Bin #010: Godello-Albariño-Treixadura 2020
Release date: September 2021
Region: Ribeira Sacra, Spain
Grape: Godello (81%), Albariño (12%), Treixadura (7%)
It was in Spain that we found the very first wine in our Bin Series, and for the 10th, we were we’re delighted to return to this dynamic winemaking country.
Bin #010 came from one of the country’s most dramatic vineyard areas, Ribeira Sacra, where the steep terraces on narrow valleys require a heroic approach to viticulture. It’s a small region in the north-west area of Galicia, influenced by the Atlantic Ocean giving a milder and more temperate climate than the rest of Spain. This is an area known for its sophisticated red wines from the mencía grape and to a lesser extent on whites, where leading producers focus on varietal wines.
One such leading light is Eulogio Pomares at Quinta do Estranxeiro, a winemaking talent behind names like Zarate in Rías Baixas. He was eager to try something different by blending godello, albariño and treixadura, and he achieved it with remarkable success.
The grapes were all hand-picked – machine harvesting is not practical on vineyards this steep – and many of the vineyards are extremely old. The result is a delicious, aromatic white with lift, complexity and elegance. Gentle yet intense, it combines floral notes and citrusy flavour with a touch of spice.
Bin #009: Chiroubles 2020
Release date: May 2021
Region: Beaujolais, France
Is the famed region of Beaujolais the obvious choice for a series championing less well-known regions and grapes? When it comes to Chiroubles – among the least known and least fashionable of the ten ‘crus’ of the region – we felt it was. While names such as Fleurie and Moulin-à-Vent have become well established, Chiroubles still evades the recognition it arguably deserves. In a vintage like 2020, however, it showed why it merited greater attention.
The vineyards of Chiroubles lie between 300 and 600 metres above sea level – they are the highest in Beaujolais – and in the past the grapes often struggled to ripen fully. Due to climate change and the increasingly warm temperatures that the region has encountered in recent years, however, times have changed.
Indeed, our buyer Tim Sykes believes that Chiroubles now provides one of the most authentic illustrations of gamay, a grape that relies on its perfume and delicate floral character for full expression.
Bin #009 was made without the addition of sulphur, the preservative that winemakers typically use to prevent their wines from oxidising and to ensure a longer shelf life. Beaujolais has been one of the pioneering regions in the wine world when it comes to producing low-sulphur and no-sulphur wines.
It is very difficult to make really good wine without the use of sulphur – buyer Marcel Orford-Williams likens it to walking a tightrope without a safety harness. But the 2020 Chiroubles from Domaine de Boisselière was bottled with the technical assistance of Maison Aujoux, our partner for The Society’s Beaujolais-Villages and Exhibition crus Beaujolais, and couldn’t have been in safer hands. The result was a wine with lovely fresh, vibrant fruit and an appealing purity.
Bin #008: Manseng Noir 2019
Release date: February 2021
Region: IGP Gascogne, France
Grape: Manseng noir
A century-and-a-half ago, European vines and vineyards were the victims of a pandemic that would have severe consequences, not least the disappearance of countless grape varieties. Among the casualties were varieties that were probably less viable or just difficult to grow. It is impossible to know how many were lost, but some did survive, often growing wild on sandy soils where the phylloxera louse didn’t prosper.
Finding these odd vines, analysing their DNA, studying and propagating them has been the work of pioneering spirit, André Dubosc and the team at Plaimont, that group of co-operatives central to wine production in Gascony.
Manseng noir is one such long-forgotten grape variety, but it may be a future hero. Like most grape varieties from the south-west, its origins are Basque. It is related to other manseng varieties, which are white and better known.
What the studies showed is that manseng noir produces a wine with a huge amount of colour and plenty of tannin yet ripens with very modest alcohol potential. It interested Basque producers in Irouléguy, where it is known as arrouya, and producers in Gascony. Its potential in a world of wines of increasingly high alcohol is obvious.
This manseng noir was taken from very young vines of no more than five years old. Deeply coloured – almost purple in the glass – along with masses of fruit and a lovely balance, with plenty of freshness.
Bin #007: Encruzado 2019
Release date: October 2020
Region: Dão, Portugal
A grape full of promise, offering invigorating palate refreshment in its youth, with a proven track record for ageing, which brings more fulfilling, toasty notes of complexity, encruzado is the signature white grape of Portugal’s Dão region – yet few of us have heard of it.
Cruz means ‘cross’ in Portuguese and this grape is thought to be a natural cross from only the 1920s or 1930s. First documented in 1942, it is the youngest of Portugal’s fine indigenous grapes.
It is a solid component in blends in the Dão region, and elsewhere in Portugal, but it offers unique character when it stands alone. The delicate aromas of white flowers, mineral and citrus notes of its youth give way to more complex, toasty character as it matures. It can go quiet on you after a couple of years in bottle, in which case you may prefer to let it grow up a little and express itself before broaching again.
This wine was made by Carlos Lucas, who knows a thing or two about the grape. He uses encruzado in blends and makes a variety of styles, but here we opted for a pure, unadorned (unoaked) wine, which just happened to have been vinified in Carlos’s specially designed super-cool stainless-steel tank.
Bin #006: Pinot Noir 2018
Release date: August 2020
Grape: Pinot noir
Tasmania is arguably the most exciting region in Australian wine. As things continue to heat up elsewhere, this more moderate climate, influenced heavily by the exposure to the sea, is finally beginning to get the attention it deserves, after years of excellent but very small-scale wine production.
When buyer Freddy Bulmer visited the country, several winemakers currently working in more famous regions told him they had recently bought vineyards in Tasmania to develop. One winemaker in the McLaren Vale even went so far as to say, ‘If I was to start all over again and buy a new vineyard anywhere in Australia, it wouldn’t be in McLaren Vale, it would be in Tasmania.’
The Wine Society is not new to Tasmania by any means. Thanks to former buyer Sebastian Payne MW, we have had an excellent Exhibition Tasmanian Chardonnay on our List for decades. It is a testament to Sebastian’s foresight that some winemakers in Australia’s major regions are only catching on now!
We had wanted to include an example of Tasmania’s other speciality, pinot noir, under this label for some time. A conversation with Michael Hill-Smith MW of Shaw & Smith and The Other Wine Co. revealed he knew of an excellent parcel of pinot from a well-known Tassie winery.
Tasting it, we realised it was exactly what we had been looking for: a vibrant, complex and silky wine that demonstrates admirably why so many are excited about the quality and the potential here.
Bin #005: Xinomavro 2017
Release date: May 2020
Region: Naoussa, Greece
Our fifth Bin Series was a very special xinomavro from Greek winemaking master Apostolos Thymiopoulos.
Metaphorically speaking, Apostolos has wine running through his veins: he inherited vineyards from his father, who previously grew grapes to sell. However, Apostolos saw the potential in these plots of vineyard, in the rolling hills of Naoussa in northern Greece, and so decided to stop selling the fruit in favour of capturing and bottling this potential.
He is now recognised as a master of Greece’s xinomavro grape, putting both the grape and the Naoussa region on the map and gaining a strong cult following globally. It’s easy to see why. His xinomavro from Rapsani has attracted the attention of the likes of Decanter magazine and many critics worldwide.
Apostolos has always been excellent as spotting unloved vineyards in northern Greece and liberating them, giving a new lease of life to what are often incredible old vines. Bin #005 was sourced exclusively from a new site which got Apostolos very excited, in the small Greek village of Fytia.
Fuller-bodied than a pinot noir, lighter than a Barolo, and yet with similarities to both, this was a unique wine bursting with personality. You could be forgiven for thinking it had been produced by one of the great winemakers of Burgundy while on a holiday to northern Greece!
Bin #004: Furmint 2011
Release date: February 2020
Region: Tokaj, Hungary
The story behind Bin Series #004 comes from a Hungarian importer, who told us about a parcel of aged white wine, sitting unlabelled in the depths of a cellar in the historic Tokaj region. This furmint was, they said, superb and perfectly mature, but it had no home to go to and as a result was being offered at a special price.
It all sounded a little too good to be true… but when we tasted it, it was clear that this was one of our best wine surprises of the year, and that we had to secure what little there was for members to enjoy.
Furmint is a grape many wine lovers will know from its role in the great sweet wines of Tokaji. Dry furmint, however, has made more of an impression in recent years. What makes these wines special is their ability to age beautifully, but finding a good example at a modest price can be tricky.
After nine years of ageing, this was a complex, electric white wine, offered at a superb price for its quality. With a character that hints at the zippy freshness and intriguing kerosene aroma of good bone-dry riesling and the beeswax-like flavour of aged Hunter Valley semillon, complemented by nuts, lime and honey, it offered great depth of flavour and a remarkable backbone of crisp acidity. The perfect match for seafood or creamy dishes and very possibly the best-value aged white wine on the market.
Bin #003: Ribolla Gialla 2018
Release date: September 2019
Grower: Puatti Vigneti
Region: Friuli, Italy
Grape: Ribolla Gialla
The first two Bin Series wines were red, so it was time to introduce a white wine to the range: an Italian exclusive that was too good to miss.
Thought to be of Greek origin by way of Slovenia, the ribolla gialla grape has a long history in Friuli, producing rounded whites with bright fruity acidity and an original herby bouquet that is hard to describe but heavenly when done well. It’s also a grape that, for all its popularity in Venice, has for too long been the bridesmaid to the same region’s (very different) pinot grigio on our shores – one of the reasons we jumped at the chance to feature it as a Bin Series wine.
Puatti is Friuli’s top winery known for this style, and this was crafted especially for us by Andrea Lonardi, who is widely seen as one of Italy’s most gifted and thoughtful young winemakers. A wine of great poise and presence, its peachy and almondy nose followed through to the palate with intense apricots, culminating in a complex finish with lemongrass, chamomile and chalk.
Bin #002: Zweigelt 2017
Release date: July 2019
Grower: Familie Mantler
Region: Weinviertel, Austria
Austrian reds are among the wine world’s best-kept secrets and since the Bin Series was created, buyer Freddy Bulmer wanted to include one. It took a blind tasting to find the right wine for the job.
A series of samples was lined up and tasted by the buyers. Familie Mantler’s zweigelt, which was new to us, emerged as one of the undisputed stars of the show.
Zweigelt is an underappreciated grape, capable in the right hands of producing delicious medium-bodied wines with freshness and just the right amount of quirkiness. Matured the traditional way in large wooden vats, this one showed all the grape’s typical soft texture and fresh acidity, but in such a juicy and delicious way, it charmed all who tried it. Freddy knew that The Society had to do something with this delicious wine, and after getting to know the small family firm behind it, realised the second instalment of our Bin Series had been found.
Bin #001: Bobal 2017
Release date: May 2019
Grower: Bodegas Altolandon
Region: Manchuela, Spain
Like so many love affairs with Spanish wine, our story for the first Bin Series wine began in Rioja…even though the wine was sourced from Manchuela in Valencia! It was at a tasting in Spain’s famed fine-wine capital that our Head of Buying Pierre Mansour discovered this intensely rich, blueberry-laden, spicy red from the bobal grape.
Pierre was bowled over, and after meeting the growers and being impressed by both them and their philosophy, he decided this was the perfect candidate for our first Bin Series wine.
Bobal has an image problem: although widely planted, it has struggled to shed its reputation as a workhorse variety responsible for mostly bland and uninteresting wines. This one, however, was anything but, showing what the variety can do when grown at high altitude (ensuring freshness) and made well.
Organic methods were used to manage the vines, using only natural fertilisers and some green pruning to further guarantee the quality of fruit prior to hand-harvesting. The grapes were vinified as naturally as possible with native yeasts and little other intervention. A short four-month stint in 225-litre French oak barrels built up the complexity while retaining the grapes’ natural purity.
We’re delighted to have had this wine bottled under the debut ‘Bin’ label for members to enjoy.