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.



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