Grapevine Archive for Awards
Buyer Marcel Orford-Williams celebrates our all-too-easily-overlooked Specialist Merchant Award for Regional France won at the IWC this month…
The late Edmund Penning-Rowsell, chairman of The Wine Society from 1964 to 1987, was always keen that the buyers should look beyond the ‘classic’ regions and source wines from off the beaten path for members to enjoy. And so, as long as I have been at The Society, the Committee of Management has afforded buyers the freedom to roam the backwoods of France and elsewhere to source exciting wines for our range.
In all the excitement and rightful pride in winning Overall Merchant and Online Merchant of the Year at the IWC (International Wine Challenge), it was easy to overlook that we had also won prizes for our South American and Regional France ranges.
We were naturally thrilled to have received this last award. It is the result of a good deal of work over many years. While France’s classic regions of Bordeaux, Burgundy and the Rhône are historical passions for The Society, our range also makes plenty of room for other French wines which much of the trade has barely discovered.
We have long championed the wines of Alsace and our range was recognised as the country’s finest by the International Wine Challenge for eight consecutive years to 2015.
During the last 12 months, we have visited Auvergne, Beaujolais, Alsace, Lorraine, the south-west, Provence and Corsica. A trip to the Jura will feature later in the year. There have been dedicated offers covering the wines of Alsace and Beaujolais and one for the south-west is also on the drawing board for release in the autumn.
It is not so long ago that many of these wines were for local consumption only. But globalism has changed all that. Growers from Savoie, Beaujolais or Corsica are as well travelled and skilled as any and keen to share the secrets of their terroirs with the rest of us.
We never forget though that it is thanks to members’ support that we can explore the wine world in this way. Members play a vital role in all of this by always being receptive to new ideas and new tastes. We hope that you enjoy the wines as much as we enjoy discovering and sharing them.
We salute you!
Explore our range of French wines at thewinesociety.com
For wine merchants to receive just one of the coveted IWC Merchant Awards is a high point, and having been shortlisted for five awards, a team of seven staff arrived at London’s Hilton on Park Lane Hotel for the 2016 Awards with much anticipation.
We were shortlisted for four Specialist Merchant awards – Italy and Spain, where the competition is always tough, and Regional France (Alsace, Beaujolais, SW France, Provence, Corsica, etc.) and South America where we are generally the tough competition for others. Things panned out as we had thought, with the latter pair bearing fruit for The Society.
Next up was the Online Retailer of the Year award – one that we have often won in the past under its previous guises of Mail-Order Merchant and Direct Merchant. We were delighted to regain this award, the judges recognising that The Society “covers everything from en primeur to some of the best wines available for under £10” and that the “website works brilliantly whether being accessed using a PC, a tablet or a smartphone”.
And so to the last award – the highly sought-after IWC Merchant of the Year Award. Everyone who has won one of the 41 different Merchant awards is eligible for ‘the big one’, and so we were both surprised and delighted when IWC Co-Chair Charles Metcalfe uttered the immortal words: “And the winner is … The Wine Society!”
So 2016 goes down in Society history along with 2005, 2011 and 2013 as the years we have received the IWC’s ultimate accolade. This wine trade laureate is something in which all can share, whether staff, members or suppliers, all of whom have contributed to, and continue to contribute to The Society’s success. So whoever you are and wherever you may be, thank you for your support and for the part you have played in making The Society what it is today.
The Society exists solely for members’ benefit, and your kind feedback confirms our satisfaction with our wine range. It is, however, always heartening to see wines we stock recognised by the industry as being ‘best in class’.
The results of the 2015 IWC (International Wine Challenge) and Decanter World Wine Awards have been announced, with a raft of gold medals to celebrate, topped off with some coveted regional and international trophies. Some are available now (hyperlinked below), others later in the year.
International Wine Challenge Trophies
Viña Undurraga T.H. Cabernet Sauvignon, Maipo 2012 (£11.50)
Maipo Cabernet Sauvignon Trophy – International Cabernet Sauvignon Trophy
We have been following Chilean winemaker Rafael Urrejola’s elegant wines since his time at Viña Leyda. He is perhaps the most talented winemaker of his generation. At Undurraga he has been given free rein to go out and search for wines made from the best combinations of grape variety, soil and climate in a project called ‘TH’ or ‘Terroir Hunter’. His wines are always beautifully balanced, and this exciting red is formed more by its terroir than a caricature of its grape variety, producing a wine which is the opposite of the soft and squidgy new world ‘fruit bomb’ style.
The Society’s Exhibition Crozes-Hermitage 2012 (£11.95)
We were delighted to see this wine rated so highly in only its second vintage. Nicolas Jaboulet was tasked with using his extensive contacts in the northern Rhône to come up with a blend, all coming from well-known growers, before being bottled by the Perrin family. This is a fragrant, full and refined Crozes, with blackberry fruit and a hint of peppery spice.
Framingham Classic Riesling 2012 (£11.95)
Marlborough Riesling Trophy
Andrew Hedley has a marksman’s touch with the riesling grape, and this wine, utilising the oldest riesling vines in New Zealand, has been well received by members and the press since its introduction last year. Like an aristocratic German riesling, albeit not too dry, electrocuted with Marlborough freshness.
Pieropan La Rocca 2012 (£22.50)
Sons Andrea and Dario run this exceptional estate, although still under the watchful eye of father Nino, whose relationship with The Society goes back for decades. Not the first time that this wine has won the Soave Trophy, and doubtless not the last!
Verdicchio di Matelica Riserva Mirum La Monacesca 2012 and Matetic Vineyards EQ Syrah 2012, which will arrive shortly, also won the San Antonio Valley Syrah and Marche White Trophies respectively. The Society’s Exhibition New Zealand Chardonnay 2013, now sadly out of stock, also won the Kumeu Chardonnay Trophy, Auckland Chardonnay Trophy and overall New Zealand Chardonnay Trophy.
Riesling Grand Cru Kirchberg, Domaine Louis Sipp 2013 (£23)
Dry White Alsace over £15 Trophy
We were delighted to see this bone-dry, mineral, richly flavoured and very long Alsace riesling being recognised. This comes from a top grand cru vineyard, one of the region’s finest, overlooking Ribeauvillé, and a vintage perfectly suited to the riesling grape.
La Rioja Alta 890 Seleccion Especial Gran Reserva 2001 (£75)
Red Rioja Gran Reserva over £15 Trophy
We are delighted to have secured more stock of this expensive but simply remarkable Rioja, described by buyer Pierre Mansour as ‘a uniquely brilliant wine.’ 2001 is a highly acclaimed Rioja vintage, and winemaker Julio Sáenz describes it ambitiously as ‘the best 890 in our history.’ Such is the quality of this 2001 gran reserva that it has been deemed the highest distinction of ‘Selección Especial’ (the first time in La Rioja Alta’s history).
Paul Ginglinger Gewurztraminer Grand Cru Pfersigberg 2013 (International Trophy: Off-Dry over £15), Terrunyo Carménère Lot N°1 2013 (Chilean Red Single-Varietal over £15) and Soalheiro Alvarinho Vinho Verde Monção e Melgaço, 2014 (White Northern Portugal over £15) are all en route.
At the IWC, sparkling success came in the form of a gold for Champagne Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve NV (£43). Lustau Botaina Amontillado (£11.50) and Cayetano del Pino Palo Cortado Solera (£14.50) flew the flag for sherry, whilst the stylish and now-ready Taylor’s 1985 port (£75) also won.
Look out also for an Antipodean trio of winners coming soon in the form of Pask Declaration Syrah 2013 (New Zealand) and Penfolds Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 and Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz 2012.
Fortified wines also performed well at Decanter, and golds were awarded to Hidalgo Pastrana Manzanilla Pasada (£10.50) and Osborne Capuchino Palo Cortado, 30 years old 50cl (£21), continuing sherry’s rich vein of form this year, and Henriques & Henriques Bual, 15 years old 50cl (£25) from Madeira.
Forthcoming Decanter gold-medal winners include Paul Ginglinger Riesling Grand Cru Pfersigberg 2013 from Alsace, Muga Selección Especial Rioja Reserva 2010, Frog’s Leap Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 from California and Penfolds Yattarna Chardonnay 2012.
Ten members of Society staff from around the business were there to see The Wine Society awarded
• Wine Club of the Year for the fourth consecutive year
• Specialist Merchant Award for Chile for the eighth time in nine years
• Specialist Merchant Award for Alsace for the seventh consecutive year
In addition, The Society was shortlisted for Direct Merchant of the Year and Specialist Merchant for Portugal.The judges called it ‘a testament to The Society’s extensive range of wines and events, as well as excellent customer service.’
A number of individual Society wines also received awards earlier in the year.
Such recognition is always a pleasure and we would like to thank the IWC. Above all, however, we would like to thank our members for their continued loyalty and support for their Society. We exist purely for members’ benefit and look forward to further enhancing our services in the coming year while continuing to provide the best of the world’s vineyards at the best possible prices.
The Society exists solely for members’ benefit, and your kind feedback confirms our satisfaction with our wine range. It is, however, always heartening to see wines we stock recognised by the industry as being ‘best in class’.
The results of the 2014 IWC (International Wine Challenge) have just been announced, and we have a raft of gold medals to celebrate, topped off with two national trophies. Some are available now (hyperlinked below), others later in the year.
The first of the trophies was awarded to that great English sparkling wine Nyetimber Brut Classic Cuvée 2009 from West Chiltington in Sussex. Nyetimber has been a fixture in our list for some time, challenging the very best across the Channel with the traditional chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier blend.
The second trophy has deservedly gone to La Rocca 2011, made by the Pieropan family in Soave. Sons Andrea and Dario run the estate, although still under the watchful eye of father Nino, whose relationship with The Society goes back for decades! Not the first time that this wine has won the Italian White Trophy, and doubtless not the last!
For those who want more sparkle, we were very pleased to see a co-operatively produced Champagne pick up a gold medal – Le Brun de Neuville Chardonnay Brut NV, one of the increasing number of lesser-known Champagnes on our List. And a food-friendly viognier from long-standing Society suppliers Paul Jaboulet Aîné, their Condrieu, Domaine des Grands Amandiers 2012 also made the grade.
Moving to the reds, Paul Jaboulet Aîné have another success with a wine closely followed by Society members over the years, Crozes Hermitage Domaine de Thalabert 2009, while another Italian entry from Veneto, Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso Torre del Falasco 2012 made the grade, proving that it’s not just wines over £10 that can be award-winners. (Being a huge Italian fan, I was particularly pleased to see the ‘ripasso’ style rewarded.)
If you are in need of fortification, then sherry and port make up the remainder of our gold medals. Lustau La Ina is a classic of its type, and the more quirky Cayetano del Pino Solera Palo Cortado, only available from The Wine Society in the UK, is very different. (By the way, while you’re in the mood, why not try Cayetano’s elder diminutive sister, the Palo Cortado Viejisimo, with an estimated age of 30 years.) Taylor’s 2000 Vintage Port brings this golden list to a close.
We were also delighted to discover the following Society wines received silver medals in the same competition: The Society’s Champagne, The Society’s Rosé Champagne, Blind Spot Tasmania Sparkling Brut, The Society’s Exhibition Limarí Chardonnay, The Society’s Exhibition Gewurztraminer, The Society’s Exhibition Rioja Reserva, The Society’s Exhibition Rioja Gran Reserva (soon to be launched), The Society’s Exhibition Sauternes 2010 and The Society’s Exhibition Mature Medium Dry Oloroso Blend – a great endorsement of our buyers’ talents.
Last night, in the glitzy surroundings of the Floral Hall at London’s Royal Opera House, ten members of The Society’s team, together with the rest of the great and the good of the world’s wine trade, attended a dinner celebrating the 10th edition of the Decanter World Wine Awards. At this dinner Decanter also names the top UK wine merchants, with prizes for innovators, specialists, regional merchants and supermarkets.
Sarah Kemp, Decanter‘s publishing director and Steven Spurrier, consultant editor, opened proceedings with an explanation of how the awards are put together, and it’s no mean feat! Arguably the world’s largest wine competition (over 14,000 entries from 27 countries), 32 International Trophies were awarded last night from the 155 Regional Trophies, which themselves stemmed from a whole host of Gold Medals. The medal winners from The Society were announced in May.
But the major prize for a UK merchant is the accolade of National Retailer of the Year. After having won this prestigious award for the past two years, we were short-listed again this year, this time alongside Berry Brothers & Rudd, Jascots, Majestic and WineTrust100. We arrived with a sense of excitement and anticipation, given our success in July at the International Wine Challenge.
The panel of judges displays an impressive knowledge of the UK wine trade – Saturday Kitchen’s Peter Richards MW, The Guardian‘s Fiona Beckett, wine-pages.com‘s Tom Cannavan, The Independent‘s Anthony Rose and veteran renowned wine retail consultant Allan Cheeseman – and we were therefore all the more delighted to be announced as winners for a third successive year.
As at July’s awards ceremony, temperatures were once again in the high 20s, but most Society staff (yours truly excepted, whose bow tie was relegated to inside his sporran) retained some dignity in attire, and likely duly lost the pounds gained from the excellent three-course dinner served and the accompanying eight wines.
We were so proud to receive this award once again. It is testament not only to the excellent teamwork of the 200-strong Society staff, each and everyone playing a key role, but also to our knowledgeable and loyal members without whom we simply would not exist.
Tom Cannavan penned the article published in Decanter this morning, starting with: ‘What else could we do? There were some worthy names on the shortlist, but the case for multiple past winner, The Wine Society, was compelling.’
Well we certainly aim to keep it that way!
Pictured here are Tracy Richardson (left) of Member Services and Naomi Norwood of The Cellar Showroom surrounded by The Society’s record haul of awards at last night’s IWC (International Wine Challenge) Awards Ceremony and 30th Anniversary Summer Ball at the Grosvenor House Hotel on London’s Park Lane.
The highlight of the evening was when the judges named The Society their Wine Merchant of the Year, the second time in the last three years we have scooped their top award.
The IWC also awarded The Society Wine Club of the Year, for the third year, and Specialist Merchant of the Year awards for our Alsace range, for the sixth time in a row, Chile for the seventh year in eight, and we retained the Portugal award we picked up for the first time last year.
Presenting the award, judge Charles Metcalfe congratulated the team saying that The Society represented ‘the pinnacle of wine retailing’.
On a sweltering evening the great and the good of the wine trade were in attendance and kept entertained by the energetic double act of Tim Atkin MW and Charles Metcalfe, co-chairmen of the judges.
A particularly moving part of the evening was seeing veteran wine writer Hugh Johnson OBE pick up a Lifetime Achievement Award. All wine writers owe Hugh a huge debt of gratitude for leading the way. As scribe Malcolm Gluck put it on harpers.co.uk: ‘Johnson often writes so limpidly about his love I can taste the liquid in my mouth, though this is not as a result of crude fruit metaphors, the resort of hobbledehoys like myself, but by pinning down his feeling in such finely wrought aesthetic terms that one feels the experience as a personal encounter. This is, surely, the apotheosis of wine writing and we wine writers are, as expressionists in English, all in the giant shadow of this Monet of the craft.’
I think it is testament to Hugh’s high standing that most people’s reaction was amazement that he hadn’t already won such an honour.
Head Of Copy
Last night we were proud to pick up more gongs at the International Wine Challenge awards ceremony at the Hilton, Park Lane.
The evening was hosted by Charles Metcalfe and Tim Atkin MW, two members of the distinguished judging panel which also includes Oz Clarke, Sam Harrop MW, Peter McCombie MW and Derek Smedley MW.The IWC (?the original Oscars of the wine trade?, some would say) has been going since 1984 and involves several weeks of blind tastings by numerous panels of wine judges, made up of an international band of trade experts.
To have your wines identified as trophy winners by your peers is highly gratifying and reinforces what our members already know, that we have some of the best wine buyers in the business!
Society buyer Marcel Orford-Williams was present to collect his trophy for Alsace Specialist Wine Merchant of the Year (for the fifth time in a row). Spain buyer Pierre Mansour collected his prize for The Society?s Exhibition Rioja Gran Reserva, 2001 from CVNE, which was awarded The Rioja Trophy. (Sadly this wine is already out of stock, but it will return in magnum format in time for Christmas!).
Chief buyer Tim Sykes picked up the specialist merchant award for Chile on behalf of buyer Toby Morrhall (an award given to us for the sixth time in seven years) and, a first for The Society, the Portuguese specialist award ? a terrific recognition of buyer Joanna Locke MW?s determination to bring these wines to a wider audience and members? continued appetite to try new things.
Finally, we were delighted to retain our title of IWC Wine Club of the Year, with the judges saying:
?The Wine Society continues to offer great value for their members from an impressive range which has been expertly selected by a great team of buyers. Their remarkable storage facilities at a fair price and the broad range of events throughout the year are everything you would want from a wine club.?
And though some of us present may have been a little disappointed not to have had our award presented by Mick Hucknall of Simply Red fame (he was there, not just in his capacity as a winemaker, but to present the Lifetime Achievement Award), we could not have been more pleased or privileged to have been there.
Squint and it?s as though you?re at the Oscars. The 2012 Decanter World Wine Awards dinner, which took place last night at the Royal Opera House, fulfils much the same function for the UK wine trade, and it was a privilege to be there.
Better still, The Wine Society was awarded the coveted title of National Wine Merchant of the Year for the second consecutive year.
Thanks are due to the judges and, more than ever, to our members, for whom The Society exists ? not to mention the fact that we were nominated for this award by supportive Decanter-reading members in the first place.
In the office today there is a feeling that this achievement is one to be very proud of, but that it also raises the bar still further for us. We look forward to doing all that we can to meet these expectations.
The judges’ comments
The Decanter panel this year represented a highly impressive cache of expertise, consisting of Anthony Rose (chairman), Fiona Beckett, Tom Cannavan, Allan Cheesman and Peter Richards MW. Here?s what they said about The Society:
?At this time of financial hardship, when suspicion towards big business has never been more acute, it?s refreshing to see a company working for its customers in a genuine and committed manner.
?The Wine Society?s co-operative business model may hark back to a previous era, but now it is allowing it a new lease of life.
?Take the issue of pricing. Vertiginous rises in VAT and duty in recent years, not to mention fluctuating exchange rates, have seen an inexorable rise in wine prices on the British high street. (Or the introduction of specious ?value? ranges and a ramping up of cynical deep-discounting practices.) Not so at The Wine Society. For a second consecutive year, the company invested its profits into margins, actually reducing the prices of 400 wines and holding all others.
?Critics site the fact that it costs money to join (currently £40) and some sort of re-investment is inevitable in a mutual business. But such commitment to customer value at the hard end of wine retailing is entirely laudable, and the initial investment is more than worth it to belong to such an outstanding organisation. The range is undoubtedly one of the finest in the country, the result of much hard work by its knowledgeable and respected buying team ? outgoing head of buying Sebastian Payne MW deserves much credit. The company?s Exhibition range was described by Allan Cheesman as ?iconic?, and the wider list now includes wines from Turkey, Slovenia and Morrocco.
?The Wine Society offers personable and efficient service, including a free name-the-day delivery service, a raft of regular targeted offers and a programme of 120 nationwide tastings every year, all backed up by its app, social media presence and blog. Tradition is no barrier to consumer-led innovation here.?
The first time we won this award, my boss Sebastian Payne said it was for: ‘Just doing your job’.
And what a privileged job it is. Chile continues to excite because it keeps discovering new regions and expanding its list of well-made grape varieties from its myriad terroirs and diverse climates. The remarkable Limarí chardonnays, pinot noirs and syrahs from this cool climate with many vineyards with limestone-based soils has been a very exciting new discovery. We have already moved our Society and Exhibition chardonnays to this region.
The discovery of many 50-year-old, unirrigated carignan bush vines in Maule has resulted in some superb new wines appearing on the market. Grown in a warm region of Chile, carignan is a little fleshier than in France, but still keeps its lovely perfume and thrillingly fresh and fine palate that really is perfectly designed to match a hunk of roasted or grilled protein, especially belly pork or shoulder of lamb. I’ve also been tasting some excellent cinsault and mourvèdre which I hope will soon make it to our List.
The ‘Rhône Ranger’ blends are perhaps the only missing varieties in Chile’s remarkable range and may soon appear.
If you have already tried some of our Chilean range, then thank you for your support. If you are yet to try them, then now is the time. Click here to view the full range, or here to try a special exploration mixed case we have put together to celebrate winning the award.