As wine writers, we get invited to a lot of press tastings, where we are lucky enough to try many of the wines on offer from various merchants, clubs and supermarkets all at once. One tasting we are always happy to go to is that of The Wine Society: a national institution that despite being founded in 1874 has moved seamlessly with the times to offer genuinely fantastic examples of key grapes and styles of wine as well as hand-picked, lesser known wines from places you may never have heard of (but that will blow your mind). The best bit? As The Society is owned by its members, there are no obligations to place huge margins on the wines, so everything you taste punches well above its price tag as the buyers have the freedom to buy the best. With wines from £5 all the way up to iconic, more collectible bottles, this is where to come to learn your wine basics by tasting through their benchmark styles before moving on to expand your palate, happy to do so as you know and trust their choices.
Here’s our pick from yesterday’s press tasting:
Crémant de Jura, Domaine de Montbourgeau, France, NV. £14.50
Fabulous, classy, Champagne-style bubbles (traditional method) with loads of tang and flavour. Made with 100% Chardonnay and ridiculous value. 12%
Alfred Gratien Blanc de Blancs, Champagne, 2012. £39
Proper, seriously good, 100% Chardonnay Champagne with all the trimmings: brioche, apple-skin, peaches, rainbows...
Alfred Gratien Brut 2006, £42
If you’re into aged vintage Champagne with a slight funky edge, you will adore this. Rich, round and a touch nutty, there’s so much going on.
The Society’s Exhibition Albariño, Rias Baixas, Spain, 2018. £14.50
Yes, you can find some cheaper Albariño, but this is the best version we have tasted for ages. Crisp and citrus with a chalky kick and tropical, peachy note. Gorgeous.
Contino Blanco, Rioja, Spain, 2017. £20
A very well put together white Rioja that is fresh, floral with buttery, pineapple notes right now, but will also age beautifully. Made by a tip top producer.
Jacques Saumaize, Macon-Vergisson Sur La Roche, Burgundy, France, 2017. £12.95
Quite simply, a beautifully fresh and youthful, unoaked Chardonnay with tonnes of fruit.
Soave Classico, Calvarino, Pieropan, Italy 2016. £18
Soave can be boring but Pieropan’s is the icon. Incredible texture, floral aromatics and ripe fruit. Summer in a glass.
WHITE ‘MUST-TRY’ QUIRKIES
Quinta de Calçada Alvarinho, Minho, Portugal, 2018. £9.50
Another gorgeous Albariño but from Portugal this time. Saline and citrussy with great texture. Say its name out loud for extra enjoyment.
Pepe Mendoza, Moscatel, Macabeo, Airen & Alicante blend, Spain, 2018. £11.75
(Available from July) A happy, summery wine. White flowers, oranges and lemon cream with the lightest touch. Huge drinkability.
Szolo Tempo Tokaj Furmint, Hungary, 2017. £14.95
Hungarian Furmint is a grape to look out for if you love refreshing, crisp whites with an off-dry element, like this one. Perfect with mildly spiced thai food.
Blackbook Winery, The Mixup, England, 2018. £18
Properly quirky, this one! And made in London to boot by this exciting new winery. 50:50 Bacchus and Ortega grapes. Sweet, grassy nose but dry palate. Very textural. A great food wine. Gloriously different and unique.
Corent Côtes d’Auvergne, Saint-Vernay, France, 2018. £9.50
Did you know that Corent must always be rosé and always made from the Gamay grape? This dark pink wonder is all tangy, wild strawberry with a subtle, savoury note. In between a Provençal and Tavel style. Delicious and great value.
Domaine Alzipratu, Fiumesecco Rosé, Ile de Beauté, Corsica, France, 2018. £14.50
A crazy Corsican name, this easy-to-love pink is made from the local Sciaccarellu grape and it has an incredibly soft, round palate with charming peach and melon flavours.
El Pacto, Crianza, Rioja, Spain, 2016, £11.50
All those classic Rioja flavours, but with a particularly fresh acidity and lovely herbaceous note. Not overblown. Infinitely moreish.
The Society’s Exhibition Margaux, France, 2015. £23
This Margaux shows why this Bordeaux appellation is so sought-after: positively regal with silky, dark fruit, classic, Cabernet features and a seamless, mineral core. Gorgeous plum and violet notes too.
The Society’s Exhibition Fleurie, France, 2018. £10.50
Beaujolais is back and it’s better than ever. This Fleurie has all the hallmarks that make the appellation famous: perfume and light-bodied silkiness, but it’s a million miles away from the soapy styles of yore. Crying out for charcuterie.
Langhe Nebbiolo A Mont, Paolo Conterno, Italy, 2016 £18
This wine is just how you want non-Barolo nebbioo to be: ethereal and earthy with subtle violets and rose. Utterly beguiling.
RED ‘MUST-TRY’ QUIRKIES
Undurraga Cauquenes Estate Carignan, Chile, 2016. £8.95
Chilean Carignan is getting really good. Tangy and refreshing, it’s got a moreish, chewy texture and strawberry jam notes.
Cirò Rosso Gaglioppo, Santa Venere, Italy, 2017. £9.95
Rustic, but with charm, this is earthy and fruity with fairly high tannin. A bit like a fruitier Nero D’Avola. Made with Gaglioppo grapes from Calabria.
Duché d’Uzès, Les Perrasieres, Domaine Camp Galhan, France, 2016. £10.50
If you’re a fan of Syrah form the Northern Rhône, you will love this. Tonnes of thyme, rosemary and violets on the nose and a silky, plum fruit texture. Great value for great Syrah.
Kardarka, Maurer, Serbia, 2017. £14.50
A Serbian wine, no less! Kadarka is the grape and makes wines that are really light in colour and bright red. The flavour profile is so interesting: rose petal and figs, with a viscous, licorice and caramel finish. Definitely worth a taste and only 11% abv.
By Helena Nicklin