Grapevine Archive for Events
141 years ago, The Wine Society was founded at the Royal Albert Hall after the last of the International Exhibitions of the Victorian era (the legacy of the Great Exhibition of 1851). The Society has decided to go back to its roots in a wonderfully innovative and tasty way.
Work has already started on creating air-conditioned cellars beneath the Hall where bottles of fine wine will be stored (just like during the International Exhibition of 1874). The plan is that all will be ready by the summer of 2016, in time for the BBC Proms season.
Many members had expressed their concern that when attending Prom concerts, as well as other events at this prestigious venue, they were unable to take bottles of their favourite Society wines to their seats. This will very soon be a thing of the past. At the push of a button located in the member’s arm-rest, via the wonders of Coravin® technology linked to a network of capillary tubes, wine can be delivered directly from unopened bottles in the cellars through a tap situated right next to the button into a waiting glass. Those in the audience who are not members can sign up on the night and enjoy this facility too.
The wines available will include sparkling wine from England’s Nyetimber (to toast Land of Hope and Glory), merlot from Israel’s Clos de Gat (to accompany Jerusalem) and the Languedoc’s La Clape (to enjoy during long rounds of applause). It’s a nifty idea that we’re sure all cultured Prom-attending members will appreciate. If he were still around, we’re sure Sir Henry would …
As a new recruit to any organisation, there’s a lot to learn. With most colleagues’ names and the whereabouts of the paperclips safely under my belt, I was then given the enjoyable opportunity to discover more about The Society’s presence in France – something that perhaps we don’t make enough of on here. On Friday, Ewan Murray (Head of Tastings) and I joined some 50 members and guests for an Alsace and Rhône dinner at l’Auberge du Moulinel in the village of Saint-Josse.
Alongside the busy calendar of tastings and events on our side of the Channel, The Society also holds a number of wine dinners in France, the majority of which are in and around Montreuil (about 45 miles from Calais).
The Society’s French Showroom has been here for some six years now, and despite the more straitened times experienced by many during this period, business has remained good. This is less surprising to me having seen the place first-hand: Véronique, Julien and Marc are to be congratulated for such a well-run and tempting establishment, boasting as it does a large range of Society wines and, of course, favourable rates of duty (the average case saving is around £18).
Most of The Society’s dinners in this part of the world take place on a Friday or Saturday, giving members the opportunity to make a weekend of it and take in this picturesque town and its surrounding area too. Those joining me seemed to have been enjoying themselves thus far, with itineraries ranging from stints on the golf course (brave given the weather) to Great War battlefields.
On the night, Alain Lévy’s food was outstanding, as one would expect from a chef who cut his teeth at Strasbourg’s three Michelin-starred Au Crocodile, and who came recommended by our Showroom’s own Véronique (it’s a close call as to whose standards are more exacting). Special kudos must also be given to Georges the Basset Hound, whose attempt at a mid-main course pitch invasion provided a further entertaining accompaniment to his master’s cuisine.
The Alsatian whites and Rhône reds on show complemented one another well, and a quick vote at the end of the evening revealed plenty of enthusiasm, but no overall winner. My favourites were both in the white corner: the 2004 Riesling Les Pierrets from Josmeyer, which is really hitting its stride, and a delicious 2005 Gewurztraminer Vendange Tardive from Hugel.
I was struck by how well Chave’s lively 2007 Côtes-du-Rhône Mon Cœur paired with the cheese course, while at the weightier end of the spectrum Thierry Allemand’s brooding and bucolic 2000 Cornas Les Chaillots was praised for having biceps big enough to handle Alain’s pan-fried pigeon breast.
Working for an organisation whose members are its shareholders made the chance to meet so many particularly enlightening for me. It’s always valuable to hear members’ views, and it’s fortunate that few things help to air them better than a few glasses of good wine.