“If I could only drink the wine of one country, it would have to be Italy,” said Ewan, the Wine Society’s archduke of media, as I complimented the Sagrantino di Montefalco they showed at their press tasting. Hmmm, well, I don’t know about that – I’d rather not just drink the wine of one country, but if I absolutely had to (which, just to be clear, I don’t, and never will) it would probably be lFrance, boringly. If I could only buy my wine from one retailer, on the other hand, I’d know instantly which one I would choose.
The Wine Society send me more paper than I really need in my life, they get really excited about en primeur campaigns they probably shouldn’t wholeheartedly recommend, and they have no retail outlet in the East Finchley area. That is all I can really think of to criticise, at the moment. On the plus side, their range is vast, their prices are good and their staff – even if you’re only likely to deal with them over the phone – are friendly and helpful.
It being physically impossible to try their entire range in any reasonable amount of time, their press tastings feature a selection of new additions and particular favourites. Clearly they’ve been hunting with some success in Europe’s less renowned winegrowing areas, with more wines on show from Bulgaria than from the Rhone, and appearances for Spain’s Txakolina – very good, fresh, zippy and due in stock in July – and Sicily’s Zibibbo - in fact muscat by another name, and thus good if you’re a fan of intoxicating white grape juice which tastes exactly like the non-intoxicating white grape juice that comes in cartons and is given to kids. They also continue to push the Blind Spot range, made just for them by much-hyped Australian winemaker Mac Forbes (the Clare Valley Riesling was good, the Rutherglen muscat excellent, but the Gunagai shiraz a bit disappointing).
My five favourites of the tasting, though, since you’re asking (and I’m excluding anything that costs £20 or more, even though in doing so I’m discounting that Sagrantino, because we’re assuming that’s good):
- The Guardians MRV 2011 MRV stands for Marsanne, Roussanne and Viognier, a lovely, dry, clean white Rhone blend from Bulgaria. £14.95
- Radford Dale Chardonnay 2012 The highlight of the chardonnay corner (there really was a chardonnay corner), and certainly not the most expensive. Taut, mineral and super-delicious. £18, from May.
- Undurraga TH Garnacha Carignan Monastrell 2011 Both the wines in this label were fantastic (the other being the 2012 Las Gaviotas San Antonio pinot noir, which will also turn up in the summer, and could probably do with a bit more time before opening). This was herby and savoury and full of personality and depth. A good personality, as well. One I could hang out with. £13.95 or thereabouts, from July.
- The Society’s Corbieres 2012 Here’s your good-value midweek drinker. One of their best and most bargainous own-label efforts. £7.50 (but 25p cheaper for the next few days).
- Chateau Tour Saint Bonnet 2009 Still a little bit tannic but certainly tiptoeing gently into its drinking window, a fine, upstanding Claret at a very fine price. £11.95
For the sake of fairness, having told you my favourites I should also tell you my least favourite wine of the tasting, an unlovely, tarnished, rusty award which hangs heavily around the neck of the 2012 Koyle Costa Rapel Coast pinot noir, which is due to come online in April, and tasted dusty and confected and not a whole lot of fun. It costs £11.50. Buy it if you like, but don’t come crying to me if you do.