Founded in 1874, The Wine Society may have 150 years under its finely-crafted, English gentleman’s belt, but they are surprisingly innovative in their wine sourcing too, bringing in some cracking wines from well off the beaten path, featuring far flung countries and grape varieties well outside the ‘classic’ norm. This tasting of a dozen wines certainly features several of the ‘new look’ Wine Society wines alongside more traditional European and southern hemisphere favourites.
De Morgenzon, DMZ Chenin Blanc 2014, Stellenbosch, South Africa
The entry level Chenin from upmarket De Morgenzon has a creamy, nutty layer as well as a distinctly mineral/smoky quality, but all very discreet and not at all flashy. On the palate the dry, green apple bite of the fruit and a grapefruity acidity is set against a slightly fuller texture, giving this presence and savoury dryness. 87/100. £8.50, The Wine Society.
Solms Astor, Langarm Cape Blend 2012, Western Cape, South Africa
A blend of 35% Pinotage, with equal parts Touriga Nacional, Shiraz and Mourvèdre, the name refers to a celebratory straight-armed dance (apparently) and the wines is supposed to capture its joie de vivre which it does rather successfully. Ripe berries, hints of hot baked earth, juicy fruit and acidity positively dancing across the palate to finish with a pas de deux of spice and rustic tannin. Unpretentious and tasty fun in a glass, and perfect for up-coming barbecue season. 87/100. £7.50, The Wine Society.
Villard, ‘Expresión’ Reserve Syrah 2013, Casablanca, Chile
The Casablanca Valley is the longest established of Chile’s recognised cooler climate regions, but Syrah is not the variety that springs to mind as a Casablanca speciality. There is a lovely purity about this wine, certainly a Syrah at the floral and perfumed end of the spectrum, a hint of freshly laid tar, balsamic notes. 65% ageing in oak adding gloss and smoothness, the palate rich with black fruits, all very silky, very seductive, and nicely balanced too. A most impressive wine. 89/100. £8.25, The Wine Society.
Vina Laguna, Malvasia 2013, Istria, Croatia
Malvasia is one of the most important white grapes of Croatia, this one made in a light style, with only 12.5% alcohol. Blossom and peach down on the nose, leading to a palate that is riven with citrusy acidity, yet has that stone-fruit and ripe apple softness, a hint of sweetness, though a dry and fresh finish with a hint of spice and salts. Highly drinkable as an aperitif or with fish and shellfish. 87/100. £7.50, The Wine Society.
Bleasdale, Langhorne Crossing Verdelho/Sauvignon Blanc 2014, South Australia, Australia
From old, flood-irrigated vineyard land in Langhorne Creek south of Adelaide, the 12% alcohol suggests fruit was picked early, and there’s just a touch of herby greenness and lime skins to otherwise peachy fruit. In the mouth it is boldly fruity, a boiled-sweet fruit brightness, but well balanced with good acidity playing against a lingering hint of sweetness. 86/100. £7.50, The Wine Society.
Tocat de l’Ala, Samso/Garnatxa/Sira 2013, Emporda, Spain
From Emporda, Spain’s most easterly wine region, sited hard against the border with France, this is a blend of Carignan, Grenache and Syrah from vines between 30 and 100 years old. It is perhaps the granite and slate soils that help give such freshness despite the beefy alcohol, the nose displaying cool mountain herbs, garrigue and minerals, as well as lighter fruit notes. On the palate full berry fruit sweetness and some mocha flavours, a nicely drying orange acidity and fine tannin giving grip, in a terrific wine at the price. 89/100. £9.95, The Wine Society.
Rui Madeira, Beyra Mencma Biologico 2012, Beira Interior, Portugal
Interesting that Rui Madeira has labelled this as the Spanish ‘Mencma’ as well as the usual Poruguese ‘Jaen’ on the label, reflecting the burgeoning popularity of this variety from Spain’s north-west. Grown organically and at altitude on granite and flint soils, it is unoaked, allowing fresh, lifted, bright cherry and berry fruit aromas to dominate. In the mouth it is savoury and dry, very sappy and herbal, an almost Beaujolais-like freshness and juiciness to this, finishing with very soft tannins and elegant acidity, though perhaps lacking the nth degree of length. 87/100. £9.95, The Wine Society.
Juanicó, Benteveo Chardonnay 2014, Juanicó, Uruguay
From vineyards 10 miles north of Montevideo, this unoaked Chardonnay was vinified to minimise skin contact and emphasise fruity freshness. Apples and a touch of creamy oatmeal on the nose, then a really zinging, bright palate that has the vivaciousness to appeal to a Sauvignon lover, bursting citrus and more tropical fruit, and crisp but easy-drinking acidity. 86/100. £6.95, The Wine Society.
Karavitakis Winery, Vidiano ‘Klima’ 2014, Chania, Crete
Vidiano is a white wine variety which Karavitakis helped to re-discover or re-introduce into modern quality wine on Crete, made by combining late- and early-picked fruit. Extremely aromatic on the nose, with a Torrontes or Muscat-like lift and perfume, nettles, herbs and a whole florist’s shop of bouquet. On the palate it does not disappoint: the flavours are tamer than the aromas, but it has personality, herb-laced dry fruit, pithy citrus acidity and length. Fascinating and different. 88/100. £9.95, The Wine Society.
Château de Tracy, Pouilly-Fumi ‘Les Princes Ermites’ 2013, Loire, France
Though Château de Tracy is not named on the label, that is the source of this Sauvignon Blanc made with the consultation of renowned Bordeaux white wine specialist Denis Dubourdieu. Video-reviewed as one of my Wines of the Week. What a fine nose, smoky mineral depths but also passion fruit and guava exoticism, hints of soft herb leafiness, but sultry and understated in its way, On the palate perfect balance, all juiciness and squirting citrus freshness, but all the time that smokiness, hint of spice, and sense of richness is in play. Long finish here, and a pure, lingering intensity. 91/100. £13.95, The Wine Society.
Soli, Pinot Noir 2011, Thracian Valley, Bulgaria
Made by Edoardo Miroglio, an Italian winemaker working in Bulgaria, this is aged for 18 months in French oak barriques and a further year in bottle before release. Charming, clove, coffee and incense-filled nose, vanilla, sweet beetroot earthiness and gentle summer berries. On the palate it has more of that raspberry ripple soft fruit and charm, a solid core of coffeeish intensity, and balanced acidity. A fine, modern example of Bulgarian Pinot at its best, reminiscent of Central Otago perhaps, at a very good price. 89/100. £9.95, The Wine Society.
Les Terres d’Ocre, Saint-Pourçain ‘Instan T’ 2013, Auvergne, France
A traditional local blend of 60% Gamay and 40% Pinot Noir, made in cement tanks with no oak. Gorgeous nose, chalky and dry, with delightful lift of blossom and ripe cherries, a sweet, soft leafy and earthy character too. On the palate that lowly 12.5% alcohol means this is fresh as a daisy and medium-bodied, all about the alert, nervous fruit energy, but there is undoubtedly enough grounding tannin, spice and fresh acidity to balance. An unassuming but delightful wine, riven with cherry freshness. 89/100. £9.95, The Wine Society.