Best of The Wine Society: a press tasting top 10
The Wine Society is probably the best place in Britain to buy wine. Established in 1874, owned by its members, profits are ploughed back into the business. The result is an ethos that eschews bogus promotions and takes only scant interest in the whims of wine fashion, focusing instead on bringing its members enticing, often eclectic wines at fair prices.
Twice a year, there’s a press tasting with a selection of new, returning or classic wines. Such events are almost impossible at the moment, so the Society invested in sending us mini samples instead – 48 of them – with accompanying detail. It was an impressive tasting, so whittling it down to a top 10 was very tricky, but here are my recommendations (I have indicated release dates for those wines not yet in stock):
The Society’s Pinot Grigio 2020 (£8.50). I can scarcely believe I am recommending an own-label Pinot Grigio, as so many examples are watery and a bit mean, but this has the charm that made us fall for the grape in the first place. Honeysuckle and citrus blossom lead into a light, refreshing wine, with crisp green apple freshness and cool, clean lemon acidity. I suspect the buyer, Sarah Knowles MW, kept a close eye on this one, as it’s well made and perfect for easy summer sipping.
Lubanzi Chenin Blanc Swartland 2020 (£9.95). An impressive wine with social credentials to match, from a producer new to the UK market. An equitable supply chain and initiatives to ensure that resources go back to the families who work on South Africa’s wine farms are laudable. Fresh apricots and golden delicious apple lead into a delicious, textured palate that’s well balanced with a refreshing lick of wet stone. It’s also available in a can at £3.95, making it perfect for picnics. Cans potentially have an infinite lifespan, providing they are recycled, so good for the planet as well as people.
Beaujolais Blanc Classic, Les Terres Dorées 2019 (£12.50 available from 13 April). Beaujolais is back in fashion, deservedly so, for whites as well as reds. Made from Chardonnay, this gives its northern neighbour Burgundy a real run for its money, with its delicious nose of citrus, oyster shell and stone fruit, it’s crisp yet creamy, plump-fruited and long.
Domaine de la Rochette Mont Sard, Mâcon-Bussières 2019 (£14.95). It’s tricky to find value in Burgundy, even for the Society, but here’s a real find from one of the villages of the Mâcon appellation. A tempting nose of grapefruit, peach and ripe yellow plum leads into a rich, yet perfectly poised wine, with citrus freshness and a lovely rounded feel from judicious use of large oak vats.
Fefiñanes Albariño, Rias Baixas 2020 (£17 available early May). A top drawer Albariño from an historic producer, this has textbook character, with lemon curd, ripe peach and a fresh blast of Atlantic salinity. Well balanced, textured, with a lovely saline finish, this delicious wine cries out for seafood.
Rosé Cuvée Villány, Heumann 2020 (£9.50), a refreshing, cherry-driven Hungarian rosé that has everything you love, while being a little bit different. Made mostly from Kékfrankos (better known as Blaufränkisch), there’s alpine strawberry and red apple, with a lovely texture and crisp finish.
Bononia Estate Gamza 2019 (£8.95). A bright, light chillable summer red from Bulgaria. The variety, also known as Kadarka in Hungary, makes elegant, supple wines, with a perfumed floral lift and raspberry, strawberry and redcurrant fruit. The tannins are delicate and the finish is fresh.
Chateau Ksara Old Vine Carignan 2018 (£11.95). A new wine from Lebanon’s oldest winery, at an attractive price. Fresh and fascinating on the nose, with a lovely herbal note, there’s ripe red fruit, sage and black pepper, with the crisp redcurrant acidity keeping it all in check. A fantastic wine for Easter lunch, Carignan can be very tannic, but it’s in good hands here.
Domaine Montangeron, Fleurie 2019 (£12.95 available May 10th), perfumed and floral (appropriately enough), with charming red berries and a clean, mineral note to the nose, the wine is elegant, juicy-fruited and smooth with real panache. It’s little wonder the Society’s Beaujolais sales are booming, up 60% in a couple of years, as this offers such class at the price.
Dog Point Marlborough Pinot Noir 2018 (£25), a stunning wine from a region that’s making a name for itself beyond Sauvignon Blanc. Fresh cherries, foraged blackberries, rose petals and fig lead into a generous, perfectly balanced, extremely elegant wine with a delicious, subtle savoury undertow. You’d pay more than twice the price for Burgundy at this level.