Launched in 2015 by UK wine importer Erhmanns, the truth is that the Beefsteak Wine Club is more of a marketing pitch than a ‘club’ as such. Based on the idea of 18th and 19th century clubs that celebrated the beefsteak as a symbol of liberty and prosperity, the branding is well-done and the wines are indeed pitched as matches to all things beefy, but as far as I can see, being a member of the club is little more than signing up for their newsletter. The website promises club members will “have access to special promotions, discounted tickets to events, recipes, wine tasting tips and more,” but under the events tab there’s nothing listed that is actually organised for members. Still, maybe that’s to come in the future, so for now let’s concentrate on the wines.
The initial releases from the brand were Malbec wines from Argentina, a very obvious choice in many ways (one of Wines of Argentina’s slogans is ‘Malbec Made for Meat’), and the two levels of Malbec tasted here are both very good. Since then, an Australian Shiraz and, most recently, Spanish Tempranillo have joined the roster. The brand and the idea has proved successful, gaining national listings in retailers including Waitrose and Sainsbury’s. Perhaps the level of success was not expected, the brand bringing with it obvious limitations. Expanding into wines not so suitable for matching with beef has led to the ‘Tuna Club’, an extension of the brand, whose first release is a Spanish Sauvignon and Verdejo blend.
It has to be said that there’s not a lot for the serious wine aficionado to get excited about here, as the wines are generally good, safe examples of their genre (though the Reserve Malbec does rise above that). Despite the clever branding these remain fairly generic wines when all’s said and done, but at the right price – and in barbecue season perhaps – they also do their job well.
(2018) Sourced from the Tierra de Castilla in the south east of Spain, this blends Verdejo and Sauvignon in a clean, crisp style. On the nose a little bit of elderflower and thiol pungency, but it is not overdone. In the mouth there's a bit of dilution that means the slightly aggresive acidity is at odds with the rather sweet character, with not much to bind them. It's just a bit generic rather than being bad, but it's not a wine I could get too enthusiastic over.
(2018) Sourced from the Limestone Coast of South Australia, the back label peels off to reveal a recipe for an Aussie beef barbecue which is a neat touch. In the bottle, a fairly deeply-coloured crimson wine with nicely buoyant aromas of white pepper and cherry, and a gamy and earthy background which is pleasing. On the palate it is a very juicy style, the 14.5% alcohol adding a touch of heat to the finish, but the peppery and spicy black fruit pushing through to the finish, which is roughened nicely by a plum-skin rasp of tannin.
(2018) Sourced from Toledo, not far from Madrid in northern Spain, this comes from old bush vines planted at around 700-metres. There's a touch of smokiness to the deeply-scented black berries of the nose, something slightly leafy too, then a really quite firm, slightly chewy palate, the wine just a touch hollow in the centre, with a rasp of tannins and acidity, some slightly bubblegummy lifted fruit character, but it just needs a bit of somethig to fatten out the middle.
(2018) Argentinian Malbec is where the Beefsteak Club started, and this magnum bottle comes from the Uco Valley of Mendoza, feremented in small conctrete tanks with lees ageing. Dark and solid in colour, there is good depth aromatically, quite meaty and dense, a touch of beef stock appropriately enough, a glimmer of brighter black fruits and a whisper of Malbec's floral quality. In the mouth it is fairly chewy and a touch rustic, but there is a fine gravelly umami dryness to this, and the riper black fruit does reassert in the finish to leave a pleasing impression, some spicines too. Price is for the 1.5-litre magnum.
(2018) Selected grapes from the Uco Valley in Mendoza are hand-picked from high altitude vineyards for this bottling, which is aged in French oak for 18 months. Though aromatically not a million miles from the standard Malbec in the range, there is an extra ounce or two of concetration evident, a touch of spice and chocolate from the oak and with swirling a lovely violet lift to the aroma. In the mouth the wine is a much more seductive proposition, the creamy sweetness of the ripe black fruit melting into the vanilla and spice of the oak, more refined tannins for sure, and a nicely balanced finish where some pert black cherry acidity pushes through.
The perfect combination, if there is any, can be attributed with a good piece of steak and fine wine. I was almost tried all of the steak and wine restaurants in my city and each one of them of good on its own.
I’ve only had the original Malbec and that was a few years back, soon after the brand was launched. I found the wine rather over ripe and flabby, really not to my taste but, I’m sure very much to the taste of others.
Thanks Simon. I think that Reserve Malbec would be more up your street. These are very much commercial wines, my guess is designed to have broad mass-market appeal, not too dry, not too much tannin or acidity, and probably wines that do work a bit better in the context of a bit of beef – or tuna 🙂