Monday, 20 May 2013

A Grand Day Out at The Wine Society

Yesterday, over five hundred members of the 149-year old cooperative The Wine Society turned up at its doors for their biggest and most ambitious tasting yet: The Grand Day Out. No, neither Wallace or Gromit made an appearance.

Taking advantage of the LIWF taking place today and tomorrow, they were able not only to showcase wines from nearly every country they stock (including Romania, Turkey, Greece and Lebanon), but also had growers on hand to chat to members and give unique insights into their wines.

There were an overwhelming 96 wines to try in all. I made an effort to try as many as I could, but here were the highlights:

Blind Spot range, Mac Forbes, £7.50-8.50

Every year in Australia it is possible to find stunning parcels of grapes - that is, if you know the right places to look. Mac Forbes - a dynamic and innovative young producer - acts as The Society's eyes and ears down under, and he sends several samples for the Australian buyer, Pierre Mansour, to taste. Pierre then selects the best ones, and these become the Blind Spot range: benchmark examples of Australia's best varieties, bought in bulk so pricing is ridiculously competitive. If you like Aussie wines, this range is a dream come true It changes every year, but their Clare Valley Riesling, Yarra Valley Pinot Gris, and Grenache-Shiraz-Mataro in particular are unmissable.

Riesling SGN Cuvee Ernest Domaines Schlumberger 2009, £59

It was a rare treat to taste such a beautifully-made Riesling so young in its drinking life. This was incredibly pure, with sweetness balancing well with the acidity already, but it will continue to age and mellow until 2032. A real treat for any Riesling fan - not available online but can be purchased via reference code AL9921 on the phone at 01438 740222.

Tabali Late Harvest Pink Muscat Limari Valley 2010, £4.95 per half

From one extreme to the other, price-wise, but this was equally notable as a sweetie. Okay, it won't live up to the Riesling in terms of quality or ageing potential, but it's a delicious dessert wine for under a fiver! I don't think I've ever seen one of those before.
The reason it's so cheap? Not because it's poor in quality by any means. The muscat grapes that go into making it are actually the ones normally sold cheaply to produce Pisco, a hugely popular liqueur in Peru and Chile. Tabali discovered these grapes had huge potential, so they offered to pay more for them so they could produce a sweet wine.
It's light, with fresh acidity and delicious fruit flavours, making it perfect for summer pudding, pavlova, and fruit salads. For under a fiver a half (which is all you need for a dinner party really as most people only have a small amount of dessert wine) how could you not?

Semeli Mountain Sun Rose 2012, £8.95 per bottle

This Greek rose is a perfect (and frankly rare) example of a great, good value summer rose - equally tasty for garden quaffing as it would be with lamb with mediterranean vegetables, or flavourful salads. Anything you can get for this price in a supermarket simply won't live up to this.

Romania's Prince Stirbey wines, presented by Jakob and Ileana Kribb, £9.50-13

This couple and their wines were one of my personal highlights. They are doing great things for Romanian wines: they've picked out the best indigenous grape varieties, and they then make wines with the sole aim of showcasing exactly what these grapes can do. They use minimal oak or intervention to make sure you can taste the best of the grape, and they were utterly delightful wines. The Tamaioasa Romaneasca Sec 2012 (£9.50) was a white wine with a stunning amount of juicy, mouth-watering flavour - perfect as an aperitif but also crying out for aromatic salads. They also do a red wine (Novac - next vintage available around June) which was packed with red and dark fruits, and a nice amount of spice and tannin that will make it perfect for mid-weight meat dishes.

 Jane Hunter, Hunter's wines (from £7.50)

It was a delight to meet Jane, a phenomenal woman who has done truly great things and helped put women winemakers on the map as far back as the 80s. The family winery remains fiercely independent to this day, and you've not had true Marlborough Sauvignon until you've had a Hunter wine. Their Stoneburn Sauvignon Blanc (£7.50) is a fabulous, refreshing everyday sauvignon high above many others at this price, whereas the Society's Exhibition Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc (£13.95, also made by Hunter) is a benchmark of the region, with real finesse and balance.

I was also lucky enough to attend the first of the day's Masterclass events: a tasting of Louis Roederer wines with the charming Mark Bingley MW. I'll blog more about that later this week.

Not a member of the Society? Then you won't be able to order wines from them, I'm afraid. But as it's a co-operative, all you have to do is buy one share (£40) and that will make you a member for life.There's no obligation to buy a certain amount per year, but you even get a tenner towards your first order.

1 comment:

  1. Ooh, I wish I'd come now! LOVE all of these wines :-)