Grapevine Archive for Decanter Awards

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

International Wine Challenge TrophyViña 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)
Crozes-Hermitage Trophy
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)
Soave Trophy
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.

Decanter Trophies

Decanter World Wine Awards TrophyRiesling 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.

Gold-Medal Winners

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.

Categories : Wine Competitions
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Thu 05 Sep 2013

Decanter Hat-trick

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NATIONAL MERCHANT LOGO 2013Last 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,‘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.

Team Society: (l to r) Steve Levet (Facilities), Simon Mason (Tastings), Janice Patterson (Members’ Reserves), Robin McMillan (CEO), Michelle Norgate (Training), Mike Wray (Digital), Helen Caunce (Showroom), Helen Dean (Systems), Liz Cerroti (Head of Member Services), Ewan Murray (PR)

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!

Ewan Murray
PR Manager

Categories : Miscellaneous
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Thu 20 Sep 2012

South African Vintage Prospects

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Just arrived in sunny, if rather chilly, Cape Town, where I’m told they have had a long winter rather better for the vines than for the locals and visitors.

We normally reserve this time of year for European vineyard visits, but next week sees the first Cape Wine show here since before the World Cup and the industry has moved on at an inspiring pace since then.

I am greatly looking forward to the excellent overview such events provide, whilst desperately trying to protect some time in my schedule to sample ‘off the beaten track’ with exciting new growers, and members’ recommendations.

Gary Jordan receiving his Decanter Award

Not long before heading south I bumped into Gary Jordan, winemaker owner of Jordan Estate in Stellenbosch, who was in the UK to, amongst other things, pick up a couple of Decanter Trophies. Gary was an honorary guest at an extraordinary 30 vintage vertical tasting of Loire chenin blanc (more on which anon), where it was fascinating to have a winemaker’s input to the discussion.

I asked Gary about the 2012 harvest which I had heard had been pretty challenging early on. Gary was delighted with how it had progressed, however, with less dramatic heat spikes than the norm and a favorably longer ripening season – or ?hang time? as the Aussies like to call it.

So I am looking forward to tasting the new vintage too, at Jordan and elsewhere.

If you are now feeling envious, our very own Cape Wine events are just weeks away, so do join us in London or Manchester if you can!

Joanna Locke MW
South Africa Buyer

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.

The Society?s chief executive, Robin McMillan, receiving the award from DWWA chairman, Anthony Rose.

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.?

Categories : Wine Competitions
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Wed 02 May 2012

High hopes, low barometer?

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Ewan Murray wasn’t the only Society taster putting his palate through its paces recently. Last week others were judging too. Here’s what happened on one of those days.

Tim Sykes

Some of the wine trade’s finest palates, including those of four of The Society’s buyers, were out in force last week as judging took place at the annual Decanter World Wine Awards. Thousands of wines from hundreds of viticultural regions were sniffed, swilled and spat over the five gruelling days of assessment and analysis.  Judges were faced with the olympian task of sorting out the top wines into the customary Gold, Silver, Bronze and Commended categories, with the best of the best being put forward for regional trophies.

Michael Schuster

Having been invited to judge on the Friday session at this year’s event I was delighted to learn that not only had I drawn one of the longest straws possible, tasting on the Burgundy panel, but also that I would be sitting next to Michael Schuster, Society Committee member and stalwart of the Decanter Burgundy panel for many years.

Michael assured me that he and the various Burgundy judges had, earlier in the week, awarded several Gold medals, so I sat down at 9.30 on Friday morning almost salivating at the prospect of blind tasting over 80 white and red Burgundies.

Come 4.30 in the afternoon, my enthusiasm had completely evaporated. Of the many wines we had tasted, from Bourgogne Hautes Côtes de Beaune to Premier Cru Meursault and from Bourgogne Pinot Noir to Premier Cru Morey St Denis, just two wines had, in the judges’ view, merited a Bronze medal. No Silvers, and certainly no Golds. “The most disappointing day’s tasting I have had in the ten years I have been judging at Decanter” was Michael’s bleak assessment.

My fellow judges and I were baffled as to the reasons for this lacklustre showing from one of the greatest wine regions of the world. We were tasting Burgundies mainly from the excellent 2009 and 2010 vintages, so how come the wines didn’t shine? One reason could be that barometric pressure was very low on Friday and that wines often fail to shine in such conditions. Our only other explanation was that few of the top producers in Burgundy enter their wines in competitions because demand for their wines outstrips supply several times over, particularly in a small harvest such as 2010. The great and the good of Burgundy will have sold out of their wines some time ago. However, as we had no idea whose wines we were tasting we could not verify this assertion. What remains clear is that earlier in the week many Burgundies were awarded Gold and Silver medals, so our day?s tasting was not representative of the week?s overall quality.  Thankfully, at the end of the final session our faith was restored when we were treated to six Gold medal winning wines from previous days? judging, all of which merited their award and indeed two of which we selected for regional trophies.

I retired to a local hostelry at the end of the day with some of my fellow judges for a well earned pint of ale. The general consensus was that a good pint of beer was infinitely more appealing than an average glass of Burgundy.

Tim Sykes
Head of Buying

Fri 09 Sep 2011

A rewarding week for The Society

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It was a great honour to receive on behalf of our members and The Society the National Retailer of the Year award at the Decanter World Wine Awards presentation dinner at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden on Wednesday (pictured right with judge Anthony Rose). Being rushed off straight away afterwards to do a video-interview was a bit unexpected though! You can see it here.

Following so closely on the heels of our successes at Tuesday evening’s International Wine Challenge (IWC) Awards (see Ewan’s earlier blog entry), it has proved to be a wonderfully rewarding week for The Society. The IWC had also voted The Society the Wine Merchant and Wine Club of the year, as well as the Specialist Merchant for both Alsace and Chile.

In their citations, the judges recognised nearly every part of the business from the range and quality of our wines to the excellent levels of service provided to members and the recent innovations that we have introduced. At the heart of our success, I believe, lies our mutuality which allows us to focus on member satisfaction and quality rather than on the financial returns required for external shareholders. These awards are a testament to the hard work of our buyers and staff and I offer my congratulations to all concerned.

I was particularly pleased to see that we won, for the fourth consecutive year, the Specialist Merchant Award for Alsace. Congratulations to buyer Marcel Orford-Williams for once again ensuring members have the pick of Alsace’s wines to choose from.

This is also the fourth time that the IWC judges have voted our Chilean range the country’s finest. But rather than resting on his laurels, buyer Toby Morrhall is constantly refining and improving the range and unearthing new wines for us all to enjoy, just as he has done each year since first championing these wines.

In Decanter’s report of the awards they questioned whether: “The ‘committee of gentlemen’ who met in the Albert hall in 1874 to set up a co-operative … would recognise their offspring in this victor.” I like to think that while they may find our ever-evolving website, our new iPhone app and state-of-the-art warehouse a tad confusing, they would find our ethos of the uppermost integrity and commitment to outstanding quality and fair pricing entirely recognisable.

Thank you for your continued support.

Sarah Evans

Categories : Miscellaneous
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Sun 29 May 2011

Australia 8 – 0 New Zealand

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These were the headline results from two days of judging Antipodean rieslings at Decanter Magazine last week (I was part of a panel of six judges who had worked through over 130+ rieslings). We all agreed that Australia’s wines were compelling- dry, pure, beautifully poised, intensely flavoured and pristine…… the very best showing quite outstanding minerality and class.

No fewer than 8 of the Australian entries received the top accolade, a Decanter Award, many of them from the Clare and Eden Valleys. There were a handful of Kiwis which I thought showed brilliantly too, the best being made in a drier Alsace style. But with the bar set so high, New Zealand struggled and failed to get the scores to qualify for even one Award – too many of her wines were confected, resting their quality on sugar rather than fruit. So, as far as generalisations go, it would seem today that Australia has it over New Zealand when it comes to classy Riesling. The results are published in August.

Pierre Mansour
Australia & New Zealand buyer

Categories : Australia, New Zealand
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Wed 05 May 2010

Flights of Ash

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Last week was Decanter World Wine Awards judging. Four days of around 100 wines a day set out in small flights of 12 wines. On my last day I was on the Australia panel.

Tasting the 2009 reds reminded me of the devastating and tragic events of the bush fires that swept the state of Victoria. Furthermore the effects can be sensed in many of the wines. Smoke taint is a serious problem for grape growers and difficult to clean up during the wine making process. As I learnt last week, wines show a strong and unusual dirty ash-tray aroma. It just goes to show how intrinsically wine is linked to its surroundings.

Categories : Australia, Miscellaneous
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