The staid image conjured up by the name might deceive you into thinking that the Wine Society is some fusty Victorian institution of gnarled sherry and claret tipplers. In fact this no-frills, no-nonsense, non-profit-making company delivers on all the features you could want from a dynamic independent wine merchant: consistent quality, competitive value, adventurous range and unparalleled service. Last month I came away from the Spring tasting itching to put together a delicious dozen at around a tenner. My problem was the self-imposed limit.
Frédéric Mabileau’s 2011 Chenin des Rouillères Anjou Blanc, £10.95, is a terrific expression of Loire Valley chenin blanc combining vivid appley freshness with a mouthwatering mineral dry finish, its South African counterpart, the 2011 Jordan Estate Barrel-Fermented Chenin Blanc from Stellenbosch, £8.75, intense and rich too with riper apple fruit and a lick of honey on the aftertaste.
From Burgundy, the 2010 Samuel Billaud Chablis, £11.50, is classic chablis, rich and yet stony bone dry with citrus fresh acidity in perfect harmony. Its counterpart, the 2010 Society’s Exhibition New Zealand Chardonnay from Kumeu River, £12.50, is an even more remarkable, opulent, complex chardonnay whose stylish blend of creamy opulence and dry nutty finish aftertaste could be top-notch Meursault .
The Wine Society has made an exciting discovery in Portugal’s 2010 Casa de Mouraz from Dão, £9.95, a characterful blend of the native malvasia-fina, cerceal-branco, encruzado and bical that smacks of melon and peach ending with a salty, dry juiciness. Last of the white half dozen, a richly fruited, barrel-fermented white Bordeaux, the 2010 Les Amants de Mont Pérat Blanc, £9.25, blackcurrant leaf scented and refreshingly grapefruity.
Reds kick off with Hans Igler’s black cherry fragrant and summer-juicy loganberry fruity 2008 Blaufränkisch, £12.50, from Austria. More adventurous still, Turkey’s 2009 Vinkara, Kaslecik Karasi, £9.50, is an enticingly fresh redcurrant and rosehip-smelling, seductively cherry-fruity red. Back on terra firma Catalonia, the 2006 Latria Garnatxa Carinyena, £7.50, is a sweetly-scented blend whose smoky, raisin and plum-packed aromas and juicy raspberry fruit make this mini-Priorat irresistible.
There’s no counterpart, but the 2011 De Martino Viejas Tinajas Cinsault, £8.95, from Chile’s southernmost extremity the Itata Valley, is a remarkable herby-scented red full of cherry and spice character. The same country’s smoky, tarry blackberryish 2010 Viña Leyda Syrah, £6.50, promises to be one of the barbecue buys of the year, while Australia runs it close with Mac Forbes’ 2010 Blind Spot Sangiovese, £8.25, with its chianti-esque sour cherry and herb fruit character.
If you’re irritated at the prospect of having to fork out £40 to be a member of The Wine Society, don’t be. Taking account of the £10 off your first order, I guarantee that the lifetime share will be the best £40 you ever spent on wine. http://www.thewinesociety.com. 01438 741177.
Something For The Weekend 14 April
2011 Ken Forrester Workhorse Chenin Blanc.
There’s an attractive apricoty aroma to this dry Cape white whose lively fresh spritz underlines an intense fresh peachy fruit quality finishing with Loire-Valley-like zesty apple and pear notes and a touch of honey. £7.99, Marks & Spencer.
2010 Camins del Priorat, Alvaro Palacios
From the little master of Catalonia, this delicious native blend of cariñena and garnacha mixed with cabernet and syrah is delicately smoky with herby undertones behind a full-throttle, spicy and vivid damson-rich juiciness. £17.49, buy 2 = £13.99, Majestic.
2008 Fontodi Chianti Classico
Seriously good chianti classico made from pure sangiovese fruit whose sleek and savoury sweet-and-sour cherry fruitiness is polished by oak spice and etched with a lively fresh bite. £18.50 - £21.95, Cooden Cellars (01323649663), Philglas & Swiggot shops, London, Roberson (02073712121).