Lifestyle & opinion

The year in review: What you’ve tuned in to in 2021

We take a look back at the year gone by to reflect on some of the events you’ve joined in on, articles and videos viewed, what the papers said about us and we also pay tribute to some of the people the wine world sadly lost in 2021.

Looking back! The team at Poggio Antico were all smiles for our Brunello di Montalcino campaign earlier in the year
Looking back! The team at Poggio Antico were all smiles for our Brunello di Montalcino campaign earlier in the year

The show must go on! Tastings & events in 2021

Getting back out there

Having found our virtual event feet in 2020, we entered 2021 ready and raring to go with a whole host of online events and tastings in the calendar. With more than 90 online events and over 3000 people signing up to join in from up and down the country (and a few overseas!), they have proved a popular way to while away some time, stay connected and learn a bit more about wine.

We were excited to have been able to welcome some of our, and Wine Society members’, favourite growers, producers and wine personalities over the past year including; Peter-Allan Finlayson, Samantha O’Keefe and Lukas Van Loggerenberg for a focus on South African fine wine; the teams from Langham, Black Chalk, Ridgeview and Blackbook to help us celebrate English Wine Week; Emma Symington MW with her Australian wine expertise and Hugh Johnson OBE for a conversation spanning his career in the wine industry which has had over 2,000 views on YouTube!

Our buyers and the Tastings Team have shared their knowledge with Anna Spooner’s Sip-Size series; exploring the Crus of Beaujolais with Tim Sykes; Portugal with Jo Locke MW and seemingly everywhere in Greece with Matthew Horsley! We’re thrilled to have been able to support some of our events with sample tasting packs, a new initiative this year, allowing members to taste along without having to open up numerous full bottles of to compare and contrast of an evening.

Sebastian Payne MW
Sebastian Payne MW conducting an in-person tutored tasting in Nottingham

Buyers on the road​, takeaway pairings and winning awards

This year we ramped up our food and wine events with a new series focused on popular takeaways and which wines to choose for them. Our cheese and wine pairing events with The Fine Cheese Company were very popular with members and we made a foray into restaurant meal kit events with 10 Greek Street, Simon Rogan and Café Spice Namasté, allowing you to be able to dine out with us while staying in!

While we were delighted to see our online efforts culminate in The Wine Society being awarded the inaugural Decanter 2021 Best Virtual Experience Award, we were even more happy to have been able to bring back physical events starting last September and share the joy of wine with members in person again.  Between October and November, we travelled around the country taking in Glasgow, Newcastle, London, Nottingham and Cardiff with a range of seated, tutored events from our buyers and it was great to be back working with Paulo and his team to put on nine lunches and three dinners in our Members’ Room at Stevenage; it’s safe to say we had missed his cooking as much as members had!

We’d like to thank members for all their support in 2021, whether joining us via Zoom or in person (or both!) and we can’t wait to see you again in 2022 – find out what’s on the tastings and events calendar.

If you want to catch up on any of our virtual events, most are recorded and can be viewed on The Wine Society’s YouTube channel.

Kind words and coronets

Marcel Orford-Williams and Tim Sykes with the International Wine Challenge Award for regional France
Marcel Orford-Williams and Tim Sykes with the International Wine Challenge Award for regional France

Of course everything we do is for our members, but it’s wonderful to be recognised by awarding bodies too, and in 2021 we’ve been lucky enough to pick up some very prestigious awards, including: Online Retailer of the Year at the People’s Choice Wine Awards in February; Merchant of the Year, Dynamic Merchant of the Year and Wine Club of the Year at the International Wine Challenge in July; Outstanding Merchant of the Year 2021, Virtual Wine Experience of the Year and Large Online Retailer of the Year at the Decanter Retailer Awards in October. ‘Celebrating the joy of wine is something The Wine Society does with aplomb,’ said the Decanter judges.

We’ve also received some heart-warming quotes from the wine critics this year too – here are some of our favourites:

‘Why should you join The Wine Society? Well, I genuinely think they offer some of the best-value wines in Great Britain. The reason for that? They're a co-operative, so all the money you spend, the profit goes back into the membership and they've been going since 1874 and there's a virtuous cycle of investing in the members. £40 for life, no obligation to buy anything, but I would be buying for their expertise.’

Olly Smith, mailplus.co.uk, February 2021

The Wine Society is probably the best place in Britain to buy wine.’

David Kermode, vinosaurus.co.uk, March 2021

‘There are two things for which The Wine Society is known – classic wines at classic prices, and exciting oddities that will make even the most seasoned wine geek sit up and take notice.’

Peter Ranscombe, Scottish Field, March 2021

‘… the range offered by this non-profit making organisation offers such a high level of excitement and diversity that most UK wine lovers would reap rewards from paying the one-off £40 membership fee (especially considering that on joining new members receive £20 off their first order).’

Amy Wislocki, decanter.com, April 2021

‘… exceptionally good value and its website has embraced the 21st century at last. A share in it is the hottest ticket in town.’

Victoria Moore, The Daily Telegraph, July 2021

What you’ve been reading in Learn & Discover in 2021

We’ve aimed to keep you entertained throughout another year of lockdown rollercoasters, with recipes, guides, tips and more. Here are the pieces that have kept you coming back for more this year:

Guides and fine wine: You’ve been delving into the world of Burgundy with Buyer Toby Morrhall’s Ultimate Guide to Buying Burgundy wine, discovering the delights of pinot noir, reading up on the best vintage buys for Christmas 2021 and finding out how to serve your wine in preparation for the big day.

Recipes and food: When it comes to delicious food pairings, you’ve been enjoying Steve Farrow’s comforting recipe for chicken paprika, a Spanish-inspired hake with orzo and chorizo dish, warming pumpkin risotto and a gently-spiced chicken with cardamom and viognier recipe.

Opinion: Sebastian Payne MW’s musings on ‘Why we’re still in love with French wine’ caught your imagination, as did Tasting & Events Manger Tim Schwilk’s recommendations for summer’s six best wines.

Paris cafe scene

… and what you’ve been watching

The ‘Glass with Marce’ videos started during the first lockdown gained our buyer Marcel Orford-Williams a bit of a cult following and members clearly enjoyed being able to find out more about our wines from the people who have sourced them. So this year we launched our tasting note videos with buyers going on camera to talk about some of our most popular bottles. Where available, you’ll find these on the product pages but you can also view them on The Wine Society's YouTube channel.

Getting social

More and more of you have been joining in with us via our Social channels too. The Desert Island Wines series of live Instagram events whereby Director of Wine Pierre Mansour chats with guests who choose their top three wines to take to an imaginary island, has proved particularly popular. We haven’t just chatted with those in the trade either, stand up comedians Ed Gamble and Phil Wang made for entertaining castaways with great taste in wines too! Look out for more guests joining us in the New Year.

Ed Gamble
Comedian Ed Gamble shared his desert-island wines over Instagram

We were really excited to pass the 30k followers on Instagram this year and our buyers, who all have their own accounts, have 10k followers between them. As they started to get back out on the road, more of you tuned in to see where they were and what they were tasting. We hope it won’t be too long before they can start cellar basing again and we can get our travelling bugs satisfied, if but vicariously.

We now have more than 5,000 members signed up to The Wine Society’s Community pages and there’s always lively chat amongst members on what they are eating and drinking and lots of sharing of knowledge about what wines to look out for – particularly when we have en primeur offers out. The Community members proved a great asset earlier in this year when we launched the new website, providing valuable feedback to help sort out issues.

People in wine remembered

Finally, as we come to the end of the year, it seems only right to take a moment to reflect on some of the luminaries whom we’ve sadly lost in 2021 and whose contributions to the world of wine will act as fitting legacies.

Desmond Moseley (1925-2021) – General Manager, The Wine Society 1968-1988

‘… a true, if unsung, hero of The Wine Society and one of the reasons we are alive and flourishing today … a kind, thoughtful, considerate boss …’

Sebastian Payne MW, Society Buyer

Bernardo Weinert (1933-2021) – winemaker, Mendoza, Argentina

‘His subtleness in relationships, quick mind and adventurous spirit will always be in our hearts, and our wines will carry his personality forever.’

Iduna Weinert, daughter

Becky Wasserman (1937-2021) – American wine broker in Burgundy

‘Apart from creating one of the greatest roll calls of mainly Burgundian growers, and some from other regions of France, which she exported to the USA, it was her kindness and warmth that, once encountered, was never forgotten.’

Toby Morrhall, Society buyer

Eloi Dürrbach (1940-2021) – winemaker, Domaine de Trévallon, Provence, France

‘He was one of the original voices of French viticulture who left his studies in architecture in order to pursue a dream. Trévallon became an icon, and Eloi a voice, for Provence.’

Marcel Orford-Williams, Society buyer

Steven Spurrier (1941-2021) – wine merchant, connoisseur, writer and editor

‘… a creative mind, full of good ideas and with one of the most fine-tuned palates in the business … The wine trade has lost a true connoisseur and gentleman …’

Pierre Mansour, Director of Wine

Giuseppi (Beppino) Coffele (1944 – 2020) – winemaker, Azienda Agricola Coffele, Soave, Italy

‘Beppino Coffele was a professor of Italian literature with an amazing memory who took over his wife’s wonderful Soave vineyards at Castel Cerino and inspired their children, Alberto and Chiara to take the estate, now fully organic , from strength to strength.’

Sebastian Payne MW, Society buyer

Jim Clendenen
Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat

Jim Clendenen (1953-2021) – winemaker, Au Bon Climat, Santa Barbara, California

‘A true icon of the wine world with his pioneering approach to pinot noir and chardonnay and a great friend of The Wine Society.’

Sarah Knowles MW, Society buyer

Pio Boffa (1954-2021) – winemaker, Pio Cesare, Piedmont, Italy

‘Pio Boffa’s infectious enthusiasm made him a marvellous ambassador not only for the firm of Pio Cesare which he led with vision for so many years, but also for the reputation of great Barolo.’           

Sebastian Payne MW, Society buyer

Joanna Goodman

The Society's News & Content Editor

Joanna Goodman

Part of our Marketing Team for over 30 years, Jo has been editor of Society News for much of that time as well as contributing to our many other communications.

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