhood memories’ smell of buttered brazil caramels, the scent of old leather, dried-out figs and prunes, the ground dust of hazelnut shells and a strange, brilliant, bitter-edged syrupiness that has had all the sweetness sucked out of it by a Dyson Airblade.
The Society’s Fino, Sánchez Romate, Spain, 15% abv The Wine Society, £5.95 An excellent example of the Wine Society’s sherry – and simply outstanding value for money. Fino sherry is bone dry, but a little fuller than manzanilla, a little fatter, even, but it still has that marvellous tangy dryness which makes it such a good appetizer, that almost slightly sour green apple peel acidity and the strange soft-sourness of yeasty bread dough – rather like a malty mixed grain bread in the making. There’s also a taste of roasted almonds – and roasted almonds would be the perfect accompaniment.
The Wine Gang consists of five of the UK’s most respected wine critics, namely (from left to right below): Tom Cannavan, Jane Parkinson (formerly of this parish!), Anthony Rose, Joanna Simon and David Williams. To learn more or to subscribe to their excellent wine review website, click on the link above.
Last month they attended our biannual press tasting of new wines to our list, and below are the top 10 highest scoring wines they tasted.
“Once again, The Wine Society cements its reputation as a retailer capable of finding interesting, good quality and diverse (both in flavour and price) wines. ”
A pointed and alert, aromatic and white pepper-spiced Sancerre from Chêne Marchand, a well-respected vineyard in Sancerre. Crisp, tight and grassy on the palate with searing acidity and a long zesty finish. 90/100 £16.50
A delightfully surprising Semillon from South Africa, not a country hugely known for this variety. A fine bouquet of nettles with a hint of mint, and on the palate a honey and nutty flavours all knit together beautifully giving it a nice round texture as well as freshness. 90/100 £6.95
This represents the generic white Burgundy territory admirably. A handsome wine that’s bright, waxy and creamy with a hint of smoked cheese on the nose. More smokiness on the palate with good texture, weight, just finishing a little shy on the finish for the price, though. 89/100 £18.00
A surprising treat of a wine from the Sicilian slopes of Mount Etna. A delicious blend of native grapes Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Capuccio, this has a seductive beautiful ripe, dense, pure cherry nose, coated in elegant tannins and a long, leathery finish. Both an interesting and fantastic wine. 92/100 £22.00
Inky, dark purple hue with a pure blackcurrant compot intensity on the nose from the Terroir Hunter (T.H.) range which searches out very specific planting spots. The dense palate is rich with blackcurrant and blackberry fruit. A pretty serious showing for Chile’s Carignan’s potential. A blockbuster heavy bottle, though. 91/100 £11.50
Bring back the nearly extinct Susummaniello grape if this is how it performs! A surprising charmer of a wine, this has a sticky black-bean-coated Chinese duck dish aroma that turns exotic and aromatic, full of spice and star anise. Fresh acidity and easy tannins support the savoury, smoky and spicy palate. 91/100 £9.95
Big on leathery, developed aromas, this 2004 has now opened up to a wonderfully seductive and fragrant charm, showing figs and dates but also a hint of blackberry. Fresh acidity with a fleshy, meaty palate character and fine tannins. 90/100 £20.00
Bright plum aromas that seem youthful for its age. This has a good, firm texture with a creamy edge, solid tannins and savoury, herbal palate. A surprising and very welcome lesson in how South Africa can challenge the Loire on good, fresh Cabernet Franc wines. 89/100 £13.95
The Palomino grape shows its true worth here with this exciting and delicious exclusive bottling from the Society. Coming from an Almacenista that specialises in Palo Cortado Sherries, this is elegant with saltiness and a fine nutty backbone. 92/100 £20.00 (37.5cl)
A steal of a Sherry thanks to its nutty, toasty, marmalade glory. Dry and bold on the palate with those nutty, salty layers combining beautifully. 90/100 £7.50
I was delighted to receive on behalf of The Society the National Retailer Award in the 2011 Portuguese Wine Awards, for the second time in three years. I would like to take this opportunity to thank our members for making this possible and for their continued support.
The Society, with the excellent support of ViniPortugal, was one of the first UK wine merchants to discover the new generation of Portuguese growers behind this welcome resurgence and to promote their wines. Each year our range continues to expand and diversify. We have only been able to do this thanks to the high number of members who follow our recommendations and buy these delicious wines.
It is a real pleasure to have been able to bring these wines to a wider audience in recent years, through offers dedicated to Portuguese wines (the latest closes tomorrow!) and through our highly successful tasting of Portuguese wines in London last November, which attracted over 300 Wine Society members. More and more members are enjoying Portuguese wines, and there will be more new wines to look out for over the coming year.
So, thank you for your support. There will be more new wines to look out for over the coming year.
We’re on a roll with Jancis Robinson as she includes the following wines in her top 40 fortified and sweet wines for Christmas.
Sánchez Romate, Fino Perdido NV Very pale tawny. Chock full of character. Really light, dry and zesty. Screwcap with señorita label. £7.95 for 75 cl The Wine Society
Sánchez Romate, Cayetano del Pino Palo Cortado NV Obviously very old and super tangy. Lots to lose yourself in here though overall much more delicate than most Palo Cortados. Seriously interesting. £17 for 37.5 cl The Wine Society
Royal Tokaji, Late Harvest 2008 Tokaji The painless way to enjoy Hungary’s most famous wine. A super-fruity blend of the three Tokaji grapes: the great Furmint, Hárslevelu and Yellow Muscat. Shows the freshness that defines Tokaji without any of the complication. Super clean. £10.95 for 37.5 cl The Wine Society
Ch La Tour Blanche 2003 Sauternes Really luscious for drinking now. So big and round and unctuous. Yet it’s saved from flab by its structure. There’s a beginning, middle and end to this wine with some very agreeable toastiness in the undertow. Great stuff. Enjoy it while you may. £37 The Wine Society
Ch de Fesles 2005 Bonnezeaux Mid gold from the mid Loire. Nutty start and then beautiful, contained sweetness with a savoury streak. Impossible to spit. Great intensity with a hint of dill pickle. So long, so complete. Lovely already yet I’m sure it will last beautifully. £29 per 50 cl The Wine Society
Jancis Robinson, in her 75 sure-fire whites, includes the following seven Society wines:
Léon Beyer Sylvaner 2009 Alsace Steely and lively. Very firm and dry. Real earthiness: proper Sylvaner character. 12% £7.95
Tahbilk Marsanne 2008 Nagambie Lakes Unusual full-bodied Australian classic from one of the oldest Victorian wineries. Rich start. Lots of gummy personality (Marsanne is a northern Rhône grape). Lots to get your teeth into. Taste history! 13.5% £9.50
La Réméjeanne, Les Arbousiers 2009 Côtes du Rhône Very interesting nose – quite complex with medicinal herbs in the ascendant. Rich start and then layers with a certain oiliness but it’s not, overall, heavy. Definitely a fair price for a handmade wine. 14% £10.95
Dom J & N Saumaize, En Crêches 2008 St-Véran One of those Mâconnais wines that producers of much more expensive white wines on the much smarter Côte d’Or should be forced to taste and marvel at. £11.50
Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt, Piesporter Goldtröpfchen Riesling Kabinett 2009 Mosel Great value for such a sophisticated wine that arrives somehow in a cloud of complexity and depth. Smoky and with real tingle. Full of Mosel fruit. Just 8.5% £12.50
Millton Te Arai Vineyard Chenin Blanc 2007 Biodynamic. Smells like the honey and damp straw of proper Chenin. Thrillingly authentic and buzzing with life. Super clean but really interesting off-dry stuff. 12% £12.95
Grosset, Springvale Watervale Riesling 2009 Clare Valley Herbs and grass on the nose – much more open than the 2010. Open and easy and more relaxed than the Polish Hill 2009. A good choice for current drinking. Lemon and lime on the end. 12.5% £21
Her rather excellent website, www.jancisrobinson.com, is jam-packed full of fascinating articles, news and tasting notes. Some is free-to-view, other areas require a subscription which, in our view, is well worth it for anyone who wants to do more than simply scratch the surface of the wine world.
Her recent ’100 sure-fire reds’ including the following 15 wines from The Society.
Quinta do Rigodeira Baga 2005 Bairrada Unusual intensity for the price. Lovely stuff – not too austere – based on Baga, the usually tough grape of this northern Portuguese region. Admirably healthy fruit. 13.5% £7.25
Camillo de Lellis Riserva 2004 Biferno Full and sweet and with masses of oomph and personality – not to mention fruit, and evolution. Sure there are bargains like this to be sniffed out all over Italy? There is ripeness and acidity and a certain raspberry sort of fruit in this unusual wine from Molise. 13% £7.25
Ch de Ricaud 2005 Bordeaux Supérieur Drink this great-value claret from Cadillac sooner rather than later but you can really wallow in it. Well balanced, satisfying and persistent. Graceful finish. 13% £8.50
Ch de la Rolière, Brézème 2007 Côtes du Rhône Exciting, artisanal, spicy Syrah from a village in the mid Rhône Valley. 13% £8.95
Ch Bouissel 2008 Fronton Rare to find wine from Toulouse’s own wine district, and its own Negrette grape scented with ferns and violets. Bravo! Firm and dry. 13% £7.50
Trenel 2009 Côte de Brouilly A thoroughly satisfying, even quite rich, top Beaujolais. Drinkable now but should take on flesh and be at its peak from next year. Racy but not thin. 13% £9.50
Barberani, Foresco 2007 Umbria Supertuscan from Umbria? 50% Sangiovese with 25% each Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon and 12 months in French oak barriques. Luscious stuff – very international, suave and open but very well done. 14.5% £9.95
Wirra Wirra, Church Block 2008 McLaren Vale Cabernet Sauvignon with 37% Shiraz and 15% Merlot, all aged for 15 months in oak barrels. Rich and lip-smacking with lots of fruit. Very mellow but not sweet. Why can’t all Australian reds have such tamed tannins and well-integrated acidity? 14.5% £9.95
Ch d’Aussières, Blason d’Aussières 2007 Corbières 40% Syrah, 30% Grenache, 20% Mourvèdre, 10% Carignan. From the Lafite stable – so why isn’t it being shipped straight out to China? A hint of top-quality oak in here and a grown-up dry finish. Bordeaux build. I’d wait a year or two but it’s pretty smart – provided you want a Médoc from the Languedoc. 13.5% £9.95
Nicosia, Fondo Filara 2008 Etna Naughty heavy bottle but it’s not expensive for fashionable Nerello Mascalese from Sicily’s volcano. Racy and rich on the nose with some really grainy minerality. Chewy. 13.5% £10.95
Clos Floridène 2006 Graves Famed oenologist Denis Dubourdieu’s home property. Energetic and seductive. Gorgeously polished fruit. 12.5% £14.95
Tempier 2007 Bandol Full and spicy but clean from the best-known Provençal wine producer. Lip-smacking – hot and almost baked but it has life and lift too. 14.5% £20
Yalumba, The Menzies Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 Coonawarra An Australian classic. Very rich and ripe on the nose with a strongly medicinal streak and still lots of tannin. Quite an ambitious wine that very much expresses the minerality of Coonawarra but has sufficient fruit and weight. 14.5% £25
Dom Alain Burguet, En Billard 2005 Gevrey-Chambertin Very fresh, direct fruit and then a little tight on the finish. Lots of spice. Easy to like even if it is not the subtlest burgundy ever. Attractively transparent but with sweetness. No one could object to this. 13% £27
Ch Langoa Barton 2001 St-Julien Léoville Barton’s sister property generally evolves faster. Very fragrant, well integrated and developed. Everything in its place and no excess of tannins. Clever to snap this up – a great property and vintage that is currently undervalued. Great stuff for classicists while the rest will wonder what the heck the fuss is all about… £35
The very first wines bought and sold by The Wine Society back in 1874 were from Portugal. Following our very successful tasting in November, our current offer of almost 40 great Portuguese wines, ranging in price from £5.50 to £18.50, plus some excellent vintage Ports, is attracting much interest from writers. Examples to have recently appeared in the press include:
Big, dark and fruity, with a solid backbone provided by one of Portugal’s trickier native grape varieties, baga. (Andrew Neather – Evening Standard)
Unusual intensity for the price. Lovely stuff – not too austere – based on Baga, the usually tough grape of this northern Portuguese region. Admirably healthy fruit. (Jancis Robinson – Financial Times, jancisrobinson.com)
… big-hearted red, … brimming with redcurrant and Victoria plum, somewhat claret-like with a surprisingly elegant finish. Modern Bairrada for drinking with roast poultry or game birds. (Susy Atkins – The Daily Telegraph)
Quintas dos Roques Reserva, Dão 2003 (£18.50)
At its best, the Dão region of Portugal makes some rich but elegant reds that are highly distinctive. From a warm vintage, this powerful, broad-shouldered wine is full of dark, ripe fruit and would be very comfortable with a hearty, herby stew or a plate of sausages. (David Williams – Observer Food Monthly)
Really quite classy, this is from the heartlands of the Douro valley, made by top port producer Quinta do Noval from traditional port varieties plus some syrah. It’s fat and sweet with solid structure — very satisfying. (Andrew Neather – Evening Standard)
If you think The Wine Society pricey, the Alandra NV from Herdade de Esporão, a moreishly damsony Portuguese tinto, £5.95, should change preconceptions. (Anthony Rose – The Independent, anthonyrosewine.com)
Quinta das Maias 2008 Dao (£10.95)
Get a load of this. It’s a really great Portuguese red, from the Dao region, and it’s brilliant value for money. I love the freshness, grip and definition. Quinta das Maias 2008 Dao, 13.5% alcohol. 55% jaen, 20% touriga nacional, 10% alfrocheiro, 10% tinta amarela, 5% tinta roriz. Lovely firm dark cherry nose with some savoury, meaty notes. Spicy and vibrant. The palate is really fresh with bright, dark cherry fruit and good definition. Precise with some tannic grip, and good acidity to boot. Brilliantly fresh, peppery and quite elegant. An appealing savoury style. (Jamie Goode – wineanorak.com)
… with another top review of The Society’s wines. The Wine Gang consists of five of the UK’s most respected wine critics: Tom Cannavan of wine-pages.com, Jane Parkinson of The Drinks Business, Anthony Rose of The Independent, Joanna Simon of House & Garden and David Williams of The Observer. To learn more or to subscribe to their excellent wine review website, click on the link above.
Moret Nominé Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Folatières 2005, 13.5% abv A gorgeous mouthful of rounded fruit, macadamia nuts, cream and lemon zest. This is a really nicely balanced wine with a powerful but subtle finish from an excellent vintage. One of this month’s Five Greatest Wines 94/100 £42.00
Concha y Toro Maycas del Limari Quebrada Seca Chardonnay 2007, 14.5% abv The elegance of this wine knows no bounds. A whiff of butter and lemon stays true on the palate which has phenomenal breadth and depth of flavour. Ripe, zesty and with oak that hugs rather than attacks your palate, together with a finish that carries on for a seeming eternity. 93/100 £20.00 (NB – 2007 now sold out, 2008 in stock – Ed.)
Château de Fesles Bonnezeaux 2005, 12.0% abv A classic late-harvest Chenin Blanc from the heart of the Loire. Honey and citrus fruit peel mingle on the nose and palate with a mineral streak, while the precise acidity leads to a very long finish. This bottle is 50cl. 93/100 £29.00
Château Belgrave 2000 Haut-Médoc, 13.0% abv A nicely mature claret (although still with plenty of life left in it), from a much-improved Fifth Growth, part of the Dourthe stable (now owned by the Thiénot family from Champagne). The nose has some dark fruit and a touch of cedar, the palate is still powerful, with nippy, savoury tannins and real freshness and life to the finish. One of this month’s Five Wines for Christmas Lunch 92/100 £32.50
Valdivieso Eclat 2006, 14.0% abv Coming from vines more than 80-years old, this blend of 55% Carignan, 30% Mourvèdre and 15% Syrah has a mineral and earthy dominant nose but then a sour cherry mouthful of juiciness and bags of black fruit flavour. Smooth and savoury tannins complement the fruit beautifully. 91/100 £14.99
Viña Leyda Garuma Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2009 Leyda, 14.0% abv This wine is exactly why Chilean Sauvignon Blanc is making serious waves. A mineral, slightly salty, but also creamy and bright wine with a hint of white pepper spice on the palate as well as a zesty lemons, limes and grapefruits, keeping it awash with freshness. 91/100 £9.95 at Harvey Nichols. (£7.95 at The Wine Society – Ed.)
Domaine Alain Burget Gevrey-Chambertin en Billard 2005, 13.0% abv A very serious Pinot Noir for the money this, and a wine that punches above the weight of its appellation. It has a core of raspberry compote fruit leading into more complex, savoury and earthy flavours, and an extremely long, silky finish. 91/100 £27.00
Champagne Pol Roger Brut Vintage 2000, 12.5% abv 2000 was not perhaps the finest Champagne vintage of recent years, but Pol Roger have managed to craft a very fine wine from the year nonetheless. Blossom, critus fruit and patisserie on the nose leading to a fine, silky texture and a clean, persistent finish. 91/100 (single bottle £45 at The Wine Society, buy 6 for 5 = £37.50 equivalent price until 16th December)
Louro Godello 2009 Valdeorras, 13.5% abv A very complex, sophisticated modern white from the up-and-coming Valdeorras appellation in Galicia. Made by Rafael Palacios, brother of the celebrated Alvaro (of L’Ermita in Priorat), it has an intriguing flavour profile that suggests dried herbs macerated in fresh lemon juice, and a broad, rich palate. 90/100 £12.95
Yalumba The Menzies Cabernet Sauvignon 2005, 14.5% abv A touch of mint, a blast of blackcurrant pastille, some blueberries and a lick of liquorice: a pleasure to drink, this is benchmark Coonawarra Cab from Yalumba. 90/100 £25.00
Millton Vineyards Te Arai Chenin Blanc 2007, 12.0% abv An off-dry white of great intensity, Milton’s Chenin always impresses. Richly flavoured, with honeyed apples and the merest hint of lavender, it’s simply bursting with life. 89/100 £12.95
Léon Beyer Alsace Sylvaner 2009, 12.0% abv A really great value white this from Léon Beyer. It’s gossamer light but with excellent concentration: a real blast of pure white grapefruit juice and a lovely match for white fish and mild Asian spices. One of this month’s Five Best Value Wines. 89/100 £7.95
Domaine la Réméjeanne Côtes-du-Rhône Blanc Les Arbousiers 2009, 14.0% abv This good value white Rhône blend has a lovely nose full of the joys of early-summer with apple blossom and apricot. The palate is intense, rounded, powerful but not at all flabby, and it finishes rich but clean. 88/100 £10.95
Saladini Pilastri Falerio dei Colli Ascolani 2009, 13.0% abv Crisp and light with just the merest prickle on the palate, this is a simple seafood wine par excellence with nicely tart, clean green apple flavours. Highly refreshing. 86/100 £6.25
Domaine Tempier Bandol 2007, 14.5% abv Extremely dense and powerful, this wine is a real glass of the warm south, with chewy tannins, dark fruit, liquorice and a touch of black olive. Complex and full, it demands a rich beef casserole. 89/100 £20.00
Trenel Côte de Brouilly 2009, 13.0% abv Yet another winner from the production line of terrific wines made in Beaujolais in 2009. Succulent cranberries, zooming acidity, and a lovely aromatic lift to the nose, drink it chilled with a bit of baked salmon. 89/100 £9.50
Hofstätter Pinot Nero Riserva Mazon 2007, 13.5% abv A really well-made Italian Pinot Noir, and another nicely adventurous choice by The Wine Society’s Italian buyer. Light-bodied and fresh, it is winningly precise and direct, with a floral/violet nose followed by fresh black cherries on the palate and a slightly sweet finish. 88/100 £20.00
Henry Marionnet Touraine Gamay Première Vendange, 13.0% abv A “natural” wine this, made without the use of sulphur, and it shows in the vivacious, lifted primary fruit. Crunchy red cherries and blackberries, fresh acidity and an overall feeling of succulence combine to make this a very thirst-quenching, drinkable bottle indeed. 88/100 £9.95
Camillo de Lelis Biferno Rosso Riserva 2004, 13.0% abv What great value for a mature Italian red of great character, from a lesser-spotted appellation. Soft, integrated tannins, macerated dark cherries and a hint of dried fruit are all held together by still perky acidity. A wine for sipping over those long winter evenings. 88/100 ? £7.25
Château de Ricaud 2005 Bordeaux Supérieur, 13.0% abv Under the same ownership as Château Belgrave (the 2000 vintage of which is reviewed above) this is very, erm, supérieur stuff for the appellation and price, and drinking very well now. A core of cassis in a supple frame of nicely mature tannins. 86/100 £8.50
Herdade do Esporão Alandra, 13.0% abv Juicy is the word that springs to mind for this inexpensive Portuguese glugger made by Aussie winemaker David Baverstock. It’s labelled as non-vintage, although the fruit is apparently mostly taken from the 2009 vintage. With its bright, primary cherry fruit, cleaning acidity and soft tannins, it would be nice served just a little chilled. 83/100 £5.95
Chivite Gran Fuedo Seleccion Especial 2007 Navarra, 13.5% abv A blend of Tempranillo with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot this is a well-made, if not especially exciting, international-style red. A hint of vanilla oak and some black fruit on the nose, some juicy fruit on the palate, a slightly astringent finish. 82/100 £6.95
The Wine Society needs little introduction from me, suffice to say that no-one I know regrets the £40 membership fee paid for a lifetime share. The Society’s wines often have more bottle age … , a feature I appreciate. The 2007 Allende White Rioja, £18, showed how worthwhile this can be, a stylish, nutty, deliciously rich dry white whose complexity rivals good white Burgundy. Same goes for the white Burgundy lookalike from California in the gloriously rich, complex, butterscotchy 2006 Au Bon Climat Sanford and Benedict Chardonnay, £25. 2006 Clos Floridène, Graves, £14.95, had retained a vigorous presence through its stylish cassis-laden fruit quality. [This] contrasted with the brilliant Henri Marionnet’s 2009 Touraine Gamay, Première Vendange, £9.95, a nubile, cherryish autumn red that blows most Beaujolais away. If you think The Wine Society pricey, the Alandra NV from Herdade de Esporão, a moreishly damsony Portuguese tinto, £5.95, should change preconceptions.
One long-standing over-performing Mâconnais name is Saumaize, a domaine split in the 1990s between the brothers Roger, who, with his wife Christine, continues to run Saumaize-Michelin with aplomb, and Jacques, who, with his wife Nathalie, has made this great-value St-Véran from vines on slopes with a good proportion of Chardonnay-loving limestone to the north of the robustly priced Pouilly-Fuissé appellation. The Vieilles Vignes bottling is fermented in barrel but this unoaked version is wonderfully sunny, open and attractive already. I loved its almost ethereal perfume, its energy and its creamy texture. According to the label it is only 13% alcohol and I would drink it, with or without food, any time over the next two years. It’s available from The Wine Society (who have a particularly well-chosen selection of Mâconnais whites, as outlined in Young white burgundies – some great buys) for £11.50 a bottle or £138 a dozen