Monday, 28 February 2011

The Wine Society - Part 2

Hello All!

Ok, so we're continuing with the "Top Society Sellers" case from the Wine Society. You can find Part 1 here; which had some very good (both value and quality-wise) wines. Can they keep form? Let's have a butchers...

The two whites were:

The Society's Muscadet Sur Lie, 2009

Oddly for France, Muscadet is the name of the grape (as well as the region in this case). Muscadet comes from the Loire Valley and is also known as Melon de Bourgogne. Usually a refreshing, very dry white. The "Sur Lie"  means "drawn off the lees without racking" which is essentially drawing the wine off the sediment deposits without syphoning or filtering. 12%.

The Look: Medium, lemony yellow with gold highlights.
The Smell: Very muted, doesn't give much away. Slight grapey-ness and quite minerally.
The Taste: Very fresh acidity, very lively burst of grapefruit. A certain minerality and some spice. Honeyed on the finish with a sort of  lemon/lime hint ("Quite like Sprite" - D), although remaining dry and taut. Surprisingly good. Very good!
The Score: Again, great for the price.  7.5/10Recommended!
VFM: At £6.50 a bottle this is great value at VFM = 1.15.

The Society's Chilean Chardonnay, Limari, 2009

From the Limari Valley - touted as one of best new World sites  for Chardonnay. Sea breeze induced cool-climate and limestone soils with little rainfall, plenty of sun and virtually no frost, breeds some superb wines. Aged on its lees (see above) and about 10% is oak-matured. This is made by the mighty Concha-Y-Toro. 14%.

The Look: A light but deeply coloured medium gold with hints of green. 
The Smell: Fig? Perfumed and floral but with some smokiness.
The Taste: Great! Mouth-pleasing acidity. Lovely complex quality (fig, sweetness, spice, cinnamon) great fruit strength. Alcohol is apparent but not overpowering; just a nice warmth.
The Score: Everything you'd want and more from a wine of this price!   7.5/10Recommended!
VFM: At £5.95 a bottle this is superb value at VFM = 1.26.

And the Reds...

The Society's Chianti Rufina, 2008

From Tuscany in Italy ("The Bordeaux of Italy") this Rufina comes from North of the more common Chianti Classico sub-region. Rufinas are normally "elegant and complex". 12.5%.

The Look: A fairly dark, plummy-red/purple. Brick-red on the rim and not quite opaque.
The Smell: Smells like spicy cherries, cinnamon, oaky. Almost hot initially (on a BIG sniff) but did fade away - clean, not faulty.
The Taste: In all honesty - I was dreading this. We've had some acidic-horror-Chiantis at this price before...but...WHAT a surprise - it was bearable, I might even say "mild", and delicious. Still plenty of lively acidity but integrated with lots of cherry fruit and a savoury/herby edge. A long, warming finish. Superb with meatball spaghetti. Slightly "chewy" tannins and lots of them. Slight Bordeaux resemblance with the oaky cherry. Very nice. Opened-up nicley after an hour.
The Score: Very good. Open an hour before drinking or maybe more. 7.5/10 Recommended.
VFM: At £6.95 a bottle this is great value at VFM = 1.08. Bargain.

The Society's Corbieres, 2008

This Corbieres is Carnigan dominant but has some Grenache and Syrah thrown in the mix. From the Languedoc region of France (Corbieres is its own AOC within Languedoc-Rousillon) made by producer Pierre Bories. Corbieres are normally very spicy, dark-fruited wines.14%.

The Look: Dark, opaque purple with a violet rim.
The Smell: Smells plummy, slightly smoky and some definite blackberry and raspberry.
The Taste: Some blackberry fruit and some graphite-like minerality, some spice but mainly just heat! Too hot and too harsh. The alcohol is too apparent - tongue feels like I've had a whisky!
The Score: If you're going to do 14% alcohol then it needs to be less apparent and be balanced by other things. Not horrendous but not great - bit of a let-down. 6/10
VFM: At £6.50 a bottle this is great value at VFM = 1.15.

So part 2 pretty much followed on from the first; very good wines for the price. As simple as that. For everyday drinking, you can't really go wrong. Unless there are some horrors in the last four wines (which I doubt) - this could possibly be the best value for money mixed case we've seen. 
I guess we'll find out next week!

As always...

Speak to you soon.



Monday, 21 February 2011

The Wine Society - Part 1

Hello All...

We've finally gotten around to drinking the case we bought from the Wine Society. If you don't already know them then, in a nutshell, they are an old (established 1874) "not for profit" organisation. £40 buys you a lifetime membership. Most of the profit (after wages, advertising, blah blah) is supposed to go back in to the organisation to secure the best deals for its members. I promptly joined to see what they were like. It was pretty cool. I got a hand-written membership card, certificate and a nice catalogue to browse. Plus £10 off the first order. Not too shabby.

The plus points were a great range, free delivery on 12-bottle orders over £75 and a smooth online ordering process. However, those "best deals for members" were not immediately apparent. Prices on brands were  not that any different to any other large online retailers for wines common to all. Some wines were more expensive so they are undoubtedly limited by the RRP and profit margins. Oh and they are heavily old World biased, although they do carry a significant new World range to be fair; 134 wines from the South of France alone versus 73 from Chile as a whole, 50 from New Zealand and 61 from Australia. Argentina, the US and South Africa are considered "rest of the World" rather than having their own search links on the left-hand-side.

Anyway, after the dismay of the promised "best prices" not being delivered, and no sign of making back the £40 outlay via discounted wines anytime soon, (minus one point) I did manage to find pockets of value in the form of the Society's own wines. Don't let the term "own wines" put you off - these are made by serious players (Concha Y Toro, Craggy Range, Villa Maria, Hunter's to name but a few) and are VERY well priced.

I opted for the "Top Society Sellers" - basically a mixed case of the Society's own wines. £79 for 12, which after the £10 discount worked out at a magic £5.75 a bottle! A word of warning here though: BE CAREFUL - they use the same name for different cases of wine!!!  The one I thought I had ordered was indeed called "The Society's Top Sellers" but that had sold out. The website still displayed a case called "The Society's Top Sellers" but had different contents. I bought purely on the name of the case and didn't check the alphanumeric case code. The catalogue is not always the same as the website. If in doubt check the case code and double check the contents. Lesson number 1 harshly learned. Minus another point.

Oh and the free delivery date can be up to two weeks away as the Society's Own Driver brings them round in a van. Minus another point. These wines had better be bloody good...

Anyway, it turned up and we're getting stuck in, so without further ado, this weeks wines were...

The Society's Claret, NV
A non-vintage blend from Bordeaux, meant to be "drunk young" but might improve for a year or so. The actual blend changes every year , so I'm not sure there's any consistency to it, but I believe it is Cabernet dominant with some Merlot. From the Premieres Cotes de Bordeaux. 13%.

The Look: A silky, reflective sheen to it, a sort of garnet red, purple rim and some brick-red to it..
The Smell: Smells slightly smoky, cedary, with cherry and blackcurrant. Oddly I would associate the smokiness and woodiness with oak but this has not been oaked.
The Taste: Some decent spicy blackcurrant fruitiness, smooth integrated tannins and a decent acidity. After an hour or two it did open up with more fruit and spice which would suggest that keeping, or opening a few hours before drinking might be beneficial. A very slight bitterness on the finish was apparent.
The Score: Good for the price. Bordeaux at this price is frankly, normally crap. This was surprisingly good.  7/10
VFM: At £5.95 a bottle this is great value at VFM = 1.18.

The Society's Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon, 2009

Made by the giant Concha Y Toro (makers of the truly amazing Trio, and supermarket stalwart Casillero del Diablo among many others) in the Maipo Valley. Aged in large oak barriques for 8 months. 14%

The Look: A dark, opaque purple with a slight violet rim.
The Smell: Mint, blackcurrant leaf and dark chocolate.
The Taste: A big mouthful. Smooth but slightly furry tannins, plenty of them too. Black cherry, lots of blackcurrant and dark chocolate. A long chocolaty and coffee-like aftertaste. Good bright acidity - remained light and not too heavy. Very well made and will keep.
The Score: Lovely fruit and spice. Great for the price  7.5/10. Recommended
VFM: At £5.95 a bottle this is exceptional  value at VFM = 1.26.


The Society's New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, 2010

Made by the giant Villa Maria (who's wines we have enjoyed on every occasion - search the Blog for "Villa Maria"). This is from Marlborough made in the classic style. 13.5%

The Look: A pale watery white with a slight lemony hint.
The Smell: Unsurprisingly a big hit of gooseberry, slight cut-grass, pod-peas and passion fruit. All the tell-tale signs of Marlborough.
The Taste: Bursts with ripe gooseberry and an intense passion fruit acidity. Very zingy and fresh. Slight herby hints of green pepper and peas. Not at all reserved,  but loud and in-your-face. As it should be? After a while the bitter green pepper became a bit too apparent, but still very enjoyable.
The Score: Very good Sauv Blanc. Great for the price  but there's better. 7.5/10. Recommended
VFM: At £8.95 a bottle this is good  value at VFM = 0.84.


The Society's White Burgundy, Macon-Villages 2009

From the Maconnais in the South of Burgundy. Chosen annually from selected villages to maintain the quality. 13.%

The Look: A medium gold with lemony highlights.
The Smell: Lovely smell of melon, honey, some spice.
The Taste: First noticeable is the smooth texture. Fruit is restrained giving way to some complexity; creamy,  vanilla, woody, spicy (I would swear that his has been oaked but the label says no!?). Fruit is definitely secondary but there is a lovely soft melon/peach character that finishes with a lively acidity. Some citrus hints and a mineral, grapefruit-like tone.
The Score: Tasting blind I would have said this was a Burgundy of some repute. Very good 7.5/10. Recommended
VFM: At £7.50 a bottle the VFM is cock-on at 1.0.


So the first four appear to be a success. The value for money is right on the button and quality-wise I am impressed. So is D - "There hasn't been a bad bottle yet" - and I'm inclined to agree. Next week will be part two followed by the final part after that.

As always...

Speak to you soon.



Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Birthday Celebrations 2

Hello all!

So, Sunday was my birthday. That meant wine! Plus we've been doubly-celebrating both D's, and mine in the last few weeks. Anyway to cut a long story short; I was spoiled. Treated to filtered coffee and pastries for breakfast and then had Steak Diane cooked for me in the evening (although I was responsible for the roasted sweet potatoes!). As an aperitif we had a great bargain champagne; Charles de Ravon Brut NV. I can't remember where I had this one (possibly Tesco), or how much it was , but I'm sure it was only about £12! It was a pale watery lemon colour, light citrussy nose but had great apples and pears, lively bubbles and a bit of toasty/biscuity complexity. A great marriage of fruit, acidity, bubbles and a touch of sweetness. Absolute bargain, 7.5/10 and Recommended. 

We had a bit of a Shiraz/Syrah week as I've been stock-piling a few lately. We also had a nice Pinot Gris from NZ (embarrassingly I always used to think this was pronounced "Peen-oh Grease" rather than the correct "Peen-oh Gree").

Tinpot Hut, Pinot Gris, Marlborough, 2009
Another name for Pinot Grigio but more often than not called Pinot Gris in NZ (similar to the way they only call it Syrah not Shiraz). This one's from Slurp. 13%

The Look: Medium lemony yellow.
The Smell: Apples. The typical  varietal aroma (for me anyway) of  "fruit salad sweets".
The Taste: Lovely freshness. Apples. Some tangy passion fruit with a minerally edge to it too. Very balanced and refreshing.
The Score: Good. Very good. There's nothing not to like. 7.5/10. Recommended.
VFM: At £9.95 the value-quotient is pretty good at VFM = 0.75. It's not the cheapest Pinot Gris/Grigio but if you've yet to try the NZ style then give it a go.

Vidal, Gimblett Gravels Syrah, 2008
From the spiritual home of NZ Syrah (Hawkes Bay) and the revered Gimblett Gravels area. It's no secret that fantastic wines are made here and this is a real value offering at just over £10. Vidal is one of the oldest producers in the area. Another from Slurp and again, 13%...let's see if it's any good...

The Look: Deep, dark purple with a slight violet rim.
The Smell: Smells of dark berries; blackcurrant and blackberry with hints of violets and pepper.
The Taste: The taste is very similar, blackberry, violets and some peppery spice but BY GOD; the acidity is sharp!!! It made me wince and I could almost feel it eating the enamel off my teeth! A good one for Chianti fans...
The Score: Good. Tasty, but too acidic for my palate. I think it needs a year or two to dim the acidity a bit - which is entirely possible as this should keep for a few years yet. 7/10
VFM: At £10.50 the VFM is reasonably good at = 0.66.
Waterford Estate, Kevin Arnold Shiraz, Stellenbosch, 2007
A "luxury" Shiraz here from South Africa's Stellenbosch region. This was recently listed in Decanter's top 50 Syrahs for under £25.  This one has 10% Mourvedre in the blend. Another from Slurp . Big at 14.5%

The Look: A very silky sheen to it. Opaque purple with only the slightest rim of violet. Big and clingy on the glass it exudes quality, to the eye at least...
The Smell: A peppery warmth of black fruit with some nuttiness, woody and smoky. Hint of cherry-drops.
The Taste: The lightness was surprising; a "barely there" ethereal quality in the mouth. Spicy, warm, black and red fruit combine and fade to a dark chocolate finish. Still very young. Sharp, bright acidity (a little too much for me) suggests that this needs another few years in bottle.
The Score: Definitely drunk too young, but this could be "class in a glass" in a few years.  7.5/10. Highly Recommended. if you can wait. I'd like to revisit the 2007 in a few years, but do I really want to spend another £20? Hmmm....
VFM: At £19.55 the VFM is obviously going to be fairly poor at = 0.38., but this was a treat. You can probably match the taste quality for £12 to £15, but not perhaps the overall feel and experience? This is one to nurture and return to I think...

D.V. Catena, Syrah, Mendoza, 2007
From the Catena Zapata stable. This one is named after  Domingo Vicente Catena who married Angelica Zapata in 1934 creating the Catena-Zapata tradition. Or so the bottle says anyway...This is from Majestic . 13.5%

The Look: A dark, inky black-purple with a slight rim of violet. Opaque.
The Smell: Smoky black fruit, pepper, sawn-wood and dark chocolate.
The Taste: Again, a combo of blackberry, violets, pepper and some chocolate. Bright acidity, apparent tannin and still a bit in-your-face. Could do with a year or two...Very long finish.
The Score: Delicious, but again, perhaps drunk a little too young  7.5/10. Recommended.
VFM: At £11.99 the VFM is reasonable at 0.63 but there is a buy-2-for-£9.99-each deal on at the moment.

So, that ends our celebrations for the time being. We're both another year older. Maybe not entirely wiser.
Back to normal frugality next week as I start reviewing the "Society's Top Sellers" case from the Wine Society. It's a mixed-12 of their "own label" stuff but made by some very serious players; Villa Maria and Concha Y Toro to name but two!

So, as always;

Speak to you soon,



Sunday, 6 February 2011

Birthday Celebrations 1

Hello all!

So last week was D's birthday and I whisked her away to the Hilton at Puckrup Hall near Tewkesbury which was superb. We had some great food; D had a Salmon & Rocket starter and I had Leek soup, both very good. For mains D had Pork and spring onion mash with bok choi and I had the tastiest Beef in Guinness stew ever, served in a Yorkshire pudding with mustard mash. D had a dark chocolate and orange creme brulee and I had a forest fruit cheesecake. Amazing dinner. Wine-wise, to start we had a glass of Piper Heidsieck Brut NV at £8.05 a glass! Expensive but superb - great fruit, lively bubbles and perfect refreshing acidity (8/10). D then liked the sound of a Zinfandel so we ordered the bottle of Ravenswood Vinters  Blend Zinfandel 2007 (nearly £26!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) - which is on sale at Majestic for £4.99. After nearly choking on the price, we enjoyed its soft fruit and some spice (6.5/10). Decent for a Fiver but not £26 - ridiculous markup.

We'd recommend it to any looking for a luxury getaway, if only for the buffet breakfast! Eat as much as you like...and I did!

Anyway, the night before we set off we also treated ourselves to some lovely wines from Slurp. Another thing I like about Slurp is that some of the bottles have a few years bottle age in them already, its not all about shifting the most recent vintage to make room for the next.

Esk Valley, Riesling, Hawkes Bay, 2007

From winemaker Gordon Russell, this Riesling is very "German" in style; low alcohol (10%) and some residual sugar to make it just off-dry. Produced from two vineyards in Clive and Takapau, Hawkes Bay, NZ. The black label Sauvignon Blanc was immense for the price and we're hoping this will be too.

The Look: Brightly coloured; a mix of gold and deeper green hints.
The Smell: Quite a complex mix of lime, some soapy/floral hints and some savoury/herby elements.
The Taste: Very bright, zingy acidity. Limes, passion fruit, buttery and herby. The acidity then fades to an almost imperceptible sweetness but enough to counterbalance the acidity. Really good. This will age well and according to the back of the bottle, should keep for "many years"; developing toasty elements.
The Score: Again, brilliant stuff from Gordon Russell. 8/10. Highly Recommended.
VFM: At £10.80 a bottle, this is not bargain-basement, but in my opinion, neither is it exclusive or out of reach. The VFM is a very respectable 0.74. A nice treat with your spicy Asian dishes or as a lunch wine or just for indulgent quaffing.

Vina Tabali, Reserva Syrah, Limari Valley, 2007

From the cool climate Limari Valley 29km from Chile's coastline. This winery is part of the same group as Vina Leyda (who also produce some stunning cool-climate wines in the Leyda Valley) but run independently. Big one at 14.5%.

The Look: Dark, intense, opaque purple with a slight rim of violet.
The Smell: A lovely, complex mix of strawberry, plum, white pepper, blackberry, dark chocolate, sweetness and florality (if that's a word?). Slightly hot on a deep sniff.
The Taste: Unsurprisingly; much the same as the above; blackberry, violets, bitter dark chocolate, brighter red fruit (maybe redcurrant) giving a brisk acidity. A slightly overt bitterness did detract from the enjoyment slightly but did fade after a glass or two. Slightly hot but a lovely long finish.
The Score: Very enjoyable. Hotness and slight bitterness did nag slightly, but I may be being too harsh. 8/10. Highly Recommended.
VFM: At £14.95 a bottle, this is a bit of an indulgence, but what the hell; it's celebrating-time! VFM = 0.54 but we don't care!

Some more celebrations to come as we approach my birthday so we'll keep you posted on what we're glugging. The wines from The Wine Society have arrived so we'll be tucking into them very shortly.

As always,

Speak to you soon...