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Staff Choices 2013

Wine is something to be shared and enjoyed. The 'Staff Choice' section, which changes every two weeks, gives a different staff member from The Society's 200-strong team the opportunity to share a wine from our range that they've particularly enjoyed – and why they think Society members would too.

Below you'll find an archive of 2013's recommendations from Society staff. Please note that, as some were published some time ago, not all of the wines will be in stock and some of the prices will be out of date.



December 2013

Mineral del Montsant Carinyena Garnatxa, Montsant 2012

A few months ago I encountered buyer Pierre Mansour in our tasting room, in a state of some excitement over a new wine he'd been sent by Tomàs Cusiné, one of Spain's most exciting winemaking talents. I think it's a fine choice for a satisfying winter warmer, but there is a great deal more to this wine than spot-hitting fruit.

Montsant has earned a reputation for offering great-value alternatives to the neighbouring (more expensive) Priorat region, but what impressed me is that this exceptional blend of carinyena and garnacha has an identity of its own. Rather than the full-bodied but arguably derivative style the region has won plaudits for, there is a charming freshness to this wine, balancing the dark-cherry flavours and wearing its 14% alcohol with remarkable discretion. I shall be raising a glass of it with friends over the remainder of the holidays.

Martin BrownMartin Brown
Digital Copywriter

£9.95 - Bottle
£59.50 - Case of 6
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December 2013

Clos Floridène Blanc 2011 Graves

I will be purchasing a bottle of this wine for the festive season, having tried this at The Society's recent Bordeaux Under One Roof tasting, and also with the producer Fabrice Dubordieu when myself and some colleagues visited his château in September.

It is really elegant and has a slightly honeyed nose, as the blend includes 50% semillon which has spent some time in oak. The finish is tangy and fresh and I will enjoy this with my seafood starter on Christmas Day.

Rachel SharpeRachel Sharpe
Member Services Adviser

£18.00 - Bottle
£216.00 - Case of 12
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November/December 2013

The Society's Exhibition Crusted Port, Bottled 2006

For a long time port was like an acquaintance I knew through friends of friends. I'd give it a polite nod when we were in the same room, and it encouraged me to dance at a few weddings when it appeared in miniature bottles, but we never really got to know one another.

That changed when Society buyer Mark Buckenham introduced us properly. It was the Society's Exhibition Crusted Port, bottled 2006, that turned me on to the wonders of this delightful tipple. It is wonderfully sweet without being too intense, and pairs perfectly with good conversation, a warm fire, and perhaps a bit of stinky cheese.

This Christmas I'll be picking up a bottle (call it a gift to myself). And, with a name that includes "Crusted" I will definitely get a chuckle out of the father-in-law.

Justin WebbJustin Webb
Digital Insight Manager

£13.95 - Bottle
£167.00 - Case of 12
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November 2013

Copertino Eloquenzia 2010

This is one of my favourite wines, and one of the few to bridge the chasm between my wine-loving palate and my partner's beer-orientated one. The wine comes from Masseria Monaci in Puglia's Copertino region, on the heel of Italy. The dominant grape, negroamaro, has been grown in the region for at least 1500 years.

For me, this wine is the liquid equivalent of spaghetti bolognese or bangers and mash, either of which it pairs with aplomb. It is an excellent dinner guest, one which comforts and entertains, but also offers a hint of the exotic. The wine is aromatic on the nose, with spice and earth notes, and beautifully balanced acidity and dark fruit flavours on the palate.

So if you're looking for something a little different with broad appeal why not give it a go?

Joan McMahonJoan McMahon
Analyst Programmer

£6.95 - Bottle
£83.00 - Case of 12
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November 2013

Tahbilik Marsanne, 2010, Nagambie Lakes

Every time I open a bottle of Tahbilk Marsanne it takes me back to travelling around Western Australia with very good friends. It could be a grey cold day here in the UK and suddenly I'm back in hot sunny climes trekking off-road in the Outback in a battered campervan. My friends introduced me to this wine while we were camping and I remember it really stood out as being amazing.

Marsanne is not a popular grape and mainly known for growing in the Rhône. However, Tahbilk can lay claim to some of its vineyard dating back to the 1860s and today it is the largest single holder of marsanne vines in the world. This wine is crisp with aromas of lemon, honey and peach and slightly toasty but doesn't taste oaky.

If you want to try something different, I can thoroughly recommend this as my favourite wine.

Sarah MercerSarah Mercer
Assistant Merchandiser

£9.95 - Bottle
£59.50 - Case of 6
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October 2013

Gaba do Xil Godello, Valdeorras 2012

I first came across this Galician godello at a tasting, nominally being held in The Society's Cellar Showroom. Due to unforeseen circumstances, the tasting was moved outside to the Showroom's capacious car park. It was a glorious afternoon and, as I stood basking (or perhaps baking) under the hot summer sun, it took just one sip of this wine to quench my thirst and pique my interest.

Godello is not a particularly well-known grape variety, but it absolutely should be. It is capable of producing exceptional wines, and Gaba do Xil is undoubtedly one of them. It reminds me slightly of a white Burgundy with its brisk, mineral palate and length. It is also mouthwateringly fresh and clean – a perfect partner for seafood, lightly spiced dishes and even roasted poultry. At the price, I think it's a steal!

Joe MandrellJoe Mandrell
Member Services Advisor

£8.95 - Bottle
£107.00 - Case of 12
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October 2013

Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso, Torre del Falasco 2011

Back in my university days, I fondly remember drinking Valpolicella with fish and chips on a Friday night thinking I was a bit classy because I could pronounce this exotically named wine. Since then, two decades in the wine trade has allowed me to enjoy an array of wines, so it takes a lot for me to be wowed. This was the first bottle in a long time that caught my attention at first taste.

Made in a Ripasso style from corvina and rondinella grapes in northern Italy, the base wine is refermented on the lees left over from Amarone. This adds colour, richness and depth to the palate and I distinctly remember a fabulous surge of stylish cherry and herb fruit followed by a long lingering finish. Fuller-bodied than regular Valpolicella, this has become a favourite whenever we entertain. It's also a fraction of the price of a full Amarone della Valpolicella.

Thom ClearyThom Cleary
Warehouse and Supply Chain Manager

£8.95 - Bottle
£53.50 - Case of 6
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September 2013

GD Vajra Langhe Nebbiolo 2011

At our recent 'Perfect Partners' tasting in Lincoln I was blown away by how elegant and refined this cracking little nebbiolo was, whilst still maintaining richness and concentration. Once in the glass the first thing that struck me was the wonderful deep colour, acting as a brightly coloured flower does to a bee! Wonderful aromas of ripe morello cherries, red berries and sweet spice (almost Christmas cake meets Black Forest Gateaux), all of which continued to develop in the glass.

All of these elements combined wonderfully on the palate: the rich fruit and spice comes through first followed by the typical, mouthwatering acidity and fine tannins. Although ready to drink now, this wine could be cellared for another five years quite easily. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and at half the price of an entry-level Barolo it's an absolute bargain!

Jon GrangerJon Granger
Tastings & Events Team

£14.95 - Bottle
£179.00 - Case of 12
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September 2013

Côtes-du-Rhône, Réserve, Perrin, 2010

Syrah is perhaps my favourite grape, and one of my best memories of France is motorcycling down the Rhône Valley en route to the 24-hour Bol d'Or race at the Paul Ricard Circuit. Northern Rhône syrah is a perfect food wine and proved great with campsite BBQs (a few bottles bought on the ride always went into our saddlebags).

This one is very well balanced, with easy tannins, lovely rich fruit and the distinct peppery note you get from syrah. The grape is blended with 8% viognier which gives it more elegance and finesse. Côte-Rôtie is renowned for this blend but can be pricey. At £8.95 this one is a real bargain.

Andrew YoungAndrew Young
Member Services

£8.95 - Bottle
£107.00 - Case of 12
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August 2013

Silbador Gewürztraminer, Rapel Valley 2012

When first introduced to the world of wine, gewürztraminer quickly became one of my favourites. When I think of gewürztraminer the first thing which springs to mind is Alsace. However, one day at one of our regional tasting events I was fortunate enough to discover the Silbador Gewürztraminer from Chile, which got my taste buds excited.

I discovered an affordable, great-quality gewürztraminer and a fabulous alternative to my standard Alsatian at half the price! It is floral with tropical aromas and hints of lychee, with lots of freshness on the palate. My signature dish for this wine is nice spicy Thai with fresh chillies, lemongrass and ginger, or it makes for great drinking on its own should you wish to unwind after a long day.

Sunita ArjuneSunita Arjune
Member Services

£6.50 - Bottle
£78.00 - Case of 12
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August 2013

Frog's Leap Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2012

As those around me know, I do have an inclination to head towards sauvignon. This year one of my discoveries has been Frog's Leap's, from California's Sonoma Valley. I was fortunate to try this wine at a staff tasting, more fortunate to meet the owner/producer John Williams, even more fortunate to sit overlooking the vineyard itself tasting the wine during a family holiday in June.

What struck me about this wine was its truly delicate flavour, without the sometimes over-pungent punch of New Zealand but crisper, fresher and more tropical than classic Loire sauvignon. It is a halfway house but in no way sits on the fence. It's a perfect partner with chicken or fish, or even as an early evening tipple in the garden before the food is ready. Do give it a go!

Isobel CooperIsobel Cooper
Member Services Team Leader

£14.95 - Bottle
£179.00 - Case of 12
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July 2013

Saleta Moscatel-Sauvignon Blanc 2012

Having provided the Spain-themed illustrations that appeared in The Society's July-September list, and now that summer is upon us at last, I have chosen this thirst-quenching Spanish wine, which appeared in our New-Wave European Whites selection.

In this white, the fragrance and grapy flavour of the muscat (moscatel) grape is leavened by the crisp, fresh sauvignon to produce a floral, fruit-driven and refreshingly dry glassful. My advice is to surround yourself with garden and sip it in the sunshine, but it works very well with food too: asparagus, tomato-based dishes, prawns in garlic and even gently spicy Thai foods all spring to mind. I have also served it with conspicuous success at parties, and at this price I think it's a cracker.

Steve FarrowSteve Farrow
Cellar Showroom

£6.75 - Bottle
£81.00 - Case of 12
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July 2013

Navajas Crianza, Rioja 2009

Since joining The Society some 16 years ago, I have been particularly taken by the traditional crianza Rioja style with its smoky-oaky-leathery nose and wonderful tempranillo flavours. This wine has that typical nose and with its smooth tannins and cherry flavour, it's a winner.

So, whether it be an accompaniment to the roast beef dinner, strong Cheddar (better still, Manchengo), a simple outdoor lunch while planning the afternoon gardening assault, or just a glass or two in front of 'The Apprentice', it's an affordable everyday luxury, and that's why I enjoy it.

Kester GreenleesKester Greenlees
Senior Systems Developer

£7.50 - Bottle
£90.00 - Case of 12
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June 2013

The Society's Exhibition Tawny Port, 10 years old

My appreciation for port began when I found a bottle of 1972 Dow's, deemed past it and priced accordingly. The dried fruit and slightly medicinal character had me hooked. This wine, bottled for The Society by the Fladgate group, owners of Fonseca and Taylor's, has an average of 10 years' cask aging. It is brick red with a nose of sweet caramel, dried fruits, figs and dates. On the palate, the tannins are soft, it a sweet nutty character backed by a richness of fruit.

Tawny ports are sold ready to drink and do not require decanting. Try this wine with chocolate desserts or the cheese board (especially creamy blue or good Cheddar). It works equally well on quiet fireside evenings or try this wine chilled on a summer's evening as a delicious aperitif!

Ben BriffettBen Briffett
Member Services

£16.50 - Bottle
£198.00 - Case of 12
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May 2013

The Society's New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough

I can still remember my first glass of New Zealand sauvignon blanc like it was yesterday: the freshness and zest will stay in my memory forever. The combination of grassy and gooseberry flavours made me stop in my tracks and discover a whole new world of wine. I haven't looked back since.

This is the wine that will forever feature in my wine rack and if you ever decide to invite me to a dinner party, don't expect me to turn up with anything else! To top it off, it's made by my favourite producer, Villa Maria.

Even if, like me, you began your wine journey influenced by the old world, I say go for it and take the plunge. Life really is too short not to experience New Zealand sauvignon blanc!

Alison FennahAlison Fennah
Campaigns Manager

£9.50 - Bottle
£114.00 - Case of 12
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May 2013

Les Pierres Bordes Marsanne-Viognier, IGP Pays d'Oc 2012

A staple drink in our house, there is always a bottle of this southern French white chilling in the fridge.

I have been drinking this for a few years now and the vintages have been remarkably consistent. It's an easy everyday wine; one which I am seriously considering serving at our upcoming wedding, as it seems to go down well with everyone for whom we've poured a glass too.

Full of flavour & fruit with good acidity and a smooth finish, it's perfect for sunny weather in the garden (fingers crossed!).

Brian DigweedBrian Digweed
Cellar Showroom

£5.75 - Bottle
£69.00 - Case of 12
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April 2013

Brazin Lodi Old-Vine Zinfandel 2010

It doesn't take much of an excuse to fire up the barbecue in my household and with the long-awaited appearance of the sun this week, a bottle of Brazin will most certainly be pulled from the rack and be sure to stand up to almost anything I decide to throw on the grill

It's a full-on, powerful zin yet smooth and not overwhelming; an absolute pleasure to drink. The bottle design is great too; I'm convinced there's an extra half glass in there somewhere!

Alex VooghtAlex Vooght
Inventory Management

£10.95 - Bottle
£131.00 - Case of 12
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April 2013

The Society's White Burgundy, Mâcon-Villages

This was one of the first wines I tried when I started at The Society. I am an explorer when it comes to wines and I always like to try something new and broaden my taste buds, but our bestselling wine still always finds its way into my basket as I'm browsing our Stevenage showroom. The taste of the fruits and the freshness of the wine make it good to enjoy on its own or with almost any food. Thoroughly recommended.

Lesley ColeLesley Cole
Marketing Analyst

£9.50 - Bottle
£114.00 - Case of 12
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