Not all ‘own label’ ranges are created equal. There’s been a real emphasis on these own-branded wines among the UK’s major retailers recently, with Majestic launching its ‘Definitions’ range a couple of years ago, and all of the the big supermarkets placing more emphasis on ‘Taste the Difference,’ ‘Finest’, ‘Extra Special’, etc. The Wine Society already has its own extensive range of own labels made in partnership with some excellent producers from around the world in the shape of its ‘The Society’s…’ and ‘Exhibition’ brands, but the Blind Spot range is a bit different: the wines all come from Australia, and all are sourced by ace Yarra Valley winemaker Mac Forbes (right) using his extensive contacts across the country. For their modest prices all offer excellent value for money in my opinion, but some also offer the chance to explore less traveled Australian wine roads, with Garganega and Barbera for example.
The Wine Society is a membership organisation, run on a non-profit-maximising basis. More details at thewinesociety.com. Please note too that The Wine Society will there to pour their wines and meet you at all three of my Festivals of Wine in 2017.
(2017) Another classic, a bone-dry Riesling from the Clare Valley, there's a nice hint of the floral and beeswax side of Riesling to the otherwise fresh and limey fruit, even a hint of exotic lychee. Rippling with salt and chalk acidity, there is nevertheless plenty of lime, sliced apple and juicy Mandarin orange fruit to balance, in a long, shimmering wine.
(2017) Another outlier variety from the King Valley, this is Garganega, the grape of Soave, here given extra oomph (though only 12.5% alcohol) in the Australian sunshine. It has some youthful pear-drop aroma, centred around orchard fruit, a hint of lemon and some light floral background notes. On the palate it is pure, dry and zippy, just ripe peach and apple, and a hint of drying (and welcome) saltiness in the finish.
(2017) One of the stars of this excellent range, a prime example of the 'new' Australian Chardonnay eschewing the excesses of ripeness and oak, but at the same time avoiding becoming too lean or ungenerous. The pitch is perfect, with ripe pear and juicy melon aromas, a touch of sour green apple to give bite, and the gentlest creaminess of oak. In the mouth there's fine fruit sweetness but balanced by a great core of acidity, a lick of salt, and a balanced, long finish.
(2017) GSM - Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre - is a classic blend not only of the Rhône Valley, but of McLaren Vale in South Australia. There's a lovely ripeness and roundness of black fruit on the nose - not jammy, but full and juicy, with a hint of pepper and spice. In the mouth the dry, fresh, slightly ashy character is offset beautifully by blackcurrant pastille fruit. A nice weight of spicy tannin and freshening acidity sets the whole, easy drinking barbecue-friendly style very nicely.
(2017) There's such a range of 'alternative varieties' planted in Australia now, and Victoria seems to be home to more than most. Indigenous to northern Italy, this Barbera is typically deep and vibrant in colour, and driven by its racy, Indian inky cherry skin fruit that is bittersweet with the bite of cherry skin tannin and acidity against the sweet flesh of the fruit. There's a pleasing herb or coal dust dry mineral quality to add interest too in a highly quaffable style.
(2017) Alongside Grenache, Mataro - aka Mourvèdre - is now stealing a little bit of the limelight from Syrah in McLaren Vale. This has quite a similar nose to the GSM blend, a little bit of raspberry/strawberry lift to the fruit. In the mouth the spice and savoury richness of the fruit is good, a bit of chewy tannin and plum skin character, the sweetness of the fruit again nicely balanced by the acidity.
(2017) The Yarra is a real Pinot Noir stronghold in Australia, and this has been the star of previous Blind Spot releases - as it is here in my opinion. Made in older barrels using wild yeasts, it has that fresh, gentle, cranberry and pomegranate delicacy that's so appealing in Pinot, touches of beetroot and earthy truffle. In the mouth the light fruit caresses rather than bludgeons, racy and refined, enough creaminess and hints of vanilla to add richness, but the combination or red fruit, sappy spice and elegant structure leads the way.