A nice opportunity here to catch up with around 50 wines from The Wine Society. These are either new on the list, or new vintages of established listings. As always the tasting confirmed the breadth of the Society’s buying, spanning some of Europe’s most traditional appellations, to up-and-coming world regions.
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European White Wines
(2022) Available mid-May 2022, this is 100% cortese from the Araldica cooperative, aged four months on the lees. Very attractive nose combining something leafy and green, like soft wild herbs, with melon and a hint of Riesling-like waxiness. Plenty of crisp, lemony fruit and acidity on the palate, and that lees ageing adds some texture too for a useful lightweight white with a bit of substance.
(2022) Pristine white from Atlantic-influenced vineyards, it is 60% malvasia, plus 40% of mixed local varieties, which had a little skin contact in stainless steel. Lemony yellow in colour with a springtime perfume on the nose, wild flowers and lemon drops. In the mouth a little richer and weightier than you might expect, with bold fruit that races between lemon and a fatter tangerine sweetness, very nice acidity with a lick of salt. Highly drinkable Vinho Verde alternative for the summer with its 11.5% alcohol.
(2022) From granite soils, this Melon de Bourgogne spent a full three years on the lees in concrete vats. Super breezy and fresh, there is iodine and ozone and a crisp citrus and ripe apple fruit personality. In the mouth that bracing lick of seaside air is somehow still evident, a delightful featherlight breeziness of flavour, juicy acids and a long and delightful finish. A little star.
(2022) Furmint aged 12 months in 1000-litre acacia barrels, with 9g/l of residual sugar. Spontaneous fermentation. The sugar disappeares dramatically here in a powerful and fleshy wine that offers some custard apple and peach aromas and fruit on the palate, plenty of chewy texture and acidity, the sweetness detectable right on the finish, but only because it balances lots of powerful flavour and personality.
(2022) From Galicia, this is mostly Godello with 15% of the Doña blanca variety, aged 10 months in stainless steel tanks.There's a succulence here, pear and ripe yellow apple, maybe just a touch of nuttiness. The palate has a lovely rounding sweetness of fruit, with sherbet-bright acidity running beneath. Quite full and quite powerfully concentrated.
(2022) An unusual blend of macabeu, albariño, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and riesling, from the very reliable producer Tomàs Cusiné. Peachy and fragrant, with a zippy pear-drop and citrus background, the palate is fresh and lively, iwth a big salts and lemons lick of acidity underpinning the ripe pear fruit. Mouth-watering and rather nice.
(2022) A big blend here of 30% roussanne, 30% clairette, 20% viognier, 10% marsanne and 10% bourboulenc. Around 10% was aged in large oak foudre. Creamy, fat apple on the nose, a little cut of lime, before the palate shows lovely sweetness and clarity, a great juiciness here, so much sweetness of fruit but a sherbetty-bright acidity too.
(2022) The Society suggest this is a "fun alternative to sauvignon blanc," and I can get that. Made in stainless steel with malolactic blocked for extra zip, there is 3.8g/l of residual sugar but that is barely felt in the mouth. There's more floral aromatic than Sauvignon for sure, true to variety, but in the mouth there is punchy and vivacious character, and just as it hints at sweetness a blast of lemony and grapefruit acidity powers through.
(2022) Slovenian Rhine Riesling, with a touch of residual sugar (5.5g/l). Very nice nose hinting at honey, wax and lemon meringue pie, clean but rounded and gentle. That bit of sugar is swallowed up in a wine that is assertive and pithy, seemingly bone dry with mouth-filling extract and plenty of grip and chewiness to the lemon and lime flavours.
(2022) From the Rhône Valley, the blend is 40% clairette, 35% grenache and 25% picpoul. Quite creamy, but fresh on the nose, taut apple fruit leads on to a softer, fuller palate, teetering on the edge of peachiness, but a decisive and pithy lemon acidity sharpens things up again to a refreshing, lightly saline finish.
(2022) Grand Cru Alsace Riesling, which spent 11 months on fine lees, this has a really appealing nose: great fruit purity, a little note of waxines to ripe apple and pear. There's a minerality about this too. In the mouth it is dry and decisive, quite a weighty wine, that lees-ageing adding nutty textural dryness, but the glistening purity and ripeness of the fruit is what drives the finish along with pithy lemon acid clarity.
(2022) Juhfark is a grape native to Hungary, this made with some skin contact and spontaneous fermentation in big barrels where it aged for 11 months. Some of the barrels were acacia rather than oak, and though I looked for anything reminiscent of acacia honey, I didn't really find it. There is however a nice genrous fruitiness, touch of oatmeal and suggestion of some weight on the nose. In the mouth lovely sweetness of ripe lemony fruit, some peach or nectarine skin grip and tartness as well as flavour, and a long finish sparked by sherbetty acidity. Personality+.
(2022) Made by Three Choirs in Gloucestershire, it's a mind-bending unoaked blend of 27% madeleine angevine, 20% solaris, 16% orion, 16% seyval blanc, 15% reichensteiner and 4% bacchus. quite lightly aromatic, a little grassiness and a touch of spring flowers, pleasing and unagressive. In the mouth there is a hint of sweetness, but only a hint, as it's the featherlight and summery fruit and adequate pithy grapefruit acidity that makes this rather sippable - and at 12% abv, useful too.
(2022) Low yields in this small biodynamic estate, the wine fermented in concrete tanks but kept on its lees until bottling in the spring. Definite leesy, nutty characters on the nose, but set against clear and very lightly honeyed lemon aromas. The palate is flooded with super-sweet and ripe fruit, again some more taut, apple and apple core dryness at the heart of this, but a riper fruit quality touching on the exotic flits across the mid-palate. Very nicely balanced and good length too, the fruit purity and saline note of acidity driving the finish.
(2022) Made in stainless steel, this Chardonnay was fermented with natural yeasts. Mealy and soft on the nose, aromas are subtle and lemony, just a hint of almond too. The palate has great sweetness of ripe fruit, citrus yes, but a very ripe pear touching on more exotic peach. Fine acid balance here, a streak of citrus and salts into the finish.
(2022) Made from organic grapes, this is 100% chardonnay aged 10 months on fine lees in oak vats (70%), stainless steel (25%), and smaller barrels (5%). Fresh, pristine nose of white stone fruits, but firm and precise, a hint of lemon rind and slightly waxier character too. In the mouth bags of ripe fruit, with great zest and shimmering brightness of lemon and lime into a long, stony finish.
World White Wines
(2022) From the elevated Strathbogie Ranges region, this surely must have been harvested early to acheive only 10.5% alcohol in a dry Riesling? Fermented in large old oak, with five months on the lees. Pretty lemon jelly aromas with a whiff of paraffin, lead on to a delightful palate shimmering with bright citrus juice and zest, very keen, slightly saline acidity pushing through to a long finish.
(2022) How intriguing to have this nine-year-old Chardonnay on the Society's shelves, from a top Margaret River estate. Wild fermented, it spent nine months in French oak, 45% new. Light gold in colour, the funky, flinty character this wine always posesses is there in full force, butteriness and a suggestion of fruit ripeness beneath. Loads of streaking, salty, flinty mineral character over pristine apple and hints of juicier nectarine, the acidity tapering elegantly but persistently. Some may find the bold and assertive style too much, but I really enjoyed it.
(2022) An inexpensive Marlborough Chardonnay (93% Wairau, 7% Awatere) aged 11 months in French oak barriques, 15% new. Mealy and almondy, there's a little touch of flintiness to the creamy apple fruit. In the mouth the lightly biscuity oak supports quite clean and lean fruit, certainly more in the apple and citrus spectrum than tropical, with a tight, pithy lemon finish.
(2022) Bringing back happy memories of a visit there a few years ago, this comes from the historic Hanzell Vineyard, part-fermented in barrel and aged one year in French oak barrels. Light gold in colour, some custard and Brazil nut oak character over very clean and precise peach and lemon. The palate has a juiciness that stays firm and focused, not veering into the more tropical spectrum, but the sweetness of ripe juicy apple and pear, with a lemony thrust of extending acidity.
(2022) Sauvignon from the cool and often foggy Casablanca Valley, made by Concha y Toro's head winemaker in stainless steel. Intense aroma, but not too herbaceous, not too many fireworks, then the palate shows a similar level of intensity, so much shimmering lime and lemon acidity to cut through the slightly riper fruit of the mid-palate.
European Red Wines
(2022) Blending 50/50 Zweigelt and St Laurent, aged for a year in 300-litre French oak barrels (no new oak). Vibrant medium-pale colour, lifted cherry and kirsch on the nose, lots of summery, almost lipsticky character. In the mouth it is dry, touched with a rhubarb note of vegetal character, but that against cherry-ripe fruits. Plenty of lemony acidity and soft tannins, I'd put this in the Beaujolais ballpark for sure.
(2022) From a 100-year-old vineyard, it's a blend of 60% mencia, 30% pireto picudo and 10% alicante bouschet aged nine months in oak vats and concrete tanks. Polished, lightly truffly and brimming with red and black berry fruit character. The oak adds a sheen on the nose and palate, where a keen juiciness of tart raspberry and cherry gives plenty of energy to this, spritely tannins and buoyant acidity dry but at the same time juicy into the finish.
(2022) From Alicante, this is 50% Monastrell, aka Mourvèdre, along with 50% Giro (a local name for Grenache). It was aged 10 months in 500-litre Allier oak barrels. Really nice and ripe, up-front red fruitiness on the nose, a certain energy and life about this. The palate follows on a similar vein, red liquorice edging blueberry and damson plum for a certain succulence and nicely weighted tannins and acids into the finish. Good value.
(2022) Another Garnacha from Campo de Borja, but marching to a different beat: fermented with 50% stems in concrete eggs and aged in both concrete eggs and foudres. Dark, glossy, somewhat mysterious and serious, the palate has a depth of sinewy fruit, just some ripeness of black berries coming through. Tannins are chalky and dry, acidity is good, and this finishes with quite lean gastronomic appeal and a long, spicy finish.
(2022) From the volcanic soils of Basilicata, 100% Aglianico aged 12 months, 50% in French oak, 50% in steel. A really pleasing, elegant but rounded nose of pure red plum and cherry, a little hint of something floral too. Mouthfilling and ripe fruit is offset by firm, really quite grippy tannins, and a solid core of rippling acidity that marries with the ripe fruit in the long, gently spicy finish.
(2022) Calabrian red from Gaglioppo grapes, grown organically. Unoaked, but 12 months in stainless steel tank, five months in bottle, before release. Nicely fragrant and inviting, a rose and violet top note to kirsch-like fruit. Buoyantly red fruited on the palate, bursting with energy, then a dry, quite stern axis of acidity and tannin clamps down on the finish. Enjoyably different this one.
(2022) Amongst the cheaper wines of this selection, 100% Garnacha or Grenache, made in stainless steel. Immediately juicy, easy and attractive on the nose, there's a little floral perfume to the ripe red berries. The palate has a creamy texture and almost chocolaty edge, the fruit a little darker than the nose suggested, with a ripe but biting axis of spice, tannin and acidity to freshen the finish. Excellent everyday house wine potential here.
(2022) The chamelon Cabernet Franc can reach high alcohols, but here a very modest 12.5% does for a certified organic Anjou wine made in concrete tanks. It is pretty, brightly red-fruitd and has a certain floral and green herb lift. In the mouth it is lightweight and elegant, with nicely ripe fruit, no great length, but good balance as some spices join the modest tannins and pert cherry acid of the finish. Useful summer drinking, maybe lightly chilled.
(2022) A typical Douro blend of 30% touriga franca, 30% tinta roriz, 25% tinta amarela and 15% touriga nacional, made in stainless steel. Vinous and dark fruited, cherry and plum with a wisp of smokiness. In the mouth this has a stripe of tannin that is dry and savoury, quite a grippy tannin profile, but the juiciness of the vine fruits and acid keep in mouth-watering and well-balanced.
(2022) An inexpensive Bordeaux, not aged in barrel but spending 11 months in contact with wooden staves in tank, it is a blend of 60% merlot, 24% cabernet sauvignon and 16% petit verdot. With six years under its belt it has a touch of ruby warmth to the colour and a nose of red and black berry fruits. The palate is medium-bodied and the fruit quite savoury, acid a little prominent for me, though the oak treatment has softened the edges.
(2022) A mature Bordeaux that is 58% cabernet sauvignon, 35% merlot, 5% petit verdot, 2% cabernet franc given 12 months in oak barrels, 33% new. Proper claret nose, with a little blood and game, black fruit and a hint of cedar. In the mouth there's an obvious ripeness and sweetness to the mid-palate fruit that is reasonably fleshy and creamy. Spicy, tight tannins and acidity do assert in the finish, but this drinks well.
(2022) From vineyards belonging to second growth Ducru-Beaucaillou, this 12-year-old St-Julien is just a touch dank on the nose, though a blackcurrant fruitiness does come through and builds surprising sweetness on the palate. It's a concentrated wine, the blue-black firmness of fruit running into polished oak and fine tannins, nice dry acidity too, in a wine that finishes well and after that lacklustre beginning, comes good in some style.
(2022) A Right Bank Bordeaux, two-thirds merlot with Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec, aged 12 months in oak barrels, 20% new. Dark fruits and quite a meaty character, plum and leather dominate. The palate is firm with some chewy tannin, chalky and dry, but the fruit does have sweetness on the mid-palate. A little tobacco and dustiness in the well-balanced finish. Good value.
(2022) A new Cru Beaujolais for the Society, available from 4th May 2022, only 50% was whole bunch fermented and the wine was aged 10 months in Austrian oak vats. A more serious style for sure, a deeper sense of fruit and a polished quality, lots of charming fruit sweetness suggested though. In the mouth quite creamy and ripe, a firm liquorice edge to the raspberry and plum fruits, and a firming edge of acidity too in a concentrated finish.
(2022) Cru Beaujolais made with whole-bunch fermentation and aged in cement tanks, this is fresh, and delicately cherry and floral scented. Loads of juicy, light- to medium-bodied fruit, like biting into a ripe plum crossed with a peach, plenty of sparky acidity and enough tannin to deliver a lovely mouthful of wine.
(2022) A serious rendition of Cru Beaujolais, from an estate in conversion to organic agriculture and 60- to 100-year-old vines. Twenty percent was aged in oak for 18 months. There's an immediate firmness on the nose, a liquorice bite to cherry skin and a touch of raspberry. In the mouth savoury and sappy, the bright acidity and tight tannins adding lots of gastronomic appeal. The oak adds a polish, the fruit nicely poised between sweet and bitter, and the finish long. A fine expression of Gamay and Moulin-à-Vent. Watch the video
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(2022) From the mainland Peloponnese, barrel aged Agiorgitiko that spent 12 months in French oak barrels and three years in bottle before release. The colour has a mature warmth on the rim, and there are warming aromatics too, a velvety, plush depth of coffee and tobacco spice, black fruits are ripe and mellow. In the mouth that spice powers through, very tangy and peppery over a raft of black fruits. Brisk tannins, a keen edge of plum skin dry acidity, for a gastronomic and impressive wine at the price.
(2022) Sourced from the high-altitude vineyards, this spent eight months in French oak vats. Still that relatively pale and tranluscent colour, more sweet damp earth and leafiness as well as that tapendade and sun-dried tomato character which is savoury and appealing. The palate has sweet summery tomato character but a ripe, red berry fruitiness. Delightful brisk tannins and acidity are gentle but persistent.
(2022) From Naoussa, this is Thymiopoulos's introduction to Xinomavro, with 25% whole bunch fermentation and eight months ageing in concrete and stainless steel. Juicy and uncomplicated, there's a little tapenade and fresh black berry fruits. Light in colour and in texture, the palate is soft, sweet, the tannins liquoricy but gentle, and the whole picture bright as a summery button. No blockbuster, but that's rather the point. Serve lightly chilled a la Beaujolais.
(2022) Syrah from the northern Rhône, made for the Society by Maison et Domaines les Alexandrins, it was aged six months on fine lees in stainless steel and neutral oak. Vivid and deep crimson/purple in colour, the nose is tightly-wound and slightly impenetrable at this stage. In the mouth really nice fruit that is much more vivid, plum and blueberry, a little peppery spice, and a composed finish. Quite serious and sinewy for a Crozes, but needs food.
(2022) From Savoie in eastern France, this is 100% Trousseau fermentated and aged 12 months in wooden vats and demi-muids, 10% new. Typically pale and transluscent rim, and a sweet cherry and earth fragrance, hinting at pulpy strawberry but with a serious side too. In the mouth there's a raft of soft, sweet fruit, dark and gently spiced, an underpinning leafiness adds a layer, but it is the sweet and delicious fruit that persists into a fresh, nimble finish.
(2022) From one of the great estates of Madiran, this is a blend of 60% tannat, 20% cabernet franc, 20% cabernet sauvignon aged 12-16 months in barrel, then eight months in large wooden vats. Big, meaty and chunky on the nose, there is depth here but a sense of polish too. Hints of violet lift lead on to a palate of svelte and full dark vine fruits, forceful but relatively svelte tannins and lovely acid balance. Powerful and another food wine, but lovely.
World Red Wines
(2022) From the historic Mission Estate, 100% Cabernet Ssauvignon which spent 12 months in French oak, 25% new. With a few year in bottle the nose has a little earthy, bloody plum character, maybe just a smidgen of volatility showing too. The palate is dry and has a savoury blend of tapenade and riper black fruit flavours. Cedary oak adds an old world dimension, with roughening tannins and good acidity make for classic, Bordeaux-style drinking.
(2022) A southern Rhône-style blend, 40% syrah, 33% grenache, 21% mourvèdre, 3% counoise and 3% terret noir aged nine months in oak vats. Attractively bright and peppery on the nose, quite a cool climate Syrah feel in a way, the blackberry fruit coming through on the medium-bodied palate, where lively acidity and a sinewy thread of tannin adds layering to the sweet fruit.
(2022) The 75% zinfandel is blended with 24% syrah and 1% petite sirah, the whole lot aged 22 months in oak, 20% new. Big, spicy, plump and ripe, there's a hint of volatility to blackberry and very ripe plum aromas. These lead on to a palate that is chewy and dense, the fruit packed on top of a stripe of tannin and plum skin acidity in a big-hearted mouthful of steak-friendly red.
(2022) From one of the great names of Stellenbosch, and spending eighteen months in French oak (45% new), there's 10% petit verdot in the blend. Filled with mint, cocoa and super-ripe blackcurrant, this is buoyant and crammed with glossy, deep fruit. The palate has that weight and fat of ripeness, sweetness and texture, with a fine backbone of sandy tannin and pert acidity, all layered over polished, cream and high quality oak.
(2022) 100% Pinot Noir from mature vineyards in Casablanca, a pretty cherry cola-touched nose with some rose-hip and floral highlights to red and black summer berries. In the mouth it is so pure and elegantly framed, the supple fruit and juicy acids very pleasing into the finish, tannins almost imperceptable, but then they do subtly support the long finish.
(2022) Merlot matured in used barrels for 10 months to round the wine, without imparting significant oak flavour. Quite plummy, vinous and dark with a hint of violet. The palate has a buoyant and joyous raft of blackcurrant fruit, touched with softening chocolate tones, yet the brisk cherry acidity skips along on the finish. There is spice, and the acid could even be slightly prominent for some, but a mouth-watering style to finish.