With the publication of a new seasonal wine List comes the excitement, not only of seeing what’s new but equally, sometimes, what’s still available. I was thrilled to see that we are still featuring Chéreau-Carré’s Muscadet Sèvre-et-Maine sur Lie, Château l’Oislinière de la Ramée 2018. It’s a wine that I’ve really come to love over the past year or so and proof, if needed, that good-quality Muscadet from an excellent producer doesn’t need drinking up as soon as it’s released, contrary to popular belief.
Muscadet is one of those wines that seems to have fallen out of fashion. A one-time staple of many a restaurant or pub wine list, it is now a rare sight and it appears to be rather ‘uncool’ to say you like it. Whether this is a reaction against enjoying a wine that was popular with a previous generation, or whether it is down to a couple of lean vintages tainting the reputation of a whole appellation as being lean and acidic, I don’t know. But, if you haven’t tried Muscadet for a while, you could be in for a very pleasant surprise. Warmer summers, especially in years like 2018, show just how delicious this wine is. I thought I had discovered a bit of a hidden secret only to learn my find was also crowned a Wine Champion earlier this year, then later voted by members in their top 10 of the year’s trophy winners. So, it seems, I am not alone.
Serving a chilled glass of this wine blind to my friends (avowed Muscadet naysayers) in the garden on one of those rare hot days this summer, proved my point. They thought it was rather nice. I may have convinced them! Sure, the wine shows typical Muscadet freshness at its core, but it also has some ripe stone-fruit character and length. It has become a bit of a Friday-night-favourite when fish and chips are on the menu. Add a bottle to your next order and see what you think, but please leave some for me!
Let’s see what some of my colleagues from around the rest of the business have their eye on…
Thom Buzzard on fine-wine quality at an everyday price from Spain
As the fine wine and digital merchandiser, I’m tasked with planning, forecasting and pricing fine wine and digital campaigns. I love being able to tap into the knowledge of the buyers who have their ‘feet in the vineyards, and ears to the ground’, but that’s also the big downside of my job. Being exposed to so many fantastic wines from all over the world, from classic to up-and-coming regions, trying to decide what bottle to try next becomes an impossible task!
In my role at The Wine Society, I tend to work more closely on our fine wine publications, so it’s always a joy when the latest regular List drops through the letterbox. If I manage to grab it before it hits the floor and the dog gets a new toy, I’m straight to flicking through and circling all the ‘must-trys’ that have slipped under my radar. Without fail, particularly as the days grow shorter, I get pulled to the Spanish selection. Fully mature gran reserva rioja always jumps out as my first wine love, but these days it’s their neighbours in Navarra, and the wines of forward-thinking Viña Zorzal that fill my wine rack. With quality and complexity punching way above price point across their range, it is difficult to choose a favourite. But, if pushed, I’d go for their single-vineyard Malayeto which is made from 40-year-old garnacha vines. It’s generous and rich yet has a real elegance about it. This really is fine-wine value that always slips into my basket.
Anyone for sherry? Nicole Drath shares her passion for this underrated fine wine
I’ve had the privilege of working for The Wine Society for the last seven years as a web developer. The last two have been a bit of a whirlwind as we’ve been busy creating the new website that went live this summer. The job can be challenging, technology never stands still and there’s always something new to learn; it’s certainly never boring! One of the great advantages of working at The Wine Society is that staff are genuinely interested in wine. There are opportunities to meet producers at staff tastings and share their passion for the product and taste some great wines which you might not otherwise have the chance to try.
The first time I remember drinking sherry was as a child on New Year’s Eve. My father was Spanish and as is traditional in parts of Spain we always drank a small glass of sherry at midnight accompanied by 12 grapes, one for each chime to see in the New Year. Back in those days I dreaded the burning sensation and developed a dislike of sherry that saw me into adulthood. Thankfully, my tastes have matured along with me and sherry, with all the different characteristics and flavours that I now know it can deliver, has become a great favourite of mine.
To me, nothing evokes the flavours of Spain like the dry, cold smoothness of a fino and while The Society’s is spectacularly good value for money, not to mention a long-standing member favourite, I think it’s worth spending a bit more on something like Romate Fino Perdido or ‘lost fino’. The colourful illustration on the label reminds me of warm evenings, sitting at a bar in Seville, chilled sherry in hand, with a plate of pata negra ham to accompany it. Pale-gold and elegant, with a distinctive, nutty character that hints at amontillado, underpinned by the freshness typical of fino, it’s such an enjoyable glass, even without the warm Spanish evening.
Though there are some lovely tapas restaurants now in the UK and sherry has become trendy in certain circles, it is still much underrated by many here. In part, this is down to its reputation during the seventies, I think, when there seemed to be an awful lot of sickly sweet stuff washing around. Finos are a world away from this and in my opinion should always be drunk chilled, accompanied with salted almonds (or even pata negra) and served in a large wine glass, not a copita. Salud!
Hugh Dutton from our Showroom picks a rule-breaking red
Working in the Showroom involves a lot of different tasks to keep things running smoothly. Serving members at the till and providing advice on wines is first and foremost, but I’m also kept busy behind the scenes, stocking the shelves, choosing wines for the Enomatic machines and organising members’ collections. Every day is different in the Showroom and it always keeps us on our toes. What do I enjoy most? Helping members to find wines they will love and being able to give good recommendations. My least-favourite job? Athough making up cardboard carriers is an important part of the routine, it certainly isn’t the best bit of the day!
Whilst looking through the new List I was surprised to come across a zinfandel from France. My first thought was that surely this can’t be allowed? However, after a quick internet search and an email to the buyer Marcel Orford-Williams, it turned out it is indeed ‘permitted’. Well of course it is! We wouldn’t be selling illegal wine to our members!
I expect many of you are familiar with Domaine de l’Arjolle, we’ve been stocking their wines since the eighties and you may even have met the man behind this wine, Louis-Marie Teisserenc who has been a great supporter of member tastings over the years. With a reputation for experimenting and planting new grape varieties, he developed an interest in zinfandel whilst travelling in California. On his return he put forward the idea of introducing the grape to his Arjolle vineyards and was finally given permission to begin planting in 1996. The plantings were to be made under supervision and purely on an experimental basis – a sort of test bed for the variety in France. These laws have now changed and under the more liberal Vin de France appellation zinfandel is not only permitted, but can be mentioned by name on the label. However, to date, very few, if any, have followed in Teisserenc’s footsteps.
While this French interpretation of the grape is more restrained than its Californian influencers, it is very much still recognisable as zinfandel. And now that the vines are over 25 years old and in hot vintages like 2019, it really shows at it best. Zinfandel (aka primitivo in Puglia) really likes the sun and needs to get really ripe to show its lovely spicy, loganberry fruit. So, if you are looking for something new and a bit different to try this autumn, then why not try a bottle of 2019 Zinfandel de l'Arjolle, Vin de France?
Gareth Park is drawn to a classy South African white
As a product marketing manager I get to work very closely with our team of buyers when pulling together communications for our range of features throughout the year, both digitally and in print. The role of a product marketing manager is a bit like that of a conductor, we have plenty of talented soloists, it’s my job to see that they are all playing the same tune! I’m always keen to increase my `practical` knowledge and luckily the buyers are very generous and enthusiastic in sharing new finds and exciting bottles.
In one way or another I’ve been involved with the production of The Society’s List for my entire 16 years at The Wine Society. I’d hate to think how many wine notes I’ve read over the years (though I bet there are some members who have read more!). Each List goes through three proof-checking circulations and each note checked and double-checked to ensure that all amendments have been made and that nothing has crept in that shouldn’t be there. With an average 900 wines per issue and around eight different proofers for each circulation that quickly adds up to somewhere in the region of 21,600 notes. When asked what I drink to celebrate when a List goes to print my usual answer is tea, there’s only so much wine a man can take!
However, the perk of being one of the first people to see the complete List before it goes to print is the head start I get over my colleagues in creating my personal Wishlist! It’s not uncommon to find an array of Post-it Notes with wine names and product codes scribbled down and scattered throughout my desk drawers.
In the 2021 October to December List it’s the whites from the southern hemisphere that have been catching my eye.
I love sauvignon blanc from South Africa: for me it sits perfectly between the restraint of classic styles from the Loire and the fruit-driven aromatic wines that have made New Zealand so famous. The grapes come from a vineyard that’s pretty high in altitude, where the cooling effect helps give the wine more than a touch of elegance. Considering the class in the glass I think it’s a bit of a bargain.