Grapevine Archive for Decanter
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.
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.?
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.
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.
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.
Head of Buying